Archive for the ‘Non-Food Reviews’ Category

Ragnar Reflections

 

First things first (and unrelated): if you follow me on Twitter (thank you, most importantly) don’t click on any direct messages I send you.  And don’t believe me when I say I lost 5 pounds in a week without changing my eating habits or working out, and I feel great.  First of all, that is NOT possible to do unless you are ill or starving yourself (thereby changing your diet), and second of all I did not do that.  Promise.  Those 5 pounds are still partying on my backside

Anyway, my account was hacked and I would hate to repay the kindness of your following me with some a-hole sending BS to your entire list of followers.  I think it’s fine now, but be careful.  Links to blog posts are fine for clicking.

Moving on –

Now that I’ve given you the whole spiel about our experiences with the Ragnar Cape Cod Relay, I wanted to reflect on it a bit in the final post.  A review of sorts, with mostly irrelevant pictures sprinkled throughout for good measure.  Then we’ll be back on our regularly scheduled food talk.

 

Things I liked about Ragnar:

  1. The idea.  Doing an overnight relay is really cool for the reasons I described in my previous post.  If you’re not athletic and you really, really hate being uncomfortable then it might not be for you.  But even if you’re a casual runner (like me) and you and some friends can assemble a good team, I think it’s totally worthwhile.  Even if you just do it once to say you did it.  image
  2. The camaraderie among runners.  This was my favorite part of the race.  It’s almost as if signing up for this race automatically enters you into this really friendly and supportive club.  Everyone is friends on the Ragnar trail, probably because we all know we’re crazy for signing up in the first place.  All along the routes, vans are not only honking at their own runners, but cheering for other runners on the way.  When people slow down and start to look tired, you will always see a runner come up from behind and say some words of encouragement.  Rather than competing with other runners, it seems more like everyone is competing with themselves by trying to finish with their wits about them.image
  3. Few people (if any) take themselves too seriously.  With any competitive event you’ll obviously have some beast who wants to prove he or she is a demi-god.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it.  You’re awesome.  Whatever.  Most people who do Ragnar just want to have a good time.  Expect to see some ridiculously decorated vans, offensive language, blow up dolls, crass jokes (of sexual nature and/or involving toilet humor, both of which I find endlessly hilarious), and crazy costumes.image image
  4. Every single exchange had an army of porta-potties.  Most of them had toilet paper, and few of them had lines.  Porta-potties are disgusting in any capacity, but these were reasonably less repulsive than usual, and they switched them with new ones at least once (possibly more) during the event. image
  5. The course.  The legs on the course are of varying lengths, which allows each runner to choose something that either challenges them or suits their abilities.  Even though most of the legs were on highways, each runner had at least one leg that was beautiful.  Also, Ragnar does a great job of making the short legs more challenging with terrain obstacles (i.e. MF SAND).  It’s a nice mixture that allows everyone to have a taste of everything on their run.image

 

Things I wasn’t crazy about:

  1. Most importantly, the race was appallingly disorganized.  Believe me, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to throw an event like this together seamlessly, but it felt like it was thrown together at the last minute.  I know they can’t help construction or mileage changes, but when you hear about changes happening five minutes before a leg is set to start it begins to look like they didn’t do their due diligence before finalizing the route.  One of our runners actually took on a second leg because it was shortened from 8 miles to 2 and since she was running, she was unaware of the change.image
  2. More on that note.  You’re dealing with people flying from exchange to exchange in vans they’re not used to driving, and runners who have enough on their minds without having to navigate unfamiliar routes.  Directions were given for both the runners and the vans on each route…except they were completely wrong.  More times than not they said “right” when they meant “left,” and at one point our van got completely lost.  We finally broke out the Tom-Tom.image
  3. Not enough volunteers, not enough signs. The direction issue would have been less of an issue had there been volunteers placed along the route to guide runners (it’s not like a normal race where you’re surrounded by people – as the race goes on the runners are more and more spread out).  The signage they had was ok, but at least once on each of my legs I faced a fork in the road with no sign indicating which way to go.  A sign on one leg got turned around, leading one of our runners directly into a marsh (it was a night run and she couldn’t see).  This wouldn’t have happened if the race had been adequately staffed. image
  4. Not enough security during night runs.  This is another area where proper volunteer staffing would have been great.  KnightlyBoyfriend kept saying that the night runs were going to be one of those “no big deal” situations until something really bad happened (he offered to run it with me, actually), and I kind of agree.  In spite of the threat of drunk drivers and ankle-twisting potholes, runs along the main roads weren’t terrible because the vans can stay with you.  But putting runners through a dark and secluded wildlife area with little-to-no security and no people around to make sure you’re ok? Very sketchy.  Maybe I’m a baby, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.  image
  5. Poor food/drink options.  Other Ragnar events seem to have a variety of food and drink stations.  Only two of the exchanges offered real food (not just gels and energy bars…which were only at one or two other stations anyway) and only the major exchanges had water.  It would have been nice to eat something full of protein and unprocessed food.  However, to be fair, this isn’t something that’s hard to do on your own, we just opted to sleep rather than drive around aimlessly looking for food.image
  6. The after-party totally sucked.  One free beer that takes an hour to get because there aren’t enough booths serving it, and a cup of clam chowder?  Y’all.  The first thing I want is a beer, which I couldn’t get to through all the people, and the last thing I want to eat when I’m disgusting, crampy, and sleep-deprived is SEAFOOD.  Come on.  You charge people more than $100 each and you pocket all of it (Ragnar doesn’t support a charitable cause).  Throw a decent party. 

Whatever.  We made our own after-party.

image

All snags aside, I look forward to doing this again next year!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

The Ragnar Cape Cod Relay of Champions

 

Minus the champion part, especially when referring to me.

image

(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.

image

  • 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.

image

  • 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.

The Recap

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.

IMG_1143

IMG_1144

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?”

image

That, but white.  And equally as creeptastic.

My stuff.  I really need a duffle bag.

IMG_1142

After packing the vans, we decorated them.

IMG_1154

We were team “Toss HER-A Bubbly” because we were sponsored by HERA, an ovarian cancer foundation.

IMG_1155

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).

IMG_1147

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.

IMG_1150

image

We took a frantic team picture (we all wore pink for the first legs)

image

and sent Runner 1 on her way.

image

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.

IMG_1159

The runs were along some really pretty cranberry bogs.

IMG_1158

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.

IMG_1156

IMG_1160

Runner 7 waiting for Runner 6 to pass the baton.

IMG_1162

And she was off!

IMG_1163

We drove alongside most of our runners to cheer them on, especially the ones chugging through longer legs.

IMG_1164

image

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.

image

I absolutely loved it. Running alongside something so beautiful helped me relax and get into a groove. I really enjoyed myself.

IMG_1168

 

IMG_1166

As I soared past the one-mile marker, I was faced with THIS.

IMG_1171

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.

IMG_1172

 

Leg 2

Runner 12 finished her leg next, completing the first shift of van 2.

image

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.

IMG_1192

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 -

image

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:

image

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:

image

(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???????)

Me: Whimper.

Person: Probably a park worker or something.

Me: Cries.

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.

The end.

 

Leg 3

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.

IMG_1178

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.

IMG_1179

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.

IMG_1181

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.

image

Then she came!

image

We all piled behind her and crossed the finish line as a team.

image

All worse for wear -

IMG_1184

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.

IMG_1186

And then we did this.

image

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.

image

 

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?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...