Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ragnar del Sol

I am nearly recovered from a bad bout of bronchitis and am hoping to have full lung capacity back in the next few days.  I got sick last week after our fun family President's Day campout to Bulldog Canyon and by Thursday night, I was feeling pretty crappy.  I even gave in and started on some meds since all the natural remedies I was trying weren't touching it.  Everyone knows that feeling sub-par is never fun, but I am quite certain I made it much worse by being a part of the Ragnar insanity.  You know that part where the doc says, "Rest, rest, rest."  Oh ya, I missed that part :)  I must have heard, "Run, run, run."

Last weekend was Ragnar del Sol weekend, and I was part of an amazing 12-person team who, while still claiming to be perfectly sane, voluntarily paid to run 200.5 miles nonstop over two days in a relay style race (3 legs each) while shuttling between the 36 exchange points in two vans, all throughout much of Arizona.  What an experience.  Really, an incredibly cool experience and something I will never forget.  The van was so trashed with all our gear and crap everywhere after just a few hours.  In and out.  In and out.  I wonder how many times we got in and out of that dang van?  Lots of time spent leapfrogging our runners every mile or two along the Arizona highways, giving support, delivering much needed water, yelling encourgagement over the megaphone, laughing at the insanity, frequenting more porta-potties than any human should ever frequent in one weekend.  My bronchitis/maybe pneumonia lungs burned with a fire I haven't felt in years and my body was so dang tired.  I think I might have slept a grand total of two hours over a two-day stretch, and that was curled up in a van on the benchseat I was sharing with my rad hard core cousin, Jodi.  She rocked the insanity with me, and so did my cousins, Jimmy & Tamara, along with a couple of their cousins on the Van Epps side of the family plus 6 other random friends.  Oh, and I might have caught about 20 minutes of shuteye sleeping on the ground in the cold, bermuda grass football field of some high school after showering in their locker room Friday night (exchange 12).  That was not the most pleasant part of the trip.  Jodi and I were laughing so hard at the insanity at that point.  Still, even sick, it was really so much fun.  And yes, I know that sounds a little deranged.  Actually, a lot deranged as I write this.  But yes, it was actually fun.  And I am pretty sure I will do it again with 2 vans full of my best friends and family.  Maybe we'll get a killer team of crazies together for next year's hoopla.

I posted all my pics on Facebook already as did many of the other peeps on our team, but I am hoping to put them up here too in case I ever turn this blog into a book.  I was runner 5 of 12, one of the two token females in Van 1 and four in our total team.   I followed Jodi (she was runner #4) so I got to get the baton slap bracelet handoff from her each time.  Sweet.  We collectively decided (in our humble Van 1) that we rocked extra hard since Van 1 ran so much more than Van 2.  We logged 111 miles to their 88 as most all of our legs were longer.  Not sure why the Ragnar Gods designed the course like that with so much disparity, but so be it.  Actually, that only adds up to 199 miles, so somewhere along the course there was another 1.5.  They must have rounded down in the Rag Mag that published all the leg distances. 

My legs were 6.8 miles (run along Wickenburg Rd toward Phoenix at 3:15pm on Friday - super toasty but a nice flat and gradual downhill run), then 6.7 miles (run along New River Road, mostly uphill, on the way to New River in the middle of the boondocks at 2:30am Saturday morning - cold, dark, a little creepy, going on 22 hours with no sleep with lungs fire-filled), then finally 4.8 miles (run over super hilly road coming into McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills at noon on Saturday - so hot and lungs now bursting into flames).  Can I just say how happy I was when I finished leg 3?  Soooo happy.  But I was even more happy when I finally laid my head on my pillow on Saturday night at 7:30 pm (after being awake for 48 of the preceding 50 hours) and crashed like nobody's business.  I don't think I moved for 11 hours. 

The hardware from the race is the coolest in my collection.  Our team's race shirts are rad (our team was Rock the Ragnar).  The pictures make me laugh and smile and remember what it feels like to push. 

Good times, good times. 

For our record books:

We finished in 31 hours, 3 minutes, 37 seconds, and best I can tell from the results sheets, we finished 176 of 377 finishing teams (excluding the ultra teams that were running with 6 people only).  Our team's average pace for the whole event was 9:17/mile.  Not bad, not bad for a random bunch of banshees. We'll take it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Good times.  We had FHE around the firepit on Monday night.  It was Afty's night to be in charge, and she and Dad schemed the plan.  It was simple, but perfect.  Scriptures, smores and lots of smiles.  A little grand canyon revelling, a little vaca planning, school updates.  But mostly just good family bonding time.  These are the simple things that memories are made of.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle Within

As far as battlefields go, I think I'd take this view over most in a heartbeat.

This was the race starting line.  Tough view, eh?  The website boasted that the Sedona Marathon was voted in the Top 10 Marathons in the U.S. because of its incredible views, hills and weather.  Having now spent a weekend there and been a part of the race grandeur (although I ran the half marathon),  I think the accolades are much deserved. And this picture hardly does the course justice. The entire race was along hilly, winding roads carved between magestic red rock mountains on all sides.  Truly, it was just amazing.  I wish I could have mustered the strength to pull out my iphone video camera for longer stretches on the course.  I only took about 20 seconds of video at mile 7.5, and I must admit it's pretty funny to watch.  I'm huffing and puffing like no other.

We drove the course on Friday afternoon after we got into town, and I am so glad we did.  It's always great having a good mental picture of the fight before you go into battle :)  We stopped alongside the road right at the turnaround point and took this pic.
Here we are Saturday morning a few minutes before race time.  As always, I had a few pre-race jitters - the good kind of jitters - the ones that pump you up and get you excited to do something hard even though your mind is telling you that you just might be a little nuts.  It was super chilly out (in high 30's) when we left our hotel and started walking the short half mile to the race start. Ryan was trying to decide if he was going to take a run while I was out, run as a bandit in the course, or just sign up for the 5k.  I'm glad he opted for the latter and came home with his own hardware and cool shirt.
Quick shot of the corral pre-race.  I'm the small head dab smack in the middle of this photo, although I'm sure no one else can see me. 

Put your hands in the air!  The countdown is on! My friend, Robyn, is the one in blue next to me, although she got some kind of crazy back pains and bad nausea at mile 1.5 and dropped out.  Too bad!  She had really trained hard for this and even came up for a 10-mile practice run on the course two weeks earlier.  But she has another half marathon in two weeks and then another 2 weeks later, so she decided to listen to her body and take it easy.

This picture makes me happy.  That's just how I felt, too.  Really, really happy.  Happy to be in the gorgeous country, happy to be with my husband, happy to be chalking up another cool life experience, happy to be alive.  And then we started to run...

Like I said, I wish I had pics from the race itself.  But at least I have my mental pics.  I spent a lot of time with my nose to the ground, bearing down on the hills.  I laughed as I uploaded my race stats from my Garmin watch to my computer and looked at the elevation change.  1,344 feet.  It only confirmed what my quads and my lungs already knew to be true:  this race had crazy long hills.  They sort of made my training runs on Old Lehi Road going down to the Orange Patch look like speed bumps.  But when you live and train in flat 1200 feet-above-sea-level Mesa, the Lehi Road hills and canal hills and McDowell road hills really are hills.  I guess it's all relative. Perhaps if I lived and trained in Colorado or Utah or some other mountainous region, I might have been more prepared. Or maybe I should have gone out further east and run around by Las Sendas.

But that's OK.  We always have room to improve and new things to try.  I was so happy when I finished.  Happy, again, after 1:58:29 of a lot of unhappy.  Sure, there were stretches along the course with beautiful downhills where I thought I was on top of the world. Stretches where my legs were in full flight and were carrying me down the hills like the wind.  I felt amazing then, as I soaked in the views and cold air and felt like a gazelle.  But mostly, honestly, I was just fighting the battle within.

I have often said, very often in fact, that it's good to do hard things.  I believe that with all my heart.  It's good to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, good to set new goals and work a little harder to be a little better.  Good to do things that make us sweat and nearly hurl and almost cry, and then let us smile and laugh about it hours later and get excited to do it all over again.  Funny how that works.  On my 20-second video clip at mile 7.5 of 13.1, this is what I said (through much shortness of breath: "So here I beautiful out here though. I'm gonna make it I think. I'm at 7 1/2 miles.  It's the hardest thing I've ever done.  No doubt about it.  But I gotta keep running.  Bye."

The night before, while we were sitting at dinner with our friends talking about running and the upcoming Rim to Rim and everything else, I said, "You know, I've been thinking about something for a while now.  Up to this point in my life, the Rim 2 Rim has been the hardest physical thing I've ever done.  I wonder if, after the race tomorrow, I'll still think that's true."  We all chuckled a little, but I thought about that on the course.  When I finally crossed the finish line and realized that I had finished the insanity in under two hours, I was so happy.  Ryan met me at the cool down area and asked how it was.  My reply:  "It was harder than the Rim to Rim for sure.  Not even close."  Now, I don't know if that was the immediate gut reaction of a tired 40-year old girl who had only been in recovery for 2 minutes, but now, two days later, I can still firmly say that it's my new hardest thing.  I've said a gazillion times that running is so mental, but never before have I felt that to be more true.  When our minds tell us to stop, that we can't do this, that this hill is too big, that we can't run any more, our bodies know better and tell us to keep fighting.  Keep pushing.  And then there's always my best imaginary blue fish friend, Dory, singing her favortie song to me when I need it most..."Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running, running, running..."  What would I do without Dory?

Crossing the half marthon finish line (with the lovely ladies finishing their 5k walk next to me)

Even though it was my slowest half marathon ever, I was just so happy to be done and happy to finish under two hours.  Can't you just tell from that look on my face?

See, smiling again.  Just a couple minutes later.  We rebound so quickly :)

Man, I love this guy!  I love that he's there to support me always and that he makes me feel beautiful and amazing all the time.

Here we are, sporting our hardware.  The medals are pie-shaped pieces, designed to be 1/4 of a full pie.  The idea being that if you run four years in a row, you'll complete your pie.  I think I might just do that!

And alas, the fudge shop pic.  We found this place on Friday when we were cruising through Old Town Sedona.  It smelled like a little bit of heaven (and tasted like it too), so we had to frequent the joint once more on our way out of town on Saturday.

We had a great weekend in Red Rock Country.  I'm already looking forward to going back next year, although I think I will train a little differently next time.  More hills.  A lot more hills.

Race Stats:

13.1 miles
Average race elevation: 4442 feet (per Garmin)
1,344 feet of elevation gain
1:58:29 final time
Finished 10/52 in my age group (F40-44)
Finished 63/384 total women
Finished 138/586 total runners

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's Great 2 B 8!

Sometimes you blink and wonder where the time went.  This is one of those times.

The memories of this little spice of life girl coming into our world still seem so fresh to me.  My remembrances are vivid.  I can still feel her breathing on my next as she laid ever so still on my chest in the NICU.  She was small and so extra fragile to me with all those tubes and gadgets connected.   When I finally got to hold her for the first time several days after her birth, I cried.  I still remember how I felt sitting in that chair and tear up now as I type just thinking about it. 

Although her beginnings were a little rocky, she has thrived and grown into such a beautiful and spirited girl.  It's amazing that she's already eight and now a full-fledged baptized member of the church.  Ryan had the great honor and opportunity of baptizing her last month on January 7, 2012, with so many family and some good friends there to support her.  It was an extra blessing that her little cousin, Lily, got to share this special baptism day with her.  They were only born a week apart.

Rowan Sue Brown and Lily Sue Berrey, both proudly carrying their Great Grandma Sue's name, just before they got baptized at the Lehi Stake Center on Saturday, January 7, 2012
Here they are together at Rowan's birthday party
Rowan with her school friend, Ava Driggs

Grandma Cheri came to the movie with us (The Chipwrecked movie) and helped me transport the kiddos

Ryan, Rowan, Lily and J.R.
Rowan's Aunt Jayme made her this cute candy poster for her baptism.

During Christmas break, we had our Weaver cousins in from Washington visiting for their Aunt Cami's wedding.  So we decided to have Lainey & Avery over for a sleep over, then the next day the Weaver boys, cousin Lily and friend Ava all came over and we went to the movies for Rowan's birthday.  We picked up Ned's Crazy Sub and ate cake afterwards for the best impromptu birthday party ever!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What We Do

I carved a few minutes out of my day and caught up on some good blogs I love.  It's been a month I think since I've logged in.  I've missed the reads.  Lots of inspiration, lots of things to relate to.  Some new ideas now forming in my already packed brain and some new goals for next week.  I think it's fantastic that we write and share and think and struggle and succeed together.  Thanks to my blogging sistas for your inspiration.

It's been a great and busy month for our crew.  We somehow managed to get away to Colorado for our week of skiing after working our tails off and burning the midnight oil the entire week before.  It seems like we have to work double time in order to take vacation, and then work double time catching up when we get back.  Crazy how that works.  But it's always that way with us, especially being dual-career parents and running a business.  But it was so worth it.

Our week in the cold country was wonderful.  Truly, it was the best of both worlds spending the first half of the week with our kiddos on the slopes, creating amazing memories, then skiing the last half with our friends.  I was completely beaming with joy as I watched our two littles cruise down the slopes at full speed on their second day.  They learn so fast.  And the big girls - wow, was I impressed.  This is only their second year skiing and they did so great.  Ryan and I talked a lot about all the fun years ahead we're going to have with our kids.  They are at such fun ages and I know it's just going to keep getting better.  Anyway, the kiddos flew home with Grandma Cindy on Wednesday after being with us in Beaver Creek for 5 days, and then we picked up our good friends, the Binghams, who stayed with us the last three days.  And that was a total blast too.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so much.  The skiing was great.  I did the superpipe 5 times (scary) and played in the terrain park at Copper Mountain all afternoon one day.  Yes, I am a big 40 year old kid.  And I loved it.

I have tons of great pics to share (some already posted on FB), and sometime they might actually make in on this blog.  We'll see.  But suffice it to say that the vaca was nothing short of perfect.  The condo was amazing, the weather was great, the company was unbeatable.

Now we're getting ready for another cool experience.  Ryan and I are leaving tomorrow for Sedona so that I can run in the Sedona Half Marathon. I'm excited and a little nervous for the hills and the elevation.  Looking forward to the time with Ry and the amazing scenery on the runs and the opportunity to chalk up another life experience.  I've been running in the cold and chalking up the miles. Wearing down my treads.  Loving life.  Last night I went running after work, which is not my norm (I'm usually the crack of dawn girl), but since Barrett had her ortho appt at 7:00 yesterday, that was my only option.  It was fun running with Rowan alongside on her bike, keeping me company.  She's so dang cute.  I just wonder what she'll be like when she grows up.  She's excited about ball season, but truly, I don't sense the same "drive" with her as I see with the others.  Maybe it's just too early to tell.  She really wants to do gymnastics and maybe I should just give in and sign her up already.  She'd probably be fantastic with that cute little athletic build and all.

I threw BP to all four kiddos on Tuesday afternoon at the retention basin.  Spring ball is upon us and it's time to get ready.  I must admit that I was really proud of all of them.  They are hitting the ball so well, especially the big girls.  But so was Easton.  This is his first year playing on a team - I hope it goes well.  We still need to play a lot of catch and break in his glove some more.  It's going to be another busy spring for sure with four kids on four team playing 2 games a week at 3 different parks.  But that's just what we do, right?