Monday, July 11, 2016

Ragnar 2016-- Strangers in the Night

June 17-18 was the infamous Ragnar that I (crazily) decided to do again. I did it last year for the first time and explained what it's all about back HERE. The team we had this year was kind of thrown together but because it was with 5 of my best friends was So. Much. Fun. 

Last year we had found 12 people to make an entire team (two vans) but this year we could only find enough to create half a team (one van--myself and my 5 friends) so we reached out to anyone local that had another half team and were looking to create a whole team. Marcie had a friend from an old ward who just happened to be looking for 6 other people to complete a team and the 12 of us became Stranger in the Night (catchy, eh?)

We only met with them one time before the race to introduce ourselves and get to know each other a bit, but we had a group text to be able to communicate, and ask questions. We were lucky that they were okay with us being Van 1 because we did not want to be Van 2 (who typically has the crappy running hours-- two times in the heat of the day and one time in the middle of the night.) Van 2 does have shorter runs, but we had been training for months for our half marathon, so we were fine with running longer legs in the cooler, more desirable hours. It's actually okay that we didn't know the other van because you pretty much only spend time with your own van. You only see the other van at major exchanges and at the very end when you finish.

The night before the big race we met to decorate our van. Since we were Strangers in the Night we chose to do face silhouettes and stars all over with white glow-in-the-dark vinyl. It turned out pretty dang sweet. We also each had three check boxes to be able to check off each time we finished a leg in the race.

 The day of the race we met at Kat's to pack up our coolers, bags, sleeping gear and everything else we had to have for the next 2 days. We headed out to Scheel's to the big kick-off party and to do our team check-in.

Heading out! Van 1 consisted of myself, Julie, Marcie, Katrina, Lori, and Kari.
 The party was really fun, we got our race packet and information, watched the safety video, and got our tiny free meal from Costa Vida. It was super yummy. Then we left and went to Orange Peel to get a yummy bubble tea and then headed up to Logan where we stayed at my sister Kaylie and her new husband's place. They are living in Salt Lake for the summer, but they kept their apartment to move back to in the fall and it was SO nice of them to let us stay there! Free is always good. And logan is always beautiful.

Logan temple up on the hill.

We went to Even Stevens to get a sandwich before heading to drop off some stuff for Jaxynn, Julie's daughter who was at Utah State in the dorms for EFY. Just a bunch of moms yelling out her name trying to find her, it was pretty hysterical. At least, we thought we were. Typical. 

We had a little adventure trying to find out which town home was Bob and Kaylie's and I ended up knocking on four different doors before we found it. But we finally did and then laughed so hard and stayed up way too late, even thought we had to be up at 4 in order to pack up and be ready to be at the starting line by 5:30 AM. 
 Sleepover! Kari and I (the two with back issues) claimed the bed upstairs.

 We got a solid 4 hours of sleep (whoopsie) and then we were up packing up and getting ready fro a long day ahead of running. I was runner one again (same as last year) but the course had changed and while my first leg was the same, the rest was very different. We arrived at the Utah State campus and into the starting line for our 5:30 start time. I felt much better this year than last year when we had some mishaps along the way and nearly missed our starting time. ANd this year I actually got to eat something before starting my 6.8 mile run!
Glowing safety girls
 No flash is better ;)

Starting line!

 Around 5:25 the announcer announced each team who was starting and then the gun sounded and  we were off! Like I said, I had done this course the year before but I must have forgotten how hard it was. I thought I was going to die! The first 2.5 miles are basically straight up a mountain and not easy at all. I walked quickly for part of it and regretted wearing a long sleeve shirt even though it was only forty degrees. I was dripping with sweat. I finally made it to where my team could cheer me on at about mile 4 and cheer me on they did! They got some other team with a bullhorn to yell out, "Sarah Collette! You're awesome! Also, your team says to run faster!" Hahaha. It was hilarious. They cheered me on as I ran past them and also gave me some water. I continued on and at about mile 5 there they were again cheering me on and giving me water (even though technically this was a non-supported leg and they weren't supposed to stop-- but they did because they're the best and they know it does wonders for your confidence when running a tough leg.) They asked about my foot (that I injured at the half marathon in May and had been having trouble with-- it was doing great, by the way) and then they were off to meet me at the first exchange. I arrived and Marcie took off and with that I was done with my first leg. I love being runner one and getting done first. I also loved that I finished ahead of my scheduled time!

We carried on and cheered Marcie for her long 9 miler and stopped along the way to give her encouragement and water. She rocked it with a 9 min pace and finished way ahead of her scheduled time.

Waiting at the exchange. Kat was the next to run. She had a 6.5 miler.

Lori served a mission in Sweden where it is only sunny for a small part of the day and whenever the sun is out the general population does this:
 She kept telling us to be Swede's and enjoy the sunshine on our faces.

 Exchange 2! In comes Marcie and out goes Katrina!

 We cheered, we supported...

We made bridges to run under...

We hung out of car windows and  sunroofs and called each other funny names.

Waiting for Kat at exchange 3. Lori was up next.

Katrina did amazing and kept up the trend of staying ahead of schedule. She also had an injury and was relieved to not have any problems with her injured leg.

 Go Lori!

Lori is a running maniac and had something like an 8:50 pace. Here she is switching with Julie at exchange 4.

And Julie was off for one of the toughest legs in the whole Ragnar. It is a complete dirt trail up a mountain. It is dusty and so hot and just not ideal running conditions for 8 miles. Luckily van support is allowed the whole time and we stopped about every mile to give her water and spray her with the squirt bottles and give her whatever else she needed.


There were some kids selling home made cinnamon rolls off the side of the road and we got some to be nice. But we were pleasantly surprised when they were ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! And we wished we would have bought more. Haha. Here is our awesomely healthy reward station after finishing a tough leg:

 While Julie's leg was rough, it was also the most beautiful. We could not get over these wildflowers! And we couldn't stop taking photos in front of them either.

Here comes Julie at exchange 5 for the hand off to Kari...

Aaaaand realized she lost our exchange bracelet somewhere along the way. Oh well! Kari was off for her 6 mile leg!

Kari's leg wasn't easy, it was a steep downhill after a steep uphill and she rocked it as well, of course. 

Coming in to major exchange 6! This is where we met our other van and the other half of our Stranger's team.

We chatted with them for a bit after their runner took off and told them we would see them again at the next major exchange (#12) 

They also took this photo of our cute van-- Leg One complete! Love these ladies!

The next major exchange was at Snow Basin and absolutely beautiful. It made me a little nervous though because I was the next to run after Van 2 finished and I was going to have to run straight up that mountain. 
 We rested and ate lunch and took naps. We played around, talked, and applied Ragnar tattoos on each others shoulders. We also made dance videos and sang songs. We checked in with the other team who was struggling a bit in the heat, but nothing compared to last year. A few of them did get sick and throw-up, but were able to finish. When they were close we got ready to run again and changed into fresh running clothes. I also happened to run into my twin cousins who are about 8 or 9 years older than me. I hadn't seen them in years and it was fun to catch up for a bit.

I was all ready to hit it hard when the other van met up with us and I waited for runner 12 to come. I was a little nervous as this was my longest run (8.8 miles) and it was a steep downhill. I never run downhill and was nervous that I would be really sore afterwards.  
 Kelly came in and slapped my hand and I was off. I had to run up that big mountain for 1.5 miles and it was hard. But then I pretty much had a downhill after that and ran my hardest for the next 3 miles. Around mile 4 my foot really started to bother me. My leg was completely unsupported as it was on a major highway and vans were not allowed to stop. It went from fine to excruciating within a matter of about 1/2 mile. It was crazy and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to call my team, I wanted to finish. But I didn't want to permanently injure myself either. Just then, as I came down a steep area I saw a van pulled over. It was my team, breaking the rules (typical) and cheering me on! I almost starting crying right then and there and decided I could do it. I continued on up a short hill and near the top felt impressed to stop and rest and stretch my foot. So I did. I took off my shoe and un-taped my taped up foot and stretched for a couple minutes. At this point I wasn't worried about my time, I just really wanted to finish this leg. I put my shoe back on and started running again and the difference was night and day. But I had been running weird to compensate for my foot and now my right leg behind my knee was killing me. I hobbled along as best I could and actually finished right ahead of my projected time. A little faster, actually. The 3 miles I had been speedy were under 9 minute miles and it made up for my slower miles. I was so happy to see Marcie and she took off and I collapsed in the car and was so happy to be done with Leg number 2.

Marcie had a fast 4 miler and Katrina was ready for her.

Off she goes! She only had 2 miles this leg and seriously rocked it. She was so fast!

Lori ready for leg number 2. It was starting to get dark at this point.

They exchanged and Lori was off for a 5 miler.
 There she is, running in the dark.

Julie got all ready for her leg and was looking good!
 Glowing vs. Not Glowing. That is the question.
 Julie had a 5 point something miler and then it was Kari's turn again. Her leg was 4 miles and then our team would be done for the day.

None of our night legs were supported, but besides mine were fairly short. We finished around 11:30 PM and met Van 2 at the next major exchange where they were ready to run all night long.

Yay! Done for the day! We went to the next exchange to try and sleep for a bit. We were up high in the mountains and it was pretty chilly. We slept on grass at a high school and while I did get a solid 4 hours of sleep, it wasn't great sleep and I tossed and turned the last hour before I had to get up.
 Sleepover on the grass!

We kept in touch with the other team and I would text them any time I woke up to see how they were coming along. They told us that they would be done around 6 AM and we got up at 5 to pack up and eat and get ready to go. I ran down to the exchange and to my surprise Kelly was already there. I felt bad, but he said he had only been waiting about 15 minutes. I took off for my last run, a fast 4 miles. I was in kind of bad shape at this point. my right knee was killing me, my left foot still hurt, I was exhausted and sore. I told myself it was only 4 miles, approximately 12 songs. I decided that after 12 songs played I could walk for a bit if I hadn't finished yet. So I did. I just ran a slow pace around 10.5 minute miles and sang my songs. I was steady and after 12 songs I turned the corner only to see a huge hill looming in front of me, the exchange was at the top. I dug deep and decided to run for 30 seconds and walk for 30, run for 30, walk for 30, etc. 

Halfway through the big hill a song came on that always reminds me of Magnus and his cancer fight. There is a foundation called Millie's Princess Foundation that was actually having a fundraising race that day in Herriman (that I was so sad to miss because of Ragnar, but I was there in spirit!) to help raise funds for families who are in the midst of fighting currently. They hold this race every year in memory of a little girl named Millie who passed away from leukemia three years ago. This day, June 18th, was actually the three year anniversary of her passing. And instead of mourning, her parents were out there doing a fundraising race for other families and kids fighting. I started to cry because if my 3 year old baby boy can fight cancer, I sure as hell can finish a stupid race up a hill. I did it for him. For all those sweet kids out there fighting a battle bigger than  anything I will ever have to face. And for their parents and their families who are fighting right along side them. When I finished red faced, out of breath, and splotchy from my emotions, I laughed and cried with my team who surrounded me with hugs. I was finished!
 Leg 3 complete! 19.5 miles total!

Checking off the last box!

I did it. Go me.

 Marcie had an uphill 5 miler and did it in record time. She was also having some feet problems and was in bad shape when she finished, but was so happy to be done.

And off goes Kat for her last leg, which was also her hardest. A 9 miler in the heat, all uphill. She was worried about her leg holding up, but she had been doing great so far, so we were hopeful she would do great.

Done with 3!

Kat made it! What a rockstar! She didn't have any pain and we were so glad. She said it was a super hard run and she was so relieved to be done.

And Lori is off for her last in the heat. It was really starting to get hot. I think she had a 5 or 6 miler to go.

 Check! Done with 3!

 At the exchange where we were waiting for Lori I ran into my in-laws! Andy was supposed to be in the van with them, but he had an injury the week before and had to find a replacement. It was fun to see them and talk with them. They were all doing great, even Bree who is 3 months pregnant and Terra who just came home from her mission and was basically forced into doing Ragnar, haha.

Awesome Lori! These last legs were hard because we couldn't support any of them. They were literally all non-support legs and it was hot and everyone was so tired when they finished.

And Kari is off! Poor Kari has a compressed disc in her back and was really struggling near the end of her second leg (I am telling you, our team had so many injuries, we were such a mess, haha). If you remember, Julie was our 5th runner, but Julie and Kari switched places and Kari ran Julie's leg because it was only 3 miles and her original leg that Julie took was 5.5. What a great friend Julie is. That's why I just love this group of ladies so much!

Go Kari!

Lori, checking off her last leg in style.

Here comes Kari! She made it.

Chest bump!

Bum slap!

And Julie is off for our final leg of the day!

Kari, so happy to be done!

Julie's leg was SO hard. It was so hot at this point and her nearly 6 mile run was mostly uphill. She was so awesome!

Dancing her way in. I just missed her awesome heel kick, but caught the very end.

 Woo hoo! Our van was finished!

We were famished and headed to a cool and quiet bar for an awesome burger and fries. And it was SO delicious. After eating we decided to go to a park while we waited for the other van to finish their last legs. We took out our sleeping bags and napped and then talked and played some games after we were rested. We also rubbed aloe on each other since we were burned. After the other van was almost finished we went to Dairy Keen and got shakes. SO good. I don't know why food tastes so good sometimes, but it's so nice when it does.

After that we headed to the finish line and met up with everyone from the other van. Runner 12, Kelly, would be finishing soon and while we waited there was actually a wedding ceremony at the finish line! What?! It was crazy!
 These people legit ran Ragnar and their team was their wedding party and passed out ring pops to everyone and we all were guests at their wedding. So fun.

And this couple got engaged at the end of the race. SO fun and exciting.

There were also a few other crazy and emotional happenings at the line. There was a team who had run for their son who was dying of cancer and they ran him through the finish line in a wheelchair. His mom had also just been diagnosed with cancer and it was a sad story. There was a team of blind runners who had finished together. There was a man who was paralyzed the year before in a boating accident and had worked all year so hard and was able to not only walk again, but was able to run Ragnar with his family this year. There was the family who decided to run for the man who passed away on the Ragnar course last year and they had a huge memorial for him. It was just so emotional and crzy and wonderful. SO many sad stories and also feel good stories. An emotional ending to be sure. 

Finally Kelly came running down the hill and we joined him and ran through the finish line. And with that, another Ragnar was finished.

 Our medals all togehter. Together we ran 200ish miles!

And one of my favorite sayings on the back:
 Van 1. Love these ladies more than I can say.

Because Lori, Kat, Marcie, and I had run the Ogden marathon we got a double medal. It was the Mullet Medal: Business along the Wasatch Front (Ogden Half) and Party along the Wasatch Back (Ragnar)

We literally danced from the beginning to the end and didn't stop. So much fun.

Ragnar Medals

 And here's actually a better representation of who we are as a group.

 It's funny when I tell people about Ragnar and they immediately say that it sounds crazy and they would never want to do anything like it. And I get it. It does sound crazy. But the bonds that are forged and the friendships made are something that no one else can understand. We were all great friends before this, but every time you do something so absolutely and physically tolling and hard, it just bonds you together in a way that nothing else can. Also, the mental blocks that are overcome during the race make you feel like you can do anything in the world. And I have always said that only Ragnarians understand the crazy ;)

I was so lucky to do this with my ladies! Love them lots and I am relieved we all finished in one piece. 

Now, if you want to watch some fun videos we made along the way click HERE and HERE.

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