Ragnar Vegas Leg 2
|November 15, 2012||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
First things first.
There is something I probably should have clarified about the intentions of our team as soon as I wrote my first post about Ragnar. (Although you maybe made an educated guess about this based on all 5 of our excited results posts/tweets/facebook messages).
When we entered this relay, we were in it to win it. All 6 girls on #Undecided2 were on board to put their game faces on as soon as touched down on Nevada soil.
Skinny Runner: Don’t Mess with the Best ‘Cause the Best a Hot Mess
We did not sign up for 200 miles of fun runnin’ through the desert. We were there to compete. (Although, let’s be real, competition IS fun.) While there was no time trial audition or thorough vetting of athlinks results to get a spot in the van, there was a mutual agreement that we were all going to run our asses off for 24+ hours and try to place at the top of the women’s ultra category…(and maybe also the straight up female division and why not try to kick some butt of all genders on all ultra teams?)
So now you know. Team #Undecided2: Operation W.
Now, back to the race:
After I bombed down the mountain, the rest of the #Undecided2 lineup was on deck to race their first legs through the hills and desert of Nevada.
First up, Margot with 11.2 miles.
Next 11.8 miles for the most stylish member of the team.
“You can call me Skinny Runner but slim down my mileage and I pummel you.”
After SR and Margot dominated their miles, the sun had set and we knew the conditions were getting rough. The wind was coming straight at the runners at a rather brutal, unforgiving force and the course was lonely.
Because of the staggered start times based on expected pace, we were one of the last dozen teams to begin the race. Relay organizers do this so the speedier teams begin to catch up with other groups throughout the day/night and finish closer together. This is all good and shit, but it set us up for a very quiet, lonely, and kind of scary start to the race.
And cold? Did I mention cold?
It was effing cold out. Fleece, down, and snuggies played a starring role over the course of the weekend.
By the time Sarah was running her 10.9 mile leg, it was only 6pm, but it felt like midnight.
As we were waiting for her to come into the exchange another team showed up desperately looking for a lost runner. You know where I would never want to get lost? Bumfuck, Nevada at night. Shit just got real.
When Sarah flew into the exchange, we saw just how shitty it really was, and just how much our team was committed to dominating Operation W.
Yup, that’s blood. From the WIND.
Our non-blogging ringer Kristina took the bracelet from Sarah and flew out of the exchange to rock 6.4 miles. This girl just threw down a 1:33 half, so we knew we’d only have to wait, like, 10 minutes for her to show up.
Sure enough, K came sprinting into the exchange and Lauren took off to anchor our first round of legs with 6.9 miles.
I was up next and not feeling great about the 10.9 miles ahead of me. My legs were unquestionably feeling the weight of my mountain descent, not to mention a tinybit stiff from sitting in a van for hours after finishing my leg.
And then there was the matter of the elevation profile of the nearly 11 miles I was about to run, which can be summed up in two characters:
Sarah has assigned me the goal pace of 7:15 for my relay legs. As I waited for Lauren to come in and hand off to me, I sat there telling myself that a 7:15 pace for 11 miles is easy-peezy, no problemo, piece of cake, I can do that in my sleep, good thing it’s a night leg, move over and let me run.
And as soon as I did start running, I really, truly tried to hit that pace.
And for a whopping 1.5 miles, I did. But then I realized that while sure, I can hit a 7:15 for 11 miles on a flat, well lit, not-windy course no problem, the conditions in front of me were going to shoot that goal pace down real quick.
And holy shit, it sucked to see my pace fall as I watched a long ass, unrelenting hill stretch out before me.
The entirety of my leg was a climb. The kind of climb where you think you can see the top the entire time and keep reassuring yourself: “it HAS to go down after I crest that”. But nope. It never did. And as much as I tried to fool myself with hopes of a downhill relief, I had seen the elevation maps, I knew that it would never come.
After a brief stint stumbling through suburbia, still trying to maintain a decent pace, we turned onto a highway for more…you guessed it! UP.
And not only were we treated to an all-you-can-climb buffet of inclines for all 11 miles, but for this portion of the leg, we also got to enjoy the exciting addition of traffic lights.
If you’ve never done a relay like this before, you’re probably sitting at your desk thinking “So what? Isn’t the course closed to traffic? With volunteers telling cars to halt for you at every intersection?”
While I’m a huge proponent for runners getting the right of way in all races (and just life period), we were expected to obey traffic laws and stop for every red light.
It was not that awesome.
While a small part of me was longing for a few seconds of relief from the cruel hills, a much larger part of me wanted to finish sooner and faster.
It wasn’t long before I would get my wish for a traffic light-less stretch of pavement, and it was similarly not long before I would instantaneously regret this desire.
After suburbia and strip malls, we turned onto a dark, lonely stretch of highway. No lights. No cars. No other runners. Just miles and miles of empty desert stretching out on both sides of me.
For the next 5? 6? 7? A million miles?
(I had long since stopped looking at my Garmin in hopes that it would make the miles tick by faster…it only kind-of-sort-of-not-really-at-all worked)
It was all uphill (do I even need to specify that anymore? You get it. We were going nowhere but up) and there were 41mph wind gusts with sustained winds of 26mph coming straight at us. I felt like I was moving backwards.
One mile in these conditions seemed brutal, 7 seemed downright impossible.
I wanted to cry.
I said a brief eulogy for my 7:15 pace and thought about what weapon my team would choose to use against me for losing minutes, if not hours, as I got slower and slower trying to push up that hill against the wall of wind with tired legs. A foam roller? Probably not heavy enough. A Tiger Tail? That would certainly sting a little. The Costco sized bin of peanut butter pretzels? That would be a fitting way to harm me, for sure.
My go-to line when races get tough is to reassure myself “you’ve felt worse than this before, and you’ve pushed through to finish strong.”
But along that highway, I was pretty sure I had finally identified a dark moment in racing where that was no longer true.
To make things worse (because obviously it had to go there) I saw a sign looming in the distance. As I got closer, I could make out the text:
“Do Not Feed the Wild Horses and Burros. $500 Fine.”
I’ll take: Signs You Do Not Want to See While Alone on Dark Highway, Alex
Forget foam rollers and bins of snacks…I was definitely about to experience death-by-trampling.
At some moment during this all-hope-is-lost-shuffle, I snapped myself out of my misery.
Every team was out on the course in these insane conditions.
Every runner was battling wind, cold, and darkness.
Everyone racing this leg was stuck going 11 miles straight uphill.
Sure, a 7:15 pace would have been great. But maintaining that pace was not our goal.
I had totally lost sight of Operation W.
I’m so used to racing against myself, racing against the clock, and racing against my own PR, I had forgotten that we were out there for the fun of racing against the competition.
At Ragnar Vegas, there was no PR to chase, and it didn’t matter what our pace was in the end. It was all about how we stacked up against the other teams and how hard we were willing to work for it.
So screw 7:15. I just needed to give that course, and its miserable uphills, and mother fucking killer wind my very best effort.
So I did.
It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t pretty. And it certainly wasn’t fast. But I guarantee I was busting my ass as hard as anyone else out there.
10.9 miles in 1:30.50 for an 8:20 pace.
Top 3 life moment the second I saw the warm van, cheering teammates, and knew I would not become a victim of the wild horses or wild winds of Nevada.