Ok so leg 2 ended up being a kind of freaky run. And I notice I have this on Saturday but I think I actually ran this late Friday around 11pm or so.
This was one of the legs that had been changed to run on the rail trail. I thought only part of the run was on the trail but the entire thing ended up being one straight, flat, monotonous jaunt in the pitch black as the fulll moon had not yet risen.
I was feeling great after leg 1 and itching to get going again. My goal was to run in the MP range (7:10-7:30 pace) which ended up being tough to do with having to run on dirt trail the whole way which probably cost 10-20s per mile.
Took the baton from Hal in Coalville ran down the hill then turned right onto the rail trail. Felt super at first and had a good runner's high going for a little while but then started getting freaked out a little bit by a few things.
As I mentioned it was pitch black with no moon and only my headlamp and occasionally the head lamps of other runners to light the way. I don't like running with headlamps much and something about staring at the headlamp light ahead of me and also being blinded by the headlamps of cars on the adjacent freeway made it feel like I was running blind and was also claustrophobic. I don't usually have claustrophobia problems but in this case I was getting weirded out a bit and was running a little spooked the last half of the leg.
Had a hard time finding my footing and in some spots there were bumps, rocks and grassy/weedy areas that you couldn't really see until it was too late to do anything about it. Also near the middle there was a nice little river running right through the middle of the trail. Luckily a couple other runners got there just before me and gave me warning so I didn't go slopping right through it and likely doing a face plant.
The last couple miles I was just wanting really bad to be done with the trail. My running felt great and I mostly cruised along at 7:30 pace and passed 8-10 runners, I think pretty much the same runners I had passed on the first leg.
But the claustrophobia was getting to me and to make matters worse, I had sweat running down into my eyes causing my vision to get all blurry and I really could not see worth a darn. I had all these thoughts of me running straight off the side of the trail down into a river or pit and never being heard of again. I just tried to focus on the lights and reflective vests of the runners ahead of me and let them help lead me along.
Finally got to the finish line after some of the most eerie, spooky 7.5 miles I've ever run. I was glad to see the full moon had come out so Kim didn't have to run in pitch black. I was also very happy to see that Kim didn't have to continue on the creepy rail trail. When I handed off the baton I said something to her along the lines of "if you start getting freaked out just walk for a little while" but turns out she did fine and I was the only one in the van getting freaked out on leg 2.
7.5 miles @ 7:30 pace.
LEG 3 - The infamous "Ragnar" leg up the mountain to Gaurdsmens Pass.
I had a little payback in mind for this leg. I ran this leg once before 4 or 5 years ago and ended up feeling like I had been totally defeated (annihilated?) by the mountain. That time I ran the first 1/2 mile way too fast and ended up walking before even reaching mile 1. Ended up with my tail between my legs most the rest of the way doing lots of walking and feeling very humbled and defeated.
I'm not a very good uphill runner and much prefer the down. During races I always seemed to get passed on the uphill by everyone I just passed on the downhill. So I knew I had to be smart to avoid a repeat of the first time up ragnar. While the entire leg is ruthless steep uphill at altitude, the worst of the steep is during the first 2 miles so I knew I needed to hold back at first.
Fortunately I stuck to the plan and ran the first mile conservative, trying to remember captain Hal's advice to "keep my head down and just keep plugging away and DON'T WALK!". I had 3 or 4 runners maybe .2 or .3 miles ahead of me and it was hard that first mile to resist the urge to speed up as I knew these were the same runners I had been passing on the other legs so it was frustrating to not be gaining on them during the first mile.
Finished mile 1 in a snailish time of 12:33. Even slower than I had planned but the good news is that I wasn't totally dead like first time I ran this. Actually started feeling pretty good and like I was getting into a little bit of uphill rhythm. And while this leg is almost entirely straight up, occasionally you get a tiny breather of downhill that I found really gave me a boost.
With my optimism of surviving mile 1 I set my sights on the 3 runners I could see ahead. They were still a ways off but I noticed the first signs of them cracking from having run the first mile too fast and 1 or 2 of them were walking on the steepest uphill sections. Ended passing all 3 of them by the end of mile 2 and running it in 11:17.
Was still feeling pretty good despite some pretty heavy huffing-and-puffing. Bad news was that I didn't see any other runners ahead to focus on the entire rest of the way. So had to play a few little mental games and enjoy the scenery.
The last 2 miles are a little easier than the first 2 with a few more little flat and downhill breathers that feel heavenly even though they are shortlived. The other cool thing during the last mile or so (cool as in temps AND cool as in "groovy") was running through the "snow tunnel". With the crazy wet year we've had the snow was piled high on either side, sometimes up to 8-10 feet. Also for some reason with the way the snow melts if made it so you get all these cool statue-like snow "hoodoos".
With all this cool stuff all around I actually got a little bit of runner's high the last couple miles and was able to run them at 10-10:30 pace and finish up with ave pace of just over 11.
Dare I say this leg was the funnest leg of all? YES I believe it was even though I was dead at the end, thoroughly exhausted yet euphoric at the same time. Best part was Kim giving me a big wet kiss as I handed her the baton before she headed up to the top of mountain to run down the other side.
Yes this was a very fun year. Had a great time with my teammates and experiencing this with my eternal teammate Kimi!