Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wasatch Back - Take 2

Another 2 day running adventure, crammed into a van for 200 miles with mostly complete strangers.

How do I keep getting myself here you might ask?  Well when you're addict, you seem to always find a way to get what you need and for me it seems increasingly clear that my drug of choice is relay races.  I love other races too, but relays are just different.  There's less pressure, less sleep, more miles and tons of fun.

So back in March when via facebook a friend of friend posted that some friends of hers were looking for female runners to fill open spots on their Wasatch Back team, I didn't even have to think about it. I called her immediately and got myself on the roster.  A month later the team sent me a frantic message about having lost a couple of runners and asked if I knew anyone who might want to join us.  Cami and mom were the first two people I talked to and they both jumped at the opportunity to do the original and toughest Ragnar.  In the relay world, there is a certain credibility that comes from running the Wasatch Back.  Mostly because it's so challenging and it was the original Ragnar race.  And anyone who's run multiple relays will tell you, when it comes to organization and presentation, Ragnar has become the gold standard in relays.

Parker stayed in Idaho with Nana & her daddy, while Gideon, mom & I headed to Utah on Thursday to visit Hillary and run this crazy thing.

 Gideon has been talking for weeks and weeks about wanting to go visit his Aunt Hillary to jump on her trampoline and play with her dog, Toby. He was even more stoked when he found out his cousins would be there.  For days all I heard about was "Lilypie, Handsome Ransom and Baby Gage."
 So when Cami & her family arrived Thursday evening it was pretty crazy.  I don't think they so much jumped on the trampoline as just tackled each other and laughed.  Jacob & Hillary were great for keeping the kids so Cami & I could go running.
 Okay I just had to post this photo because it's funny, doesn't Gage kind of look like a puppy?  He's so stinkin' cute!!!!

Friday morning, the three of us running headed out to meet up with the rest of our team & head toward the race.  That's Gail & Bethann decorating the van while mom secures the luggage carrier (upside down I might add.  But we managed to get it flipped over at the first exchange.)
 One thing about Wasatch Back, it's MASSIVE!  You just can't imagine the hoardes of people everywhere.  But I think that's part of what makes it so much fun!

 Here are the girls from the first van, waiting on their runner to come in so they can switch off with us.  They're wearing turtle shells & tutus because we were the "Master Sprinters" which is a play on Master Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  When we found out this is what they were doing, Cami & I immediately called Mollie and she was gracious enough to let us borrow the "Turtles Don't Do Drugs" banners from our Fighting Tortuga contingent.  It was really kind of fun to have them in this race.  Now they've been across the country. :)
 Okay I have to say I'm proud of my mom for looking so cute.  Don't get me wrong, it's great that she's running when you consider she couldn't even walk on her bad hip two years ago.  But now that she's lost a little weight and is getting around better, I think it's fun to see her trying to be cute when she works out.  She apparently went to the Cali school of, "I may not be fast, but I'll look better than you at the finish line!"  Doesn't she look cute.
And of course, Cami looks cute.  Seriously I kept calling her "Malibu Running Barbie" because that's what she reminded me of.

 Mom's first exchange was in the town of Eden.  We thought that was quite ironic actually.
And yep, that purple-ish teal runner is my mom.
 It's always fun finding new places put Ragnar tatoos. 
 You can't tell it from this photo, but her hip was really hurting by this point.  She made the mistake of going out too fast and ended up in a lot of pain.  Plus she was fighting the altitude having come from sea level.  But give Granny some props!  She sucked it up, took a pain pill and finished the race.
 That's me with Bethann.  She was really super cute! We got so lucky, the girls in our van were just great!
 Mom, Cami & I waiting for my exchange.
All of my legs were kind of brutal.  But I have to say I loved that because it made me feel pretty tough.  This one was 7.3 miles uphill.  I gained over 1850 feet in elevation.  It was hard but I passed a lot of people and kept telling myself that these are the kind of workouts that will really sculpt the legs and rear, so that motivated me to keep going.
I handed off at Snowbasin resort to Cami, who was our final runner.  She's that tiny pink dot running down the mountain.
 Here's most of our team  except for Lexie who was running and Melissa who was just AWOL.  Van 1's driver, Stephanie is also in this photo.  So from L-R on the bottom, Cindy, Amanda, Bethann, Stephanie, Back: Becca, Me, Klea, Cami, Gail, Nicole & Brianna.
 Exchange 19 has always been my favorite.  The guy who works it every year is awesome.  He sets up lights and music and big mic.  He dances, sings, tells jokes and basically keeps you engaged and entertained.  Which is more important than you realize when it's 2 in the morning and you're trying to stay psyched up to run while your body just wants to crash.
I swear I have a photo exactly like this of Shiloh from two years ago.  Wearing a headlamp & vest, grinning into the camera.  In fact, Cami & Shiloh look so much alike here it's almost unnerving. 
 Oh, here's the fun dancing guy.  He's great!
And mom gets her hand off from Brianna.
 Okay these next photos somehow got out of order, but it's too late to fix it now.  So there's Cami, Mom, Bethann & Gail at the very last exchange of the race, waiting for me to come down the mountain & hand off to Cami.
 And here's the final handoff of the race.
 I ran my last leg in a tutu & managed to pass quite a few people, including several guys.  So that was way fun for me.
Okay here's all of us from van 2 with our infamous banner! 
Right and this is just after my last leg when I seriously felt like a rockstar!  19.8 miles total on the weekend and the last leg was a solid 7 of it!  And it was a strong, finish too!
 At the finish line, we met up with the rest of our team and then waited for Cami to come across so we could take some pictures.
 And there we are!  Yes, we're that tired.  This was the first Ragnar during which I didn't manage any sleep at all.  Not even an hour nap like I usually would. It just didn't work out.  Still I feel good about it, because we finished strong and got our medals.
After the finish line party, gathering everyone up, separating the stuff, and getting everyone home, the three of us didn't make it back to Hillary's until almost midnight.  By that time I was on hour 43 with no sleep, so I literally collapsed.  I didn't even shower until the next morning.  I was honestly afraid I'd fall asleep & pass out in the shower. But after a few hours of sleep, the world looked bright again.  Cami & her family had to leave and they took off just after lunchtime.  It was sad to see them go, but we had such a fun weekend with them.  I'm so glad Cami and I learned to be friends somewhere along the way.  We were always sisters, but I love her even more for being such a wonderful friend.
 Unfortunately, Lily and Ransom were both sick on Sunday and then Gideon started complaining about his stomach hurting and pretty soon he threw up.  He was also running a fever on and off all day Sunday.  So instead of going to church or heading home to see Travis and Parker, he and I stayed at Hillary's and rested.  Fortunately he woke up this morning much more normal, so we were able to get packed up and go to lunch at the Banana Leaf in Provo with mom & Hillary before hitting the highway.
 And now I have matching medals.  YAY!  What's even better is knowing that by the end of the year, I'll add a third one to this set, because I've already signed up for Vegas with Cami & Jacob and some other family and friends.
Next year, I'm doing one of these relays as an "Ultra" team.  Which means instead of a 12 person team, there will only be 6.  Yes, it's more miles and even less sleep, but it's something I really want to do.  I just want to know I'm tough enough! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Jr. Scout

Ever since I got put in as a cub scout leaer 3 years ago, Gideon has LOVED going with me.  He's always thought he's as big as the rest of the boys, so he just figures whatever they can do, he can do.  I don't always take him, but on some activities it's really fun to have him along.  And the boys seem to enjoy having him along.  They think he's pretty cool for a little kid, so he's kind of like their mascot.   Yesterday we took them up to hike the butte.  It's a tough hike for little kids, but the 3 boys did great.  So did Gideon.  The boys were so good with him, they all kept offering to help him and asking if he was making it okay.  It was really fun.

Once we got to the top, we found a nice spot and ate our lunch and then walked around the rim of the calderra and enjoyed the view.  I forgot to take any photos at the top, but oh well.  It was still fun.  Gideon really held his own with the big boys.  He even carried his own backpack for most of it.  He pretty much just thinks he's one of the scouts. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yeah. I'm Awesome.

CAUTION:  Reading the following post may cause you to reflect on your own awesomeness and want to tell the world about it!

Maybe I'm the only person in the world who gets this way, but I find that there are times in my life when I just need to remind myself how awesome I really am!  I'm actually not joking when I say that.  Nor am I being egotistical or cocky.  I am, in most instances, a fairly confident person and comfortable with who I am.  However, there are low moments in every life.  And I am right now at a juncture where I just need a reminder of some of the great things about me.  It's an exercise a lot like counting my blessings.  (Because it's impossible to be unhappy when you're counting your blessings.)  But instead of just counting all the random little things in my life that I'm grateful I've been blessed with, I focus on the good things about myself that I'm grateful to have been blessed with. I used to write this kind of thing my journal, but since starting a blog, the journal is something I've unfortunately neglected.  So instead of musing privately over how cool I am and writing it down to boost my own confidence, the rest of the world now gets to be subjected to the rambling thoughts buzzing around in my head tonight.  Because I know I won't be able to sleep until I release some of this and try to make sense of it. 

I am strong.  Mentally, physically, emotionally.  I am strong. I am Super Woman.  I sometimes forget that when I see other people who seem to be handling much bigger trials than my own.  I see them struggling and fighting and pushing back against everything devastating in this world.  Disease, natural disasters, poverty, divorce, death and so much more.  It's almost not fair that I haven't had to deal with the "hard" things that life throws at you.  And yet I know I'm strong.  I can handle "hard" things.  In fact, I'm good at it.  I am Grace under Pressure and the Voice of Reason amidst Chaos. (No one needs to know that the source of my superpower is the good dark chocolate hidden away in the bottom drawer of my jewelry armoire.) And even though it might annoy other people to have to admit it, I'm right at least 90% of the time.  And I'm getting better at acknowledging the few times when I'm wrong.  Although being "right" all the time, is becoming less and less important in my life.

I do not just Survive my own life.  I Attack it.  And make the most of it.  I don't wait for "things to get better" before I allow myself to be happy.  I make things better and choose to find things to be Positive about in every situation.  I have Flaws, but I'm not Damaged.  I don't Break Easily.  I'm Honest.  Sometimes Brutally so. (Except about my age.  I don't ever like admittting how old I really am. But in truth, the only person I lie to about my age is myself.  I'll say the number outloud, "I'm 34."  But in my mind I'm always thinking, "But I look, act and feel 27." Admittedly, this is one of my previously referenced flaws. But this post is about strengths, not flaws, so we'll table that discussion for another day.)

I'm Self-Motivated, Disciplined and Persistant.  I don't give up when things get hard.  So even though I'm nervous I can say with confidence, Bring on the Hills.  I'll climb them.  (Okay so if you haven't guessed by now, I'm nervous about the upcoming Wasatch Back and the 2000+ feet of climbing I get to do over the course of my miles.)  I finish what I start, even if it takes me longer than I want it to.  (Hence going back to school after 15 years. Which by the way, I'm terrified about.)  I don't let my fears rule me.  I rule my fears by facing them.  (Except for snakes, but again that's a flaw and we're not focusing on those today.)

Most importantly I've been greatly Blessed by a loving Heavenly Father who I'm so grateful to have a personal relationship with. I've been given so much more than I deserve. A wonderful family, loyal friends and a million reasons to be thankful.  There is an abundance of love in my life. And that's the real source of my super power.  I can joke all I want about it being the chocolate, the diet coke, the miles I run.  But I know where it really comes from.  I know I'm nothing without the people in my life that the Lord has seen fit to bless me with.  And a heart overflowing with love, is definitely the awesomest thing about me. ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

In order for anyone to understand how big of a deal this race really was for me, I have to backtrack just a little.  Like 20 years.  In 1991 when my family moved to Indiana, one of the very first people I met, and thus one of my very first friends, was a girl who lived down the road named Angie Boston.  We're the same age, so through jr. high and high school we remained friends.  We were even the two freshman homecoming attendents for basketball in our freshman year of high school.  I wish I could say we had remained close over the years, but as is the case with most people we kind of drifted out of one another's lives for a while. 

That's where facebook has been a blessing really.  It's allowed me to reconnect with people I probably would have lost forever a long time ago.  And when Angie and I reconnected a few years ago it was fun catch up a little and find out where life had taken her after all these years.  Last fall around the time I ran the Red Rock, Angie got in touch with me and told me about the "RTO" as it's affectionately called.  Her friend has been putting together a team for the past four years and she wanted to know if I'd be interested in running it with them.  By now everyone knows that I'm a relay junkie so I didn't even have to think about it.  I said "Yes, sign me up!" right on the spot!

Fast forward to the week before Memorial Day.  Or "The Week From Hell" as I'm now referring to it.  It seemed like everything that could have happened to keep me from going to Reno did happen.  But I knew that after the difficult six months we have been surviving, I desperately needed this trip.  (Don't be surprised if you didn't know there was a lot going on with us.  Some things are common knowledge but much of it I've chosen to keep private. But yeah, so far 2012 has not really been a stellar year for us.  That's okay it can only go up from here... I hope.)

I booked a shuttle ticket down to the airport just 6 hours after the accident when it looked like I wouldn't have a car for the week.  There was nothing going to keep me from this trip.  So on Thursday morning I got up at 4:30 and walked myself down to Shaka's on the corner to catch the shuttle bus.  It was actually nice not having to make the drive to Salt Lake.  I got to sleep a little on the bus and read some.  Very relaxing.  In fact Thursday was in general a very relaxing day.  My flight landed at just after noon and I caught the shuttle over to the hotel, which turned out to be one of the nicer resorts in Reno.  It seriously had everything.  But while my day was spent resting, reading, & relaxing, poor Angie's didn't go quite so well.  She was supposed to have been in Reno by around 2pm so we could spend the day hanging out and catching up since we hadn't seen each other in over 15 years.  Unfortunately, she got stuck in meetings and didn't make it to the hotel until 9:30 that night.  It was alright though.  8 hours alone in a luxury resort is not exactly a bad thing to a mom like me who rarely ever gets a break.  Her husband Brent (who I'd never met) was nice enough to call that evening and invite me to dinner with his parents down in one of the restaurants, so I had a great time meeting and getting to know them a little bit.  They're very, very sweet people.

After Angie finally arrived, we did get to visit a little, but we knew the next day would be crazy busy, so we wanted to get to bed before midnight.  Around 2am Brent's cousin who was running finally made it in and our little group was complete.  Our team's start time was 9am, and although we were in van 2, we drug ourselves out of bed and got to the start line to see the team off.  Then we went and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast and hit the grocery store for water & snacks for the race.

We made it to the first exchange point around 2 and of course that's where the fun begins.  I'd never been to Reno or Lake Tahoe before, so this was all a first for me.  I have to say the scenery was spectacular.  It really is beautiful country up there. 

 In all the relays I've done, this is the first one I've ever seen that served fried chicken at an exchange.  I would have had some if I'd been in van 1 and just finishing my run, but since we were getting ready to take off, it didn't sound that good.  Still it was the usual party atmosphere of a relay exchange.  If you've ever done one of these things, you know how it is.

I was runner 11 of 12, so I didn't actually run until early evening. Around 5 or 6 I think. My first leg was awesome. 5.3 miles on this gorgeous wooded bike path along the Truckee River right to the top of Lake Tahoe. Honestly it was so beautiful it was a little distracting.


 I didn't get many photos of people at all.  In fact this one of Angie running is the only action shot I got during the whole race.  That's Brent bringing her some water.  I guess I was too distracted by the scenery around me to care about getting photos of the people.

After we finished running and handed off to the other van, we got to drive around Lake Tahoe at sunset, which was really gorgeous!  We found a super cute Italian place for dinner that had excellent food.  Then we drove on toward State Line and the next exchange.  It was actually quite warm, so we tried to get a few hours sleep in the parking lot and the van.  But of course, races like this are not really conducive to a decent night's rest.  We took over running again a little after midnight which meant I was running my second leg at 3am.  I didn't mind.  The weather was comfortably mild with a cool breeze and there were millions of stars since we were out in the middle of the dessert.  

We handed back off to the other team a little before 5am in Carson City.  They had managed to book a couple of hotel rooms where they could shower and get some sleep, so we handed them the race & they gave us a couple of room keys.  I've never rented a hotel in the middle of one of these relays before, but then I realized that unlike the others I've done, this one didn't really have any place to shower or sleep.  Most of the others I've done have a school or gym or someplace willing to open their doors to runners and let you get a quick shower and some rest.  It was nice to have the quiet privacy of a hotel room, but I will say it made me hate having to get up a couple of hours later and get ready to go run. 

The final van exchange was in Virginia City.  I took a lot of photos there because it was just a really cool place and it made an awesome background for the race.  I was really wishing we weren't in the middle of the race so we'd have time to walk around and explore a little.  But that's okay, I think I'd like to take my kids back there someday.  I think they'd enjoy it.

 The whole time in Virginia City I just kept hearing the "Bonanza" TV theme run through my head.

As we dropped out of the mountains back down into Reno, things really started to heat up.  The temperature was climbing of course, but things also got interesting when we managed to lock our keys in our car.  We had just sent a runner off for 6 miles in the blazing sun, I was on deck, so I headed back to the van to get my shoes on and start preparing myself when I discovered that the doors were locked and the keys were sitting in plain sight right on the dash.  There were of course, several issues to deal with here, first a runner out there with no water, secondly no way to get me ready and to the next exchange.  We were blessed though because a friend of a couple of our runners had been following along with us on his motorcycle the entire race.  He turned out to be a God Send when we were able to bum a bottle of water off some other runners and send him ahead with it to catch up with our guy.  Then Brent (who had already run his final leg) offered to catch a ride with another team up to the exchange to be there to start running my leg, in the event we couldn't get the car unlocked and get me there in time.  As it turns out though, Triple A came through and got a locksmith there in less than 30 minutes.  Of course it took him all of 2 minutes to jimmy the door open and we were on our way.  While we sped toward the exchange I stuffed my feet into my running shoes & filled my handheld bottle.  We managed to pull into the parking lot as our runner was coming around the corner.  I made it to the exchange just as he was coming up the road.  We literally couldn't have cut it any closer. 

My last leg was definitely the most challenging.  The distance wasn't bad, just 6.2 miles, but the sweltering dry heat & running through the middle of Reno wasn't a great combination.  I did okay the first two miles, but then the headach started and it wasn't long after that the nausea began.  I alternated walking and running for the last four miles, dumped ice down the front of my bra and bathed my neck and back in cold water as often as I could.  It was pretty brutal.  All the while I could feel the sun just frying my poor unprotected skin since I hadn't had a chance to slather on any form of sunscreen before running.  When I finally finished what I'm pretty sure was the slowest 10K of my life, I just collapsed on the ground under a tree and didn't want to move.  Unfortunately we had a runner out, so we had to get up and go pretty quickly.  For the next two hours I was just sick and dizzy and ill.  I laid in the van with my eyes closed and then when we got to the finish line, laid under the shade of a tree barely sipping some water, trying to get my stomach and head to calm down.  Finally I started to feel better. By the time Angie's mother-in-law snapped this picture, I was already starting to feel a lot perkier.
When we got back to the hotel we were all starving.  Our last real meal had been the cute Italian restuarant in Tahoe the night before.  So we showered and got cleaned up enough to go out for a celebratory dinner.  I spoiled myself and ordered a steak & potatoes, just because I could.  Once we had eaten ourselves into a food coma, we headed back to the hotel and collapsed.  I ventured down to the gift shop for some aloe to put on my sunburn (and a chocolate bar), but that's the farthest any of us went.  Saturday night in Reno and every single one of us was asleep by 9:15.  It felt great though to sleep in and recover slowly.  We didn't get up until after 8 & then took our time getting ready and heading down to breakfast.  It was nice to spend the last few hours just visiting and rehashing the events of the weekend.  Once Angie got me to the airport I breezed through check-in and security (it's amazing how much easier it is to travel without kids) only to find that my flight was delayed due to mechanical difficulties.  I wasted time walking around the airport gift shops picking out little presents for my kids.  Still we managed to get to SLC in plenty of time for me to catch the shuttle bus home.  By that time it was after 10pm so although I was missing my babies terribly I knew they were fast asleep at Nana's house and I'd have to wait until in the morning.  Getting away for that short 4 days was just perfect for me.  It left me feeling refreshed and balanced and ready to get back to my normal life.  And of course there was the added bonus of getting to see a new place, run a race & reconnect with an old friend.  All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.

PS - For those who are wondering, yes I did gamble while I was in Reno.  But the thing is I'm not much of a gambler.  I hate letting go of hard earned money.  But when in Rome right? I put $5 in a nickel slot machine at one point.  I walked away with $9 and decided to quit while I was ahead. So in one sense I guess you say I almost doubled my money in Reno.