I am Ragnarian

I am Ragnarian.

And, that is an earned status.

I feel like a changed person.  I know that sounds kind of corny, but it really is an experience and much more than just about running.

It is much more than crossing the finish line at 200 miles.

I am not the same person, I went in as.  And, I am grateful.

Through a Ragnar Relay, you learn about TEAM.  I was in a van with three guys and a woman friend.  Three guys, yep.  They really give you perspective on life and they give you a boatful of laughs. Perhaps some a little more risque than others, but life is meant to be lived and laughed.

One of the guys, I went to middle and high school with.  What a turn of events.  Who would have thought 25 years ago?!!?

We started on Friday morning, but my van had about a six-hour layover until its first leg.  As soon as the other team began, we hopped over to breakfast and all got to meet and greet with each other.  After breakfast, we headed over to the first major exchange and waited for the first van to finish.  Six hours later, they rolled in.  And, off we went.  I was runner #2.

After runner #1 started her run, we drove to the first exchange where I waited for her to come in.  Patiently is not a good word.  I was very anxious.  Soon, she arrived and slapped the bracelet on my hand and off I went.  Starting in on a 10-mile run through the hills of Kingston, Plympton, and Carver.  I made great time.  But, I was also pushing myself tremendously.  I came to the end of my first ten miles sweating and having done a 10 mile per minute pace.  Not bad, considering I had another twenty miles to go.

I immediately took a nap.  Yep, I took a nap.

By this time our van was more than a first name basis. We had started to learn the ins and outs of each other – rather quickly.  Five people in a van – eating, sleeping and everything else together.  You bond or don’t bond rather quickly!

Our last runner had a nine mile run through Wareham over the Bridge onto the Cape proper.  Nightfall was on its way.  We headed to our next major exchange and handed off our legs back to Van #1.  We found a small little pizza shop and got a bit of dinner being very cautious about what we ate.

At this point, running on very little sleep and a ton of adrenaline, we all needed to get some sleep.  So, around 9 p.m. we parked the van in a parking lot, grabbed our blankets and settled in for a snooze. Lots of snoring, grunting, and other things ensued.  Such is life.  At midnight, the phone woke us up.  The other van was finishing up their legs and was on the way in to transfer their runners.

That meant our van was on deck. Nothing quite like getting woken up and being ready to run.

Runner # 1 went out at about 1 a.m.  She had about a 6-mile jaunt.  Then it was my turn around 2 a.m.  Mine was far longer – 10+ miles.  I have to say, I started in Centerville and had to make my way down Phinney’s Lane for one of the first times in my life, I was literally scared to death.  It was so dark. I was running on the edge of conservation land.  Not a car or house in sight.  Just me with a meager headlamp and my own breath.  At one point a runner pulled up alongside me, and I said, “I am scared shitless.”  She asked me if I wanted her to run with me.  And, I said, no.  This was personal.

I buckled down and continued along this desolate road until I got to 6A.  Then things perked up a bit – or as much as they can at 2:30-3 a.m.  At least there were residential homes and that gave me comfort.

Soon a sense of peace settled in on me.  I plodded one foot in front of the other. I wondered about the deep, dark, unknowns of life.  But, mostly, I listened to my breath, felt the cool drizzle falling on me, and bathed in the sense of peace that only the dark before the dawn can bring.

By the time I had finished my leg – two hours had passed and the birds had started their early morning songs.  Dawn was officially on its way.  Did the guys back in the van know how scared I was?  I wasn’t going to let on.

I finished in Dennis – yep, of all places – the name of my late husband.  That was some cosmic irony, but a relief none-the-less.  It was a comforting message from above.

Again, once I reached the van, I changed into my running clothes for my next leg, grabbed my blanket and buried my head until the last of our runners finished.

Then it was off to breakfast.  Our van was hurting.  Many of the guys were injured.  Biofreeze was a lifesaver. My last leg was going to be an easy five miler.  I was actually looking forward to it. But, one guy had knocked out his knee and he had the last leg of 10 miles.  He wasn’t sure he could ever do it without severely hurting himself.

I offered my five-mile leg in exchange for his ten.  I wasn’t sure if I even could pull off my third ten miler in less than 24-hours.  But, when you don’t want someone to get hurt and you somewhat know your own body – you offer and he accepted.

Mentally I really had to prepare for this one.  I thought I had it easy. So, my nerves kicked in.

The good part was that I was going to bring the team into the finish.  I was taking the team into Provincetown!

Our team members were starting to feel the brunt of aching legs and injuries, our time began slipping.  So, my wait time became longer and longer and my anxiety more and more.

It was about 3:30 p.m. by the time the runner before me ran into the exchange.  I dropped out of the van like a soldier jumping out of a plane.  Time to get in action.

I told my van that I would take things really casually, let’s face it, I had already done 20+ miles at that point.  But, they predicted that I would finish in 1 hour 45 minutes.  I said no way.  I asked them the best strategy.  They said to run 4 minutes, walk a minute.  I listened to my teammates and did exactly that.

The route was hard.  I went through the hills of Truro and then the long beach front stretch along 6A into Provincetown. There Van #1 was hiding behind a building and all ran out as I was running by.  That made me feel a bit better. Then I hit Route 6 and it became a slog.  Physical and mental.  It was not the most scenic site and I knew it.  It was the back way into Ptown. I buckled down and ground my way through it.

When I rounded the corner to enter the Pilgrim Monument, I saw someone running towards me.  My team mate. She ran a half mile in flip flops with me.  And, from there my entire team was waiting at the top of the hill at the finish. As soon as I crested the hill, they all got behind me and we ran it in together to the finish.

Here is a video of that awesome TEAM Finish!

And, my finish time – 1 hour 44 minutes and 43 seconds – just shy of the 1:45 my van predicted. Do they know me or what?  Consistent as they come that is me!  31 miles and one black toe as a casualty – that is all!

My Paul had driven to PTown and waited six hours for the finish.  (And, had tried to catch me at an exchange in Carver earlier on Friday that we bypassed.)

What an adventure.

One of the things I realized is that TEAM is about carrying people.  Taking one for the team is truly important.  I took many for the TEAM.  Being a strong long-distance runner, I can run mile and mile without injury. I may not be fast, but I have persistence and dedication, and that paid off.  I was able to carry the team when members were injured.  And, I felt very valuable to the effort and as an important cog in the team.

Very rarely do I feel this in life.

But that sense of camaraderie, belonging, and value is what makes a Ragnarian.

It truly isn’t about the run at all, it is about being with people, developing relationships, and carrying each other.  Most importantly it is about fun.

And, Paul and I went out for a Lobstah dinner!

As you can see from the before and after photo – I ran so much I actually lost a bit of weight.

I want to know when is the next Ragnar?  The White Mountains to Hampton Beach?

Maybe, stay tuned.

 

P.S. – No matter what anyone says – I do not eat Ham sandwiches in Porta Potties at 2 a.m. NEVER!  (A text message that I sent went bad and I will never live down).  I texted my team to say – “I am going to use the Porta Potty at the exchange – Ham is here.”   Oh well.

 

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