Misery loves company

running hills

Freezing temperatures, 35 MPH winds, 105 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 miles and speed work. Running is hard work and when Mother Nature or your training schedule is against you, having a running partner can be the difference between rolling over in bed or rolling out of bed.

A running partner can be very difficult to find. Running partners is usually what happens. Ability and goals determine what is on your training schedule and everyone’s ability and goals are different. It can be challenging to find someone who matches up with you and can be your sole running partner.

This critical motivation may have to be more of a patchwork of individuals. Someone who can run long and slow with on the weekends and someone else who likes to do speed work or hill training (this can get even more complicated if you compete in triathlons).

The most important aspect of your running partner is personality. If the two of you don’t mix well, it really doesn’t matter what the run for the day is, it will suck.

As far as running partners go, I can take them or leave them. I’ve run on my own for years and still enjoy running alone. However, over the last month Spongebunny and J$ have been coming out to run with me in the mornings. I’ve known these two men for years and we have worked out any personality conflicts between us. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses in running and other aspects of life (there are some in depth conversations that occur when you are stuck in a van with five other people deprived of sleep for 36 hours).

Spongebunny is very kind hearted. He never complains regardless of how difficult the run is. He is willing to work hard and learn to improve his running and meet his goals. Spongebunny runs about a ten-minute mile on average and is working on his first marathon. His superpowers are consistency and reliable as a runner.

J$ is generous and quick-witted. He puts his relationships with people before everything else. There is little that gets him down and his sense of humor can always brighten my day. J$’s superpowers are running hills and ripping through flat miles faster than anyone else on my team.

The two of them provide balance to my running. Spongebunny is slower than I am so on easy days it is good to run with him. But he is also a great speed work partner because he won’t complain and doesn’t give up. J$ is great to run hill work with because he will push me harder on those hills than I would do them alone. He is also an excellent partner for speed work because he offers a challenge.

Balance is key when picking a running partner(s). If one of you is far ahead of the others, you may have to train alone when working on that particular skill. I run farther than any of the people I run with, so I end up running at least a portion of my long runs alone and then meet up with them for the last ten to fifteen miles.

Running is hard, sharing the difficult times with friends will benefit both of you.

Nut Up or Shut Up!

Van one of my relay team, Nut up or Shut up, begins our adventure at the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay at 5:00 am Friday. Van two will begin at noon. The whole team will finish around 4:00 pm on Saturday. I have eleven team members to go 193 miles. My runner’s pace ranges from 16-minute miles to 8-minute miles. Needless to say, we are not the first team across the finish line, but we are also not the last.
Relays are one of my favorite types of races. It is a great way to suck non-runners into running because there are distances for all levels, and you have your personal cheerleading squad every step of the way. We have two vans, and each van has six people (okay well my van has five because I’m running six legs rather than three).
I will be stuck in a van for about 36 hours with four of my favorite people in the world. Six more of my favorite people will be in van two for my team. I have been the captain of my relay team since 2010, and we have run approximately 10 relays together.
Each one of my runners will run three legs of the race. We run all night long and get very little to no sleep. We eat total crap food the entire time. We will be sweaty, smelly, and cramped in a minivan with all of our gear. What is worse, is that we each pay approximately $200 to participate in these events. But what we get out of it is well worth the money; a t-shirt, sticker, and medal.
All right, we also get some of the best memories one could wish to have. I have five new team members this year, which means five new nicknames we have to create. A nickname on the team is like an honor badge. You have to earn it, you probably won’t like it, and we will paint it on the side of the van for the world to see.
I earned my nickname during our first relay when one of my runners ended up injured and unable to finish her last two legs. I took over her runs and finished with 31 total miles. I was christened the Dark Voodoo Princess because I pulled from my reserve of black magic to finish the miles.
My team is amazing. There has never been any arguing or fighting despite the lack of sleep, bad food, and total exhaustion from running. Even the one time when we had a person in the van who did not fit well, everyone held their tongues until that person was gone, and she was never invited back. She has been referred to as the Princess ever since.
Everyone pitches in and supplies the vans with junk food, water, and Gatorade. When it is time to run, we toss the runner out and drive ahead to dance and sing on the side of the road. Some of us are better than others at these extracurricular activities.
Wasatch Back Ragnar began eleven years ago. It was the first of the Ragnar relays (Hood to Coast in California was the original relay), and now there are about twelve different relays scattered across the United States. The Ragnar Corporation does an excellent job supporting the runners and organizing its events. There are approximately 1200 teams out on the 200-mile race route, which translates to 14,000 runners and 3600 volunteers (each team is required to supply three volunteers for the race).
I know it’s not as big as say the Chicago or New York Marathons, which turn out something like 45,000 runners each year over 26.2 miles, but it is still an epic feat to organize this event. Each of the teams goes through a safety training at the beginning of the event, and the course is well marked and there are volunteers everywhere to help runners. Over the years that my team has run, there have only been a few runners (less than five) each year which end up with heatstroke.
I spent Wednesday night packing everything up and making sure that my kids, dogs, and cats would not starve to death while I am away. I watered the garden, and hopefully, it will not die while I am gone either. I’ve also packed by bike in my car so I could drop it off with a friend to be tuned up since I will be unlikely to ride it this weekend. It felt a little rough when I rode it Saturday, which will not be good for the triathlon next month.

When I think of the word team, I think family.

“I love this game,” my sixteen year old exclaims as he comes off the Ultimate Frisbee field. As his mom, I know that not only does he love the game, but his team. Even during a moment of despair or an “epic failure” they call out to each other, “You can cry about it or you can Dance about it,” as they all break into their personal signature dance moves.

 I think I get as much out of watching him interact with his team as he does being a part of it. Maybe that is because I know what it means to be member of a team.

I’m the captain of my relay team. We run both “normal” 12 person relays and ultra-relays with a six-person team.  Of course, I have people who migrate on and off my team, but there are a core of six who always “Nut Up.”  I would do anything they asked that is within my ability to do. Continue reading