Sunday, June 18, 2017

Couch to Ragnar

I loved running in the Reebok Ragnar Cape Cod.  Definitely in my top ten fun things I've ever done.
My husband was invited to join the team the last week of July at a family reunion, but he had never run before.  We started training the first week of August.  I have five kids, so running a Ragnar on the other side of the country was not a possibility for me, but after training for a month I decided I wanted to go to Ragnar no matter what and we made it happen.
Me and my husband July 2016~Florida
I was nervous about getting injured running, neither of us had done much physical activity since becoming parents 14 years ago.

We learned that to become "runners" gradually, we should do run/walk intervals and increase them gradually over a six-month period of time and then we should spend six months building up a solid base with hour long runs three times a week.  It would take about one year to safely become "runners".  In addition we were cautioned to do exercises to strengthen the weak muscles to prevent injury (core work, runner's strength exercises).  Well we only had 9 months, but our captain, my brother, assured us we weren't required to "race" at Ragnar, just to have the ability to run the distance of our longest leg which would be about 6 miles.  After our first workout which included about 3 minutes total running that seemed almost impossible, but we decided to give it our best shot.

We committed to running three times a week and I don't think my husband missed a workout all year long except one day when he was injured.  In fact, in October he worked out five times a week on a treadmill when he was out of town and sometime in December he started cross training twice a week.  I missed one or two workouts, but was also very consistent.  We started running early in the mornings in the dark (great practice for the Ragnar night run!).  While my husband was out of town, I started running in the afternoons at parks with my kids.  In November we started running the paved river trail close to our house after my husband got home from work.  It was tough to beat the sunset which got noticeably earlier every day!  I think my husband was hurting a lot the first few weeks, but after that we both really enjoyed our runs.  Everytime I got to the last few steps of a run I felt so sad that it would be 48 whole hours before I could run again.  My kids thought this was funny, but I've heard other runners say the same thing.  Running was a great meditation.  My husband never ran with music.  I occasionally did recorded books on long runs, but I also enjoyed quiet runs.

Four months had gone by and my husband was still nowhere near six miles.  I was just barely getting to the six mile mark.  I timed my 10K pace and came up with 10:21 per mile.  My husband was about 13:30 per mile, but not going a full 10K yet.  Fearing we would never be able to run far enough, we went off our training schedule and pushed up our speed and mileage too fast.

INJURY!  Of course.  My husband got hip bursitis and was sidelined from running.  I got online and ordered Aquajogging belts which thanks to Amazon Prime arrived two days later.  We joined a gym and took our runs into the water for the next month.  I think aqua jogging is a great thing, because in January when we started running on the indoor track we were still in great shape.

My husband's hip bursitis was still bothering him after a month of aqua jogging and I read that it was an inflammation injury, so I talked him into doing a detox for the month of January that promised to radically reduce inflammation.  I really liked the detox because it did work on the inflammation-immediately.  It also gave us more energy and encouraged us to eat healthier.  The habits we learned stuck with us long after the detox and were good for our kids as well.  My husband lost 17lbs and I lost 5lbs.  We liked the detox so well we decided to repeat it in April right before the race.  My husband lost another 17lbs and I lost 5lbs.   In all my husband lost 60lbs in our race training and I lost 10lbs.

During the January through April part of our training, we were running 50-75 minute runs three or four times a week, so we started running into overuse injuries.  I was still as paranoid as ever that we would be injured when Ragnar rolled around.  We found a lot of helps though.  Compression socks are great for shin splints and feel good after a long run whether you are injured or not.  Get rid of cotton socks to avoid blisters.  Rotate running shoes to avoid having the exact same impact every time you run.  Don't always run the same direction on a track.  Try a treadmill for winter workouts.  Do core workouts and IT band workouts often.  Use a muscle roller or a foam roller on tight muscles to speed recovery. Warm-up for at least 12 minutes before running fast.  Do a dynamic stretch before each run.  Buy a GymBoss interval timer so you can do run/walk intervals without watching the clock.  Don't try to run without walk intervals, they are great insurance against injury.  My husband had Plantar Fasciitis issues in the weeks leading up to Ragnar.  He bought a massage ball and massaged his foot while he worked.  Then I worked on the tight spots every night on his calves with a muscle roller (which was causing the Plantar issues) and on his feet.  Deep and frequent calf and foot massage was the key to his quick recovery.  I struggled with IT band issues and I did an IT band strength routine every other day to rehabilitate that injury.  I think we would have avoided a lot of injury by slowing down and going more gradually, but who wants to do that?

In the days leading up to Ragnar we realized that since we always ran at 5am, we needed to experiment with running at other times in the day.  The temperatures vary a bit throughout the day.  The trickiest thing was timing food and water when running at other times in the day and deciding how to dress for different temperatures.  Also, we watched the weather closely and practiced at a range of temperatures, especially cold.  Ragnar was predicted to be cold and rainy this year, so we wanted to be prepared for that.  In the end we were both ready and healthy when race day came, what a relief!  Also, it didn't rain!  Due to a lot of weight lost, steady training, the low altitude, and cold weather, my mile paces at Ragnar were 8:45, 8:30, and 9:00.  Dwight's were between 10:30 and 11:00.  In our training, sometime between February and May 12, a transformation in our running occurred.  Suddenly, 3-4 mile runs started seeming too short.  5-6 mile runs were easy and 7-8 mile runs were a fun challenge.  I wanted to graduate from run/walking to running the entire time, but I discovered in my training that I ran much faster miles with run/walk intervals, so for safety and speed reasons I stuck with that plan.

My brother was right about Ragnar.  You don't need to "race", just get out there and run your distance at whatever pace works for you.  If you run slow, every single person who passes you will cheer you on.  If you get injured while running, even more people cheer you on.  If you run really fast you can paint it on your van and claim bragging rights, it is all good.  There were a lot of people who run/walk like us, so that wasn't a problem.  Since there are 18 legs of the race for our van, plus the exchanges with the other van, it felt like a tournament with one big event after another.  Each leg had its own personality and was very exciting to me.  Some runners want to reach a certain time goal.  Some runners hate running, but just want to overcome something huge, some runners run to entertain, some runners run for a special cause, some runners get injured and still manage to finish the leg, some runners go so much faster than predicted that they beat their team to the next exchange and sadly have no one there to congratulate them on an astounding run (my husband). I was moved by each story of each leg.  I guess I was just curious how I would run since it was my first real race (except a small time 5K run/walk in Albuquerque many years ago).  After my first leg, a guy came up to me and said "I was right behind you when we started and I was sure I would pass you, but I never could"  That made my day!  Also, I guess my first Ragnar was pretty pampered as we had a nice little beach cottage to sleep and shower at while the other van was running. 
May 12, 2017~Cape Cod
Decorating the Van
Our Van
Goofing off before we start the race, 7 of us
including Marv our super awesome driver!
We actually didn't get picked in the lottery for this race,
but were picked up by an amazing team who did.  They were Van #1 and we were Van #2
This Ragnar was run in memory of Eliza, Sarah's sister who died in a car accident July 2017.
Her favorite color was "glitter", or if she was really pressed "pink"
My husband gets the slap bracelet for his first leg

My last few steps of my first leg, I found a glittery shirt to wear for Eliza.
Waiting at the top of a nice hill for my brother on his first leg.  His third leg started in sand and also ended at the top of a 
hill, sometimes, Ragnar is really tough.
just finished everyone's first leg and the team pizza dinner,
now back to the cottage to do major muscle rolling and get some sleep.
Finished our first legs and showered.  Then we finally found a restaurant open (after three tries) and their pizza was good! (So I'm told, since I'm gluten free, my tuna salad was awesome, I liked the dressing so much the restaurant offered to send a bottle home with me, but sadly I didn't think it would fly well.)

This was 2am, second leg, but it just didn't feel late at all!
Ragnar volunteers dress up too, I love it,
when I complimented this guy, he posed for the camera!
Here is my brother running his night leg!  I loved the night run.
Watching all the blinky lights was surreal and mesmerizing.

Here is my husband getting ready for Leg 3 where he will run a 10:30 mile pace uphill and beat me to the exchange!
Rockin' the race
last steps of Leg 3!
Truro Beach, a beautiful exchange!
Waiting at exchange 35, one leg left to go.
The wilder the outfit the bigger the smile
Shark costume!
This guy had a purple mohawk and shirt for Leg 2, this is Leg 3 and I had to get the superman shirt picture since my son wears a superman shirt almost every day but laundry day.
yep, Sarah had to run part of her leg through soft sand and so did my brother David.
finish line!

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