Who in the right mind would even consider running 200 miles let alone in high altitude? Well, a BADASS Ragnarian, that’s what! This past weekend the Ragnar Relay came to Colorado. For those you that don’t know a Ragnar Relay is a crazy relay race that has you running 200 miles, but for Colorado this meant running from Copper Mountain to Snowmass. Don’t worry I am no that crazy and didn’t do it alone, I had 11 other amazing, yet just as crazy, people who were doing it with me!
Last October, I moved to Colorado not knowing anyone. Over the next few months met a few people here and there but nothing really took. I decided that I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new. So I decided on running. I started running with Team Challenge for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and have met some amazing people but wanted more. A couple months a go, a friend of mine posted something about a team needing another person to do Ragnar with in August. Thought about it and with a little pushing I decided why not and joined the C.O.R. Rangar Relay Team. Little did I know what was in store for me.
With nerves brewing and the days coming closer, I began to wonder if I made the right decision. Here is a team of people that do Spartan Races, Tough Mudder and various other Obstacle Races together and I don’t know anyone yet alone throwing myself into running long distance running in high altitude. Ready or not there was no backing out now!
The week of the race I received an email for a job interview that I couldn’t pass up on but was taking place on Friday, August 8, at 10am. Same time I am suppose to be with my team running this relay. I now had a decision to make do I bail and find someone to replace me, skip the interview or do I show up late and hope I make it in time. Well those of you that know me I like being overly ambitious and decided that I would do a lot of driving but compete in the Ragnar.
I drove up Thursday night for safety briefing and finally meet the team. After the meeting I drove back to Denver to get some rest and ready for my interview on Friday. While the team began the Ragnar journey at 6am Friday morning, I packed my car and got ready for my interview. The interview was at 10am and I finished at 11:3am, hoped in my car and drove up to meet my van at Copper Mountain just in time for my first leg of race at 3pm.
One thing that people didn’t realize or know was that I have Crohn’s Disease. Recently, it has been fine and I normally manage it with diet and exercise. However, God had a different plan in mind for race day. I woke up and was feeling sick off my butt but wasn’t going to let that stop me. I know I didn’t want to let my team down and I wanted to complete this Ragnar which I knew would push me in every way. I put my big girl panties on and sucked it up. Now came the hard part….running.
Leg 1 was 7.8 miles through Vail with steady incline of hills and elevation gain throughout the run. Running uphill and in high altitude is a killer, and definately took some time to recover (just ask my poor teammates in Van #2). My run included going through the Vail Country Club and Golf Course and downtown Vail while running on dirt, asphalt, sidewalk and cobble stone. I knew going into this run that my body wasn’t feeling it and it would be a challenging leg for me. As I started to run my left knee decided to keep locking up and provide pain while my stomach was completely upset. After 2 miles in I had to pull over and throw up a couple times but then kept going. Even though I was in pain I didn’t want to stop. I kept running and walking as much as I could knowing that I would hit the finish eventually. My friend David kept in contact with me and relayed information to my team who started to worry about me. As I got close to the finish my teammate Ellie met up with me and made sure I was ok. With my knee and guts screaming at me I pushed my last mile as hard as I could. As I reached the exchange point my team was there cheering me on even thought I was in pain, tears and disappointed with my leg of the race. Took me almost 2 hours to complete it.
After I was done with the first leg we went back to the van where I tried to get some water and get my knee taped with KT Tape (life saver when it sticks). While sitting there I started to get dizzy and almost blacked out but instead decided to just throw up. My team then moved me to some grass when I decided to throw up some more but knowing that my teammates leg was short distance we had to go meet up so we piled in and took off. Long story short my knee was killing me and I didn’t stop throwing up for 3 hours. Nothing would stay in my system and my teammates were nothing less than concerned and supportive.
As we approached the first van exchange were we could get a few hours of sleep a decision had to be made. Do I suck it up and finish or do I pull myself out and just watch? Well, given I was raised to be tough and if I am still moving and not strapped to an IV I could move forward. I told my team I would be fine to let me run. At the next stop I went to the First Aide table to get my knee taped my medics, put on some knee braces a teammate had and popped mass amount of Aleve all to prepare for my 2nd leg which would be at 2am in the dark.
As my 2nd leg approached, I wanted this to be my redemption and just kick some butt. Luckily this leg would only be 3.6 miles or so I thought and mostly flat. I knew I would succeed given that it was at night, weather was about 60 degrees and my body was feeling great. I kept reminding myself why I run is for CCFA and the people that have the same disease I have but 10x worse and can’t enjoy the simple things in life.
With my headphones on, music playing, i hear “#137 called” my teammate is running in hands off the bracelet to me and I am off. Thank heaven for Flogging Molly as I had one of their albums on my phone was 40min long. I figured that is more than enough time. I began running just listening and pushing through. Next thing I realize its 40 min later and I ran 4.88 miles. Talk about redemption. Now after reality and frustration set in about the deceiving mileage that Ragnar stated I was stocked and excited for my timing. I PR’d in many aspects, avg pace of 8:22/mile, fastest mile was 6:08 and I redeemed myself from the first leg.
Now one thing about Ragnar is that there is little to no sleep and you adapt to the van smelling like a locker room. With lack of sleep you really learn to rely on your teammates, adrenaline and absorbing the atmosphere of the other Ragnarians. Even though we stopped a couple times, sleep never really happened it was either too loud in the gym, too bright out in the van or just excitement to know you are on the last leg.
Finally, we are on our last legs. Everyone of our teammates are cheering each other on, pushing each other and celebrating as we finish. By leg 3, I was running on empty, my guts literally hated me and it was starting to get warm which wasn’t going to help. I knew that this was going to be tough finish but knowing that I would finish all 3 of my legs kept me going. As I approached my 3rd and final leg I had to think back to the wise words I received from one of my coaches whilel running a half marathon in Hawaii, “There are 3 parts to running and completing anything. The first third is all heart, the second third is all mental and the final third will take all the guts you have left or big cahonas”. This was definitely going to take all the guts I had left in me. I am not going to lie, my knees, my back and my guts all hurt on top of getting this altitude type cough. Was my body saying I have been pushing too hard? But maybe not? I have been told that I push too hard, don’t listen to my body and am stubborn. I will admit that I am stubborn and when I put my mind to something I will finish it. Failure is not an option unless I am strapped to a hospital bed. With the final leg in sight and it only being 3.3, again or so I thought, I was ready to complete the challenge set upon me. As I am going and passing runner, I do what I always do, hand out high fives, words of encouragement and keep moving forward. Yes, I did have to walk some this leg do to heat and my body hating me but I didn’t stop. As I approach my final exchange all emotions came out! Leg 3 was 4 miles long but I did it with an avg pace of 10:00/mile. I did it! I finished my legs and am done!
Understand that I am not a runner. I actually hate running and never understood the point of running except for when it came to sports. But as I looked back at my journey thus far I have now completed 3 half marathons in 7 weeks, 2 10k’ and now officially completed a Rangar. I guess I am a runner and never knew it. I am on target to complete my goal of running a half marathon every month for a year.
One thing that I loved the most was as I waited for each of my team mates to finish their legs, I knew the best thing I could do is cheer on everyone that is coming in to their home stretch. It was brutal but to know you are part of an elite group of people makes it so worth it. Each person that ran Ragnar has completed and pushed themselves beyond their expectations. I do want to be a great athlete and hate letting teams down but one thing that Ragnar really showed me was that it is a TEAM. Everyone picked each other up, made up time, encouraged and became a family unit. Could I have done better? Sure, but I did what I could and I finished,
To my AMAZING yet crazy teammates THANK YOU beyond words. Even though Van 1 and 2 never really got to hang out we were all there supporting one another through every leg of the way. To Van #2, thank you for all the laughter, support, tagging of the vans and memories. We seriously became family that I never knew I could have and look forward to more “family vacations”.
Thank You Jim for accepting me into the COR family and letting me be apart of this Ragnar Race without knowing a bit about me. I feel as though I have found my family of friends in Colorado and look forward to more events with the COR family.
HUGE thank you to our photographer Garth for taking these amazing photos. Sharp Edge Photography really captured these special moments that will last a lifetime.
Last but not least, a SPECIAL thank you to Rene for driving our van and dealing with all the back seat drivers. You didn’t complain one bit while dealing with what I could imagine being 6 sweaty, cranky, tired toddlers for 30 hours, never able to satisfy all at once LOL.