Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Canada Part 2: The Big Race!!

The Ragnar Relay race is an amazing opportunity to "Connect, Conquer, and Celebrate!"

Our team consisted of 12 people running day and night for a total of 193 miles around Lake Ontario and finished off at the beautiful and majestic Niagara Falls!! 

Abe had never run a Ragnar before, and he was excited to compete in this one.  During our training, an old injury flared up.  His knee and IT Band hurt him so severely, he knew he would not be able to compete.  Sadly, we knew we had to find a replacement for him.

With only a couple of weeks before the race, I called my sister-in-law in Texas to see if my nephew would be willing to take Abe's place.  She said yes!  Both of my nephews would be able to join us!!  We would already be in Missouri together for Nanny Camp, and they were already planning on flying to Utah the following week anyway.  By changing their flights to leave from Buffalo, NY instead of Missouri, they actually saved over $100.00.  Everything was falling into place!

Abe had to fly home sooner from Missouri, so I drove our 6 kids and my two teenage nephews to Michigan.  We would only stay in Michigan for two days- long enough to pack up for our trip and take them to the beach before we would head to Niagara Falls!!  ALL the kids were ecstatic!!

Our team consisted of Me, Jackson, Tyson, Jordan,  my 14 year old nephew, Aaron, and our great friend from New York, Kevin.  My 16 year old nephew, Nathan, would bike alongside my little boys to keep them safe as they ran, and Abe would be our designated driver!!  The other 6 runners on our team were people that we would meet once we arrived!  Our team was complete, and we couldn't have been any more excited than we were.  


Every team member had a different distance to cover.  While they ran, our van full of runners and supporters cheered them on as they ran their hearts out... even through extenuating circumstances.

The Ragnar has different starting times depending on the speed of the runners.  Our start time was 8:30 in the morning!

Jackson (age 11) ran:  2.8 miles, 5.6 miles, & 8.1 miles = 15.7 miles!!
Tyson (age 9):  5.7 miles, 3.6 miles, & 3.5 miles = 12.8 miles!!
Rachel (age ?):  7.6 miles, 5.6 miles, & 7.7 miles = 20.9 miles!!
Jordan (age 7):  5.7 miles, 2.9 miles, & 3.2 miles = 11.8 miles!!
Aaron (age 14):  5.3 miles, 3.9 miles, & 9.7 miles = 18.9 miles!!
Kevin (age ?):  6.0 miles, 9.0 miles, & 5.4 miles = 20.4 miles!!
Nathan (age 16):  Biked 26.7 miles in support of the little guys!!
Abe (age ?):  Drove & cheered for 200 miles/30 hours, & biked 11.6 miles in support of the little guys!!

Our Teammates In The Other Van

I will not report extensively on the other half of our team because they were not in the same van as us, but I will say that we couldn't have found kinder, more fun strangers to become our friends and teammates!  The other half of our team created our team name: "Zombie Unicorn Apocalypse" AKA... "ZUA!"  They had AMAZING unicorn costumes and van decor...

... but we had the Zombie...  Aaron!! 

While they ran, we attempted to sleep and eat... wherever we could...

Jackson's Highlights

Jackson started the race!!  He lined up with a bunch of big adults and didn't have a single look of fear on his face.

The gun went off, and Jackson sprinted ahead of all the rest.  He was on FIRE!!  

After 2 long runs and hardly any sleep, his 3rd leg starting time was 4am!!  We had only slept in the van for a few hours; I know I was glad it wasn't my turn to run.  I was exhausted!  Jackson never complained once.  He got up to run his longest leg while it was still dark.  The van couldn't follow him on this portion of his run, so Abe biked with him and talked to him about all the beautiful things along the way.  Jackson ran steady and finished even stronger than he started!  
Jackson reported:  "My favorite part of the race was the 8 mile run with Daddy because I saw a lot of cool stuff, and it was nice to spend time with Daddy."

I think Jackson must have seen cool stuff on his other runs as well, but having his father there with him made the mundane seem spectacular.   Abe created a memorable run.  After Jackson's longest, toughest  run, he couldn't stop talking about the raccoon, the coyote, the beautiful houses, the birds, and a duck.  Apparently, they saw a werewolf and the Loch ness Monster in Lake Ontario... ???  Who I am to question that one??? :-)

Tyson's Highlights

Tyson ran so hard!!  Wonderful Nathan was there to encourage sweet Tyson as he ran with all his heart.

There was a lady that ran beside him for a while on his first run.  She cheered for him and told him how amazing he was.  My heart was warmed watching strangers encourage my son.

On his 2nd run, 2 big, strong men tried to pass Tyson the entire run... but Tyson was just too fast.  You could see the look of joy on Tyson's face as he kept ahead of the men and the look of futility on those men's faces.

Tyson's 3rd run was right on the edge of Lake Ontario.  He watched the sun rise over the lake.  Abe also biked with Tyson on his last run.  Abe and Tyson insist that they saw the loch ness monster and a space ship floating on top of the water.  Tyson says, "It was really big, and it looked like it was made out of bamboo sticks.  Also, a squirrel stopped, looked over at me, shrugged its shoulders, and kept walking down the road with the other people."

Tyson and I agree that EVERY Canadian was super nice... even the Canadian squirrels and mosquitos- "They didn't even bite us!!" Tyson said.

Tyson's favorite part of the race:  "I liked watching the sun rise.  It was really cool.  Every time the sun rose higher, that was me running a little farther."

My Highlights

I LOVED taking the hand-off from Tyson because he was always sprinting toward me like a champ with the biggest grin on his face.  

On my 1st run, I thought I had made a wrong turn in the city.  I passed some people, and then I didn't see anyone for a very long time!  I even asked a stranger in the city to use his phone!  My van was nowhere around because they were getting gas.  I was exhausted!!  

After running through the city, I entered beautiful, hilly farmland.  I passed a runner and asked how far we had run.  She said, "About 5."  I assumed it was 5 miles.  After a long while, I saw another runner.  I asked him how far we had gone.  He said, "About 5 miles"  What?  How could it be?  I had been running for a long time... I realized that the first runner was speaking in terms of kilometers... must have been a Canadian!!  

At my moment of complete exhaustion, I saw a different support van pull over on the side of the road.  My support van was still off getting gas.  A woman jumped out and began to cheer.  There were no other runners around, so I wondered who she and the rest of her van were cheering for.  I turned around, and nobody was behind me either.  As I got closer, I realized they were cheering for ME!!  She had a water bottle already open ready to pour into my mouth.  I gladly took the water and thanked them profusely.  She called out, "We're here for you!  Good job!  You're fast!"  

My next two runs were amazing!!  My favorite parts were watching Abe jump around like a crazy man every time I passed the van.

Tyson picked a flower and handed it to me during my second run.  What better encouragement than that???!!

Jordan's Highlights

Jordan had his longest run first.  I was worried about him because he was so young.  He didn't show the least bit of fear or worry.  He ran with a serious look on his face.  When he came to a big hill, I yelled to him that it would be his toughest hill.  We all encouraged him.

Then... a giant hill appeared!!  It was so high that Jordan couldn't even see that his finish line was right at the top of that hill.  I ran down the hill cheering him on.  Jordan didn't slow down on that hill... he sped up!!  Oh my goodness!  I have never heard such loud cheers at a Ragnar as when he came sprinting in at the top of that hill.

He ran straight into my arms, and I hugged his tiny body as tight as I could.  What a champ!

Nathan rode by his side and encouraged him for all three of his runs.  We cheered for both him and Nathan.  I LOVED watching giant Nathan ride his bike next to tiny Jordan.  

A tradition of the Ragnar is to mark on your windshield how many people you pass.  It is called a "Road kill" when you pass them.  On Jordan's last two runs, I ran next to him to see if he needed water.    Without even turning to look at me, he reported how many road kills he had... so, so serious!!

The funniest part of Jordan running was the slumped shoulders of all those he passed.  It's bad enough to be passed, but when their legs are a 3rd of the size of yours... it can be a bit disheartening... poor adults. :-)  At the end of the whole race, another runner gave him a special pair of sunglasses as a prize for being the youngest runner at the Ragnar.

Jordan said:  "My favorite part of the race was my last run because I ran a lot faster."  Just like I thought.... it was all about the road kills for Jordan. :-)  

Aaron's Highlights

Aaron was the fastest runner on our team.  He had the GREAT idea of wearing a black morph suit while he ran.  He looked awesome!

We loved watching Aaron run!!  His long legs and great stride made every step seem effortless.  We couldn't actually see his face under the morph suit, but we could tell he was smiling.  

On Aaron's 2nd run, he was in the outskirts of Toronto... the biggest city in Canada!!  He ran beside another girl through some trails in the dark late at night.

We stopped at the side of the trail to cheer him on, but we didn't realize that he had just passed us!  He was in all black and hard to see, so we waited and waited and waited for him.  Finally we went to the interchange and found Aaron patiently waiting for us because he had already finished his run.  He's so fast!!!!

Aaron later reported that he took a wrong turn at one point because it was hard to see in his black suit at nighttime, and all the other runners followed him.  When he turned back around, they did too, so they got ahead of him.  He wasn't about to let that happen!!  He sprinted ahead and passed them all again!  Mind you, Aaron only had about a week and a half to train for this race- but he had a LOT of strong will.

His 3rd run was 9.7 miles!!  He had never even run that far in his life!!  He strained his muscle a little bit, so he stopped to get it taped.  After he got it taped, he ran even faster and passed everyone again!!  That's hard to do at the end of a Ragnar!!  Aaron was a champ!!

I loved watching Nathan cheer for his little brother.  I could see that Nathan was very proud of his little brother's accomplishments.  

Kevin's Highlights

I don't know how old Kevin is, but I do know that he is a grandfather!!  What a runner!!  He is an amazing man!  Kevin agreed to do this race with us while he was in Africa doing service.  Kevin is the president of the most amazing nonprofit organization called, "Reach The Children." 
http://www.reachthechildren.org  I traveled with him and a big group of others in 2001 to Africa to do service, so my family was honored that this wonderful man was a part of our family for the weekend.

Experienced with getting around in foreign countries, Kevin was our official guide with the map.  

Kevin had to run through downtown Toronto after midnight.  It's a beautiful city, but I have NEVER seen streets so alive with people!!  We couldn't even find Kevin until the end of his run because we even got lost driving through the streets around construction!!

Kevin did great, but he was in a lot of pain after that 9 mile run through confusing streets and crazy trails of Toronto.  He mustered up all his strength and ran an AWESOME final leg just a few hours later the next morning.  We cheered for him all along the way.  He was a champion!!

Nathan's Highlights

Nathan had the best attitude of any 16 year old I have EVER met.  This fine young man jumped in and helped whenever necessary, sat in the most uncomfortable positions with his long legs, and cheered on all of us plus MANY other runners along the way.  He and his brother showed immense gratitude for every single thing they received.  

He turned 17 years old a few days later, so that means he will be serving as a missionary at the end of next summer.  What a blessing for my young boys to have Nathan set such a great example for them.  

After Nathan and Aaron left, my boys, said, "I wish they were our brothers... or at least lived right next door to us!!"  Abe and I agree that his leg and knee were injured for a reason... we certainly felt blessed to have these fine young men accompany us on the trip.

Nathan said he wants to run a Ragnar some day and that this experience was one of his "favorite life experiences."  I believe it was the positive attitude that everyone brought!!  An attitude of encouragement!

Abe's Highlights

Abe is always my champion... what can I say more??  He supports all of us like no other.  He gives love like no other.  He looks at life in a positive light... like no other!!  He biked, drove, and cheered like a true champion!  ...and it was Father's Day the following day.  While other fathers were receiving fancy meals, we took him to eat the biggest burger he could buy at Wendy's on our drive home from Canada.

Abe will do a Ragnar some day!!!  We'll make sure of it.  I love my champion.

Mariah, Juliana, & Jayden's Highlights

I never thought it would have been possible unless I saw it myself that 3 small children could sit and sleep in a van for so many days in a row, and still smile, giggle, and cheer for everyone around them.

The children's efforts were not without reward.  They took a ride on an elephant half-way through the race... and finished at the beautiful Niagara Falls.  What a happy day!


We celebrated dinner as a team at the Hard Rock Cafe.  We got to know our teammates even better and fell in love with them even more!!  They were intelligent, kind, and FUN!!  

We faced much opposition arriving at this point, but I believe anything that will bring a family closer together will face opposition!  We thank God for the opposition and the opportunity to "Connect, Conquer, and Celebrate!"