Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Running out of my comfort zone

I was asked once and then again and again to do something that I knew was way out of my comfort zone. I was scared and nervous on many levels.  I have done three Ragnar Relays with my team of 11 other women that I know and we have our rhythm down and we run in sync, literally and figuratively.  This relay was going to be different...different people and a whole different challenge.

Thursday night I had five people come to my house and have a meal together prior to our departure at 2:30 in the morning on Friday.  I had only run with one of these people before and we, the small six of us, were going to tackle over 200 miles over the next two days.  I have NEVER done an ultra, which means just six runners and all these miles.  I have never met 4 of the members of my team, I have never tackled an ultra Ragnar and I had NO CLUE what to expect other than a lot of fun and not a lot of sleep.  It was going to be epic!
home sweet home

Our departure time came and we loaded up and headed into our home for the next 48 hours.  Our start time for the relay was 5:45 am.  We headed through the mountains and rolling hills of Cumberland Maryland.  I had never been in the first van for this relay or any relay for that matter and I was going to be runner 5&6.  I was so nervous...I have been running but I knew the hills of western Maryland were going to kill me.  

i think i can
The energy at the start was buzzing, so many first time Ragnarians, blinking lights filled the darkness and the start times began at 5am.  I found three friends that were doing their first one and they were pumped.  Our first runner went out and our journey began with the blast of an air horn!  Our second runner went out to tackle legs 3&4.  Leg three was known as "Capital Punishment."  Most of these relays have one leg that is just crazy hard, either really long, a really steep climb or a combination of all.  Our runner kept on climbing over 1000 feet and was greeted by signs of encouragement as she just never stopped pushing up this never ending hill!  I was the next one out and was pumped to get this party started for me.

starting out
This leg was hard, it was downhill, and it was loose gravel.  I kept thinking in my mind, even though I was now with these members of my amazing team, I can't let these people down we have six people and 200+ miles...I have to push through.  For every climb I had there was another down hill and my legs were feeling it and starting to hurt early.  I had ten miles of crappy terrain and dust in my face by the passing cars...I kept thinking of my past team as well...they were running right along side of me...I was thinking of who did these legs in our first relay and was channeling them to get through it.  I made it to the exchange and my whole body was very happy to be done.

Our day continued with lots of running and an amazing sense of community.  You find other vans that you tend to stay on pace with and you run into them again and again in the exchanges.  Everyone is tired and sore and bizarrely loving every moment of this challenge.  My overnight run was next...I had some pb&j and lots of water and amazing sweet potatoes (Thanks Debruns for recipe and hubby for making last minute) and I was ready to go.  I had slept for about an hour after my first leg and felt charged up and ready to get this night one done.  I knew it ended at the creamery and I could get some ice cream.  if you know me at know that would be a driving factor!  I began the run and my legs were still hurting a lot from my down hill earlier but I managed to find a buddy to run with.  We stuck together for a good portion of the first six miles...not a lot of talking but I was happy to have someone there with me on these dark stretches.  The second half of my leg was going to be all was an uphill that I was not going to be able to climb.  I was definitely the carrot for some people as they would get past me and then walk a bit...then start up and then stop.  Everyone was getting tired and the utter fatigue was setting in.  I finished my 10.73 miles and found my team at the creamery.  Mint chocolate ice cream was mine and a half gallon of farm chocolate milk for the was perfect!  I crawled back into the van and got on my amazing pj bottoms and sweatshirt and slept for three hours while the second half of our team crushed the night runs!  Our last runner had 18 miles to do and she was amazing.  She never stopped and had trained for this...I just had to be quiet to feel any frustration for my 10 mile night run!

more cowbell
The sun rose, so bummed I missed it, but Mark said it was a pretty morning.  Poor Mark had to deal with five women during this whole thing...but he was amazing.  A guy I just met and his singing along with us and ability to fall asleep in less than one minute made my weekend.  Did I mention I hadn't met these people not only was I running a race as an ultra, I have never done that, I was doing it with people I had just met.  So many things were out of my comfort zone in this relay...and each one of them had their own special reward.  We were from all over the NOVA area as well as one from NC.  We each brought a little something special to the band of misfits.  Whenever anyone asks me about Ragnar a huge smile comes across my face and I just say that it is the most fun you will ever have is exhausting, scary, moments of self doubt, smelly, full of moments you will love and moments that you will love to hate.  We continued our journey...and it was powered by the cowbell.

final leg
Our final legs were the most challenging.  We had to dig deep to make our legs move forward.  The soreness was in full effect and time was not on our side.  We contacted race command as we were worried we were not going to finish by the 9pm finish time. They approved us to leap frog some legs.  Our runners would go ahead and run two of their legs at the same time and then we could skip the next segment.  This would allow our team to complete the mileage and save on time.  We were slowing down and the finish line was not getting to us faster.  I ran with Amy on my final leg.  We had just over 9 miles to run together.  We had just met Thursday night and here she was my life saver in this final stretch.  Every mile that dinged by on my watch I wanted to stop and walk.  The sun had finally decided to make an appearance and we were feeling the heat.  My legs were crippled on the down hills and I just wanted it all over.  We stuck together until the final mile and a half which consisted of a steep uphill into Arlington.  She pushed through and made it to the finish before me and then Mark went out.  I had was not pretty or easy...but it was completed.  

All three boxes checked!

We now had two runners left and our final runner had a monster 18 miler AGAIN.  I know that I can dig deep on stuff but she was beyond words amazing.  She trained for this and was not going to stop.  Sarah was the instigator of this whole team of misfits...she was our captain...she made us who we were.  I still sit here in disbelief of her finishing this relay with over 49 miles under her belt and on little to no sleep.  She is a rockstar and I was just a part of her background singers.  

We met Sarah at the final exchange and she knew she had 12 left and then her legs could stop.  She looked great...had some bacon and grapes and headed out.  We went back to clean out the van a bit and then made our way to the finish line.  We laid on the grass and waited for the text...the one mile to go text.  She was on her way in.  We were energized by the teams all around us waiting to see that final runner and shuffle their way across the finish line.  This is what we signed up to do...finish together.
Run that by me again...Ultra Edition

And Done!
Would I do this race a heart beat.  Not sure I would rock it as an ultra as this specific Ragnar is listed in the top ten "Manliest Races" on the east coast.  There is not much I don't love about Ragnar...heck their color is could I not like that!  The finish area was packed with teams sharing crazy stories between the two vans of their teams.  They finally had more than five minutes to share their experiences at an exchange.  Family was showing up to see the exhausted family members.  We sat on a bench and shared our two pizzas and I headed to the beer tent.  There is something to be said for a nice cold beer after all that.  It is the perfect end to what was a perfectly imperfect two days.

I am so thankful I took the risk to do this.  I am so happy that I decided being out of my comfort zone can be a good thing.  I am thankful that my husband supports my craziness that is Ragnar Relays.  I am so proud of me for believing that hard is not impossible.  I am thankful for my team for encouraging each other, being the support crew when we needed them, singing crazy songs with me...and let me blast music and ring cowbell at every runner I passed.  I cannot wait to hop into another van and do this all again.  I know that I can tackle any challenge thrown down in front of me and it doesn't have to be perfect...just progress.

Embrace the suck...choose a Ragnar!!


  1. I loved reading your recap! It's always more fun to read a recap when I've run the same race, and in this case to read about the first six legs since I've never been in Van 1. Congrats on a great race!

    Glad you enjoyed my sweet potato fries recipe! :-)

    1. Thanks Deb! It was a fun two days and I still think I need to catch up on my sleep! And your potatoes will be had outside of just yummy!!