Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Rock Relay- Zions

Writing our team name on our van. No one wanted to write it because we all didn't think our handwriting was good enough, so we all took turns writing one word. The vans in a relay are all decorated with team names, team members names, number of kills (people you pass) for the van, kooky sayings etc.
Disclaimer: This is a very looong post. It's like the Red Rock Novel. Well, not really, but if you've ever wanted to know what it's like to run a relay race, then read on! If you don't really care to know or already do know, then maybe you'll just want to look at the pictures since this may get a little too long and in depth for you. 

The Back Story
(To just read about the race skip this section)
Back before Micah was born my cousin Ashley started organizing a Sandberg family team for the Red Rock Relay. A few family members had been part of a team for Ragnar Las Vegas that spring and everyone had said we should do a relay race with a team just for our family. Ashley's done quite a few relays recently and took up the challenge to be our team captain. She sent out a Facebook message to everyone in our extended family with details on the run and asking who would like to participate.

At that point I was something like seven or eight months pregnant and the most exercise I had been getting for seven or eight months was a daily walk. I was excited to realize that by the time the race came around we would be back in California and within driving distance of the race, so it would actually be something I would be able to do. But would I be ready for something like that five months after giving birth? I figured it might be a stretch, but it just might be the motivation I needed to get back in shape after the baby was born. 

There were some other issues I was unsure about. Would the baby be proficient enough with a bottle that I could leave him with Robert and without me to nurse him overnight? Would I have enough time to train between taking care of a toddler and a newborn? Would Robert even be able to get off work to watch the kids since that time of year would be smack at the end of one of his busiest times of year?

I decided to just take the plunge and commit. If the first two issues became a problem I would get Robert to run the race instead of me. And if Robert wouldn't be able to make it then I figured I could find someone else to help me out with the kids.

So six weeks after Micah was born I was out running again. I decided a realistic goal was to get out twice a week until Micah started sleeping through the night better. It was a good thing I set the goal because there were a lot of weeks when my two runs for the week happened on Friday and Saturday nights, the last possible times I could run for the week to still meet my goal. But I did manage to run twice a week every week. I was surprised how easy it came back to me after almost ten months of no running, but maybe that just got lost in the newborn lack of sleep daze I was in. And a big thanks to Robert for watching the kids so many times after just getting home from a long day at work. 

Signing up for the race definitely worked to motivate me to get back into shape quickly. I think with Julia it took me a year or more to get back to the point I was at at four months with Micah. It was just too easy to justify not working out since it was never convenient with a newborn around. But this time I was afraid not to work out and, you know, dying or something on the course.  

Over the summer I picked up my running frequency and finally just at the end of August started bumping up my mileage. I hate waking up early to run, so I usually went in the evenings. But with Robert getting home more and more often after dark I was forced to start doing 6:00 a.m. runs. Ugh, I definitely would not have had the motivation to do that without the race looming ahead. Micah still does not sleep through the night (and I'm thinking some sleep training is in order soon before his bad habits become too hard to break) so it was not easy to get up early after getting up multiple times during the night.

The kids and I flew to Utah a week and a half before the race (Robert was in fact very busy at work, but would be able to drive and meet us for the weekend of the race.) Julia had been feeling sick earlier that week, and I think all the busyness of air travel made her still recovering body tired because she slept most of the way. I, on the other hand, was just coming down with whatever she had and threw up twice on the plane. 

I was a little concerned that I might not be well enough to run. When I mentioned this to Robert he asked if I wanted him to run for me and to "put me in, coach."  I told him I still had a little time to get better. I took the week off from running in hopes I would start feeling better and couldn't help but think all my family was out to sabotage me: Micah not sleeping well at night, Robert working late and a lot hours, and now Julia getting me sick.
Out on the patio of the rental house. Kolob Canyon in the background. Gorgeous view.

The Race

Ashley did a great job finding a rental house between Cedar City and St. George for all the runners and support team for our family. This place had a great view and plenty of space and distractions to entertain the kids during the 30 hours the runners were out . The kids got to see all kinds of farm animals, and other people got to go fishing at the pond and hot tubbing. They had a nice outdoor fireplace to roast marshmallows and there was plenty of space for our group of 23 people plus kids to sleep. Just great all around.

Julia had a lot of fun playing with Kirsten, Logan and James. My mom said she didn't have to entertain Julia at all, the other kids did it for her.

First some background on the race. The Red Rock Relay is 187 miles. It starts at Brian Head (outside of Cedar City), winds down the canyon and through Cedar City, goes out to the middle of nowhere west of 1-15 through small towns no one has ever heard of like New Castle and Veyo and heads south, where it ends at the entrance to Zions National Park.

We had twelve people on our team split into two vans of six. During the race there is one person running at all times and their van is always nearby supporting them. So Runner #1 starts and runs their 3 mile (or whatever) leg, then hands off (in this race we handed off a Red Rock slap bracelet) to Runner #2 who runs another leg and hands off and so on. The six people in the other van that is not running at the time gets that five hours or so off to do whatever they want. It's a little deceiving to think of it as five hours off though, because you still need to travel to wherever the next exchange point is and the time goes pretty quickly finding something to eat, getting some sleep, showering, and getting ready for your next run.

I was in Van #2. The first runner on our team started out on Friday morning at almost 10:00 am. They stagger the teams by average pace time of the team so the slowest teams start first and the fastest teams start later that day. Our van ( Van #2) didn't even leave the house until after 11:00 a.m., and we still got to our first exchange point very early.

The the last runner in Van #1 (Uncle Don) ended at 3:23 p.m. and handed off to the first runner in our van (my cousin John).  Depending on how long and difficult each leg was we would either stop on the side of the road halfway to check on the runner, or just drive to their ending spot and wait for them. Time goes pretty quickly waiting for them as you watch the other runners come in and I passed the time mostly by surfing the internet on my phone.

First leg
I was the third runner in our van. My first leg was a short 2.9 miles, but rated a medium difficulty because it was all slightly up hill and at 10,000 feet elevation. I definitely felt the elevation change! Even though I was used to running this distance and the slight uphill wasn't very noticeable it was still a hard run for me since I was used to running at about 1,000 feet elevation. At least the weather was beautiful! I ran from 5:04 p.m.- 5:32 p.m. which might have been a hot time of day, but it was great. 
Finishing my first leg and handing off to Chris
The last runner in our van finished at 8:02 p.m. and we headed back to the house for a spaghetti dinner prepared by our "support team" consisting of my mom, some cousins, two aunts, an uncle, my brother, and sister-in-law. Between eating, showering, feeding Micah, and getting ready for the next leg I didn't have any time to sleep before we left for the next exchange around 11:00 p.m.

Night leg
Once we got to the exchange point I took a pillow and a blanket and laid out on the grass where other runners were sleeping to try to sleep myself. Every few minutes there would be a faint cheer as another runner came in so I couldn't sleep. I laid and looked at the stars for a while until I heard a familiar jingle jingle coming closer and closer. Finally I jumped up right as a dog rounded the corner and bounded onto the grass, coming to see what in the world was going on in his sleepy little town in the middle of the night.

One of the more memorable moments of the race happened after we dropped off our first runner for the night leg. Tanner joked as we drove away after getting John started on his eight mile second leg around midnight, "We should have told him to come find our van at the finish line and knock on the window"(implying we would all be asleep inside). We all laughed. John had told us he didn't need us to check on him half way so we drove to his finish line, set a timer to go off 15 minutes before we expected him to get in and went to sleep. Five minutes before the timer went off we were awakened by a pounding on the window. It was John, waay earlier than we were expecting for such a long leg. Tanner, who was up next, jumped out of the van half dazed and still waking up. He scrambled to find all his gear and took off a minute later. 

My second leg was a 3.6 mile rated hard because it was all uphill climbing 750 feet total. I started a little before 2:00 a.m. at the very edge of a tiny town called Enterprise and ran south. There was a half moon, but it was still pretty dark. We all had to run with headlamps, flashers, and safety vests so we could be well seen.

I told them to check on me half way since I had no idea how I would be doing with the uphill in the dark. I passed a girl in my first half mile and after that I didn't see anyone beside the occasional car going by. But, it was surprisingly very nice. I could see the stars and the air was nice and cool. The uphill didn't bother me as much as I thought and my "hard" leg actually turned out to be my easiest and most enjoyable! After I finished I was talking to my Dad about how the uphill didn't really bother me because it was about the incline of the hills I had trained on, and then I hear a voice from the back of the van, "I wish I had trained..."I also texted Robert around 2:30 a.m. To tell him I had just finished and he texted right back "nice." He was up experiencing his first night ever having to feed and entertain baby in the middle of the night.

My Dad hands off to Chris around 4:00 am.
Another memorable moment of the race came a couple hours later when Steven was about to run. He was sitting in the van almost all ready to run, waiting a few minutes longer for when he thought Chris would get in, when Chris got in early, ran through the gate and over to our van. Caught off guard, Steven jumped out of the van and took off running. A few minutes later he came back and said he forgot something. We all wondered, "What did he forget that was so important?" And then Steven took his running shoes out from the van and replaced the sandals on his feet that he had started his run with with his shoes!

Third and final leg.
Our two vans. Van #1 had just finished all their legs. Van #2 (my van) had our first runner out and was just about to get started on our final legs in the hot St. George heat.
We finished our night run just as daylight was starting to illuminate the course. We drove to the next exchange point in Washington City, just outside of St. George, since we wouldn't have enough time to drive back to the house and actually do anything before we would have to leave for the exchange point. We had about three hours to cleanup and try to get some sleep. Unfortunately for me I just could not sleep with so much going on, so I more had two hours of relaxation time. Next time I am definitely bringing ear plugs. By the time our other van finished it was late morning and starting to get hot. I think we were all a little nervous about running in the heat.

It was midday when it was my turn to run. The temperature was up to 93 degrees. I don't think I had ever run in the middle of the day in 90 degree weather before so I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited to finish. Before I left I soaked my hat in the ice water from our cooler and took a bottle of water. This leg was 5 miles rated medium with some roller coaster hills, the kind you get to the bottom and look up and go whoa! They weren't huge, but they weren't small either. My goal for the leg.was just not to have to stop and walk.

I decided I liked the hills and they might have even been fun if it wasn't so stinkin' hot. I passed two girls and had a another guy right in front of me the whole first half. Coming down our last big hill I was even with him, but when we got to the bottom of the hill he kept up the pace and I couldn't keep up. He just picked it up after that and I eventually lost sight of him with all the turns we made. I got a new water bottle from my team halfway through and spent the last half drinking small sips and splashing water on myself. It was HOT! And yet, not as bad as I thought because I was still able to keep running. This leg was a little outside of town, but mostly through the towns of Hurricane and La Verkin. I passed a snow cone shack and thought, "Ohh, that looks soo good."

At the one mile left mark I had run out of water, but I thought, "Just one mile, I'm almost there." This was the longest one mile of my life! I couldn't see the end until I was almost to it, so I kept thinking, "Am I there yet?" My feet were burning up. Running on black asphalt in 90+ degrees really heats up your feet. Well, and your legs and head and everything else too, but especially your feet. By the end the only thing that was keeping me  running was that I had set a goal to keep running and I was almost there (wherever the heck "there" was). Finally I ran into the gate and handed off to Chris (who had a doozy of a hill coming up, glad I didn't have to do that one!). I kicked off my shoes, and hat, asked for water (actually as I recall, I was waving my water bottle for more water as I ran down the final stretch), and rubbed ice all over my head and face. But I did it!


Various pictures of all the runners on our team throughout the race. 
The people who weren't running (with a few exceptions) just stayed at the house all day Friday and then Saturday afternoon when we finished the relay they all came out to Zion's to watch us run in as a team and celebrate with us at the finish line. Just around the corner from the finish line all the teams meet up with their last runner and ran the last 100 yards or so in with them.

Running in as a team
It was a lot of fun to see everyone who had been participating out there all at once. I had fun running as a team again, something I hadn't done since high school (ten years ago, eek). At the end we all got our medals for finishing, took pictures, and ate SNOW CONES! They told us that the high for the day at the finish line had been 103 degrees! Then we went back to the house where the first thing I did was take a shower, crash on the bed for a couple hours, then come down to eat as much as I wanted from the BBQ they had for dinner while I slept.

Snow cones at the end. Do you see the Young Tarts and Old Farts?


Team pictures with the Red Rock truck. They also have a Red Rock Moab and starting this year a Red Rock Park City (that's what's being advertised on the truck)

Jumping for joy to be all finished! (I'm still holding on to my snow cone =) )


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