Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay Race Recap (a whole month late!)

Apparently I needed one month to reflect on the awesomeness (awfulness?) of this race.  This one was a doozy.  Ragnars always have a bit of drama, and this race (for me) was chock full.  Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Our team's name was To Hell & Back (foreshadowing...?) and I was in Van 1 with Miss Jess.  It was a super fun van to be in.  The great thing about Ragnars is that the atmosphere really makes the pain and misery of the runs totally bearable.  It's worth the pain just to have the fun!
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Everybody dance now!
As you can see, we were all business in our van.  Serious applicants only.  No funny business allowed.
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Starting line!
 The starting line is always a fun place to be.  The setup is awesome and gets you pumped to being the event.  The safety briefing (while a bit long) is usually pretty funny.  It's also a blast to watch the starting line and see the different waves take off.  One team that started at the same time as us stripped down from their button up shirts and pants to nothing but a bow-tie and a speedo!  It was pretty freaking sweet.

I was runner #6 and my first leg was a mostly downhill leg.

I started around 11 am and it was getting HOT outside.  Vegas heat in the desert is nothing to mess around with!  I was thankful for the canyon breeze that I had.

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 This leg was my easiest of my three runs, but that doesn't mean it was easy for me.  This was my first run after my marathon (yikes) and I was nervous about my IT band.  Thankfully, that wasn't an issue for me the entire race!  My pace had slowed from my pre-marathon days, but that was to be expected.

What wasn't expected was my janky heart rate.  It was through the roof!  I normally don't track my heart rate during my runs because it doesn't matter much to me.  However, a little over halfway through this leg my heart started hurting bad enough that it almost felt like I was having a heart attack.  I ignored it for a while (because I'm a genius) and just kept running.  However, it eventually got back enough that I decided to walk and check out my heart rate to see if something was up.  Sure enough, my heart was pounding at over 195 beats per minute.  Considering my max is supposed to be 193, I wasn't really happy to see that number.

I begrudgingly walked for a while so that I could let my heart rate recover.  However, after a minute or so of walking my heart rate remained unchanged.  I typically have a good recovery rate, so this was really shocking.  I don't know what was wrong, but my heart stayed up above my max for the rest of the run.  Finally I got so frustrated that I just said "screw it" and picked up my pace.  I realize this is completely illogical, and I'm working on it.  One day it just may kill me.

I had about a quarter mile left of my run (and was really feeling the pain) when I looked up from my misery and saw not one, but TWO familiar faces! Rachelle and Julia had passed by in their van while I was running and decided to hop out and run into the exchange with me.  I cannot tell you how happy I was to see their smiling faces.  They seriously saved me.  It was the boost I needed to get me to the finish line and back to my team.  These girls are seriously so sweet and amazing.

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Rounding the corner on the exchange!
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Smiling with my heroes after finishing!  Love these girls!!
Overall, here's what this leg looked like:

Having the high heart rate left me exhausted, so I was glad to settle into the van with some AC blowing on me.  I drank a whole bunch of gatorade to make sure I was properly hydrated, and then settled into a relaxation while we waited for Van 2 to finish their legs.

My next leg was during the night, which I was extremely grateful for.  As you might have guessed (by the run before), my body doesn't do so well during heat.  It seriously screws me up.  Because of that, I was thankful to be running at night in temps around 65 degrees.  My second leg was a slow and moderate uphill.  I hadn't done any hill training (oops) but figured that I could power through it because I had a good base from my marathon.  

This leg ended up being my best leg.  Even though my pace was slower than leg 1 (due to the uphill), I felt the strongest on this leg and it wasn't misery.  It ran through the outskirts of Vegas in some smaller communities.  There was one turn we took that I was convinced was going to take me straight into the heart of the ghetto at night, but it ended up being sketchy for only about a block.  I was mostly by myself on this leg, so I was thankful for that!

The only frustrating part on this leg was when I was a quarter mile from the exchange and the volunteers started giving directions.  Usually, this is a super good thing but in my tired state I found myself a big bugged.  


Well, the first volunteer said, "You're almost there!  It's just up and around this corner!"

Once I rounded that corner, there was another volunteer: "You're here!  Just up the stairs now!"

(My thoughts at that moment: "STAIRS??  WHY????  WHY WOULD YOU ADD STAIRS???")

After I finished the brutal stairs, there was yet another volunteer: "Okay, just up this hill and you're there!"

By that point, I was having a hard time trusting the volunteers, but I could actually see the exchange at that point so I knew I was finally at the end.  It was rough going up the stairs and then having to climb a short but steep hill.  I wanted to walk SO badly on that last 100 foot stretch, but my pride kept me going.  Nothing like a mob of 100s of runners to keep you going!  :)

Overall, leg 2 looked like this:

Glad my heart rate had calmed down a bit!

After my leg, we went to the next major exchange and curled up in our sleeping bags and tried to fall asleep. I'm not going to lie; this Ragnar was the most brutal of the three I did this year, and one big reason for that was the serious lack of sleep.  I usually average 3-5 hours of sleep per Ragnar, but this one left me with less than 2.  That was not ideal.  Oh well--I knew I would be sleep deprived when I signed up for it!

When we got the call that Van 2's last runner was on the road, we hurried and packed up our gear to finish up the last of the night runs.  It was about 3 am at this point.  Jess had a brutal uphill run, but she totally rocked it!

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Nothing but a sea of reflective gear!
After she finished her leg, we were greeted with a lovely sunrise over the Las Vegas desert.  Desolate but beautiful!
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Pretty, even though this desert later tried to kill me.
We then decided to update our van and cross off the legs we had ran.  This is always such a nice moment.  Such a sense of accomplishment!
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Normal face...
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....NOT so normal face!  I can't help myself!
As the other runners in my van finished up, the temperatures were once again steadily rising.  I began getting really nervous for my last leg, which I knew was going to be the hardest of the bunch due to it being a straight uphill:

I do not like elevation gains like this.
I'm not gonna lie.  This leg was brutal.  Worst run I've had in over a year.  It was hot.  It was dusty.  It was a steady steady uphill.  I felt awful within the first few feet of the run.  Those who have ran Ragnars before know that leg 3 is brutal on your legs; they are so saturated with lactic acid they just don't want to move.  That's bad enough.  However, the dust was really screwing with my lungs and I just couldn't get in gear.
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This is the only photo from this leg where I am smiling.  It's totally a fake smile.
There was a LOT of walking.

I kept trying to push myself to move, but it kept getting harder and harder.  I felt off.  Really off.  I couldn't get my breathing right.  I was in trouble.

I was less than 2 miles into my 6 mile leg and I was really struggling.  My van had just given me water and checked on me to make sure I was okay (they had seen the walking).  I told them I was hot and that I would be fine.  Famous last words, eh?  

Anyway, as they drove off they asked one last time, "Are you sure you're okay?"  Stupidly, I lied and said I was.  As I watched them drive, I suddenly felt my lungs constrict.  It's the feeling that I dread more than anything.  As much as I tried to lie to myself, I knew I was starting to have an asthma attack.

Now, I've been running for over a year now and haven't had an asthma attack related to running in that time.  Beating my asthma was my main motivator for choosing running as my workout activity.  It hasn't been an issue with me in so long that I no longer carry my inhaler with me on runs.

Yeah.  Think about that.  I'm in the middle of the hot desert having a massive asthma attack with absolutely no inhaler and no one around to help.

Pretty much the scariest moment of my running life to date.  

I just couldn't get it under control.  I was gasping for air and coming up short.  By this point, I had long given up on any hope of finishing this leg.  I just wanted to get to my van (where I LUCKILY had my inhaler by sheer chance) and get some oxygen in my body.  I'm not going to lie; I was pretty freaked out.  I knew my van was likely to stop to cheer for me again somewhere around mile 4 of my leg, which meant I was a good two miles away from safety.  That doesn't sound very far, but when you can't breathe and you realize you are going to have to cover that distance before you can, it is REALLY far.  I couldn't run.  I could barely walk.  My pace was something like a 17 minute mile.  If you do the math, that means it would be 34 minutes before I could get my freaking inhaler.

So awesome.

After about a mile of this, I was so freaked out I decided that maybe I should just try and run for it.  This, by far, was the dumbest decision I made during this race.  Seriously.  I don't even know what I was thinking, except that I must have just been realllllllly desperate.  Running just made it ten times worse (duh).  By this point, I'm sobbing.  Asthma is scary, kids.  And when you are without your saving inhaler, in the middle of the freaking desert, it's super scary.  I was freaked.  So yeah....lots of tears.

Luckily (so very luckily), right as I was about to pass out, a gentleman runner caught up to me and said, "You are clearly not okay.  I'm going to walk with you until we can get you some help."  There wasn't much he could do for me, but having company with me during this ordeal was greatly appreciated.  I just didn't want to die alone in the desert with the cacti.

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This was nearly my final resting place.
The landscape that I had previously thought was desolate and beautiful became straight up terrifying and ugly.  I just wanted to get to my van!  

I had a glorious moment when I crested a hill and saw my white van about a half mile off.  I knew I was so close to safety.  By that point, I had calmed down enough to get my breathing somewhat steady.  I was feeling okay enough that I sent my hero on ahead of me to finish his run.  (He seriously was a hero--he is a Naval Commander in the Marines and does a whole bunch of other awesome stuff.)

Unfortunately, my brain must have been mush because when I got close enough to the van I realized (with quite a bit of dismay) that it definitely was NOT my van and that my van was still nowhere in sight.  Talk about disheartening!  I had even ran (again--so not smart) to get to this van after my hero left me, and so I was once again in a full out asthma attack.  Awesome!

FINALLY, I got caught up to my van.  Apparently my runner buddy had found them and let them know I was struggling.  They were just getting ready to turn around and come get me when they saw me approaching.  Jess ran out with some fluids to give me, and I was SO HAPPY to see her face and know I was going to survive. 

I dug through the van, and after a brief panic, finally found my inhaler in my bag (I had thought it was in my purse).  It took a lonnnnnng time for my breathing to finally be consistent.  That was officially the longest asthma attack I have ever had.  And scariest.  I have no intentions of repeating that disaster again.  I had never ran in dust before, and apparently it is a big no-no with my lungs.  Lesson learned!

When I reached my van at mile 4.15 and the leg was a total distance of 6.1.  I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to get my asthma under control enough to be able to finish, and I'm pretty sure my van wasn't about to let me try.  One of the runners in our van volunteered to finish up the last of my leg (seriously--this is a big deal since all the runners were done but me and we were all ridiculously sore).  It was good to have someone so ready to take my place, but I have to admit I was incredibly disappointed to go out of the race on such a bad note.  I've never had a DNF in my life.  Big bummer.  I know it technically doesn't count since the Ragnar race isn't ran like that, but I must admit it was a big hit to my pride.

My team was awesome though.  They couldn't have cared less that I didn't finish or that my pace was crap.  They were just glad I was okay.  They took excellent care of me, and once all our runners were done we went to our hotel and celebrated.  Running aside, this race was so much fun.  Our team was incredible, and not one person had a bad time. 

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Will I run Ragnar Las Vegas again?  Probably not.  Clearly the dusty roads are not my friend, nor the heat.  The scenery was the least pretty out of the three Ragnars I've done, and I don't feel a strong desire to do this one again.

Will I run a Ragnar again?  You betcha!  The new Colorado one would be amazing!  And I would love to run Northwest Passage as well.  Ragnars are the best!

They also have some pretty sweet bling...

Awwww yeah! 
I had three medals waiting for me at this finish line!  One from finishing the race, Deuces Wild from running Florida Keys and Vegas, and Saints & Sinners from running Vegas and the Wasatch Back.  I do love me some medals!

I also love this girl and was so glad she could be part of the crazy adventure with me!  She is the BEST!
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Friends for LIFE!
Vegas (the city) is also pretty sweet to look at once you've showered and recovered enough to actually enjoy it:
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This water show is so much cooler in real life!
So there you go.  If you read through the entire thing, you deserve a big award!  I mainly write these recaps for my own memories later on, although this is one race I probably could use some amnesia on!  :)


  1. Only someone as awesome (and tough) as you could have made it through under those conditions! You deserve your bling!

  2. Wow, what a recap!
    That asthma attack must have been SO scary!

  3. This race was drama from a month before to a week after, but it was the highlight of my YEAR! You are so amazing!! You and Hubster mean absolutely everything to me, and I want to always be on your Ragnar team. This race saved me.

    Warning to all: Ragnar is highly addictive!

  4. Becky I loved reading this and I truly could feel all of your emotions through your writing. I am so so glad that you are okay. I cannot even begin to imagine how scary that must have beenn. I am so so proud of you for pushing yourself so hard and even when times got tough still finiding the good in the experience.

  5. oh my goodness, so scary! You are awesome for continuing to even MOVE during that kind of asthma attack. I'm so glad you are okay!

  6. Your experience sounds SO INCREDIBLY SCARY! I'm glad you decided to share it - because I'm sure there are LOTS of people who have gone through a similar experience! Love you so much, SO GLAD you are okay and SO PROUD of you for doing this race!!! You are amazing!!!

  7. Wow you are freaking amazing!! I would love to do one of these someday...maybe in a year. They look like so much fun.

  8. Wow, I did read the whole thing. I also have ashema and know how you must have felt. This race sounds cool, maybe I will look into one.I live in Colorado, so that one might be it for me. Congrats on your medals. Last thing loved all the pictures.