Monday, September 26, 2016

Ragnar Northwoods 2016 - otherwise known as i am number 8

Ragnar Trail Northwoods - September 23-24, 2016
time = 27:36:46
21 out of 42 in our devision (women)
119 out of 169 in our category (open)
placed 174 overall out of 240 teams to finish

so... this race report begins long before race day.  i saw a post on the badger crossfit facebook group page saying that a group of ladies needed a replacement runner for the relay.  this was at the end of august.  at that time i was only 2 weeks back into running, and while i really wanted to jump up and say something... i also was really doubting my ability to run the race successfully.  so i waited and i ruminated and i ran it past brian (a non-runner, my husband, and my biggest cheerleader), and dave (my friend, running partner, and also one of my biggest cheerleaders) to see what they thought.

the following week i asked some questions of the ladies posting, and basically decided to run.

i woke up before my alarm (typical) on friday morning (race morning) at approximately 5:15am so i just got up.  laura texted me around 6am letting me know she was packing her car (i had finagled her into filling another spot that needed a replacement about a week or so before the race), and would be over soon.  she arrived, we packed my stuff in the car, and drove to get courtney and melanie.

driving up to 9 mile forest in wausau, wi took approximately 3 hours.  it was an uneventful drive filled with ample conversation and laughs.  we got to know each other a little bit and i instantly liked court and mel quite a bit.  it felt natural and comfortable... as if we knew each other for a long time.  it's always awesome when that click happens.

we arrived and found the rest of our team at camp.  it was a lot smaller than i anticipated.  the illustration of the map made it look a lot more spread out and huge!  it's nice that it was so small.  very manageable and easy to find everything and everyone.  we got situated and went to the village to check things out and watch the safety video.

soon enough it was time for our first runner to begin and we were off!

this race is very different than the road race in that the vibe is so much more relaxed.  as with every trail race that is usually the case.

a couple of things i want to mention about the race:
1.  they cleaned out the port-o-potties 3 times that i saw while i was there!  THREE TIMES!  that is amazing and wonderful!  there is nothing nicer as a runner than sitting in a pristine potty.  seriously folks... seriously.
2.  they had PIZZA!  fresh fire roasted PIZZA!  i didn't get to eat any but they had it and it looked damn good!  i'm still jealous of those who got to eat it.
3.  they served a pasta dinner the first night.  i do have a minor complaint about that tho'... it started at 5pm and was supposed to go until 10pm... by 8pm when i was able to eat it was cold and mostly gone... i was not happy about that.

moving on... we saw several of our exchanges off and then i decided to charge my phone so that i'd be ready for the rest of the day.  while standing at the charging station i had a weird encounter with an older woman who was clearly not a trail runner.  she was pacing around very concerned about everybody else.  freaking out about why her items weren't charging fast enough (can i take a moment and point out that THERE WAS A CHARGING STATION IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS?!?), and then she decided to talk to me.  she went on a little tangent about how awful the trails here were and how dangerous.  she proceeded to tell me that she had run the 3 miler the day before and that it was ONLY ok, but that if the other trails were super dangerous as she anticipated they would be... she would definitely not be running them, and she'd turn around and walk back.  she was very aggressive in her speech and seemed to not really be happy to be there AT ALL.  had me wondering why she'd sign up for a trail race in the first place?  she made it a point to tell me she was the oldest and slowest on her team.  she did not seem happy about that either... in fact, she didn't seem happy about much.  after that diatribe she turned to me and asked:  "do you run trails?"

i thought for a moment about whether or not i should answer and if so what i should say before i just simply said:  "yup."

she replied (very aggressively) and with irritation:  "well, you should be fine then!" and turned away from me and didn't speak another word to me.

it was an odd interaction.

i unplugged and walked away right after that.

laura m, me, connor, amanda, & melanie - team badgnar!
i saw several friends at the beginning before we all started racing but once the running commenced i didn't see anyone again.  my first leg started at 7pm.  (strava data here) i took off uneventfully in the dark.  i kept confusing myself about which color trail i was running green or yellow.  i kept believing i was supposed to be running green but really i was running the yellow loop first so when the volunteer asked me at the turn off i mistakenly breathed out "green".  thankfully he saw my wrist band and yelled out: "that looks like yellow!" so i made a hairpin turn and got on the correct trail!  sheesh... you'd have thought i'd have just looked at my stinking wrist... not the brightest bulb in the pack apparently.

leg 1 - yellow loop
the trail was a 4.6 loop beginning on some wide (possibly) ski trails or fire road then jumps onto some beautiful single track that opens up to some mountain bike trails and then back to single track and finally ends on some wide (possibly) horse trails or fire road again back to the start.  it was a fun trail except for the portion of bike trails that had some really close together dirt mounds that were difficult to run through.  otherwise it was a fun run.  about 3 miles in i tripped over (what i assume was) a root system or a rock or something, and i fell pretty badly.  it happened right after i passed someone while running like a speed demon.

i bounced right back up and kept going.  i did take a look at my hand real quick, but it looked ok so i just kept going.  my knee hurt but it didn't feel like it was bleeding (it was dark so i couldn't tell) so i didn't worry about it.  running on new trails in the pitch black with only the small tunnel of light from my headlamp is a unique experience for me and causes me to have tunnel vision.  when i run in a circumstance like that i don't really take in the scenery or really enjoy the forest in and of itself per se.  i'm more in my head with the run.  i am more inside myself.  because i tend to run too fast to break focus on the trail especially when i cannot see well... i put all my energy and attention into that small window of light in front of me.  i focus on my body, my breathing, and pushing myself as best i can and as efficiently as i can.  i really get inside myself and go! it becomes more technical for me, and i make it about going hard and fast.  it's a different experience than when i can run in the forest in the light of day.  both of my night runs were like that... the daytime run was 100% different.

i successfully finished the run and went right to the medics to get cleaned up.  my hand and knee were filled with gravel and i had some road rash on my thigh but really i was no worse for wear.

medic tent after 1st leg ~ photo by laura m.
once i got cleaned up it was time to try and get some sleep since i wouldn't be running for another several hours.  i pretty much slept (or more accurately TRIED MY BEST to sleep) the whole night away... i was freezing so it was really challenging.  i didn't pack enough warm stuff that is for certain!  next time i will pack a little differently.

we cycled through our runners as the night progressed, and soon enough it was my turn to run again... 5am this time and for 3.0 miles (strava data here).  the "easy" loop.  uh huh... easy.  my teammate laura b. went up with me as she is runner 1,  runs after me, and needed to be awake anyway.  again i took off uneventfully although it was harder to pick up my legs this time... my legs were so fatigued and heavy!  this loop (if memory serves) was all single track.  all the loops begin and end in the same way on the same trails... wide horse or fire/ski trails... i'm not entirely sure could be a mixture of all three depending on where on the trail one is.  anyway,  i wanted to be done with this as soon as possible so i was running as fast as i could.  turns out THIS is the trail everyone was talking about that had "huge boulders".  i kept hearing people talking about these "huge boulders"  on the trail, and i couldn't imagine what they were talking about.  so finally i got to see what all the fuss was about. on this loop there was a section or two that had a series of rocks that the kids (read mountain bikers) call a rock garden... it was a bit of a challenge to run through in the pitch black.  they weren't actually boulders if you're wondering... they WERE large rocks but i wouldn't call them boulders.  although, considering we live in wisconsin this is probably the closest thing to boulders we're going to get so i'll give those folks a pass on the misnomer.  i'm sure you're wondering if this is where i decided to eat shit again?

leg 2 - green loop
nope... but i sure did fall again... i passed several people walking on this trail.  one of those passing times is precisely when i fell again... probably tripped over a root or something... really, i have no idea since it was so dark outside it was like being in a closet with no windows.  there were a lot of switchbacks which were really fun and quick going.  i liked those a lot.  i love single track trail so very much... lovely little breaks of awe and amazement between the tiny little pains i was having.  another issue i stupidly was having on this leg was that i put my headlamp on too tight and since the run was so short i didn't want to stop and adjust it... so now i am sporting a cute little lump/bruise combo right in the middle of my forehead at the hairline.  the good news is that the bruise is very faint so there's that.  back to the fall... i fell right on the same hand that i fell on the first time (my right), but thankfully this time i fell on my right leg and spared my left knee.  not only did i fall once... i did it TWICE!  i fell a second time about a quarter mile from the finish.  there was a little hop up into a single track section of trail, and you have to step up over a berm to get into it and i tripped over that, stumbled, and managed to pinwheel my arms a bit but still fell into the woods.  this time it didn't hurt because i landed on the grass and soft dirt but the open wound on my hand got FULL of dirt and pine needles.  it was awesome in a bad way.  by then i was so exhausted that i just got up and jogged for a minute or two.  i ran it in and finished it up.  handed the bib off to laura b., off she went, and i could go back to bed.

i stopped back in the medic tent to get cleaned off again.  the care there was less than stellar.  i'm pretty sure that the people in there are not actually medical staff most of the time so i'm not too concerned about it.  the guy in there this time just dumped a little water on the wound on my hand and then a little peroxide and then covered that with some gauze.  once he gauzed it up he wrapped all of that with more gauze and my hand looked like a little mummy.  i sort of gazed at it for a moment, looked up, said thank you, and walked out.  i just wanted a couple of bandaids.

got back to the tent and it was still dark out so i took all that mummy wrap off, laid down, and fell fast asleep.  that is correct... i did not one little iota of stretching.  the horror!  camp was pretty quiet most of the evening which was pretty different than i thought it would be.  i really expected a lot more partying than what actually happened.  i suppose that's another very different aspect of trail runners as opposed to road runners.  i love that.  so camp was mostly silent with the exception of the loud talker once in awhile until about 7-8am so i got some pretty quality couple of hours of sleep.  i felt much better by then.

throughout the day we cheered on our runners, walked around the ragnar village, and lounged around camp.  i found dave and said hello to him.  (observe below)

FOUND HIM!  dave and i
dave is a funny dude.  he's my best bud and running partner.  we were supposed to run this race on the same team, but due to my not being able to run all those months i dropped out of the team back in february because i wasn't sure i would be running.  so on our runs leading up to ragnar he would say funny things like: "i hope we run into each other." and the like.  as if the place would be super huge!  so when we arrived we were texting each other and he made another comment like that.  i kept thinking how silly and joking with my current teammates about it.  it became a running joke (sorry dave)... so i went looking for him on saturday and found him quite easily at his camp.  i joked with him about the silliness of it all and we chatted for a bit.  he was getting ready to leave so it was perfect timing.

.and that's the story of that.

as it got closer to my run time we started packing up camp.  i got changed and headed up to the start to wait for mel to come in.  we grossly overestimated our run paces so we were several hours behind our estimated finish time.  that's one thing that ragnar could do differently.  trail running is very different than road running.  the pacing is very different and cannot compare.  using a road run time to accurately judge finish times just doesn't work.  our time was so off!  one also has to factor in fatigue and terrain... i think if they want to use a race time it should be a trail race time for a trail ragnar.  anyway... the last and final leg of my race was the longest, most challenging, and all around hardest loop.  it also proved to be the most fun, most beautiful, and made the entire journey worth it.

i was most worried about my performance for this loop because i hadn't slept well, it was touted to be the most difficult of all the loops, and i had heard that there were miles and miles of knee deep mud.  ok... i'm exaggerating about the knee deep, but the talk about all the mud on this loop was RIDICULOUS! so i anticipated a butt load of mud.  i was concerned that i would be extra slow given that my green loop felt so bad and my legs felt so heavy AND it was only 3.0 miles!  so i was deeply ill at ease about my perceived performance issues.  turns out i had no reason for the misgivings... i took off and my legs felt a-ok so i ran a little faster.  i started passing people right off the bat... it felt ok so i just kept going.  i usually know right away whether or not it's sink or swim and since i was swimming just fine i picked it up a notch because... TRAILS!

have i mentioned that i LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE running trails?!?  well... in case you don't know. I DO! i love it!  i love running on trails and these trails are amazing and beautiful and oh so fun!  single track is my JAM! seriously...!  so i'm just running and funning it up like nobody's business.  life is good and my body is having so much fun!  the only issues i'm really having are my bandaid is falling off my hand (so i put it in my pocket and carry on), and the top of my left foot hurts like hell because my shoe pushes on a nerve uncomfortably and after 3 runs so close together... well... it's really fucking tender!  so that was awful and the worst pain ever but I DON'T EVEN CARE BECAUSE THIS TRAIL IS AMAZING AND SO MUCH FUN!  i am flying down all of these twists and turns... and then it happens....

a big, huge, ginormus, never ending, immeasurable, very long, wide ass, bane of my existence  fire road just standing there... mocking me.  so i start running up it.

until i can't.

then... i walk and power hike and run some more.

finally i am at the top and i am running and the wind is hitting me and i am free and smiling and i have made it!  there is nothing more satisfying than making it up a hill that feels like a mountain.  a hill that feels like it will never end.  a hill that really isn't that big but because you're exhausted and sleep deprived and STARVING and really want some pizza... that damn hill looks like a leviathan!  it is the damn swiss alps!  it's mount kilimanjaro for goodness sake!  so now i'm running a flat and it feels pretty damn good.  until it doesn't because there's another damn ceaseless ascent!!  so this happened a few different times.  i'd come out of some beautiful single track onto the most god awful fire road that just went on and on and on.  the worst part about those particular trails is they were matted grass peppered with hidden rocks and at about mile 6 there was a huge section of this kind of trail that was about 3-4 inches of muck.
how i feel about descents
the thing to remember is:

what goes up must come down... and we all know how i feel about the downs.  

i FLY down the descents like i'm not even touching the ground (i suppose for the most part i barely am).  i tiptoe around rocks like i'm playing hopscotch.  i dance through the root maze and spread my arms to balance my weight.  i am weightless!  i am free!  my legs feel amazing!  for a moment i wonder how i could ever have worried about my legs making it through this loop.  i never look at my garmin this whole time tho' because i don't really want to know how fast (or slow) i might be going.  i've learned over the years that just because it feels fast doesn't mean it actually is fast.  better to not know until the end.  so i'm just running and enjoying the run.  the woods are home and my church!  this is the best place to be!  i love it.

so i'm running and just loving everything about the run and i get a text from laura wanting to know how i'm doing.  i can't get my stupid phone to work from my pocket so i call her back and let her know that i'm about 5.5 or so miles in... this was just before that mucky section of trail.  there were some people walking that section and then i was back in civilization where the loops were converging.  getting close to the end.  this loop was so fun! (strava data here)

leg 3 ~ red loop
i love trail running because you really have to focus and stay on point.  it was fun running in and out of the single track.  popping in and out of there onto the fire/ski/horse trails was challenging and entertaining.  this race was really well put together and kept my brain engaged the entire time.

when i hit the final straight away before jumping back into the final single track to the finish i punched it.  i was so happy to open it up, run big, and with long strides.  it felt good to push it a little bit more.  it also helps that it's downhill and easy to open up the legs and really let everything take flight!  i hit the quarter mile marker, heard the buzz, and knew the hairpin turn onto the single track was coming up.  it was so exciting!  i could hear the crowds cheering and i ramped up my run.

there were a couple of people on the trail ahead of me but they were not running as fast as i was so i blew past them and freight trained it in to my team...  we all ran it in together and finished our run.

i'm so proud of all of us.  we dug deep and struggled through this journey together.  we forged friendships, we laughed, we slept, we ran, we struggled, and we persevered!  we did it!  until next time ragnar... thanks for the memories!  it was awesome.

team badgnar ~ finishers!
ragnar bling


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ragnar northwoods

so since joining badger crossfit i've gotten to start running again (insert incessant cheering here).  one of the cool things about this gym is that they have a private facebook page where they post member related things.  on said page a post popped up a couple of weeks ago mentioning that there was a ragnar team in need of a member because someone dropped out. 

so i watched the post for about a week and thought about it.  i talked to dave and picked his brain about whether or not i was ready to run actual distances... i mused... i fretted... i pondered... and then i posted asking if they were "crossfitters who run or runners who crossfit" cuz that's TOTALLY important in my decision making process.  it matters because if they were runners who did crossfit as opposed to the other way around it would be more pressure to perform at my absolute best and i'm not quite there yet.  i'm getting there... but i'm NOT there.  i know that if i was running with the team i was supposed to run with i would be pushing myself beyond capacity, and probably into a place where i would open the door for injury because i would feel so much pressure to perform at a level i'm not quite at yet.  however... these wonderful women are crossfit women who run and short distance runners.  running is not necessarily their thing like it's my thing so it will be easier for me to allow myself some wiggle room to have fun and not push myself to my competitive edge.  or maybe it is their thing that way, but they don't seem to be as competitive as i am and that's going to prove to be a good thing in this instant and keep me injury free.  although... i feel so damn good that i'm already planning how to run as hard as i can.

it's interesting to me to try and just run a race to "have fun"... i'm not a fun run kind of woman.  i run regularly to have fun.  i race to win.  it's really very simple.  i race to push my limits and see what i'm made of.  to see what i can do and then to smash that ceiling.  i race to push that boundary and then explode past it when i feel like i can't give anymore.  i race to leave every ounce of myself on the course.  even if that results in tears and blubbering collapsed finishes.  there is no other reason to race in my opinion.

i run because i love to run.  i can (and do) that all the time.  i run long runs and short runs and everything in between because i love to do it.  i don't need to race to fulfill my love of running... i just need to go outside and do it.  i race to prove to myself that i have no limits.  to smash the ones that plague me.

as master p so eloquently put it: "i'm a no limit motherfuckin' soldier till i die"

i mean... truly the dope lyricist weaving american venacular into such a ornate stream of consciousness.  or something.

anyway... running.

so i'm pretty excited to be running this thing.  there are so many people i know running it so i hope to see a lot of friends.  i'm excited to get to know a new group of women.  i'm excited to make new friends (although with my social anxiety this is also kicking my ass at the moment).  i'm mostly excited to run new trails and see what my body will do.  i'm just really really happy i get to run at all. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

this is what happens...

so what happens when i can run 20 miles a week again after being sidelined for 8 months?  oh nuthin'... i just sign up for a FIFTY KAY IN UTAH!

i mean... how can you watch this video and not want to run this?  my god!  how amazing and beautiful and perfect and just all the things!

so yup... i signed up for the bryce canyon 50K.  it looks amazing and so fun.  i'm probably going to die but it will be one million percent worth it!

beyond that i get to spend 5 days with one of my dearest friends who lives in salt lake.  anna and i used to be college roommates and i miss her buttloads!  it is really the icing on the cake.  she's thinking of running the 1/2... i'm trying to talk her into the 50K so we can run it together but we'll see.

now i just have to stay injury free!  woot woot!