Sunday, February 26, 2012

Team DNR: 30 hours in the Desert

Webb: In spite of Ragnar's lack of best efforts, we survived our 200 mile, 30 hour trek through the Arizona desert. For those of you not aware of the 200 mile running relay, they are all based upon the Hood to Coast model built 30 years ago. I'll leave the description to them. For our purposes, just know that we each ran three legs over a 24-hour period - 30 hours if you count both vans. You snack a lot and don't rest much. Even when you sleep, you don't really sleep.
Team DNR, post-race

Elle: As long as you're in a van with people who have a good sense of humor, and don't take things too seriously, this can be really fun. You run your butt off with hundreds of other slightly crazy people, many of whom have decided it would be a good idea to run in a ridiculous, heat-retaining costume, others who run in very little at all. You eat a lot of pretzels, gatorade, and gels. You spend a lot of time in port-o-potties, more than anyone should. And you'll find that you can run. Fast. Even when you're very, very tired.

Webb: If you are not on a competitive team, then 24-hour relays are more about the in-van experience than the actual running. Our van was made up of family and long-time friends. In addition to the runners, my brother Chris and my sister-in-law, Lisa, joined us as our driver and navigator, respectively. (Technically, you don't need a driver or navigator, but we've learned that having them takes a lot of the stress out of the effort.) We couldn't go wrong with our group.

Unfortunately, you don't spend much time with the other van. You meet up at major exchanges and the finish. Otherwise, there is very little interaction. That's a shame because our Van 2 had really cool people and we would have liked to have spent more time with them.

Elle: I had Jessica's legs this year. Which included the 'Mother Fu&*#$er' leg. It was the final leg, a 9-mile trek that included a hill that started at mile 3 and just kept going. Someone must have said something, because this year they took off the last 2 miles and added them to the leg of the next runner. Thank God, because when I got to the end, I don't know if I had another 2 miles of hill climbing in me. It was challenging, for sure. But since I knew what was ahead of me, I mentally prepared myself. I accepted the hill, and tried my best to embrace it. I ran hard. I passed a lot of other runners. I embraced the pain. The reason we all call it the 'Mother Fu&*#$er' leg is because last year, Jessica ran it. Jessica is a nice, mild-mannered person who you wouldn't imagine would curse loudly in public. When we met up with her near the end of the climb to give her moral support, she ran past us, the only words she could muster was "Mother Fu&*#$er! "
Van #1and our Ragnar tatoos

Webb: Unlike everyone else in the van, I held the same runner position as last year (i.e., #3). Except for a small but meaningful change to the third leg, the course was identical. This year my legs consisted of #3) a mostly downhill 7.1 mile run, #15) a treacherous and hilly 6.5 mile night run, and finally #27) a mostly downhill 9.0 mile run to finish the day. 

Leg #3: A typical desert morning. Hot. Dry. Dusty. Cattleguards and a long, straight-shot road that seemed to go on forever. Even though I was freshly armed with accurate HR threshold data, I did a lousy job staying under threshold. I took off way too fast and then spent the next 6 miles trying to settled down. 

Leg #15: For all the safety rules Ragnar puts in place, you'd think their number one concern is our safety. If that were the case, they would change Leg 15's route. First, there is a section of trail about a mile long. The first quarter or third is littered with smooth river stones set firmly in the ground. The type of stones if you don't trip over, you'll slip on. You then approach "The Drop." Ragnar places a volunteer there to remind you to be careful. The Drop is a descent that I figure to be about 25 to 30 feet at about a 30% grade in soft dirt. You then drop into a dry river bed and trudge through sand. Remember this is at night. My headlamp was bright; bright enough to smooth over topographical changes. Every few steps the ground would suddenly drop or rise causing me to stumble. (Switching to the red light to see ground variations made it too dark to see much of anything else.)

I passed one runner who was walking. Afraid she was hurt, I checked on her. She wisely said, "This is too dangerous, I'll save myself for the 9-miler tomorrow."  After emerging from the trail, we then headed back onto sidewalks, until the course sent us running down a major street against traffic. No sidewalk. No shoulder. Just you against traffic. This would be a fun route during the day. Thanks Ragnar.

Leg #27: Nine miles as two miles up hill (i.e., the summit of Elle's 'Mother Fu&*#$er' hill), two miles of rolling terrain, then five miles of downhill. Last year I killed this leg. I ran hard and fast. This year it nearly killed me. My ITB tract went en fuego as I emerged from the third mile. I hobbled through the next six.  At one point I called for pickle juice to see if it would help the muscles around the ITB. Nope. It was surprisingly refreshing though.
Elle - Leg #1

Elle: My other legs were fun. I ran as hard as I could without killing myself, or causing injury. I was just happy to be in Arizona, running amid the cacti and mountains. The landscape was so gorgeous, I had trouble wiping the smile off my face. Even during the Mother Fu&*#$er' leg.
I'd add my run stats here, but my Garmin 110 cleverly decided to crash after the race, so I lost all of my data. Great.

Webb: Final thoughts: Big thanks to Chris & Lisa for driving us around, taking photos and providing general support and organization. Taking care of the little things helped us focus on the running. Thanks to Shawn for opening her home for us to crash after the first major exchange. Thanks to Dan & Jessica for captaining the ship; their leadership was invaluable. Thanks to Jaimee for filling in for Paul (fractured heel - yikes!) at the last minute. And for the burpees and cartwheels. Thanks to Van 2 tearing the course apart and having the Team DNR vibe. We hope to be able to spend more time in the future with you guys. Thanks to Katie & Adam for once again being amazing post-race hosts: showers, pizza, beer, and homemade cookies.

Last but not least: Dear Ragnar, we're breaking up. After three races with you, I've decided that you don't put as much into this relationship as I do. In the beginning you didn't not offer much, but what you offered was kinda interesting. In our second race, you offered less and in this last race you found a way to lower your effort level even further. I have since learned there are others who are also interesting but who appear to give back to the relationship. I deserve to be treated better. I wish you well and hope we both learn from this experience. 

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