I’m back from Ragnar Relay and still on cloud nine. There is too much to write in one post so I am going to do a couple!!! Oooo la la I know you are excited!
As you know I got asked a week ago if I was interested in being on a Saucony Team for the Ragnar Relay. They were down a runner and needed a replacement fast. What I also knew but didn’t mention to my blog readers was that this team had a special runner on it – Mayor Adrian Fenty of DC.
Friday morning I awoke early to the sound of rain and checked my email one last time. Mayor Fenty had pressing business to do with a corruption scandal and had to drop out. Honestly what is more important than running? DC? I think not! The team was down a man again and I could only hope that they would find someone fast – I did not want to be one of the unlucky people on the team who would then have to run four legs.
Made it to DC to meet up with half of our race crew – including another last minute addition who would be our twelfth runner – without a hitch. We gathered at one of the team members apartments in DC, had lunch and got the car packed for our adventure. The other 1/2 of our team started the race at 1pm and our only task was to make it to the exchange point on time. Seems like a simple task – right?
Without us realizing till it was too late to do anything about it – we found out that the other team had our ‘race bible’ – we did not have directions to any of the exchange points. We called for directions and headed to the exchange. In our eagerness to get there we stopped at the first point where we saw an exchange and tons of runner/vans. We wrongly assumed this was where we were supposed to be. The other half of the team called and asked where we were because the last runner from the team would be arriving soon to switch off. Right by the porta pottys. Funny we are right by the porta pottys and you are NOT here. Ummmm yeah we were at exchange 7 – we needed to be at exchange 6. We jumped in the car and sped to the next location. Arriving 6 minutes after our runner Tim, had already arrived. YIKES – he was not pleased. And so began our adventure. At this point it was already early evening and Bridget and I soon realized that since we were runners 11 and 12 we were going to be running LATE at night in the dark.
Before this race I had not met any of the runners in my van and had no idea whether or not these runners were fast or not. I quickly found out that I was going to be the slowest runner in the van and that I was among some very talented/gifted/fast runners. YIKES. I felt a pang of nervousness and wondered if they were going to be disappointed that the last minute addition to the team was not a fast one.
My van was comprised of: Bridget Duffy, Chris Tuttle, Jason Jabaut, Josh Jabaut, and Scott Larson. Read their bios and feel the intimidation I felt. I even asked Scott Larson if he had run a marathon – he replied with a calm polite yes. Only later did I find out that he has run about 50 of them with a PR of 2:15!!! Insert foot in my mouth. I asked Jason around what pace he planned to run – he replied with a I’m not sure – I’m not in that great of shape. Only again to learn later that the guy has a mile pr of 3:57. Insert other foot in my mouth please.
We soon found out that the planners of this race did not take into account the time it takes you to get from one transition to the next when your team was averaging around 6 – 6:30 miles. Good thing we had a GPS and coordinates for each transition. NOT. We quickly found out on one of our legs that the coordinates were wrong – our GPS was directing us to go off road and drive into someone’s back yard. I’m not kidding – the woman rather calmly directed us to turn right and head off road. Another panicked phone call to the other group and we realized that our ‘bible’ was completely wrong. Guess the folks at Ragnar decided to make some last minute course changes the day before and any ‘bibles’ printed out prior to Thursday were most likely incorrect. Luckily we made it to the next transition and copied the GPS coordinates for all the remaining legs as well as the mileage and grade – Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard. Much to our dismay these grades were not telling us how fast to run but how slow we would end up running because of how ridiculous the course/terrain was. I had the fantastic excuse of running a marathon next weekend so I was given no Very Hard legs. Note to self – when running a relay always make sure you have a race the next weekend – this way if you are slow you can try and ask for the easiest legs under the disguise of attempting to save your legs for the next race you have.
Leg 11 – Scott handed off to me. The hand off bracelet was one of those slap bracelets from the 80′s sans neon colors – totally rad dude. Off I went. For those of you who have been reading my blog lately you know that prior to last week my unofficial mile pr was a 6:08. I broke this record last week by running 6:01 on the track. On my first steps I had to cross a highway – seriously people this race is like no other – the roads are not closed – volunteers are not at intersections – it’s you vs the world. 1st mile – 6:05. In a normal race situation I might have freaked – I would have known I was going too fast and allowed myself to slow down. In this situation there was a team waiting for me at the next point and darn if I was going to be the slow girl dragging down the team. I finished 3.4 miles in 21.36 – for a 6:21 average pace. Faster than my 5K pr for a longer distance. I felt awesome!
Self doubt started to creep in a little and I hoped that I had not blown it for the two remaining legs. I say this because I specifically had mentioned to the team prior to any of us running that all the advice I read online said you can’t pace yourself for each leg as if it was the only race. One must take the cumulative amount of miles and pace yourself according to the total. For me the closest race distance would be my 1/2 marathon time and I was well ahead of that…….only time and no sleep would tell if I was going to regret my performance on the first leg.
I handed off to Bridget and reiterated what every runner who had gone before me had said. THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME. Seriously not only are you stuck in a van with 5 other people who share the same passion as you but you all get to run your own individual race and then recap it for everyone – 3 times in hopefully less than 24 hours. And to top it all off everyone wants to hear what you have to say – no one is humoring you.
Bridget ran a speedy twelfth leg in her hot to trot compression socks and then it was time for Van 2 to get some dinner or snacks at the local overcrowed with relay runners gas station. I chose to forgo any suspect foods and munched on Puffins, a Chocolate Chip Bagel and Recovery Bars. I also drank more water than I have ever drank in my life and still felt dehydrated. Sort of like I had been on an airplane for a very very long time.
Our rest was not as long as any of us would have liked because Van 1 had been blessed with some shorter legs. My turn to run my 2nd leg came at about 2:30 am. I had not drank my usual sugar free red bull before the race because I had not slept yet and knew the only sleep I would be getting would have to come after this leg. I ate some energy chews 30 minutes prior and got ready for Scott to run in.
170! 170! I hear someone shouting my number and get ready for the exchange – only to find out it was another team trying to tell us that they had seen runner 170 make a VERY wrong turn and that he was probably lost on the course. Repeat the time – it was 2 in the morning in bumble F West Virginia or possibly Maryland – I’m not sure – and our runner was lost. As if this was not enough to panic our team I see a VERY intoxicated man chasing other runners and screaming. Immediately a team member tells me to go back to the van for fear that this man was going to come up to me. Another runner from another team hands off and this man chases after him. After a couple of minutes of stressed out thinking – I go to the van and tell Jason that if I am not to the exchange point in an hour please assume something has happened to me and come find me.
Scott finally made it to the transition and I take off – in the distance I hear him telling the team how freaking scary that was and that he really thought there was no way he was going to find us. Panic really set in. I then see said intoxicated man on the side of the road. I ran even faster and did not make eye contact. Up pulls Van 2 – which by the way was not an van but a large SUV plastered with Saucony stickers. Jason yells out the window that they are going to follow me for the 5.4 miles I had to run. I felt horrible. That would suck for them – they were going to have to drive slow – wait – drive slow – wait. But my fear kept me from yelling at the telling them to go on.
Having them beside me kept the idea of a team in my head. I wasn’t running these miles for me – there would be no individual results that people could look up. I was running for the team. Again I didn’t want to let them down nor be the slow girl. I was still running in the middle 6′s – then I hit a rather large hill that seemed to climb for forever and I ran a 7:30 – my only mile of the whole race in the 7′s. I counted ten teams that I passed on this leg and finished in 37:42 for an average pace of 6:58.
Bridget again took off and we shadowed her on her leg as well. Literally the two of us had been running on the side of highways, passing corn fields, and cow pastures, and occasionally a random farm house. I literally was moments away from getting hit by a huge tractor trailer at one point. No wonder they make you wear reflective gear, a headlamp and a rear light. The only way I saw runners ahead of me was because I saw red blinking lights bobbing up and down.
At this point we all were exhausted and were very happy to have our 2nd legs finished. We decided to drive straight to the next spot we would need to run from and try and get some sleep. We parked next to some grass and hopped out. I rolled out my sleeping bag and pillow and slept for two hours on the cold grass. It felt amazing and freeing all at the same time. Maybe I could be a camper after all.
I got woken up to the question of would I like Starbucks? Would I like Starbucks? Is the sky blue? We left Chris at the exchange – poor guy – and headed to Starbucks and the grocery store to get some much needed coffee and breakfast. I of course downed a Venti Soy No Water Chai and I had a deliciously artificial blueberry muffin. Hey I mean I was on a vacation of sorts. We made it back and could see the envy in the eyes of all the other delirious runners who wanted what we had – Starbucks is a hot commodity around runners.
We met up with Van 1 – which was indeed a van by the way. They were happy to finally be finished with all their legs and were ready to cheer us on into DC. I had the 2nd to last leg into DC and thought I was going to be running on the scenic C&O Canal. That must have been something I saw online prior to the course change because what I ran through was anything BUT scenic.
I was about to go pee in the port a potty for oh the 1 millionth time when up comes Chris again for the hand off. Dang it – why did I have to have a 2:14 marathoner as my hand off person?!?! Always at the exchange before I’m ready! This time I had downed a sugar free red bull and was feeling the jittery effects off too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Off I went again on my 3rd race in less than 24 hours – 4.4 Miles. This was the absolute worst part of the race. I ran on sidewalks in the ghetto of DC. Concrete & Dorothy do not like each other. I had to cross a street every minute or so and like I said before there was no one stopping traffic. If there was a red light you had to either stop or hurl yourself into traffic and hope drivers would stop. There are no spectators cheering you on. You are literally running as fast as you can with only a number on your shirt distinguishing you from other runners. This number gave me some sort of comfort knowing that these people didn’t just think I was some crazy girl huffing it for no reason.
As I said before Scott had gotten lost on one of his legs and the same thing had happened to Chris. This stressed me out to no end so I tried to remember the one street it said to turn on for my leg. In Ragnar land if you don’t see a blue sign telling you which way to go – you assume straight and run like the wind. I saw no sign but I did see Missouri – the street from the map. Do I turn? Not turn? I opted to not turn and ran straight – then I freaked – what if I needed to turn? I then turned around – crossed the middle of the street with cars heading at me from both directions and ran down Missiouri.
I don’t know if you are the praying type. I am – especially during races. Nothing quite like this race though. I begged, I pleaded, I praised, I said anything to God I could possibly think of but most of all I said – I AM PUTTING MY TRUST IN YOU. I prayed that the 2.4 miles I had to run down this street would be the right way. There was no way I was going to be able to run 2.4 miles back to the other point and then run 2.4 miles past that to meet my team if that was the right direction. I started to hyperventilate at the thought of having to knock on some random persons door and ask to use their phone. I have watched one too many Law & Orders to know that women should not go knocking on random doors – that’s asking for trouble. I then started to fight off tears. The only number I knew by heart was my own. How was I going to call my team? Would they answer my phone if a unknown number was repeatedly calling. Were they even in the Van where my phone was or were they at the exchange point waiting for me? At this point in the race we had passed over 100 teams and were now in first. So every run we went on – we were alone – no competition – not comfort from other runners – ALONE.
Just when I started to compose myself I see a Ragnar sign and what is this? A volunteer? He directs me where to go and I see my team. I have never been so happy to see 11 other people in my life. 4.4 miles in 29:50 for an average pace of 6:46. I was greeted with cheers and high 5′s. I started to cry. Damn those Ragnar people and their stupid signs. I thought I was going to die in DC but even worse – I thought I was going to let the team down.
Bridget was off again and so we were. Off to RFK for the finish where Tim planned on giving the Ragnar people a piece of his mind. He said we have two 110lbs girls running in the ghetto of DC not knowing where they are going and running into traffic – this is not safe. I had a laugh at this one – 110lbs – HA – I haven’t been 110 lbs since I was like o – 10 or so. I’ll take it as a compliment and run with it – if you will. Back to the point at hand. It was not safe. Bridget rounded the corner and was met with our cheers. She on the other hand was not happy – she had blown out her calf and did not feel good. The sacrifices you make for a team!
It’s much too late and I’m much too tired – so there will be more to come later but for now I’ll end this posting with the quote I had from when I first said I was going to run this relay.
“So live that memories will be a part of your happiness“
Runner, dreamer, marathoner x24, mommy of 3, Women's Running Magazine cover model, published writer, Saucony contributing blogger, running coach, and lover of all things running. I Run This Body. Read More