Getting a little more JOLLY, a little more GREEN, and a little less GIANT.

16 August 2014

My First Triathlon: Triathamom (Part 2: TRI and Succeed!)

(Find Part 1 outlining the preparations for my first triathlon here.)

After a year's worth of mental and physical preparation for my first triathlon I was really surprised to find my nerves were very calm the day before and on race day. Excited, yes. Nervous, not so much. This is very unusual for me. I always expect to get zero rest the night before an event. Last night I actually got about 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Woah. Definitely unexpected. Absolutely appreciated.

My alarm went off at 5:45 am. I got up and dressed and roused the house. For breakfast I ate an English muffin with crunchy peanut butter and a slice of watermelon. This worked well for my tummy today. We drove the 20 minutes to South County Pool in Riverton while my son chattered non-stop about Legos. I finally turned to him and asked him *nicely* to be quiet. (So maybe I was a little more nervous than I thought.)

Age on the right calf

Check out my tats


We parked and I made my way over to set up in the transition area. Dee carried my bucket for me while I pushed my bike. (Note to self: bring a bigger bucket with a handle next time in case I have to pull a one-woman show). I set up my bike and helmet, shoes and socks, hung my towel on the bar, and taped my Ziploc baggie of fruit strips and capsules (anti-fatigues and endurolytes from Hammer) to my bike bar. (Note to self: buy one of those real attachments to carry things on your bike. Also, bring more water. Possibly a jug of it. One more thing: a better marker, like balloons, so I can quickly find my bike in the mass.) Then I waited in line for the port-o-potties. Dee hung out with me and it was fun having one of "my people" with me instead of being alone. We watched the sun rise while we waited. What a beautiful day!

My Port-O-Potty Pal
The best pit crew/cheerleading squad a mom could ask for!
At 7:25 am it was time to walk over to the pool for a briefing.  I sipped on a mixture of water and Beach Body Energy and Endurance while I listened and chatted with other ladies in the crowd. Soon, the event began and the Expert group of swimmers were in the water. I waded into the pool on the side worried I would need some time to acclimate, but the water was the perfect temperature so I made my way back to the deck and tried to figure out where I should be.

I can swim 300 meters in about 9 minutes which is right in between two classes. I wasn't sure if I should be bold and join the Intermediate class taking the risk of being dead last or if I should wait around for the Beginner class and let the time grate on my nerves. I decided to go for it and hope that adrenaline pushed me over that 9 minute line.
I for Intermediate

All my worrying really didn't matter in the end. There were obvious beginners in the pool along with experts. It was rather chaotic even though the race director seemed pleased and shouted something about how we were going to get all the swimmers through in record time. I wandered into the "line/crowd" where a bunch of other Intermediate ladies were.

As I got closer they called for the rest of the Advanced swimmers and a few ladies came forward. I thought I was in a pack of Intermediates but it turned out I was one of the first Intermediates to go. Oh well. I was anxious to get started and it ended up being a really excellent spot to be in. I was able to swim at my own pace without anyone passing me and me having to pass anyone. I did catch up to someone, but I held back a bit and let her pull ahead just for the sake of not having to crawl over each other.

I swam a little faster than I normally would but I really tried to keep it calm and controlled so as not to burn out too quick. I felt a little breathless through the entire 300 meters but nothing that hindered my swimming. I promised myself I could breathe later on the bike.

I did have a couple of tiny issues. At the beginning I was following a line on the pool floor which led me right into a wall. No harm done, I quickly corrected my course and continued on. Later in the swim a woman going the opposite direction, doing the backstroke, wandered into my lane and crashed into me before I saw her. It was a simple mistake and no one was hurt, but I was really glad it wasn't me who had made the mistake. My husband said from his vantage point on deck that I had it pretty good in the pool. People were swimming over each other and crashing into one another. Apparently it was pretty ugly in some places.

Back Stroke Betty and me
My husband and kids were right at the pool edge and I could hear them cheering for me as I swam past even with my ear plugs in. It was fun to flash them an "I love you" sign as I swam by and I loved that they got to be so close to the action. Plus, I wanted to show my husband those swim lessons had paid off. ;)

I chugged along making my way through the three 50 meter lanes, back and forth, under the rope, back and forth, under the rope, back and forth doing a steady freestyle stroke the entire time. While I had been waiting for my turn on deck I saw several ladies WALKING through the pool more than swimming. Walking. During the pre-race meeting they had told us we could rest and even walk a little in the pool, but that seemed so wrong to me. I came to swim. Swim I shall. I don't mean to sound judgmental. It's wonderful that any of these ladies were here and making it through the course by whatever means possible, but after seeing that, my biggest goal was to not be a walker.

9 minutes, 19 seconds later I pulled myself on deck and jogged over to the transition area. When I volunteered last year it was eye-opening to watch people get out of the pool and make their way to transition. You could tell the swim had taken many by surprise and absolutely wiped them out. That's scary considering how much was left to do. I was very grateful for all that swim practice when I was able to quickly get out of the pool and move over to T1 still feeling pretty fresh. Running from the pool to the bikes was a remarkable feeling. I felt like an athlete.

Drying off and getting ready to bike

Just sitting here on my bucket

I love YOU, Elle!

And we're off!

Once I found my bike I dried off, threw on my shirt and shorts, and sat on my bucket (Thanks to Teresa for that helpful hint!) to get my socks and shoes on. I grabbed my bike and ran out the gate. T1 time was 2:52. They had to remind me to put on my helmet (Too many things to remember!) and I was off. I let myself catch up on breathing from the pool, drank some water, and settled into biking.

The course was HILLY! Lots of ups. Lots of downs. But since it was an out and back ride it was even. I'm not exactly sure how long the bike portion was. The Triathamom website says it's a 12 mile course, but the map on the same website says it's an 11 mile course. I didn't want to carry my phone with me (Note to self: Carry your phone on your bike and run. It won't be a problem.) so I don't know how long the course truly was. I was passed several times (mostly by road bikes) but I also passed some people too. The ladies on the course were super about cheering each other on. There was a great sense of comradeship throughout the entire event.

There were several walkers again on the bike course. Many would hop off their bike and walk up the hills. I was very surprised by this and maybe it's perfectly normal and maybe even a smart race tactic but again I vowed to not be a "walker".

My worst fear on the biking portion was that I would get a flat tire. I STILL don't know how to change a flat tire which is very irresponsible of me but I just haven't taken the opportunity to learn. (Lazy much?) I saw at least four ladies on the side of the road with flat tires. I felt so bad for them. I could only imagine how frustrating that would have been. I saw one of these ladies on the run later and she was in tears. I could tell it had been a particularly trying experience.

At one point a woman passed me. Right after her gears must have locked up because she started to crash, but she was clipped in to her pedals and couldn't get out so she crashed with her bike. I stopped and pulled her bike off of her and held it for her until she could stand and grab it herself. Then I took off. It felt wrong to just leave people in compromising situations, but I don't know what help I could have been. They had officials on the course helping with flat tires so no one was stranded too long. Still, every time I saw someone else struggling I said a little prayer that everything would continue to go smoothly for me which it did.

Eventually the bike portion was over with a time of 51:04. Getting off the bike was hilarious. My legs were funky. I thought I had practiced for this but I had obviously been pushing faster than normal today. I bet the guy at the gate had some good laughs today watching people get off their bikes and trying to run. I pushed my bike back to my spot, guzzled some water, ditched the helmet, and walked quickly to the running portion. I had already fueled with 2 fruit strips, 2 AFs, and 2 endurolytes halfway through the bike course. I sipped water throughout too. (Note to self: find a better way to transport these things. It was kind of dangerous trying to deal with a Ziploc baggie and masking tape while cruising on a bike.) T2 time: 0:55. I looked for my family but didn't see them. I figured I'd see them at the finish line. Later discovered they were out to breakfast. (Note to self: create good feelings with husband on race day by packing a breakfast or snacks for everyone.)

Shortly after walking out the transition gate I was able to start running. I have been having a lot of problems with plantar fasciitis in my left foot the last several months. There has been a great deal of pain and stiffness in both feet and I've cut way back on my running miles, therefore losing some fitness ground. It's been very frustrating to see my abilities diminish and feel like I don't even recognize my own body anymore. Today there was no pain, but the run was not "easy". I breathed hard through most of it. That could be thanks to a lingering cough and the heat of the day too, but I still struggle with feeling like the run shouldn't have been a problem at all. I was first and foremost a runner after all.

The first half mile or so was almost completely downhill. The hill from hell. With switchbacks and everything. It wasn't so bad going down, but since this was another out and back course...what goes down must come up. Oh the dread. After running down the hill I found myself walking way more than I had ever planned. Now I am the walker. Oh well. It is what it is. I alternated between running and walking throughout the entire course until I got back to the hill which I walked up with zero shame. It was then a short, flat (Hallelujah!) run to the finish line. My family was waiting near the finish line and my oldest two jumped in and ran to the end with me. (Loved that!) Even with all that walking I had a 33:38 5K run which is pretty good for me.

Finally the finish line! It was awesome and accomplished and glorious and beautiful with my children by my side! I had a huge smile on my face, one that had permanently been stuck on there since jumping out of the pool. And then the announcer announced my name and my "story"...

Aaaand here's Evelyn Perkins! Back in 2011 she began a weight loss journey blah blah blah LOSING 100 POUNDS!!!

*Crowd starts cheering wildly*

I had forgotten that waaaay back in 2013 when I had registered for the race that the form asked for your "story". Back in Fall 2013 my story was this: I was at my lowest weight yet, right in the midst of training for and running three consecutive full marathons, eating perfectly, and at the peak of physical fitness and self control. Shortly after that I got so fed up with having to be minutely obsessed with calories and daily two+ hour workouts to maintain my weight loss that I decided to "take a break" over Christmas. A "break" somehow turned into months of unmonitored eating and not totally absent workouts, but certainly not the hours and hours I had been doing before. 50 pounds have poured back on since then. I have been trying so hard to find the right balance between a healthy body AND a healthy mind. Lately I have taken on the mantra "My body is an instrument, not an ornament." I've tried to find happiness in being plus size again but a healthy, capable plus size. Sometimes I can do it. And then there are times like this.

It totally deflated me. The shame. The remorse. The memories of what was and what was lost. The dishonesty of the moment. Ugly tears bubbled right up to the surface. One second I had been a triathlete. The next I was a sham. A woman came up to me. "Are you the one who lost all the weight?! Amazing! Just amazing! I was crying too!" (Well lady, we're not crying for the same reason.)

That was a little gray cloud that momentarily blocked the glorious sunshine of the moment. I tried to let it roll on by and just revel in what I had just accomplished, whether I had lost 100 pounds or 50 pounds. I hugged my family, grabbed some water, a bagel and some fruit, and headed out of the finishers' area. My kids were intent on getting some cotton candy. They had been eagerly anticipating it for days. Cotton candy! Oh and Mom's doing something too. We barely made it as the woman handed out her last four cotton candy cones. Whew!

The people who make me a TriathaMOM
We headed home with me riding high from the adrenaline and excitement of the event. I felt amazing for a few hours after and then the exhaustion hit. I'm a little tired and feel slightly achy all over, but pretty good otherwise.

I've been waiting for this day like Christmas morning and too soon it's all over. It really has to be one of the most ENJOYABLE events I have ever done. I had a literal smile on my face almost the entire time. It was challenging enough to be "hard", but it was absolutely doable. I love switching up the activity instead of pounding my joints beyond tolerance with miles and miles of solely running. The transitioning makes you feel like a rock star or a ninja. Oh, you think I only swim? Well, guess what... I'm riding a bike. Now look at me. I'm...running! A-HA! 

I had predicted my finishing time to be 2:15 (9 minutes swimming, 1:15 biking, and 40 minutes running with time for transitions). I guess I underestimated myself because I finished with a 1:33:59 time!

Swim- 9:19
T1- 2:52
Bike- 51:04
T2- 0:55
Run- 33:38

I finished 175th out of 313 participants. 64th out of 107 in my age group (30-34). While I could have cared less about time I am very pleased with my performance. I gave it my all and walked away with no regrets. (Well, maybe except for that stupid announcement thing.) I completed it (probably my only true goal of the day) and had a ton of fun doing it. I LOVE TRIATHLONS! I am perfectly ready to commit to an Olympic distance. (Spudman 2015 anyone??)

One thing marked off the Bucket List. Another one added.

The Triathamom experience is awesome! I would highly suggest this event to ANYONE! Well, anyone that's a woman I suppose. YOU CAN DO THIS!! Seriously. You can be brave and take swimming lessons and watch biking YouTube videos and work your way through the Couch to 5K program. Yes, you can!!

A little side note: I'm going to sound tacky here but I'm rather disappointed in the Triathamom "finishers' medal". This is supposed to be a necklace but even the charm is so scrawny and simple it reminds me those red spreading sticks in the Kraft cheese and cracker packs. I know I had a free entry but anyone who paid for this event paid something like $75 or more. You would think there would have been money left over for better medals. (Or at least more cotton candy.) That's coming from a girl who loves her race bling. I can't believe I'm going to admit this but it's probably half the reason I participate in events. The bigger and shinier the medal, the better.

Other than that minor detail...Triathamom=AWESOME!

P.S. My superhero friend Jen came shining through for me. Last night she texted me asking for my overall mileage today. She wrote my number on her arm and ran my distance today. I love the heart she brings to running and felt her speedy spirit today. Thank you Jen!

My First Triathlon: Triathamom (Part 1: Preparations)

Over a year ago my brother said to my sister and me, "Why don't we all do a triathlon?"

Huh??? Triathlon? No way. Sure I run. But I don't bike. I don't swim. Well, at least not very well on either account. Plus who has the resources for that kind of training? Money. Time. A pool. Not me. It was a quick and easy "No way" from me. There was no pressure because he quickly backed out too.

But dang him. He planted a seed. Why DON'T we do a triathlon? I turned to my favorite athletic sounding board, my Facebook runners' group. Many of them were triathletes AND moms AND trusted friends. They would be the best sources for sound advice.

One of them (Megan) said, "Hey, if you're serious about getting into the tri world there's this great event called Triathamom that's actually going on next week and they're looking for volunteers. You can see what triathlons are all about without the pressure to do one. Plus, if you volunteer you get a free entry next year!" Or something like that.

Volunteering at Triathamom 2013
 I jumped at the opportunity and soon found myself standing--very early on a Saturday morning--in an orange vest directing crowd traffic and guiding (and cheering on) triathamoms as they emerged from the pool and ran to the first transition area. It was incredible to see so many women of every size, shape, ability, and age doing something so monumental. Absolutely inspiring! After seeing the variety in the athletes I knew this was something I could do.

My friend Katie participated in Triathamom 2013 and 2014. She is awesome!
I continued to run and started adding in biking as the weather improved with the arrival of Spring and Summer. Out of necessity most of my bike rides were accompanied by various arrangements of my children. Three year old Cee was along for almost every ride, happily riding in the bike trailer. Five year old Elle always wanted to try riding her own bike but was so slow and would often tire after a few miles. When she was done I would just pile her bike on top of the trailer and have her sit next to Cee and continue on my way. Pulling 100 plus pounds of kid, bike, and stroller is the very definition of "resistance training". Sometimes the older two kids would join us and it has been really fun seeing my kids getting faster and faster on their bikes. Enough that we can actually go at a pretty decent training pace for me.

Swimming was the most terrifying aspect of a triathlon for me. I could "swim" but was putting out a lot of energy without getting much in return. Back in April I scheduled swim lessons with one of the gals from my running group. Sara teaches swim lessons at one of the local rec centers. Most of her students are little kids but she gladly took me on. This was one of the best moves I could have made in preparing for the triathlon!

I was so nervous for that first lesson. There were several other lessons going on at the same time but everyone in the pool was under 5 years old. Sara took me to the deep end and asked me to show her what I thought a "freestyle stroke" was. I immediately started breast stroking and realized half way down the lane I wasn't even doing the right thing. So I switched over to what I thought was freestyle. She was so great at correcting my terrible technique and teaching me how to streamline my body, breath efficiently, and lengthen my strokes.  I'm so grateful for her patience and non-judgement.

After only two lessons I felt ready to practice what I had learned and perfect my technique. I have spent the last several months going to the rec center pool at least twice a week to swim laps. This was terrifying at first. I have always been afraid of the gym and just felt like I didn't belong. I figured if I was brave enough to get swim lessons as an adult I could be brave enough to finally get a real gym membership. It was really hard dropping Cee and Elle off at the gym daycare. I've never left them in the care of strangers like that and when Cee decided she didn't like day care and started freaking out every time I would drop her off it only made it harder. She finally likes it now. I still feel a little out of place but I'm getting so much more comfortable at being in the gym IN A SWIMSUIT no less. And I am such a better swimmer now! A lady even stopped me in the lane the other week and asked how long I had been swimming. When I told her a couple of months she was very surprised and complimented me on my form. Totally made my day!

After I got better at swimming and biking, I began to throw a few brick workouts in to prepare for transitioning between activities. I would bike 10 or so miles and immediately run a mile or so after. I had heard that moving right from biking to running is a weird transition and it's absolutely true. Your legs can feel very "stumpy" after pedaling for so long. A couple of days I set up mini-tri practices for myself. I would bike up to the gym, swim, bike back home, and then run a couple of times around the block. Or I would drive up to the gym and start with swimming, then bike, then run. After a few of those I felt pretty confident that I was ready for a full-fledged triathlon.

I didn't have a lot of money to spend on new equipment so I just planned to use my mountain bike for the biking portion. I was nervous about running in my swim suit so I practiced a couple of times in some spandex shorts and a sports bra. It worked so I skipped out on buying an official tri suit or shorts. For the biking and running stretches I just stuck with my good old running shoes. Between my frugality and my volunteering for a free spot the year before this race cost me nothing.

Did that mean it meant nothing? No way. I have been so excited to do this for over a year. This was a new exciting challenge and an opportunity to try new things and to be brave as well as to expand my fitness and experience. After a year of mental and physical preparation I couldn't help but get a little emotional at packet pickup on Friday when they stamped my numbers on my arms and my age on my leg. This was getting real.

Part 2: Race day details.

14 July 2014

Ragnarly (My First Ragnar)

When we moved to Utah three and a half years ago I was nine days postpartum with my fourth baby. I was more than 100 pounds overweight, not active at all, depressed, lonely, and lacking faith or hope that I would ever feel differently. Then one wonderful, fateful day I went on a walk with my children and began to "wog" down the hill in an attempt to teach my son a lesson. It was the beginning of something marvelous. I was on my way to becoming a "runner". A few 5Ks, one 10K, two half marathons, and three full marathons later I was ready to take on Ragnar.

Before we moved here I had no idea what Ragnar even was. I'd never even heard the word. As I began to train for different races and increase my running miles I would often jog past one of our neighbor's who would always cheer me on. He would ask how many miles I was aiming for that day or if I'd like a glass of water. His support meant more to me than he will ever know. I found out that he was a runner too and noticed this symbol on his vehicle.

Finally I asked him about it and soon after I found myself adding "Run Ragnar" to my running bucket list.

As of June 27th and 28th, 2014: "Run Ragnar"   BAM! Take THAT, Bucket List!

I wanted to get the experience written down, but I've been having a hard time figuring out how I want to put this particular running experience into words. While running a full marathon of 26.2 miles is pretty dang tough, so is running part of a Ragnar relay. The mileage is lower but the challenge is different. While breaking up your miles into three different legs may seem like a piece of cake, it's not easy. It's hard to run, sit, sleep (or more like NOT sleep) and repeat and repeat again. For 36 or so hours.

I thought I had that "no sleep" thing down after having four kids, but it turns out I've gone soft as my kids have grown older and now sleep a little better through the night. The "no sleep" thing can definitely cramp one's style. So much so that I'm not sure how much of the experience was "not fun" and how much of it can be accounted to just the pure lack of good rest.

Let's start at the very beginning... (A very good place to start. Or so I hear.)

The week of Ragnar, my husband was out of town on yet another work trip. That meant I was on "parent duty" full-time so if any kids needed help during the night it was up to me to be there to help. Between that and just the nerves of going into something new made for a very restless week.

Thursday night, Joe got back into town. We briefly celebrated his return, took his rental car back to the rental place, and hit Sizzler for dinner. My carbalicious steak and baked potato and cheese toast pre-race dinner was excellent. No problems with appetite tonight. I had already packed during the day so when we got home we put kids to bed and then settled down to sleep ourselves.

Joe slept solid. I did not. Those darn nerves. They get me every time. I think I might have slept a few minutes here and there totaling about an hour before my alarm went off at 2 am. The extra early wake-up gave us enough time to wake, get ready, load kids in the truck, and drive to Logan, an hour and a half drive away. Don't I have an amazing husband?! I can't believe he was as willing to do that as he was. I'm a lucky girl indeed!

The dark, middle-of-the-night drive ended in a church parking lot in Logan where I met my team around 4 am. I already knew Heather from high school. She was the one who had asked me to join the team in the first place. And I knew Valorie from my running group. I pulled her on to the team when my sister had to back out. I was really disappointed that Camille wasn't going to be with me for this first time experience but I was grateful to at least have a couple of people I already knew.


It was the three strangers on the team that really had me nervous that morning. While I had a lot of guy friends as a single gal, I haven't spent much time with men since I married my favorite one. And now I was going to load up in a mini-van with three strange ones for the next 36 hours straight? Yikes.

It became clear right away that my worries were for naught. Randy was the owner of the mini-van and our driver for the most part. He was a take-control kind of guy and that proved to be fantastic time and time again. He was very prepared and directed our team effortlessly. I was grateful for his leadership. Clayton was our newlywed (only two weeks!) and a very kind and cheerful sort. Adam was quiet, but speedy. He did the highest mileage in the group and with zero complaints. All three of the guys were much faster runners than us three ladies, but they never complained about it. Everyone was really great at cheering each other on and keeping the humor and conversation going throughout the entire race.



After initial meeting and loading up what was to be our "home" for the next couple of days we drove over to packet pickup and the starting line. We went through a short safety training and picked up our Rag Mag, shirts, and various other items. Then we waited at the finish line for our 5:45 am start time. We had plenty of time to get everything done. No added stress in part to tardiness. The weather was nice and cool, but not too cold. The energy of the crowd was pumping. After waiting for this day to come for so long (a couple of years by this point) I was ready to do this thing!

After the announcers called our team name ("We Think We Can") amongst the others that were starting at the 5:45 am time the race finally officially began. Adam started running and we headed back to the van for a little bit of decorating and to drive to our first exchange. All of us were first-timers so it took us a bit to figure out how best to maneuver the van through the course and still be supportive to each of our runners. The course was pretty well-laid out with lots of signage and portable maps in the Rag Mag so it wasn't hard to figure things out.

I was Runner #2 and really this was the "sweet spot". I didn't have to wait very long until it was my turn. No strung-out anxiety to ruffle me. I was able to eat a bit (yogurt and a granola bar) but still have time for it to settle before it was my turn. My longest leg was my first and in the cool of the morning. 8.6 miles listed as "very hard", followed by two 3 milers (3.2 and 3.6) both listed as "easy". As Runner #2 my total mileage was only 15.5 miles, not the lowest mileage but not the highest either. I never had to run during night hours or the heat of the day. Honestly, I couldn't ask for a better set-up in a relay race.

But count on me to find something wrong about it. My "Sweet Spot" actually became a source of frustration for me. As I watched other team mates struggle through some long, late, and seriously hard miles, I couldn't help feeling that I was slacking off and could have done much more to help my team. I was assigned this spot and couldn't really do much to change it especially once the race had begun.

I sure tried by offering to run legs for others. Valorie was injured and had not been able to train much before hand. Heather got some crazy nasty blisters after her first leg. It was so hard to watch others go through rough legs and be suffering while I was feeling pretty good. Even though I offered, no one was willing to switch. Everyone showed up determined to run their own legs and everyone did. I believe that is the sign of a good team. But if I ever do this again, I'm definitely signing up for a higher mileage spot. I guess I expected to suffer a little more and if someone was going to suffer, let it be me. Stupid? I know.

Back to my first leg...This was our first exchange. We weren't sure exactly where Adam was or when he would be coming in. We parked at the first exchange and though I was anxious to get started running, I was also anxious to visit a port-o-potty first. I had just gotten in a very long line to the bathrooms when Adam came running in to the exchange. Luckily, I was encouraged and allowed to crowd. One quick potty stop and then I was able to run out to meet Adam. I grabbed the slap bracelet and headed out.

It felt so good to FINALLY be running. The running isn't the worst part of this race. It's the WAITING. The waiting will kill you. To be finally moving and progressing on your leg is the best feeling ever. Such a relief. That's not to say it's easy. Most of my first leg was uphill. It was a lovely gradual uphill but I was very grateful I had taken the time to do some hill work and cross training in my Ragnar training. I think I would have suffered much more if I had not done those things.

The weather was fabulous. It had rained a lot the day before and I kept having panic attacks remembering the torrential down pour that Ogden 2013 was. But this rain had tamped down all the dust, brightened everything up, and cooled the air down. It was absolutely lovely. The mountains were gorgeous. The sky was beautiful. The smell of the air was rather delicious. It was a perfect run in every respect.

I wore my belt just to be safe but I wouldn't have needed it. My team met me halfway with some water and there were water stations every few miles when the van couldn't drive by me. To start this leg I took some Beach Body Energy and Endurance. Half way through the leg I took a couple of anti-fatigues and endurolytes along with a couple of fruit strips for sugar/calories. My body, legs, tummy, and spirits all felt good.

I ran most of the distance with short walk breaks every mile or two. I felt like I was running faster than training pace and I passed a lot of people. Of course I was passed too, but no big deal. It was fun to chat a bit with other runners and watch the different teams support each other. I didn't end up listening to any music as everything else was far more enjoyable.

Towards the end of my 8.6 miles I hit "the" hill. I guess I didn't study my course layout as well as I thought I had because that took me by surprise. During my first marathon, I hit the wall after foolishly running up a hill. That had humbled me so I walked a lot of this hill with absolutely no shame.

Before I knew it I was running into the next exchange and passing off the slap bracelet to Randy. I cleaned up with baby wipes and changed clothes in the port-o-potty at that exchange. It was kind of tricky, but I managed it very slowly. Changing clothes felt good. I appreciated not having to sit in my wet, stinky clothes. After that I had to wait for 11 runners before I could run again. It was a huge relief to have my first leg done and still feel pretty good. My nerves calmed quite a bit as I sat in the van for the next several hours chatting with my team mates and helping to support our individual runners.

Our team walking away from the second exchange. Gorgeous, no?

As well laid out as the course was the traffic was terrible. We spent a LOT of time waiting in traffic. I understand that they made some changes this year hoping to help with congestion that only made it worse. That's a shame because it really cut down on our rest and eating time. Hopefully they get that figured out next year.

I guess if you're going to be stuck in traffic, it doesn't hurt to have scenery like this.

At our first major exchange we waited awhile in a HUGE crowd for the other half of our team. We didn't even end up seeing most of them until the finish line the next day. It was funny to me that we didn't know our own team very well. We probably became more familiar with other teams' Van #1s than we did our own team's Van #2.
Van #2. Or so I've been told. ;) The girl with the smiling stance is Chelsea, our fearless leader.
I'm not sure if I will ever do Ragnar again but if I do there are a few things I would do differently next time. The major exchanges were mass confusion and we often didn't have phone coverage to contact each other. Some teams had made tall signs that they carried above the crowd. Smart! The night time exchanges were even worse. There were teams that had special glow-in-the-dark bracelets or necklaces or other wearable items that helped them find each other quickly. Brilliant. There were some vans that had very unique and bright decorations. Genius.

After we passed the baton off to Van #2 we met up with the men's wives and slowly made our way down to Ogden where we ate at Subway. Subway is soooo not my favorite but by that point in the day I was ready to eat just about anything. My ham and veggie six-inch was delicious. We tried to rest as we made our way back to the next major exchange but it was darn near impossible with music playing in the van and just the anticipation of not really knowing what was coming next. I had been worried about being bored in the van, but that didn't really happen. We seemed to always be moving and going which made things not boring, but not very conducive to rest either.

Before long we were through all twelve runners' first legs and were ready to start our second legs. As my second leg drew near the nerves began to set in again, churning my stomach a bit. Finally my turn came again and, again, it just felt good to be moving. I could tell my legs weren't as fresh but they still felt pretty good and I tried to push my speed as much as I could without puking.  3.2 miles of a very gentle uphill stretch. I passed several people this leg and was passed only a few times. It felt good to be moving along steadily.

The way the exchanges worked, our team would wait for the runner to come in, send the next one off, and then drive the van to the next exchange where the just finished runner would clean up and change, the next runner would get ready to go, and the team would wait for the current runner to come in. It was definitely a goal of mine to not be caught walking by my team as they drove by to the next exchange. I would run from the start of my leg and make sure to keep running until my team had passed and was long out of sight. Then I could walk a little. But again, on this second leg, I ran most of it, with only a couple of little walk breaks.

As the night approached we prepared to send off the last couple of runners in our van. They had to wear safety vests, lights, and head lamps. While it was probably nice to not have to run with all that on, I was kind of bummed to not have that opportunity. Night runs can be a lot of fun and a nice change.

Heather was Runner #6 and after her first steep downhill leg her feet were totally hashed up. We walked over to the First Aid Station where they proceeded to pop and drain blister after blister. They cleaned and dressed her sores with moleskin and put panty hose on under socks. And then she prepared to run her middle leg: 8 miles, all uphill, in the dark, and late at night. Oh, I could hardly keep from crying just thinking of her doing that. But she earned her medal that leg. It took her about two hours and we anxiously waited at the top of the hill, literally praying for her to show up alive and well. I felt so bad for her but she never complained, never showed any weakness. I was so impressed with her!

After she finished it was after midnight. We were all exhausted and starving, but stuck again in Ragnar traffic. It took us quite awhile to get out of the congestion and to the next stop. By this time it was well after 1 am and we were losing hope of finding anything substantial to eat. Fortunately, we found a Subway that must have stayed open just for Ragnar. Subway. Again. Ugh. But I was able to order a bacon and egg sandwich which satisfied. It was a toss up between being too tired to eat or too hungry to sleep. I believe I ate that entire sandwich with my eyes closed and half conscious.

At this point, we had lost Adam and Clayton and gained Randy's wife. Adam and Clayton's wives followed in their own cars which allowed those two to sleep some. This is another thing I would probably change. I want a wife that will do that for me next time. (IF there is a next time.)

After Subway we drove to a local school that was open for sleeping. The parking lot was crammed full so we pulled off on a side street trying to figure out what to do. While I wanted to check out the school option, Randy, wife, and Valorie decided to just sleep in the van. They settled right down for the night with very little time for me to figure out what I should do.

I was sitting right behind Randy in the driver's seat and he had adjusted his seat so that I could hardly move in mine. He had been driving almost the entire time so I was more than happy to let him get as comfortable as possible and catch some ZZZs. But I could not get comfortable enough to sleep. My legs were restless and jittery and I had to keep them moving. I kept trying to stretch them out without making too much noise, but after awhile I thought I was going to go crazy. I wanted to get out of the van but if I did the lights would come on and the noisy door would wake everyone who was lucky enough to be asleep. So I sat there, growing more and more frustrated.

Throughout the night several car alarms of other parked Ragnar teams went off. At one point everyone stirred when a car alarm went off so I seized my chance. I opened the door with a maniacal "I've gotta get out of here!" and bailed onto the sidewalk with my sleeping bag. I stretched out on one side of the sidewalk for the next hour or so? It was really hard to tell time by this point. While the pavement was hard it felt so good to stretch out and not be in such a small enclosed space with people who aren't my family. Don't get me wrong; I loved my team! But I had just met a couple of them only hours before. Several times, people walked by almost stepping on me. I kept having panic attacks thinking about snakes looking for a warm place to curl up. But still...better than the cramped van.

Finally it was time for us to exchange again and we packed back up in the van and drove. By this point, the lack of sleep was getting to me. I was tired and grouchy and sore and hungry and nauseated and gross. I kept thinking: This was supposed to be fun, right? Adam quickly finished his leg and reached the exchange before we could get there. We were briefly lost thanks to unclear signage. He only had to wait a couple of minutes before I took the bracelet for the last time. 3.6 miles in the cool of the morning in the beautiful farm country.

It was harder to enjoy this leg. My own mortal legs were definitely not fresh and my attitude was less than enthusiastic. I took several walking breaks and was passed over and over. I didn't even care. I reached the exchange, passed off the bracelet to Randy, walked to the van, posed for a picture, sat in my seat, buried my head in my pillow and cried as quietly as I could.

The emotions were very mixed. I was just so dang tired and all of my emotions were right at the surface. Largely thanks to nerves, over the course of three days I had only had about 3 hours total of sleep. My legs were tired and achy. I felt guilty for even thinking whiny thoughts since I had had one of the easier running spots. I was frustrated that I wasn't enjoying this more by this point. I was very relieved to be all done with my legs. I was anxious to be done with the whole thing, to shower, to sleep, to see my family. I felt a great sense of accomplishment for completing something I had in my sights for awhile. It was a very bittersweet moment.

At that point I decided to bail on my team for a bit. Hey! The guys had done it. I wanted a turn. I called my husband around 8:30 am, waking him up, and asked if he would be willing to come get me so I could shower and sleep while the rest of the team finished their last legs. Bless his heart, he did it! He gathered all the kids again and drove almost an hour to come get me near Heber. While I felt bad for leaving my team, I was so tired I could hardly string words together much less care.

At home I showered and crashed in bed for a couple of hours. Then we headed back up to Park City for the big finish. My dearest husband was grouchy by this point. He's not very crazy about all this running business anyway and now he had driven back and forth multiple times. I felt so guilty for asking this of him but I didn't trust myself to drive. I almost thought about skipping the whole finish line bit but I honestly wasn't sure I would ever do this again and didn't want the regret of not seeing it to the very end. So while it was a hassle we made our way to the finish line, which involved getting lost, loading on a school bus, and lots of walking to find the rest of my team. All with four kids in tow.

Here's another thing I would change: all my running clothes were used up during the race so I just wore street clothes to the finish. Not a single other person was dressed in street clothes. I felt pretty dumb for not having my Ragnar shirt on or at least some running clothes. I crossed the finish line in jeans and flip flops, but by golly, I finished. And with my team, minus Valorie and Adam who had had to bail early for various reasons. It was great to cross that finish line as a team, to get our medals, and to take those finishing pictures. While it was a pain, I'm glad we made the effort to go back and finish "the right way".

"We think we can...we think we can...we think we can..."

Heelllooo beautiful running hair, smile on face, and missing jiggly thigh! This has to be my favorite running picture yet!

We thought we could...
I'm grateful to Heather for pulling me on board. It was a great way to reunite with her after so many years. Long live the Class of '99!
They forgot the other "C" words: cramping, chafing, crying, crazy, and Coke
After pictures we parted ways and I rejoined my husband and children. We made our way back to the truck with a quick detour on the free sky lift. After a hearty dinner at Johnny Carino's we went back home and I crashed hard. I slept from 8 pm to 8 am. I woke up feeling exhausted but so happy and relieved it was over. It took several days to feel like I had caught up on sleep again. My legs were pretty sore too, not quite "full marathon sore" but more sore than a half. Now if I could just stop having nightmares. Each night, for an entire week and even several random nights since, I have had bad dreams and restless sleep thinking I was back in the race trying to get through it. I thought that was only supposed to happen before.

One of my fantastic cheerleaders. Tired and huuuungry.

On the skylift

I keep trying to get my thoughts in order, to sift through them and figure out just what Ragnar was. Everyone keeps asking me how it was and honestly I'm not sure what to say. I'm equally unsure when they ask if I'll ever do it again. I just don't know. I am very glad I did it. But gosh, am I glad it is over. I think it was fun. I know there were several parts when I was having a lot of FUN. It was FUN to meet new people, to try something new, to conquer a new challenge, to take a break from being "Mom", to cross something off my bucket list. I loved the team aspect of it. It was a lot of FUN helping each other get through legs, cheering each other on. My team was awesome! Everyone was very good at supporting and encouraging one another. We chatted about tons of fun topics. There was lots of good humor and good company.

I hated all the guilt I felt. Guilt for inconveniencing my husband and children. Guilt for not having as heavy a load as others did. Guilt for leaving my team early. The sleeping/NO sleeping situation was frustrating. If I did it again I would do my very best to get more sleep. I think my spirits would be a lot more cheery by the end. And that's what I'm hoping my negative feelings boil down to is just lack of sleep.

*Do it with family or close friends who I would feel more comfortable saying "Hey! I need this or I can't sleep like this or No, I hate Subway."
*Get more sleep. Bigger car? Sleeping aids? Hopefully the Ragnar people improve the traffic situation?
*Plan more portable meals so we don't need to go anywhere to eat.
*Not rely on my phone for pictures. My battery died very quickly and I had no way to contact my husband. Or take pictures.
*Decorate the van and runners more so we can find each other easier in a crowd.
*Wear running clothes at the end.
*Take on a higher mileage and train more.

But other than that...Yes. I believe it did go well. And I think I would consider doing it again, especially now that I know what I'm in for. I'm proud of our team for what we accomplished. And I'm grateful for the support and strengths each team member shared. And I love being able to cross another goal off my list!

To sum it all up: I'm glad I did it. I'm glad it's over. It is finished and it was...Ragnarly.

P.S. This little baby was awesome. Will never do another race without it.