Two weekends ago, I ran a Ragnar race. For those not familiar, this is a 200ish mile relay race. Ultra teams have 6 people, regular teams have 12 people. Runners run legs of defined lengths and then pass a wrist band off to the next runner at defined exchange points. In my case, we were an 11ish person team because people who normally would've been teammates were participating in other events or injured. On the up side, two of the injured people drove our vans and planned the whole thing - which was supremely nice for the rest of us - especially a newbie like me who rather enjoyed receiving a list of things to pack which included "plastic bags to store your clothing in". Yes, that was necessary.
Our team was full-on "team" and it was wonderful to experience 14 women coming together to eat, sleep, debate, support, and even run together. How did we get from 11 to 14, you ask? Well, we had 11 runners signed up. We had two drivers, bringing us to 13, and one of our volunteers - a mother of two of the women running - actually donned a pair of kicks and took on a 2 mile leg for us. Thankfully.
The team was originally assigned a start time of around noon, which sounded nice, but would've meant we risked being out on the course as the course was closing. So our team captain asked for a new start and - ouch - we were awarded 7:45. That, in itself, is not so bad. But we needed to arrive an hour before that, and the race is a couple of hours away and so a 7:45 start meant leaving my house at a time that started with 4. That is just not right. But still, better than being out on the course at the end!
We packed the vans quickly - including a couple of cases of Honest Tea Sport - which I didn't even know existed until a few days before the race. I was gifted a few of these gems, along with the products I'm more familiar with (kids fruit drink and flavored teas for me!) and I was so surprised, I emailed the company letting them know I'd take the drinks on a relay race with me. And, as it turns out, Honest Tea has a soft spot for crazy sports, and they dropped a couple of cases of their drinks off on my front porch for my whole team! We had the orange and lemon varieties, and my take on them is that they are not as sweet as some other products out there. And, since one of my teammates can no longer drink one of those other products because they are so sweet, it was nice having these along. THANK YOU! They were consumed with a lot of smiles and no complaints. I've been enjoying them post-run for the past week as well.
After the packing, and the driving to the start where we met teammates who had come from Texas and Pennsylvania, it was time to decorate the van. This is actually a thing, and my one regret is that it's also a thing to have team magnets made and stick them on other vans. I've put myself in charge of magnet procurement for the next relay event I'm involved in. Our van decorator was extraordinary. Our team is team is the "Capitol Bound Chicks".
Our first runner was running around a lake to start the race while the rest of us moved items to the correct van, checked the gear tent for items we wanted to buy, and then got ready to cheer on runner number 2. At that point, the vans split up and we would only see each other at every 6th exchange, where one van's runners would drive ahead and rest while the other van's runners would complete the next 6 legs of the course.
I was in van 2, runner 11, which meant everyone from van 1 and 4 runners from my van would run before I started. By the time I started, I could tell I was in a sweet position. There are strict rules about when reflective gear must be worn. I had a 5 mile run on a dirt path along a canal (which are just about the best running conditions I can imagine) and if I ran it quickly, I wouldn't need extra gear. I got super lucky because a woman passed me basically the moment I stepped onto the path. She then proceeded to run the most even 5 miles possible, so I planted myself about 10 feet behind her and followed. This took the pressure of worrying about missing a directional sign and I didn't have to think about my pace at all.
After my run, I handed off to runner 12, watched her take off in still decent light (but with reflective gear), headed to the next exchange where we would see our teammates from van 1 and have a driver change, and then wait for our runner to come in. After that, we drove ahead to pass the next six legs which our van 1 would be doing, and stopped for dinner.
We found this. Yes, Italian AND Mexican. No, I cannot explain it. But I will say, I was the only one who was in the clean plate club that night. BOOM!
Now, off to sleep (I chose to sleep in the van) and wait for our turn to run.
By the time it was our turn again, it was dark. I think I started running around 3:00 AM. It was a 10 mile leg and I was very alone. I passed a few people running (it's a staggered start, so it's not like a normal race where you and your 10,000 best friends are all plodding along together) but nobody running near my pace. There was one man walking who didn't look great, but he assured me he was fine. There was also one crazy old dude that was spectating. When my van drove ahead and passed him, they looked for a place to pull over to make sure the dude wasn't up to any mischief. But there wasn't a good spot. I noticed him from quite a ways back, decided even though I'd been running in dark for over an hour I could still take him, took comfort in his Nats cap, and passed without incident. The mind can do crazy things running in the middle of the night and I was very proud that mine didn't get out of control. I also was able to find and follow every turn - thank you race organizers for marking the course so well! I was on shoulderless back roads for the most part, and at one point, decided I need to run sort of quickly to make sure I wasn't on those roads when traffic started up. Safety provides good motivation!
Next, we went to a playground to get some sleep. Three of us headed out in sleeping bags while the other three stayed in the van. My previous van sleeping experience was not great. I was ready for something with a little more air flow. We intentionally chose spots away from the runner exchange point, so it would be quiet. What we did not count on were Ragnar volunteers deciding around 6:00 AM that playing the playground gongs would be a great idea. They did apologize profusely when my fellow runner let them know, politely, that we were trying to sleep. Around 7:00, kids came to the playground, and their parents were quite apologetic but of course, we were telling them we should apologize for sleeping next to their playground. Hopefully no children were scarred by seeing three moms rolled up in sleeping bags taking naps!
Starbucks was employed to jump start our final set of legs. We were in DC, and by the time I ran, it was hot - conditions I'm just not good in. I did walk a bit of my last leg, though still came in at my predicted time. Thankfully, we did some creative runner exchanging which split the final leg up - because that piece of the course was beastly in distance and heat.
All in all, this was a wonderful weekend away. The timing didn't end up being great, because the following weekend I was at a bachelorette party, and the weekend that just passed I went to Boston for Friday night / Saturday morning.
Things have been topsy-turvy and the whole family is headed out on vacation soon - so for now, thank you, Honest Tea! I'll definitely be buying more of your product. Thank you friends, for the fun times, and hopefully - I'll be able to run with the team again.