Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ragnar: The First Run

Friday, 2:30pm - leg #5

Everything is ready. Everyone is accounted for. We have all our gear. Our second van is en route. Now all that's left for me to do is tie on my shoes and go for my own run. This is the fun part. This is the easy part. It's time to do what I do best: run!!

Runner #4 cruises into the exchange (in a church parking lot) with his Vibrams slapping the sidewalk. It's a little warm: 75 degrees or so. But the street is tree-lined and there is a nice breeze. The crowd is amazing. I know I start out a little too fast. But with 6.2 miles ahead of me, I have plenty of time to slow down. I turn a corner into a subdivision where the homeowners have chalked encouragement along the street. This is amazing. This is the run I've needed.

Mile 1 is over in 10:16. Crap. Too fast. Gotta slow down.
Mile 2 is over in 10:29. Still too fast.

And then a right turn out of suburbia, and into a field. It's a cow field. And it's up hill. Now there are no trees. Heat comes in waves off of the blacktop. Up a hill. Down a hill. Up another hill. I get passed by a runner. "Good job, runner!" And another. And another.

[In Ragnar, passing a runner is called a 'kill'. The more kills a team has, the more it is winning.]

Mile 3 finishes in 10:49. I can't keep up this pace.
Mile 4 ends after 11:32. I stop to walk. I can't do this. I think there are 2.2 miles to go. But it's too hot. I can't walk 2.2. I need to get to my team. I haven't seen another runner in a while. I can't do this. There is supposed to be a water station coming up... I try to walk briskly to the station....

Mile 5 is mercifully over in 12:25. There was no water station. My team senses that something is wrong and looks for me in the van. Amy throws a bottle of water out the window and asks if I'm ok. Sure. Yes. I'm fine. It's just hot. I'm ok. Keep going. I'll see you at the exchange.

Mile 6 is over in 12:26. I am walking and sobbing at the same time. Stephan, with his sixth sense for my misery, left the exchange early and headed in my direction. He met me about a mile away from the exchange [runners hand-off at little corrals that are supervised by volunteers]. No one else knew he left early. The volunteers didn't notice. He looked at me and knew something was wrong. I peeled off the slap-bracelet that was our baton, pushed it into his chest and said, simply, "Run." He wanted to walk me back to the van to make sure I was ok. I felt like I'd wasted enough of the team's time. He could make up the difference if he left NOW and ran hard.

I thought the run was a 6.2 so I had set my Nike+ to finish after the 10k. I was wrong. The actual distance was 6.87. A person can do a lot of crying and wallowing in 0.67 of a mile. I finished the leg in 1 hour and 20 minutes- 15 minutes slower than expected. My team was confused when they saw me sobbing and trudging in by myself. I told them I sent Stephan ahead and we needed to leave right away.

Someone offered their arm in support but I didn't take it. I was silent for a long time. My silence seemed to weigh down the whole van. My mind was reeling. I had failed. I let down my team. I hadn't trained properly- or at all- for the hills, or the heat, or the actual distance. I sent the following email to a friend:

"I'm crying in the back of the van. I just finished my first run, 6.5 miles. I bonked, crashed, had to walk a lot because of the heat. Stephan was worried about me and started running early to find me. This is a terrible feeling. My pace was like 11:30 when it was supposed to be 10:30. It can only get better from here on, right??!?!"

Total miles: 6.87
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Average pace: 11:44 per mile


Ali K. said...

Ah, I'm sorry the first leg was so rough! The heat always gets me too.

Annie Crow said...

Oh, did it, did it? You have us on tenderhooks now.