You guys, this Ragnar Relay was easily one of the coolest things I have ever done. I have so much I want to say and share. So forgive me, it’s going to be a long one. First things first.
- What is a Ragnar? A 200-mile, 12-person relay race.
- Why would anyone ever do that? Because we’re all out of our minds and we love it.
- Who did I run with? Team Beer, obv.
- How much did I run? I was runner 6. My legs were 6mi, 3.5mi, and 8.6mi.
- Where did we run? We started in Cumberland, MD and finished in Washington DC.
- Would I do it again? Totally! But NOT through the mountains of Maryland. Once is enough of that.
Team Beer Van 1 kicked things off in Cumberland at 9am on Friday morning. I have to say, as runner 6 it was kind of nice to be able to just relax at the starting line. I didn’t start my first run until about 1:30pm, so until then I screamed my lungs out for our other runners and tried to stay warm up in the MD mountains.
THOSE MOUNTAINS! No joke. Everybody’s first leg was through the mountains, many of them on narrow gravel and dirt roads. Nuts. Look at that view!
When it was finally time for leg 6, I ran like the freaking wind. I had some nasty hill climbs, but most of my first 6 miles were downhill. I really kicked it into gear, finished in 45:22 (7:33 pace), and passed off to Van 2. Felt good! Gorgeous sunny afternoon and coming around the corner to hear the guy announce Team Beer was just the best. Think I had around 6 kills on this leg too.
Then it was time for FOOD! Cleaned up a little bit, found a BBQ place in a creepy small town in WV (Earthdog Cafe – they have no website. It’s 2014!) and inhaled a pulled pork salad. Then it was time to GTFO. There is something about tiny, backwoods towns that creep me out a little bit. Ick. Needed to get back to the race.
We made our way to the next van exchange for some R&R until we had to pick up and start running again. This was one of the strangest parts of the relay – we had 4-5 hours downtime. Tried to nap in the grass, not happening. So instead things just got a little goofy. From 6:30pm to 7am everybody on each team has to wear a reflective vest anytime outside the van. It cracked me up to see all these exhausted runner zombies walking around in enough reflective gear to be seen from 5 miles away. I also had a slight obsession with my headlamp. Started sporting that thing much earlier than necessary. Didn’t need it while foam rolling, but DID need it in the porta-potties. That was critical. I was also starting to get tired and began eating ALL THE CARBS. Blueberry bagel and PB will NEVER get old for me. Got a little ugly when the exhaustion started to set in. I think every time the van stopped I just made my way immediately to the back to scavenge for more food. What? I was tired, there was sugar, willpower was gone.
Then we heard the announcement for Team 14, screamed like maniacs for Jinny and Team Beer, and then Van 1 was back on the move!
By leg 2 we were out of the mountains (mostly) and done with the daylight. This part of the course was through residential farm land and in the dark. Man, was it DARK. It was so funny to stand at the exchanges waiting for your runner to come in – all the little bobbing headlights look exactly the same until they get close!
After Cassie kicked some major ass doing 7+ miles AT MIDNIGHT (no way could I have pulled that off), she passed the bracelet baton to me and I was off into the night. Sporting a headlamp, reflective vest with flashing lights, AND a flashing tail light and I still couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me. It was wild.
This run was ROUGH. First, I was really tired, obviously tired. Second, I ate too many of Cassie‘s banana bread energy bites. It was really more like a giant energy glob that I consumed. My belly hurt. Third, I had to climb THIS GD hill AT 12:30 AM!!! Will you please look at that!?!
I knew going into it that I had a major hill climb. I also knew that the exchange at the end was located at South Mountain Creamery. So I aptly named it Ice Cream Mountain. And Ice Cream Mountain kicked my ass. The crazy part was that I couldn’t even see how high I was going to climb! My little headlamp was only good for the road right in front of my face. Then some vans passed. They cheered me on, which was nice, and their headlights showed me the doom that I was facing, which was not so nice. They just kept going up and up and up for eternity. Oh God.
BUT! I made it. I summitted Ice Cream Mountain in 30:00 (8:34 pace), tallied around 4 kills (kills on the first 2 legs are hazy). There was ice cream at the end. Praise the Lord! I was also ravenous and all the burgers were gone. So I scavenged the back of the van some more. Ate more bagel, PB, and protein powder by the light of my headlamp in the back seat and then promptly passed out for about 4 hours.
Fast forward to 5am. Wake up, feel like hell (what did I do to my body last night!?), take a body wipe shower in the men’s bathroom at Dunkin’ Donuts, order real food (finally!), confuse the employees because I want my sandwich without bread (NO BREAD!?), and get back in that van for more running.
By this point, I was nervous about the 8.6 mile run I had coming up. Thankfully, my few hours of backseat van sleeping cuddled up next to Cassie made a HUGE difference, but I was beat up. So tired. And 8.6 miles is kind of a lot! But before I could think too much about it, Cassie was throwing the bracelet baton at me and I was off.
I felt good mile 1. I settled into the run. Longer, slower runs are really my comfort zone. This is the running I like. I started to enjoy it. THEN I STARTED FLYING. Listen, this very quickly became one of the best runs of my life. I cruised through leg 3 like nobody’s goddamn business and killed (read: passed) 20 MOFOs! I’ve never experienced a runners high like this. Even in the rain, I just felt AMAZING. Flew into the exchange with a time of 1:09:46 (8:12 pace) and I. Was. Done. I was also damn proud.
After my leg, Van 1 was done and we made our way to the finish line party in the National Harbor. Unfortunately, it was rainy and cold and everything was a giant, wet mud pit. But nothing some beer and Mexican food can’t cure, so we hobbled our way to Rosa Mexicano. Beer options were disappointing, but still beer is beer and I drank it happily. And the food! I ate myself waaaaaay beyond stuffed. I will never learn. Whateva.
30 hours and 29 minutes after Ed kicked off our race, Jinny came flying around the corner toward the finish line. We all ran in together. What a beautiful moment for Team Beer. In the end, we finished 105 out of 369 teams overall, 30:29:04 (9:07 pace). So proud.
The rest of the day was glorious. A shower! Pizza! BEER, BEER, BEER! Is there any other way to celebrate? I think no. And just like any good crazy runner person does, we started planning our next insane adventure on the way home. Who’s ready?
One last thing: if anybody honks at you, just remember, it’s only because they love beer.
Thanks to Cassie for sharing some photos! You can find her Team Beer Ragnar DC recap here.