I’ve Been to the Mountain Top, OMG!!
Where do I begin with my tale of Ragnar Wasatch Back, UT....
As I have stated before life is to short not to live it to the fullest well I was not shy this time around. When I did the Madison-Chicago Ragnar last year I was so excited and was ready to do another one. So I signed-up for it again BUT took it a step further and decided to do a back-2-back, which included Wasatch Back. Now for folks that know me know that I like my paths, give me asphalt and concrete all day for running, good solid footing. Utah is a pretty place very scenic with all of the mountains and I put it right up there with Arizona and Denver. The temperature was anywhere from 93*-99* so glad I had my sunscreen. I was not prepared for the "terrain of trail terror" when I was at Wasatch Back.
As you may or may not know Ragnar is a 200-mile relay consisting of a team of 12 unless it is an ultra team, which consist of 6-8 team members. I was runner number 6 not bad I figured I would be done early, chill, and wait on my fellow teammates.
My first leg was 7 miles that “started” at an elevation of 6402' and downhill for 4.2 miles with all the switchbacks. Let's pause right here....what the hell is a switchback (lol)?? I kept hearing the term being used and of course I learned very quickly along with my other new term, hairpin curve or turn. Again, I have never run on a mountain trail, in fact have not been on a mountain for any reason. As I descended down the mountain I said to myself "self this ain't to bad".
The goal was to take it slow and go down nice and easy, take in the sights, and coast downhill, well not so much. There’s nothing like going down a dirt road with sand, rocks, tree branches, and the forward momentum including my body wants to fly. My knees are beginning to have a conversation informing me that they Do Not like this, quads are singing, and my calves are pissed. The vans are on my right and the cliff edge on my left, if I fall and roll, I'm dead (at least God would not have far to come and get me). The heat is so hot my sweat is sweating, my water taste like hot water, and there is no van support, really sucks at this point but I keep going down. Now I know you trail runners out there may be laughing or saying “suck it up buttercup” but this is new to me and I’m TOTALLY out of my comfort zone. Again I do not do trails.
Now the hairpin turns, never seen anything like it let alone having to run it yes I'm running believe it or not! I slowed so I would not misstep and trip again, the vans are behind me and I'm praying they do not lose control again or I'm dead, such lovely thoughts. Finally I make it to flat ground and completed the remaining 3 miles. I have never been so happy to see a paved road so I thought. It only gets better!! My 2nd leg was not that bad at 3:00am had a teammate run with me because last year we had an issue on the night run and decided we would have two runners if needed. It was PITCH BLACK. Headlamps were virtually useless and the footing was awful again trail, I bout had enough of this mess at this point.
Nothing prepared me for my last and final leg. The last leg was 2.5 miles and noted as "easy" on the Ragnar Leg Map. Leg 3, I was so glad to know that I was almost done, going to knock out these 2.5 miles, shower, have a beer, and wait for Van 2 at the finish line. Well not so fast o gifted feet!! As I wait for my fellow runner to come in, the sun is shining like new money, 97* and no breeze, hence the Sahara Desert. I felt like a chocolate chip cookie left in the oven way to long (burnt up). As runner 5 comes in I am ready to go. My plan was to take it easy on the upward climb and then run into home base. As I ascended up what I thought was a “hill” on yet another trail, I noticed that I could not see the people who were in front of me, and did not know which way to go so I stayed on the narrow path. Then I looked up and saw the people were above me quite a bit, straining my neck as I look up to see them. Now my journey begins…..
It finally hit me that this is not a hill but a “MOUNTAIN” as I kept going up, getting higher and higher. At this point I decided I had to keep climbing for there was no other way to go but up and to far to go back the other way. The trail is slippery, rocky, gnarly, and scary for my footing is not that good. I feel like Spiderman scaling up a building, vertical, without the webbing, and had only my arms to keep my balance. The altitude is beginning to kick in for my breathing is getting harder and it is sooo hot for there is no shade. At this point people want to pass me and I’m so scared to move because there is nowhere to go or stop but they manage.
I’m still going uphill and it ain’t levelling out anytime soon so now I’m trying to keep the panic button from being pushed. I happened to look to my right and noticed that things looked like ants and that told me I was pretty high up, and I got a bit dizzy so I stopped to collect my bearings. Well I keep going up and finally someone is behind me another lady and she said “be careful there are snakes in the bushes” and I said “WTF” really??!! Now the panic has crept in again the fear is real, I gotta keep going up no other way. I’m so tired at this point, my quads are throbbing, my calves are tight as a drum, and trying to keep my emotions in check. Now the climb has gotten steeper just when I didn’t think it could get any steeper, and did I mention the upward hairpin curve??!! I almost had to pull myself up like rock climbing (which I’ve never done) should have watched a Youtube video on how to climb a mountain, Oh that’s right Ragnar didn’t tell me, this is considered easy by them.
The trail path is very narrow my feet could barely move, literally one foot in front of the other no side-by-side. I continue to climb, air getting very thin, I’m fried from the sun, and scared as HELL!! I finally make it to the top of the mountain, the sight is beautiful, and now I’m really scared. I had a conversation with GOD and told him I cannot do this and I’m so scared. I sent an S.O.S asked him to send me some help like now! I took two pictures and saw another young lady and asked if I could follow her down and she said yes, and so I meet Annie. Once we finished our pics she asked if I was ready to go and I said yes, but asked where was the path and she pointed. I FROZE, PETRIFIED, could not move and told her I cannot go down, she said there was no other way. S.O.S to GOD, uhh another request, how about a helicopter? Annie told me to hold her hand and step where she stepped, do not look left or right just at her feet.
I am really shaking at this time. I’d rather run in the dark than to do this, so I start my decent. The downward crawl was worse, nothing to hold onto but Annie’s arm. I cannot cry for the tears would jack up my vision like the sweat was doing. I’m in FULL PANIC FEAR MODE. Thought about how I would miss my family if something were to happen to me for one slip would do it, no second chances up there. Annie was my ANGEL for she got me to talk for she knew I was scared, told me when to drink water, and we kept on moving. I could not get a GPS signal on my watch (stuck on .42) nor a signal on my phone, and was to scared to stop and try at this point <lol>.I guess we had been up there for a while for Annie’s team called and she said everything was ok and she was helping a “friend” down the mountain.
As we are going down, a man is coming up to look for his wife and she was about 5 minutes behind me, and boy were they glad to see each other. I asked Annie how far had we come and she said not two miles yet, WHAT!!??? REALLY??!! She told me just to keep walking and plant my feet solid on the ground. I am really calling on the Saints, Jesus, and the Angels put me on hold for I was calling so much <lol>. We keep going down and at a small clearing I think I see one of my teammates. I told Annie I must be delusional for I’m seeing things a mirage of my teammate but I was wrong, not a mirage, it was JIM. Talk about a site for sore eyes. He said everyone was getting worried and someone had to look for me and he volunteered. What sparked this is that my team saw people coming in and asked how far were they coming from and pointed to the mountain and that is when they got scared.
FINALLY, we made it to the bottom, wobbly knees and all. I got my bearings and my footing for I had to walk a bit to get steady. I told Annie I DO NOT WALK ACROSS THE FINISH LINE, I dug real deep, and called up all the reserves that I had left. Jim told us to go ahead so Annie and I ran arm-in-arm together to the final exchange. OMG I was sooooo happy and could no longer contain my emotions. I hugged Annie with all of my heart for she did not have to stay with me, GOD answered my prayers and sent me her. I hugged Jim for coming to look for me for I was still about a little over half a mile out. When I made it to my team they pointed to where I came from and I was shocked. The mountain sign said PC (Park City) and I was above that sign kind of like the HOLLYWOOD sign in California. The elevation was 6800’ both ways and I DID IT!!! Once the last runner came in (#12) the team honored me with the baton telling me that my last leg was epic. I was in total shock and the tears flowed for I have never been so humbled. I learned a lot about myself on June 20, 2015. Even in adverse situations GOD still has your back but you have to TRUST AND BELIEVE. It was touch and go but I was determined to come back in one piece ALIVE.
What’s on the agenda for now is to get stronger and healthier for this was the biggest challenge of my life. Running has showed me that I can DO when I need to. Running has allowed me to do more than the average person who does not move at all. I may not be fast, make PR’s, or break records but I RUN FOR ME!! I RUN!!