My sense of direction sucks. It’s embarrassing but it is what it is. I was nervous about getting lost last year. Most of the legs have multiple turns on back roads and I was not sure how well marked the course was so I would write the turns on my arm with a Sharpie. As it turns out, Ragnar marks their course incredibly well. Even on the desolate, lonely legs things are pretty clear. When you see a blue Ragnar sign with an arrow, you turn to where the arrow points. Easy. I’m also running the exact same legs as last year, so I’m fine. No Sharpies in 2018.
My leg is only 3.2 miles long and the last mile is all downhill. I’ve set a goal of getting the last mile done in under six minutes. It’s an easy course. Up and down a couple hills, turn right, go down a hill, turn left and done. It’s a bit after 9:00PM so I have my reflective vest on, the mandatory blinker is flashing on my back and I turn my head lamp on. I watch quite a few runners make the exchange ahead of me and try to figure out how many of them I can track down. Marty tags me in and I get out fast.
I only have a quarter mile down when my van zips by to meet me at the exchange point. Marty must have finished and jumped right into the van. About 3/4 of a mile in, I reach the top of a hill, see the arrow pointing and take my right turn. I feel so much more fresh than I did at this turn last year. As I look ahead I see no flashing lights ahead of me to run down. It’s so much easier chasing people down but this is going to be all about self-discipline as it may be a bit before I catch anyone. I take a deep breath and try to pick up speed.
A quarter of a mile down, I see a vehicle approaching. There’s always traffic, but this vehicle is slowing down. As I get closer I see it’s a van. Obviously a Ragnar team’s van is stopping right beside me. I am not amused. There are a lot of teams that play around a lot and have a good time. I do not mind that, but when I’m racing, I do not want any of that. If they are gonna blast an air horn at me, throw glitter at me or something equally as stupid, I am going to be seriously pissed off. A door slides open and I see my teammates. Mark yells, “Turn Around!” I stop and am baffled. “Seriously! You are off course. Turn around!” Quickly I find out that I have somehow made my turn too early. A quick debate reveals that none of us know if I’m allowed to get in the van to be driven back to where I went of course or if I have to run back. Rather than risk a DQ, I turn around and run back. I’ve added a half-mile to my run and probably cost my team four minutes.
As I get back on course I see the sign I followed was for “Overflow parking.” Fortunately, my van had made the exact same wrong turn! If they had not made the wrong turn, I have no idea how far I would have run before realizing I was off course. Probably a mile, then figuring it out, then a mile back. Disaster. Or, if I had been 60 seconds slower, I would have missed my van making their own correction. The window of time for my team to happen upon me was actually very small. Later, I would find out that after they realized they had screwed up, they were hustling to make it back when they saw a headlamp approaching. Someone said, “At least we aren’t the only team making this mistake. We gotta let this idiot know he’s off-course.” They didn’t know it was me until they had stopped.
I spend the next three miles switching between freaking out about the time I cost and being grateful that my teammates had made the same mistake at almost the same time. Things could have been so much worse. My pacing is all messed up as I try to make up time while managing my panic. I know I only have one more leg after this and I try to burn everything I have. No sense in saving anything. However, I am just too distracted to really bear down. I do not even try to break six on the last mile. Too much of a mess. Truth be told, I can also feel Father Time creating extra weight on me. It feels like the jerk is skeeching behind me with a parachute. I do manage five kills and I finish with a decent time. I’m actually pretty close to what I did last year. (https://theaccidentalselfie.com/2018/02/17/ragnar-relay-leg-2/)
After Moby finishes his leg, we drive ahead and try to steal some sleep while Van 2 takes over. Basically, we are parked in a giant infield with tons of other vans trying to snag a bit of sleep between 11:30 PM and 3:00 A.M. As a recovered insomniac, sleep and I do not always get along. Curled up in a borrowed sleeping bag, in a bucket seat in a min-van, in a lit-up infield is not exactly in my sleep wheelhouse.
To make matters worse, Mark and I both start sniffling and coughing within thirty minutes. Truth be told, all Ragnarians become raging hypochondriacs in the weeks leading up to the race. In addition to worrying about wasting your training, the fact is that if you really get sick, the team is highly unlikely to be able to find a replacement runner who is free for that weekend, is in good enough shape to compete, and is dumb enough to want to participate. The last month before the race was a torrent of texts from everyone freaking out about every sniffle. As a school employee I lamented working in the germ warfare research facilities that are public education while the doctors on the team sent texts such as “My sick patient coughed into my mouth! I’m screwed!” And now Mark and I are hacking away after our second leg. While we lament our crappy luck, Mark eventually says, “Hey, you borrowed that sleeping bag from Ryan. Does he own cats?” Sure enough, I notice that I am trying to sleep in cat fur. Obviously Mark and I are both allergic. The sleeping bag gets buried, we are miraculously healed and Mark falls asleep.
The rest of my night of night is pretty much tossing and turning. I get 10-15 minutes of sleep, but I expected that and can deal with it. I track Van 2’s runners and have quick conversations with whoever wakes up for a bit. I realize I have not heard much from Moby in the back seat. I turn around to see how he is doing. Moby is in a yoga pose wearing only underwear and a bandanna. It’s 2:00 A.M. It’s 40 degrees. I am not surprised at all. Sometimes you do not ask questions.
Van 2 starts texting that we need to get ready. Craig starts our last series of legs somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 A.M. I only have a 6.6 mile leg with a monster hill ahead of me and I’ll be done. Some of the exchange points are cold. The wind whipping at some of the beach exchange points is particularly brutal. I am not loving that blowing sand is giving my PBJ and rather unsatisfying crunch.
Still, I am having a blast. I have not seen some of these guys since Ragnar 2017. Before that, it had been 20 years since I had last seen some of them. It has not been uncomfortable at all.
Dawn is just breaking as I stand in the starting chute for my last Ragnar leg. It’s cold but at least the sun is rising. I do not need the stupid headlamp at all, but Ragnar rules say I have to have one on until a certain time and, let’s be honest, I’m a rule follower. For the last time, Marty tags me in and I start my last leg. This is the leg I have been waiting for and I feel like I have something to prove on this one.
I’ll write that up later
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