It took us more than an hour to drive directly to the major exchange at the Oakley Rodeo Grounds where we would take the baton from Van Two in the morning. It was a cluster trying to get out of the East Canyon State Park because they were routing people down and around to wind through the campgrounds instead of letting us get directly back up onto the road. By the time we got there, we were so exhausted and ready for sleep. We parked in the far corner of the parking lot in front of what looked like a grassy area we could lay down and sleep on. We hiked across the vast parking lot to stand in line for the Honey Buckets… again… and nearly froze to death. It was one AM at this point and we had been up for nearly twenty four hours. And I’d run fifteen miles!
When I got back to the car, shivering, I told Hubby there was no way I was going to sleep outside in our light sleeping bags we had packed. Maybe if we had sub-zero rated bags it would be a different story. So, we climbed back into the car and tried to sleep. Steven, who is over six feet tall, headed out with his fleece blanket to attempt to sleep lying down on the ground instead of folded into a seat. Sean headed to the free hot chocolate tent where we assumed he was hooking up with chicks, being the available bachelor of the group, and we didn’t see him for several hours. The rest of us tried to curl up with pillows jammed between the window and side of our necks so we could ward off the crick in the neck you get from sleeping with your head on your own shoulder. Well, everyone except my sister who couldn’t find her pillow. Being the awesome wife I am and knowing how hard this situation was going to be on Hubby who has a ruptured disk in his lower back, I let him recline the seat in front of me so he could kind of stretch out. Which meant I was crammed in between his seat and mine with little room to maneuver…
A while later, Sean crawled back into the car who, it turns out, had not been picking up chicks but had gone out to the grass and laid down to sleep – without even a blanket. No wonder that didn’t last long! So now we have my sister in the driver seat, minus her pillow; Hubby in the passenger seat, reclined; me crammed behind Hubby in a seat that didn’t recline, Sean in the other non-reclining seat behind my sister, and Jose and Jaclyn sharing the back seat feet-pointed-toward-each-other style. A couple of tossing and turning hours later at about three am, the overhead light went on with Steven at the door. I’ll never forget what he said in his apologetic voice… “Sorry guys, but I can’t feel my feet. I need to get back in.” So, Jaclyn – who weighed all of about ninety pounds – climbed into the very back and laid on top of all our bags and coolers, etc. Now Jose and Steven are in the back and we all try and go back to sleep. Well, first I snap some photos to prove it is possible to sleep seven adults in one Ford Excursion. The same photos that exposed Jose as the pillow thief he is since once they were posted to Facebook my sister screamed “That’s my pillow!! No wonder I couldn’t find it and no wonder it stunk when I got it home!!”
About four o’clock I was so cold, even with my sleeping bag on top of me like a blanket, that I whispered to my sister to turn the car on so we could get warm. Which she promptly obliged, probably because she hadn’t been warm since we left the hotel Friday morning. We ran the heater until it was so hot in there I thought I would vomit (which according to her was not nearly long enough) and then I realized I was hungry. Like my stomach was growling. Guess who hadn’t eaten after her second run and who had an empty tank with nothing left to fuel another run in a couple of hours. Yes, the same girl who still can’t run on either an empty or a full stomach. Luckily someone had passed the reusable grocery back toward the front and I had the makings of PB&J within reach. I made me a sandwich and ate some grapes from the fruit cooler between the seats with the aid of my headlamp – which I never actually used for running but was required to have – without disturbing the rest of my van-mates.
After I was done eating I realized it was coming up on about four thirty and if the other van had either made up time or was on schedule still, we were going to need to be ready to run in just over an hour. I sent Melissa a text to check in and found they had fallen even further behind. They estimated they wouldn’t be done and ready to pass off to us until about eight o’clock. Elated, I switched my alarm clock on my phone to much later and fell back to sleep, kind of.
The alarm clock went off at six forty five and everyone groaned since if I was up and needing to change my clothes, everyone had to be up so we could unload the car to get my bag out. They were offering breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage that we took advantage of. I changed out of the clothes I had spent the last thirty hours in and wiped down with some baby wipes – since there were no showers available. You never think that a wipe down with baby wipes is going to cut it until you’re in a situation where it does and then you’re grateful to have them. The downside of the morning was when my sister was in line for the Honey Buckets and the pump truck arrived to pump them out, and she was downwind. It was disgusting enough that she had almost made her way to the front of the line and still stepped out of it to escape the stink. I will say that overall the Honey Buckets themselves were never disgusting and the race team did a fabulous job coordinating the servicing to accommodate fourteen thousand runners using them constantly.
By the time we had all cleaned ourselves up, the sun was shining, mocking us with the inviting field of grass we could have slept on had we had the appropriate gear. We headed for the exchange to wait for Van Two. We had about half an hour of hanging out with the girls from the other van hearing about their overnight runs and van antics and the fact that they had not had any sleep yet while we waited for Melissa to arrive. I was so nervous and didn’t think I had anymore running in me. I had rolled out with TheStick (which every runner must have we all decided that weekend) but I hadn’t stretched much after my last run because it was too cold outside to do it before we hit the sack. I worried that I’d beaten my body to it’s limit and it would rebel. I feared I’d take the baton and have to walk the whole length of my last four mile run.
I didn’t need to be nervous, though. Melissa arrived, told me she had fallen on her face, and sent me on my way with the baton. I had psyched myself up, swore I would not humiliate myself by walking out of the exchange no matter what and surprisingly ran the first mile and a half straight. Then I hit some rolling hills and did more walk/run intervals telling my concerned van-mates that I was fine and was just going to take it easy. I had plenty of water and I would see them at the exchange since it was a short little run of four point one miles.
When I hit two miles according to my GPS I celebrated that I was halfway there and kept telling myself that even though I could see the course ahead of me and knew it was uphill the remainder of the way that I could do it. After all, I only had to go one more mile and then I’d see that beautiful and much loved marker that proclaimed “one mile to go”. I was on the home stretch!
I looked down at my GPS and saw that I had gone three point nine miles, which meant I had a mere three tenths of a mile to go, and looked up to see… the “one mile to go” marker which was not welcome HERE and had become a taunt rather than a beloved sight. What the fuck are you talking about one mile to go? I KNOW this leg was only four point one miles! It must be a joke, right?! Only it wasn’t… turns out the leg was actually four point nine, in other words a five mile leg, not the four I was expecting. That last mile began to drag out and my body – which I had been making deals with all morning to please just get me to that last exchange – started to scream in agony. My right foot started shooting weird pain from my arch down to my toes which I started worrying was some kind of injury; I could no longer muster the energy for even a short run interval between the walking and I was putting us seriously behind in our times.
I rounded the last corner and could see the exchange ahead of me. With the last ounce of will I had left I started running and as I got within fifty yards I screamed – at the top of my lungs with both arms held high, “I’M FUCKING DONE!” Did I care that my language probably offended half the people standing around? Not in the least… And I even had someone yell it back at me as I passed saying she thought she was the only one who felt that way. With jubilant screams and relief proceeding me, I saw my Hubby step up to take the baton from me for the last time. The running part of my Ragnar was over!
I stretched my poor calves and feet a bit and heard that the talk in the van had been along the lines of “why doesn’t she let someone else take the last leg if she’s hurting that much?” Which my wise sister proclaimed, accurately, I would never do because I was stubborn and had said I’d do it and by god would. We loaded into the van to catch up with Hubby who only had three miles to go. He ended up tweaking his knee not even a mile in and couldn’t run anymore. He had to walk most of his third leg and hated every minute of it and most especially those minutes that included someone passing him. I hated seeing his disappointment of not finishing strong but reminded him that he barely trained for this event and should be proud that he did as well as he did on the first two legs and even had the ability to walk the last one.
Everyone else had short and easy legs except Steven who had been dreading his hardest and longest third run. It was over eight miles up another mountain highway pass behind Jordanelle. It was also a leg of no van support so we waved him goodbye from the exchange and toiled a bit to let Hubby and I stretch and relax a little before we made our way to the next exchange. Steven kicked ass doing what he calls construction intervals – run to a cone, walk to a cone. Then we watched Jacklyn sprint down into Heber Valley like a shot running about six and a half minute miles. Not bad for a mountain biker who doesn’t run outside very often! She made up time for both Hubby and I and then Sean and Jose had quick and easy runs and we arrived in Heber to trade off one last time to Van Two at about one o’clock.
After the last exchange, we stretched out on the grass and again pulled out the cooler and food. We were so ravenous! Jose’s family – who weren’t going to see him for two weeks between business travel and Ragnar weekend – came and met us and Jose and Sean went home with them after we snapped some “OMG We did it” photos. (Deserters!)
We packed the car one last time, two people short, and headed for Park City High School and the finish line. We parked, used the Honey Buckets… again, walked forever to get to the stadium and then hung out for hours waiting for the team finish. We browsed through the very picked over merchandise tent, wandered past all the other vendor tents, scoped out the food and copped a squat at a table. Steven’s family and Jaclyn’s husband arrived and we got to tell our first recap of the weekend and relive the adventure we were still on. After some more food, we ended up in the end zone of the football field so we could have an easy reference point to tell Van Two where to meet us when they arrived. Since Steven’s wife is a close friend, I chatted while my sister and Hubby fell asleep on the astro-turf.
Then Van Two arrived and at last we were all together. Mina, the nurse practitioner and all around kick ass woman, took one look at Hubby’s knee and promptly escorted him to the first aid tent for an exam and an ice pack. Turns out he had overused and irritated his knee and needed Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation but had not torn his ACL again which is always his first fear. We made our way to the team holding area and began the stretch of waiting for them to announce our number over the PA so we could go onto the track and run with Melissa the last tenth of a mile to the finish line together. It was fun catching each other up on what each van had been up to. Mina disappeared and turns out had gone down the trail to meet Melissa and run in with her since this had been a no van support leg the whole way for her.
Finally they announced team 1048, Run Piggies Run and Melissa and Mina ran up onto the track and we all sprinted for the finish together… until I screamed “slow down” so we wouldn’t leave my poor Hubby behind. We crossed at just past eight thirty PM. There were tons of smiles and lots of pictures snapped as we crossed as a team – well, minus the deserters who went home early. We were quickly herded to the adjoining tents to receive our medals and other finish line goodies and then to pose for official team finish photos in our medals. Two free pizzas from Little Caesars were snarfed down and poor Melissa tried to process it all while overwhelmed that she had just finished her long and very difficult run while we all rested and waited in anticipation.
Our official time was one hundred ninety two miles in thirty eight hours, five minutes and nine seconds. The winners did it in about eighteen hours, but we were not the last team to finish which is all that mattered. The only thing that mattered was that we DID finish!
We all walked together to the cars to hand out the official shirts that I’d been carrying around in Van One all weekend. Steven, Jaclyn and Mina went home with their families who came to watch the team finish. And the rest of us all climbed back into the stinky vans to make our way home after group hugs galore and talk about doing it all again.
I don’t know if, after all of this, I have successfully expressed how amazing this weekend was. It was the most grueling and rewarding thing I have ever done. At times I hated it, at times I wanted to smack van-mates when my sleep deprived bitchy side was showing. But at the same time I loved every minute of the experience and I can’t wait to do it again! Ragnar Vegas? Ragnar Napa? Anyone? The funniest thing is that registration for 2012 Wasatch Back is already open exclusively for those who did it this year. So I’m already back to planning and logistics mode for next year. If you’re interested in being on the 2012 team, let me know!
My most relished moment overall was applying the badge of honor to the rear window of my car: the coveted Ragnar sticker. As Steven said, it makes it that much more impressive knowing that you don’t get it when you check in, you can’t buy it anywhere, you only get it when you finish. In other words, it is earned! Yes, the medal is nice and includes a bottle opener but it doesn’t have anything on the sticker!