You know it’s November, right? Which means I SHOULD be writing my novel and not recapping Ragnar. But if I don’t do it now all the amazing things that I want to remember will fade as all memories do. And that would suck. So I’m taking one for all of you and will just suck it up and drink an extra cup of coffee so I can stay up later tonight to meet my writing goal after I finish this post. Aren’t you glad I love you, my readers?
The things that make a Ragnar a Ragnar don’t ever change – you still have twelve people split between two vans who run leapfrog style taking turns running their way through two hundred miles to the finish line. In between, there’s three runs a piece, two periods of “rest” when your van is not the one with the active runners, and lots and lots of driving. So, I won’t regale you with the sweaty details of the parts you already know about.
What was different between Vegas and Wasatch Back?
1. We had different van mates.
This time we were invited to join a team and I was NOT the captain. What a refreshing change for me not to have to worry about every little detail! Hubby and I and Steven got to ride and run with two of our friends that were in the “other” van on Wasatch Back – Carrie and Nancy – driven by Nancy’s hubby, Trent. We rounded out the sixth with one of my brother’s friends – Austin – who fit in amazingly well. Probably because he is as sarcastic and fun as we all are. I’m telling you, the people in your van make all the difference in the world on the experience you will have. If you ever do one, you want to stack your van with YOUR peeps, provided you have peeps that are crazy enough to do this race with you.
2. The other van was full of elite runners.
Four of the six people in the other van did the same race last year as an ultra team. Which means they are crazy enough to do the entire two hundred miles split up between only six of them instead of twelve. Because the entire van were elite runners with sub eight minute mile paces (that is INSANELY fast for those of you non-runners) we didn’t have much down time between our running. The first time we had about three hours. That was just enough time to get to the next exchange point to wait for them, snarf some amazing food (tri-tips and chicken grilled to perfection with a side of delicious pasta salad) sitting on asphalt in a dark parking lot and then sacking out in the gravel between the bushes of the planter boxes of the same dark parking lot. The second time we had about five hours in the wee hours of the morning. Not being locals, we had to follow the course the runners were on, through winding dirt and gravel roads, to get to the next exchange to wait. That drive ate two hours of our time up and later we learned we could have taken the interstate and a much more direct route. If only we had known. This is also why Steven and Austin didn’t really sleep. Steven because he took over the driving detail when Trent started falling asleep so we didn’t all die. I think Austin is just not used to sacking out with strangers…didn’t want to let his guard down, maybe?
3. Fewer teams on the course.
This is a huge catch-22 for me. Wasatch Back allows one thousand and fifty teams and sells out every single year. That’s twenty two HUNDRED vans on the back roads between Logan and Park City. Vegas had about four hundred fifty teams total and it really was much better. There wasn’t as much chaos at the major exchanges. We could adequately support our runners without fearing we wouldn’t make it to drop the next runner off in time. All the things those people who don’t want me personally to get OFF the waiting list for Wasatch Back 2012 have said in protest when they talk about allowing more teams. I get it now. Fewer teams means a more laid back race for everyone. And I really enjoyed that part of the Vegas race.
4. The scenery sucks.
I’m sorry to anyone who thinks that dessert landscape is beautiful, because I think those people are nuts. I had to run through desolate stretches of ugly ass scenery twice with the sun baking down on me feeling like I would shrivel up and die. Like some dead lizard. And no one would ever find my body. I’m used to running in the majestic beauty of northern Utah and by comparison this totally sucked. Not a tree in sight, no shade for miles, and dirt. In eight six and ninety degree heat respectively. For the record, I know why the Vegas race is where they give you double medals. Otherwise, no one would want to do it! Of course, there were some pretty parts – Lake Mead at the first major exchange point between vans, and the Red Rock area near the finish were both pretty. And the one bad ass hill we had to climb had a few trees at the top with a small section where it could be called nice. However, I did not get to run anywhere near any of those places.
5. The jokes were a lot more funny this time around – probably because we were all so much more sleep deprived!
- Every time one of us would do something dumb, someone would smile and reply “aw, at least you’re pretty”. This little saying was used so often it ended up written on the window by the end.
- Bad ass honey badgers. If you haven’t seen the youtube video, you should. Although it will never be as funny as we all thought it was with zero sleep when we had it playing on one of the iPhones in the middle of the night. We picked up and repeated two lines from this little gem: “You’re a bad-ass honey badger – you don’t give a shit!” and “I’m a tired little fuck”. Trust me, even I thought it was less funny when I got home and had gotten a little sleep so don’t feel bad if you don’t ‘get it’. (at least you’re pretty!)
- Austin obsessing about how all he needed when he got done running was a banana – and me meeting him at the exchange after his hardest leg with one.
- Strobe light effects from a high-powered mag light accompanied by cow bells out the window in the middle of the night, compliments of Trent the driver extraordinaire.
- “You guys can take your vests off now”. Three of us in the back seat had fallen asleep on the two hour drive from hell. When we arrived it was daylight and we all still had our night gear on.
- The anonymous chalk message written on a part of the course Austin ran that said “pick up your vagina and run faster!” It became our mantra.
- When the girls weren’t feeling so fresh anymore, Carrie stopped and bought a little bottle of baby powder that we then used to freshen up. Guess what – you can overdo powdering your girl parts in compression shorts… afterward, we had the insanely funny idea of calling our team the “Powder Pussies” the next time we raced. Something tells me that name might not be allowed.
- Relating an injury to the other van and referring to it as “I bruised my vagina”. Oh the jokes that followed that one…
There were so many other noteworthy things that happened in those thirty three hours that I could go on and on about:
- Steven saying randomly over and over, “Austin, have I said ‘thank you’ lately?” every time he thought about how he was originally assigned to the runner position Austin did.
- Taking time to set up a tent at the last major exchange so we could all go inside, strip down and take a baby-wipe shower. “You know you’re on Ragnar when a baby wipe shower is the highlight of your weekend.”
- Hubby getting mad at the inconsiderate and obnoxious college-aged children who wouldn’t shut up so we could sleep on the ground around them.
- Carrie and Nancy running all three times in the dark.
- Steven’s sprint finish on his last run.
- My getting the shaft and having to run TWICE in the dreaded heat – in the ugliest parts of the course to boot.
- Watching Austin power through his TEN mile run – six of which was brutal uphill and then being stubborn to a fault when asked if he wanted/needed someone to take over and finish it for him.
- Losing Carrie at the second major exchange after she handed off to the other van.
- Lake Las Vegas at night is so amazingly beautiful! We all said we wanted to come back to Vegas and stay there instead of the usual places you think of when you think Las Vegas.
- Hubby starting the weekend saying “this is my last Ragnar”. And then kicking ass and feeling so great at the end that he was asking when the next one is.
- The wonders of ‘Sore No More’ cream – just don’t put it near your girl parts!
- Nancy crying out “That’s MY girl” when a confused runner from a different team slapped her bracelet on Carrie who was waiting for Nancy to hand off to her.
- Nancy and Carrie both running personal-best fastest times – on their THIRD runs when they were the most tired. Both of them ran sub-nine minute miles. A-maz-ing!
- Nancy commenting on how fast this adorable, young girl runner was when she left the exchange significantly ahead of Nancy – and then Nancy running so fast she overtook the same girl while we all cheered her on with cowbells. Then when Nancy passed off to Carrie, she paced the entire leg with the same girls’ husband who happened to be the same guy who offered us bananas at the first leg when Austin was obsessing about how badly he needed a banana. See, smaller is better!
- Wine for the women at the finish line. The bottle we bought in a gas station and had hauled with us the whole way in the cooler. Drank from a shared paper cup we swiped from the hotel room. Best glass of wine ever because it was so deserved.
- Feeling sorry for people we saw at the finish line with “only” one medal because this was their first Ragnar of the year. Saints and Sinners medal for those of us who did Wasatch Back this year and Deuces Wild medal for those who had done at least one other one plus Vegas this year.
- Walking through The Paris hotel casino after the race was over. Sweaty, stinky, haggard looking while women in hoochie skirts and hooker heels made up perfectly passed by on all sides. And not giving a shit because just being there meant we were headed to a shower and a real bed.
- Crashing in the room and not seeing a single typical Vegas sight before hitting the road to come home the next day. Although Steven did!
So what about my own personal experience running this time around?
The highlight of the running part for me was my night run at one in the morning. It was chilly enough for a light jacket, I could see the Strip all lit up in the distance, and the run itself was easy and enjoyable. Well, that is until it was longer than advertised and I had spent everything I had in me thinking I was almost done. Luckily, Carrie had back-tracked to find me in the dark after they parked and we ran in together the last half mile. I was hurting and spent and she kept trying to distract me by making me think about what I was going to do the minute we got done and what drink we were going to celebrate our finish with. I don’t know if I ever even answered her, but just having to think about it in my head and knowing she was right there with me kept me pushing to the end. She’s my favorite little ferret.
The lowest part for me was when I had to admit I couldn’t finish my last run. I’d been ignoring a pretty significant running injury for months (ha, still am!) and after the end of my second run I knew the third was going to be brutal. Luckily, it was going to be one hundred percent downhill. Not a single foot of elevation increase according to the race maps. I started out feeling great and pounding the miles out. About two miles into my six mile run it wasn’t downhill anymore. And uphill aggravates my injury worse – plantar fasciitis – as it pulls the tendon on the bottom of my foot in a bad way. I was still in good spirits and made a deal with myself and my burning foot: walk the distance between every other barrel cone and run the rest. That worked for about a mile and then I could barely walk and had to stop at every barrel to stretch my calves just so I could walk to the next one. Every step sent sharp pains shooting up from my foot and I literally thought I was going to die. No more running for this girl. Not that day. So I walked – and cried – and cried harder as each person passed me – until I could see my van appear over the next rolling hill. Nancy was walking toward me and as I came within earshot she asked if I was all right. I told her ‘No’ and cried harder as she took off running back toward the van. My amazing Hubby – who already knew it was too bloody hot out and too much rolling hills for me to handle – had already suited up and warmed up and was ready to go. He crossed the two-lane highway, hugged and kissed me and let me cry on his shoulder for a second and then finished my last mile and did his six. The fact that this is my lowest point and most likely made his Ragnar all at the same time is only a little ironic. Almost as ironic as knowing he was unable to finish his last leg on the Wasatch Back and had trained super hard for Vegas so as not to repeat it. He was certainly my hero that day.
After, we talked about how this Ragnar was Blood, Sweat and Tears. Hubby had bled when he banged his leg on the tailgate at some point, we were ALL sweaty and stinky, and I had cried like a baby… In the end, we all decided that Ragnar is really about being with friends for thirty six hours straight. The running part is just a reason to make the time and do it.
Here’s hoping we get a spot for Wasatch Back in 2012. And if not, we’ll find another one to do instead!