Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Across the border and pushing out of your comfort zone

Just like I have for the past two years, I trained all winter long for a grueling spring marathon and then get to reward myself with a Ragnar Relay with 11 amazing women that I am lucky enough to call my friends.  This time a passport was required as we headed north to Canada to run the 200ish miles from Cobourg to Niagara Falls.  I have only been to Canada one other time in high school for a band trip, we will leave that there, and I was looking forward to seeing many different places along our journey. 
Start of the Relay...Leg 1 of 36
For those of you that do not know what a Ragnar Relay can involve either 12 or 6 runners and covers about 200 miles on the road and is a point to point relay.  It takes about 36 hours to complete and there are multiple teams doing this at the same time.  The route in which we have to run is marked with signs from the race but generally speaking the individuals running may just look like your every day runner in the area unless you know that this relay is taking place.  The teams with six runners is referred to as an Ultra team and they would then run double the miles that the team of 12 would run.  I have done that once and not jumping in that van again too soon.

Coming in at Leg 1
This whole idea of creating a Ragnar team starting one summer afternoon sitting poolside with some ladies in the neighborhood. I am not even sure who brought it up first but it was discussed and a few of us thought it sounded like a good idea and thought we may know a few friends that would be silly enough to fall for it as well.  Our first one was done in DC, then Cape Cod, then Nashville Tennessee and then our latest, Niagara Falls Canada.  If you have followed me for some time you know that I like to run, I like to run long, and I like to try and run as fast as my body will let me at that given time.  Ragnar Relays for me are not about the speed or grueling push that I put myself through on a regular road race.  This is about the moms/friends that were sitting pool side and thought this might be a good idea to get away, to connect with women that we may not normally be with on a given day,  This relay was about trying something out of the norm and comfort zone.  Who knew it would be something we would fall in love with.
Leg 1 done

Don't get me wrong, the logistics behind it all is crazy and our captain has been amazing for the past three years getting us all in a line.  The guilt we feel leaving our families and little people is something we just have to let go of so we can go and make the weekend about us and our hopes and goals.  We pack in ziploc baggies and triple check the packing list that nothing is forgotten, especially the body glide.  We fill our tummies with sweet potatoes, coconut cookies, pretzel thins, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.  We look forward to showers and a soft pillow to lay our head on even if it is only for a few hours.  We are always excited for the first leg where the energy is amazing...the night run is sometimes a bit scary and lonely but this year it was perfect...I saw the skyline of Toronto along the lake the whole time...and the dreaded third leg is something that just has to happen in order to find that finish line
despite being so very tired.  I had just over nine miles and about 980 feet of elevation was a dozy but so beautiful!
Running in at the finish

My one girlfriend who was here for her second Ragnar kept commenting on how one of the great things about these relays is that it is filled with so many walks of life.  There is no pre-determined shape or body or mindset for these things.  These relays are about people that want to think outside the box, see a different part of the world, be a part of something bigger than a lonely run on a Sunday morning.  When I was on my first leg of the relay I was not feeling it as I passed a nuclear power plant, I was bumming out that I was not seeing the lake and all the beauty around it.  I looked down at my wrist and saw the slap bracelet that I had to bring to the next runner on my team.  There was no other way that she would begin with out me showing up.  These relays are about teamwork, about showing up, about being present in the presence of others.  In a time when we are all so connected via the social interwebs, this allowed us to disconnect and just be with each other.  I then rounded a corner on the path and came out on a beautiful view of Lake Ontario...the beauty was there...I just had to have patience.

Running is hard and not always rewarded with a fast time, or a feeling of euphoria as we cross the finish line.  There is nothing easy about pushing your body again and again on the same route to see if you can make that hill in your neighborhood not suck on that given day.  I have learned through my years of running that I always feel better after a run, I always enjoy the sweat and strength that is clearly present, and I always want to see what I can do better the next time.  My first race that I trained for was Army Ten Miler...I just registered this morning for my sixth one.  This race is so much more than a ten mile run...this is about a girl that listened to a friend and tried something different.  My first runs were done with a stopwatch on my wrist, whatever "running apparel" I had and sneakers that were probably too small for me and past their prime.  My training runs started with 1-2 mile runs...I did not start out running marathons.  Every runner starts somewhere and it is only one foot in front of the skill required there.

Realize that you can do hard things.  Realize that you will be rewarded for completing these tasks, and the rewards may be intangible.  Realize that you only have to focus on one day at a time.  Realize that we are all in this together and it is hard for everyone but somehow when you have a group around you it makes it a little bit easier.  If anyone asks you to do a race with them or a relay....say yes.  That person will be your accountability partner, your cheerleader, your motivator and your inspiration.  You will also find that you will be that for them as well.  The community that will develop from that one simple step will be amazing.  You will do things that you never thought were possible and you will find yourself wanting to do more, testing your own limits.

Team You Ran Me All Night Long
Embrace the Suck...choose you...hard is possible...enjoy this foot in front of the got this.

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