Thursday, September 3, 2015

Race Report: Dances With Dirt Half Marathon

I'll just say it.

This was the hardest thing I've ever done.

I don't remember what I was thinking when I signed up for this race. Oh wait. A weekend with friends. Some running. A beautiful setting. It would be fun.

Even though I had heard about how brutal this course was during the first four miles, I didn't think twice when I hit the "submit" button on my registration. But it was. Brutal. And in a sadistic way, pretty fun.

The weekend started with the drive up to Devil's Head ski resort, where the race started. You can't really argue with a road trip that involve a ferry ride.

I ran with four other friends for the first 5 miles or so. Actually, I'm not sure "ran" is an appropriate word. Especially since the first two miles consists of something crazy like 800 feet of elevation gain. Yeah. There's no running on stuff like that. More like a slow trudge while hoping there's a branch you can grab on to to pull yourself up.

Our little group split into two groups somewhere around mile 5. Surprisingly this was a fairly flat section of the course. Ha. It was just lulling you into a comfort zone before you turned a corner and were faced with another steep uphill climb. This was like 200 feet of elevation gain in just a half mile. Crazy.

But once you got to the top of the bluff. The view.

It made all those hills worth it.

Yes, I may have just wanted to sit down on the bluff and hang out there the rest of the day, but I had to keep running.

I stuck with my friend Erica until Mile 10 and then headed off on my own for the final three miles. That massive two-mile long uphill at the beginning? Well, I got to run down it. It was a little scary at times, but kind of fun to run downhill while avoiding the rocks. Of course, since my banged up knee from Ragnar was finally starting to heal (in other words, no scabs and I could bend it with screaming in pain), I was a little cautious. Didn't want more of that.

So I finished. Eventually. There was a lot of walking. Some running. But overall it was a fun trail race, even if it was the hardest thing I've ever done.

Up next: The Madison Mini

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Race Report: Ragnar Chicago

So during a seven-day span in June I:

  • Moved from Oshkosh to Madison on a Tuesday;
  • Unpacked an entire apartment;
  • Left for Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon;
  • Picked up a swanky 15-passenger van, gathered all my teammates and drove BACK to Madison Thursday night;
  • Ran Ragnar Chicago on Friday and Saturday;
  • Drove back to Madison Saturday night;
  • Slept like a brick; and 
  • Started a new job on Monday.

Looking back, I'm not sure I'd recommend anyone else do that. You kind of forget what city you're in.

But I couldn't pass up Ragnar Chicago. I mean, I didn't want to let my teammates down. And besides, it's one of the most fun weekends of the year.

I was runner 2 this year. New to me legs and the first time I actually got to run in the city of Madison! We woke up Friday morning and it wasn't raining. By the time we got to the start line and had to check-in, the rain was coming down pretty steady. Great.

Leg 2: 4.5 miles

It's still raining. I opt for no jacket or anything. Just my shorts and tank. Hey, if I'm going to get wet, I'm going to get wet. Renee comes in the chute, I get the slap bracelet and I'm off. I got less than 100 yards and get to a crosswalk staffed with volunteers and controlled with traffic lights. The volunteer waves me through. The light says "walk" so I start to run through the intersection.

And a stupid woman decides I don't deserve the right-of-way and decides to turn right in front of me. Almost hits me. What is it with me and drivers who refuse to wait an extra 10 seconds? Luckily I saw her, otherwise I would have been hit.

Rattled, I continued through the intersection. I get to the other side and promptly get attacked by a sidewalk. Face planted. Stunned, I sit up. Check my palms (not bleeding), gather my stuff and stand up. I check my Garmin (yes, yes I did). I'm one-tenth of a mile into my 2015 Ragnar Chicago and I've already almost been hit by a car and took a digger on the sidewalk. Great. My teammates aren't around, so I did the only thing I could. I started to run.

My knee, which took the brunt of the damage from the sidewalk, is bleeding. The blood is running down my leg (some guy filling up his gas tank yelled at me that my knee "didn't look too good." Really? I didn't know.), and it's a little sore. But really, what could I do? I didn't have my phone with me.

I eventually make it to the exchange zone, run up to Erica to pass off the slap bracelet and am met with, "Yay, Jen! What did you do?"

First aid? Anyone?

I met up with the rest of my team, explain what happened and do a quick clean up with the limited first aid kit that we have in the van. Once I get to the first major exchange at Lake Mills High School, I seek out some actual medical attention from the first aid tent, where they patched up my knee and elbow pretty good (it stayed on through the rest of Ragnar).

Leg 14: 4.5 miles

I tried to keep the knee pretty loose during the day. Thankfully getting in and out of the van to cheer on runners helped. So it wasn't as stiff as I thought it would be for this leg.

The run itself went pretty well. The rain finally quit (right after I finished my first leg), and the temperatures were perfect for a late June afternoon. This leg was mostly on the Glacial Drumlin Trail and just had a little bit of city sidewalks when I got into Waukesha. I was very, very careful on the sidewalks. I didn't want to get into anymore fights with them.

Leg 26: 6.3 miles

I started this leg at 3:30 a.m. It's pretty dark at 3:30 a.m. And it was kind of foggy and SUPER humid. I've never actually had a Ragnar leg in the actual middle of the night before, so this was a first. I left from a school in the Racine area and the first 3 miles or so of my leg was along a recreational path. Bordered on both sides by woods. So I'm running in the dark along a path with heavy trees and it seems like my headlamp is on the verge of dying.

Of course I'm thinking animals are going to come out and attack me.

So I try to run faster. And since this is my final leg and my bloody, wrapped knee is finally starting to get stiff, my legs decide somewhere around Mile 3.5 that they're done. No more. Thankfully I'm off the wooded trail and back on city sidewalks (again, watching them carefully!). So I do the run-walk thing.

I make a turn and pass the "Welcome to Carthage College" sign in Kenosha at Mile 5 and I see three fat rain drops. Which immediately turn into a torrential downpour.

Really? More rain? And not just a nice, soothing light rain. A cold, downpour.

Well, I'm going to get wet anyway, so who cares if I walk some, right? Only 1.3 more miles to go. If anything, that cold rain definitely wakes you up at 5 a.m. when you're working on 2 hours of Ragnar sleep.

I finally hand off the slap bracelet, get back into the van and set about trying to find some dry clothes. Oh, and it was the downpour that finally was too much for my bandaged knee. At the next major exchange (before we headed off to our post-Ragnar breakfast feast), I had another  stop at a medical tent for some re-bandaging.

Aside from the sidewalk attacking me a tenth-of-a-mile into my Ragnar and having two of my three legs run in the rain, it was a great Ragnar. Can't wait for 2016.

Up next: I climb a freaking mountain (OK, more like a bluff) during a trail half marathon