Monday, April 02, 2007

Race Report: Ragnar Relay Del Sol

Tucson Tri Girls On The Run
Van 1 photos by Rhonda Berdinner, Van 2 photos by Elaine Seasly

Who wouldn't want to run 189 miles from Wickenburg to Scottsdale, AZ on a team of 12 people? Sign me up! Actually, Holly had graciously participated on our 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo mountain bike team, so I decided to sign up to be on her Ragnar relay team. If it involves 24 hours of some sort of athletic event, I'm in. Besides, I had never done anything like this before, so it was bound to be fun. Holly was leading up the teams, so I knew we were in good hands.

Thursday evening Holly rolled by my house and dropped off Van 2. She had everything ready in a nice purple bin. We had maps, the race bible, and I was given a bus route and timetable for picking up the other Van 2 members. Van 1 was rolling out early Friday morning, and those of us on Van 2 were rolling out mid-morning. We were all given cute goodie bags from Holly which were totally awesome! Each bag had some race treats, salty snacks, and a super cool purple hoodie with the TTG logo and all of our names on the back. It came in handy that weekend.

I loaded up the van with coolers and decorated the outside with fun sayings and lots of "Tucson Tri Girl" stuff. I spent the rest of the evening getting everything that I would need for the next 36 hours ready. It was an insane amount to pack! I decided to taper my sleep in preparation of the event and only got 6 hours of sleep last night. It was unintentional, but "taper" sounds like a good excuse.

The next morning I left my house at 8AM sharp to start on my bus route. I picked up Alison, Janice, and Allison who were all within a 3 mile radius from my house. We then picked up Lisa Abramson and set out. Shari was planning on meeting us at Exhange Point 5. Our team was well prepared with a ton of food and something like 80 gallons of water. Everyone only brought 1 bag of clothing. You could see where the priorities were.

We got to Lake Pleasant and picked up Shari. We then proceeded to Exchange 4 and met up with our Van 1 peeps, who had been racing since 11AM. Everything seemed to be going smooth. We exchanged Alison for Holly and backtracked to Exchange 6 where our vans would meet up again for the hand off.

Van 1 team at the start.

Holly handing off to Polly.

Exchange 6 was at Lake Pleasant, and we had a little bit of time to hang out and take in the sights before it was our van's turn. Alison came into sight and handed off to Holly, so it was now "Game On!" for Van 2. We drove up ahead a little and waited for Holly at the top of a hill and when she passed by we cheered and drove to the next cheer spot. We then drove to Exchange 7 where I got ready for my first leg of the race.

Alison coming into view at the Lake Pleasant exchange.

Alison glad to be done and Holly rocketing out of the exchange chute.

Van 1 team, all done with their first legs of the race.

Van 1

Van 2

Van 2

Van 2

My first leg was only 4.0 miles, but it started straight up hill! Ugh! I chugged my way up the hill and waved as Van 2 rolled by, tooting the horn. I ran along Hwy 74, which had a ton of busy traffic and trucks. At one point a huge truck passed by and blew my TTG hat off, so I had to run back to retrieve it. I couldn't be without my TTG hat! I saw Van 2 up ahead and heard the cheering and waved. I yelled to Shari "I wanna get back in the van!" Driving the van was way more fun than running at this point.

I turned onto New River and the wind was now a cross wind for me. It was a little more pleasant as the sun was beating down. As I ran I saw a structure to my left with a lot of razor wire and wondered if this was some sort of prison. It turned out to be the water treatment facility. After the gates there was a huge river of water running across the road. I watched the runners in front of me and saw how wide the river was. Well, there was no getting around it, my feet were going to get wet. Thankfully when I hit the water the cars that were passing slowed down so I didn't get drenched. But 2 steps into the water I felt my running shoes swell up and start to squish. Crap! This was the only pair of running shoes I brought! The weather was bone dry and here I am with wet shoes on my FIRST leg of the race! I got across the water and squished down the road. Finally I saw the exchange point in sight and waved to Lisa and the other TTGs waiting up ahead. I snapped the bracelet onto Lisa and was done with my first leg, and at a much faster pace than I was expecting!

Lisa was off in her little running shorts and sports bra to work on her tan as well as complete her leg. Once I got to the van I stripped my shoes off and poured the water out. I needed to start drying the shoes, so I tied my bandana around them and hung them on the passenger's side mirror to force air through them as we drove.

A desparate attempt to dry shoes.

We drove up ahead a few miles to our cheer spot and stopped to wait for Lisa. I opened up the van doors and changed on the side of the road to get out of my nasty clothes and into clean clothes. It wasn't much of a changing tent, but it worked. Lisa ran by, so we drove up ahead and got Shari ready for her leg of the race. Shari's leg actually went under I-17, and also had some hills. But she completed it in an awesome time and Janice was up next. The sun was setting, so Janice donned her running vest and lights. Shari rode the bike next to her to pace her, and eventually take over the Camelbak of TP that was weighing Janice down. Janice pounded out her lap and handed off to Allison (with 2 L's). Her first lap was crazy, with a ton of turns through the residential streets. We caught up to her in the van and yelled "right turn" at just the right moment, and she and another guy turned down the correct street. We wound our way through the streets, with some of them being VERY busy.

We continued on through our team rotation of runners and drivers. My first night lap was one that I had taken over as an extra lap, and I quickly realized that was a mistake. The hills were insane! I'm a slow enough runner as it is, but throw in darkness and hills and I felt even slower. Thankfully Kathy came along on the bike and paced next to me, and that saved me! We climed and decended a ton of hills. It felt like I was running the loop at Saguaro East, but with houses close by. The houses were very posh, but I tried to focus on the road. Both TTG vans kept an eye on me as I climbed and climbed. Finally I got onto a straight stretch of road and it was flat for the last 2 miles or so. I got to the transition and handed off to another Van 1 member (I can't even remember who). I got back to Van 2 and everyone mentioned the killer hills. Allison offered to take over my next lap, which was a 3 miler so that I could get some rest, and I was SO grateful!

Sunset on the Ragnar Relay.

Janice ready for her night lap with Lisa and Holly (sporting the fabulous TTG Ragnar hoodies).

At least there was some moonlight for the night laps.

Janice is glowing!

Shari handing off to Janice for the beginning of the night laps.

We rolled in to one of the major exchanges in a dirt parking lot of some sort of Trail Dust Town thing. Very bizarre. What was even more strange was that a ton of people were in sleeping bags on the ground next to the vans. So it looked like a war zone with bodies in bags everywhere. At least that's what I remember at 1AM. We rolled in and settled for a bit of rest. Word got to our team that teams weren't allowed out on the course at that exchange until 3AM...something with Tonto National Forest. I stretched out on a bench in the back of the van, while Allison and Lisa opted for the body bags next to the van. I got a whole 2 hrs of actual sleep before getting up again. Our Van 1 team came in right after 3AM, so we were back out on the course and hadn't lost any time.

More driving, more running at night. It's all a blur. We tried to find food but the only places open were gas stations and bars. We had tried to go to Subway eariler that evening but got there a few seconds after the 9PM closing time. ARRGGHH! So we ate what we had on board, which was fine, just not hot. We got to Exchange 26, which was a middle school campus. The sun was starting to come up, so we parked the van and waited for Allison to arrive. While waiting we hit the bathrooms that had real flush toilets, and the pancake breakfast. The bathroom was a madhouse. Tons of women washing and primping in front of the mirrors. Is this a race or are we getting ready for prom? As TTGs we decided showers were for wussies and were going to stew in our stench all weekend.

As the sun came up my clock re-set itself and I slowly came out of the stupor I was in. The 24 hr mountain bike race had reminded me of this feeling, so I knew everything was good from here on out. Van 1 arrived, and shortly after that Allison arrived and handed off to Van 1. She got a bit of breakfast and we headed out on the road.

The next major Exchange was 30 at the Pebble Beach picnic area of the salt river. We figured we only had a little bit of time before the team would arrive, so we set up camp. "Camp" in our case consisted of Allison and Lisa pulling out their sleeping bags by the picnic table, me in my camp chair, and the other gals on the benches in the van. We dozed for a little bit, but no one actually fell asleep for a long time. I checked status with Holly and she said Van 1 runners got into some nasty hills and were another estimated hour and a half away. That meant more rest time for us.

My camp chair was set up to face the salt river, and I enjoyed just sitting in the sun and listening to the water. The race crew set up a portable shower by the bathrooms, and a change tent. None of us TTGs even bothered. The funny thing was, I saw a ton of guys using the shower and saying how much they needed it. Wussies.

Holly was up next, so we parked the van and waited for Alison (with 1 L) to arrive. We took a quick team pic while waiting with 10 of our team members. We also watched a guy stretching by the road and noticed he almost looked naked. From here on out he was referred to as "Naked Guy" and Naked Guy got a ton of cheering from our van. Hey, we were punchy and low on sleep at this point.

Most of the members of our Tucson Tri Girls team. We're sporting TTG tattoos!

Naked Guy getting ready.

Alison and Holly.

Van 1 was officially finished with all of their legs, so they headed back to Tucson. Just a few more legs of running were left and we were done! We set off and headed up the road, sharing the road with the El Tour de Phoenix crowd. So we got to cheer for cyclists as well. I noticed that cyclists responded more to cheering than the runners did. Or maybe the runners were so tired they couldn't respond.

Another funny thing was that I ran into a friend of mine on the route. I looked out the van windown and noticed one of the cyclists in the bike race looked familiar. I yelled to him and it turned out to be Luis from work. How funny that we'd be doing two different races and we'd run into each other on the course.

We continued on our way, and I was finally up for my last leg of the race. It was a 6.2 mile leg that went along Usery Pass down to McDowell. Holly came into view, and before I knew it the bracelet was on my wrist and I was off, starting my final leg. Compared to the night lap, this leg was much better. I spent my time watching the cyclists go by. I took in the scenery around me and it was all pretty familiar as we had ridden mountain bikes on the trails out there before. Soon I saw the TTG van, and the team was there on the side of the road. Shari had a water bottle for me and I grabbed it and dumped it on my head. It felt so good! It was hot at this point. I turned and ran down the stretch of McDowell road, and a few miles later came across a lady with a squirt gun who gladly hosed me down. The stretch on McDowell seemed to take forever. I did, however, pass 2 other racers. They had been walking in spots but that didn't matter...I still passed them, which NEVER happens for me in a running race.

Finally the exchange area came into view and I pushed as hard as I could for the final little bit. I slapped the bracelet onto Lisa and I was officially done! But there was no time to dilly dally as it was back in the van to continue on. The day got warmer and warmer as we sent our runners out, but everyone kept their spirits up as we all knew this was the end of the race.

Mini ponies on the course.

Allison was our final runner of the day, so we sent her on her way and headed to the finish line. The parking lot was a zoo, but we got a spot and booked to the finish line. Just a few minutes later they called out that our runner was just a short distance away. Allison came into view, so we took our positions and met up with her right before the finish, and ran across the line together as a team. It was so awesome! We got a quick picture taken and then it was off to find food. Food tasted so good after living off of van food for 36 hours!

TTG team at the finish!

Everything worked out well for our team during this event. Everyone pulled together as a team, and there was no arguing or issues or injuries or anything. If someone needed something, we worked to get it. It was amazing. We were all out there to have fun, and that was the perfect attitude to have for an event like this. This weekend made for some good memories, jokes, sayings, and tales. It was a pleasure to be on a team with such awesome ladies. Big thanks to Holly for finding out about Ragnar, organizing the team several times over, getting race day stuff in order, and being an awesome team captain! I have a feeling the Tri Girls will make another appearance at this race in the future! :)

Tucson Tri Girls On The Run: Holly Justice, Lindsay Barker, Polly O'Rourke, Rhonda Berdinner, Alison Medina, Shari Howard, Janice Atchison, Allison Showers-Chulp, Lisa Abramson, Kathy Cunningham, Elaine Seasly

Until the next crazy event... ;)


At 10:45 PM , Anonymous Holly said...

Awesome race report!! Thanks for being my co-pilot for this one, TGO X 2!!

And you're going to rock Ironman, I can't wait to see you at the massage tent :)

At 6:25 AM , Blogger IMAZPirateGirl said...

I can't wait to see you and Kyle out there. I hope we see each other on the course. Save a bench for me in that massage tent! :)


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