Pics from Ragnar Relay & why I’ll likely never do an overnight relay again

Yeah, I’m being honest in the title. Though I “survived” the relay and even had my fair share of rewarding/silly/grateful moments, I don’t think I’ll do another overnight relay in the future. I’ll get to those reasons in a moment, but let’s look at some pictures, shall we?

(Yeah, yeah, it’s been 3 weeks since the race … I’m really stretching out this Ragnar series.)

Proof that I was there …

Here’s van #1 at the start line (in the rain). From left, that’s Juan, Brianne, Karl, me, Jesi and Ajay.

ragnar van 1

Downpour!

Cheering our runner on & being really conscientious about the safety flags at the same time:

ragnar flags

Safety first.

Around midnight on the course:

at night

We’re giddy … or sleep deprived.

Jesi passes the slap bracelet to me, and I head out on my last run:

bracelet exchange

I look happier than I remember about running leg #3.

A really lovely moment where I’m missing my bed and hating my sweaty hair:

sleepy ragnar

“I want to get out of this van NOW.”

With the whole team at the finish line:

finish line

DONE!

I’ve come to notice that I’m smiling in most of the Ragnar pics, so you’d think I enjoyed the experience. To be sure, there were enjoyable moments, and it’s a confidence boost to realize I’m capable of running great (for me) times on tired legs, little sleep and questionable meals.

I was also really impressed by my van mates. I didn’t know the people in van #1 very well going into this, but they were super positive, supportive and nice (not even a little grouchy!) the whole time. Observing their attitudes definitely lifted my spirits.

With that being said, here’s why I’ll likely never do another overnight relay:

  1. It jacked up my knees. If you remember, I stopped running for a few years not too long ago because of an IT band injury. It’s taken quite a few months – and really smart training – to get my knees and hips right again. But by leg 3 of the relay, I could feel scary tightness in my IT band, and since the race, I’ve been dealing with knee pain all over again. (It’s definitely not as severe as before, but it’s there.) I’m not blaming the relay entirely, but I am blaming the lack of recovery time. Even though you’ve got 8 or so hours to rest between legs, it’s not enough time (for me) to be properly recovered. I stretched as much as I could, but we were always hopping back into the van, and I never had enough time to stretch, foam roll or ice. And even though my distances weren’t that long, I ran them hard so I needed that recovery. (To be clear, I think some folks have enough of a running base to do a relay without injury, but I don’t think it’s that smart for recreational runners, now that I’ve experienced it.)
  2. I like to get sleep. Some people get super energized when they throw off their sleep schedules, like the unexpectedness of it is fun. Anything could happen. Sorry, friends. I’m not one of those people. I’m at my best when I’ve gotten a good night’s rest. And while I’m not opposed to missing sleep for something super wonderful, I have decided not to count an overnight relay in that super wonderful category at this time in my life. A friend’s going-away party? Yes. A midnight swimming session in the lake? Probably. Dancing to my favorite music? Okay. Running after not showering for over 24 hours? Sorry, no.
  3. There are other ways I like to bond. I feel like I’m going to get flak from runners who love relays, but I’m not really buying the ohmygod-this-is-the-best-way-to-bond-with-people business. Nothing against my van mates, and maybe I would have felt more sentimental about the bonding experience if I’d been good friends with them from the beginning, but I can think of a bunch of other ways we could have gotten to know each other better.
  4. It’s pricey as hell. Beyond all the other reasons – which I think are disputable in one way or another, or under different circumstances – this one is the real clincher. When I added up all the money I spent on motels (we stayed in one the night before the race and another the night after), vans & gas (split among the team), snacks, meals, beer and registration fee, I could have taken a weekend getaway to the beach for the same cost. And we did the race on a budget. Like, shared beds at the motels and rented minivans instead of the enormous vans and all that. But, even then, costs added up, and I would’ve rather taken a vacation. :)

I don’t mean to sound anti-relay (or maybe I do?), and I am glad that I had the experience, but I think I’ll stick to one-and-done races in the future. Of course, you’ll have to tell me to eat my words if you find me signing up for another relay next year.

Until then, I’ll be icing and foam rolling and attacking IT band recovery like it’s my job …

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preventing injuries & drinking wine

Monday’s workout: Hip hop boot camp class at the gym … which basically involves looking moronic while feeling like a Fly Girl:

Tuesday’s workout: stretching and drinking wine (yep, it’s a workout)

I really, really want to run today. I’m running in a 10K on Saturday, and I planned to do a six-mile tempo run today. But Sunday’s track workout did weird things to my leg muscles. Namely, I feel pain in these spots:

leg

Okay, just kidding. I don’t feel pain in all those spots. But I do have a lot of soreness on the anterior parts of my shins and the front of my ankles. (Guess what?! I must’ve actually been successfully toe striking on Sunday!)

And while I know I could probably run today without aggravating them much, I’d really rather not get shin splits this early on in my “serious” running training.

In the last few weeks, I’ve gone from working out 3-4 times per week (more like 3) and only one of those days being a run to working out 5-6 times per week with 3 (or more) runs. I’m not pounding out high mileages, but it is a considerable upgrade from before. So I’m going to be smart and take it slow.

There’s a lot of this going on around here:

icing

Ahhh, that's better.

And this is happening while I’m sitting at my desk at work:

icing

Sweet, sweet relief

Why am I so paranoid about getting injured? Well, I have a History (with a capital H, naturally) with knee, hip and IT band pain.

(Please stop reading here unless you’re interested in an overwrought, dramatic account of my running-related pain. You’ve been warned.)

Back in 2007, when I was young and dumb (har har), my friend Amy suggested that we run a half-marathon in San Francisco. (I honestly can’t remember which one we did, but if you’re looking for one in SF, this looks cool.)

Amy and I ran cross country together in high school. But, let me clarify: Amy ran cross country (#2 girl on Varsity, I think). And I jogged cross country. By my senior year, I’d edged my way to #7 (the last spot) on Varsity. Even then, I think it was more of a consolation type of thing that coach gave to me because I was a good sport. I did cross country because I liked to stay fit and hang out with my friends — and I wasn’t good enough for any other Varsity sports.

Throughout college and afterward, I kept jogging, but I mixed it with a lot of other things: dance, kickboxing, the elliptical, keg stands. (Actually I’m sort of lying about the keg stands. I like to conflate the one keg stand I’ve ever done and pretend I’ve had a raucous, storied past.)

Also, when I say that I kept jogging, what I really mean is that I ran once every couple weeks for no more than 30 minutes at a time.

Fast forward to the half marathon. I said I’d do it, and then I promptly forgot to train for it. I think I upped my runs to twice per week or something, but I don’t know if I ever ran any long runs, definitely not anything over 7-8 miles. But, I figured, I’m in good shape. I’ll be fine.

And I was fine, mostly, except for that nagging knee pain that started to plague me around mile 9 or 10. (That’s also, I believe, the mile Amy decided she’d had enough of my slowness and left me to finish her last 3 miles strong.)

Here we are in happier times (around the first mile):

half marathon

Happy. Slow. Before my knees crapped out.

I mean, how badly can you injure yourself if you’re only running 13 miles? Apparently, quite a bit. By the time I finished, I was doing the runner’s hobble, and the following week was, well, stupid. I stretched, iced, OD’d on Advil and couldn’t shake the knee pain.

So there began a solid two years of knee pain, hip pain and IT band uber-tightness. During that time, I didn’t actually make the connection to my IT band — I thought it was all in my knee — and so I didn’t really know how to properly treat it.

I’d try to go out jogging, and I’d feel the pain around 2-3 miles and call it a day. I did lot of other activities in the meantime and sort of gave up on running.

Eventually, I really missed running. And I got a bit smarter. And figured out I was dealing with bursitis and IT band syndrome, which are awfully common among runners, and also really treatable.

Since I caught the running bug again — it was only in January that I started getting excited about running again, and only in the last month that I’ve really cared about pushing myself — I’ve been doing things correctly.

And, now, apparently, I take rest days even when I don’t want to.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Well, yes, my wine glass looks roughly the same size as my head.