“If you never try, you’ll never know.”
As I write this, I am currently soaring at 31,982 feet at 482mph, in a tube with hundreds of other people. However, just 24 hours ago I was a drown rat shivering my britches off while “camping” in a torrential downpour in Tampa, FL. That’s right, shivering in Tampa, FL! Shocked me too! You may wonder, why in the world was this mountain girl “camping” in FL. Well… let me tell you…
About 6 weeks ago, a dear friend, Miss Andrea Ager, sent me a text and asked me if I wanted to run in a Ragnar Relay with her and a bunch of other CrossFitters. With no idea what she was talking about, I naturally said, “Yes!”, bought a flight to Florida and then looked into what I just got myself into.
To put it simply, Ragnar Relays are ultra-distance races done in teams. This particular one included the first ever “CrossFit” specific division which we were so honored to be a part of.
The Way it Works:
We had 8 people who ran 100 miles cumulative… on trails. We designated an order for the team members to be positioned, then we relayed through that order while cycling between 3 different courses – green (easy), yellow (moderate) and red (difficult). By the end of the 100 miles, each person ran each course one time.
Thursday (travel day):
With 5 broken hours of sleep, I drove at 3am to the Sacramento airport for a 6am flight to Tampa to meet the rest of the team coming from all over the states (Utah, California, Oregon, Texas, New York, Tennessee and Florida). With the plan of camping that night, we changed our minds when the rains were already supposed to hit and instead crashed on the floors in Aaron Hanna’s (Florida team member) newly purchased (1 day ago) home. He and his wife hadn’t even moved a toothbrush in at that point. However, they generously brought in a shower curtain and towels and opened their doors for us. We “camped” in their new home before they did! Their generosity set the stage for how this team was going to work!
Friday (race day):
With another broken 5 hours of sleep, we started the day with a bomb breakfast at a place called “The Grind”, not knowing this would be our last real meal for a day and half, and then made our way an hour west of Tampa inland to a place called Alafia State Park. We pulled up, unpacked all our gear and were immediately drenched in sweat with the 80 degree and 1 million percent humidity. Camp was set up quickly and then we waited for a couple of hours until the race began.
3:30pm – Easy Course (5.6 miles of sand and sun beating down)
I was first out of the gates running the “easy” course with one goal in mind – to beat Dave Castro, Mr. CrossFit himself. The part of the story I haven’t mentioned yet is our team, Morning Chalk Up, was talking smack for weeks with Dave’s team who was filled with CrossFit legends and superstars (Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Camille LaBlanc Bazinet, Chyna Cho and more). So, it was important that I started our team on a confident foot by crossing that finish line before Dave. Naturally, adrenaline took over and I took off way too frickin’ fast despite my better knowledge. About mile 3 into the run, we hit a big sand pit and my legs felt like lead and all of a sudden I started feeling tingly and seeing stars. I was getting heat exhaustion. Living in a cooler, dryer climate, the humidity knocks me on my ass and I knew that. To make a really long story short, as I winded around the single track trail, I kept looking back to see if I could see that black t-shirt approaching me. I’d see him, but never would let him catch me and ended up crossing that night a minute or so ahead of Dave.
The next thing to do… wait for 6 hours or so while the other 7 legs ran their runs. This is where the bonding began. Between chillin in tents, trying to find food (unsuccessfully) and catching up with old friends and getting know new ones… we laughed our faces off and had a really good time.
9:45pm: Difficult Course (6 miles of ups and downs and all around in a swamp!)
Headlamp on and ready to go, I waited in the gates for Travis Williams (our 8th runner) to come through the finish line and hand over the baton (a waist belt with a chipped bib number). I’d talked to a couple of our runners who had already hit this course and knew that there were some good hills coming so I made sure to contain myself and keep my pace around an 8-minute mile out of the gates. That proved to be effective as I felt so good during the whole run.
I love running at night with a head lamp… it makes you feel like you’re in a video game as all you see is a few steps in front of you and then just black! Spending absolutely no time in Florida, the one fear I had about this whole experience was an encounter with an alligator (serious fear – not kidding!). Aaron calmed my mind before and said, “they are way more scared of you than you are of them.” Just like I tell anyone I go into the mountains with about bears and mountain lions. So, I believed him and even had the guts to look into the swamps as I was running around them and saw beady, blowing eyes staring up out at me in the water. WHOA BUDDY! That gets your adrenaline going. Then you hear the rustling of natures nocturnal creatures around you… if you’re not careful your mind will go to a dangerous place. So just keep your eye on the prize and use that adrenaline in a smart way.
As I crossed the finish line there was chaos. Aaron, runner #2, was there for the handoff, but instead there was a volunteer who was handing out cards for us to write our finish time on the card. 10:34pm. A 1-hour delay had been instated due to the lighten storms. About 10-15 minutes later, the skies opened up and, oh man! It rained… and rained… and rained. Aaron and I nestled under the canopy while most of the other team members slept. He was supposed to run at 11:34, but that again go postponed another 3 hours. So, we laid in the tents (some people slept) and I just watched the fireworks show as the tent lit up from the lightning.
Saturday (race day continued):
At 2:34, Aaron took off for his 2nd run and we were back at it. I tried to sleep, unsuccessfully for the most part. I dozed for about 30 minutes or so and then was awoken by Justin running through camp screaming “Angelo” looking for our next runner after him. He’d crossed the finish line with no one to hand off to. Angelo was in the medic tent getting his ankle taped. They got it figured out and I was awake again… for good.
8:30am: Moderate Course (4.6 miles of jungle):
Feeling pretty much like I’d been hit by a truck – no sleep, little food (except a bunch of snacks I don’t typically eat), and tired legs the last thing I wanted to do was go run again. But, once I started it was so fun. This course was literally in a jungle. Now that it was daylight again, I saw I was in a lush green forest with trees I’d never seen before. Sand covering the ground. Sounds of animals I’d never heard before and truly a fun run! I was able to open my legs a bit on this one and get a decent pace going.
As I crossed that finish line, I was so glad to be done running, but the experience was far from over. We still had 6-ish hours of running for the rest of the team. One by one they accomplished their task and in the end, we all made a tunnel for Travis to run under and followed him in as he ran across the finish line. Hootin’ and hollerin’ like we were 12 year olds, the weekend was a success.
No, we did not beat Dave’s team. They got 1st in the CrossFit division and we got 2nd. We had NO IDEA what place we were in the entire race, how far ahead they were and honestly it wasn’t even a concern of mine the whole race. I realized during this run that my competitive drive is still there somewhere, but it doesn’t run me like it used to. I will write more about this in a future post (maybe even next week), but before this run I figured out I hadn’t competed in anything for 3.5 years. Not since regionals in 2014, and I am totally okay with that. The place I am in mentally is exactly where I want to be. I still got to push myself and compete against myself, but the over-arching feeling of needing to “be on top” isn’t there anymore.
Why Do It:
Well, mostly because it was a totally rad experience – on all levels. You are tested physically with the course. You are tested mentally and emotionally with the circumstances (dark, cold, sleep-deprived). But on the top of the list is that you get to meet new people from all over the world, from all different walks of life, with different reasons for being there, but all chasing after the same physical goal. You get the chance to bond with 7 other individuals in a way that otherwise would not. You make lasting memories and learn lessons to take with you and share with others.
And that is what the goals of this post was. To share with you all an unforgettable experience that I had and to encourage you to just say “Yes” to something you know nothing about for the pure reason of growing as an individual and trying something new. You may just surprise yourself and enjoy the hell out of it!
Exercise of the Week
Turkish Get Up
Recipe of the Week
Easy Egg Scramble
Healthy breakfast doesn’t have to take forever to make. This is soooo simple and my go to breakfast most days of the week!
- 1 cup kale salad mix
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2-3 eggs
- goat cheese (optional)
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat
- Saute veggies
- Scramble in eggs and cook until no longer runny
- Season to taste
- Top with goat cheese and verde salsa (or salsa of choice)