Friday, January 27, 2012

Ragnar Florida Keys Part 4: Bringing it Home

Now that I've drawn this out as long as possible, I suppose I should wrap this thing up. I have one more batch of Ragnar pictures if you'll hang with me, and then we can return to some regularly scheduled blogging :)

When we last left off, our van had just completed our second round of runs, and were having lunch near the 7 Mile Bridge. After we finished we still had hours to kill, so we directed our van driver to Bahia Honda State

The water was colder than we expected it to be, and changing into bathing suits and getting all sandy was more effort than we were willing to put forth by that point. We opted to stroll along the beach, and then walked to the top of the old Flagler Bridge to take pictures.

After a couple hours at the park and one more coffee stop, we made our way to Sugarloaf Elementary School. It was the last major exchange point. Van 1 would be completely done, and then it would be up to us to finish the last 6 segments.

As we milled around the school parking lot, we were trying to size up our position. We had made up some time, but were still one of the last 30 teams on the course due to our late start time. Some of the checkpoints were already being disassembled as we came through. It was a little disheartening. We just wanted to be DONE.

Around 4:30, the last runner of Van 1 handed off the timing bracelet to Elijah (runner #7), and it was "go time" again.

The next exchange zone was in the parking lot of this place. No, it wasn't open, I'm sure to the dismay of some.

The last 3 legs were short...2, 3.5, and 5.6 miles. Unlike the residential sections near Miami, when we hit grid lock traffic going into Key West, we had no alternate ways to go.

Scared we wouldn't make it to the final exchange point before Mr. Blondie got there, I decided I'd just run with him.

The shoulder was to narrow too run side by side. I let Mr. Blondie lead the way. It fun to be out there together.

Together the miles went by quickly, and then I was on my own to bring it home. 

The last couple miles refreshed my memory of what it's like to run a marathon. My body was exhausted, I felt delirious and was seeing weird shapes and shadows in the dark. 

Oh man, am I really going to attempt another full marathon later this year? 

Granted it would have been much easier to run 25 miles straight, instead of being broken up over the course of 30 hours. I couldn't stop asking myself that question though.

Total mileage run: 25.4

Coming into home stretch was pure exhilaration and emotion. Our entire team joined hands and crossed together.

There was beer at the end (and only beer, everything else was gone), but we were more interested in finding Key Lime Pie on a stick.

We took the obligatory pictures, then went back to the hotel to clean up.

We were exhausted, but the night wouldn't be complete without hitting Duval Street. One margarita at Sloppy Joes was plenty for us. After our drink we made out way back to the hotel and flopped happily into bed. We were deep asleep in about 2 seconds flat.

Morning came too quickly, but we had to get moving. We had a team brunch at Camille's (which only has THE BEST pancakes and french toast ever, I'd been looking forward to it the entire trip).

And after just missing each other at checkpoints the entire race,  I finally got to meet the fabulous Jena in real life!

The vans had to be back at the Miami airport by 4 pm, and we had flight to catch. Fortunately we had no problem getting a flight home despite it being a busy Sunday night.

Even though we just made it in before the cut-off time...seriously, they turned off the clock and started taking down the finish line about 30 minutes after we finished.....we didn't do so bad overall. We came in 101st out of 246 teams in the "mixed open" division with a time of 31:37. We would have been closer to 70th, had we not lost about an hour when our runner got lost on leg #16.

We're already discussing which Ragnar we're gong to do next.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ragnar Florida Keys Part 3: Running THROUGH Marathon

So to pick up where we left off...

At the end of my last post I was sleeping in van down by the river in the parking lot of Coral Shores High School in Tavernier. Meanwhile the first half of our team was traversing their way through the rest of Homestead and Key Largo, finally ending with a handoff to our Van.

It was a little before 7:00 when the final runner of Van 1 reached us. With the sun rising over the water, it was go time again. Now it would our our job to carry the torch get the timing bracelet across Islamorada.

The first leg of this set was approximately 10 miles long. We had shuffled the line-up at the last minute so Elijah (runner #7), wasn't expecting to run this far at one time. He had anticipated running 10 miles for the whole relay! He stepped up to the challenge though..

And like good teammates, we did the sportsman like thing.....Patted him on the back, said "Go get 'em buddy" and "We'll see ya in an hour and a half after we're done having fun." 

I kid. Sort of.

We directed our van driver to Robbie's Tarpon Ranch. It's a quirky little place Mr.Blondie and I like to stop every time we go to the Keys. For $3 you get a bucket of bait fish which you can feed the ginormous Tarpon that congregate around their dock.

Ok, maybe our runner didn't miss much after all. Hey, we thought it was fun at least.

We also got lucky and saw this guy.

Elijah (runner #7) finished up his 10 miles like a champ, and we had some time to kill after that. We joked around and took some pictures while we were waiting for our next 3 runners to finish their segments.

Adelle (runner #9), with our team captain John who paced her, arrived right on time and handed off to Mr. Blondie.

I helped him get on his way.

Mr. Blondie survived his 3.5 miles, then it was time for me to run my 7-ish miles. My leg was through Marathon Key. How apropos right?

It was a little past noon at this point and the temp was in the low 80's. It had been about 60 degrees when I ran the night before, and that was perfect. I knew I was going to struggle in the heat for this part.

My calves were tight from the night before, and I felt stiff for the first mile. Breaking out the calf sleeves really helped in the beginning until I loosened up again.

Things were going well until mile 3. Then the heat and my sub-par breakfast (pretzels and Powerade Zero) started getting the best of me. My stomach was angry. I knew I was going to get sick, I just didn't know from which end. Let's just say I let the evil out once I reached mile 6, then held on the best I could to finish up.

I handed of the timing bracelet and it was Van 1's turn to again. It took about an hour for me to cool down and feel normal again. Then I couldn't wait to get my hands on a normal meal.

We stopped at another place we like for lunch when we visit to the Keys. It's at the base of the 7 Mile Bridge, hence the name. The have an excellent grilled grouper sandwich if you're ever in the area.

Once again I think Van 1 had it rougher than us. It sounded cool on paper, but in reality we were sooo glad not to be running the leg over the 7 Mile Bridge. It was blazing hot, and traffic was whizzing by with nary a shoulder to run on.

Someone almost got killed. A car had flipped over trying to avoid a runner earlier in the day. I think everyone was able to walk away ok, this happened before we got there.

Our Van 1 runners managed to stay strong, and got through their next 6 legs on target. Then it was back to us.........

Next post: Bringing It Home

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ragnar FLK Part 2: Hurry Up and Wait

After that excitement of seeing our first runner off, it was time to wait again. We were Van 2 which meant we had at least 4 hours before it would be our turn to start running. We milled around for the next couple hours perusing at the Ragnar merchandise (or what was left of it), organizing our stuff in the van, and adding “flair” to the exterior of it.

Waves of runners started every half hour beginning at 5 am all the way until 2pm. An 8:00 or 9:00 start would have been lovely, but apparently we were a little too honest with our predicted times. The Ragnar official said we were going to be one of the faster teams so that’s why we were one of the last groups to get started. I don’t know how that’s possible being that we planned to average a 9:00/mi as our overall pace. Other teams who know the system better must have fudged their times slightly to get earlier starts then us.

We made a stop for lunch and Starbucks, then arrived at the Miami Zoo. The first major exchange point were Van 1 would hand off to Van 2.

We went through the safety orientation, and were given our supplies (flags, first air kit) which also included a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. That was the last freebie we saw for the rest of the relay.

The worst part about the late start was every exchange point would be completely out of food and giveaways by the time we got there. The Ragnarians were like a hoard of locust moving across the islands. The biggest commodity ended up being toilet paper. There was not a square to spare at any public restroom or porta-potty anywhere along the way. We learned to carry our pack of baby wipes with us everywhere.

At 4:30, Van 1 handed off to Van 2. Elijah (runner #7), got the timing braclet and was off. Legs 7, 8, and 9 of the relay were tricky because they were through residental areas with lots of intersections and traffic lights. There was alot going on. Elijah did better on Leg 7than he gave himslef credit for.

Traffic was INSANE. It required some ninja navigation skills to make it to each exchange zone before our runner. It was such an adrenaline rush each time we successfully completed a hand-off.

By the time our 5th runner (leg #11) started, we were out of the residential sections into the everglades. It was very dark, and exceptionally smelly. Poor Mr.Blondie has this leg. It went alongside a landfill area, and he could barely hold it together the smell was so wretched. He also saw a big snake along the way. He knew better than to tell me about it until afterward we were finished. Game over, I would have been done had I known they were that out in the open. :::Shiver:::

My leg (I was runner #12) , took me even further into a desolate section of swampland. I was wearing my iPod, but decided that it would be foolish to use it. I need every one of my senses available and alert to my surroundings. After close to an hour of running through what felt like in a black hole, bright lights and a glimmer civilization came into view. It was the Homestead Motor Speedway.

While the stadium was empty, it was actually pretty cool to be on the track.

When you think about a bunch of race cars whizzing around at 200 miles an hour, the track isn’t very big at all. However it’s much larger than your standard ¼ mile track. It messes with your mind. After going around the first curve I still had almost a mile to go!

How many people can say they’ve done a lap on a Nascar track? I’d read reviews about how dreadful this part of the run was, so I had prepared myself for the worst. I think this was one of the most memorable sections of the race.

Miles run this leg:
My Total Miles: 8.86

I handed of the timing bracelet back to the first runner of Van 1, then it was our turn to rest for the next few hours.

We stopped at a diner for food, then headed to the next major exchange point, Coral Shores High School, to sleep for a few hours.
I think Van 1 had a much harder job than we did. They did all of the overnight running which included an 11.1 miles stretch over the Key Largo Bridge. It's one lane in each direction, with barely a shoulder, and trucks and cars whizzing by at a high rate of speed. I don't know how people didn't get killed.

In the dark, one of the Van 1 runners got lost and turned a 4 miles leg into a 9 mile leg. She ended up having to knock on the door of a local resident who drove her back to the beginning exchange point for that leg. Luckily she was safe, but it set us back another hour.

Coral Shores High School looked like an Econoline convention. It was a sea of hundreds of vans with people camped out alongside them in sleeping bags. Instead of the standard 15 passenger van, we had a Town & Country mini van which ended up being really comfortable. The seats folded into the floor, making the middle a decent area to sleep.

What made this experience so much fun was that I was with my husband and another couple we've been close friends with for years. It would have gotten even more awkward otherwise.

Sleeping configuration: 2 people in the front seat, 3 in the middle, 1 on the back bench.

After a solid an interrupted 3 hours or so of sleep, it was time for us to get running again.......

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Re-Living the Ragnar Relay Florida Keys

I have a bunch of pictures and video clips I want to share with you, and I’m still working on how to put this whole experience into words. I hope y’all won’t mind if I break this up into sections.

Thursday (Day 1): Travel to Miami

Our original plan was to drive from Atlanta to Miami, so we wouldn’t have to deal with airports. We thought it would be the more relaxed way to go. We were pretty concerned about the flights being crowded since this is snowbird time year in South Florida.

After Mr. Blondie got home late Wednesday night fom a particularly busy trip, we decided the drive down wouldn't be easy. And then doing the drive home after being awake almost all weekend? That could end up being downright dangerous. Plus, driving would have cost us at least $300 in gas and tolls. New plan....

Flight loads looked good the night before, so we made the last minute we made the decision to fly instead. Fortunately, things stayed in our favor (no weather delays or cancellations), and we had no problems getting seats Thursday morning.

I brought plenty of mini Marathon Bars for sharing.
 Two of our teammates picked us up at the airport. Elijah and Adelle are from San Diego, and had arrived on an earlier flight. A friend of their’s in Miami graciously let the four of us borrow his car for the day and spend the night in his apartment.

We grabbed some lunch,and spent the afternoon chilling out in downtown Miami.

Then we hit Target for supplies. All the stuff we couldn’t/didn’t want to carry on a plane.

Pillows, towels, snacks, sunblock, drinks, etc., etc.

We met up with the rest of our team for a quick dinner at Carino’s. It was our first time meeting the other 8 runners in person.

Funny aside: Our team captain, John, is the husband of one of Mr. Blondie's old girlfriend's. Through her Facebook page over the summer, we found out he needed extra people for a Ragnar team.  When Mr.Blondie told me about it and asked me if I thought it would be awkward, I was like, hell no, sign us up! That's how we ended up here.

With full bellies after dinner, we were ready to sleep almost immediately when we got back to the apartment. This would be the most sleep we’d get for the next 4 days.

Friday Morning (Day 2): The Starting Line

 Friday morning we up and at ‘em at the early morning hour of 9am :) While we weren’t happy with our late assigned start time of noon, we did appreciate being able to sleep in.

We packed up and made our way to Virginia Key Beach Park. Eccentricity was encouraged.

Not our teammate
Our costumes were a little more tame.

To go with our team name "Running with the Devil", the men (begrudgingly) dressed up as angels, and the women as devils.

Really babe?
Then clock struck 12:00, and it was time to get things started.......

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012- We're Off With a Running Start

Mr. Blondie was away for almost the entire first 3 weeks of December putting in his hours at work. Emily and I have a pretty good routine established for when it’s just the two of us, but with all the extra stuff I had to get done for the holidays, it left me feeling pretty stressed out.

The payoff’s been having him home for the past week and a half. We got our chance to decompress, and it was lovely.

Christmas Day looked a lot like this.

And New Year’s looked a lot like this

Spending quality time with our couches

I have to thank Lee for motivating to run a 10K on New Year’s Day. She was willing to drive all the way to my part of town for the race, so the least I could do was change out of my pajamas and peel myself off the couch to meet her.

“Champagne loading” isn’t the best pre-race strategy, but that’s what you do on New Year’s isn’t it? Who am I buck tradition.

Showing up at the race I was feeling sluggish, bloated, and off my game….but raise your hand if the holidays haven’t left you feeling that way too. I know I was in good company in that respect.

Ok, those of you raising your hands can put them down now. Thanks for rubbing it in.

I felt accomplished simply for being there. As you can see my splits were all over the place. My official time was 43:54, 2nd overall female, 1st place age group. The woman who won was the same person who beat me at the 15K a couple months ago. I was happy to finish within eye shot of her this time.

After I crossed the finish line, I gave Mr. Blondie and Emily a quick kiss and kept moving to bring my total up to 9 miles for the day. Lee had a strong race as well. I was able to catch up just in time for her sprint to the finish.

So tonight we’ll be packing up the car because tomorrow morning we leave for the Ragnar Florida Keys. Our team starts at noon on Friday in Miami. Mr. Blondie is slated to be runner #11, and I’m #12. I’m looking forward to meeting Jena who will also be there running.

Toodles for now. I’ll see ya’ll again once we get to Miami!