Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back Race Recap 2015

Ready to board my flight.

My day started very early morning on Thursday June 18. There was a rush of adrenaline cruising through my veins as I boarded the plane and flew from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was my first time away from home alone for more than 24 hours in over three years! Two years ago, I would have felt guilty about leaving my family for a fun weekend alone, but not this time around. This time off had been earned and I was going to enjoy it and come back a happier mom and wife.

When I arrived in Salt Lake, I was greeted by some of the members of the team – Bird Machine. I was running as part of the Oiselle team. Oiselle is a woman’s athletic apparel brand that supports women athletes at a local and national level. Even though all of us are part of the Oiselle team, this was my first time meeting the 11 females that made up the team! I was excited and scared. It was my intent to be authentic and cherish every single moment regardless of how uncomfortable it felt. Thus, whether I met other people’s standards or not, the goal was to walk away with no regrets and full of positivity. We got our rental vans, checked into our hotel rooms and went shopping for snacks, fruits, and other necessities for our 24 hour running escapade.

Getting to know my teammates and posing for a picture outside of Squatters Brewery.

Once the sun started to set, we all set out to grub and enjoy each other’s company at a Salt Lake City brewery. To be frank, I was a bit nervous about eating too much because I did not want to be the runner in the van who needed to put our expedition on pause due to stomach issues, so I was very conscientious about my food choices and consumption. A turkey avocado wrap and a cup of chicken noodle soup made the final dinner cut. I’d like to say that we went wild after dark, but since 10 of the 12 of us had been flying, we went to our rooms after dinner and prepared for Ragnar Relay 2015.

Enjoying our dinner the night before the race with some cold suds at Squatters Brewery.

Bird Machine was slated a 10:00 am start time. The twelve of us were split into two groups of six. I was in Van number one and assigned legs, 6, 18, and 30. The first runner was Leana, followed by Jessica, Emily, Emma, Wendy, and yours truly. Three months ago, I was disappointed with my legs because my total distance was only 11.8  miles. However, since I had to take off two months off running from a ruptured plantar fascia, I was rather relieved I had the least amount of miles.

Top Left: Leana, Bottom Left: Jessica, Top Right: Emily, Middle Right: Wendy, Bottom Right: Emma


Top Left: Kate, Middle Left: Jessica, Bottom Right: Paulette – Team Captain, Top Right: Marilyn, Middle Right: Robyn, Bottom Right: Farron

The morning of our race was definitely filled with excitement. The drive from our hotel room in Salt Lake City to the starting line in Logan, Utah at Utah State went by fast! Prior to starting the race, we had to check-in with race personnel and ensure we had the necessary running accessories, specifically, a reflective vest for every runner with a blinker light attached to it and two headlamps. Next, we watched a mandatory safety video and the do’s and don’ts of race etiquette while on the course. We then proceeded to pick up our swag bag that included t-shirts, Ragnar tattoos, body cleansing wipes, and Monster drinks. We were also issued two safety flags to use when assisting our runners. After picking up our swag bag, we trekked to the starting line of the race and took the time to soak it in. After a couple of minutes, walked back to our car, decorated our van, and headed back up to cheer Leana commence our journey.

Van 1 posing in front of the Ragnar Starting line.

Being the last runner allowed me the opportunity to cheer my teammates and assist them with any kind of aid. Because the sun was in full force, I was a little nervous when each runner would come in expressing how hot it was out and how the elevation impacted their run. I tried to remain positive and reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun and there was no need to psyche myself out. Yes, definitely easier said than done.

Leg 6

Distance: 6.9 miles with a rating of HARD according to Ragnar’s Website

Start Time: 2:40 P.M.

End Time: 3:50 P.M.

Actual Distance: 7.14 miles

Elevation Gain: 297

Elevation Loss: 1379

Minimum Elevation: 5115 feet

Maximum Elevation: 6499 feet

Temperature: 91

Leg 6 RR2015

This was my first introductory leg to a Ragnar Relay. Not only was it going to be at an elevation significantly higher than what I was accustomed to, it was also sizzling hot out with a temperature of 91 degrees! I slathered as much sunscreen as I could put on and wore a hat and shades to try to prevent from burning. Furthermore, I drank 16 ounces of Nuun Energy just before my leg was to start. The trail was unpaved and it was completely exposed to the sun as there was no trees to provide any shade. However, the exposure gave the course its magnificent views. The course initially started with a moderate ascent, but pretty soon, it turned into a gravity defying descent. My foot, which I was most worried about (on top of the heat and elevation) seemed to be handling the pounding. My bladder however, was not. With the force of each step, I felt the pressure of the liquids pushing against my bladder. The race organizers did an extremely awesome job of ensuring there were plenty of Honey Buckets at each leg exchange, but there wasn’t any on the actual running courses.

The popular Honey Buckets getting some much-needed cleaning.

The pounding on my bladder got so intense, I needed to empty it. Because I was not alone, and there was nowhere in the course to hide and relieve myself, I had to make a strong effort to hold it. However, when you have weak pelvic floor muscles caused by giving birth, holding it becomes more challenging than juggling expensive porcelain plates while balancing on one foot. As the descent got steeper, my bladder gave in and then there was pressure no more. Even though it was pretty embarrassing, it would have been just as embarrassing to have dropped my pants in front of runners behind me and next to me who were in their vans en route to the next leg. When Jessica and Emma came to give me some water during the middle of my run, I felt the need to tell them about my mishap like a sinner in church.  My confession brought so much relief, and I was finally able to enjoy the run and the wonderful views.

When running in scenery this rad, self-taken pictures with a mobile device are mandatory.

It was my intent to run with gratitude prior to my run, and I gave thanks not only for this wonderful experience, but for the path that led to it regardless of how painful and embarrassing the experiences may have been. I was grateful for my family, for my health, for my friends, for the opulent mountains, the turquoise skies, the strangers around me who were far more than kind to me. I was thankful for this experiences, and above all, I was thankful for being able to run.

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson

Despite the temperatures, there were so many happy runners out there. Some were forced to run, while others cruised down the hill. Many of the vans running adjacent to us on the side of the road cheered us on and there was a team that made sure to get out every half mile or so and sprayed us runners with water. That five second water mist made the biggest difference! It almost dropped our core temperature by at least 15 degrees. The sun was so hot, it took split seconds for it to burn the surface of the skin.

I wanted to sing, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.”

With about 2 miles remaining, the unpaved path turned into a road and I was beginning to feel a rush of excitement. The furthest distance I had run in the last two and half months was four miles, but I was now at five and thankfully not feeling any pain in my foot at all. When there was one mile left and my foot still felt good, I knew I would be okay with the two remaining legs as they were less than 3 miles each.

Our living quarters traversing some gorgeous scenery.

There was so much joy within me when I reached mile seven and saw my teammate ahead waiting for her chance to run the Wasatch range. I ran up to her and slapped the orange bracelet on her wrist with much gusto! Once my leg was over, our van was scheduled to take a break until runners 7-12 made it back to the next exchange. I quickly headed back to the car to get a new clean pair of clothes and prepared for our night run.

This was our resting spot until close to midnight, when Van 2 finished their legs and we began ours. We started here when it was still light out, but once we lost complete strength of the sun, the air around us became extremely cloud and the grass beneath us made it difficult for our bodies to remain warm.

Leg 18 Distance: 2.3 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 4:18 A.M.

End Time: 4:39 A.M.

Actual Distance: 2.28 miles

Elevation Gain: 30

Elevation Loss: 8

Minimum Elevation: 5564 feet

Maximum Elevation: 5612 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 18 RR2015

The temperature had dropped by 46 degrees, so one could say I was cold. I got very little sleep, so I was tired. It was dark, so I could not see where my feet were landing nor what was around me. Apparently, there was water nearby, but I never saw it. All runners were required to wear a reflective safety vest, a blinker light attached to it, and a headlamp. I did know the ground was soft and I was running on a dirt trail. My long sleeve Oiselle Flyte shirt and capris kept me warm and I was so happy I decided to pack a warmer running outfit. Because of the distance, I never actually got the opportunity to get hot. My leg was the closing leg for Van 1 and I knew Van 2 was right around the corner waiting for us. With about a mile left, the path changed from dirt to road. The stars were shining brightly over the clear opaque sky and there was very little movement around me. Once again, I was grateful to be out there and enjoying the companionship of the moon above me and the runners around me who were also cherishing their journey. When I reached Robyn (runner 7) I was once again grateful my foot did not hurt. My mind was wide awake, but my body was definitely tired. My teammates and I headed towards the next exchange and we all agreed to sleep inside the van.

Once my leg was over, we all agreed to sleep inside the van in order to remain warm. It was hard for me to catch any sleep because I could not find a comfortable sleeping position no matter how much I tried to turn my body into a pretzel.

Leg 30 Distance: 2.6 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 12:04 P.M.

End Time: 12:39 P.M.

Actual Distance: 2.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 481

Elevation Loss: 464

Minimum Elevation: 6715 feet

Maximum Elevation: 7202 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 30 RR2015Hot, sweaty, excited, and ready to be done!! That is how I felt at the start of my final leg when Wendy, runner 5, handed the orange wristband to me. Once again, I was running on a trail, and unbeknownst to me, the trail was barely wide enough for one person.

Ready for my last and final leg! I had gotten so much sun, I had produced enough Vitamin D worth an entire Summer.

About 1/4 mile into it, the trail started climbing, and it got a little more challenging with rocks, branches and deep holes that could cause a deep sprain. I felt my chest getting heavier and my legs kept slowing down. Because all I could think about was how the run was labeled as easy, I was expecting for the climbing to plateau, but it didn’t. The further we went, the harder and trickier it got. I noticed runners ahead of me walking because the terrain was no longer friendly to rapid feet. As much I did not want to stop, I had to. It was a switch back trail, and the rocks were too big and the ground too uneven for me to even attempt to run. When I was a mile into the run, I felt myself getting irritated because I had no idea how much further we would be going. Easy was not the word I would have used to describe my leg. If anything, it was at least a challenging trail hike. At around 1.4 miles, I reached the summit with another girl, who was feeling the same way I was about the Easy description of the course. Our legs went from going up the hill to losing all the elevation we had just gained. We stayed as close together as possible and then we bumped into a little boy who had just earlier whizzed by us. He was on the ground and appeared to have hurt himself. We stopped and asked if he needed help, but he reassured us he was okay and that he just needed to catch his breath. The other runner and I moved on and we saw the exchange below. I tried to pick up the pace a little going downhill, but remained cautious so as not to fall and hurt myself. Once both my feet touched pavement, I made a right turn, and I could see my teammates cheering for me ahead and my heart filled with joy. When there was about 100 feet remaining, I took off my wristband and held it up high to demonstrate my enthusiasm and eagerness to hand it off.

Bringing Van 1 to its final journey and ready to hand off to Van 2. Can you see the look of excitement on my face? I was most looking forward to a shower where I could scrub off the layers of sunscreen off of my body.

The race exceeded my expectations! Not only was I in excellent company, I enjoyed one-of-a-kind views. The first portion of our race was actually very smooth with little to no traffic between transitions. We did not experience any congestion until we began our night legs, but it was understood given all of the teams were on the course by this point. There were portable bathrooms in every leg and driving markers for the vans were well marked. The finisher’s t-shirt is one I would totally wear again and the medal is absolutely sweet!

Hanging out at one of the exchanges and taking in some sun.

The only notable changes I would make pertain to the finish line and the exchanges between Vans 1 and Vans 2. It would be nice if coffee or some kind of pick-me-up beverage was offered, especially during the night transitions, when you find yourself fighting sleep. The finish line seemed very compressed and it was difficult to enjoy the scenery because it was a rather small space. While not an issue for me, some of my teammates were disappointed in the fact there was no beer at the finish line. I don’t know if this is a Ragnar issue or a setting issue (Utah). Finally, the leg descriptions to me were not very accurate. Just because a leg is 3 miles long does not necessarily mean it is easy, especially if half that distance requires climbing a steep and challenging trail. When your pace drops significantly to the point that you have to start walking, then I am not sure easy is a fair description of what to expect. Overall though, I would most certainly return to this course and do it all over again. My experience was positive and I will never forget my first time doing a Ragnar Relay.

Team Bird Machine finished in 36 hours and managed to get 3rd Plan in the Women’s Open! We were so happy to learn that our efforts actually put us into a third place position despite the fact that competing was not our goal.

Back on the Training Train

Summer, Sunshine, Sweat, and best of all Running!!! Yes, I am now running and have begun training for Marine Corps Marathon. My first official training run began Tuesday June 2; a slow and easy three miles. While there is a desire to push my body harder, I am definitely starting off with low mileage and an easy pace to allow my foot maximum time possible to continue healing. I’ve been issued orthotics for both my feet, and while there is still a slight discomfort present when running, my foot is on the right path to full recovery. My marathon training will once again focus on not only running, but strength training via Crossfit and yoga, as well as walking on rest days, and just plain old fun at the park with my girls.

Sleeveless and leg exposure for the win! I’m so happy warmer temperatures are finally here!

When I set out to run Eugene, I wanted to do my best and quantified it with finishing in under four hours and 20 minutes. There is no doubt in my mind had I not been injured, I would have not only achieved my goal, I would have surpassed it. While completely irrational and superstitious for that matter (which I do not consider myself to be) I can’t help but believe putting a time slot on my performance completely jinxed me and caused the injury. Thus, I am now terrified of even dreaming about a strong finish with Marine Corps Marathon. Maybe it’s because I am not 100% recovered, or because I am afraid of going through another 17 weeks of training to only end up being injured four weeks before the 26.2 performance. Whatever the reason, I am not feeling very confident about my running abilities right now. This feeling is extremely frustrating, because it pushes me inside a box full of fear and suppresses the idea that dreams are possible. Perhaps the feeling will change in the next month or two when I have built up the strength and endurance to go further or faster. Yes, I am grateful to be able to run again, grateful that I have the freedom to do so, grateful my injury was small in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, I am still hungry for a strong performance in the marathon distance.

I’m avoiding running on concrete for as long as I can and while not very exciting, running around the track has reduced the shock and impact on my injured arch.

Running has not been the only way I’ve kept active. I have also been keeping myself on the move by walking our dog every morning and averaging at least three miles each day. Depending on how distracted or not my dog is, we are completing our three-mile walks in under an hour. Our fastest three-mile was done in under 45 minutes, and our slowest has been around 54 minutes. I’d like to see how fast we can power walk and beat our under 45 minute mark.

My dog Jake, who is governed by scents and food.

Crossfit has also been consistently on my schedule of workouts, and last week, I managed to do five consecutive Crossfit workouts. I don’t think I have ever done five straight Crossfit workouts in one week, so this was quite an accomplishment for me. Because the running miles have been low (11 miles total per week), I am seizing the opportunity to lift heavy before the weeks with high mileage begin. I do love Crossfit, but I have avoided doing five workouts per week not only because sore muscles make running extremely painful, but because some of the workouts require such a high  number of repetitions, some of them end up leaving me with pain that make my training runs extremely painful. There are some people I work out with that six days of Crossfit a week works for them, but I have come to learn that my body is different and prefers four Crossfit work out days maximum. Crossfit definitely pushes me mentally and forces me to step outside of my comfort zone. When my body feels like it cannot do an extra repetition, I visualize myself at the 20 mile mark of my marathon and remind myself that the extra repetition, no matter how painful, will help get me across the finish line strong. My mental training is one factor I have been diligently working on, as I feel that it can work against me even when I am feeling strong.

Flexing and working on muscle gains since it is evident for me that my legs are slimmer than I would like them to be. 

Furthermore, I’ve been spending at least two hours a day at the park with my daughters in order to get them out of the house while keeping my sanity for the Summer season. While they slide, swing, argue, cry, yell, and repeat the cycle, I try to practice some yoga poses. I’m definitely not even remotely close to considering myself a yoga enthusiast, but there are some challenging poses I’ve enjoyed trying. Some are good for stretching, while others seem just outright impossible. Yoga has never really been my cup of tea because the pace seems rather slow for me. A shooting heart rate and perspiration feels more challenging and satisfying than a methodical approach to a specific move. However, it is because of the specific aforementioned reasons that I am taking the time to do Yoga. It is a way to not only allow my muscles to recover while strengthening them, but allow my mind to slow down and focus. This comes in handy when I am running and losing my form or thinking too far ahead of the race. It is a way to enjoy mile twenty-one as much as mile one.

I love backbends! Not only do I feel it stretches all my sore muscles, I also feel five inches taller once I’m done.

Last but certainly not least, I have been putting a strong emphasis on of my biggest areas of weakness when it comes to training: food. When it comes to lack of discipline in eating, I am a good example. I pretty much each when I want, what I want, and as much as I want. I am not saying this to brag, I am saying this because once I the injury forced me to stop running, I started writing down what I was eating and noticed just how heavily carb-loaded my food intake was. More than 50% of my caloric intake were carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread, muffins, beans), followed by healthy fats (I was consuming at least two avocados a day and spreading coconut oil on most of my breads) and very little fruits and vegetables. While I felt like I was burning off all the calories running six days a week and justified my eating habits, once I stopped running, I had a hard time curbing the carbs and fats. Thus, I have put a strong emphasis on consuming more greens and reducing the amount of carbs – at least until I start running more than 11 miles a week.

I love good fats and I cannot lie!!

One final last but not least, here is a pretty awesome schedule (if I have to say so myself)  of my upcoming races:

June 19-20 – Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay in Utah. I will be traveling to Utah and joining eleven women I have never met before and traversing 203 miles of beautiful scenery! How exhilarating!

August 1 – Catherine Creek Classic Half Marathon. This was the half-marathon where I completed 13.1 miles in under two hours. Ten weeks ago, I would have made it a goal to break 1:50 in this course, but today, I am going to enjoy 13.1  miles without any time pressure. It will also be my first half-marathon since February’s half-marathon where I PR’d.

August 7-8 – Elkhorn Relay. This is a local relay race and it is the first one in the Blue Mountains. It will consist of 11 runners (not including myself) and it is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous scenery of Eastern Oregon. Best part, the entry fee was only $40, a steal for races of this magnitude.

October 25 – Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. This race will be so symbolic and I find myself not wanting to say too much about it because I do not want to do anything that may hinder me getting to the starting line, so I am proceeding with caution.

What are your Summer Plans? Do you have any upcoming races? Do you ever think you jinx yourself or are superstitious about something? How do you train for a marathon?

How do I love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

The first day of Summer is 18 days away!!! If I’ve not said it before, please allow me to put it in writing: I LOVE SUMMER!!

Summer is happiness. Days are longer, brighter, and warmer! One can walk out the house baring skin with a cold beverage in hand to cool the skin. People are out and about catching rays that pierce the skin and enjoying views obscured by the cold gray winter days. Summer also has one of my favorite Holidays of the year – Independence Day! Plus, the season holds one my all time favorite holidays – Independence Day. Below is a list of ways I plan on showing Summer love.

Sweating

There is no better way for me to demonstrate my love for Summer than by sweating it out. Whether it’s by running, mowing the lawn, taking a hike, walking the dog, or chasing the toddler, I plan on celebrating every bead of sweat that forms around my neck, down my back, and the sides of my temples. Saying, “I miss Winter” might be the norm for some mortals, but that is a statement that will never come out of my mouth. While sweating it out, I’ll make sure to loudly recite Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s (Sonnet 43) in hopes of Persephone delaying her return to the underworld to be alongside her husband Hades.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 18061861

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Sipping

I’m not a major consumer of adult beverages, but I’m not a teetotaler either. There is something about Summer though that makes me crave a margarita with extra salt on the rim! Perhaps the removal of the school morning chaos from the daily Summer schedule allows me to let down my hair and embrace the nights without mentally preparing for the mornings. Whatever the rationale, Summer screams cocktails and beer. Of course, H20 will still remain my main source of hydration.

Yummy Margaritas

Yummy Margaritas

S’mores

Summer screams camping, and one can’t go camping without creating the De facto dessert of S’mores! Growing in a major city deprived me from forming camping memories during my childhood, so I’m making up for it as an adult. I’ll admit though, I’m a terrible S’more maker, making camping the all better reason for me to hone my marshmallow roasting-chocolate-melting skills. Camping is an activity that the entire family loves, which makes S’more-making memories priceless!

smores

Siesta

According to a Gallup Poll, 59% of Americans get 7 or more hours of the recommended amount of sleep, while 40% are not getting enough. Unfortunately, I fall under the latter, averaging 4-6 hours of sleep per night. Even though I’ve never been an individual who needed any more than seven hours of sleep to feel fully rested, I could definitely benefit from some shut-eye. Now that my older daughter is home for Summer Break, I intended on seizing the opportunity to get a cat-nap on the couch should the day schedule permit. It probably wont be an easy feat given we’ll be driving around town to get to the library, the swimming pool, the park, and the endless company of friends visiting our home, but I plan on taking advantage even if five minutes are available.

russian-doll-kitty

Scenery

There is no doubt snowy mountains are absolutely breathtaking, but enjoying a powdery white land form can be limited for an individual who does not possess the right shoes, clothing and equipment. Warmer temperatures however, allow for the most part anyone with two feet and a decent pair of supportive shoes to enjoy the earned views of a mountain trek. Warmer temperatures bring out the hibernating bi-pedals to explore National Parks and appreciate the quadrupedal wild life that survived the harsh winter conditions. We are hoping Summer will allow us the opportunity to enjoy shimmering blue lakes, busy roaring rivers, green forests, painted hills, and landscapes with stunning sunsets as their back drop. Hopefully, we will also get the opportunity to visit the Oregon Coast, which is always bustling during the Summer months.

Nature___Seasons___Summer_Cold_summer_in_the_mountains_078338_

Savory

Food, Glorious, Food! Sweet, spicy, sour, savory, and succulent, are only but a handful of adjectives I’m thrilled to experience during the summer. With Independence Day being one of the best Holidays of the year, I’m hoping to savor a culinary smorgasbord of flavors abundant during the Summer season. A sweet tres leches cake will counter the sour lime wedges in my Margarita drink. Chicken Chile Enchiladas on a weekday and pulled pork sandwiches on a weekend can satisfy the spicy and savory cravings. Somewhere between Monday and Sunday, succulent strawberries, papayas, mangoes, and watermelons will help meet the requirements of my daily fruit intake; vegetables will also get their place on the dinner plate so as to show I love all food equally – well, almost all, because there is no room for liver.

food

If I had the financial means, and a willing husband, my ideal location would be a tropical island where I could wear summer clothes year round. For now though, I’ll relish in all of the splendor the Summer season has to offer for as long as it will allow me.