It’s been a long time!

I’m not posting right now to say I’ll post more…or to catch up on all the races that have come and gone (there have been many!)…or even tell you about the 1,000 shoes I have tried and tossed or recycled into walking shoes. Instead this will be be a report of one race…overdue and yet posted anyways because it’s easily one of my favorites. Here goes:

RAGNAR Great River 2013 MNRW Style
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I woke up at a somewhat reasonable hour and hopped in the shower. I had to make sure my hair was clean for the annual “Ragnar braiding.” This year one of my teammates, Lori, was going to come over and braid me up versus my hubby who had done it last year. I always do Ragnar in braids to avoid ending the race in stinky dreadlocks. 

After said shower I got to packing. Packing for Ragnar is interesting as you’re crammed in a small van with 5 other people for a couple days running multiple times with no showers (or sleep). I gathered some gallon size zip-lock bags and put race outfit #1 (spandex/sports bra/socks) inside the first (prediction– hot run). Race outfit #2 went into the next bag- (capri tights/short sleeve tech/socks) (night run- cool weather). Race outfit #3 went into bag 3 (Nike running skirt/sports bra/socks) (prediction- hot run). I loaded a headlamp, tail light, and vest into another bag for the safety check and set it aside. Next up was a bag for body glide, garmin watch, sunglasses, sunblock and spare safety pins. A tank and shorts for the hotel night were put at the top of my duffel and a towel, soap and clean bra, running skirt, socks and MNRW tank for the finishing shower all were placed at the bottom of my duffel bag. In the side of my duffel I put some babywipes and febreeze spray along with the medication I take for my epilepsy and a few bottles of water.  For food I stuffed into a small drawstring bag some bagel thins, peanut butter, bananas, animal crackers, plastic knives and paper towels. I grabbed my running shoes and put them on top of my bag…ALL SET. Or pretty sure anyways.

Lori showed up right on time to get the hair braiding done and set about the business of figuring out my ‘interesting’ pile of curls. She expertly got the job done in some medusa style itty bitty braids and then Selina, another team member showed up with Betty Blue, the van we would become intimate with over the next couple days…

Betty Blue needed to be tricked out for Ragnar so Selina, Lori and I set about to make her “Ragnar Ready- MNRW Style” with a good scrubbing and marking up. Lori was dubbed our resident artist and got to work adding the Minnesota Running Wild symbol to Betty Blues butt while Selina and I were dubbed the cleaning ladies and gently caressed Betty’s insides with towels. After we deemed her clean enough, I added our names to the windows in anticipation of “Kill” Marks (what you get when you pass another runner during a Ragnar leg) and we added the MNRW magnet to the passenger door. It was time then to load up our luggage and make a trip to Trader Joes for some last minute food stuffs that Selina wanted.

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The Trader Joes trip was short and sweet with some back and forth in regards to natural peanut butter versus the much yummier Skippy variety (just saying) and then we were off to captain Michael’s house to begin the journey southwards with the rest of our team.

Captain Michael was ready and waiting with the trailer that would soon be known as “the van has a trailer” (really a cargo carrier but seriously…semantics). This was promptly hooked up via hitch and loaded with a cooler and big tupper style bin for excess cargo. Michael had a MNRW magnet also and that was slapped onto the other side of Betty Blue making her even more stylish.

Tony, teammate #5 and also runner #5 showed up soon after and introductions were made. Tony was added to the team a little later due to a drop off and didn’t know most of the other members when he joined on. He also didn’t know what he was getting himself into!

At Michael’s it was a lot of hurry up and wait as we sat around, shuffled luggage, conversated, and well, waited. We were waiting for our 6th teammate Rebecca to arrive so we could roll out. Everyone was getting antsy, and hungry. We had quite a drive to get to our hotel in La Crosse and we were ready to get this party started!

Finally at quarter to 7, Rebecca rolled in and we loaded her stuff and got on the road, heading south on our journey to run Ragnar. The issue of dinner came up about an hour into the drive and much googling began. Should we wait until we made it to La Crosse? Should we stop on the way? What should we eat? WHERE SHOULD WE EAT? I’M HUNGRY NOW. It was decided to stop in Rochester at a pizza place that sounded kind of good…Pi Wood-Fired Pizza right off 52.

We pulled off into the pizza place and Tony spotted a Chipotle nearby and announced his intentions to head over there. Rebecca and Lori followed while Selina, Michael and I headed into the Pi Pizza joint. The menu overwhelmed us for a bit. We stared, gawked, drooled, and jabbered about how awesome and delicious the weird pizza’s sounded. Then we all ordered the most normal pizza on the menu and walked to a table. The wait time wasn’t 90 seconds as advertised, but I figure they were a bit overwhelmed with all the Ragnar folk in the place…it was pretty busy when we were there. We did get our pizza’s in a reasonable time and they were good. I was hungry and ate the whole thing. Our Chipotle loving vanmates brought their burrito bowls in and ate along side us, musing about how they didn’t know they could do that.  The raunchy conversations of course started while eating, because, why wouldn’t they? What is Ragnar without a bit of vulgar talk? No one looked shocked so all was well.

We hit the hotel fairly late. I don’t remember the time. I was tired. There was a mild freak-out at the counter  as we were told we only had one room and there should have been two reserved. Ouch…a lot of floor sleeping in store? It turns out one of the rooms was under Selina’s name so all was well. Rebecca, Lori and Selina headed to one room and Michael, Tony and I headed to the other to try and get some sleep before the big race started.

Michael and Tony seemed to sleep well. The room smelled like fart. I didn’t sleep so well but that’s not unusual in a hotel room. I hate the beds. I was up looking at the clock ever 15 minutes or so and had to pee twice. I also got to listen to Michael pee at about 2 in the morning and Tony roll over on the floor a few times. Other than that, they didn’t really move. I figured you’d like the information.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Michael, Tony and I went down to breakfast pretty early and grubbed on the decent spread the hotel had out. We were packed up and ready to head to the start line in Winona so just sat and enjoyed breakfast in the lobby area. Selina, Lori and Rebecca wandered down a bit later but within the time that had been set up for us to get to the start line on time. Everyone seemed pretty excited and ready to get running.

We re-packed Betty Blue and hit the road for Levee Park, the location of the start line. At Levee Park we had to check in and show our safety gear (headlights, taillights, reflective vest) and then do a safety briefing before our 1st runner could hit the line and take off. The air at Levee Park was thick with excitement and the weather was reasonably cool and sunny. You could tell that heat was right around the corner as the suns rays were already warming things up…this was at 8ish a.m. Our runner 1, Michael was due to leave on Leg 1 at 8:30am.

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Me at the start line of Ragnar Great River, before Michael took off on his first leg.

Michael did his business in the porta john, had a chug of water or two, and then hit the starting line ready to go. Leg 1 of Ragnar Great River is 7.7 miles and rated ‘Hard’. I’d say Michael looks reasonably calm here right?

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At 8:30a.m. he was off! Running that is. Ragnar had started for our team and we were officially headed back to Minneapolis, from Winona… running. Go Minnesota Running Wild! We cheered Michael out the gate and he looked super fly and he ran into the distance.

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The five of us left behind then hopped into Betty Blue each calling out “the van has a trailer” to the driver as a reminder not to back into/run into anything, studied the map and began the trek to leapfrog Michael while he was running his leg of the race. While driving past the other Ragnar runners, we honked and cowbelled and then we saw our runner and we yelled as loud as we could- laying on the horn, because, well- He’s OURS and um, GO MICHAEL! Still looking super fly. We found a pullover about a mile and a half of where we had spotted him and hopped out to watch and cheer.

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After Michael passed us, we hopped back in Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER!” and headed to exchange 1 to get Selina ready to go. Exchange 1 was located in Fountain City, WI near a liquor store. We attempted to get to each exchange with enough time for the next runner to use the porta potty if needed and catch the zen. Selina was like a fire rocket when she ran, I don’t know if there was zen in her. She LOOKED all low-key and then took off as if there were fiery ants biting the bottoms of her feet- RUN SELINA RUN!

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Exchange 1- Michael’s stopping his clock and Selina’s starting hers

Selina took off on Leg 2 which was 6.2 miles and marked as “hard” at lightening speed. She held that speed. In most pictures of her, she’s hovering about a foot off the ground, I’m unsure if she TOUCHED the ground. I think we should check her for magnets…or a hovercraft. Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” leapfrogged and was able to pull over to snag a shot of this flying lady.

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Lori was next to the exchange as our runner #3. She was another “I’ve got fireants in my shoes” runner and sandbagged her time on the Ragnar site, running much faster than she claimed she would. The sun, of course, was warming things up slowly but surely. Exchange 2 was located in Fountain City, WI at the highschool. We got Lori there to take care of her business and shake out any jitters (obtain zen). She looked calm and fearless waiting for Selina to make the handoff and then there it was….Lori was off and running like a rockstar. The camera had a hard time even catching the action it was so fast.

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Lori took off on Leg 3 which was 5.3 miles and rated “moderate” and knocked it out in no time under a quickly warming sun. She made it look easy and smiled way too much as if she was having fun! The leapfrog of Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” was able to snag a photo when we pulled over in an unknown town

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We cruised Rebecca, our runner #4,  to exchange 3 to get her ready to run. Exchange 3 was located in Buffalo City, WI across the street from a park. We got her there in time to use the porta john and relax at the exchange until Lori cruised in with the slap stick as her cue to head out on her journey ala Ragnar.

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Leg 4 is 6.6 miles and rated “hard”. After the handoff we piled into Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” to leapfrog Rebecca and find a pull off to cheer. We couldn’t cheer on Highway 35 but found an area to park soon after. The camera managed to snag a shot of Rebecca cruising along at that point.

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We cruised our runner 5, Tony to exchange 4, located in an odd location on Highway 35/Old Highway 35. By now it was pretty hot as it got later in the day. Tony seemed ready to go and very zen. He was wearing his five fingers versus his sandals to run with to avoid potential issues (such as a strap busting).

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Leg 5 was 7.8 miles and rated “Very Hard”. Tony took off with a shirt on, even though it was pretty hot at this point. We all questioned this, but he insisted and said he would pull it and carry it. I figured he knew what he was doing and had actually seen this oddness with him at the Mpls Marathon Relay–Note to Tony: you didn’t warn me there and I had a hard time recognizing you at the handoff!  Tony is a fast runner, period. I wasn’t worried about him knocking out his first leg. Sure enough when Betty Blue passed him, he was zooming along as if this was a piece of cake.

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So now we’re heading on my turn as runner 6. And it’s getting hot out. I know I don’t do well in heat so I’m feeling a little bummed at the heat but I’m excited to run. I have in my head “knock this out”. Betty Blue “WE HAVE A TRAILER” cruises me to exchange 5 which is located at Alma-Tell, WI and I go pee, twice. Because that’s what I do when I’m a little nervous. I take a drink of water and then get to the exchange area and wait for Tony. And I’m off.

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Leg 6 is 7.6 miles and rated “Very Hard”. I start out at what I think is a comfortable pace noting that I’m going uphill right off the bat. When I check my watch I’m moving at at 8:20 pace. Uh oh. Heat and hills are usually my demise. I should be moving closer to a 9:45 or I’m dead in the water. I’ve tested this through the summer heat and I KNOW what works and what doesn’t. The miles tick by and I’m sweating profusely fluctuating the pace between 8:30 and 9:05. I throw up twice at the top of hill climbs, but that’s not entirely unusual and I can easily keep running. There is no shade. All I want is shade…and to be done. Mile 5 suddenly the sweat just stops. Huh. My team pulls over and hands me water, even though there is no support. I have an awesome team. Tony pours some water out of a jug over my head and I feel so so much better. Ugh, then that sun again. I just want some shade! I keep running. The sweat never comes back and I get cold and nauseated. I know this is bad. I start run walking instead of running. I’m bummed. I’m tired. I’m almost done and I think about running…it pops into my head “You could run this and just be done” but I do a mental slap. Really, Ragnar isn’t worth dying over. No race is. No run is. Who is going to care if I run/walk a couple miles? Suddenly Lori appears beside me. She finishes off the last mile and a half with me. Between the van leapfrogging and Lori next to me, I was 100% safe and realize I had the best team I could have. Not my best run, but for a kinda gross run, it wasn’t the worst experience.  Here’s some pictures.

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Handoff! FINALLY!

Finally, done- it was time to exchange with the next van- Van 2 so they could run Legs 7-12 while our van had some lunch and rested before resumed running. I handed off the sweaty slapstick and took a rest in the shade before our van headed to Slippery’s in Wabasha for lunch.

Rebecca and I stayed in the van while the other four ate at Slippery’s. I attempted to eat some PB and Banana bagel and drink some water for a refuel and took a babywipe bath before changing clothes. Mmmm, I smelled delish. Soon I had to go into the bathroom and throw up everything I had just eaten. My stomach was totally sour from that run. Bleh.

After everyone was done with their chow, Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” headed to the exchange in Stockholm, WI. This was a major exchange and was located in a park that had what were considered amenities. Lots of porta potties, an area to camp (roll out a sleeping bag and rest/doze/sleep), food/coffee for sale, and many many teams hanging out. We had time to kill and Tony headed for the lake thinking he could take a dip. Apparently the water was nasty and he came back skeeved out. Selina, Lori, and I grabbed blankets, matts, pillows, etc and headed for a shaded grassy area to sprawl out and try to get some rest. While I lasted approximately 5 minutes (my tummy hurt OK?) These two seemed to do fine:

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It wasn’t long before Michael got the text that Van 2 was closing in. Night hours at Ragnar started at 7:30pm and ended at 7:30am. During night hours you have to don a reflective vest, taillight and a headlamp. No exceptions. All our coming runs were going to hit the night hours so you’ll see here that that there will be no pictures for the next 6 legs, barring Michaels start. Night pictures are notorious for just sucking so I didn’t bother. Maybe I should have tried, I don’t know. I was using a phone camera so sue me.  Besides that, I was tired and everytime I tried to take a drink of water…or anything at all, I threw up. I had given up on the whole drinking thing. This meant I also missed my seizure medication, but I kept that to myself in order not to make the van nervous!

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Selina in her awesome vest, definitely the best one out there.

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Michael seemed rearing to go for his next run. Leg 13 was 6.3 miles and rated “Very Hard”. Michael had some nice rollers coming up but he seemed calm as a cucumber and ready to rock and roll.

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Michael took off on Leg 13 just as dusk was setting in and we hopped into Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER!” to leapfrog his run. We managed to get lost pretty quickly attempting this for some reason. The map directions were confusing, or we were all really tired. Regardless, we were starting to question whether we would make the exchange zone before Michael! We did indeed find the way and got Selina to exchange 13 in time to use the porta john, though maybe not in time to get her zen on (remember she doesn’t really need the zen…it’s just IN her). Exchange 13 was located in Maiden Rock, WI and Selina scurried to the exchange zone where she awaited the volunteers yelling out “184” our team number.

Michael shot into the exchange and slapped the slap stick onto Selina’s wrist and she was off shooting into the night with her headlight lit and taillight blinking and funny vest flapping in the wind. Selina’s run, Leg 14 was 5.1 miles and rated “Very Hard”. She had some rollers in the beginning and then an insane climb at the end. Her run had an elevation gain of 747 feet. Very Hard indeed. As Betty Blue drove this, the team marveled at the length of the climb Selina was about to embark on (all of us secretly glad it wasn’t us). Go Selina Go! Well, she knocked it out in no time. It was lucky that we zoomed to Exchange 14 quickly with Lori!

Exchange 14 was located in at Brownseed Genetics outside Bay City, WI and Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” got Lori safely to this exchange zone after climbing the SELINA hill. Lori was ready to rock and roll and had her quick feet on. I think I saw smoke shoot out of the back of her heels as she took of into the night after the hand off. Lori’s leg 15 was 3.4 miles and rated “easy.” If you love downhills, this was an awesome run. If you don’t, or they’re rough on your knees then this would be not so much fun. Lori had a small rolling start and then a steep drop to the finish with a net loss of nearly 500 feet. Insanity! Luckily the right person was slotted for the run and she knocked it right out with a blazing fast time, using the downhill to her advantage like a rockstar- Betty Blue had to race LORI to the exchange zone.

Exchange 15 was also located in Bay City, WI and we rushed Rebecca to this exchange in order to have her ready for Lori’s arrival. She flew into and out of the porta potty as if she was super girl and then hit the exchange waiting for the yell of “184” and then was off into the night with the headlight blazing. Leg 16 was 3.5 and rated “Hard”. Rebecca had an initial spiky climb of about 200 feet and then a nice flat run after that. In the dark, I wonder if she thought the whole thing was going to be like that first big hill?  Ah, anticipation! Rebecca had a good run and Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” saw her on the drive by as we hauled Tony to the exchange zone. Tony was getting sleepy and I think it was dawning on him what he had gotten into as he dozed on and off on the ride.

Exchange 16 was located in Hager City, WI and Tony was (I think) ready to go. If he wasn’t, he didn’t let on. The headlight he had purchased was thrown in the garbage and he was donning a borrowed one (Note: don’t buy a $3 headlight off Amazon- they break). Leg 17 was 6.0 miles and rated “Very Hard” it rolled upwards the entire time. Sorry Tony. See you at the exchange. As Betty Blue “THE VAN HAS A TRAILER” rolled out we saw what Tony had to battle through…not only was it going to be an uphill battle, it was a dusty gravel run with the vans kicking up the gravel into the runners faces. OUCH. Betty Blue saw Tony on the drive by but couldn’t honk due to the night hours (Hey Tony- we were cheering you on- really really loudly!)

And then there was me, heading to Exchange 17. Exchange 17 was located at Lingren Elementary outside of Hager City, WI. We got to the exchange with time for me to use the porta john. When I tried to go, there really wasn’t much to go. I felt fine, except, for a sour stomach and it was pitch black outside and cool. I had run on “E” plenty of times before and done OK so I knew I’d be able to run this leg with no issues. I did want to figure out how to drink at some point without puking though. I was getting dehydrated and that was ‘bad’. I went over to the exchange zone and played with my lights pretending that other people were aliens and hitting them with my laser beams. Soon my team wandered over from the van, thinking I had fallen into the porta potty. Nope! Still alive.

“184!” and I was off. Leg 18 was 5.6 miles and rated “Hard” it rolled uphill pretty much the whole way but at a nice slow angle. Enough that you could feel you were going up hill, sometimes more than others, but not so much that you were OMG DYING. At mile 1 I switched my garmin light on to check my pace and saw 8:50. I felt like this was perfect and just kept in the comfortable zone throughout, not looking at the watch again until I handed off to Van 2.  Then I looked– 5.62 miles in 49:41. This made me feel so much better about my crappy run earlier as I didn’t want to be the drag on the team and while not fast, at least it wasn’t molasses slow.  And I FELT good while running. Maybe I could drink now?? I tried and within 15 minutes I threw up. Ugh. At least some had to have absorbed right?

After my run it was again our vans downtime so we headed off to Stillwater, the place we’d pick up from van 2 when they were done and also the official sleep spot for us. I dozed off in the van on the way there so am not really sure if there was any enlightening convo or anything. If so, sorry I missed it but glad I got a little nap.

I’m not sure how long the drive took (reference above snooze) but when we pulled into the Stillwater school lot, it was still dark and we were all tired. We made it successfully into the school after wandering around for awhile trying to find the door and then hit the gym floor to try and get some sleep. Here’s how that looked:

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I think I dozed on and off for about an hour and then I went out to get some coffee from the nice volunteer that was serving it in the hallway. Half a cup and then….yep, barf. Bummer. I tried to eat some animal crackers. Barf. A protein bar. Barf. Water. Barf. My pee was now a brown color (sorry!) Not good. I probably needed to fix this before I ran again or I was in trouble. I checked the forecast and sure enough, sunshine and the potential of heat for my run. The sun rose and the text came in that van 2 was coming in. Michael got up and got ready to roll. He and I went out to the exchange zone and I took his stuff as he warmed up a bit for his last run. He was ready to go, calm and prepared. They had lengthened his last run from a quick and flat 5k to a brutal rolling 6.6 miler.  Harsh. He had it in the bag though. I could see it in his face. He knew that after this he could sail along and laugh at the rest of us- “ha ha, I’m done!”  I didn’t get any pictures at this exchange sadly as it was dawn, I was holding all of Michael’s stuff and my phone was near dead. I’m sorry! Unfortunately, we once again got lost trying to leapfrog Michael too so got no cheerzone photo’s either (what is it with navigating when our captain isn’t in in the van?!) All in all a fail on the photo end. Michael knocked out his run in no time at all though and successfully completed the Runner 1 slot of the Team with flying colors. No seriously, flying. Michael pulled in a total of 20.6 miles most of them hard/very hard. NICE!

Selina started her last run on Leg 26. It was 5.6 miles and rated “Easy”. She had a nice roller in the middle of the run that I don’t think was very easy for a last run out of three but whatever. As per usual, Selina flew through the run fast as ever as if she wasn’t even tired and made it to the exchange to hand off to Lori in no time at all.

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Lori ran her last leg, Leg 27 which was 3.1 miles and rated “Hard”. It was rated hard for a reason. It sat seemingly flattish for a bit and then curved sharply uphill towards the finish! MEAN. CRUEL! Lori still ran it quickly and came blazing in to the exchange with a smile.

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Rebecca began her last leg, Leg 28 which was 5.1 miles and rated “Very Hard”. This leg swung through Afton and had a big climb right off the jump that lasted nearly a mile before leveling off and cruising downhill. Rebecca cruised through it and came jaunting into the park to hand off to Tony finishing off her Ragnar with 15.2 miles in total.

Tony began his last leg, Leg 29 which was 6.5 miles and rated “hard” with a steep spike in the middle. Tony was tired and it was getting hot and sunny out. There was no shade on his leg. He took off fast and ran well, but the heat was getting to him on this run and he was fading. Our van leapfrogged tossing him water across the road to hydrate him. He made it to the exchange in good shape, though tired. I think he did great- it was hot and there was literally no shade at all on his leg.

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This was taken of Tony running into the exchange zone. Pictures were missed of him running on the course due to tossing water and cowbelling!

So about me. I had been working this whole time to turn my pee from brown to a more ‘normal’ pee color to ensure that I could run without croaking on the side of the road. I managed to sip gatoraid without barfing and then drank slowly a near full bottle of Lori’s magic sports drink that was full of electrolites. I peed dark brown, then lighter, lighter, lighter. TADA_ WE HAVE YELLOW PEE! I felt ‘ok’ to run. It was hot so I was nervous but felt ready to go.

My leg, Leg 30 was 4.1 miles and rated “moderate”. Should be a piece of cake. I took off. It was hot. Mile 1 I glanced at my watch. Duh, 8:30. Hill coming ahead. I slowed the hell down. I do learn my lesson sometimes. Top of the hill…barf. Yeah, I swore. Then I ran. It’s ONLY 4 miles. I slowed down but I ran. I jogged. I was so tired. I was so not used to feeling that tired. But I ran and I finished. And I had fun, despite all the barfing.

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