Friday, February 21, 2014

Ragnar Florida Keys - Part IV: My Final Leg

Two-thirds of Van 1 getting ready to start our last legs.

After getting a couple of hours of sleep at the sketchy hotel, an alarm went off, telling us it was time to run again.

So we gathered up our bags and headed back downstairs (in the dark, it was like 5 a.m. or something) to the SUV and off we went to the major exchange. This exchange was located at the airport on Marathon Key. I never actually saw a runway, but I did see a hangar and the grass field that we parked in.

Soon it was time for Erica to set off on her final leg. Once she finished and Kelsey took off for her jaunt across the Seven Mile Bridge, the rest of us hit up a McDonald's in Marathon for some food. I'm telling you, hot cakes are a good way to fuel in prep for a run.

I got to play in the water while waiting for Kelsey to run across the Seven Mile Bridge.

It was only mid-morning, but the sun was out in full force and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Oh, and the temperature was flirting with 80. Not a good sign of things to come.

Eventually it was my turn to run.

I had 5.2 miles to run. Once again, it was a straight shot. Start on one key, run over a bridge, run through another key and one more bridge before finally ending on a third key. I think I started this run around 11:30 or noonish. Remember how it was warm in the morning? It was even hotter by this point.

Not good.

I took off for my run and was immediately faced with the first bridge. I just kept it steady. One foot in front of the other. And I stuck as close to the side of the bridge as possible in hopes of getting a little bit of a breeze, which I did. I passed one runner on the bridge.

I got to the other side of the bridge, saw my teammates and was still feeling OK.

Then somewhere around Mile 2 the bottom fell out.

It was hot. The sun was beating down on me. There was no shade. And once I was off the bridge, there was no breeze. I slowed way down. Walked a bit. But that wasn't helping. My head was feeling funny. I was a bit dizzy. Just not feeling right.

So I walked. A lot.

Because I know my head (remember The Monster?) and I know what will trigger a nasty migraine. Heat is one of those things and I really didn't want to spend the rest of my vacation in Key West dealing with a migraine and the after effects.

So happy to see this sign.

So I basically shut it down. When I came across my teammates again, I told them this. One of my teammates offered to run the rest of my leg (and her leg that immediately followed) for me, but I said no. I wasn't going to be that runner who quit. I'd finish the miles, it was just going to take me longer than expected.

I will say one thing, the other runners and teams out on the course were amazing. So many offered water or Gatorade. I did get some ice from a van full of guys at one point. I promptly shoved it down my sports bra.

I eventually finished. Grabbed a Diet Coke and pretty much downed it in a couple of gulps. Then we headed off to the last major exchange to meet our runner and hand off running duties to Van 2.

Van 2 is done!

Then it was off to Key West! We checked into our hotel and took a quick shower. Then we set off on foot (apparently we hadn't run enough miles in the last 36 hours) for Higgs Beach, where the finish line and post-race party were being held.

We got there with about 20 minutes to spare before Ian, our final runner got there. Then Team #Whale ran as a team through the finish line arch, had some photos taken and then headed off to claim our free beers.

Team #Whale

Most of Van 2 headed off to the hotel to get cleaned up before we all met up for dinner. And while the plan may have called for heading out for a few drinks on Duval Street, I'm pretty sure most of the team was dead to the world by 10 p.m. At least I was.

Stay tuned for a recap of what else I did while I was in Key West.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ragnar Florida Keys - Part III: My Second Leg

 Why sleep when I can explore a race track?

When I last blogged, our sixth runner had finished her run and we had handed off running duties to the six runners who were in Van 2. That left us with a couple of hours to burn.

First we got food. Then we headed to Homestead-Miami Speedway, the site of the next major exchange. Some of my teammates promptly laid a blanket down on the concrete underneath the bleachers and fell asleep. Me? I tried, but I don't typically nap. So trying to sleep on concrete while some cars did practice laps on the track and military jets flew by was downright impossible.

I closed my eyes briefly, chatted with my parents, hit up real indoor bathrooms. You know, important stuff. It was eventually time for us to get ready to run again.

Quite possibly my favorite Ragnar van.

The sunset and pretty soon I was getting ready for my run in the dark.

I had 7.1 miles through Key Largo to look forward to. Unlike my first run, there were no turns on this run, so there was no worry about me missing a turn and adding on extra miles. Therefore, I didn't bother to take a map of the run with me.

Decked out in my reflective vest and head lamp, I got the slap bracelet from my teammate and headed out. My run started at the high school in Key Largo and headed out onto a bike path. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with a bike path. But this bike path was different.

It was under construction.

So I was running on an unpaved dirt trail that wasn't even packed down. Add in the fairly big rocks that littered the path and the massive craters I needed to avoid in order to make sure that I didn't twist or roll an ankle and it was an adventure.

And remember, I'm running at 11:30ish at night, so it's dark.

Fun times.

So I concentrated on slowing my pace down a bit, not killing myself and enjoying the nighttime run through Key Largo. I did throw in a little bit of speed every so often when I saw a runner in front of me that I wanted to pick off. I ended up passing seven people during the run - and none of those runners passed me again - so I was happy.

After about 3 miles, I got some relief and actually found myself running on a paved trail and sidewalk, but even that ended. The final mile was back on uneven, rocky, crater ridden ground.

But soon I found myself running to a parking lot area and handing off the slap bracelet to my teammate. She took off and we headed to the next major exchange where I, along with my teammates, inhaled a full pasta dinner at 1 a.m.

What? You don't inhale an entire pasta dinner at 1 a.m.?

After that it was off to this somewhat sketchy hotel room where most of us took quick showers to rinse off the day's sweat and sunscreen and then caught a few hours of much needed sleep.

Then it was time to run our final legs.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ragnar Florida Keys - Part II: My First Leg

 Van 1 of team #Whale, from left, me, Michelle, Mo, Erica, Jenny and Kelsey.

We woke up in the dark at 3:45 a.m. and loaded up our SUVs. I snagged a spot in the back row, this would be my home for the next 37 hours or so.

Our first runner started in the darkness at 6 a.m., and three hours later, after four runners finished their legs, it was my turn to run.

I had an easy 3.6 mile run to get my Ragnar Florida Keys adventure started. It was about 9 a.m. and it was a little overcast. It had been a pretty foggy morning, but by the time I ran, the fog had burned off and it was just cloudy. I was glad for the clouds since it was already heating up temperature wise. It was kind of humid and the thermometer was already flirting with 80 degrees. Just a bit different than the sub-zero temps I've been used to.

What I was supposed to run.

Runner No. 4 came in a bit quicker than I was expecting, so I grabbed the slap bracelet and was off, while trying to put my ear buds in my ear and turn on my iPod. It was a good excuse not to take off too quickly, I guess.

My run started along a trail in a park. I dodge some piles of bird poo and steered clear of some odd looking ducks and before I knew it, I was out on the streets of a neighborhood. The trip through the neighborhood was short lived though since when I made that first left hand turn I found myself running on a busy street in a commercial district.

Not the most scenic run.

Although I did see some road kill that I'll never see in Wisconsin: A dead iguana.

There wasn't much exciting about this run. Well, until I was on the final straightaway.

See I was just running along. There were runners around me. The sun came out and it started to get really hot. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but all of a sudden I noticed there were no runners around me. This was odd. And then I glanced at my Garmin and it told me I'd gone 3.7 miles. Ummm, I should be at the finish line and I didn't see any signs of a finish line.

Thankfully I had my phone with me and for some reason I had thought to snap a picture of the route I was supposed to be running. So I stopped and pulled out my phone.

What I actually ran. I realized I missed a turn at the star.

Huh. Apparently I missed a turn. Like almost 10 blocks ago.

This kind of sucks, I thought to myself.

So I turned around. Walked a little bit. Ran a little bit. Prayed that the city of Miami magically skips numbers when it came to streets. Finally I got to the corner where I spied the sign that told me I should be turning. Yeah, I don't remember that being there before, but it probably was.

I was finally back on track. The exchange was in sight. I ran. Passed a girl and finally was able to hand off the slap bracelet to my teammate.

5 miles later I was done.

In the end my 3.6 mile leg turned into 5 miles. Yeah, that's just a bit of extra running.

But it was nearly time for Van 1 to go off duty and get some food.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ragnar Florida Keys - Part I: Getting there

When I sign up for a Ragnar, I know I’m going to be in for an adventure.

Little did I know when I signed up for Ragnar Florida Keys, the adventure would start even before I left the state of Wisconsin.

After the longest three-day work week ever, I took off for Milwaukee on Wednesday night after work. With an early Thursday morning flight, I was going to be crashing at my friend Erica’s place (she was also on my team) and we’d leave for the airport in the morning. After food, a beer and trivia with friends, we called it a night and got ready for an early morning wake up call.

Our flight was supposed to leave Milwaukee at 7:25 a.m., so we got dropped off at the airport shortly after 6. That gave us plenty of time to check in, get through security and find food before we would have to board our flight.

Sounds simple, right? Yeah, didn’t happen that way.
We checked in our on the self-service kiosks, and seriously, as soon as the machine spit out my boarding pass, the ticket agent made an announcement that anyone on the flight from Milwaukee to Houston should not check in because our flight was delayed. Or cancelled. She kept interchanging the words. And last I checked, they didn’t mean the same thing.

So Erica and I went up to the counter to try to figure out what was going on.

 Hint: This is not the airplane window seat I wanted.

Yup. Flight was cancelled. And there were no other flights from Milwaukee that could get us to where we were going. So instead the woman booked us on a flight leaving from O’Hare – at 9:30 a.m. Umm, looking at my watch that did leave us much time. So with new boarding passes in hand, along with a $7 food voucher and a boarding pass for a bus that would take us to O’Hare, we were off.

This bus was supposed to show up just after 7 a.m. and of course it was late. So our already tight travel time to Chicago – the ticket counter lady told us it would only take an hour to get to O’Hare, which we found hard to believe – got worse, especially when we found the bus taking the city streets to a little bus depot instead of getting on the interstate.

And at the bus depot, we stopped. And waited. And waited some more.

And there may have been talk of me hijacking the bus, a la Speed.

We finally left the bus depot and got on the interstate. We drove. Then got off. And waited. Back on the interstate. Back off. Erica and I just looked at each other. It would have been nice had the ticket counter woman told us this bus was going to be making multiple stops to pick up phantom passengers. Instead we just started freaking out. Because we were going to be cutting it really close in O’Hare.

As in, we pulled up to the airport with 25 minutes before our flight was supposed to leave.

I ditched any plans to check my bag and we rushed to the security line. While waiting, I ditched some liquids so I wasn’t completely breaking TSA rules. We got through security and made it to our gate, where our flight was already boarding.

Thankfully it was a big plane, which meant it was a long line to board. After catching my breath, I went to grab my boarding pass and nearly had a heart attack.

I didn’t have a boarding pass anymore.

I figured I must have left it in TSA, so I sprinted back to the security gate. The TSA folks looked at me like I was crazy as I explained I lost my boarding pass. Then they just told me, “Just tell the gate agent TSA lost it and they’ll print you another one.” Apparently lots of people lose their boarding passes in TSA land.

 We're getting on an airplane!

So I ran back to my gate, got a new boarding pass and within the next few minutes, Erica and I were on a plane and headed to Miami via Houston.

The rest of our travels to Florida were uneventful. We got to Miami, hailed a cab to or hotel where we met up with our team.

Then it was lights out for a very, very early wake up call at 3:45 a.m.

Then it was time for the Ragnar Florida Keys adventure to really begin.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Stay tuned for Ragnar Florida Keys recaps

I traveled, I ran, I saw sunrises and sunsets, and I had a pretty fantastic time in Key West.

Stay tuned for a multi-post recap of my week long trip to Florida for Ragnar Florida Keys.

Until then, enjoy this.

Sunset at the Ragnar Florida Keys post-race party on Higgs Beach, Key West.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

January Reading Recap

It's a few days late for the January reading recap, but I have an excuse. I was enjoying the sunshine and warmth in Key West, Fla.

I'm back from vacation though and trying my hardest to avoid the post-vacation mound of laundry, so what better time to do a post on what I read last month, right?

I finished six books in January for a total of 1,639 pages. That's a decent start on my 77 book goal for the year I guess.

Here's what I read in January:

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field by Donald Driver
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains by Chuck Klosterman
William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher

Definitely some titles and types of books that don't normally make my reading list.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally  ***
This was a quick YA read. I've read the other ones in the series and they're not too bad.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell  *****
Looking at my list, this was my favorite read of the month. A guy works in IT at a newspaper and it's his job to read employee email to make sure they're not breaking any rules. In the process, he falls for one of the reporters whose emails he's reading. Great story. Read it if you haven't already.

Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field by Donald Driver  ***
It's a quick read. If you're a Green Bay Packers fan you already know most of Donald Driver's story, so there isn't much breaking news here.

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom  ****
I like Mitch Albom's stuff. This was an interesting piece. Made you think.

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains by Chuck Klosterman  ***
It's a series of essays about villains and why they are (or aren't) considered villains. Some of them were interesting. If I attempt another Klosterman book, I don't think I'll read it straight through, may break it up with other non-essay reading.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher  ***
You definitely don't think reading about Star Wars in the style of Shakespeare. But this was kind of fun. My favorite parts were definitely R2-D2, "Beep, meep, beep squeak." Quick, easy and a pretty enjoyable read, even if you're not a huge Star Wars fan.

So that's January. Just a heads up, February's list will include some pretty mindless, quick and enjoyable reads. I was on vacation after all.