I flew out of LAX on Thursday afternoon. And, something amazing happened while I was waiting in line for security - which seemed to be taking longer than usual (I had planned for a longer than usual security check in due to the shooting at LAX the week before). I was pulled out of the regular line and put in to the TSA pre-check line. What?! They swabbed my hands, as soon as the machine cleared me I went through security, didn't have to take off my jacket or shoes and walked through the metal detector and boom, done. No full body scanner, no shoes off, none of it. This is a way more civilized way to travel. If I travelled a lot for work I would 100% try to get on that list permanently. I kind of want to even though I don't travel all the time. So much better. But, I digress.
My flight wound up being a bit delayed, and I got to Vegas about 45 minutes later than planned. I tracked down one of my teammates waiting in the airport and we went to an airport bar to wait for one of the vans to return to pick us up. We got dinner on the way back to the hotel and I was in bed by about 11pm, with an alarm set for 3am to wake up. (With a 5am start time and the start an hour's drive away 3am was early but necessary.) I laid in bed until the last possible moment, threw my clothes on, and got in my own row in the van. I laid under my swim parka and dozed all the way to the start. It was still pitch black out when we arrived. The sky was filled with stars, more than you ever see in LA. The ground had a light coating of snow and ice in places. Seemed weird that we were just outside of Las Vegas.
Early morning start
Runner 1 ready to rock!
Are we in Vegas?
The first wave wound up leaving at 5:15 am and our first runner was off. She hauled down the mountain and the first exchange was made. As our second runner was out I decided to eat. I had a banana and a gluten free muffin. When our third runner headed out I ate a couple of shot blocks (a decision I would soon regret) and got myself together in the van, ready for my run. My first run was just about 4 miles along a highway, starting at about 8:30am. The weather was cool, but comfortable. I wore shorts, singlet, arm warmers and compression socks (start temp: 57*).
Gorgeous sunrise before my first run
Who knew the desert outside Vegas could be so beautiful?
My stomach was still revolting, but unfortunately this exchange had no bathrooms available. I would have to wait til we got to the next one. I took over driving duties and while we were stopped to cheer for our runner out on the course I took some Imodium, praying that would help stop the flip flopping happening in my belly. A quick visit to the porta potty (ick) while we were waiting for our runners to switch helped, but my stomach was still angry. (I'm 90% sure it was the shot blocks.) After our final runner finished and we switched vans we headed to the major exchange and had lunch. We went to Panera and I got a simple salad with grilled chicken on it, dressing on the side. I was able to eat most of it without any furher issues. We all changed and then parked the car by the exchange (in front of REI) and rested.
After an hour or so of non-sleep rest I wandered in to REI to see if they had anything I knew I could eat. And, lo and behold, they had some Clif Kit bars. I know my overly sensitive stomach can handle those so I bought a few figuring if nothing else I could eat those for fuel. The time ticked by, I chatted with other teams (including the Scooby Doo team, who I had seen at Hood to Coast) and then it was our turn to go again. We switched with van 2 and we were off. By the time our first runner started it was just about night-time hours (3:45pm-6:30am), so we all prepared for our runs with reflective vests and headlamps.
A little recovery and prep for my next run.
Van life is odd, but always fun.
Switch, switch, switch. I got ready as runner 3 was out doing her short 2ish mile run. I put on my Noxgear vest over my reflective vest and got ready to run. It was already pitch black outside, but not too cold (I was fine wearing t-shirt, shorts, compression socks and arm warmers - which I pushed down part way through the run, start temp: 67* - yes I'm a weather wimp, I live in LA, it's not my fault - I mean its November and still summer like weather in the high 80s).
I knew this next leg would be challenging as it was basically uphill the entire way. All the elevation I had lost in leg 1 (~300 feet) I would regain plus some in this next leg (~375 feet of elevation gain for 2.7 miles). I'm not great at running uphill, so I treated this run like hill repeats. I would run up for 2 minutes then recover for 1, walking fast, repeat, repeat, repeat. I did this all the way up the first hill, which was the steepest part and managed to pass a couple of people. Then I had a short down hill then back up again. The next section I did in longer chunks, at 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking. I powered through the best I could (mile 1: 11:30, mile 2: 11:00, last .7: at a 10:30 pace). I ran as hard as I could in to transition and passed off. My stomach was still a bit upset, but not nearly as bad as the first run. I was hoping the worst was behind me (foreshadowing, not the case).
I don't have a lot of pictures from the second set of legs. I was tired, and my stomach was cranky, I'm a terrible blogger (I actually love taking photos, so clearly I wasn't feeling great). Yes, I know this looks upside down, but that's the way I took the picture, also, I'm being too lazy to rotate it. I have now reached the apex of laziness.
I cooled off on the very short (like 1 minute) drive across the street to the next transition. Suddenly I felt very cold. On with the sweats and swim parka. This section of the course (this run, mine, and the two before mine) were really loopy and could have been very confusing, as they crossed paths. But, the course was really well marked and the volunteers were great at making sure everyone was going in the right direction. I had a very hard time warming up after this run. When we got to the next major exchange I didn't even leave the van to greet our runner because I was so cold. As soon as he got in we took off for exchange 13 for a big surprise.
There was a couple on the team (in van 2) that had met at Ragnar Napa 2012 (on this same team). And, he was going to propose at the next exchange. Signs had been made and the whole team was there for the proposal. She looked a little confused as she approached the exchange and then was overjoyed as he got down on one knee to ask her to be his wife. It was very sweet and she was crazy excited. If you want to see pictures click here - Ragnar posted a bunch. Even my cold, non-romantic heart thought it was adorable (no, I'm not a romantic or into all the hearts and flowers stuff, I'm clearly dead inside ;)). After she said yes, he ran off to complete the next leg and we headed to the next major exchange.
I napped in the back of the van for about 2.5-3 hours, under my swim parka (best idea ever to bring that along - no sleeping bag needed in the van when you have a swim parka). We started our legs again around 2:30am. I drove most of the way and waited my turn to run. My stomach felt okay, not 100%, but okay. I really hadn't eaten much for the previous few hours out of fear of a sour stomach. I took another Imodium before I started, preventatively. It got colder as the night progressed and I, smartly, listened to a teammate who suggested wearing running tights during this leg. I wore compression socks under running tights, a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve shirt with thumbholes so I could pull it over my hands. I was still cold pretty much the whole way. Starting temp: 42* (and it got a bit colder as I went on).
I wasn't expecting the runner before me in so fast (her run wound up being about a half mile short) and I had to dash in to the exchange, only half ready to go. She handed me the slap bracelet and I half jogged half speed walked as I finished pulling myself together. At this point it was 5:15am and I had only slept about 2.5-3 hours in the previous 24. I was tired and not entirely sure how this run would go. I had warned my team it might be slower than planned due to exhaustion/bad tummy. This run was supposed to be 5.1 miles, the first 2 through a neighborhood, the last 3 on a trail with a general uphill to it. (Total elevation gain: ~400 feet).
When I started this run it was pitch black outside. It was beautiful looking at the lights of Vegas. The sky slowly started to lighten up as we kept going.
The start of my run. Still nighttime.
I started off okay, but my handheld water bottle kept leaking. I saw my van at mile 2 and threw the bottle at them as it was doing more harm than good. By the time I got on to the trail I was feeling awful. While I was running I would feel like I was going to throw up, so I would walk for a minute, but then I would feel extremely cold, so I would start running again. This cycle repeated the whole way. I got stuck at every stop light before I got on the trail (making my elapsed time nearly 5 and a half minutes longer than my moving time). Couple that with feeling awful and this run was truly tragic for me. Every mile was longer than 11:00 per mile, and one was at nearly 13:00 (ugh). I tried not to think about how awful I was feeling and focus on the beautiful sunrise unfolding before me. I saw a 7-11 not far off the trail when we got to an intersection, and if I had had any money on me I probably would have detoured to it to get a soda to try to help my belly, alas, I didn't and I kept on plugging away.
The miles kept ticking away and I got well beyond mile four before I saw the one mile to go sign. I kept praying it would appear. Finally, at 4.5 miles in I saw it. Clearly this run was going to be long. (Mile 4-5 was the nearly 13 minute mile.) I finally saw that the exchange was near, ran it in and handed off to the next runner and we took off. I'm so incredibly grateful that my team wasn't annoyed or bothered when two of my runs took longer than expected. They were amazing and did not make me feel like I was letting them down and were just super supportive. So lucky to have such great teammates.
I've never been so happy to see this sign.
I drank some water and my recovery drink (which I had been drinking after each run) and was still feeling awful. We stopped at a 7-11 and I got a coke, hoping it would settle my unruly gut. I took over driving duty so our next runner could get ready. We saw some weird/interesting stuff out on the course our final runner was on, including a man walking his dogs, and goat, what? And, a small dog standing in the middle of the road barking at runners (and not wanting to move for our van).
We switched with van 1 and we were done. I have never been done with my legs so early. They estimated that they wouldn't be done until 5pm (we handed off to them at 8am). We all thought that was a huge overestimation (aka sandbagging) of what was actually going to happen. They had 37 miles to cover, and yes they were hard miles, and yes they would happen as the day got warmer, but we all thought 3pm was a touch more realistic (9 hours for 37 miles is something like a 15 minute mile, no way was it going to take that long). We left and went to go get breakfast.
We pulled in to the parking lot and I was feeling beyond awful. I knew I couldn't eat, and felt like I might throw up. The wait was long, so we decided to go somewhere else. I let someone else take over the driving as I was feeling awful. I was feeling so awful that I needed him to pull over at a point before we got to the final breakfast destination because I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. I didn't and got back in the van. We got to the restaurant, I used the bathroom, still feeling horrible and returned to the van. We were parked in a bit of shade and I laid down on the first row in the back with the door slightly open giving me a cool breeze. I dozed off. I finally started to feel better after a real shower and a bit more rest.
This is a fairly accurate description of my Ragnar experience this go-round. Still fun!
We got a text message from van 2 that they were way ahead of what they though. We waited at the finish line and our final runner came up before van 2 had arrived (stuck in traffic) so he stopped short of the finish line and we waited for them so we could cross as a team.
Once they arrived, we finished and celebrated for a bit. I was finally feeling hungry and had a slice of pizza; two big no-nos, gluten and tomato. But, I was so hungry I probably would have eaten almost anything at that point.
We left and my van dropped me off at the airport. My flight wasn't until 8, and they dropped me at 5:30. I decided I would try to get on an earlier flight home and wound up leaving Vegas at 6:50. My dad picked me up from the airport at about 8pm, I had dinner, and ate a ton, after saying I didn't want dinner, apparently I was hungrier than I realized at that point. I slept about 12 hours Saturday night and then napped again on Sunday.
Not usually in to slots, especially at the airport, but between trying to stay
awake and boredom waiting for a flight I stuck $3 in one of these and won $30.
Vegas is weird, but I kinda like it.
I've run relays now with complete strangers, friends, and a mix of both. And, it's always fun. I've enjoyed getting to know new people as well as spending time with good friends. It's such a unique environment and can really lend itself to building new relationships (and improving old ones). I suppose it could also pull things apart if you let it, but I have never had that problem. Also, half the relays I've done we've had drivers, the other half we have driven ourselves, I'm gonna say there are perks to having a driver, but I prefer no driver, cause you get more room in the van, one less person, one less person's stuff, plus I don't mind driving the giant van. (I can see how a driver would be crucial in an ultra though.)
I'm looking forward to doing a couple more relays next year. Right now I'm looking at SoCal and Napa seriously and contemplating a few others (I'd love to run Florida Keys, but it's sold out - if you have a team and need a runner, I'm game! I'd also like to run Cape Cod, Adirondacks and Tennessee, but I'm not sure I can swing all of those in one year). I enjoyed Vegas, and I'm glad I got to add another Ragnar to my resume. I would definitely run it again. The course was challenging, but beautiful and really well marked. I never felt like I was lost. And, the volunteers were awesome. Thanks for another great relay Ragnar!