Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ragnar Relay Race review Part 3: My darkest hour

Ragnar Race Report - part 3 -- 

Read part 1 here and part 2 here first.

So the first 3 miles of this run were OK. The camera guys were following me on and off and I had a little go-pro camera strapped to me to catch the uniqueness of what it is to run in the dark. I was making some jokes for the camera about the woods and the dark. I made comments about the many "gazelles" (other runners) that kept running quickly past me. I had decided to take this run very slow. It was still super humid (I began to sweat as soon as I started to move) and 10 miles is not a drop in the bucket for me. I had run a 7 mile long run the week before but it wasn't under these circumstances that included being under-fueled, (in hind-sight) probably under-hydrated and sleep deprived. So, 'go slow' was my mantra.

Those first 3 miles I felt pretty good. All-in-all, as soon as I started running I was able to shake off the nerves and get in good spirits. I was smiling and joking as I greeted my team during the first two supported stops. But the slight cramping in my calves and hamstrings was alarming to me. I get that feeling usually in mile 11 or 12 of a half marathon. To start to get that feeling at mile 2 or 3 of a 10 mile run was disconcerting. So I thought, "maybe I should walk a bit." So I began to alternate walking and running but still the cramping gradually got worse, until somewhere in mile 3, the last time I decided to try a run, it occurred to me that I was in trouble. Serious, serious trouble. My legs were starting to lock in those awful cramps. Both legs all muscles - even the tops and arches in my feet cramped and seized. This was going to be bad and a looong night. I staggered, I crawled along. And then I lost it.

The pressure of making the film, the feeling that I was letting down the team, the idea that I might not be able to finish this run, the excruciating pain coursing thru the lower half of my body, the idea that I could be pulled not just from this leg but from the overall race, the thought of NOT making it to the finish line…. it was too much. I was overwhelmed, I had waited nearly a year for this moment and I was becoming undone. I was exhausted and so, so, so devastated. I couldn't stop walking because I knew if I did my legs would completely give out and painfully cause me to fall to the concrete. My body was giving up on me but I didn't want to give up on this run or myself. It was awful.

I had worried about dumb stuff, alligators, tripping over an unseen crack in the road in the dark, snakes,  even toothless backwood guys chasing me with axes or chain saws but never did I think my body would do this to me so soon. (I suspected that mile 8 and 9 might be challenging but I never doubted that I would make it.)

All of it made me fall apart not just physically but mentally. I forgot a camera was following me (because joy of joy, who doesn't want to be filmed during the most vulnerable, raw moment of your life…) My breaking point was a Ragnar van full of joyful racers who beeped at me and said "Looking good, runner" in support. They meant it kindly. It broke me. I began to sob, "No I'm not. I'm not looking good." And I dragged and sobbed for what felt like miles.

Apparently, I later learned, I slipped into a mental zone of not feeling good enough and of feeling like a complete failure, who was letting the team and myself down. Apparently all of the darkest demons of feeling 'not worthy,' 'not capable,' 'not good enough' of being a failure surfaced. Those might be quieted but I guess they are never dead and attack at you when you're at your worse. Yeah. It was baaaaad.

I don't remember much, just feeling emotionally and physically in pain. (But good for me! It's on film! ugh.) When I finally found my van at our next place of support, they urged me to let them run the rest of my leg.

It felt so much like I had failed - I wanted to press on walking even if it took me all night. I misread the rules and thought that if I was pulled, my race was done. They convinced me that they didn't think that was the case. They wanted me to recuperate so I could be there for them for my third leg. If I had carried on, I would never be able to run my next leg.  I was too beat up to argue, my legs hurt to bad, plus I knew that it would take me two more hours to walk at the pace I was managing and I would screw over the whole team by backing up everyone else's runs and then I'd jeopardize the team crossing the finish line. I had to raise the white flag. Devastated just isn't a strong enough word.

There's just so much more emotion and drama in this night that it's still too painful to talk about. It's totally freaking me out that the whole ugly thing is firmly on camera (not just from the camera guy - but the go-pro I really forgot about - recorded the whole thing.) As a producer, I know it needs to be a part of the film. It's a part of the story. As the person it happened to? It's going to be very, very hard to watch. Never in my life had I felt like that. I am not editing the film. I probably will not watch that footage until the movie is made. I'm scared to see it.

In the midst of this all, my van was f'ing solid. Talk about team work. Talk about unconditional love, care, support. They nurtured me, they fueled me, they helped to stretch me, they cried for me, they ran for me, they loved me. They took to action to figure out the exact rules (turns out as long as I wasn't administered an IV I could return for my third leg). If anything immediately came from this, it was the tremendous feelings of love from my team that I needed so badly in that moment and thank God for.

Van 2 day 1 - waaay before my night run - I love them (and the rest of the team) so much

So that was that. Good times - huh? So humbling.

The good news is no matter how dark the night gets, light always returns.

PS: So why did this happen? I think that despite eating rice and beans at 7:30PM and trying to choke down a rice cake right before my run - I was way under fueled and not prepared to run at 3AM run. And even though I thought I was drinking enough water, due to the tummy issues, the fact that I ran 4.2 earlier that day in high heat/humidity, and the humidity in the middle of the night, I probably needed 2 or 3 times the water I had. I probably drank 5 or 6 16.9 fl ounce water bottles during the course of the day (felt like a lot for me). I also tend to lose potassium and magnesium quickly - that could've been an issue too. Whatever it was, I need to really fix that asap.


Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing... Sometimes we forget that things happen and it's okay if they do. Knowing that you are not going to cut that out of the film shows that you are honest and brave.

nikki said...

you are amazing, jen the runner... can't wait to see the film... running at 3 am is an amazing feat. bravo to you on this remarkable adventure!!! xo

Unknown said...

Thanks Rebecca. It was really bad. It's really embarrassing on many levels but it really happened and I think it's important that to show that no matter how long you are running/ how far you've come in your goals, things like this can happen -- and even if it is ugly, you can always find a way to pick yourself up. I learned so much from this awful run. And though I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I learned so, so many valuable lessons in this experience.

Unknown said...

Thanks Nik.

John Hulsey said...

We started as a team. We ran as a team. And we ended as a team. It doesn't get any more basic than that.

And I'd run with you again on any team, any time, anywhere!

(Runner 12)

Erica Gorman said...

Oh honey, you are a rock star and by being able to tell your story, that just makes you stronger.

Although I must confess, your story brought tears to my eyes. HUGS!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a journey! Looking forward to seeing the piece on the today show.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rik Akey and Ada Wong back in October. You can hear the interview here Fat to Finish Line Podcast Interview

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a journey! Looking forward to seeing the piece on the Today Show. Will just have to DVR the whole thing.

I had the pleasure to interview two team members Rik Akey and Ada Wong on Runner Academy Podcast back in September. Here's the link if anyone wants to hear more about them

Brenna said...

I cannot lie- I cried reading this. As someone who has battled her weight and feeling good enough throughout the last few years... I got this completely. Thank you for your honestness and know that it reminded me that it is not a battle I am on alone!

Carly said...

You are so amazing and I'm so glad to be on your team!!!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

Your struggle shows we are not machines. We have thoughts and emotions that are a part of what we do and what we think we are capable of doing. Since that was your first night run ever, you didn't have that experience "in the bank" to draw from. Yes, you've run that distance, but, like you said, never sleep and fuel deprived, and utterly alone. You did the best you could, Jen. Alter any one of those factors and it could have been an entirely different run. By you pulling yourself that leg it shows how awesome a team player you are. We love you!

Holly from Leaps of Faith said...

What a truly beautiful, raw, sincere post! And way to capture what running a Ragnar relay is really support, love, encouragement. Thank you for sharing your story...not only will you gain strength from it, so will your readers!

ToJewItMayConcern said...

Good Job Jen!!!!!

- Doug

Katie Foster said...

Jen, you did AMAZING! This part of our story was actually my favorite part of the race--of course I hate that you were hurting and upset, but I think it shows how bonded we are as a team. And you finished your third leg like a total CHAMP!

Scott said...

Can't wait to see the Sodium and water girl!! Sodium and water!!

Glad you made it. And one likes boring have to have that heart touching moment. Good job as both an athlete and producer.