If you haven’t read Ragnar Relay – Leg 1, you’re not going to have a clue what I’m talking about.
I forgot to start my watch again. I am also regretting buying the cheapest headlamp I could find. It’s 11:00 PM, pitch black, and I’m running on some really chewed up roads. It’s only a 3.5 mile leg, but I have to run with my head tilted down so my cheap light will show the uneven terrain. I am in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I hear coyotes yapping and see several deer, opossums, and what I can only assume are Sasquatch by the road. My entire run consists of following the stupid white road line, glancing at my watch, and quick glances up to search for flashing red lights. Ragnar requires that runners wear reflective gear and a flashing light on your back for the night runs. It’s hard to judge distance, but each flashing light is a runner I want to track down.
For the second time, I “kill” Team Beast’s runner. The guys on our team have talked about not seeing another runner for their entire legs but I know we have made up some serious time as I get 7 kills on this leg. There are a lot more people around now. I finish my leg having averaged 7:04/mile and am gassed. I pass off the bracelet to Ryan and start to search for the rest of my team. It’s pitch black, everyone is wearing headlamps and quite frankly I’m pretty light-headed and dizzy after that leg. All I can see, is a bunch of headlamps glaring at me and I accidentally wander into the woods until I can get my bearings. I suddenly know what ET must have felt like at the beginning of his movie. I get mocked.
However, this is what I love about my team. We have seen runners from so many other teams finish and say, “Where’s my next guy?” Some have had to go knock on van windows to get their next runner. We never spoke about it, but everyone from our van met our runner a the end of every leg and saw the next guy off. It didn’t matter if you were running the next leg or not. Everyone was there. Every time.
After Ryan again finishes his leg quicker than expected, we get the real Ragnar experience. We drive an hour up the road, park in the middle of a racetrack with a hundred other vans and try to sleep from 1:00AM to 5:00AM while Van 2 runs the graveyard shift. Almost every other team has rented massive vans. We are cheap and piled into our minivans and now I kind of regret it. Everyone tries to play Tetris with their seats, keeps the van running for heat and tries to sleep in a weird position. It’s not comfortable, but what do you expect from a bunch of under-trained, inexperienced Ragnar newbies who are over their heads?
I never sleep well in situations like this and end up getting 40 minutes. Part of it is that I was slow to recline my seat and got stuck in a miserable position. Part of is that other teams are coming in later than us and are socializing by the vans. The bigger factor is that I am in a van with four other guys. All of us have between seven and 14 miles on our legs and have been eating bad combinations of protein shakes, Gatorade, PBJ, trail mixes, jerky, etc. The result is a symphony of flatulence on par with the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles. It’s not a bunch of immature guys giggling away. In fact, everyone is asleep while they are dropping bombs. It’s actually kind of amusing and I just smile as I track Van 2’s progress via texts. However, the music of these four hours makes me vow to never run a co-ed Ragnar.
It’s still dark when Craig takes off to start our Van 1’s last series of legs. Craig, Mark, and Marty picked up an extra leg and the following week we would learn that Craig had run four legs, totaling over 20 miles, on a bad stress fracture in his tibia.
We are all tired, and frankly kind of cold, as we wait in some random field for Craig to finish but everyone in my van is having so much fun that it does not really matter. There is literally a rooster crowing as Marty starts his final leg. Whereas we were the only ones at our first few exchange points, this one is crowded. We get to talk to teams that started significantly ahead of us. Some teams have dropped out. A few have picked up injuries or are slower than expected. We are just excited to have other teams around.
Actually we are more excited that there are actually lines for the porta-potties. Sorry. This is the ugly side of Ragnar. When you start in the last wave and quickly drop to last place, that means that 250 teams of 12 people have all been through those things before you arrive. Paint your own picture. If there are lines, that means there have not been as many people through. Ragnar tip: Pack your own roll of TP. You won’t regret it. Sorry.
At 9:30 AM, I am standing at the start line for my last leg. It is warm. The sun is shining and I am completely relaxed. I usually run angry. I tend to let my mind wander to things that bother me, people who have wronged me, or my frustrations and then run them out. It’s kind of my own weird running therapy. However, this morning I have had way too much fun. I have spent the past 21 hours with great friends and with guys I have not spoke to in two decades. I can find nothing to piss me off and quite frankly do not even try. I am looking forward to finishing this last 6.6 miles of Leg 29 and being done.
Our experienced runners have come through right at their predicted times or a little faster. Our less experienced guys have killed it and far exceeded expectations. The weather has been perfect. With little rain, we have been able to stretch our legs at the checkpoints instead of huddling inside a van. There have been very few glitches. Somehow, we are far ahead of our predicted finish. I am expected to run this at around 8:45/mile which should be pretty easy. I feel like I have done my job with my first two legs and decide to just enjoy this one.
Team Beast’s Leg 29 runner takes off a few minutes before me. Whoever their Beast is, must be really fast because this is the third time their runner has started ahead of me. But, he’s not that far ahead. He’s mine…..
Final leg to follow