Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay

For four years, I've been aching to run in a Ragnar Relay race. My family started running the Wasatch Back in 2005, then the Del Sol the next year, and then the Vegas race. Adam ran in it last year, and each time I'd get invited to run, I'd find out I was pregnant. At long last, all of the stars aligned and I signed up to run with Stephanie, Amy, my mom, and some great gals whose kids cheer at our gym. I met the race with a teeny bit opposition in my corner, but it was more than I wanted. So, after a few weeks of training, I was ready to run. I had two things to prove: that I could run my legs quickly and respectably, and that two vans full of women could navigate the course without getting lost.

By the end of the race, I had five really great(er) friends, I'd learned a bunch of excellent running strategies and techniques, I overcame running on an injured knee and pushing myself to finish the race despite the intense pain I felt with every step, and I felt like I could conquer the world. I can't describe the feeling of accomplishment and power that I experienced, not to mention the great fun I had every minute of my trip. It was definitely something I want to do again!

Leslie, Steph and I set out on Thursday at noon for Vegas. We stopped in St. George to meet up with four of our other team members for pasta at Brick Oven. Then we hit Target and Rebel Sports to get some last minute gear, snacks, matching socks, and water. Two hours later, we met up with the Arizona members of our team, decorated our vans, and climbed into bed to enjoy two hours of sleep.

Waking up that morning was almost as easy as waking up early on my wedding day; I couldn't wait to get going and I couldn't stop thinking about what was ahead of me. I had no idea what a race would be like and I was excited to go for it.

For pre-race and pre-dawn, we look pretty good, no? We woke up at 2:45 a.m. to be ready to rock at Valley of Fire State Park by 5:00 a.m.

Stephanie started us off bright and early. She did an awesome job on the first run of the day.

The first hand off didn't go very smoothly, but that's what you get when you're running 8 miles an hour and slapping a bracelet onto someone who's standing still. Eventually, the bracelet was on and Amy set out on her first leg.

Amy killed all of her runs, especially this brutal 9-miler that was ALL uphill. Phew. I'm tired just looking at this photo!

Leslie, Kaye, Sarah and me chillin' by our van during Amy's first run.

Stephanie and I spent 3 and half hours cutting vinyl for our vans. They turned out so well and we voted us the best-decorated team in the race. We got lots of compliments, too, so that was fun.

We dotted the "i"s in our names with tiny hearts and skulls and crossbones. They were adorable!

Here I am, waiting not-so-patiently to begin my first run. I was so anxious and nervous and excited. I wanted to run fast so my van members wouldn't get annoyed, and I kept wondering if I had eaten the right things, if I'd have to pull over and throw up, etc. I had only run 7.5 miles once before, so I hoped I'd be able to make it through.

Amy made it up that last hill in no time, and I wasn't quite situated when she passed the bracelet on to me. I fumbled with my iPod and watch for about 100 yards while I tried to have a good takeoff.

Eventually I got into a good rhythm and really enjoyed myself. The view was so incredible on my first run. I love looking at (not running up) those desert mountains!

Finally, a downhill stretch! I hate how I look when I'm running--I always picture myself prancing along gracefully like a gazelle, but in reality, I have the weird neck/chin compression and drool flying out of the corner of my mouth. Oh well. I felt good and that's all that matters, right?

This darling redhead is Kaye the Magnificent. She was kind of like the mother hen of our van, but waaay cooler than any other mother hen I know. She is inspiring, hilarious, and wise, not to mention very talented in the running department. She had great advice for all of our worries, she let me borrow her cool GPS watch, and she jumped out of the van to support every single runner on our legs. She makes me want to run a half-marathon!

It was fun to be able to hand off to Leslie, even on that massive stretch of really steep hills. I was thrilled that Leslie could step in at the last minute and run with our team. She's one of my best friends and she made the van ride even more fun.

There was a team called TuTu Phat--all the girls wore these green tutus. We started with them, and at some point early in the race, we all decided that they were the team for us to beat (along with the White Tigers). There is Kaye, catching up to the innocent, adorable, and unsuspecting "Green Tutu" while we were scheming, snickering and yelling "Great job!" to the poor gal.

Kaye was awesome, and the look on her face was even better as she approached Green Tutu to overtake her. In Ragnar speak, a pass is called a kill, and that was one sweet kill. Kaye rocks!

A great part of the race was being able to spend time with Amy and Steph, my two awesome sisters-in-law. Hopefully someday all the Clark girls can run a race together. That'd be a party! I'd also love to run a race with my sisters.

Something in my knee malfunctioned in a major way toward the end of leg number 2, and when I woke up for my third run, I couldn't even walk. I was in tears most of the morning, but not wanting to be a wuss, I swallowed the lump in my throat and said a prayer and set out to run my last 5.5 miles. Amy and Kaye, the resident experts, fixed me up with some awesome tape and topical medicine, and my makeshift leg warmers helped to keep my knee flexible, I guess. Halfway through the run, though, I wanted to quit because I couldn't bear the pain. Then I thought about how hard I had worked to prepare for the race and how mad I'd be at myself if I didn't finish, and I figured that walking to the finish line was better than hopping back in the van.
Cue the cheesey music and slo-mo recap: I was listening to my sisters' C.D. (Crazy About You) and there's a line in a song that says "when the bad gets worse and each step hurts, just keep on movin'" and I figured I could run a little bit more. My sisters inspired me, and I started running. Aaawww...but anyway, I made it across the line, just in time to heave a few really hideous, dramatic, and embarrassing sobs as I collapsed onto the nearest chair. My awesome teammates were there to help me, and they didn't seem to be too humiliated by my antics (thank heavens, because I was!). After sitting in the car for another 4 hours, I couldn't even walk up the stairs to our hotel room and I was worried that I had done some serious damage. Fortunately, my knee feels better today and I'm only having minor problems now. Phhew. Looks like the Del Sol Ragnar is still a go!

Terra was the last runner, so she had to get dressed in her matching team gear while she ran. That's talent!

Leslie, Steph and I represented Van 1 at the finish line since Amy, Kaye and Sarah had to fly home shortly after we finished our legs. Check out our shiny medals and our cute shirts (Leslie helped me make them and she saved my life). I really loved our socks and legwarmers, too.

Utah Hold 'Em...Amy, Sarah, Kaye (all not pictured), Sabrina, Stephanie, Shelley (my mom), Terra, Joy, Leslie, Natalie, Sheri, and Rena. Nice legs, nice shirts, nice van, and nice abs (some of us). This was more fun than I've had in a really long time, and I can't wait to do it again!