24 September 2014

Running through the Fall

i know it's not October yet, but yesterday was the first day of Autumn. My favorite season. It's still a little warm here (although we have had a day or two where i wore leggings and drank hot chocolate) but i know the fall will be over all too soon.

"Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale." -Lauren DeStefano

i had one last summer race before Autumn arrived. And it was a big one. My second Ragnar of the year.

Ragnar Napa Valley: From San Fransisco to Calistoga. 205 mile relay race. i only knew one person on the team and she ended up in the other van, so it was an adventure and a perfect opportunity to make some brand new friends.

i got all "dolled up" for the race.

After driving all day on Thursday and sleeping for about 5 hours in a hotel that night, my team met up at the start line in San Fransisco to send off runner #1.

i was in van #2 which means that we had about 6 hours to wait until we sent our runner off. It also meant that my first leg was in the blazing heat of the afternoon. i got to run 6.6 miles up a very long hill with no shade and no way for my van to stop and assist me. i was sweaty and overheated, but happy to be out and running.

By the time our last runner finished, the sun was setting and we decided to try to get some sleep before our legs in the middle of the night. We pushed all the seats down in the van and thought we would all be able to sleep on the floor. It wasn't the most comfortable and all of us slept except for most of us. i don't think i even got 30 mins of rest.

After not sleeping, our van took over the middle of the night shifts. My second leg started around 3am. i wish i had gotten some sort of photo documentation, but i was honestly too tired to think about it. It was a stunning run. i ran 8.3 miles through a heavy fog. It was dark and the roads were deserted. The leg started in Santa Rosa and ran out into the country. Even though i could see very little, my head lamp illuminated the way enough that i could tell i was running down tree lined lanes with vines dripping down into the road. When i finished, i was soaked to the bone and unable to tell what was sweat and what was dampness from the humid humid air.

Once our final runner finished, we were all struggling to keep our eyes open (and some runners had completely given up). The last runner finished as the sun rose and we knew we had to sleep before the third round of legs. So we found a field at our next exchange point where many other Ragnarians were spread out sleeping. i never thought that i would be so happy to plop my sleeping down in the middle of the dirt. i got about 2 stunningly beautiful hours of sleep.

My third leg was brutal. It started at 2 in the afternoon. There was a 100 degree heat index. i was running through the rolling vineyards of Napa Valley which offered very little shade. And once again, because of the course, my van was unable to support me. It is one thing to run 11.4 miles, but quite another to do it in the heat of a California day with only 16 ounces of water, after very little sleep and having already run so many miles. My van passed me when i was about 2 miles in and i hollered at them to chuck me a water bottle to dump over my head. i was already burning up. But the landscape was absolutely stunning and the other runners on the road were so supportive. They helped keep me going.
i have never been as happy to see a sign in my life

When i reached the exchange and sent off the next runner, i started to cry. i had never had a more physically demanding task in my life. i was so overcome that i had finished and so grateful and so emotionally and physically exhausted. Ragnar volunteers handed each runner finishing that leg a present. It was a sweat band with embroidery that said "Ragnar Napa Valley. Leg 34- 11.4 miles. Eternal Glory!" Maybe it was just a little thing, but i was so grateful that they acknowledged how hard that last run really was.

After running 26.3 miles in about 26 hours

Our team of pretty amateur runners didn't do so bad! We finished in 35:08:15.7 In other words, 35 hours, 8 minutes and 15.7 seconds.

We pretty much felt like rockstars

When i finished i was trying to figure out why the races aren't getting easier! i mean, i'm running so many miles and yet every time i compete, i feel like it's the hardest thing i've done! Then i realized it's because i keep pushing myself. Faster, longer, harder in each race. i am getting stronger. And the training continues. 

i don't have a race in October because MONEY, but i am looking forward to some LONG Autumn runs through my cool and flat Idaho.
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