Ragnar Florida Keys - Race Re-Cap

I've come a long, long way in my running.  Back in May of 2013, running a Ragnar was just a pipe dream - something I saw as a run that would make me a bad-ass but that I probably couldn't really accomplish.  When the registration was full and we couldn't get in, I sighed a small sigh of relief.

But of course Nuun is awesome and, with Kristen's help (she's an ambassador), we got ourselves a team.  Then, we got ourselves some sweet help from Quick Feet Adventures who named us (NUUNaritaville - fitting for so many reasons!), got us sweet swag like sunscreen and lip balm (thanks Naawk!), and sent us lots of useful information like packing and shopping lists.

Looking back, I trained pretty well for this race.  About a month out, I started two-a-day runs and increased my weekend mileage.  I tested out new gear that I would have to run in.

In the end, just before the race, I felt confident.  I felt ready.  I was excited.  Remember when I posted a little while ago about Mental Toughness? Confidence was the single most critical piece to being mentally tough (and succeeding).

And then a runner dropped out.  After days of negotiating, it was decided that myself, Matt, and our friend Keith would take the extra legs.  To do that, we had to up everyone's mileage in our van.  But I still felt ready - I wanted to really push myself with this run like I had never done before and I planned on coming out on top.  Remember #2 on my Mental Toughness list? "Have an insatiable desire to succeed".  It looked like I was well on my way to being, at the very least, Ragnar tough.

Decorating the vans was so much fun and this is what we ended up with:

Van 1                                                                                                        Van 2

And here is our full, official, awesome team:
Kim, Karly, Jack, Melissa, Ryan, Beko (Driver-Van 1), Heather, Leslie, Elena (Driver-Van 2), Kristen, Keith, Me, & Matt.  Representing Ohio, New York, California, Florida, and Oregon!

Unfortunately, it is so damn humid in Florida that even our vans were crying (our decorations on the van got wet overnight and had started to run).

We took this picture around 9am - Van 1 had a start time of 11:30am.  Note that I am already on my second cup of coffee - I am an addict.  Those of us in Van 2 had quite the leisurely morning - a little packing, checking out of the hotel, went to Wal-Mart, and still got to Exchange 6 with plenty of time for checking-in, meeting up with Megan at the Nuun tent, and attending our safety briefing.

It was great to meet up with the Van 1 folks again at Exchange 6.  Because Ryan is basically the reason I started running, and he is always motivating me to be my best, I went to him for some comfort about the extra legs I had picked up.  The conversation went a little like this:

Me: "Ryan, I need you to movitate me."
Ryan: "Definitely! Think about it this way, your first run is super short, right, like 3 miles?"
Me: "Umm, no.  It's 8."
Ryan: "Oh.  Well, at least you get to start at like prime time, right? Like 5:30-6pm?"
Me: "Umm, no.  3:30pm."
Ryan: "Oh. Well, at least overall you're not running much more than you're used to, right?"
Me: "Umm, no.  About 6-7 miles more than I've ever done before."
Ryan: "Yeah, I got nothin'."

Leg 1 (7.9 miles): As runner 8, I started off this leg about 3:30pm and I was totally stoked (albeit a bit nervous).  The sun was out bright, the air was thick with humidity, and I decided to start off slow.  My van was set to meet me for support around mile four.  As a ran, criss-crossing busy Miami streets, I kept finding myself on the opposite side of the street as the shade.  I blessed the crosswalks I was forced to stop at, as they gave me a much needed break.  Other teams w ere offering me water, asking if I was doing ok.  I never paused my watch when I stopped, so I'm not sure what my actual running pace was like, but I feel like it wasn't too much slower than usual.  I was trying to keep up with my predicted pace (10:30 min/mile) without killing myself over highway overpasses.  Part of my route was on the grass, which I could have done without.  In the last mile, a couple of other runners motivated me to the finish line ("If you run more, it will be over faster, let's go!").  I really needed that.  I felt like death at the end, but I guess I didn't look too bad.

The van supported me twice during this leg and thank God for it.  I think Keith even got a sweet video of them building me a power arch (can't wait to see it)!  Thanks to Naawk, I didn't even get color on this run, let alone a sunburn.  When I finished I was utterly exhausted.  I ate some Publix chocolate chip cookies and had some chocolate milk.

Fast forward a couple hours: Karly and Kim both rocked their runs.  I think they did much better than anyone expected (probably including themselves) and everyone in the van was stoked.  Matt was runner 12 and he finished right around 9pm.  I felt so bad for him because, althouh he finished in the Miami Homestead Speedway, his run was almost a mile longer than the ragmag had stated.  But, we went to Mamma Mia's in Homestead, FL for dinner and I was a glutton!
Shrimp and asparagus risotto, garlic knot, and wine
Leg 2 (6.2 miles):  I began this leg at 5:00am, it was still dark and fairly humid.  We had slept over at a school on Tavernier, in the van, which was restful but somehow at the same time very hot and uncomfortable.  I'm usually such a light sleeper, but I guess my first run had just zapped my energy because I slept pretty well and felt refreshed when I got up.  This leg was AMAZING! Everyone kept posting on Twitter about how great night runs are and I just wasn't convinced.  But my Tweet afterward included: #Nightrunsarethebestitstrue.

Within a mile I had to pee, but I was lucky enough to come across a construction site with an open porta-potty.  I hopped in and hopped out and went right along my merry way.  I saw my van for support (a little too early, but I forgive them) about mile 3-3.5 and kept on going.  My stomach felt a little uneasy but it must have just been hunger because eating a PowerGel made it go away.  I finished pretty quickly with about a 10:25 min/mile pace.  I was overyjoyed at my success.  Eating hadn't turned out to be a challenge, sleep hadn't been a challenge, and I was totally owning my running.  I was on cloud 9.  At the end of my run, the sun was just starting to come up.

The ocean is what I live for, so I was ready for it to be sunny again - although I know my teammates were enjoying the relief from it.

Leg 3 (2.9 miles): Kim was sweet enough to switch me so she ran the 4.4 mile leg for runner 10 (our missing runner) and I took her shorter 2.9 mile leg.  This was, ultimately, the worst run of my life.  I think the fact that it was so short only made it worse.  Within 100 yards I had a terrible stomach pain that no amount of stretching, breathing, or clamping my hand on would get rid of.  I doubled over in intense pain at least twice, and started to cry.  I almost texted Matt to tell him I wouldn't be able to finish...but in the end I didn't.  In the end I thought to myself - you can do this, be slow but keep running, fight through the pain, it will make you stronger.  And I did.  One aspect of mental toughness I hadn't really reflected on was "Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events." This was certainly a huge challenge for me, but I was successful.  I've never been so relieved to be finished with a run and at the same time I was incredibly proud that I hadn't quit.  If I could get through that run, I can get through anything.  Plus, there was some pretty good scenery!

Meanwhile, Matt was stuck with crappy runs (all over 5 miles) in the heat of the day each time and with poor signage/mileage counts.  He was really struggling and it was breaking my heart to see him so miserable.  His eating and hydration schedule was off - even with all the Nuun, he just couldn't consume enough water to match what he was sweating out.

Leg 4 (1.8 miles):  Spectacular 9:33 min/mile pace on this little beast.  I kept trying to slow myself down but I couldn't.  I was totally pumped (even though we had spent an inordinate amount of time earlier in the day trying to eat some lunch - folks, there are very few restaurants in the Keys! And they are packed with other runners during a Ragnar!!) and ready to just be finished.  I knew it couldn't be worse than my previous leg and I could only hope it would be better.  I wanted to finish strong and finish strong I did.  When I handed off the baton to Karly, I felt simply elated.

Matt was runner 12 so he was going to run through the offical finish line.  We all waited at the end so we could go through together (symbolic and sentimental, no?) which happened for us around 6:15pm, just before sunset.  Our team ended up finishing 89th out of 478 teams with a time of 30 hours and 43 minutes. In the mixed division we placed 44th of 308 teams. This was way better than I had hoped for or expected.

I would do another Ragnar in a heartbeat.  Even through the heat, I think the Florida Keys location is absolutely spectacular.  I'm fairly certain there isn't another member on my team who would agree with me - they all commented about never wanting to run there ever again.  I also think I really marked a milestone for myself with this race - there's no looking back from here.  I'm excited to see what my future in running holds for me.