1. You get to run a 200+ mile race without having to run all 200 miles. You and eleven other people assign yourselves three legs and each runner covers around 9-20 miles. The race consists of 36 exchange points where you pass your 80’s style slap-bracelet onto the next runner.

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2. You’ll have eleven new best friends. I signed up for my first Ragnar after begging my parent’s neighbor to find a spot for me on her team. She came through and pretty soon I was part of a facebook group of strangers, planning out who was bringing diaper wipes and bananas for our Blaine to Langley trek. On Friday morning I met that group of strangers and we headed north. We were all friends by Bellingham.

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Van 1

Ragnar team

3. Running at different times a day. You get to run at…

…sunset…

Sunset

…sunrise…

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…middle of the night…

Night running

…and the blazing heat of mid-day.

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4. Your team is responsible for you, and you them. There are (practically) no water stations so each van is responsible for keeping their runner hydrated and happy. This meant stopping every few miles and waiting for your runner so you can offer…

…laughs…

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…hugs…

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…water…

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…and photography skills to take that picture at the top of the gnarly hill you just conquered.

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5. You need a diverse skill set. It’s not enough to just be a good runner. A successful Ragnar team must have the skills to…

    • Decorate the vans.

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    • Maneuver be-dazzled vans through crowded exchanges.

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    • Be able to fix car glitches while on the run. When our driver was running we somehow turned all the dome lights on. Despite scouring the owner’s manual we couldn’t get them off. When we met up with him in the middle of his run he barely broke his stride as he reached through the window and turned off the lights, yelling “This is the opposite of support!” as he continued on.
    • Read maps (and owner’s manuals) and give directions. U-turns are your friends.
    • Analyze and update data. You are constantly calculating pace and mileage to figure out where your van needs to be when.

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    •  Be a social media pro. Our data plans all felt a little shutter over the weekend. #RagnarPNW

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6. You do get to sleep!

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7. Side games: These include keeping track of kills (runners you pass) and tagging other cars with magnets featuring your team logo.

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8. Running bonding moments

Kira

9. After you finish as a team, all your medals fit together. Awww…

Ragnar medals

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The standard milling around before the race startsLuckily yesterday’s Jackalope 5K race in Wyoming had a 10am start since the baby and I ended up leaving Denver Saturday morning instead of Friday night. And when we stopped between Cheyenne and Laramie the wind was so cold and biting that I kinda wanted to turn the car around and go to bed. We soldiered on. In my quest to run a race in all fifty states I intentionally chose a short one for Wyoming because I HATE running in the wind.  Luckily things weren’t so bad in down in Laramie, since the town is down between the Snowy Mountain range and the southern peaks of the Medicine Bow National Forest.

 

The High Plains Harriers (along other local groups) have been putting on the Jackalope 5K for the past twelve years. This year the Brendon Orr, a volunteer with Black Dog Animal Rescue, served as race director and participation shot through the roof with 249 participates (114 being the previous record). More importantly, $4,920 was raised for the Rescue. Dogs were invited to run also, which seemed to bring people out. One couple I spoke to were running the race with two kids in a jogging stroller and two dogs on leashes. They usually avoid races until the weather gets warmer but were enthusiastically participating today because the Black Dog Rescue is close to their heart. They’ve fostered many rescue dogs.

Racing dogs

For me personally, the race was fairly anticlimactic. I started in the back with the other strollers and slow-looking dogs, and worked my way up to the middle of the pack when things started clearing out. I was just getting in my grove when Aubrey started wailing and protesting being in her stroller. So I ended up walking across the finish line with an empty stroller and a pink bundle in my arms at just under forty minutes. It was whatever the opposite of a PR is. Oh well. The race was nice enough – all on paved trails, along a creek, under a highway, and through a park. Since it is still winter (that groundhog apparently lied to us) it wasn’t too picturesque, save for the mountains in the background.

I skipped the post-race festivities to feed Aubrey and then headed to downtown Laramie to find some food for myself. I got distracting wandering around downtown though downtown Laramie -lots of cute little shops, even if you don’t like antiquing. I was especially taken with The Second Story, an old hotel that has been converted into a book store/coffee house. Old hotel rooms have been converted into spaces for different types of books.  The children’s shop next store was pretty cute too. There were a lot of restaurants nearby, but eventually I decided on The Crowbar and Grill. All of these places are around Iverson and 1st and 2nd streets.

Book store

Toy store

The Crowbar and Grill

I really wanted to order the first three items on the appetizer menu: Pad Thai Fries, Poutine, and Fried Avocado. But in the end, I wasn’t quite brave enough for the fries and I’m a cheese curd purist so I went with the avocado. Delicious. I didn’t have one of their burgers (beef: picked up every morning at a local butcher) because I thought I’d have fabulous burger options in Cheyenne where I was staying the night.

Fried Avacado

I was incorrect. Cheyenne kinda sucked. I should have stayed in Laramie.

I’d decided to stay in Cheyenne because I got a good deal ($74 on a Saturday) on a nice hotel. And The Historic Plains Hotel was indeed nice, with a semi-historic looking lobby and large rooms. There is an attached restaurant, spa, and gift shop. A breakfast buffet is included (pancakes, sausage, eggs, fruit, etc.). As with most great hotels, the best thing about The Historic Plains Hotel was its central location.

Historic Plains Hotel

However, centrally located in Cheyenne doesn’t mean a whole lot. There’s nothing to do in this town. And I’m the kind of person that stay entertained in Victorville, Baldwin, Minot and Groom.  (Where, you ask? Exactly.)  My problem, of course, was in expectation. Sure, Cheyenne has a few museums (I visited the Wyoming State Museum – nothing to report), a capitol building, a train station, and lots of painted cowboy boots, but I was unimpressed.

Cheyenne Capitol

Train Depot, Cheyenne

Cheyenne boot...one of many

The historic downtown was the kind of place where you could walk across major cross streets without waiting for a light to change. When I asked a local where to go for dinner she enthusiastically directed me to either Chili’s or Buffalo Wild Wings out by the mall. Not that I mind either of those establishments, but I was hoping for some a bit more local. I ended up a Two Doors Down, a burger joint frequented by high-schoolers and young families. (So I fit in, having a six month old with me). It was fine, but nothing exceptional.

So Aubrey and I had a nice evening watching the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres from the comfort of our hotel room, which was actually quite fun.

If you have a chance to hang out in southeastern Wyoming, I definitely recommend Laramie over Cheyenne. Or better yet, go in the summer when all the ranches are open and you can stay in the mountains while learning how to rope and ride. Or if that’s not your thing, camping at the Vedauwoo Recreation Area also seems like it would be fun during the summer. This site between Laramie and Cheyenne (exit 329 off I-80) has tons of exposed rocks good for rock climbing and hiking.

Vedauwoo

Also in this area in Ames Monument, a pyramid built by the Union Pacific Railroad Company to honor the Ames brothers (they were railroad guys). I was going to check out until I realized that I’ve have to drive down nearly two miles of dirt road. I go through tires at alarming rates in the smoothest of road conditions, so I just took a picture of the sign and turned around.

Too far

First race with babyI can finally run again!!! My daughter turned six months today, which means I can officially run with her in a jogging stroller without worrying about giving her shaken baby syndrome. Likewise, I can resume going to the gym as childcare is available for those exactly half a year old (and not a day sooner, as I discovered when I tried to sign her up yesterday).

Aubrey and I celebrated her half birthday by participating in the Hippity Hop Easter Trot 5k. As you can probably guess from the name of the race, this was a family friendly event. There were tons of kids running around on a search for Easter eggs prior to the race. The race itself featured a small army of oversized jogging strollers.

It wasn’t the most competitive run I’ve ever participated in. I spend the first mile cautiously jogging along, worrying simultaneously that my kid was too hot and that I’d accidently run into someone’s heel. Luckily Aubrey babbled happily for the 3.1 miles and I was fully enjoying my runners high by the end of the race, despite an embarrassing finish time that I’m not going to admit to on this blog.

The race was well organized. To me this means that there was a loudspeaker with music at the start/finish, ample parking (on the street), mile markers were obvious, results (via timing chip) were posted immediately, and there was good food at the finish. Yay breakfast burritos! It was not the most gorgeous run I’ve done in my life, but Denver’s Central Park was a nice enough venue.

Central Park, Denver

Central Park is in Stapleton, the area of Denver with a lot of new fancy sub-division houses (oh, that area). It is northeast of downtown, off of Martin Luther King Blvd and Central Park Blvd. Take the Quebec exit south off of I-70 and head east on MLK for a couple of miles. The park has a huge play area for kids including a big climbing rock that my brother would have loved when he was five. There are lots of good sledding hills too.

Subdivision heaven

Playground

Upon returning home I went on a shopping spree. My website of choice was my beloved www.runningintheusa.com. I am excited for the next few months!

April 6th: Jackalope 5K race in Laramie, WY. I emailed the race director who quickly responded in the affirmative that I could indeed run with a jogging stroller. Get ready Aubrey!

April 20th: 4-H Fun Run in Holdredge, NE. This is still a maybe, dependent on their stroller rules because I doubt I can convince anyone to travel to Holdredge with me. My affection for small town races is n0t shared by many.

May 27th: BoulderBOULDER 10K in Boulder, CO. I need to find a babysitter for this one because the huge race (50,000 participants, 90+ waves) doesn’t allow strollers. Family members: this would be an excellent weekend to visit.

June 17th: San Francisco Half Marathon. A fabulous coincidence: Aubrey’s Las Vegas dwelling father is originally from Oakland, and he’s anxious for her to meet his family that still lives there. He is a HUGE Oakland A’s fan, whereas I live and die for the Mariners. Naturally we made sure that Aubrey’s first trip to The Bay would be when the M’s are in town. (Bonus: this is also father’s day weekend) Last week I discovered that the SF Marathon would be held that same weekend. YAY!!! My best friend Denise is coming up for the weekend to and we’re doing the first half of the marathon. (She’d be in shape for the full…but I will most definitely NOT be).

June 29th: Ellsworth Wisconsin Cheese Curd run (10K? 8M?) This is another happy coincidence. My family will be celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday the EXACT SAME weekend as the cheese curd festival. And man, do I love my cheese curds.

Fresh cheese curds

Sometime in August or September: A FULL MARATHON. I’m not sure where I’ll be living/working so I can’t commit to a specific one yet. Stay tuned

So I haven’t really been running in a while…or blogging, some have noticed. I have, however, made time to make and eat a batch of cookies every weekend. Good thing I have my priorities straight.

Cookies!

I’ve been justifying this procrastination by telling myself that it is pointless to buy a jogging stroller until my infant could sit up in it. Yes, there are car seat adapters, but they are like $50 and not the point. Luckily for my cookie-loving thighs, I found a deal I couldn’t pass up on a used jogging stroller, which has a feature in which your child to lie down or sit in a half-reclining position.

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There is conflicting information on what age kiddos should be before riding in jogging strollers sans car seats, so check with your pediatrician. The going wisdom is to wait until they can hold up their heads and take it slow and smooth. I did not come across this information until writing this blog (aka, AFTER running with my little one), so I think I just found my excuse to put things off for another month, as Aubrey is just now holding up her head.

Anyways, yesterday was fifty and sunny and I was blissfully unaware of safety regulations (I’m a terrible mom…I know, I know), so I found my long-tucked-away running clothes and went for a jog. For the record, baby’s head was stable, I chose a well paved trail, and only ran two miles.  

Of course, like all things you dread and delay for no good reason, the run wasn’t bad. Neither was indulging in my favorite post workout activity: getting on run in the usa (my favorite website ever!), and searching for half marathons in cool destinations. While eating cookies.

Reasons why jogging strollers are great:

  • You can bring all kinds of stuff with you while running: Water bottle, car keys, phone with a run-tracker app, camera, and…oh yeah! A baby.
  • A smooth ride: Make that a DRASTICALLY smoother ride. I worry about shaken baby syndrome while WALKING Aubrey in her regular stroller. In the jogging stroller she promptly fell asleep and things seemed exceptionally stable.
  • Fitting in: If you, like me, live in the Denver suburbs, practically everyone out running is a mom with a jogging stroller. I’m almost part of the club. Now all I need is a dog. And expensive running clothes. And a husband with a beard.
  • If your kid starts crying, you have a good excuse to stop running. I was hoping that Aubrey would start fussing as I was heading up the steep hill halfway through that arduous two mile run. But noooo, she kept sleeping. I guess there are some drawbacks to having the world’s most perfect child.

Reasons why jogging strollers are not great:

  • They are freaking expensive. I recommend finding a used one. There should be several popping up on Craigslist in the next few months as all the people who bought New Year’s resolution workout stuff give up on their fitness goals. My stroller was a steal at $40. At least I thought it was a steal until I saw the $30 garage sale sticker on it that the lady I bought it from apparently forgot to remove. Oh well.

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  • Storage: Due to the tri-tire design, jogging strollers can fold up in half, but not flat. This means that the stroller doesn’t fit in the trunk of my car. It has to hang out in the backseat, next to my daughter’s car seat, which makes me nervous. There is also no place in my house for the ginormous contraption, so I have to store it outside. I’ll let you know how it weathers in a few months…unless someone steals it first.

Folded Stroller

  • Tethers are necessary – you don’t want that stroller to go flying if you trip or accidently let go of the handle. This can happen more easily when you are running than when you’re walking.

Happy running! If you are without child and want a running buddy who will carry your water-bottle, look me up if you are in Denver. We’ll go on a non-crying, non-bumpy two mile run in the Mile High ‘burbs. For the record, I have a seven-year old Baby Trend stroller. If you are cooler than me, you might want to go with the BOB Revolution or Joovy Zoom.

Now that I officially have a job and an address and a steady paycheck and other things normal people have, I can start planning my life, aka my running vacations. The past six months I’ve been choosing races based on the following questions: 1) Where the heck am I? 2) Where will I be this weekend? 3) Is there a race that is not a 26 mile trail run in my general vicinity? 4) Do I have enough money to run as a non-bandit?

This strategy actually worked pretty well. In 2011 I ran…

Then I ran out of money, and had to pass on the Seattle ½ Marathon and the Las Vegas Rock n Roll ½ Marathon. I was sad that I missed the Seattle Marathon, but I’m glad I opted out of the Las Vegas one. The ½ marathon course looked terrible and after the race reports about tainted water started surfacing.

Anyways, now that I have said job, I can have a fancy race calendar on my blog like Sarah and Cely and other runner-bloggers have. Due to lack of funding and my aversion towards driving mountain passes in the snow, all my running will be in Denver for the first few month.

 January

February

  • 11th: Ralston Creek Half Marathon in Arvada, CO – unless the race sells out before I get paid. I’m training for it anyways!
  • 12th: Platte River 7 miler in Denver, CO.

March:

  • March 17th: Canyonlands Five Miler in Moab, UT – unless it’s snowing in the mountains, which is probably will be.
  • March 25th: Tri-State 20 miler: Starts in Maine, runs down the New Hampshire coast, and finishes in Massachusetts. I REALLY want to do this race (it’s during my Spring Break), but don’t know if I’ll have the money. If you see ads go up on this blog, you’ll know why!

April

  • 7th: City Park 4 miler in Denver, CO
  • 14th : Kevin Whirlwind Horse 10K in Spearfish, SD

May

  • 6th: Stapleton 5 miler in Denver, CO
  • 27th: Wyoming ½ Marathon in Laramie, WY

June

  • 16th: Grandma’s Marathon: Duluth, MN. I’ve already paid for this one, so it’s a go. I haven’t run a marathon in 10+ years, so I figured it’s time to do another one. This race is supposed to be GORGEOUS.

So that’s it for now! I’d better start running…

Most depressing moment of the week: Watching the Seattle 1/2 Marathon participants take off without me.

Not that I should really be complaining, because if that was my most depressing moment, then I’ve had a pretty good week 🙂

It was a stupid depressing moment, because there wasn’t any real reason that I didn’t run the Seattle half. I am not injured, I’m in reasonably good shape, and the race wasn’t sold out. My aunt/favorite family running buddy was participating. I just didn’t want to shell out the $100 bucks. If I could do it all over again, I would be $100 poorer. Running a race is priceless. (Well, not really. I don’t know if it would be worth a million dollars to run down soggy Seattle streets, but you get the idea.)

I told myself that I would go to the race and take good pictures. I never get good race photos because I’m always running. That plan failed as it was raining (of course) and I didn’t want to get my camera wet.

I told myself that I would go to the race and sell hand warmers to raise money for Team in Training. That plan failed as nobody wanted to buy hand warmers. And I hate selling things. I did give a bunch of the warmers to some homeless guys, so that made me happy.

I told myself that I would go and cheer on my aunt. That plan did actually work, but I think my aunt would have felt cheered anyways. Less than two and a half hours after the starting gun went off, she danced out of the finish line chute with her medal and a smile that can only be brought on by post-race endorphins.

“I feel so good! I could run another three miles!” She exclaimed as we headed to the recovery area.

“I feel so good! I could run another five miles!” She exclaimed as we headed to the car.  

I didn’t doubt her – she’s one tough aunt. Case in point: She ran the Spokane ½ last month and tripped, going down head-first at mile twelve. She stopped for some emergency first aid, but couldn’t get that finisher’s medal out of her bruising head. With a race aid worker by her side, she finished the race and headed directly to Urgent Care for eight stitches. She ran her first ½ marathon trail run a few weeks later.

In conclusion:

Be like my aunt. Run first, stop the bleeding* later.

Don’t be like me. Lay down that credit card,* pin on your race number and go.

*Note: I am not to be held responsible for any episodes of fainting due to blood loss or decreases in credit card ratings due to unreasonable race charges.

I am surely no Detroit expert. My time in Michigan totaled two days and I stayed in the suburbs (Farmington Hills is nice, if you are curious). But as a casual observer, I couldn’t NOT notice that the city can use some help.    

Detroit looks exactly like you think it does. I paid for my gas downtown through a sheet of bullet proof glass. Every sixth house is gutted and covered with graffiti, while the homes in between are kept up and lived in. I saw a lot of boards over windows.

  

Which is why I’m glad that I “toured” the southwest part of the city as a participant in the Day of the Dead 10K. Runners are always good company to keep, even if they are dressed up as sombrero-ed skeletons.

Though my non-Hispanic cultural lens, I’ve never really gotten the Día De Los Muertos. Jubilant skeletons, ghost parades, dancing on gravestones, and feasting joyously with the dead has always seemed a bit creepy to me. This race is exactly what I needed to get over my oh-so-traditional attitudes on death celebration.

I talked to a gal while we were waiting in line for the bathroom (this is the prime runner bonding spot in ANY race, by the way). Her husband had just moved here from Mexico so she figured running the race was appropriate. She gave me a quick de-briefing of the holiday. “He really doesn’t believe in most of this, but we celebrate for tradition’s sake,” she said of her husband. She then told me about the family feasts that are prepared, the celebratory atmosphere, the memorial alters, and the bowls of water that are placed out so the dead can wash their hands before sitting down to eat with the family.

I wondered if any of the dead would be running with us.    

If so, I hope they enjoyed the race as much as I did. Starting at Patton Park Recreation Center, the race goes though the historically hispanic part of Detroit, winding participants though two cemeteries and several neighborhoods. It’s not exactly an out-and-back run, but the course turns on itself several times, allowing you to see the front runners speeding past in the opposite direction. The race draws a pretty good crowd. The front runners aren’t Kenyans, but they are pretty speedy.

The festivities were the best part of the race though. Most holiday races put out of appropriately themed cookies and call it good. Not in Southwest Detroit! People went all out. About 1/3 of the participants were dressed up, and everyone seemed to be in a festive mood. When you sign up for the race, you can mention the name of a loved one who is buried in one of the race-course cemeteries, and that name is added to the memorial near the race starting line. As we ran though the Holy Cross Cemetery, there were two different dance troupes, boom boxes places near headstones, entertaining us runners.

Oh, and these cemeteries need to be mentioned, because they are spectacular. No rows of old boring headstones here. Graves were topped with huge statues, rising obelisks, and intricately carved pillars. There are even a few mausoleums thrown into the mix. The Woodmere Cemetery was especially striking. I think it might have been even cooler than the above-ground burial sites in New Orleans. Oh, that reminds me – there was a saxophone player at the place where the 10K and the 5K race split. This can sometimes be a hard part of the race for those running the longer distance, and the sax was a welcome distraction.

After running six miles through gorgeous grounds with cheerful ghouls and witches covered in hibiscus flowers, I was warming up to the Day of the Dead. Maybe remembering deceased loved ones doesn’t have to be a sober and cold experience after all.

The Day of the Dead 10K is held annually in Southwest Detroit on one of the weekends close to November 1st. Check out the city’s website to register, and get to the race early. Day of race registration and number pick-up is a madhouse.