“Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.”
Over the weekend I, along with 11 teammates, participated in a relay race starting in Cumberland, MD and ending at the National Harbor. It was a beautiful 200 miles through the Potomac River Valley, over the Appalachian Mountains with its’ many hills, passing by the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, and ending by crossing the Potomac River and heading into the National Harbor. Each team member ran 3 legs, varying in distance and difficulty, from 2-9 miles, with flat terrain, rolling hills and steep inclines. It was quite an adventure.
This was my second time running Ragnar. Last year I ran with Steve and Graham. Ok, so Graham was still developing in the womb – but he was with me nonetheless. And I was calling him Logan at the time. Weird. He is so not a Logan. During each run I would talk to the baby and ask him to please stay off of my bladder. He listened 🙂 Steve and I weren’t actually in the same van, which meant that we only saw each other at the three major exchanges. Even though we were never able to see the other run or cheer each other on, it was still nice to know that he was out there, running, sharing the Ragnar experience with me. This year was different without him. I felt homesick, missing him and my other running buddies (Graham and Scout). But I put on my big girl pants and ran…fast (relatively speaking – it was faster than normal). So get ready…..
This is the true story of 12 (almost) strangers. Picked to live in a van (for 30ish hours). Run together. And have their lives photographed. To find out what happens when people stop running slow and start running fast.
(ok, ok, ok….the English teach in me can’t let this slide – that should be “stop running slowLY and start running quickly”….you know, adverbs. It just sounded better the other way)
It all started Thursday night when the team came over to carbo load with a spaghetti dinner. We sat around, greeting old friends and meeting new friends, reminiscing last year’s Ragnar experience, and gearing up for the upcoming 30-some hours. We stuffed our faces with carbs, talked about our packing lists – what we needed to pack, what we had forgotten to pack, made sure everyone had sports bras (guys excluded…or not), running shoes, compression socks, foam rollers, etc. Oh, and let’s not for the 12 iphone chargers.
After a while, folks headed out to their respected places of slumber….leaving me to pack. Finally. I sat on my bedroom floor (a couple of teammates down the hall, sleeping peacefully), and thought about how my baby’s crib was empty, how I couldn’t hear the jingle-jangle of my pup’s collar, and how my husband was far, far away sleeping in a tent instead of in my bed. (insert frown and sigh) I felt sad and alone. (if you read my first post you know that I don’t like being alone…) Since I couldn’t call Steve, I called the next best thing – my mom. She helped calm me down and pump me up!
After a few hours of sleep, I went out to meet the rest of my van mates…and then we were off for Cumberland, MD. As we pulled into Rocky Gap State Park I was taken away by the beauty….fall is in the air! The fog was lifting off the lake, the sun was rising over the mountains, the leaves on the trees were changing colors……it was simply beautiful. And then there were a bunch of runners, rushing to use the bathroom…if you’ve ever run a race, you know there is nothing beautiful about this. (gag)
And then we were off. Marie headed out on the trail for a loop around the lake, then I took a 2 mile climb out of the park (I was the same runner Steve was last year) and then a few miles downhill to Tom, who rocked his “you’ve got to be kidding me” difficulty level leg (with a well-deserved belt buckle at the end), followed by Brandon’s dusty hills, onto Scott’s, also dusty, climb, and ending with Andy’s rolling hills that brought us to the first big exchange in Little Orleans. Here we got to meet up with Van 2, who was rested and ready to go!
Even though there may have been some unintended sand-bagging, I would like to mention that during my first leg I shaved 4 minutes off of my time, which was the start of the rest of the van also shaving off time….the pressure was on for van 2. And they delivered! As we headed into our night legs we were at least 30 minutes ahead of our projected time. Spirits were high.
Last year I was scared during my night run and had my (awesome) big brother run with me. This year was about conquering fears. I didn’t have my husband, I didn’t have my big brother, and I didn’t have my ferocious (ha) dog. It was just me…and the night. I told my van-mates that if I was crying when they passed me, they better lock the doors and keep on moving. It turned out to be my favorite run. I was scared at different times, but I was focused on running “fast” and not getting hit by a car (which almost happened to Steve last year). It was great. Another 5 minutes shaved off. …..after that, the rest of the night is a bit of a blur. Van 1 (quickly) finished their night runs, meeting van 2 at the South Mountain Creamery. And I did it….I had been waiting a year for it….I got a milkshake. I’ve been listening to Steve for the past 12 months tell me about how great the chocolate milk was at the creamery. Last year I didn’t have much time at the creamery, as I was in van 2, and I was pregnant – no unpasteurized farm milk for this girl. But this year I was preggo-free and had plenty of time to wait in line for that delicious, chocolatey goodness. I’m no fool – I know my limits – I didn’t finish the entire milkshake (unlike certain unmentioned runners that may or may not have been in my van). But I did finish my (fresh) bacon , (fresh) egg, and (I assume fresh) cheese sandwich. Delicious. It might be the country girl in me, but I love farms. …..Back to Ragnar. We left the big farm and headed to the little farm and slept. And it was glorious…for the hour or two that it lasted. Then we were off to our next major exchange.
The next several legs went quickly (at least for me!). Even through empty, uncomfortable, full, uncomfortable, stomachs, we each finished our legs, giving our all. It felt great. As each runner finished, the mood in the van lightened. At the final exchange we met up with Phil (runner 7), handed off the slap bracelet, and headed to get showers and chipotle (perks of being in van 1).
After a couple hours of stuffing our faces with burritos and curling up on comfy couches, we left for the National Harbor. We made it just in time to meet up with van 2, greet our final runner as she entered the harbor, and as a team we raced across the finish line. There were a few times throughout the race where I teared up, and this was one of them. I really can’t explain how great it feels to finish a 200 mile relay with 11 almost-strangers/best friends. It’s pretty awesome. Just like our time: twenty-eight hours, ten minutes, and fifty-two seconds. Top 10% overall. Hollerrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Killed. It. Nailed. It. Crushed. It. WTF.
Ragnar was great. We did REALLY well. I took a total of 15 minutes off of my projected time. Yes, I know, I sandbagged it. Not on purpose. Today when I headed out for my run, the dog and jogging stroller (filled with 20+lbs of baby) QUICKLY reminded me why I didn’t think I could run sub 10s, much less sub 9s. But I did…and it felt good.
What I missed this year:
-You. Duh. What’s new?
-My running buddies. This picture was taped in the van for motivation…