Ragnar. What can I tell you about it? It was fun. I would do it again… but not too often.
Months ago, a coworker invited me to do this little relay of 190.5-ish miles from Hull on the south shore of Boston Harbor to Provincetown on the far end of Cape Cod. Over the months we collected our crew of somewhat speedy runners and attended to all the logistics and raised a shit-tonne of money for The Hole in the Wall Gang camp for kids with cancer. Meanwhile I was attending to Ironman training and racing (more about that another time) and hoping that I would be adequately recovered in the three weeks between events.
On the Wednesday before the event, my PT said that the stabbing pain I had in my left foot was just a pinched nerve and that I would be totally fine to run. That’s good because I already HAD been running and didn’t want to bail on the race. Meanwhile the weekend’s forecast was gradually improving from “cold and rainy” to “cold and cloudy” to “cold and occasionally sunny.”
Because logistics is the source of all anxiety, I decided to very diligently ignore all things related to the race until the very last moment, much to my team captain’s chagrin/glee. He repeatedly called me a “deadbeat” when I forgot/neglected to update my info on the team wiki. In fact, while I had a short list of things to pack for the event, I waited until the morning of the race. Ironically, this was the perfect thing to do, since it meant I wouldn’t overpack (unlike most other people). Basically I just had to show up with enough clothes to race and take care of my ‘betes. Of course, they also had sleeping mats and bags and pillows; unlike me, who had a bag of clean clothes and diabetes supplies to use as a pillow. But I also always knew where my stuff was.
Friday morning when we mustered to load our vans, our team captain brought out the spiffy jackets we earned from the charity for raising so much money. They were seriously nice and probably also the only thing that kept me from being crazy cold all weekend long. I wore three layers almost all weekend long.
Ragnar relay teams have 12 runners and two vans. Each team member runs three times for an average of 16 miles (27 km). That’s just an average, though. My legs totalled a bit more than 18 miles. Because we rotated through runners and because someone from our team is always running, it means that we would all be running at least once at night. It also meant that we wouldn’t get a lot of sleep overnight.
Ragnar spreads out the start of the race over about 8 hours, with slower teams starting first and faster teams last. We started at 2:30, the second to last to go. As the race progressed, we caught slower teams, but those early legs were really lonely. We ironed out the kinks on the first couple of legs, cheering on our runner on the course once or twice and then booking it to the exchange zone. (The baton was a slap bracelet.)
We got to the start of the second exchange—and the beginning of my leg—with just enough time for me to pee and get into the exchange zone. Jason (the captain and 2nd runner) came in for the exchange with another team’s runner, but I was the only one in the corral. I was off, running by myself, wondering if there was ever going to be anyone behind me. I was managing a pretty good 7:30/mile pace up and down the hills, seeing my teammates and other teams’ vans but not other runners. One mile before the finish of my first run, the road turned right and went stupid uphill. This is where I was passed by a dude way, way faster than me. (Turns out, his team hadn’t quite figured out how to get to the exchange on time. After waiting for a few minutes, the #2 runner just started running, and his team met him a couple miles up the road for the exchange.) I ran my 10.9 miles—the longest leg of the race—in 1:24:34 (7:34 pace).
A few more of my teammates ran before we met up with van #2 (a.k.a., “Van DAMN”), saw them off, and headed to find dinner and a place to sleep. We ate pizza across the street from the ice cream place that Sir Alex (my swim peep) and her husband own. (Who knew?) I “slept” about two hours on a bench seat in the van, but it wasn’t very comfortable, and I was fighting off charley horses in each leg by the time I awoke for the next round of running.
Leg #15 (my second time running) was pretty flat, but because it was also wicked dark, I felt like I was running downhill the entire way. (As with all runners I was obliged to wear a headlamp, blinking red light, and sexy safety vest during the nighttime hours.) I almost twisted my ankle while passing my first runner from another team. Nevertheless, running at night is kind of cool. I met my step goal for the day by 2AM. 4.2 miles in 30:22 (7:11 pace).
We ran. We cheered (quietly). We handed off to Van DAMN and headed further up Cape. After our last runner finished, I fell asleep in the back seat of our van (“Van de Graaff”) and only woke up as other people piled out to head into the high school gym to sleep. I’m sure I snored loudly but the other guy in the van said he never heard me.
It was daylight again when Van DAMN showed up, and I was surprisingly fresh for having only four or five hours of sleep spread out over the night. All that remained for me was leg #27, a 5K. I like to say that if you don’t feel like you’re going to puke at the end of a 5K, you haven’t run hard enough. I told the van to just go straight to the exchange because I was going to rip shit up. The first mile was stupid downhill, and I clocked my first sub-7:00 mile of the weekend. The second mile, decidedly more uphill made me pay for that. I was tired from the fast second leg earlier in the night. I was tired from the almost-half-marathon the day before. And I was tired from Ironman Texas. But a 5K focuses the mind like nothing else, and I found my glorious inner suffering for those last two miles. 22:20 (7:15 pace).
Van de Graaff was starting to smell pretty ripe—as I’m sure we all were—by the time we arrived at the hotel in P-town. We cleaned up the van, showered, and walked the 20 minutes into town. Cap’n Jason said it would help with the soreness, and I was truly rather sore. I think it was mostly adrenaline that propelled us all up the hill with our last last runner to the finish line at the Pilgrim Monument. Overall, we finished 38th of 485 teams and the first mixed corporate team!
Afterward I had my first massage ever. It was great. And painful.