Monday, September 23, 2013

Ragnar Colorado

Sorry knitters, no yarn or knitting to be seen here today.  Today is about running in Colorado.  Indulge me.  

After using most of my 2012 vacation time to travel to running and triathlon events, I made Mike promise that we would take a non-sporting event vacation in 2013.  Early in the year, we were just starting to plan a week-long trip to England when a friend invited us to join his Ragnar Colorado relay team.   I was dying to do a Ragnar event so I completely went back on what I said, the England trip was cut down to a long weekend, and now instead of having visited Scotland, I can say I've been running in the mountains in Colorado at 3:30am.

I admit that it's entirely possible I need to rethink my priorities.  Maybe.

For those unfamiliar, Ragnar is a 200 mile team running event.  Teams consist of 6-12 members, and the team runs the 200 miles relay style.  So it goes something like: runner 1 leaves starting line and runs to an exchange point (anywhere from about 3-10 miles away).  The rest of the team scrambles to vans and drives to the exchange so that runner 1 can pass a “baton” (but really slap bracelet) to runner 2 who heads out for his or her mileage.  The team then heads to the next exchange.  Rinse, repeat. About 34 more times.  Everyone runs at least 3 relay legs (teams with fewer members run more often or longer distances) and the event is continuous, which means nighttime running.  So Ragnar Colorado = running in the mountains at crazy high altitude sometimes in pitch black darkness and spending 24-36 cramped hours in a van.  

And yes, something about that screamed “OMG, YES, WE HAVE TO DO THIS. SO. MUCH. FUN”.

The only problem was that my 2013 running sort of went like this:
  • Winter/Spring:  Ongoing foot tendonitis problems and not running. In my head: Whatever, Ragnar is going to be awesome! 
  • June: Strained left ankle and in a cast for 2 weeks.  Uh, not good, but come on, I'll be healed up, trained, ready to kick ass at Ragnar by September.
  • July: Ankle still painful so still no running.  Hmm, starting to get concerned about Ragnar, but team captain switched me the to shortest run mileage position on the team so of course I'll be fine to pull off just 3 3-mile runs.
  • August: Still not running.  Well, crap.   
With my ankle refusing to heal, I forked over lots of yarn money and had several dry needling treatments at a physical therapist in late August and finally started to see some improvement.  Too little too late though.  The reality was I arrived in Colorado without having run in 3 months and with still painful foot and ankle tendonitis. I didn't care.  I was determined to have my Ragnar experience.  My motto for the weekend:  tape that foot to oblivion and gut it out.

Mike and I flew into Denver on Thursday evening, and early Friday morning (Sept 6) we arrived at Copper Mountain Resort in Breckenridge.  Having never been west of Chicago, I was getting my first good look at gorgeous Colorado mountain scenery.

Our first runner went off at 8:30am.  Because of the way the team is divided, the whole team doesn’t have to be at every exchange and my van consisted of runners 7-12.  We still headed out to the first few exchange points to cheer on the rest of the team, but there was a lot of waiting around for us this first day.  I was runner #11 and finally laced up my running shoes for my first run sometime around 7pm.  It was dusk when I headed out for my 3.6 mile run, so I was suited up with headlamp and reflective gear.

A good look, yes?

I headed out full of energy.  I was running again. Wheeee!  In a Ragnar relay. Yay!  In Colorado. Amazing!  In the mountains at like 9K feet elevation.  SHIT. I. CAN’T. BREATHE.  Less than half a mile in and I was gasping for air.  And I mean seriously gasping.  My first thought had been “damn, I really am out of shape” but it quickly dawned on me that elevation was probably catching up to this East Coast flatlander.  I slowed my pace and took deep breaths and got into a decent rhythm by mile 2, which was good because by that time, dusk had turned to pitch black.  

I found Mike amidst a sea of reflective vests and blinky lights, handed over the bracelet, and sent him on his way.  His first run was short too, and the next several hours were spent hunting up food and trying to get a little rest on a gym floor at an exchange point before my van was back on and we starting driving to exchanges again.  This second rotation was tough.  Everyone stayed positive but I know I was hungry, tired, and starting to get cranky.  We all got lazier about getting out of the van to cheer each other on, and the whole event seemed to be turning from something fun to something we were just trying to survive.

My second run was sometime around 3:30am.  It was a short 2.6 miles on a bike path along a river.  I’m sure it was beautiful but it was pitch black so pretty much impossible to appreciate the scenery.  Physically, this run felt better than the first, but I'm so out of running shape that nothing was coming easy.  I consciously noted the uniqueness of what I was doing and tried to enjoy the peace and soak up the experience.   With a throbbing ankle, I pushed up a small hill at the end excited to hand off to Mike, but when I jogged through the exchange and shouted for him, no answer.  The small crowd at the exchange let out a collective “awwww…”.  Well that was anticlimactic.  Mike came trotting over a few minutes later, and I sent him on on his way.

With Mike's second run finished, our van went on “break” again.  We all got a little sleep, and I took my time changing and cleaning up at the next major exchange point where we would meet up with the other half of the team.  I felt better in fresh clothes and with brushed teeth, but I was weary of the whole Ragnar thing by this point.  Really, this is what I chose over more time in London?  My ankle was aching, my calves were full of knots, and I was not really looking forward to climbing back into the van or grinding out another 3 miles.

Daylight helped with that.  A lot.

Once the sun was fully up and we were back on the road, I got a second wind.  So much more to see and appreciate in daylight.  

My last run was beautiful.  It was along a valley between the mountains and I could finally enjoy the scenery surrounding me as I ran.  These last few miles were the toughest though.  My left foot and ankle were throbbing, and I’m pretty sure I had a golf ball lodged in my right calf so I took it easy running a slower pace on the flats and walking up the hills.  With the whole team cheering at the last exchange, I soared in and handed off the bracelet to Mike for the last time.  

Mike had a tough 8 mile trail run for his last leg, which finished at the Snowmass resort in Aspen.  The team met him at the top of a ski slope and everyone ran down together to the finish line at the bottom.  I was hobbling a little by this point and had to focus to keep my footing down the hill, but I managed to stay upright long enough to cross the finish.

 And with that, the Ragnar journey came to an end.  A few hours later….BEST. SHOWER. EVER.

Final thoughts on Ragnar?  Amazing but exhausting.  A complete blast sometimes but really tedious at others.  During the event, I said I thought I would be one and done with Ragnar (I think I had been awake for about 36 hours at that point).  But when Mike and I got home and starting looking through the pictures everyone posted, every second of the hungry, cranky, cramped minutes seemed worth it.  Yes, I was in crap running shape and running injured, but the experience was still pretty awesome.  I had to bail on a lot of events this year because of my injury issues, and I'm so grateful my body held together enough to let me participate in Ragnar.  I doubt another Ragnar event is my near future, but I think I would definitely do it again one day if the opportunity comes up.  For now, resting my foot and ankle and getting it fully healed is priority #1.

Big plans for 2014. Big. Huge. And I need two healthy feet.  Maybe I'll take up knitting in the meantime.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I'm Baaaack

Knitting projects are languishing, spinning is not happening, and this blog has obviously fallen by the wayside for months. So yeah, 2013 crafting could definitely be going somewhat better. Along with several other corners of my life. Clutter is slowly taking over my house, home improvement projects keep getting put off, and it seems every spare minute is spent in the kitchen or grocery store as my already ridiculously restrictive diet recently crossed into a whole new dimension of crazy.

Some people spring clean, but fall has always been the season to jump-start me into action. All it took was a walk with my dogs a few mornings ago when the temps were blissfully in the 50s instead of the 80s, and I started to get inspired to get stuff DONE. But where to begin the blog catch up? With the piles of handspun from Tour de Fleece in July? The top I finished months ago? The handspun laceweight sweater I started last month? Nope. I'm going to start slowly and keep things simple. That roughly translates to: I’m going to post the project that is currently within arm’s reach of the computer.

Pattern:  Brainless by Yarnissima

Just some humble socks I started earlier this month, but with sportweight yarn, these babies are flying.  It helps that the socks accompanied me on 2 long plane flights and almost 2 straight days in a van driving around mountains in Colorado.  People do a lot of weird things for fun.  Mike and I decided it would be a good idea to fly to Denver so that we could then get up at 5am and drive up to Breckenridge with 1 friend and 9 strangers in order to spend the next 30 hours doing a relay run for 200 miles to Aspen (aka Ragnar Colorado).

So you can probably guess what the next blog post will be about.  Hint:  lots of pictures but no yarn.