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Ragnar 2013: Sneakers Attack: Wasatch Your Back

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Why do I still run Ragnar?

Sometime around 2:00 A.M. I stumble into a dimly lit high school in the middle of a small Utah town.  I have no real idea of where I am.  I’m filthy, smelly and exhausted.  My teeth are coated with sugar and plaque.  My contacts are foggy.  My hair’s full of grit. My hamstring is crying.  I’m sore and desperate for sleep.

 

I duck into an empty bathroom stall inside the girls’ locker room and change from one race skirt into another.  I grab a few wipes and “shower”.  I squeeze in between two other ripe girls and brush my teeth and then stagger to a dark gym covered in seemingly lifeless bodies.  “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get 3 hours of sleep before I wake up and run another 8 miles,” I think.  Yeah.  Three hours of sleep is plenty of time to recover from the 29 miles I ran earlier that day.  Or yesterday.  It’s all blending together.

 

As I set my pillow down on the hardwood floor and play sleeping bag gymnastics in a futile effort to find comfort, I wonder what is wrong with me.  Why would I choose to give up the comforts of home to wander the Wasatch Back for two straight days on purpose?  Why would I do it, not once, but six years in a row?  Why do I do it without hesitation and how am I able to find 11 other crazy souls to join me?

 

In honor of Ragnar’s 10th anniversary running of the Wasatch Back relay, here are my top 10 reasons I keep coming back to my favorite race of the year.  (in no particular order).

 

1.  A chance to see the gorgeous Wasatch Back in a way I never could before.  I’ve driven through these mountain numerous times.  I’ve biked my way through many of the same cities this race runs through.  But the perspective you get as a runner winding your way through some of the most beautiful countryside in the U.S. is unparalleled.  

 

2.  A chance to accept and conquer a challenge.  People ask me all the time if running Ragnar is more difficult than running a marathon.  I can’t answer that.  It’s just different.  All I know is I go home feeling stronger and more capable of handling just about anything life throws my way after two days of running on no sleep and questionable food.  

 

3.  An excuse to eat questionable food.  Where else do I get to enjoy a breakfast of Tootsie Rolls and Cheez-its and not feel guilty about it.  Freedom!

 

4.  I get to stay up past my bedtime.  I rarely see the moon at night anymore.  With early morning wake-up calls almost every day of the week, I’m usually in bed by 9 pm.  What a joy it is to cut the alarm clock ties and just enjoy.

 

5.  Creativity!  I’m always amazed at others’ creativity.  Team “Legs Miserables”, thank you for two days of smiles every time I saw your van!

 

6.  It’s always different.  I have been Runner 1 every year of the six years I’ve run this race.  People ask me if I get bored with the same run.  The thing is, it’s never, ever the same.  Even if the course is the same, it’s different at 3 am than it was last year at midnight.  

 

7.  Running.  Two days with no responsibility other than to run the three legs I’ve been    assigned?  Yes, please.

8.Two days I don’t have to worry about doing my hair.  Okay, I don’t do my hair all that often anyway, but during the Wasatch Back I feel as though I’m among my people.  No judgment.  No finger pointing.  Au natural is the word of the day.

 

9.  Everything’s funny at midnight.  Just ask my van.  What was so funny that we were laughing until our cheeks hurt and our driver almost had to pull over because she couldn’t see through her funny tears?  Diet chocolate cake.  Yeah, I don’t get it either, but it was hilarious at the time.  Everyone needs to laugh so hard they get a six-pack core workout once in awhile.

 

10.  This race changes people in wonderful ways.  Not to be melodramatic, but this race has most definitely changed my life.  Some of my closest friendships have been forged in our stinky van.  Some of those runs are smooth sailing.  Others fraught with potholes.  Sometimes the legs are fresh.  Sometimes they buckle under us and it’s all we can do to finish and pass on the baton.  

 

No matter what kind of run I’m having, no matter how difficult the road ahead, I know I have people in a van following my progress.  I have people cheering me on, offering support and water.  I have people who understand the ups and downs and how quickly things can change.  I have people willing to step in at any moment and run with me if necessary.  I have people to celebrate the triumph of every victory.   

 

The bond forged on the road is a tough one to break.  I don’t see these friends every day.  But I do know that when my daily life feels like Leg 2 at midnight, they are still there to cheer me on, step in when needed, and celebrate when I finish sweaty, exhausted and happy.

 

I’m an introvert at heart.  I’m guarded and shy.  For two days I and five other people laughed together.  We suffered together.  We cheered together.  We often ran together.  We expressed hopes and confessed fears.  We dug into each other’s life stories and came away with a greater understanding of who we are at our core.  This race became a bond, a glue, binding us together in the most wonderful way.

 

This is more than a race for me.  This is a special time spent with special people in the most special of places.   It’s not about the race.  It’s about the run.

 

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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Articles, Race Reports

 

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Ragnar 2013: Sneakers Attack. Wasatch Your Back.

Ragnar 2013:  Sneakers Attack.  Wasatch Your Back.

Another great year with another great team.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Snippets and Thoughts

 

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Utah Valley Race Report

Grab some popcorn and settle in.  This one’s a long one!Image

Anyone who’d talked to me during the weeks before this race knows I was anything but excited for it.  Dread is a good word.  Ever since Boston, I feel like I’ve lost my competitive mojo.  There’s a little ember still burning, but it’s low and buried.  Tragedy has a way of making crystal clear what is truly important in life.  It also has a way of stealing away some of life’s joy.  I’ve been feeling a bit of both.

Aside from that, people don’t give Utah Valley enough credit for being a tough course.  Yes, there is a lot of downhill, but that in itself is a challenge.  There are also some big uphills that most runners are unprepared to meet.  This would be my 4th running of UVM, so I knew what was ahead.  I was not excited.

Utah Valley is the second of four marathons runners in the Utah Grand Slam are required to run in order to compete in the Slam.  After finishing Ogden, I found myself with a gigantic lead of 15 seconds!  Truthfully I was hoping that Josie, the girl behind me, would demolish me leaving me with no chance to win this year.  Then the pressure would be off my shoulders and I could enjoy my runs.  But even with only an smoldering ember of competition in my belly, if I’m still in the competition, I’m going to compete.

The night before the race my daughters had their first track meet of the year.  It was a practice meet, but they were still nervous, especially Ali who is half the size of every other kid on the field and who’d never done anything competitive before.  Like her mom, she was a ball of stress.  Unlike her mom she didn’t complain.  She and her sister ran their little hearts out and showed me how to be a big girl and go out and get the job done.

We got down to our hotel near the finish line as soon as the meet was over and just as I was ready to drift to sleep I could hear loud music coming from outside.  The great city of Provo decided that this was a great time to have an outdoor concert loud enough for every marathoner with a 3 am wake up call to enjoy until 10:30 pm.  The Marriott got a fair number of complaints for that one.  I feel for the front desk clerk, but not as much as I felt for all the runners including myself.

Before I knew it, the alarm went off.  I met my friend Tara downstairs and we headed to the buses.  This was her second marathon (Park City being her first!), but it was her first in 4 years.  She was running this one for herself.  She had her own goals and her own set of nerves.  No matter what your pace, your goal, your training or past performance, everyone has race-day jitters!

I love having a friend to ride the bus with.  Those rides can mess with my mind.  Everytime the bus goes downhill I think of how we have to run uphill in the other direction.  It’s good to have distractions.

The start line was cool, but not freezing as it had been in years past.  Certainly we wouldn’t be contending with the rain as we did in Ogden.  Tara and I wished each other luck and I made my way near the front of the pack.  I’m still not confident enough to put myself front and center.  There was no gun- no countdown.  People were suddenly running and I followed.

Mile 1-7- I knew right from the start this would be a pretty good day.  My legs were surprisingly loose.  No pain.  No stiffness.  No aches.  I noticed more of the downhill than I had before and I just let it pull me.

Mile 8-12- Our first big hill is at mile 8.  I knew it well.  I calmed my breathing, settled into a comfortable pace.  I let a guy who’d been leapfrogging me run ahead.  I told myself it was early in the race and tried not to let the fact that a few people were passing me bother me.  I felt strong.  There are a number of hills through mile 11 and every one of them gave me confidence.  In years past these hills have eaten me up, but this year was different.

Mile 13- I hadn’t noticed any port-o-potties, but I also wasn’t in dire need of them.  Apparently the p.o.p. company failed to meet its obligations and they were few and far between.  There were plenty at the halfway mark, so I took advantage.  Only 7 seconds and I was done!  Yes, I’m as happy with that as I am with any PR I’ve ever had!  My half-marathon split- 1:30:25!!  Maybe another sub-3?

My friend Julie has been injured for some time and couldn’t compete, but she was on her bike riding the course giving us encouragement and updates. Oh, how I loved her at this point.  She told me that Josie, my Grand Slam competition was out due to an emergency appendectomy.  Part of me was relieved that I could ease up on my effort, but a bigger part of me was disappointed.  Last year Kelli got sick on this race and I’ve always felt that my Grand Slam win should have an asterisk by it.  Had she not gotten sick, I don’t know if I’d have won.  This year was deja vu.

Mile 14-18- Feeling good still.  Passed a few girls.  A cop told me I was 63rd overall and somewhere in the top 10 females.  Of course if you tell me that it just adds fuel to my fire.  That competitive ember was a full on flame by now.

Mile 20-24- Coming out of the canyon is rough.  The rest of this race is a fairly flat straight away to the finish with a few little hills thrown in around mile 23.  I hate it.  Give me twists and turns any day.  It breaks up my focus and gives me shorter goals to work toward.  It was getting hot.  Shade was scarce.  The race directors had changed the course a bit and we now ran on the left side of the road which was such a blessing.  More shade, especially in the canyon.  But it was mostly gone now.  I was dumping water on my head as much as I was drinking it.

Mile 23 I wanted to give up so badly.  The pain was almost unbearable.  I knew if I stopped there would be o starting again.  I did some quick calculations and realized I’d have to run 7-min miles to finish sub-3.  I was running around 7:15 but I had no more gas in my legs.  The only thing that kept me going was someone telling me I was in 5th place for the women’s division.  I’d been passing more people but wasn’t keeping track.  I knew UVM gave overall awards to the top 5.  We could use the money!

Mile 25- I’d been following “White Tank Top Girl” for awhile.  Without realizing it, I was suddenly on her tail.  She was more aware of me than I was of her.  She kept glancing back.  Her family was on the sidewalk cheering her on and I passed her just as we passed them.  I felt so bad.  No one wants to get passed in front of their family.  But this is what happens at the end of a race.  I really feel that all the energy I saved on the hills gave me just enough “oomph” to let me pick up the pace.

We could see the finish line for almost 2 miles.  Finally it was getting closer.

Mile 26-  I never saw my family, but they swear they were there.  I saw the clock.  2:59.  With a quarter mile to go, I knew I wouldn’t get a sub-3.  A small disappointment.  I want to run another just to prove that my first wasn’t a fluke.  My only goal now was to finish without tripping.  I was in 4th, but as I ran toward the finish I heard Bart Yasso of Runner’s World fame announce, “Here’s Kimberly Cowart of South Jordan.  Third woman!”  I knew he was wrong.  Apparently Rachelle went through the wrong side of the finish line and was third.  But I was more than happy as I crossed the line in 3:01:22.

There have been some sweet finish lines for me, but this ranks in my top 5!  They had a PR bell at the finish for people to ring.  This wasn’t an overall PR, but it was a course PR, so I rang the crap out of that baby!

My friend Hollie who’d finished her half marathon was waiting for me at the finisher’s chute.  She helped me keep walking, got me chocolate milk and supported me, literally, as I took in my good day.  I found my family and celebrated as I’d wanted to all season.  I was hot and thirsty so I headed to the med tent for a bag of ice to eat.  As I slowly came back to life I wondered how on earth I would teach a strength training class Monday morning when my quads were so destroyed!  There was so much joy in that pain, though.

I took advantage of the hot tubs full of ice water and iced my legs.  I collected my 4th place award and check and headed out to a celebratory lunch with my family.

When I stood on the podium and looked at the other girls who’d also placed overall, I was filled with awe.  These girls are so young.  So fast.  So trained.  Most ran in college.  To them finishing overall isn’t uncommon.  This would be my fourth time finishing overall.  I’m just a mom who likes to run.  I can not believe that my name is printed next to theirs in the winner’s category.

That afternoon I celebrated.  All the joy that had been stolen from me in Boston was found again.  That competitive ember has been fanned to bonfire proportions.  The only tears this day were tears of happiness.

I’m making my way back.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Race Reports

 

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Demons of Self-Doubt

“Our doubts are traitors,/

and make us lose the good we oft might win,/

by fearing to attempt.”

-William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

As a little girl I was never scared of monsters.  Obviously they weren’t real.  I’m not sure I ever believed in Santa, so why would I worry about some three-headed goblin taking up residence in my closet.

My fears were based more in reality.  Snakes in the toilet, spiders in my bed.  I still check the toilet before I sit down.  Always.

The fears I do battle with most often as an adult aren’t of the green, slimy kind.  They are the little demons of self-doubt.

No matter how well I may master a skill, these little creatures weasel their way into my psyche and wreak havoc at the most unexpected moments.  The longer they linger, the deeper they cling.

Sometimes self-doubt is sneaky.  I will attribute success to being in the right place at the right time.  I will credit luck rather than hard work for a fortunate outcome.

“I’m not a good writer.  I just happened to have a couple good ideas here and there.”

“I’m not a good runner.  All the fast girls stayed home today.”

“I’m not a good mom.  God just graced me with good kids.”

Other times self-doubt is brazen and bold, shouting insults with megaphone-like intensity.

“You have nothing interesting to say.”

“You aren’t fast enough, so why bother.”

“You’ll be lucky if those kids make it to adulthood without needing serious therapy.”

Self-doubt isn’t necessarily a bad trait to have.  For triple-A type personalities like myself who crave control over any given situation, doubting thoughts often spur me to action.  The idea that my past accomplishments are, well, in the past keeps me from resting on my laurels.  One good race season doesn’t guarantee another, so I keep training.

We all need to reflect and ask ourselves if we’re really living up to our potential in any facet of life.   Crammed schedules and constant running to and fro can masquerade for accomplishment when really it’s just busyness.  Sometimes we need to slow down, remember what it is we’re working toward and assess our progress.  A little recalibration can get us back on track.

But there have been moments when those demons have gotten the best of me.  As I stood at the starting line of the Ogden Marathon this year, those little critters didn’t just set up house in my head.  They were in my heart and, apparently, my stomach.  I took one look at all the “real” runners near the front of the pack and immediately discounted myself.

“They all ran in college and high school.  I’m just a mom,” was a thought I’m embarrassed to admit is a fairly common one for me.

I can’t imagine ever telling a fellow runner or friend, “They all ran in college.  You’re just a mom.  Step to the back and let the real runners through.”  I would sooner bite off my own tongue than tell a friend that their training was lacking and they didn’t deserve to toe the line of a race.

If I wouldn’t talk to a friend like this, why do I talk to myself like this?  It’s true I was never an athlete in my high school and college years.  I didn’t find running until after my youngest daughter was born.  I took up the sport not to bring home trophies and earn bragging rights, but to find peace and solace on the road as I struggled to find pieces of myself in the fog of motherhood.  In those early days, every run was a victory and I gained confidence I was desperate for that carried into my role as a mother.

I knew I was a runner.  No qualifications.  I believed in my abilities and was comfortable where I was.  I signed up for races with no hesitation.  I toed the starting line with nervous anticipation, but no doubt.

My goal this year has nothing to do with time or distance.  My goal is to talk to myself as I would talk to my best friend.   To take pride in what I’ve accomplished and find satisfaction in where I am in the moment.    Monsters aren’t real unless I make them real. (But I still check the toilet before sitting down.)

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Articles

 

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