Minus the champion part, especially when referring to me.
(I know it’s old, but it’s so very, very true. Source.)
So as I’ve already proclaimed about 5,000 times, the weekend was so ridiculously fun I have post-fun depression. It’s hard to explain – we were sleep deprived, malnourished (you should have seen the crap we were eating all weekend), nasty stinky, and crammed together in a minivan for 36 hours, all festering in our own funk, and all nursing wounds and sore, cramped up muscles.
The best way to explain is this -
I’ve enjoyed plenty of girls’ nights and bachelorette parties where everyone lets loose, acts a fool, and inevitably engages in unattractive behavior of some sort. It’s always a blast. But this was different – we weren’t all gussied up and sipping on cocktails, or waving our arms wildly to loud music on a dance floor. It’s a different kind of bond that I haven’t had since I was traveling to cheer camp in my pre-college years. It’s amazing how much more inappropriate and hilarious the conversations get when the makeup’s off and everyone is stank-nasty. You’re all working toward a common goal and supporting one another along the way – it’s not better or worse, but it’s certainly different, and I’d forgotten how fun it could be with such a large group.
Of course, girls will be girls – perfectly manicured nails and all…
But we rocked the sh*t out of that relay.
If you’ve ever considered running the Cape Cod Relay (or any overnight relay) – or even if you haven’t – hopefully this recap helps you decide if it’s your cup of green tea.
How It Works
2 Vans. 12 Runners. 189 Miles 176 Miles (due to construction). 36 Hours.
Ok so that’s what the medal says, but it’s obviously slightly more complicated than that, so I’m going to tap into my PR skillset and explain to you using bullet points.
- The mileage is broken up into 36 different parts, or “legs.” Each team has 12 runners, and each runner runs 3 of the 36 legs (36 divided by 12 is 3).
- Note: Some teams, called “ultra” teams, are made of six runners who run six legs apiece. These people are justifiably insane, so we’re just not going to talk about them.
- The legs are consecutive, meaning that Runner 1 will run legs 1, 13, and 25. Runner 2 will run legs 2, 14, and 26 – and so on.
- Each team of twelve runners is divided between two vans – six runners in each. Van 1 carries runners 1-6 and van 2 carries runners 7-12.
- SO – the runners in van 1 (the first six runners) kick off the race by running the first six legs. Each point where one runner hands the “baton” (a slap bracelet that is unspeakably disgusting by the end of the race) to another runner is called an “exchange.” So when Runner Uno finishes her leg and hands the baton to Runner Dos, they do so at an exchange (indicated in yellow on the map below).
- While the runners in van 1 are kicking off the first six legs of the relay, van 2 is straight chillin’. They can do whatever they please. However, they have to be at the first major exchange point by the time Runner 6 is finished. Why? Because when Runner 6 is dunzo, Runner 7 (and therefore van 2) picks up the race.
- So van 2 goes to the first major exchange (indicated numerically on the map below), kicks Runner 7 out of the car, cheers Runner 6 into the exchange point and takes pictures of Runner 7 as she flies off. At this point, van 1 is free to do whatever they please while runners in van 2 run legs 7-12. They’ll meet van 2 at the next major exchange when Runner 1 starts the cycle all over again.
- This goes on for about 30 hours. Runners continue to run through rain, sun and the night until they finish. You eat when you can, sleep when you can, pee when where you can, and learn to love the smell of dead fish and foot fungus. You’re welcome.
I’m not a runner, and this isn’t a fitness blog. I don’t have any clue what my “times” were. I don’t really care. If you must really have a number, fine, I run five minute miles. No big deal. I’m a MF ATHLETE.
(I don’t run 5 minute miles.)
The Race Begins
Upon meeting the girls in the parking lot where everyone left their cars, we decorated the vans and piled a ridiculous amount of crap into each van.
We decided not to splurge on the big “Free Candy” vans sported by the other teams because we wanted to save money, so we piled into a minivan and an Expedition.
What do I mean by “Free Candy?”
That, but white. And equally as creeptastic.
My stuff. I really need a duffle bag.
After packing the vans, we decorated them.
We were team “Toss HER-A Bubbly” because we were sponsored by HERA, an ovarian cancer foundation.
That would be a uterus. With a heart in the middle. Go HERA!
We put check boxes on the side of each van to cross off our legs as we finished them (this was a trend with Ragnar racers).
We dolled it up more a little later.
We drove the vans to the check-in site, got our race kits, and listened to a small safety training.
We took a frantic team picture (we all wore pink for the first legs)
and sent Runner 1 on her way.
We had a few hours to kill, so we drove to the first major exchange (where van 2 would take over for van 1) and decorated the van a bit more. Then we got bored and ate too many bagels so we decided to follow the van 1 runners for awhile.
The runs were along some really pretty cranberry bogs.
For safety reasons, teams couldn’t cross the road without waving an obnoxiously loud orange flag.
Van 2 Takes Over and I Run My First Leg
After cheering on Runner 6, we drove back to the major exchange point and awaited van 1’s arrival.
Runner 7 waiting for Runner 6 to pass the baton.
And she was off!
We drove alongside most of our runners to cheer them on, especially the ones chugging through longer legs.
I was Runner 11, so I didn’t run until later in the day. When it was finally my turn, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful, FLAT pathways along the Cape Cod Canal. First leg: 3.9 miles.
I absolutely loved it. Running alongside something so beautiful helped me relax and get into a groove. I really enjoyed myself.
As I soared past the one-mile marker, I was faced with THIS.
No, no. This is not a “LOOK AT THE PRETTY, PRETTY RUNNING TRAIL” photo. This is a “LOOK AT THE DUNES OF DEATH” photo. I’ve never run on sand before, and if you have and you think it’s easy, then you’re a show off with your big, bad self. Running on sand is f*cking hard. Especially the soft Cape sand. I tried to run along the water’s edge to get a more packed surface, but my shoes kept sinking. Y’all, this bitch lasted a mile. By about half a mile in, my obliques were hurting, my shins and knees were screaming obscenities (or was that me?), and I had to stop because I was about 99% sure I was going to projectile vomit alllllll over the pristine little beach from hell.
(I didn’t vomit. But I definitely almost did…perhaps it was all the bagels, strawberries, animals crackers, pretzels, and coffee I consumed before my run?)
Either way, I finished my leg and it felt awesome to have one down.
Runner 12 finished her leg next, completing the first shift of van 2.
It’s at this point in the day when people start to realize how tired they are after waking up at 4am and running. Most people sleep in their vans or…anywhere they can.
There were designated outdoor sleeping areas for those people who wanted to avoid sleeping like a pretzel in the vans.
We were smarter than that. The twelve of us split the cheapest hotel we could find halfway between the starting line and finish line. When van 1 took off on their second shift, our van checked into the hotel where we showered and tried to get some sleep. I think we only got about an hour of sleep by the time traffic, lunch, and showers were out of the way, but it was important to try since we had the overnight shift. We finished around 5pm, went to sleep around 7:30pm, woke up at 8:30pm, and met van 1 at the next major exchange around 9pm.
By this time, it was cold and dark. Running along busy roads at night was a really scary issue for me – the thought of being hit by a drunk driver, eaten by a pack of rabid coyotes, or being abducted by this guy -
was a little disconcerting.
I was very nervous, and my leg wouldn’t start until about 2:30am. Seriously, I was kind of a wreck about it. I tried to get another hour or so of sleep before my run while the other girls ran, but before I knew it we were flying to my exchange. I was strapping on all the required safety gear (headlamp, flashlight, blinking LED BUTT light, reflective vest), my number, my iPhone (while setting up my music and MapMyRun) – all while tired out of my damn mind and terrified about my nighttime run.
The runner before me ran into the exchange, passed me the baton, and off I went. She had to come right up to me because it was so dark, all I could see was this:
So I’m running along, panicking (obvs), when all of a sudden I start to feel this excruciating pain in my left leg (it’s permanently injured – more on that later). I’m all “Oh my GOD, it’s too cold for my leg, I stepped on it wrong, holy crap I’m going to have to limp through this whole damn thing which only makes me more of a target OMG I’M GOING TO DIE” when it dawns on me that something feels a little different.
My shoes. My shoes feel a little different. You know why? Because in the frenetic period before my leg I forgot to put on my damn running shoes. I was running in freaking Sperry’s. Gold ones, at that.
I called my van and sheepishly told them about my faux pas of the century. I stopped on the side of the road and waited for them to bring me my shoes. A few minutes later, they come careening around the corner, courtesy honking at the other runners, and practically toss my shoes at me. I threw them on, kicked the Sperry’s back in the car and kept on my run, tail firmly planted between my legs, right under my blinking BUTT light.
Just in time, too, because my trail – which I thought was taking me along the highway – took me into the middle of a wildlife sanctuary. There were no vans, no other runners around, and apparently no one to hear me scream.
You thought I was panicking before? Imagine running through this:
(No use taking a picture. The only lights you see would be my headlamp, flashlight, and reflective vest.)
I just played music from my iPhone out loud (headphones are not an option when you need to be on the alert for potential predators, DUH) and ran faster than I think I have ever run in my life, trying desperately to catch up to another runner. Luckily they had security vehicles patrolling the path every 5-7 minutes.
And then I saw this big, white Free Candy van – like the ones the other racers were driving around, except it wasn’t decorated, and it was on a path no other vehicles were allowed on. AWESOME. It slowed down and turned around, then it started to creep forward slowly. Y’all, I nearly had a f*cking heart attack. I picked up the pace and called my van, so that when Free Candy abducted me and dragged me off into the woods, my van would be able to alert 911 immediately. Thank GOD a security van drove by at that point. This was our conversation:
Person: Hi, is everything ok?
Me: Um, no. I saw a big, white sketchy van. Is that one of yours?
Person: Hmmm. No! All our vans look like this. How weird. (UM YOU THINK???????)
Person: Probably a park worker or something.
Person: There are some runners ahead, why don’t you catch up to them.
Me: Turns into the Roadrunner, catches up to a girl, and practically forces the poor thing to stick with me until we’re in the clear and out of those God-forsaken woods.
After Runner 12 finished up our second shift, it was about 4am. We drove sleepily to the next exchange, got as comfortable as we could, and slept for about an hour-ish in the van.
When van 1 came and woke us up, we were sleepy, but so happy we were almost finished. For my last run, we pulled up to this.
Funny, Ragnar. I didn’t remember you telling me I would have to BELAY UP MY THIRD LEG.
Except I did, and I didn’t do it on the road. I did it on this path.
There was another one equally as bad at the end of my leg. Thanks, Ragnar.
The Finish Line
When Runner 12 took off, we went to the final exchange, where we met van 1. We all lined the finish and waited until we saw her round the corner.
Then she came!
We all piled behind her and crossed the finish line as a team.
All worse for wear -
But so excited and happy about the amazing weekend we had.
We were tired. We needed showers. But we’re ladies who understand our priorities, so there was one thing we had to do first.
And then we did this.
Later that night, we all got gussied up and went out together. After two days of looking our worst, we were excited to turn into ladies again.
Finishing Strong and Happy
There are so many details and stories I wish I could share – like about how we ate nothing but processed food and carbs for two days straight and still ran, which almost certainly resulted in all of us being malnourished, or about how I washed my face in a CVS, Dunkin Donuts, and a gas station so that just one part of my body would at least be clean – but there’s really not the space to do it here. I am also willing to bet that the girls would want our more unflattering conversations confined to the minivan.
Personally, this race marked something very special to me. I was in a very bad accident when I was 16 – at the time, I was in wheelchair for about 2 months and on crutches for the next year. The doctors told me I would probably never walk without a limp. Even today I have six screws in my leg, a titanium bar running from my knee to my ankle, and a permanent gap in my shin bone. My leg definitely flares up from time to time, but to finish something like this after being told you’d never walk normally again makes me feel…invincible. It is the hardest I’ve pushed myself since that accident and I walked away with little more than an ice pack and some soreness. It was a very special moment for me.
In the end, we all ran hard and we all ran strong. Whether it was a 9-mile leg or one of my dinky 3-mile legs, we all pushed ourselves to accomplish something we had never done before. It felt great to do, and it was only made better by having the full force of a supportive team behind you the whole way.
Final installment on
Friday Monday (this is a long post, I’m leaving it up over the weekend), where I give my feedback on the race.
Question: What’s the best race you’ve ever run and why?