Major Exchange #2
We made our way to Heidi's house and arrived a little after 2 am - each of us hanging on to a thin thread of sanity and the glorious prospect of taking a hot shower. The sweet smell of pizza hit our noses as we entered the house which breathed a bit of life back into the party. Chit chat ensued. Stories got re-told. Personally, I was wiped and just wanted to shower and get a few hours of sleep. There was no way I could eat anything at this stage (let alone pizza) otherwise I'd be up the remainder of the night/morning.
If there is a temperature between scalding and heaven, I'm pretty sure I found it that morning. The fatigue and grime washed away and I stepped out a new man. Still just as tired but now clean and tired. I locked myself away on the air mattress and found that the wooden door could not block the barking dog or clanking of dishes...only after finally putting my headphones on would I drift off to what you might consider a half-baked state of tranquility. Not asleep, yet not conscious...and certainly not deep enough to dream.
4 am would come far too soon for just about everyone. Like good troopers though, everyone got their stuff packed up and loaded into the van for the short trek to the next exchange with Van #2. We expected them to be done around 5ish.
During the drive to meet Van #2, it became common knowledge that despite being sick for the past couple days, Mitch, who had pushed through is first 2 legs, was clearly not doing well. Hunkered in the corner of the van with a couple blankets he resolved to run at least 3 miles of his final leg and then pass it over to someone else. Question was...who?
Turns out, the most logical choice was me. Regardless of what the reasons were, I was only too happy to take on the challenge.
These 2 legs would prove to be a conglomeration of everything evil Ragnar had to offer. A nasty uphill section for the first 3.5 miles and then 8 miles of downhill (-850 ft). Total miles for these legs would be approximately 13.1 - ending with a half-marathon seemed like a very fitting way to cap my Ragnar experience.
Motoring up the hill was definitely a challenge. I could feel the fatigue in my quads taking hold as I made my way up the hill from hell. I had resolved to take the entirety of my third leg with humility and solid pacing to ensure I had enough juice to make it to the end. I hadn't eaten since leaving Major Exchange #1 so I was starving by the time came to run this leg. I threw back some munchies and stocked myself with Roctane, a PowerBar and Cytomax. I knew I just had to make it to the top of this hill and the rest would be smooth sailing.
I'm not sure whether I was possessed or half-conscious at this stage but everything was clicking and feeling good. What started as a safe 9:30 pace turned into a hearty 8:15-to-8:30 pace. As the sun was rising over the mountains, it almost seems as if the 'batteries' were getting recharged. The world was new again and I was having a great run out in the middle of nowhere. My last run as well. All I kept telling myself was, "The faster ya run, the sooner you're done".
Aside from almost being run over 15 feet from the exchange point, the remainder of the run was a very strong effort and damn-near a PR over 13.1. I felt really good but was only too happy to stop running that morning and be done.
The final legs proved to be much more challenging than before. Not simply fatigue but the swings in elevation were nothing to scoff at. If you're driving in a van and get to the top of the hill and say, "Crap, that's a big hill", just think about what that looks/feels like to someone trying to run up it. The last couple folks on the team had their work cut out for them.
Van #1 of April's Fools finished up around 12:30 pm on Saturday and made our final exchange in Fountain Hills. We supported Van #2 for a bit and then proceeded to find a place to eat.
Protein, good. Salt, good. Sitting in someplace other than a van. Priceless.
In a post-Applebee-tastic food coma, we made our way to the finish line in Tempe to await Van #2 and all cross the finish line together. The weather had cooled and clouds had moved in making the afternoon a bit tepid and chilly if you were still wearing sweaty post-run clothes. We hung out around the finish line taking in the costumes and cheering on other teams we had gotten to know over the last 24 hours (funny that you would run into the same folks over and over again). It did get to be quite long just sitting around waiting but that's what you gotta do if you're going to finish as a team.
About 3:15 pm, our last runner came plowing through the streets of Tempe and we all suddenly found enough energy to run/shuffle/hobble another 100 feet through the finish line and grab our medals. Bodies were tired and our souls were on fire from this amazing accomplishment.
I want to thank everyone on the team - some names in Van #2 that I barely know :( To my mates in Van #1 - April (el capitan), Mitch, Debbie, Mandi, Mark and Heidi (our driver)...thank you for a phenomenal experience and the opportunity to run with you all. Sharing 30+ hours in a van and getting to know you has been a pleasure.
...and I promise not to sing to anyone at 4:30 in the morning ever again. :)
Pictures to follow.