Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ragnar Northwestern Passage 2017 - #GRRLS Grab Back

Last year I ran with the "#Golden GRRLS" Ragnar team and had such an amazing time that I jumped at the chance to join them again THIS year!

I had an amazing time again, which isn't surprising with such an amazing team of women. Our goal was to finish in under 24 hours, which is an unofficial feather in the cap of competitive teams.  You KNOW you're good if you can do that:)

Our team name was "#GRRLS Grab Back" but by the end of the race I think we should have been named "A Series of Unfortunate Events".

Team #GRRLS Grab Back at the finish line!

It started before we even started...

Our AMAZING team captain Jules, keeps everything straight for us and was double checking everything before race day. She called up Budget on Wednesday to confirm our vans were in order, which was when she discovered they only had one van reserved for us...huh? NO.

The thing is, is EVERY SINGLE 16 passenger van, large SUV and Mini Van was booked within a 4 hour radius because it's Ragnar weekend. So even though the call was recorded and she could prove that she asked for TWO vans and they were super sorry about messing the reservation up, physically there wasn't a vehicle for us to use.

As a team we scrambled to try and find a replacement but it was Carrie that came to the rescue with her big SUV with external storage. She's awesome!

I managed to hit horrendous traffic on my drive up to Seattle to meet my teammates. It was so bad I seriously thought I was going to make us miss our exchange with Van #1 in Bellingham. I really thought I was going to have to meet my team out on the course. So stressful. Last year we missed first place by 20 minutes and I did NOT want to be the one who made us lose this year! It was supposed to take me an hour to get there, and instead it took me TWO AND A HALF. Although I learned later it could have been MUCH worse. Apparently I5 was closed down in Lacey about 30 minutes after I passed through and traffic was backed up for MILES.

I was assigned as runner #10 in Van #2. In a Ragnar there are up to 12 runners (Ultra teams can have up to 6 runners) divided between two vehicles. Runner #1 starts the race and then hands off to runner #2 and so on.
Van #1 runners lounging at the startline

Runners are ready to go!

Our team was assigned a start time of 1:00pm on Friday in Blaine, WA (We can see Canada from the start line!) and Eliza tore through leg #1!

Did I mention how amazingly talented the ladies on this team are?

Everything was going according to our carefully crafted Excel Spreadsheet plans when Van#1 missed an exchange with Runner #3 (Karen) who ended up waiting about 10 minutes for Runner #4  (Jules). The course is on some back roads and Google Maps is spotty, so it's easy to get turned around. THEN Jules took a wrong turn due to some confusing signage. She ended up running almost an entire extra mile!
But she still rocked her pace like a boss;)

The thing I love about this team the most is that even though we had a clearly stated goal and everyone REALLY wants to win and do our best, everyone managed to keep a positive attitude and not drag the energy down and turn the experience into 24 hours of stressed out misery and blame throwing.

I've seen plenty of teams disintegrate under a lot less pressure.

#GRRLS Grab Back Van #1 and Van #2 at the big exchange in Bellingham!

The hand off between Runner #6 (Laura) and Runner #7 (Carrie) went smoothly and I even had time to find two geocaches! Van #1 went off to find some food and Van #2 was officially up and running!

Carrie ran like a boss and finished strong!

Runner #8 (Kristina) BLASTED through her leg, finishing to the song "Winning" which seemed appropriate:) (Did I mention she ran a sub 5 minute mile two days earlier?!)

Runner #9 (Angela) Ran an amazing leg picking up some of the time lost earlier which helped missing the exchange.

We didn't have GPS signal so I was using the written directions and the course signage to navigate to the exchange. We made a right turn, which was where I thought we were going the wrong way, so we turned around and followed a sign telling us to go straight...We saw an exchange up ahead and I even asked the volunteer what exchange we were at...but I still felt like something was wrong...but we shook it off as a layover of worry from the earlier snafu's.

The largest rice crispy treat I've ever seen. I HAD to have it!

Kristina decided to run out and meet Angela and run in with her, when we got a text from Angela. "I'm here. Where ARE you?!"

Have you ever seen 4 women in running gear standing in a field scatter in panic?

I have.

We jumped in the van and drove (quickly, but safely) down the road where we picked up a confused Kristina and tore over to the correct exchange. The exchange that was just down the road from where I had us turn around...

On the upside I got a nice preview of my leg. On the downside Angela ran her legs off for no reason other than personal achievement.
Leg #1

I managed to give the sweaty slap bracelet to Runner #11 (Jeanine) and she managed to hand off to Runner #12 (Rachel) who managed to hand off to Eliza in Van #1 with NO PROBLEMS AT ALL!!

And she looked awesome sporting the ONE80 headlamp. Like an angel that runs like the devil:)

Then we almost went to the wrong exchange 45 minutes away.

"Luckily" Rachel was trying to navigate and wasn't feeling super logical after her run and asked someone else to double check where we were going.

It turns out we only needed to go to a school about 15 minutes away. We didn't even have to turn around or anything.

Some of the scenery they got to run through.

We had enough time to grab the spaghetti dinner they were selling in the cafeteria and a 45 minute nap in the gym. I stared at the ceiling for 45 minutes because I couldn't sleep and forgot my ear plugs in my stressed out dash to the van in Seattle.


Yay! We managed to grab the slap bracelet without any issues! Carrie ran an amazing 10.5 miles, where I ran into Mark from my 2013 Ragnar Team in Nashville TN! Kristina ran her 5.5 miles like a comet and we missed the exchange again...and Angela scorched her 2 miles:)

My Garmin decided to suck power and die just as I started my two mile leg, but whatever. I can run two miles without my precious Garmin...Plus, I had the charger in the car, so it was a fixable problem. Mark was running this leg too! We said "hi" again as we ran by each other. (This was the only leg that Angela and I handed off without incident).

Leg #2

I handed off to Jeanine for her 9.8 mile night time leg, which was also the Deception Pass leg. She got a special medal for running it and everything:) We missed her exchange too. I mean we were THERE this time, but we weren't ready at all. Rachel was still getting her gear on when Kristina ran up and yelled "SHE'S HERE!!!" (We had stopped on course to cheer her and offer aide support but missed her, which lead to miscalculating  her arrival.)

Deception Pass

Sunrise at Deception Point

Rachel is a quick change artist and was on the road in no time.

She ran a strong nine miles, even though she started having some woozy issues at about the 4 mile mark. We made sure to give her course support with water and food, but she didn't want to switch out. So we made sure to shadow her. She's not a complainer, so we knew if she was saying anything about it, it must be pretty bad.

Successful final handoff to Van#1!

Then lots of electrolytes for Rachel...and a little sitting. It was all good.

At this point I drove us to the next big exchange (we didn't even get lost) and then I TOOK A SHOWER.  On the scale of great showers it was pretty low on the comfort scale. But on the "I'm  finally clean" scale it was off the charts! Then I bought a really gross/weird cafeteria breakfast because I was super hungry and my standards were really low at that point. But I gave Kristina the coffee it came with so we're besties now.

Then Jeanine, Rachel and I layed out in the sun like homeless people. It was amazing.

Then we started our final legs!

Carrie ran an amazing 6 miles and Kristina rocked her final 7.7 miles. Did I mention she has amazing form? She does. I'm jealous. We're all jealous. Maybe Angela isn't...Her form is pretty awesome as well. She rocked her final 7 miles as well. We missed the exchange. Sigh...

We were doing great and we stopped and cheered for her and asked if she needed water (It was HOT!) a couple of times while she was running. We passed the "One Mile To Go" sign...and then we kept driving...and driving...Finally I was like "This is the longest mile I have ever experienced. Something isn't right here..." and Kristina was like "Yeah...this CAN'T be right. That was the second "One Mile to Go" sign. We need to turn around."

And then we were ALL like "AAAAAHHHHHH!!! CRAPPPPPP! Flip a U-turn RIGHT NOW!"

So we did.

And Rachel managed to get some spotty GPS service and get us to the correct exchange (that was NOT marked with signage) where the volunteers were yelling at us and making us even more confused and finally I just jumped out of the van and ran and found Angela who was less than pleased, but still nice to us. Probably because we had water.

While we were driving the wrong way, we drove up this atrocious hill and I was SO GLAD it wasn't part of my leg.

Plot twist!!

It WAS part of my leg!


And it was hot...

But my team was awesome and they stopped and gave me salt because I really needed it. and sweaty.

(Side note: I think the girl I played leap frog with for most of the run peed her pants. I didn't ask though, so I can't be sure. I am SO GLAD I have never had to make that choice OR had that choice made for me. I mention this, because I had to pee the entire run. I had planned on hitting the port-a-pottie before I started but we all know how that turned out.)

I managed to finish, not pee on myself AND hand off the slap bracelet successfully...So I'm totally a winner!

We even managed to locate ALL the remaining exchanges. Which was convenient because the last one was the finish line:)

#GRRLS Grab Back finished in 24 hours and 22 minutes! Even with losing about 45 minutes in missed exchanges!

First in the Women's Open Division!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Predictable Irationality - Book Review

I asked for this book as a birthday present, in the hopes that it would help me figure out why I keep making irrational decisions in my life. I had just ended a 14 year relationship (9 of it married) and felt like I kept running myself into the same stupid wall over and over again. Surprised each time that it was there. I want(ed) to know why I was making those decisions and how to stop the cycle.

It isn't really that kind of book.

Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating! The author has numerous studies to measure how people will react under different situations. He looks at what kinds of circumstances will allow people to rationalize cheating, stealing or how much they are willing to pay for a particular item.

How supply and demand isn't as clear cut as we like to think. We really just have to BELIEVE a thing is rare and we are willing pay as if the item is valuable. Diamonds aren't actually all that rare and we didn't even use them in engagement rings until the 40's. That was when an amazing marketing program convinced us that it was the only way to tell the world a couple really loved each other. The same with pearls. We were told, in just the right way that we should want them, so we do.

The cost of FREE...How if  we get something thrown in for free, we'll change our purchasing decisions in order to get that extra bit free, even if it's something we don't really want.

How we over value what we own. How OUR houses are better than our neighbors. How our junk is beautiful and we just know someone will want it like we did.

Things like whether or not your group orders food out loud will affect what each member orders AND how satisfied each person will be with their selection.

How we're all cheaters, but only to a certain extent...and how that extent changes radically if there is a direct link to cash. We're more honest when there is cash involved, but less honest if there is even one additional step between the cheating and the cash.

The ability to undermine ourselves with our unwillingness to close doors and lose options, even when we KNOW that those options aren't good for us and that by using a little focus we would maximize our gains and get ahead. But we don't, because we want options. 

It doesn't speak well for us as humans. Reading about how irrational and how predictable humans are, and how easily our decisions are affected is unsettling. We (I) like to think I make my own decisions and that I'm "different" and not easily swayed...but in all of the experiments that the authored featured I could see myself and how I would react...and I'm not special.

While it wasn't the book I thought it was, and I did really enjoy it. I think the fact that I keep reading the titles of books and just deciding what they're about regardless of what I read in the back "blerb" really tells me more about why I keep making the same mistakes in my life more than any single "self help" book could. The reality of that really doesn't match my self-identity at all.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When you know all the answers and still mess up...

Sometimes I just want to kick myself.

I had 17 miles to run this weekend and it was supposed to get up into the 90's but at 6am I was trying to bargain with myself that I would get up early tomorrow...but even laying in bed wishing for more sleep I knew I wouldn't get up early tomorrow. There is a reason all the fitness experts tell us to stick to a schedule.  

But it's not a secret that I hate mornings.
I can't believe this photo finally came in handy!
Or that I put it on the internet...

I once convinced my mother and sister Abby I had died in my sleep because I didn't want to wake up and get out of bed.

Seriously. I was so committed to convincing them I was asleep and they should leave me alone, that they decided the only reasonable answer was that I was dead.

True Story.
(One of the three seperate times Abby thought I was dead.)

Anyway, I decided that I wanted to sleep in rather than get up and beat the heat. I didn't get on the road until 8:30am. I knew better...but I did it anyway.
I KNOW how to run in the heat. I've already learned these lessons the hard way...but apparently  I needed to be reminded the hard way.

I didn't COMPLETELY forget my lessons.

I wore  my hat. I managed to remember sunblock. I dressed for the heat. I had my hydropack. I had fuel to eat and I even managed to charge my Garmin.

That's about as far as the successes went.
I made friends with this little snake!...That's a lie.
It hated me and was trying to get away from me while I took it's photo.

I was hot before I even ran 3 miles. I also managed to turn off my Garmin at some point and not realize it...4 separate times. I was familiar with my route though, so other than completely messing with my distance, and pace average it was fine...ish.

Let's just say it was a rough run.

My Chia bar was tasty though, so there's that.
It's Vegan! But not gross.

After sucking through 13 miles, I met up with my Saturday Group and plugged out another 5 miles...which didn't suck.
Running with friends ALWAYS makes things better.

I also made a little detour at the very end and picked up some popsicles for us. Popsicles AWALYS make things better:) 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10 Tips for Running in the Heat Without Dying

You might think that it's a little late in the year to be talking about running in the heat, but I live in Washington state and it's not summer here yet...not until July 5th.

It's weird but totally true.

Saturday it started out nice, but ended up being 59 degrees and raining.

Sigh...The price of being able to run outside year round can be high.

That being said, it does make Washingtonians sensitive to actual summer heat, which means that 80 degrees makes us feel like we're roasting alive...and don't even MENTION 90 degrees!

I run in it all, and make sure not to complain about it TOO much because of all the complaining I do about feeling like I'm freezing 9 months out of the year.

There are definitely some tips and tricks you can do to make running in the heat (whatever that means to you) a bit easier.

1. START and STAY hydrated.
     I can't stress this enough. If you're dehydrated you run the risk of getting kidney stones (done it-don't recommend it) as well as increases your likelihood of over heating and getting heat stroke. being properly hydrated also aids in providing your body with fluid for sweating which is how you cool yourself down. The power of evaporation...use it. Love it.

I completely fried my phone, but the water was worth it!

Pro tip: Fill your water bottle and inch or two with water and then freeze it. When you fill it up it will be nice and cold! If you use a backpack hydration system tip the bladder on it's side when you freeze the water so you don't block your hose intake valve with ice;)

2. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate . They are our friends. They keep us alive and from feeling like we're going to pass out, or puke. They provide the juice that our muscles need to do their job and contract while we run. (But not TOO much! Because Charlie Horses hurt like the dickens). I like to use electrolyte capsules while I run. They work like a charm and also seem to help the absorption of fluid so I don't get "sloshy stomach".

3. Run in the morning, or in the evening. Basically any time that it NOT the hottest time of the day. Plus, if' you're running in the morning or evening you can utilize shade, which you won't get running at high noon.

4 Slow down. It takes energy to cool your body down. Energy you USED to be using just for running and keeping yourself warm. The warmer it is, the more energy is diverted from running. Studies have shown that for every 5 degrees over 60 degrees (the magic perfect running temperature we all crave and love) you can slow down as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. You don't suck, it's Science.

5. Be Smart. Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion. They include, but are not limited to:
  • Dark-colored urine or cessation of urinating
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  •  Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Chills
  • Pale skin
Don’t try and run through these symptoms. Sit down in some shade, and if you're light headed lift your feet above your head. You don’t have an Olympic gold medal on the line here. We do this for fun, remember?

6. Get wet! Some might not be comfortable with this, but I totally run through peoples sprinklers if I see them. (Obviously I am respectful of their property when I do this.) It feels amazing! If I have a hat on, I get that wet as well. I'm not above sitting in an irrigation ditch if it gets hot enough...

7. Give yourself time. It takes approx. 2 weeks to acclimate to new surroundings. Altitude? 2 weeks. Cold? 2 weeks. Heat? 2 weeks. Even the Army won't give PT tests for two weeks if you're transferred to a hot area. And the Army doesn't care about your whining. So cut yourself some slack - just not TOO much;)

8. Dress for success! Tech fabric is your friend. It wicks your sweat away and helps keep you cool(er). It also helps you avoid chafing. Nobody wants chafing. Just say NO to cotton!

A little present from the Boston Marathon this year.
I've had chafing on around my belly button, on the backs of my arm pits and the WORST was
at the Owl Roost Rumble Trail Half Marathon in NC. I could barely walk afterwards.

9. Treat yourself! I find that having a cold treat waiting for me at the end of a hot run makes a world of difference in my moral. Watermelon is my "go to" treat, but frankly just having some ice cold water at the end can turn things around!

10. Run with a friend! Misery loves company? Every run is easier when you've got a running buddy next to you. How many times have you dreaded a run but gone anyway because you were meeting a friend and then it turned out just fine?

Don't forget to wear sunscreen!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wasatch Back Ragnar 2017 - Team "A Few Ups and and Some Downs"


I mean come on...if you had the chance to run through this, wouldn't you?!

Back in 2013 I heard about a Pacific North West Ragnar team (The Kittin Mittins) that was looking for a runner at the last minute and jumped at the chance!
The Kittin Mittins 2013!

I had a fantastic time, even though I didn't know any of the runners (I brought a book in case they were weird- they weren't) and that was how I met Lisa.
Fast forward 4 years and this will be my 3rd long distance relay with Lisa .
I ran the Hood to Coast Relay (The Dirty Dozen) with Lisa in 2014.

When she contacted me about running the Wasatch Back Ragnar I jumped at the chance.


A Few Ups and Some Downs 2017!

The race starts in Logan UT at the Utah State University track. We were Van #1 so we started the whole thing off!

Me, Israel, Matt, John,Pamala, Melissa

(for those unfamiliar, there are two vans of 6 runners and we leap frog so that each runner, runs a total of 3 times over 36 hours. Or just depends on how fast you run.)

Our line up was John, Me, Israel, Matt, Melissa and then Pamala hands off to the first runner of Van #2

My first leg was 10 miles.

In the back of my mind I knew the altitude would be a factor, but it always amazes me how MUCH of a difference altitude makes! I was breathing hard, my heart rate was up and my legs felt so tired...I looked down at my watch and saw that I was half a mile into the run. Time to buckle in for the ride:)

My race nickname was "Peanut" as in Circus Peanut due to the color of my tank.

Here is an example of what my selfies look like...but look at those mountains!

The car thermometer said it was 65 degrees, but we all agreed there was no way that was accurate. It felt HOT out there! When you run through the desert there aren't many trees for shade.

BUT when you run through the desert that people have settle in, you have irrigation ditches.

It felt amazing and I regret nothing!

Yes. I did. I dunked myself in an irrigation ditch. It was a clean one though. They had lined it with river rocks and it was too inviting to pass up. Plus, I was starting to overheat and I was only 4.5 miles into my first leg. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Oh, and I made a wrong turn, but a really nice van from another team stopped and shouted me down so I could get back on course.

Leg #2

I started my leg at 9pmish. I was all dolled up in my reflective gear that hasn't seen the light of day for a couple of months. I had a few technical difficulties with my back lamp, so when John came running in and handed me the sweaty slap bracelet "baton" I was just standing there while my team mates tried to attach something working to my back. We forgot to tell John that though, so he couldn't figure out why I wasn't running:)

2 fast flat miles!

2 puny miles! Fast and flat....almost not worth putting my shoes on for;)

Those are always really fun for the runner who just finished and the people in the van as they try and race their runner to the next exchange. I wanted to be a team player so I gave them some extra time by missing my turn again. I got a block past my turn when a nice man doing some yard work pointed my mistake out. Seriously. It takes a village to raise me.

Everybody in Van #1!

It seriously looked like The Sound of Music

After grabbing dinner at the only eatery still open within 30 minutes of us, we crashed at a local school for some much needed sleep. John and Israel decided to sleep in the van, Matt had a pup tent to himself and Melissa, Pamala and I located the best spot in the building...The wrestling mat room. It's worth the time to find. Trust me. The extra cushioning on the floor makes so much difference. I also think that the mats mute some of the noise of people moving around that can really make it difficult to sleep during these stops. I brought ear plugs. They were amazing.

The next morning we had some difficultly getting to where we needed to be for the next exchange because the school where we slept wasn't where the exchange was. The exchange was in the middle of nowhere and the GPS coordinates they gave were about a half a mile off.

Matt, John and I

Lisa was waiting to hand the baton off, for about 5 minutes. Making someone tired and hungry wait for you at 4:30 in the morning is a good way to annoy them. She was a good sport about it though. It helped that she knew she was going to be able to get a shower and a nap in the near future. She and Matt live near the next big exchange, so it was even going to be in her own bed.

It was about 5:30am when it was time for my final leg of 4.9 miles

It was also 35 degrees. It's a strange feeling to be sweating AND have cold hands.
It was really pretty though. The route followed an old railroad track that has been converted into an unpaved greenway trail. I got to watch the sunrise over the mountains while I ran and you really can't beat that, can you?  


Sunrise on the mountains!

What the back of the medals look like.
When you put them all together they have a phrase printed on the back.