Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Better Late than Never...Ragnar Recap!!

Dear Readers-

The time has come!  After a week of promising I would write my Ragnar Recap post, the time has finally arrived!
191.7 miles

I mentioned in the past that I was runner 6, but due to my IT band flare-up my team captain switched me to runner 4.  It was a little less distance and not as much downhill (which tends to aggravate the knee).  Admittedly, the Wasatch Back race had snuck up me; I had known it was coming for months, but once I got back from Australia it suddenly dawned on me that it was GO TIME.  I wasn't even sure I could run!  I had taken 5 weeks off to rest my knee as per the doc's advice, and I was more than a little bit nervous to dive back into running.

My dear friend Running Roommate helped out with that.  She met me down at my house and we went for a nice, easy starter run.  We ran/walked 3 miles to test out the waters and see how my leg would perform.  There was a little bit of tightness, but not enough to be concerned.  Overall it was a good run and it felt SO nice to be back outdoors and being active.  I missed running more than I had let myself believe.

I decided one run wasn't enough to confirm that I would be able to run Ragnar, so I opted to do one more small run with my sister in Idaho before committing to the race. I had less than a week before Ragnar and my team was anxiously waiting for an update on my leg's condition.  We were all hoping that I would be able to run the race as we had no other alternates!

The run with my sister was also nice and easy.  We opted to do a 2 mile run with a 1 mile walk.  The knee felt fine, and I even had some downhill sections in that run.  My pace was really slow, but I was feeling confident that I would be able to run Ragnar with no issues and that my IT band had gotten enough rest to allow me to perform well.

However, my body decided that I needed a bit more of a challenge for my race, and a few days prior to the actual event I came down with a wicked cold.  I had the fever, the aches, the COUGH, the sore throat, the works...it was miserable!  I took a day off from work and tried to recover.  I started feeling better by Thursday just in time for the race to start on Friday.  I still had a cough, but the majority of the other symptoms had calmed down enough that I didn't think they would be an issue.

We were in Van #1 and had a start time of 6:40.  Hubster was runner #1 and he actually got to start the race off with his cousin who was running on another team that had the same start time at us.  With around 14,000 runners in the race, this was a pretty rare chance!  When the clock hit 6:40, the runners were off and the race had begun for us!

Team at Start Line
Warrior Cry

I was SO nervous for my leg.  I had 5.1 miles which would be the farthest I had ran in 6 weeks.  It's crazy how quickly you lose the ability to run far when you have to rest because of injury.  Scary stuff!  I anxiously waited for the runner before me to make it to the exchange.
Pre-leg 1
It was approaching 11 am and it was getting steadily warmer as I waited for the runner to show.  Something you should know about Becky--I do NOT do well in heat.  Seriously.  I'm a big wuss.  I knew that the temperature was going to be an issue for me on this run.
Leg 1 exchange

And the handoff!!  I decided to ease into the run nice and slow and not start off too quickly.  I knew that I should take it easy on the leg and let it warm up because the last Ragnar I had ran made me so sore at the end that I could barely walk, and I wasn't even injured that time!

When I looked around I realized that I was running near one of my most favorite places in the world.  There is a beautiful town in Utah called Paradise and Hubster and I used to visit it when we were dating.  It is very picturesque and I was happy to be running near a place with so many good memories.  Well, I was happy until the heat kicked in.  Then I got tooooo warm.  My heart rate shot up and my energy level dropped.  There was a small creek that was running along the road next to me, and it took a lot of willpower not to just jump in and forget the race!  It was far too tempting!

Around mile 3 my knee started to hurt (due to the IT band).  I wasn't expecting the pain to show up so early, and I became extremely nervous for my next two legs.  I knew I needed strong legs to finish Ragnar, and I was hoping that with some good stretching and icing I could undo the damage I was doing to them on this first section.

Approximately 2 hours later at mile 3.3 (okay, so it just felt like 2 hours...), the heat started to really get to me.  I started walking (boo!) and was cursing the hills that seemed to never end.  My team was awesome and kept my spirits as elevated as possible through their cheering and support, but when the van was out of sight I had to dig deep to just finish the first leg.  I couldn't believe I was struggling so much on a 5-mile run when just a few weeks ago I had been running 13 miles!

My van stopped to give me some more water, and Hubster told me that my cousin was only about 100 yards behind me and she had been that distance behind me the entire time I had been running.  We had talked before the race started about how fun it would be to run together, so I opted to stop and wait for her to catch up to me.  Not only did I want some company to my misery, I also wanted a nice rest stop!  I was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see me.  We were both having a hard time in the heat!

Having a running buddy made the run SO MUCH BETTER.  We were able to distract each other from our frustrations on the run, and when we couldn't help but feel the heat, we could complain together.  Somehow it made it okay.  :)  It was definitely a highlight for me that I was able to run with her.  We had the same pace and we were able to help each other finish strong.

Tunnel leg 1
Look of determination
When the exchange line was finally within our sights, we knew we were home free and nearly done with the pain.  I know I'm totally being dramatic, but in the moment I seriously thought I was going to pass out before reaching the finish line.  Like I said, I totally suck when running in hot weather.  I was SO HAPPY to cross the exchange line and pass off our super awesome baton (aka slap bracelet) to my next runner.

Except he wasn't there.

Talk about a defeated feeling!  I had pushed hard through that last stretch only to find out that my efforts were in vain because no one was there to pass off to.  Where was he?  I bet you can guess!  He had a date with the Honey Buckets...and that's not a term for a cute dance group.  Yay porta potties!  And I shall quote him: "It's an awful feeling to be hanging out in a port-a-potty and suddenly hear your name being called at the top of someone's lungs and know that you are super late to an important event."
No Sean
No runner for me to hand off too...sad!
After all of our runners finished their first leg, we went to the major exchange to see our comrades in Van 2.  It was nice to know we were going to have a 5 or 6 hour break to get some food and relax a bit.  We even had time to take some team photos.
hubby jumping
Yeah, I don't even know what to say about that photo...

If you are ever debating whether or not to run Wasatch Back, you definitely should stop debating and just sign up.  It's a beautiful race.  The relay experience is such a unique thing that you have to experience at least once in your life, and the scenery during this race is breath-taking.  So yeah...sign up for the nice views.
nice views
Nice scenery indeed.  :)

Anyway, back to the race.  Most of us got a nice short nap in at the second major exchange waiting for our Van 2 runners to finish up.  It was nice and refreshing.  However, by that point all downhill sections and stairs I encountered while walking around were causing me issues.  I couldn't walk down to our Van without hobbling a bit.  I knew that I could run through the pain on my second leg, but I knew that my third leg (with an 800 ft descent) was not going to happen for me without a miracle.  I did some icing and stretching while at the exchange, and prepared to run my second leg (a nice 4.2 miler).

crazy person
Yeah...it's best to pretend that you don't know me when I'm making faces like that.  That kid behind me is totally in my van and he's doing a good job of pretending he isn't running with me.  By the way...here's a hint about me:  when I'm realllly nervous, I tend to look realllllly excited.
we so excited
Guess how nervous I was?  Hee hee.

But, the good news is I was better prepared for my second run.  I busted out my tank top so that I could battle the remainder of the heat.  I had stretched, I was warmed up, and I was ready to run.  And thankfully, this leg was mostly flat.  I let myself get distracted by the beautiful mountain views (and random kids dressed in camouflage hiding out in the bushes scaring runners...so awesome), and settled in for a nice comfortable run.  It went MUCH better than the first.  My knee definitely was having issues, but not enough that I couldn't run through them.  Overall, this was a much nicer run for me.  I still had to walk a couple of sections (my lungs were killing me from all the coughing), but I had a faster pace than my first leg and I finished strong enough that I was even able to blast past a runner at the exchange line after one of her supporters said, "I just told her that you weren't fast enough to catch her.  Let's see if I'm wrong."

I'm not one to back down from a challenge if I can help it.

Imma catch you!!
Wahoo!  Girl in Gray?  You've been PASSED!  And don't judge me by my face...I don't look it, but I was super stoked at my last minute victory.  It's the little things in life that make me happy.  Not to mention she had passed me earlier in the race and this was my way to erase that.  :)
That night we crashed at a park and slept outside under the stars.  It was beautiful, but so very very cold.  My lungs were screaming at me from all the running I'd put them through, and the cold air was making it much much worse.  By this point my knee pain had settled into a constant throbbing, and any time I turned in my sleep to lay on my side the pain in my leg would wake me up.  Needless to say, it wasn't the best night of sleep I've had in my life but that's part of Ragnar!  I was still having fun.

However, I knew that my knee was not going to be able to hack an 800 ft. descent.  It was time to find a solution that didn't involve me dropping out of the race or having someone run my leg for me.  I was lucky enough that one of the people in my van was hoping to run some downhill, and his leg happened to be (mostly) flat and approximately the same distance as my leg.  We agreed to switch and were both happy with the exchange.  It was about 30 degrees when we got ready to run, and he didn't have any running tights to keep warm and I did so it really ended up working out best for both of us.

hates me
Not gonna lie.  The last leg hurt and I was ready for it to be done.  I didn't want to hurt my knee anymore than I already had, because last time I ran hard on it I ended up having to take 6 weeks off from running and it nearly made me crazy.  So, I took it easy and tried to enjoy it.  Mostly, I just kept telling myself over and over again that I was almost to the finish and that I was almost done having to run.  Those were some happy thoughts.  :)
Apparently they were happy enough thoughts that I ended up running my last half mile faster than I'd ran the entire leg.  Nothing like a motivating finish line!  I crossed the line and celebrated having been able to run all three legs on limited training.  It was super fun, and I'm glad I did it.  It wasn't the perfect situation, but it was still a blast.

We met our whole team at the finish line of the race and ran together to cross the true finish line.  It was a very happy moment and we were so thankful to be done.  I was running with coworkers who had never ran a race before, and it was very exciting to see their pride at having accomplished such a feat.  

The company I work for is awesome for sponsoring 2 teams of runners.  My boss even ran on my team, and he had so much fun he's agreed to let our company have 3 teams next year!  My boss had never ran farther than 6 miles before, and the day of the race he found out that one of this legs was 10 miles!  But he ran it like a champ, never walked, crossed the exchange line, and promptly puked his guts up.  Hahaha.  Apparently he still thought it was fun enough that he'll be running it again next year.  Runners...we're all crazy!

Crossing finish line
seriously crazy.
So...that's the recap.  It was hard, it was fun, and it was unforgettable.  The next day my cough was so bad that I took a trip to the doctor and found out that I had ran the race with bronchitis.  Not my smartest moment...but I'm still glad I did it.  And for those of you worrying about my knee, you'll be pleased to know that I went and saw a physical therapist and I am working with her to get back on the running track.  I am seeing her again this Thursday and I'm hoping she will give me the all clear to start running again.  After all, I do have a full marathon in 11 weeks.  It's really do or die at this point!  Keep your fingers crossed for me, k?

Oh...and don't forget to check me out on Twitter!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What exactly is a "tweet"?

So....I've been racked with guilt for the last week knowing that I most definitely owe you all a nice blog update regarding my Ragnar race, as well as an update on the knee situation and yet another visit to the physical therapist.  However, work has been absolutely crazy and since that is where I do all of my posting none of these lovely updates have happened.  I found myself thinking several times over the weekend, "Man, I wish I could just send out a mini update and let them know what was going on...too bad there isn't a medium for that out there."

Ummm...apparently there is this little thing called "Twitter."  Yeah.  I'm sure none of you have ever heard of it.  It's one of those unknown little internet places like Facebook.  No one uses those sites ever, right?  Heh.  Well, I finally bit the bullet and have created a Twitter account.  I promise to wisely use my 140 characters for things such as:

  • Updating you to know that I am, in fact, still alive
  • Posting workout details 
  • Posting race recaps 
  • Sending funny photos that I randomly take from my phone
  • And perhaps posting my weigh-ins.  Eek.
It will be a nice supplement to my blog here (which I WILL update for real sometime this week.  Seriously...It needs done).  

So...what are you waiting for?  Come check me (and my randomness) out here!  And I would love to follow any of you crazy readers that have been on the Twitter bandwagon for a while now, so please share your details in the comment section.  Here's to trying out new (okay, just new to me) things!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I failed...

Time for the next and last round of my Australia vacation photos!

After working and playing in Sydney for a week and a half, we departed the lovely city and headed north to Cairns.  Cairns is a port town with the closest access to the Great Barrier Reef which is what made it an ideal place to anchor for a few days.  We arrived on Saturday and I headed straight to the 24-hour clinic once we arrived.  Why would I need to go there?  Well, we were planning on diving the Great Barrier Reef and since I have asthma I needed to pass the scuba medical.  Admittedly, I was nervous.

Let’s back up a bit…back in 2009 Hubster and I were lucky enough to travel to Belize with some friends.  We signed up for a Discovery Dive out on the reef there, and after a brief video presentation on what to expect while scuba diving we were out on the open ocean headed to our destination.  The boat arrived, dropped anchor, and we loaded up in our gear.  Without much instruction, we were dropped off the back of the boat and told to have fun.  One problem—it was chaos in the water with choppy waves, tons of marine life (including sharks), and the water was cooooold.  Basically, it caused me to panic a wee bit.  Which led to me freaking out and having an asthma attack.  Under water.  Not ideal.  Luckily, I wasn’t too far from the surface and I was able to swim to the surface rapidly without fear of getting the bends.  However, once at the surface I was getting sloshed around by the waves and the heavy gear was pulling at my back.  I wanted nothing more than to get that equipment off of me!  After some panicked gasping at the dive team, I was able to get the gear off, calm down, and finally get back in the water to do some nice safe snorkeling once the asthma calmed down.

I’ve thought about that trip a lot since then.  I’ve often wondered (and assumed) that the reason I had an asthma attack was because I was in such poor shape cardiovascular wise.  I figured that the swimming was too much activity for me during that time and that’s what triggered the asthma attack.  That trip was such a heart breaker for me.  I was around 180 lbs, completely uncomfortable with myself, and surrounded by girls with six packs (truly) who were complaining about how “fat” they were.  It was an awful place to be in, and I was so mad that I had let my weight get to a point where it was interfering with my ability to have fun on vacation.  I was completely consumed with thoughts of my fatness the entire trip.  Whenever I think of Belize, I recall those horrible feelings of unworthiness.  I made a pact with myself that I would never let my weight get in the way of a vacation again, and so far I’ve been successful at that.
I am not happy in this picture...and my arms are the same size as that girl's legs.  Awesome.
So…back to the 24-hour clinic.  I was nervous to get tested.  Would I pass?  Would I be able to scuba dive?  Did I WANT to scuba dive?  Surely I wanted to go see the beautiful marine life on the world’s most famous coral reef, but was I willing to risk having an asthma attack 10 meters below water?  I wasn’t sure…

The doctor called me back to the exam room and had me perform numerous tests to see if I was physically capable of diving.  They did the ear check (pass!), and a few other quick tests before getting to the test I’d been dreading—the breathing test.  I’ve done these breathing tests before.  This was how I got my asthma confirmed to me in the first place.  I HATE them!  I always feel like I’m going to pass out.  In any case, I did the breathing test hoping against hope that I would be able to pass and go out on the reef.  I waited anxiously while the doctor reviewed my tests to see if I was capable of diving.  We discussed my current activity level and how I had recently finished a half marathon.  I was hoping all this would help me to pass.

Finally, the results were given to me.  I had failed.  I would be unable to dive the world’s most beautiful coral reef.  Apparently, it doesn’t matter how far I can run or how active I’ve been—salt water spray, the compressed air, and cold water all can trigger asthma attacks and nothing can be done to prevent that.  It’s just too dangerous for me to dive.  Was I disappointed?  Most definitely.  But I understand how important my safety is and I definitely don’t want to find myself in a situation where I’m having an attack and I cannot rise to safety in the water.  So…I snorkeled instead and had a fantastic time.  Hubster got to dive (I had jealousy, I admit) while I snorkeled around.  I swam with sea turtles, HUGE fish, and beautiful coral.  The sea was rough and choppy that day as well, and part of me was really glad I had listened to the doctor and not lied to the dive guides just so I could dive on the reef.  Some things just aren’t worth the risk. 
Cairns 028
Have some fish...
Cairns 044
Happy on the Dive Boat!
Cairns 007
Snorkeling while Hubster dives!
It made me think back about the first time I dove and the disappointment I felt towards myself.  At the time, I had no idea that sea water, compressed air and mist trigger asthma.  I had blamed the failure completely on my lack of physical activity.  Looking back, I realize that I wouldn’t have stood a chance against having an asthma attack.  Do I regret the shame that accompanied that “failure”?  No…not by a long shot.  Even though it might have been misdirected, that shame got me into the gym and on my way to a healthier lifestyle.  Because of that dive trip, I made a goal and a plan to conquer the weight and asthma once and for all.  It was the first step in getting me to where I am today, and for that I have no regrets. 

So…I snorkeled to my heart’s content on that reef that beautiful day.  And got sunburned.  The worst sunburn of my life.  OUCH OUCH OUCH.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  It blistered and then peeled twice.  Let’s just say it hurt and that it took a LOT of willpower to force myself out of our hostel to go sight-seeing the next few days.  Luckily, I am one who can’t stand the idea of spending money to travel clear across the world just to sit in my hotel room and stare at the tv.  So, out we went.  We saw the beautiful rainforest via Skyrail and then took a scenic train ride back to Cairns.  The Barron Gorge was phenomenal!  Such a beautiful area.
Cairns 045
It was worse in real life.  Puffy and swollen and ouch.
Cairns 086
On the Skyrail to Kuranda
Cairns 207
The beautiful Kuranda train
Cairns 274
Cairns 126
Barron Falls in the background (but you can't see it!)
Cairns 364
This is me pretending I'm getting sun on the beach.  I've got massive loads of sunscreen on and after this picture was taken I promptly hid in the shade.
That night we took a midnight Greyhound bus (always an adventure) to Airlie Beach.  We were told by nearly every Australian we encountered that we couldn’t miss the Whitsunday Islands.  They were an absolute “must” so we rearranged our travel plans to fit in a visit there.  I am SO glad we listened to the locals—I’ve never seen such beauty!  We spent 3 days and 2 nights aboard a sailing vessel (we slept in a pontoon!) where we traveled from island to island and spent our days snorkeling, hiking, tanning (not me!), and relaxing.  It was a perfect way to finish our vacation.
Whitsunday Vessel 025
AWESOME way to spend a few days!
The highlight of the entire trip was White Haven Beach.  I’ve never seen a more beautiful beach in my life.  The water was crystal clear; you could see baby sharks and sting rays swimming around within just a few feet of you.  The sand was a bright white—I was told it is the whitest beach in the world.  It is made of 98% silica and feels so weird on your feet!  It squeaks!  I could’ve spent my entire vacation (or life) on this beach and been a happy camper.  If you ever get the opportunity to go to Australia, don’t miss this island!

Whitsunday Vessel 395
Gorgeous beach!!
Whitsunday Vessel 447
No photo shopping---those are true colors.
Eventually, real life called and we had to fly home.  After a few travel snafus (Delta LOVES cancelling my flights), we finally were on a plane home to return to the real world.  And what was waiting for me?  A big ol’ race known as the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back.  Oh yes…after taking 5 weeks off from running to let my knee heal, I was about to put it to the test via a 30+ hour race.  How did it go?  Well, I will let you know tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sydney - Mega Photo Post!

Wow...it has been a whirlwind since getting back from Australia!  We barely had time to get settled into the work routine before having to drive up to Idaho to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday with my family.  It was a great time, but we are definitely ready for a day or two of relaxation!  Unfortunately, both Hubster and I have come down with a cold so we are down for the count.  I missed work yesterday, and he's missing work today.  Boo!  Also, I encountered some sort of bug that left me with no less than FIFTY bug bites that itch worse than mosquito bites.  I may go crazy.  It's almost like I have chicken pox even though I know that's impossible!

So...before life gets too overwhelming and I forget to post my pictures, I am going to do a few mega-photo posts from Australia!  Today's photos come from Sydney...beautiful, wonderful Sydney.  We loved this city!  Even though we spent nearly every day we were there working, we still managed to get out and see the sights.  If you ever have debated whether or not to go there, stop debating and get yourself some plane tickets.  It's worth it!  Hubster was even looking for jobs in the region because he loved it so much!  Too bad it's so dang expensive to live there.  Also, they drive on the left side of the road which was a bit difficult to adjust to being a Yank like I am.  Luckily, Hubster and I survived driving in Australia.

Without further ado, I present Sydney in photos:
Sydney 112
The opera house!
Sydney 156
The Sydney Harbour Bridge (we climbed to the top!)
Sydney 163
I had no idea the opera house had this texture...thought it was neat!
Sydney 228
I may have gotten a weird look or two...
Sydney 292
Biking around Manly
Sydney 306
Lookout Pointe at Manly
Sydney 308
Love the feeling of the sand between my toes!
Sydney 315
Joy!  (side note--it was freezing!)
Sydney 330
Manly Beach where one manly man braved the cold and wore a speedo in the ocean.
Sydney 332
He is not in this photo.
Sydney 364
I promised swimsuit pics...here is one.
Sydney 365
And another.  I see improvements from last time I was in a swimsuit!
Bridge Climb
Climbing the bridge with dorky hats!
Bridge Climb2
Awesome views during the easy climb
Bridge Climb3
Our outfits are sexy!
Sydney 002
Giant Lego man!!
Sydney 037
Sydney 044
I *may* have once thought I was Ariel
Sydney 106
I showed my dad this picture and told him I took it while we were snorkeling.  He believed me and freaked out.
Sydney 177
On top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon
Sydney 302
I love lizards!
Sydney 313
Grumpy  bird!
Sydney 696
So soft!
Sydney 499
Loooooved the kangaroos!
Sydney 477
Care for a cuddle?
Sydney 510
Feed me!!

Sydney 722
At the top of the Three Sisters Hike that kicked my butt (or more specifically my knee)
Sydney 743
Hundreds and hundreds of steep steep stairs...pictures don't do it justice!  IT band pain--commence!
Sydney 779
...but I kept going anyway!
Sydney 926
It was a beautiful hike!
Sydney 944
And I may or may not have ended the day with some kangaroo filet.  And I felt horribly guilty for it after spending the day playing with kangaroos.  But it was delicious.
Tomorrow's post will be on my trip up north to the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.  Yay!

Also, send good thoughts my way; this weekend is the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay and I have to run it because my team is out of alternates.  I'm sick and my knee is still frustrated.  It's going to be tough!!