I was not super excited about doing Ragnar Utah this past weekend. 36 hours sitting in a van? With a bunch of sweaty people? Running when you weren’t sitting — with my right leg totally crippled last week? It was so not exciting to me that Steve and I were laughing last week, after I wasn’t able to run four miles without limping, that it was so bad it was funny. Here I was crippled after the Dipsea, dealing with injury and needing to train for Ironman, exhausted from traveling, and sick of people.
So, of course, running 18.5 miles (possibly more depending on other teammates’ injuries) over 36 hours as part of a 200ish-mile relay sounds like the obvious answer. Exactly the kind of thing I love.
Hah. See. It’s a good joke.
Here’s the punchline, though: It actually was a lot of fun.
Maybe it would have been exactly as shitty as I was worried if I’d been with a different group or our van had been different. But our van was awesome. We had a huge trailer-type van with enough room to sleep or stand or roll out your legs and stretch. And we had a fun group that was a good balance between being serious and not stressing out. Basically, if you wanted to dance to “Shut Up and Dance” for the 10th time in 10 hours at 6 a.m. while waiting in an exchange zone, then we did that. And if you wanted to run your leg fast and make sure you got enough time after to stretch and recover, then we did that too.
I guess it was technically a race. We got 29th out of however many hundreds of teams. But it didn’t feel like a race. It felt like an bonding adventure exercise?
And dancing at the finish (again to “Shut Up and Dance”):
The running itself was rough for me. The first 8 miles were at midnight by myself down a mountainside from a ski resort. My right leg was not happy. Also, it turned out Park City is at like 7,000 feet of elevation. Maybe I should have thought about that before.
The second leg of 5.5 miles, after a couple hours of sleep, made it really really clear I should have thought about the elevation beforehand. I do not do well at elevation. In fact, I do so badly the last time I tried to run 7 miles at elevation it turned into a death march that it took me days to recover from. So so badly. But, I just kept moving forward and we weren’t by ourselves anymore; we were actually catching people!
The last 5-mile leg was brutal. At first it was fine and I was chugging along at 7:20-30 pace. Then, I ran out of water, and it was so hot that a kid doused me with a hose and my shirt dried within five minutes. After I drank all my water in the first 3 miles, I got insanely dehydrated and messed up. And I’d only been out of water for less than 10 minutes!! Stupid elevation. Stupid mountains. Stupid everything. I really thought I was going to start walking and crying and everything was going to fall apart, but it didn’t and I kept moving forward and I kept passing people, so maybe I was holding up better than I thought. And, here’s the crazy part: somehow I sort of ran through the pain and the bad stuff and came out the other side, where my legs hurt, yes, but my right leg wasn’t debilitating and I wasn’t limping with a knot in my calf and it turns out I can run at elevation, just maybe not that fast?
I get the feeling that this is sort of what people are going for when they invent crazy races or races that are more about some kind of epiphany than about the race. The idea, I think, is that you find yourself in that moment of such extreme fatigue that you can’t fake it anymore and you can’t think about how to accommodate all your little problems and aches. You just have to find a way to keep going. And so you do.
Or something. And somehow it’s fun too.