Testing my mettle to earn my medal

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–By Heath B. Hansen–

November 1st, 2017, I get a call from my buddy– my buddy almost never calls me; when we communicate, it’s through text messages. “What’s up, bro?” I asked. “Hey, my Ragnar teammate just got called for duty, he can’t make the race. We need a runner.”

I didn’t know what a Ragnar Race was, but the name sounded interesting and I accepted the invitation.

–By Heath B. Hansen–

November 1st, 2017, I get a call from my buddy– my buddy almost never calls me; when we communicate, it’s through text messages. “What’s up, bro?” I asked. “Hey, my Ragnar teammate just got called for duty, he can’t make the race. We need a runner.”

I didn’t know what a Ragnar Race was, but the name sounded interesting and I accepted the invitation.

“Oh yeah, one more thing,” he said. “Every person on the team was inthe Marine Corps. You and me are the only Army vets.”

“Great,” I sarcastically replied.

I decided to do some research on Ragnar Trail Los Coyotes. The information revealed I had nine days to train for a race that required roughly 14 miles of running on my behalf. The terrain would be treacherous, up and down mountains, patches of thick vegetation and rocky paths.

On top of this, I wasn’t a runner. In fact, I hated running, with a passion. Luckily, I did crossfit workouts regularly and had a pretty clean diet. At least I wasn’t starting from rock bottom.
The next day I decided to go for a four-mile run near my house in south San Diego. It sucked, but I finished without stopping and maintained a pace of about 8 minutes per mile. The next two days I was extremely sore, but decided to do a few more short runs leading up to the 10th of November.
On race day, we arrived at the campsite. I was surprised at how many people were in attendance and how broad the age ranges and experience levels seemed. I was under the impression everyone would be a hard-core competitor in fantastic shape. Some runners were in great shape, but most participants were just average, everyday people like myself.

I made my way to our tent and met my teammates. Every single one of them had Marine Corps tattoos.

Being a former paratrooper, I knew I had to prove myself. They didn’t care whether I had time to train or not, this was still about inter-service rivalry and finding out who was the best. The race had begun.
My first leg was starting – eight miles. The hill I was climbing seemed to never want to end.

I knew ascending for this long at a running pace would burn up my lungs quickly, so I took my time. It kept going, and going, and going. But, I eventually made it to the top and got back on a faster, longer stride. During my descent, I gazed off onto the horizon, the mountains looked incredible.

The scenery made this one of the most gorgeous runs I had ever been on. I flew down the mountain and made my way to the finish line. Once there, I handed off the tracker to my teammate and made my way to the first-aid tent. My feet needed some attention.

The paramedics were happy to help me out with the blisters that had formed on the arches of both of my feet. After disinfecting the sores, they patched me up quickly with moleskins and I was back on my way again heading towards the campsite.

Once at the encampment, my buddy and I decided to grab some free dinner from one of the Ragnar sponsors. I loaded up on pasta and meatballs. The meal was delicious and gave me plenty of energy for the rest of the race.

My next leg started at about 9 p.m.

It was a little over three miles. Compared to the eight miles I had finished a few hours earlier, this felt like a walk in the park.

It was nighttime, so my body temperature remained cool the entire time and I kept a fast pace throughout.

I made it back to the finish line and headed to the tent for some sleep. My next leg would start at around 6 AM.

“Hey, Heath, get up, it’s almost time for your final leg.”

I could barely move. Every muscle in my body was sore. My feet were swollen, and I had a headache.

I didn’t want to do the last leg – a little over three miles. But I had to prove myself and I knew all of my teammates were counting on me. Slowly, I slipped my shoes on and made my way to the fire near the starting line. Next to the fire, I stretched and got myself limbered up for the last bit of this race. It was going to hurt, but I was going to do it. I was going to finish.

My teammate handed me the bib as he finished his leg and I was off. The blisters on my feet hurt. Every step had become excruciating. It reminded me of my time as an infantryman in Afghanistan, making my way up and down the mountains, regardless of how much pain I was in. I just kept going. I maintained my pace up and tried to concentrate on the goal instead of the pain. Eventually, I could see the tents and the fire again. I was almost there. I made my way closer and closer to the finish line. I could see my team – all of them. They had made their way to the finish line to cheer me on.

I had finished. It was over.

I was done.
We walked back to the tent. It was now November 11th, 2017 – Veteran’s Day. We were all veterans and decided to celebrate the holiday, and the race, with a beer. There was no sense of rivalry, we were just friends. I was glad I had come out and helped these guys.

The team, Los Chavos Del Ocho, made it all worth it.

When I got home that night, I slept better than I hadin months.

A few weeks later, my buddy told me the final results of the race had been posted and that we had finished third in our division. He handed me the medals we had won as a team – our effort had paid off, and my Ragnar experience was complete.

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