Ragnar Relay Chicago

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Leading up to this weekend, I was extremely nervous. I had trained and felt pretty good, but I also had some training runs that led to some self-doubt. What the heck did I get myself into? Did I bite off more than I can chew?

Rewind back to about October/November…

A friend tagged me in a Facebook post about doing Ragnar Relay as an ultra. I immediately said to sign me up. This’ll be fun! Now, remember, during that time I was about 6-8 weeks out from my initial double mastectomy. I spoke with doctors and they were 100% confident I’d be able to do it. Afterall, they reassured me the upcoming second surgery would be a piece of cake! Ha!

I had the second surgery and had complications – fat grafting issues and nerve damage in my stomach at the donor site. There were several times I wanted to back out of Ragnar.

I didn’t. I started “training” once I was cleared 100% by my doctors back in the middle of February. I remember texting a friend freaking out because I had only been able to run one mile. Then I upped it to two miles. How the heck would I be able to run 31-ish miles. I slowly started getting back at it. My pace was more like a turtle running through molasses. I did a half marathon in April and was two minutes off my PR (personal record). I had only done 9.5 miles leading up to that and most training plans have you doing anywhere from 10-12 miles the weekend before tapering.

Well, my motto for the year is to wing it. I definitely winged that one. It gave me a huge boost of confidence and exactly what I needed. If I could pull 13.1 miles outta my rear, I could certainly train for Ragnar but no pulling that out of my rear.

I continued training and doing double runs in a day and a few times a week. I also signed up for a few half marathons that also fell on back-to-back weekends or every other weekend. One of my teammates said the ultra could be done on simply half marathon runs. She’s done several Ragnar relay ultras, so I had that to fall back on.

I wanted to do Ragnar Relay for myself, team, and as an inspiration to other double mastectomy ladies. I needed to do this to prove to myself that I can do it. There’s nothing holding me back but myself.

Anyway, Thursday afternoon, everyone (but Susie) met at my house. I had the van packed with our food container and cooler. My dad made us some car decals and we were putting them on as people got there. The van looked pretty cool!!!

We headed to Madison and picked up Susie from the airport. From there we grabbed dinner and went straight to the hotel to settle in. I was exhausted. I hardly slept Wednesday night and woke up super early Thursday morning. I took vacations days and wanted to sleep in.

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I was runner one so I got all my stuff ready and organized. When I packed for this, I put all of my running outfits in gallon zip lock bags. Then when I was done I could throw my clothes back in the bag and no sweaty or stinky clothes out. Imagine what the smell could end up being like after all of us being in a van for two days!

Friday morning, we woke up, had breakfast and headed to the rainy start. We arrived, got our race bags, went through the check-in process, and hung out in the rain.

Next thing you know it was 7:50am and I was about to embark on one of the craziest things I’ve ever done! We took a few pictures and the announcer was shouting out team names. Eek! I was runner one and my first leg was 10.5 miles. We decided as a team to do back-to-back legs to have more down time. We all still had three legs to do, just double the miles than your typical twelve person team.

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Leg 1: Run through Madison in the rain!

I started off nice and easy. I put in my average pace as 10:30/mile, and figured that would give me a little bit of a buffet as time went on. It rained/misted for about 6 miles.

Leading up to Ragnar weekend, I never ran in the rain. I would skip running outside and run on the dreadmill. I know, such a diva! My friend Anna laughed at me all the time when I told her I wasn’t running outside. I bumped into her at REI one rainy day, and she said, “what if it rains Ragnar weekend. What’re going to do?” Yeah, WHAT IF!!!! Obviously I would have no choice but run in the rain.

It was extremely relaxing running in the rain. There was this calmness about it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to chuckle at myself though. Here I didn’t train in the rain but ran in it. I watched people prance around the puddles delicately and hop over some like they were playing hopscotch. I was already soaked anyway, so I just ran right through them! Can you say the joke was on me? Thanks, Mother Nature!

For the first leg, my average pace for the 10.5 miles was 10:22 a mile, and I was ahead of my arrival time by a few minutes. Yay!

I had a few kills and felt really good. A kill is when you pass another runner. It doesn’t count when you pass an ultra runner, at least that’s what we said!

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I arrived at the second exchange and met Cat who took on the next two legs. I changed and got out of my wet clothes and we got to the next exchange to wait for Cat and drop off Melissa. The rain cleared and it turned out to be a nice, cloudy day which is perfect running weather. We met Melissa to give her water and a snack. She was running over 16 miles total for her first leg. Crazy, huh? Then it was Susie’s turn to run. She ran, and then we picked her up and off Jenni went.

We went to the next exchange point and I got ready. I was next up.

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Leg 2: 8.7 miles on some trail

Prior to this leg, Cat taped up my knee with KT tape because my right knee was bothering me. I started running again around 8pm and the next thing I know, the tape was falling off. Ugh.

I’m totally a fan of running at night because it’s so peaceful listening to nature and looking at the stars and moon. It was overcast and foggy so none of that happened, but it was still an incredibly beautiful and relaxing.

During my double training runs, I tended to do better in my second run. Leg two was no different. I averaged 9:47 for my 8.7 mile run. Yay!!!

Next thing I knew I was arriving at the exchange and slapping the wristband on Cat’s arm. I felt really good and actually wanted to keep running!!

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I felt great for a while afterwards, and then it hit me. My stomach felt like crap. I couldn’t eat anything and only water tastes good. I started downing tums, but it wasn’t doing anything.

We continued meeting at the exchanges to drop off the next runner and pick up the previous runner. We had a blast in the van driving and hanging out. We laughed, joked around, and at one point attempted to sleep.

I still felt like absolute crap no matter what I did. Oh well, I had to suck it up and prepare for my final run.

Leg 3: 12.1 miles.

My third leg was running through Racine and ending in Kenosha. How extremely boring…the only exciting thing was the rain I was running in. Yes, Mother Nature had a laugh at my expense.

I felt okay the first few miles and then it hit me – my stomach hurt and my quads were screaming and cursing my name. Holy crap.

I took a walk break and texted my mom telling her I was dying. She texted back asking if I won the race. It’s a joke between her and I. Anytime I do a race, she always congratulates me and follows it up with “did you win?” We both laugh and laugh.

I started laughing and texted back saying “no, but I’m not winning and am letting my team down.” I was averaging 10:30 and progressively getting slower. No matter how many shot blocks I ate or water I downed, nothing was helping me! I was bonking.

I didn’t want to let my team down and felt I was (even though I know I wasn’t – the games the mind plays).  I texted them saying I was sorry and averaging an 11-ish mile pace. There was nothing I could do but suck it up and put one foot in front of the other.

I got to exchange 25 and the volunteers were shouting my number out. I kept yelling I was an ultra and running through. They didn’t comprehend until I ran to the exchange thing and ran back out to the trail. Everyone started cheering for me and telling me how I was crazy! When they passed me, they all told me I was awesome. It gave me a little boost but didn’t help with my dead quads.

Pretty soon I spotted the “one mile left” sign. Yayyyy!!!! I took a selfie with the sign and got a little emotional. Holy crap. I just ran 31.3 miles in 24 hours! No freaking way. I picked up my pace a little bit and attempted to finish strong. But, that didn’t happen :/

I couldn’t believe it. That run felt like it took me a million years to make it through, but was all a blur when I reached the exchange and passed the bracelet on to Cat.

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My teammates met me and off we went to the next exchange. We received messaged from Cat saying she was hit by a car, okay and going to continue trying to run. She was hurting badly, so we drove and met her and Melissa graciously agreed to take her last three miles. Melissa’s total mileage for the two days was 37plus miles.

We continued dropping and picking up runners. Jenni was the last runner and would take the last two legs to Chicago finish line.

We drove to the finish line area, parked the car and scrubbed the van decorations and sayings off the car. We all hobbled to the finish line and cheered other runners and teams to the chute.

We started getting nervous. Next thing we know, it’s raining and lightening out and no sign of Jenni. The stupid stop lights were interfering with her agenda. Honestly, it’s so hard stopping and going. It’s difficult to get the legs going again especially when you’ve already ran such long distances already.

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Jenni made it and we all ran across the finish line, only to be tossed our medal package and a few pasta cups. We took one picture and were instantly told we had to leave and get to our vehicles! No finish line party or free beers for us!!

Once in the van, Jenni got a text saying the race was called and teams had to get their runners off the road.

All-in-all it was an amazing and fun experience. I learned much about myself mentally and physically and I wouldn’t trade those things at all. I also learned much about everyone else, too! It was an absolute blast and an amazing girls weekend. Who goes on a girls weekend and runs an ultra relay? All of us crazy chicks!

Running 31 miles is no joke on the body. Take that and throw in no sleep and it makes for some delusional and funny moment. In the end, I’m extremely happy with my performance and would do it again in a heartbeat. I recorded most of my runs and between the three I averaged about a 10:30 pace.

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