Sunday, November 14, 2010

Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

This past weekend I experienced something, well, different. Now that I've had a little bit of time to reflect on it, I thought I'd write a bit about it.

Let me start off by explaining what a Ragnar Relay is. Basically, you get 11 of your friends (or 5 if you are super cool) and start running. You will each run 3 different legs varying in length and difficulty. The catch? It's 200 miles (ish). Sounds a little insane but like an interesting challenge. Healthways approached the Ragnar people about doing a Tennessee relay, and Ragnar Relay Tennessee was born. 195 miles of terrain, backroads, beauty, weather, and asphalt from Chattanooga to Nashville. Some 30 + hours getting to know the other people in your van. And by getting to know them, I mean, realllllly know them.

I had heard about Ragnar and thought it would be neat but I knew I didn't have the resources or the people in order to put my own team together. So I kind of tucked it into the back of my mind to remember next year. Then, about a week before the event, a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in filling a position for her team. Ummm, let me think about that for half a second... YES, PLEASE! Where do I sign? I had to figure out some logistics for work and the kids, but soon I was on my way to being a member of the Holes and Poles team.

Because I am me, and a constant worrier, I immediately became aware of the fact that my pace was much slower than that of my teammates. After several people assured me that the H+P team was not out to win, rather to have fun and finish I felt comfortable that this would be a good fit for me. I became very excited but towards the end of the week the excitement faded and the nerves set in. What if someone in the van had gas? What if I got car sick? What if they all got angry at me for being slower than them? What if what if what if? Am I really going to do this? Are we really going to run 195 freaking miles? Did you see that weather forecast with below freezing temperatures? Have you completely lost all of your senses, AND your marbles? After a couple of freak out sessions (mainly calmed by my friend Melanie), I decided to HTFU and get on with it.

Thursday, 6 p.m. Van 1, consisting of Ben, Bert, Genny, Stacy, Mark and myself took off to head to Chattanooga. We had an 8 a.m. Friday start time. We decided to have the carb loading of champions and had some mediocre pizza and beer at some restaurant in Chattanooga. Except Bert, of course, who has Carraba's for every single meal before a major race. But Bert's special. I spent the night with 2 women that for all intents and purposes I had just met. They were nice but I was still freaking out inside. Sound suspicious?

Friday, 6:30 a.m. Van 1 heads to the start line. It is cold. We gather our snacks, sleeping bags, bags of clothes, Imodium, coffee, and the last bit of sanity we can muster. When we arrive, it's still dark. And still cold. We roam around a bit picking up the necessary items, show them our safety gear, and listen to a short safety briefing. All of us nearly freezing to death decide to head back to the van for a bit of warmth. We hang out there until it's time to almost start.

Friday, 8 a.m. Runner 1, Mark, starts Team Holes + Poles. Van 1 hadn't really grasped the concept of "runner" support and instead headed to a gas station, where we waited around for awhile, got some coffee, watched some other runners go by, and studied our own course legs. We headed to the exchange. When Mark finished, he informed us that we really needed to leapfrog to offer support to the runners. Sorry, Mark. Epic fail. We then got the hang of it and would stop at various points along each runner's course to offer them moral support and water.

Friday, noonish? My team is more than welcome to correct me, because I was so nervous I don't think I knew what way was up. For all those who know me, they know that once I start talking I rarely shutup. On this trip up to this point, I hadn't hardly spoken. I was a nervous wreck to say the least. Still absolutely petrified of what they would say, or worse do (such as leave me in them there hills in Chattanooga) to me and my slow pace. They insisted it was okay and sent me off on my way. Rhonda, in Van #2, kept texting me encouraging things assuring me I would not be heckled. So, off I went. I hadn't trained like I should, but I was going to give it my best shot. Right around a half to three-quarter miles in, I started to feel really sick. I thought I could just push through it, and kept trudging along. Soon, my good 'ol teammates came by to check on me. I waved them on, said I was good. No sooner than they drove around the corner did I lose my nerves. Literally. I felt so much better after that, and looking down at Bert's HTFU bracelet, went along with my merry self and finished out the last couple of miles with a smile. At then end of this leg, I got to see the rest of the team. Van 2, consisting of Johnna, Rhonda, Heather, Hope, Shayne and Craig had arrived to relieve us.

The remainder of the day was spent going to Cracker Barrel, driving to the next exchange and waiting for Van #2 to finish their legs. We started running again sometime Friday evening sometime. My last leg was in the middle of nowhere, and it was pitch black outside. I ran with an iPod most of the leg, and that is my biggest regret of the entire weekend. When I decided to take out my earbuds, I realized how serene and wonderful it was to run on a road I've never been before, in the pitch black, where it was quiet. Don't knock it until you've tried it, either.

Saturday, 1 a.m. By this time, everyone is tired and probably somewhat grumpy, although everyone seemed to still be having a good time. We were able to stop at the Unionville High School to rest for a bit. We had packed sleeping bags in anticipation of having to sleep outside, but much to our delight the school gymnasium was open. It was a hard surface but we didn't care. It was warm, and we were able to stretch out.

We stayed here for 2 to 2.5 hours, when we had to pack up and get going again. This would be our 3rd and final legs of the race. I can't remember a whole lot of what happened, but by this time our van officially stunk like a boy's high school locker room and we were all somewhat deliriously tired (maybe that was just me?) but all still smiling.

Once we got back into civilization i.e., near Franklin, we went to Starbuck's while Stacy was on her last leg. On our way back, Stacy called us to let us know she was waiting for us. So, Bert shoved me out of the van while still driving (just kidding) and off I went on my last run. I know I'm slow, but good grief I'm pretty sure my grandmother could have beat me on this leg. I was dragging. I managed to pass 2 people though, and I'm pretty sure it was one of the highlights of the weekend. It doesn't matter that one was walking due to an injury and the other was twice my age, I still passed them! I was back in my home, Franklin, and it was soooooo good to see it. I passed off to Rhonda at Healthways, and Van #1 was done.

I've waited nearly too long to write about it because I know I've forgotten things, mainly because I feel like I almost was drunk towards the end of it, even though I hadn't had a sip of alcohol. Not getting any sleep, being in a mini van with 5 other people, running, and being in and out of the freezing cold weather is apparently has very similar effects to that of drinking an entire bottle of wine. What I do remember is making new friends, having a ton of fun, realizing I need to watch Airplane while drinking coffee and eating Krystals, becoming more educated about my identity, and that taking part of something like this is just plain awesome.
I can't wait to do it again. Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

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