Ragnar – Part 2, Van #1 Final Push
This is a looooooong post. I didn’t want to drag it into 3 parts. You’ve been warned.
The tutu I wisely chose not to wear on that first Anaheim leg of death:
I think that would have pushed me over the edge into The Crazy if I were overheating and wearing a tutu in a less than desirable part of Anaheim.
At times being 5 feet tall has some advantages. Like being able to curl up and lay down in less than half of a van seat. It was 3:30-4am and we were trying to get 30-40 minutes of sleep at the major exchange before the rock-star mama of the group finished up her 7 mi (amended from 4.3!) descent from upper Fallbrook. I say rock-star because she is 61 and runs a 1:47 half marathon. Seriously.
I got maybe 15 minutes of semi-awake sleep and then we walked over to meet Van 2 in the cold dust-hay bowl that was major exchange #3. We were lucky enough to have a team member living 10 minutes from the next major exchange (score!). So as soon as she handed off, we said “see you in 3 hours” to van 2 and took off, arriving at our crash pad around 4:45am. I claimed a spot on the floor with my sleeping bag, setting my phone alarm for 6:20am. As expected, I woke up before my alarm, netting a total of 1 hour of sleep. What I realized during this event is the faster your group, the less time you get to sleep because you’re definitely not sleeping during your own van’s legs.
We got the hand-off from van 2 in Carlsbad around 7:45am and it was clear it was going to be another hot one. This is the exchange where I realized (a) there were teams of Biggest Loser alumni running (black and blue), and (b) we caught up to them. It would turn out they started Friday 6am. We also learned of the dude in the very short red dress who apparently had copious butt-crack hair visible when running behind him. It became the goal to try to stay ahead of that team to spare runner 12 from seeing it on her last leg. I’m still not sure if we achieved that goal.
Everyone’s GI tracts were wonky that morning but luckily, a diet of bagels and bananas was bland enough to settle them down. I even had my morning coffee from Starbucks between legs 26 and 27! During the whole race we had been leapfrogging with an Air Force team (I think from Vandenburg AFB) and I remember in the middle of my Temecula leg, I passed him and then I remember talking to him at various exchanges.
Sidebar, here is my Temecula outfit – it’s dark, you can’t see all that much, but, clearly I have a lot of dorky running gear on. Which the Old Town drunk people must have loved.
I got the handoff for my final leg (6.1 miles) at 10:18am ahead of his team. Runner 3 coming down to the chute in Solana Beach:
But, be damned, those crosswalks! A quarter mile in I hit the Lomas Santa Fe intersection which I could not jaywalk across lest I felt the itch to be roadkill. I must have waited a full minute. A f***ing minute!!! That is an eternity. Guess who caught up. We even had time to chat, that’s how long I was stuck there. Once we took off again, he ran ahead and opened up a good 200 yards on by the time we got to Via de La Valle. I passed a few people from earlier start times and got to the turn to go up El Camino Real, but I couldn’t see him anymore. Blasted lights! I hit seven crosswalks where I had to stop in that leg.
At this point, it was 75-80 degrees but still a cakewalk compared to Anaheim. I knew that the hill I was facing would be hard – it was about a 400 foot climb up to Torrey Pines High School. My one and only goal was to not walk on that hill.
I start running on El Camino Real and this awesome runner starts sharing her water with me. How nice is that?! I wanted to stay with her because she helped me out – initially we were running a similar pace - but as we started ascending, she had to slow down. After breaking away from her I caught up with the Air Force dude (and another dude as well), and then passed him. Sweet!
A third of the way up the hill another saintly team was giving COLD water bottles to whoever needed them. She held it out to me and I literally said “For me? Really?” like she was handing me an 8-week old puppy and I was 7 years old. Best team ever.
I just kept chugging up that hill at a pace that I felt I could sustain for a while (hovering between 10:15 and 11:15) and I noticed that there were chalk messages written on the sidewalk… for me! My running buddy who said she’d com cheer for me on the hill wrote messages every 20-30 feet on that hill. How awesome is she?! I swear those messages got me up that hill without walking. Because, for damn sure, I wanted to walk. I got to the top before the turn up another hill to the school, and I hit another intersection! Luckily another runner had gotten there 15 seconds before me and had hit the button already. I look down the hill and guess who’s coming up maybe 100 yards away? The Air Force dude.
As soon as the light turned yellow on the other side, I started crossing. Screw that, I’m not waiting for the “official” walk sign so he can get closer! I chugged up the next hill, got a much appreciated downhill to flat, every second hearing footsteps behind me. It became my life goal to stay ahead of that guy. I already had my acceptance speech planned for the Award for Not-Letting-Military-Dude-Pass-Me-On-My-Final-Leg.
I run past the lookout volunteer with the walkie-talkie who tells me it’s just one block more. He radios: “4…4…6”
The exchange is up another hill (are they trying to kill me?). I push with everything I have left which was like trying to get the last bits of peanut butter out of a jar, so much effort for so little return.
I hand off and I was so happy to be done! But I was also so exhausted that I could hardly breathe – it felt like a weird asthma attack – my throat was partially closing up. It was freaky. After about 2-3 minutes of walking around it finally went away, but I can say I’ve never physically and mentally pushed that hard in a race in my life. I passed 6 or 7 people in that leg.
Our van had two more legs until we were done! In both of the harder legs I ran, runner 5 followed with short legs – 2.5 and 3.0. And he was 7:15 pace. So I always got tactfully rushed into the van by runner 6 so we didn’t miss her exchange. No more was this the case than this last leg. He had an all downhill leg to the beach (basically erasing the hill I just climbed) and we had to get to the parking lot at the bottom of the Torrey Pines hill. He seriously almost beat us with the number of vans trying to get in there and the general beach-surfer traffic. He said he felt bad that the rest of us had to run those longer mileages and big hills so he ended up running his leg in 20 minutes for 3.3 (according to garmin). I’m sure he had no idea we almost didn’t make it in time!
The last leg for our van went up the infamous Torrey Pines hill. And she powered up the thing like nobody’s business. I can only hope to still be running as well as she is in 28 years.
She hands off to the first runner of van 2 and we are done!
After that we unloaded the mess that was the van and headed home to shower before meeting van 2 at the finish. At that point we were about 60-70 minutes behind schedule. Van 2 would end up having two very hot and long legs for 31 and 32 (we all got our share of the heat in this race). The Husband and I headed down to Coronado around 4:30pm thinking we had maybe 90 minutes or so to wait, but it turned out to be more than 2 hours. Luckily there was beer!
We were in constant text contact with van 2 and I was telling them that we would wait before the finish line so we could run in as group, which was what all the other teams were doing. We get word that runner 12 is close, so we congregate, looking for her to come through the little tunnel under the road.
She comes through and is totally focused on finishing. I see her and jump into the path in front and she smiles at me, but clearly is not putting 2+2 together because she is exhausted. She keeps running! I am between her in front of me and the rest of the group in back. I yell for her to wait, and I look behind me and it was such a ridiculous sight, I will never forget. This herd of people running towards me looking somewhat confused, just a smidgen stricken, and our runner up ahead just GOING. She hits the sand and realizes, just in time, that she has to stop for us. We catch up a second later and run through the finish.
We finished in 28 hours, 39 minutes, and 59 seconds. About 1:40 off our predicted finish. Not too bad, and, in fact that is an average of 8:30 pace for the whole course. Results are still pending, but they had posted us as 28th overall and 2nd in the mixed-corporate division. I think that’s a pretty damn good showing.
And the last bit of fun I have is a little celebricizing.
The Biggest Loser vans finished around the same time we did (but they started at 6am). We were in the beer garden area and I see Tara, who on the show would regularly hand the dudes their asses in challenges. In my exhaustion, shamelessness was at an all-time high and I asked for a photo with her.
What cracked me up was how I was telling her that she was one of my favorite contestants because she continually beat the dudes and she says to me: “And I do it again with Rulon on April 26th.” It was like I was suspended in a TV commercial. Anyway, so if you are a BL fan, watch it this Monday. Hopefully she kicks his ass.