I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before race day. But not the same nervous feeling I get before marathons.
I was the captain of a 12-person relay team of my friends (all whom did not necessarily know one another very well — or at all). Would they get along? Would they like each other?
And, not only that, but my team was made up of 11 people (including myself) who had never run a Ragnar Relay. Would runners get lost? Would drivers miss an exchange? Would something just go horribly wrong? The race director had warned captains during a meeting that “if something doesn’t go wrong, you’re not doing Ragnar right.” I tend to get easily stressed when things “go wrong” so I was hoping for as smooth of sailing as we could do …
I did Hood to Coast last year so I sort of knew what to expect in terms of surviving an overnight relay spanning 200 miles. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping. I knew I would be tired. But, I also knew I would have a lot of fun since I would be with my friends through it all.
I was runner #11, so second-to-last of our team. By the time I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of our runner #10, Breanne, around 9:00 p.m. for my first leg, I was getting nervous all over again. It had been nearly/about?/more-or-less? 9 hours since our team started the race and I finally was getting my turn to run!
My first leg was painful but scenic. (It was only painful because I went out more than a minute faster than I should have for the first mile. Whoops!) I passed many cows and lambs and corn fields as I ran the flat farmlands. Off in the distance I could see a golden circle disappearing amongst a sheet of pink clouds as the sun set. It was beautiful. I also thought I had a pebble in my shoe that was causing pain on the bottom of my foot, but I tried to ignore it as best I could. (It turned out that “pebble” was actually a blister that was forming below my big toe — I NEVER get blisters!!)
By the time I finished my 6.8 miles averaging EXACTLY on pace (at 8:10), it was dark and “night-time” running had begun!
I’m trying to recall what exactly happened between my first leg and my second one the next morning but it’s all getting a bit hazy. Actually, the entire race almost feels like it was all a dream. Guess that’ll happen when you get no sleep …
I do know that my entire team was running either on pace or faster.
My van had an exquisite late-night dinner at Safeway during our first “break” when van 1 was running their second legs. We probably looked very out-of-place microwaving pasta dinners in the deli section while other customers were buying Bud Lites on a Friday night. For those curious, Robbie gave our Burlington Safeway dining experience 2.5 “Yelp” stars.
After our “laborious” dinner, we went to the next major exchange to nap and wait for our van 1 runners.
I slept 0 hours at this exchange. I also slept 0 minutes.
Of course I tried to sleep! I closed my eyes for several consecutive minutes but I was definitely not sleeping.
We were all not sure how the second legs of running would be on zero sleep. (Or, very little sleep for some of my teammates who were somehow able to fall asleep anywhere!)
My second leg was 6.5 miles that included running across Deception Pass onto Whidbey Island. I started at about 5:30 a.m. and the rain and winds decided to kick in. I didn’t get the sunrise run I was hoping for.
But, running across Deception Pass was very peaceful and nice (in a dreary way.)
I caught up to two runners and noticed a woman trying to get by a man who was ahead of her. We were running across a bridge with a narrow walkway and he was not making room for us to get by.
“Excuse us, sir, do you mind moving over so we can quickly get by?” I shouted, in the nicest tone I could make.
He continued to walk, occupying the entire walkway. The woman also asked politely. We were getting no response from him. I noticed that with each step he took, he was tightly gripping the side railing.
“What should we do?” the woman turned around and whispered at me.
I motioned to his hand holding on tightly and whispered back that maybe he was scared of heights. By this point, I was walking behind the two of them and my “racer mentality” had slowly started to diminish. I was bummed to be stuck walking across half the bridge but I took it as an opportunity to really take in the scenery. (If you’ve never been to Deception Pass, you really ought to!)
When we finally got to the other side, the man quickly moved over and apologized. I merely gave a quick smile and left the two of them in my dust.
It was time to race again.
There were a few rolling hills but I kept pushing myself, even though I didn’t think I had any energy to do so.
I had 10 “kills” during that second leg and Julia, who was our next runner after me, had something like 21! (Kills are the other runners you pass. Don’t worry, no physical harm was done. I can’t say for emotional harm though!)
If anything, Ragnar proved to me just how amazing my friends (and all runners) are.
I never had any doubts that my teammates would rock the race, but I didn’t expect us to beat our predicted finish time by more than an hour!
Even though before every leg, someone always said, “I’m going to be slow during this one,” or “I’m not going to do well,” they did the complete opposite.
They ran some hilly courses that I wouldn’t even want to walk up.
They racked in kill after kill after kill.
It just goes to show you that even on no sleep, the body can somehow push through — and race.
There’s always room to dig a little deeper if you really want to.
We wanted to. I wanted to.
My third and final leg was 3.8 miles. With a blister on now each foot, I cruised through in sub-8 pace.
I don’t know how I did it, but I just did. I guess it was knowing that my friends were waiting for me at the exchange that made it a little less painful.
Our final team time was 27:11:31 for the near-200-mile trek from Blaine to Langley. This put us at 47th place overall (out of 500-something teams) and 26th place in the mixed division. Also, for the record, none of us got lost on the course as runners or drivers. And we never stranded any of our runners at the exchanges. Not too bad for a bunch of newbies, huh?
Sunday evening, I recapped my parents on the race.
“Wait, you guys do all of that without sleeping?” my dad asked sounding alarmed.
“Yes,” I responded.
“And you run at night when it’s completely dark?” (again, sounding alarmed.)
“That sounds like torture! And your friends did all this with you??”
It’s not torture.
I guess listening from the outside, it may sound crazy.
But, runners can sometimes be (a little) crazy.
I’m just glad that those other crazy (and fast) runners are my friends!