Monday, May 17, 2010

How A Bunch of "Kidz Who Whiz" Worked It Out
The Story of the 2010 Ragnar Relay NY (Part I)

Wow! What a race! What an experience! What a fantastic running adventure Ragnar proved to be. I think I just fell in love with running all over again! Not that we ever broke up or anything, but there were times in the past few weeks when we were drifting apart. So I was definitely in need of inspiration/motivation to come back again, and boy was this relay race EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.

I will try to recap this race from the team as well as the individual perspective because none of this would have been possible without the collective efforts of my 11 other teammates and a super volunteer (who worked a crazy overnight shift at one of the relay checkpoint stations). So I want to start by handing out a hearty fist bump to all the members of my Ragnar "Kidz Who Whiz" team who pulled together, rallied each other, and showed those who didn't know how to RUN and have FUN at the same time!

But more on that later in the race report. For now, I want to start off by sharing my experiences on each of the three legs that I ran in the Ragnar relay.

Run #1 (Fri 5/14 9:42pm)
Leg 12 - 8.1 Miles
Difficulty - Very Hard
Time - 57:14 (6:56 min/mi)
Road Kills - 4

Because I was the anchor runner on our team of 12, I actually didn't get to run until almost eight hours after the race start at 2pm. This only meant that I had more than enough time to freak out about this night run. I knew all along that this would be the most difficult leg of the three for me, not only because it was the longest by distance, and hardest in terms of difficulty, but also because it starts off at night with a 3/4 mile steep uphill climb through a series of turns at mile 0.5. I toyed with the idea of running with my Droid phone, but since I've never raced with it before and it was running low in battery regardless, I ditched the idea and just went with my memory of the race course and my general sense of direction. I was still contemplating what I'd do if I got lost when I grabbed the slap bracelet from JT and started off on my eight mile adventure.

I took off at a fast and controlled pace down a spiraling street with my headlamp, strobe light, and reflective vest ready for action. My teammates came up, cheered, and drove past me after a quarter mile. Because this was a non-support leg, which meant that the team was not allowed to stop at any point to cheer on or aide the runner, I was now left to my own devices and would not see my team for the rest of the leg.

Soon after the team van disappeared, the horror of the hills began. For about three quarters of a mile, they came hard, they came steep, and if it wasn't someone reminding me before the race that "There's no walking and there's no crying in Ragnar!", I would have likely done both! They reminded me of the hills at the heart of San Francisco where steps are needed along the sidewalks just to go from one street to another. Omigosh, they were brutal. And the worst part was that after I scaled the monstrosity, I still had 6.5 miles left to run. I was already so exhausted! I did pass by 2 runners who allowed themselves to walk up the hills. Easiest road kill ever.

After the climbs ended, I scaled back the intensity and had a fairly good run. Because the turns on the course were well marked with flashing lights and there were not many of them, I didn't get lost on this night leg like I had feared. Most of the route ran along a major highway which became a nuisance by the end because the high beam headlights from the constant oncoming traffic blinded my vision and prevented me from experiencing tranquility and nature like I had expected.

Lots of little things bothered me about this leg, which was why I was happy yet a bit frustrated when I finished this run and handed off to teammate JP at the next major exchange. Did I mention how hot and humid it was? Temps were in the 70s with humidity in the high 80s. I was sweating buckets of water by the time I was done. There might have been a huge outburst of language not suitable for PG audience upon my crossing the finish which probably shocked many of my teammates. Woops! I don't usually cuss and use bad words like that out in public but if you ran what I ran and saw what I saw, perhaps you'd understand.

Run #2 (Sat 5/15 6:19 AM)
Leg 24 - 4.2 Miles
Difficulty - Hard
Time - 27:49 (6:37 min/mi)
Road Kills - 4

This leg was the most fun for me. It was short. It was downhill. It was fast. Well, at least for the first 2.5 miles it was. I kept a sub 6:10 pace and felt like I was completely flying, almost at the edge of losing control. The humidity had broken over the course of the night and gave way to a pleasant and cool morning. I hadn't even much since the last run so all I could think about while running was getting it done quickly so my team and I could handoff and get some real food for breakfast.

The second half of my leg were once again over some massive hills that humbled me. I cursed my life at every turn as I saw my heart rate and pace climb higher and higher with every step. There were runners walking these two, which I picked off easily and claimed as my motivation to keep battling. I must have climbed over 200 feet just in the last half mile alone! Even the transition area was located on the top of a giant hill. By the end, I was again exhausted and just glad to be done.

Run #3 (Sat 5/15 1:57 PM)
Leg 36 - 4.5 Miles
Difficulty - Moderate
Time - 30:26 (6:46 min/mi)
Road Kills - 2

When I first saw the profile for this third and final leg, I thought I would kill it. For once the course was flat with not much change in elevation, so why wouldn't I take full advantage and run my fastest time as I take my team across the finish line? Indeed, at the last exchange, I told my team that my goal was to break 30 minutes, and take us across in less than 24 and half hours (we started the race at 2PM the previous day). What I didn't account for though was that I would develop a major side stitch which crippled me for about a mile and that the majority of this route would be on trails and not roads. Darting across rocks, branches and other obstacles was fun, but again was not conducive to the fastest time. Since this was the last leg of the race though, I tried to have fun with it and not worry about my pace so much. I still wanted to keep my promise though of making it through in less than 24:30, so I ran as fast as I could, trying hard not to fall and break a bone in the process.

At a half mile before the finish, the route went back over the roads for the home stretch. Lots of bars and restaurants lined the sides of the busy streets. It was a beautiful sunny day out so many folks were taking their food and eating outside. Some of them clapped and cheered for me as I ran by. As I geared up for the sprint towards the finish, I passed by a couple of twitter friends having ice cream on a park bench. They didn't see me, and I wanted to say hi, but I had no breath to spare and I had a team of 11 others waiting for me at the finish. So I bypassed the opportunity to say hi and ask for a bite and just ran hard instead. I breezed through a long and steep descent towards the parking lot overlooking the Hudson where the finish line would be. At about 100 feet from the finish, I see my teammates all dressed in our snazzy "Kidz Who Whiz" shirts. I slowed down, waited for them to all join me, and crossed the finish line with our arms raised in victory.

(Part II and Pictures to come...)


Jamie said...

Glad you reaffirmed your love of running :) great job on all 3 legs! Can't wait to see all the pics!

EZEthan said...

Sounds like a good mix of distance and terrain... I can't wait to hear more about the team experience!

Running and living said...

Awesome job and so happy your running mojo is back!

Anonymous said...

yay running mojo being back! great running, so awesome that the team crossed the finish line together :)

Anonymous said...

Fun! Now I want photos! hahaha. Great job though, these things sound SO exhausting!

Julie said...

H Lam,
I am so glad that you had such a great time:) I think that running in one of those relays would be such a blast! You did an awesome job and rocked all three legs:) Nice work Lam!

runner26 said...

ahhh, so cool!! i loved seeing all the pics from you guys. it looked like great fun! i cannot believe you had to run in the middle of the night--wow!

it definitely looks like this is just what you needed to get back into running. congrats to the whiz kidz ;)

Unknown said...

Man I am having so many flash backs of my Ragnar! I'm so glad you had a blast and made the most of it, even when it kicked your butt!

NY Wolve said...

You certainly took a few for the team with the hill runs. I have never done a relay , but you make even the hard parts seem bearable. Waiting for part 2. . .

Manderz said...

Congrats to you & your team!!! I had the time of my life. I cant wait until next year

X-Country2 said...

Sounds like one heck of an adventure!

jenna is awkward said...

wow, this sounds like so much fun! awesome job taking such hard legs. it's nice to see you're back in love with running! sounds like so much fun!

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