20 Days – The Ragnar Relay Race – Las Vegas

I’ll be honest, in the grand scheme of things, relay races aren’t really my favorite events.  Don’t get me wrong, I do really enjoy them… the group dynamic, the team comradery, and the problem solving that goes into them, but in terms of racing, I like to be in control of my own destiny.  Doing it once was fun, but I hadn’t really planned to continue with them.  However, when Eric asked me back on the team, I accepted with no hesitation.   First because I’d do just about anything for Eric, second because it was an opportunity for my life to come full circle in a way that I needed it to.

Originally I had not been asked back to this particular team, the Academy’s strongest racing team, due to my physical limitations.  The reason resonated with me on a pretty deep level for a while… ‘because of the team’s goals.’  I realized in that moment, that my life was starting to pass me by, as I was waiting for a resolution that may not come.  I immediately signed up for my 100 mile race, on no training, and significantly PRed, earning myself a spot on the Bastards.  A driving force behind my success that day was that conversation.  Whenever I wanted to stop or felt it was too much, I would retire to the strongest part of my mind that reminded me that there HAD to be something in me greater than present circumstance.  But that wasn’t enough… at the next Arrogant Bastard’s qualifier, I gunned for the top 6 female spots (6 women to a Ragnar team).  I was #5.   And within a week of winning our Mt. Disappointment 50k bet, another stepping stone along the way to removing a definition of myself I didn’t want, Eric asked me back on the team.

So here I was at 1:30pm on a Thursday, at Team CrossFit Academy loading up the vans and saying good-bye to one major missing component this weekend – Eric and Vanessa.  Due to both of their very busy and otherwise committed lives, neither of them would be able to join us this time.

Half of our 13 person team pulled into the Valley of Fire Campgrounds just after dark that evening.  Jack enthusiastically helped me set up my tent as Monya and I quickly built our nest inside.  I went to bed early, to try to get a good night’s sleep as well as avoid the cold air that was coming in, but not before the group of us laid down on a rock, some enjoying a few beers, pointing out constellations and counting shooting stars.  All in all a pretty perfect night.  The other half of our team, minus Trish, arrived a few hours later.

The next morning we packed up our vans and got situated with the group of people we’d be spending the next 24+ hours racing with.  My van consisted of Lexi (driving), Monya, Saskya, Lindsay, myself and Jack, with Amy to join us later.  Jack was a great sport and happily embraced his duties as the only man among the ladies. Due to the fact that we were one runner short, several of the other runners had multiple duties, hence the van switch.  We met up with Trish at the start line and after being able to convince the race officials to let us start in a later wave due to our projected finish time, we all headed out for a ‘last breakfast’ together before the race began.

Lexi drove the group of us into town and it wasn’t long till we saw one of the town police officers spot us, and began to turn around.

“Shit… what’s the speed limit through here?”  Lexi said panicking… “45 is good, right?”  It was 25.  We were promptly pulled over.

The police officer approached the car as Lexi planned, or unplanned (we may never know), retrieved from her depths the meekest, most pathetic voice, lips quivering as she explained to him she was from California.

“Sir, do you happen to know any great places to eat around here?”  the excited tourist Saskya butted in, changing the subject completely.  A ticket was off the table, assuming it was ever on it to begin with.  As we pulled away, with the cop smiling and waving at us, I  began to wonder how often these very talented women used this successful skill set I was just finding out about today.

We opted for breakfast at a place called ‘Sugars,’ a recommendation by our new police officer friend.  We fueled up and established our roles throughout the vans.  Saskya and Jack would navigate, Lindsay would keep on top of social media and I would be in charge of keeping Eric up to date with everything.  We were ready to roll!

The first van took off in the heat of the day at 1:30pm.  It was quite a spectacle of teams decked out in matching costumes and vans decorated all sorts of different ways.  We had about a 4 hour wait till their last runner past to our first, Jack, so we spent the time socializing by Lake Mead.  We toyed with the idea of checking out Hoover Dam, but then couldn’t figure out how we would explain that one to Eric if things went sideways.  The other van reconnected with us there around 4pm, being harassed by a group of female runners to whom Tom had just lost $100, betting that Trish would beat there next runner.  They were pretty consistent on their original predicted times, although they were a little off due to the heat of the day.  Although as that gave way to night, our van was able to pick up the pace just a bit.

Before we knew it, our first legs were completed with minimal and quickly resolvable issues.  The fun was just getting started.

James came in to his checkpoint, with a painful look on his face.  An old knee injury was acting up rendering him incapable of running anymore.  Dustin quickly stepped up to take his place for the end of the race.  Game over for James.

About halfway through our van’s next legs, Monya’s stomach was suddenly starting to feel off.  Maintaining exactly her very fast predicted pace, she still had time to step into the bushes and take care of business before arriving at the exchange exactly on time.  She had also been one of the runners pre established to take an extra leg and that very challenging 7 mile stretch was coming up quick.  10 minutes before she was due at her next exchange, I turned around and saw her sitting in the van with a very serious look on her face, completely white.

“Are you going to be ok for this?”  I asked.

“I will do it… but it won’t be fast.”

“Want me to take it?”  I offered.

“Well…”

That was enough for me.  Monya was one of the toughest people that I knew and if she had any hesitation in her voice about racing, it meant that something was really wrong.

“I got this,”  I said, gearing up.

“Thank you… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,”  I smiled.  “I live for this shit.”

So at 3:30am, with 10 minutes notice, I was off to brave the rockiest section of the course, where one of our other runners had been injured last year.  It was at that point that things started to get really fun for me.  Part of the reason that I love ultras so much is because of the last minute problem solving.  Michael and Trish hiked out twice to come check on me, based on the injury that had taken place last year, I apologized a few times for being slower than Monya would have been, but quickly braved that section and put my slow and steady ultrarunner capabilities to good use.

As the sun started to come up, we all had our opportunities to help the team as we headed out for the last few legs of our 188 mile adventure. When Lexi began to drive us and we heard her mumble something about hallucinating, Amy quickly got her opportunity and jumped to her rescue, driving the van out 30 miles on a dirt road, as the rest of us tried to get a few minutes sleep.  It was at that exchange that it seemed we were catching up to our friends on High Speed Low Drag 2 (us being ’1′), the other racing team, that had gotten a 3.5 hour head start.

While Monya slept off her stomach issues, we decided that if she could not run her last leg, then I would do it for her.  I wouldn’t be fast, seeing as this would now be putting about 30 miles on my legs for this event, but I was steady and good in heat.  Plus the extra  mileage on my legs would be a much lesser evil than potentially on someone else’s since my body is conditioned for this type of thing.  But when Monya woke up, she was a new person and the showdown began to see who would pass our sister team, and when.  The funniest situation would be if Monya passed James Ferguson, considering he had been fearing that scenario for months.

Jack caught Jeff on his leg and it was now time for me to try to maintain that against Brian.  Crap… Brian was a pretty good runner and typically I may be able to challenge him on distance, but not with the extra mileage on my legs.  With about a mile to go, he passed me.  Lindsay wasn’t quite able to catch Casey, BUT suddenly Monya was up, with James only a few minutes ahead!  Our van passed just in time to watch it all go down, and for Monya to ACTUALLY run circles around him.  It was an epic moment in Ragnar history.

Two legs to go, and for hours we had been trying to catch both the team that won $100 from Tom AND CrossFit Survival’s team.  Saskya took care of all of that for us with a finish line sprint.  188 miles in 25 hours and 28 minutes.  We did it!

Although a few people headed out early, 19 of our two racing teams met up at the MGM hotel for dinner at a buffet in Vegas.  Going back to our rooms, I was still in race mode as I challenged Michael and Jack to races down moving sidewalks vs. the ‘old fashioned’ non moving walkways and they laughed at me as I kept getting stuck behind people just standing that I couldn’t get past.  Saskya and I headed up to crash early in our self made campgrounds under a window in our room, but not before being labeled as ‘scissors’ by a few very drunk guys trying to hit on us in the elevator.  In my innocence, Saskya explained to me this meant we were lesbian lovers, clearly, since their charm did not work on us.  I slept like I was dead before the alarm went off at 6am, announcing that the adventure had come to an end.

Due to upcoming race conflicts, this will be my last Ragnar, for now at least.   But as Jack drove Monya and I back through the desert this morning, and I glanced over the view that I once saw from a Uhaul event during my move to LA, I realized my life had come full circle in more ways than one.  I thought about the person that I had been back then in comparison to the one I am now… night and day.  So goodbye to one experience that once again found new ways to define me as a person and an athlete, and hello to a new one 20 days from now.  Last Chance 50 miler, it is ON.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Prettyface February 21, 2012 at 4:54 am

Keep em cminog you all do such a great job at such Concepts can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

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roasted coffee March 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

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