How does one sum up the Ragnar Relay experience? Can it be done in a word? Can it be done in a sentence? Can it even be done within a blog post or two?
i really don't think so. Or rather I don't think I can put into words how much this race changed me... for the better. But I am open to trying my best! Are you ready to take the journey with me?
The adventure began early Friday morning (May 8). I mean early. Like we left the house at 2:50am to meet the team by 3:30am. Oh yeah the team. I was meeting my Ragnar Relay teammates the morning of the race. Nothing like the fear that people won't like you when you have to meet them 1 hour before the race starts then be in a van with them for like 36 hours. <<Fingers Crossed>> It'd all work out.
I bid the wife farewell before she left me at a random house with 11 strangers. Ummm somehow this seemed completely normal to us. How my life has changed since starting this blog! :P
Thankfully as soon as I walked into the house I knew the weekend would be a blast! The hugs and laughs were flying immediately. It really put me at ease. Phew!
Once everyone had some food/coffee, it was time to head back outside and load up the vans. The group had already decorated the windows of the van during the daylight the day before.
I had the team's magnets so we added those before heading to the Start Area.
Once the van was parked, we were off to the Start area and safety meeting. I mean I guess it's a decent Start view. ;)
My friend Dacia from My Roots To Grow - the only person I knew before this crazy adventure and the one that asked me to be a part of this team - met us at the Safety meeting. It was the first time I had seen her in months so big hugs took place... and a selfie. Duh!
After getting our t-shirts and gear, we headed to the Start area. Our crew kicked off at 5:30am! But first a couple of team pics.
Isn't this one fine looking group. I'd be so intrigued to compare this a pic when we were all at our "before" weights. The group would be 1,500 pounds heavier. What a comparison it would be.
Here is a little glimpse... as soon by the Then vs. Now magnets on the side of our vans.
Unfortunately Ashley's magnet was swiped early in the day. :( Luckily the one on Van 2 wasn't so we were able to save her one. Phew!
Once Runner 1 (Rudy) crossed under the Start arch (5:32 am), we made our back to the vans to head out. While Van 1 runs, Van 2 entertains themselves with whatever they can think of (mainly sleeping/eating/creating memorable van jokes) and same happens in Van 2 when Van 1 is running. So we bid adieu to our 6 other teammates and went on our way.
Since our van was completely made up of Ragnar virgins, we had no idea what to expect and were all winging it! We had a GPS tracker that would be handed from runner to runner on our team so we could all track the current runner on our phones. Such a cool idea that Rudy had suggested. Boy it came in handy!
We also had the exchange points programmed into the van's GPS which was a lifesaver as well. We decided to pop out and cheer Rudy on during his first leg. We found the appropriate place to pull over and entertained ourselves with van pics until Rudy got there.
Let me tell you it is an odd feeling having a large magnet with your comparison pic on it.
Rudy, the 5x Ironman & loser of 140 pounds, was setting a great tone for the morning - lots of smiles and high-fives!
The Essentia water we had in our vans were already coming in handy!
Vicki, Runner 2 & triathlete, was ready and waiting for Rudy at exchange 2. Unfortunately there was some misdirection on the course and Vicki tacked on an extra 4 miles to her leg. Overachiever! ;) We did learn during this time that Ragnar is AWESOME and quick to respond to "lost runner" texts. Thankfully we located Vicki and she was able to finish out the leg.
Since I was Runner 4, I don't have any pics of Runner 3 (Mike, loser of 230 pounds) in action. Ragnar photog to the rescue!
I can showcase our exchange. There was a last minute change in the course so Mike ended up having some of my leg added to him. Yes I was a little pouty over this. I wanted the miles especially the miles from the weekend would add up to my long run for the upcoming marathon.
While we waited for Mike at the exchange point, I was FREAKIN out. Like I have never run before? The nerves were taking over and I just tried to calm them as best as possible. Thank goodness my new teammates were there with encouraging words.
With the slap bracelet fastened on my arm, it was time to get my leg started!
I came out of the exchange, took a left and was immediately met by a hill. Ohhh hheeyyy Cape! :P
The leg itself was just over 4 miles, but felt like 2. It was over so quickly! I was running at a much faster clip than I expected. Why? Call it adrenaline or the desire to rack up some "kills." Kills, in the Ragnar world, are the people you pass while running your leg. Ohh hey competitive side!
I was strong on the hills and felt like I was running on clouds. It could've been the lack of sleep or the sheer nerves pushing me forward, but I still averaged a 7:50 min/mile pace.
Wow body! I didn't expect that whatsoever. Here was hoping I had saved same in the tank for later!
Now I want to thank the Ragnar photog for capturing my leap into the exchange point. I was so happy I gave him a high-five as I passed. :)
It was time for Runner 5 (my friend and favorite vegan Dacia) to join the fun!
While Dacia set off for her run, we checked in on Van 2 and found out they were enjoying a leisurely breakfast to prep for their own Ragnar adventure.
While Dacia was rockin' it, I thought I would share a little video update.
Ashley (Runner 6) would be rounding out Van 1's first leg and bringing us into the big exchange point - where we would actually be reunited briefly with Van 2.
With the slap bracelet officially handed off to Van 2, it was our time to "shower" aka use a Showerpill in a Dunkin Donuts bathroom and grab some lunch.
Since we were in the Sandwich, MA area, I actually knew where we were so I could suggest a lunch spot. We opted for Flynn's Irish Pub, which is a Holmes-Kirk favorite.
This was my first time using a selfie stick and it was too fancy for me. :P Vicki's selfie stick works on bluetooth and it was just a little too high tech for me. BUT I can say it was helpful when trying to get 6 people in one shot.
We all wanted to have as fresh legs as we could.
Our group opted to drive from lunch straight to the exchange point where we would reclaim the slap bracelet from Van 1. We nabbed a sweet parking lot and some teammates grabbed some grass and took a nap, while I took a lap around to "tag" the other vans with our team's magnets and see how the other vans were decorated. It was an awesome time to meet other teams, who came up to chat with us about our magnets and our journeys.
The hours passed slowly. I wish I could've napped, but I was wired. Plus I wanted to learn more about my amazing vanmates. And I had some bagels and peanut butter to eat... and peanut m&ms. Luckily we had an amazing supply of KIND bars on hand to snack on.
As the sun started to set, the weather got colder. Luckily, Mike, Ashley and I picked up some sweet free cold gear from the exchange point.
Thanks to our GPS tracker on Don, we knew exactly when Rudy would be kicking off Van 1's second legs.
With Rudy off, it was time to change into my night-running gear and head off to the next exchange point. The day was starting to dwindle down hours-wise and I still needed to get my plank in...
Thanks to Ashley for snapping my pic.
Rudy, Vicki and Mike all rocked their night runs so it was my time to shine. Ha! Get it? ;)
Rudy brought a great light stick to use on the run which was a huge help since my headlamp bobbing around was making me feel sick... even when I held it in my hand. The Ragnar safety rules call for a front light, back light and a vest. I couldn't get the back light to stick to my shorts so I opted to attach it to my reflective Sparkly Soul headband - perfecto!
My leg was fueled by the need to pass a gentleman that passed me as soon as we came out of the exchange. I was determined to get around him, but just couldn't get my legs to go fast enough. I was just behind him for the entire run until we were both stopped at a road crossing just before the exchange. We were neck and neck. The volunteer waved us through and we both took off, but again I was just behind him. I thanked him for pacing me the entire run (we had a 7:22 final mile) and he shared how he knew I was on his tail the whole time and thought I would pass him at the end. Gotta love fun competition.
It was an adjustment running at night and relying on the night light from Rudy to keep my path lit, which it did. I opted to wear my highlighter yellow Zensah compression socks during the run and happy with the decision. My legs felt fresh during the run. This leg had less turns and hills than Leg 1, which was appreciated - especially with the lack of light.
I was even able to refuel with chocolate milk thanks to my thoughtful vanmates.
While I was back under a blanket in the van, Dacia and Ashley wrapped up Leg 2 for Van 1 right around midnight.
Once Ashley was back in the van, we headed off to the final exchange point for our van and opted to set up shop there. It was a local high school that offered showers for a small donation to the high school soccer team and an open gym for folks to sleep. I opted to curl up on one of the benches in the van and enjoy a glorious 1.5 hour nap. Oh yeah folks - be jealous.
Day One was absolutely amazing and exhausting all at once. I couldn't imagine how we had been together for just over 20 hours, but I had learned so much about these folks I would now call family.
So on that note, it is time to say Good Night on Day 1 of Ragnar... and get excited for Day 2!