Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ragnar DC: Part 2

Other pre-Ragnar entries: Ragnar DC: Packing List | Ragnar DC: It's Here!
Ragnar Race Re-Cap: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Today's post covers day 1: the adventure of getting started, crossing state borders (!) for the sake of a photo or two, and the distance:

Cumberland to Clear Spring, Maryland. Just in day 1!

Two more states off the list! Hooray
Make sure you don't miss the Part 1 post.. even though it's nothing exciting. The shenanigans start here! So, after we left the starting line, we had just about five hours to drive the 30-ish miles to exchange 6, where we (Van 2) officially started our running portions. Needless to say, we were tired of the van already. Thankfully, I had some really awesome teammates who supported my quest for the state line signs -- we had passed two or three really tiny Maryland signs (it was my first time in Maryland) on the night drive in, so we figured we'd do it on Friday morning during the stretch of hours we've got to kill. Well lucky for me, Cumberland, Maryland is pretty much right on the line of Maryland and West Virginia. Two states in this trip? Oh, the excitement! Side note: my qualifications of having been to a state is a) not counting airport layovers because that's not the state and b) spending money in that state. Pretty easy, for the most part, right? So we head down to West Virginia determined that all we need to find is a gas station so I can buy my morning caffeine and so we can get ice for our cooler in the back. It couldn't have been easier -- we crossed the bridge over the river, saw the state sign, and just before the sign was the uber-classy Eddington's Country Store. As a sorority sister commented, "Did you want to see the hill-billies in their natural habitat or what?" We got our supplies, turned around to the bridge, and got my Maryland sign. State sign success. Thanks, van-makes for being awesome and supporting my ridiculous life bucket list quest.

From there, we really did head down to Exchange 6, on that whopping 30 mile drive that took us a lot less than it would to run -- the first part of the course was gorgeous. We could see some stretches of the road that runners were taking, and we drove into Exchange 6 in the direction that runners would be taking back out and down the country roads. Beautiful. Exchange 6 itself is a huge clearing, surrounded by trees and not really near anything particular. A gorgeous site to park the van for a few hours, nap, and lounge.

Exchange 6 provides Van 2 their safety briefings, a little bit of entertainment in the form of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and temporary Ragnar logo tattoos. We first have to check in with race crew, prove that we have at least 2 taillights, 2 headlamps, and 6 vests (one for each runner in the van). You then make your way to the safety briefing, which covers rules regarding reflective vests, taillights, and headlamps, in addition to covering the different signage Ragnar has all over the course for directions (for both runners and vans), and emergency contact information for Race Command. I'm impressed on how together they have it, really, for as expansive as this race series has gotten and how technical it is with keeping runners safe on back country roads at 2 am in the pitch black. Truly, impressed. And I was starting to feel a lot bit better about my 2 am run!

Hot runner calves -- Rose, me, Keeley, Cathryn.
After our safety briefings, we're provided our team swag bag (tattoos!, Gus, energy bars, random coupons and things) and made our way to the table of more free water (can never have enough!) and PB&J (best lunch ever before a run). After that... it was chill time. We had until about 1 in the afternoon to wait for Van 1 and Shannon to come through, so we had a little fun with the tattoos... and studied the Race Bible and our legs... laid in the sun... you know, really difficult tasks prior to a run. We also got to meet lots of other teams, and gawk and laugh at fun team names and ridiculous vans. One of my favorite teams was the Mousqueteers, which consisted of American, Canadian, French, Belgian and Lebanese runners who had three things in common: they spoke French, they ran, and their kids go to school together at an international school in DC. Awesome. Another team van I particularly liked (though not their mission, per se) was the team van decorated in Romney signs, but the back window read "Are You Better Off Than You Were 4 Miles Ago?" The other funny (and potentially disturbing) van was the one whose back window read "Will you help me find my puppy?" and "I've got candy!" -- if you read it aloud for the driver or passenger to hear you, they threw candy your way. Not gonna lie, I like free candy! Team vans like the Cincy Porkers (van had a pink pool noodle as a tail!) or the multitude of cow-related team names and decor (also with tails). So much fun -- note to self, next time, we're going all out with theme and decor and ridiculousness. Love.

I have nearly no clue what time, but maybe around 2 in the afternoon, we got word that our time was near! Hooray! Finally something to do! (I kid, I kid) Our van (in order) was Keeley, Michael, me, Heather, Rose, and Cathryn. I think we were antsy enough from sitting around and studying our legs and van support and plans and such that we were just ready to go already. Being runner 3, I still had a little ways to go, which really only made me more antsy and more nervous! Michael and I were also the only two signed on to drive the van, so with a few exceptions, one of us was always either running or driving.

Leg 1, done!
My first run was 4.5 miles and deemed to be "mostly flat" with a few rolling hills, per the Race Bible. That was partially a lie, as it rolled more than I thought, but was utterly gorgeous! Part one was up a slight hill and over to the other side of the highway, then down a stunning country, creek-side, tree-lined tunnel of a road. It eventually turned into a residential area and ended on a downhill into a cute city park in Hancock, Maryland. My estimated time was 44 minutes and I killed it at 41:56 -- so basically my longest tempo run to date at this point, with a pace about 9:30. Hells yes! I would certainly say adrenaline got a hold of me on that run, but I was also feeling pretty motivated to keep our team on pace, as we were still right on target to our finishing time.

Then the fun started! Our last runner (Cathryn) finished her first leg at about 7 pm or so. Exchange 12 was at Clear Spring High School in Clear Spring, Maryland, approximately 29 miles into the middle of nowhere. Van 1 took off again from here -- the buzz at major exchange is awesome. Whole teams coming back together, seeing each other for the first time 4-5 hours, it's just a lot more alive than at any other ordinary exchange. What fun! Van 1 had been at the school since 4:30, so had killed a few hours themselves before we even arrived in the van, let alone for Cathryn. After they took off, we headed inside for our delicious $6 spread. For the last three years, the high school has opened its doors to runners and van drivers, doing fundraisers for their athletics booster program -- pretty awesome. For $1, you could shower (lots more people took advantage of this than I really thought would), and for $6 you got a spaghetti place that was actually pretty kick-ass (spaghetti, bread, green beans, applesauce, cake and a drink), albeit a school lunch. But it was fun supporting them and talking with the parents who were working who really got into the whole idea of the crazies running 197 miles and stopping into their high school for the night. We happily inhaled our spaghetti and marveled at the fact that school lunches had never looked or tasted so good -- and probably will never again. After dinner we opted to sleep a little bit in the van. Most of us hadn't brought sleeping bags, so while lots of runners were camped out on the school lawns, we curled up on our seats and benches in the van to try and sleep for a bit. We went to sleep (well, tried) around 9, and set our alarms for 10:30 pm, since we had a 30  mile drive and an estimated 12:15 am start time for Keeley's second leg. Whew!  Apparently most of the van didn't sleep, but I'd say I passed out for a solid 25 minutes or so -- better than nothing? I was driver, so I had to get at least a power nap in!
Mmm... school lunches!

No sooner had our alarm gone off at 10:30 (and we hit snooze once) than we got a text saying that Shannon had taken off -- mind you, Shannon was runner 6 and this would mean that the Van 1 runners had beasted their runs so much, we were nearly an hour and a half ahead of schedule. Umm... what? Needless to say, we freaked out, woke up, and hauled ass to the next major exchange. En route, we learned that the text had been stuck in cell phone cyberspace for a number of hours and in fact, that text was from Shannon's first daylight run, you know... like 10 hours ago. Oops. After our panic attack ended, we stopped at a gas station nearby for ice and coffee (you know, important things) and continued our way to the next major exchange at 18. Exchange at 18 is at the South Mountain Creamery in Middletown. Given that this is a major exchange (van swap), this place is not well-suited for the crowds that took over. We went through the first major parking area, which was completely full, and told to go across the street where there was a strip of land being used as parking. Awesome, except for the fact that there was only one way in and one way out, and in 15-passenger vans, that's not entirely effective. We also discovered, while attempting to parallel park inbetween a van and a tractor, that there was a runner fast asleep underneath the tractor. Part of the safety briefing goes over that you can't sleep in an active parking lot -- we hollered at the volunteer, who attempted to get him to move, with not much luck, and eventually this guy moved... to another place in the parking lot. Way to go buddy. At any rate, the actual exchange area was then overflowing with people and vans and was kind of chaotic, small, and way too packed in for a major exchange. Ah well, we got Keeley off and running and made our way through. Mind you, this is all at 12:15 am in Maryland back-country. Fun times!

Part 3... the excitement, the nerves, and the run I'd been dreading most: the graveyard shift 2 am run. Stay tuned!


  1. $6 dinner?! score! and im totally in love with the ragnar calf picture:) cant wait for part 3 and the scary graveyard run!

    1. Heck yes $6 dinner! And nooooooo, not a graveyard. Just graveyard shift! I would literally pee myself if I had to run through/near/by a graveyard at 2 am. Heckkkkk no!