Ragnar Relay: Cape Cod 2015

CC-NB-logo* From: Niki Leonard

* Event Details
What it is: A 192 mile (mostly) road race split into 36 legs shared by 12 people in 3 turns. Can be split by 4 people up to 12. Most teams were made of 12 people, and ultra teams made of 6. The race is run until the entire distance is completed, with average times ranging from 24-30+ hours.

Where it was: Hull, Ma to Provincetown, Ma; hugging the coast most of the run, but weaving through towns all along the way. Most of the race was run on regular roads, but parts of some legs were on paved bike baths, dirt roads, and the occasional small bit of trail. Much of the race offered beautiful views of Southeast coastal Mass and the Cape.

Parking: Leave your car at home and meet your team somewhere, and drive only the van down. Each regular size team (typically) has 2 vans, 1 for the first half of runner, 1 for the second half. Each major exchange (where the last runner in one van hands off to the first runner in the next van), had ample parking for both vans of each team to be present throughout the race. In non-major exchanges (where runners in the same van hand off to each other), only the van with runners currently running could park. Occasionally it was tight on parking, but not to the point where we couldn’t get a runner to the chute on time.

Check in: A breeze. Van 1 checked in at the starting line in Hull, an hour before their start time (as you request then are assigned start times depending on your expected/desired finish time). Van 2 did not need to check in with van 1, and could go straight to exchange 6 and do their check in there. Make sure you have 6 reflective vests, 2 head lamps, 2 tail lights, and you’re van is checked in. Proceed to the hilarious but incredibly informative safety briefing, then your van captain will get your bibs, swag, and safety flags. Incredibly quick and smooth process!

Swag: An awesome gender specific tech t-shirt, with the Ragnar logo on the front and sponsors on the back. I normally hate tech t-shirts (as I don’t like to work out in crew-necks or sleeves), but I really like this shirt! I still probably won’t work out/run in it (sleeves), but the fact that it is gender specific and actually fits my small frame ensures that it will be worn! Also, each person got a Monster energy drink, a Clif bar, and a pack of Bloks. All things to help you get through! There was a HUGE gear tent at the start, Exchange 6, and the finish line that had so much additional swag to be purchased. I caved and got the amazing black running zip-up jacket with the thumb-holes. It was just so badass and useful! Additional vendor tents were set up all over these exchanges for additional things to purchase (fuel, gear, etc).

Food: This is the only part of the event that I have to say was not awesome. At the finish line, you had to head up to the top of the monument (what more stairs and hills?! Don’t you know how much we hurt right now?!), where there was a Sierra Nevada beer garden (not my kind of beer, even after 18.2 miles and 30 hours), then a pop-up tent where you could get a cup of chowder, a turkey or veggie wrap, and pasta salad. The chowder line was absurdly long at 1:30, and I was too hungry to bother. I immediately jump in the wrap/salad line, to where I was greeted with a snack sized plate containing a 4 inch, slightly soggy, turkey wrap, and 3 bites worth of pasta salad. It was so disappointing and the whole set-up was a mess. Not to mention, the ONLY thing to drink at the top of the monument was beer. This is definitely a needs improvement area for the race. Offer your runners more food (WE JUST RAN 192 MI FOR GOSH SAKE), and the chance to have something else to drink (even if its water out of a 5 gallon dispenser) besides beer.

* Race Details
A view from being a “Van 2” runner:
In a time before I realized Spahtens literally run EVERYTHING, I showed interest in running the Ragnar, and got swooped up by a nutrition coach for Herbalife (as I am an Herbalife user) to join her team (I spent most of this journey dearly missing and seeking out my Spahten brothers and sisters along the way); the Apostles of Pain. We were a 12 person co-ed team, with van 1 having a 6:15 starting time, and van 2 starting around 10:30am. Van 1 got a hotel near the start line, where I got to sleep in my cozy bed Thursday night, having only a 12 minute drive to van 2’s meeting place, and an hour drive to Duxbury, where exchange 6 was located. Not to rub it in van 1’s face, but it was really nice sleeping in my bed the night before! Got a shower in nice and early and even had time to swing by Stop and Shop in the morning to grab a few last minute things I’d need, as my van had a last minute leg swap, where I went from runner 11 (about 9.8 miles total distance) to runner 9 (18.2 miles total distance). Yes, I was in for a real treat!

We got to exchange 6 around 9:30am, with plenty of time to spare, as it turns out van 1 missed their start time and didn’t get off until 6:40am. It was gorgeously sunny, however, that wind off the water was so cold! I used this as an excuse to get the running jacket after our check-in and safety briefing. I saw the NENinjas’ van 2 members browsing the vendors on my way to check-in, but couldn’t find them after! We headed back to our Denali to bundle up, get a little fuel, and get our first runner ready to run. During this time, NENingjas’ van 1 pulled in, where I got to (probably more enthusiastically than he would have wanted, considering their 4am wake up time) ran over and said “HI!!!” to Paul Jones. It was brief, as he had to get to the chute, and I was back with my team for a bit more time. Eventually, we got the text that runner 6 was coming in, and we made our way over to the big orange blow-up arch that was the exchange point. With a bunch of team hugging with van 1, our first runner was off for a 10 mile run through Duxbury, starting with a gorgeous run over the bridge.

While our first runner was good with distance, she wasn’t a very strong runner, so we headed off after some small chatting with van 1 (and collected the T-shirts and tagging magnets) to meet our runner a few miles in. It sure heated up once you got off the water, so we were sure to be ready with water along the way. What is really nice about Ragnar, is that you can (safely) find a place to park anywhere along the route, and support your runner. There was so much cheering and honking going on, for all of the runners, it was such an uplifting experience!
Eventually we made it Plymouth (or were we still in Duxbury? Who knows…), where we set up shop in an abandon Wal-Mart parking lot (as the designated parking for this exchange, behind a church, had no parking available when we arrived), and got runner 7 ready to run is 8.1 hilly leg through scenic Plymouth. He was off with a bang (our fastest runner, averaging around 7-7:30 minute miles), and while we attempted to support him within the first few miles, downtown Plymouth traffic got us quite behind. We caught up with him around mile 5, then again around 6.5, keeping him hydrated and excited. We then realized how fast his pace was, and booked to exchange 8 where I had only a few minutes to hit the porta-potties, get my gps/music set up on my phone, and get to the chute. Made it with a minute to spare! He came up that hill like bolt of lightening, slapped that bracelet on me, and I was off!
My first leg was listed as 3.6 miles, easy. It started off easy. Nice downhill, got that pace in real comfortable. Not far in I got my very first kill (passed another runner)! My leg, which started so easy, started to get difficult. The hills, while less frequent than the downhill, were not always easy. About a mile in, and 2 more kills in the books, my stomach started to get queasy. I drank my pre-workout drink too fast and it was not sitting happy. I pushed through it, got one more kill, and kept telling my team to meet me at the next exchange, even though it was nice to have them cheering me along! 4 kills total, a new PR in a 1mi, 1K, and 5K distance, and I was feeling pretty good! I slapped that bracelet on to runner 10, our marathon/triathlete, and she was off on her grueling 12.8mi leg!

We knew we had some time to kill here, and that our current runner had water/fuel on her (seeing as she was no stranger to this distance), and only wanted whatever cheering we could give around half way or so. We hit up CVS, grabbed the van more water, and off we went to support. This was not an easy a leg, and kudos to those who completed it! We spent a solid half hour cheering on any runner we saw around mile 7.5. It was warm off the water, to boot. Eventually our runner came up, we screamed our heads off, and on we went to exchange 10, a Shaw’s surrounded by a bunch of small stores/restaurants, where we had some time to kill before our runner came in. I took the opportunity to grab my bag of clothes designated for my second run, as well as my baby wipes, and find an amazingly clean porta potty to wipe down and change in. Gosh I felt like a new human after that!

Eventually runner 10 came in, got her super awesome anchor medal for taking the longest leg, and our runner 11 went off on a 4.8mi run to the canal. We managed to find him about half way, offered water, then off to the Cape Cod Canal bike trail! I cannot even describe how beautiful the area is, especially nearing sunset. It was a little more chaotic at this exchange, as the path is not that wide, and there are tons of people wanting to support their runners. We got runner 12 down just in time, and she was off to finish the rest of the bike path, head over the Bourne bridge, and finish off on the path opposite near where she started on the canal. Van 2 finished off around 5:30, and had until about 11:30pm before we were expected to run again.

Things got chaotic from here, and lack of a real van leader showed, but eventually we ate, one way or another, made it to exchange 18, where we napped a bit (or at least tried to) before having to get going again. This was tough. We were in a Denali, not a 12 seater, and while ample room while not resting, it wasn’t the roomiest to spread out in. Add in the fact some people were still energetic, having woken up later, or had a shorter leg (like me), it got uncomfortable fast. I was so happy when our night legs started.

There’s not much to say about everyone’s night runs, as it was night time and not much to see. All of the exchanges were easy to find with plenty of (CLEAN!!) porta-potties available. The weather was mild to cool and misty. All of our van’s legs were under 6 miles, so it was a pretty monotonous exchange, support the runner (once or twice), then exchange through the evening. My second leg was scheduled for about 1am, but with runner 8 deciding sub 7 minute miles was how he runs at night, I headed out the chute nearly 15 minutes early for my 5.6mi line. It was a crazy awesome experience to run at night. At times, there was no one around me, no vans, no street lights, and the only light guiding my feet was from my head lamp. I loved it. With the distance being a bit longer than my first, I successfully paced myself (miles 1-2 around 9:45 min/mi, miles 3-4 around 9:30 min/mi, then the rest around 9:15 min/mi). While my leg was labeled “hard”, I actually found it pretty easy. Yes, it had hills, but they were gentle and gradual. I added 3 more kills to my list, modest, but I was pleased. I finished around 52 minutes, and was definitely feeling good. 3 more runners after me, with about 7-8 miles left cumulatively, and we finally could sleep (well as good as you could sleep in a Denali with 5 other people)!

We headed straight to exchange 30 to catch some shut eye. I grabbed about 2 hours before the sun started shining and people were milling about, rendering me awake for the day. My Ragnar app kept crashing by the time we hit Plymouth, so it was an unfortunate finding in the morning that this stop did NOT have showers. And the bathroom line to brush your teeth and use running water was about 20 minutes. Back to the porta potties for a wipe down/change. Oatmeal for breakfast, teeth brushed with a bottle of water outside (thanks goodness I’m used to camping), and I was ready for the day (albeit mildly disgusted that I passed out in my dirty running gear). Eventually the time came to get our first runner to the chute (around 7:30am), where I once again ran into Paul Jones and a few other of van 1, as well as a few from Van 2! We swapped stories of how the Ragnar was treating us (Paul with crotch chafing, me with GI tract unhappiness … Paul wasn’t kidding when he said there is no such
thing as TMI at Ragnar!), and went on our separate ways, seeing off our respective team’s runners.

Runner 6 had a 6 and change mile run first. About a mile in, we pulled her off as her knee was only getting worst after some bad work on tricky terrain on her night run, where our distance runner took over the rest of her leg. Eventually we found a little shop, who thank goodness let me use their bathroom … that oatmeal wanted out faster than one would expect, and headed to the beach! Well, the next exchange at least. From here on out I got to keep seeing NENinja’s van 2, where we constantly chatted and supported each other. It was so great to see them!! Next stop, and I’m up for my 9 mile hard run. I was dreading it. I had only ever run about 6.2 miles, and both were in obstacle course form. Our triathlete coached me about pacing and my team, as well as the Ninjas gave me tons of support and kind words, and before I knew it, I was off! It was awful. I was strong the first 5 miles, with support from my team every mile and a half or so, getting me whatever I needed (thank goodness for Vaseline as my thighs were chafing so bad with the humidity by mile 2). Multiple times the ninjas drove past and cheered me on. I sent my van to the next exchange around mile 6.5, feeling strong. I wish I asked them to meet me at 8 because right at mile 8.25 the biggest hill yet came looming in front of me. I was tired. Oh so tired. My hands were starting to go numb, my lower back was killing me as I was getting sloppy on my form, my archs were hurting. By this point, I had found a battle buddy. She didn’t know it, but she was my battle buddy. I tried a few times to pass her, but my presence would give her fuel and we’d fall to the same pace. We chatted here and there, encouraging each other to go on. We hit this hill, got maybe a quarter up, and that was it. I hit the wall. I never knew what it felt like before. I couldn’t run another step. The minute I stopped running, everything hurt. Things that never bothered me before (IT band?) starting hurting. At this point, me and my battle buddy were side by side. She stopped with me and suggest we walk up the hill. I agreed and told her when we crest, we’re going to the chute, no more stopping. Up and up we went, every ache and pain letting itself be known. Finally, we crested and started running again. I don’t even know where the energy came from. I knew I was almost done, I was finally running downhill, I just went. I let my buddy know, I needed to go, and she wished me well, and off I went, just letting gravity take me. Of course, not long after, I take a turn and it’s another hill! The last hill, and it was gradual, so I just kept pushing. Less than a quarter mile away, Farb from the Ninja’s passed me with so many words of encouragement, it was the greatest gift I could ask for. I finally took the last turn and saw the chute, and I RAN! Slapped the bracelet on my next runner and managed not to die.

I have to say, I learned a lot about what I could handle in that leg, and the recovery after. I was hurting. Depleted and dehydrated. My greatest supporter in my van was off on her leg and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t. But it took a long time to recover, and I felt bad that I was hardly able to leave the van to support any of my van’s other runners, or the Ninjas we kept running into. Eventually I asked for the pretzels, got salt in me, and I finally started to recover in time to meet runner 12 near the finish. Quick wipe and change in the van, and booked it to the monument (still feeling every ache and pain along the way… I’m not sure I’ve ever grimaced so much). But I got there with a few minutes to spare, and a huge cheer from part of the Ninja’s from Van 1 (it was so amazing to here Jess yell out my name at the end with excitement)! Runner 12 came up that hill, and with every grimace and pain I had, I ran with her right to the finish line. Holy cow! Did we just run 192 miles?! Wow.

To wrap up, I have to say this was an amazing race and an amazing experience. Even with a less than organized van, I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to do again. The amount of supporters around you is incredible. The course was always well marked, and never once did I think I might get lost. Every person who I gave a kill to gave me a smile and encouragement. I’ve never experienced a race like this, and if you can run even 4 miles, this is something I highly recommend you try. You won’t regret it.

* Rating


* From: Nicole Sibley

* Event Details

* Race Details
For the second year in a row, I was lucky enough to get to take part in the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay as a member of one of the NE Spahtens’ teams, the NE Spahten Ninjas. Ragnar is a multi-day 192 mile running relay. Twelve person teams take turns running three times to cover the distance. Each “leg” (Note: Ragnar term for each run) is a different distance. You run every twelfth person, which means you find yourself running at crazy times of the day and night. This year, I was runner six and ran 4.2 miles, 5.5 miles, and 3.1 miles at around 10:30 a.m., 9:40 p.m., and 7:30 a.m.

It’s interesting the difference that a year makes. Last year, I remember a mixture of excitement and stress about Ragnar. My time doing Ragnar 2014 with the co-ed team from last year was my first with the Spahtens, and committing to 36 hours with some people you don’t know is kind of an intimidating proposition, especially for someone like me who has a private tendency towards shyness. Of course, my time with the co-ed team last year was one of the most fun I can think of. As a result, I approached this year’s race with only excitement. The NES Ninjas team was a blend of around half of the team from last year, mixed in with a few new folks (some of whom I knew from the bigger Spahtens group.) Like last year, our group was focused on the experience more than completing. The group was filled with fun, enthusiastic, supportive, and cooperative people — just the sort of folks that you’d want to be with if you were going to spend the better part of two days together. For our team we had:

Runner 1: Jessica
Runner 2: Bobby
Runner 3: Jesika
Runner 4: Paul
Runner 5: Wes
Runner 6: Nicole (me)
Runner 7: Mike
Runner 8: Stephen
Runner 9: Jonna
Runner 10: Aaron
Runner 11: Cathy
Runner 12: Josh

Our adventure began Friday morning at around 4:30 a.m. when we left the hotel where five out of six members of our van stayed over (the last lucky person living close enough to drive from his house!). The running route for the Cape Cod Ragnar was more or less the same as last year, meaning that we were once again starting on the beach in Hull and making our way to the Monument in Provincetown. Because our team consisted of people running at all difference paces, we wanted to start the race fairly early and give ourselves ample time to make it to Provincetown. We were scheduled to start running at 6:00 a.m. and needed to get to Hull by 5:00 a.m. to go through the pre-race safety check and have our amazing team captain, Jessica, collect our materials, such as flags, bibs, and our finisher t-shirts.

The beach in Hull was really lovely in the morning. I snapped a few pictures, and we took an obligatory group selfie.

Jess was first up, as runner 1. She was running the same legs that I ran last year, so her first one was a 5.1 miler from the beach in Hull to Hingham. We crowded up along the chute that led out of the starting arch to cheer Jess on. Since she lined up in the front, we started the relay winning!

While Jess was logging her miles, we grabbed some coffee and bagels from the local Dunkin’ Donuts. I doubt that “Dunks” is reading this, but if they are, I would say seriously consider being a sponsor for Ragnar. All of the Dunkin’ Donuts we went into that were around exchanges where filled with Ragnar participants and on the end of day two of Ragnar, I was pretty sure that the cappuccino I got at the Dunks outside Truro was the best beverage I had ever had.

After our quick coffee and bagel pick-up, we piled into the van to head over to the next exchange to meet Jess and see off Bobby. It was interesting getting to be runner six instead of runner one. By this time last year, I would have already been done with my run; here, I was waiting for everyone in my van to finish before I even started. In a way this was awesome. By the time I got to run, I was really really ready to get out and do it. It was also a different sort of challenge because I knew on my last leg that everyone would be done, while I had to keep mentally prepared. I wanted to make sure to nail all three of my runs. If you read my post about last year, you know I was a little bit disappointed about performance on my first leg. I used that to make sure I did a great job on my last two legs; however, this year, I wanted to make sure to nail all three runs and really do my part of the team. I had some pretty modest distances compared to some of my teammates, and I saw that I c
ould help give them a bit of extra time by getting all of my runs done in the time predicted. These were my friends, and I wanted to run well to support them. In a way, that is the huge bonus of Ragnar: You run great because you want to do the most you can for your team.

After a few more runs by my teammates, we headed over to exchange six where I would be taking over from Wes for my first run, a 4.2 miler from Marshfield to Duxbury Beach. My run into Duxbury, would take us to the first major exchange. At Ragnar, you dive your 12-person team into two groups, each of which have a van. The major exchanges are the ones where your two vans meet up because someone from van 1 is passing off to van 2 or vice versa. After my run, I would be passing off to Mike (aka. my ginger brother) from van 2.

I was excited to get started. We reached the church in Marshfield where my run would start. I was feeling pretty good about a 10:00 a.m. 4.2 miler. I was doing 4.5 mile or more training runs around three days a week leading up to Ragnar, so this was well within my ability. Plus, 10:00 a.m. is my favorite time to exercise. I had eaten a nice mellow breakfast, and was feeling good. I was ready to go. I headed over to the exchange area with the rest of the team to wait for Wes to come and hand off the baton (really a slap bracelet). Wes is a speedy runner, so I didn’t have to wait long for him to come, and then I was off!

I am not a person who finds that running comes easily to me. I am a kinetic person, but my build is not really optimized for running. I like to run, most days, but it’s always work. A great run is always a special and memorable thing; I don’t have that many runs where I feel just fantastic. This run I did. The entire 4.2 miles to Duxbury Beach was awesome. It was one of the best feeling runs I have ever had, and I enjoyed it immensely. The weather was gorgeous — sunny but not hot. The wind was at my back the entire way, and I was running either on the flats or on a slight downhill grade of no more than a percent. Perfect. For Ragnar, I was treating myself to music while running, and I ran along feeling great and enjoying my tunes. The run had some nice views. The run started with a section that ran along a street with oceanfront properties, and I enjoyed some house hunting. I then turned and ran through some salt marshes. There were some birdhouses set up, but I didn’t spot any inte
resting local fauna, sadly. The course was well marked, and soon, I was heading up a narrow road, watching carefully for vans, as I made my way to Duxbury Beach. I could see the inflatable arch that marked the start of the run for van 2 in the distance. As I came into the beach area, I had to finish the run along a sandy stretch of road, making my way to the beach and the exchange where I handed off to Mike. Coming into the exchange was fantastic since the entire team, from both vans, was there to cheer me on; plus, I was excited to see my ginger bestie.

While I was out running, the team had the chance to take an amazing selfie with the full group (minus me because I was running). When I reached the exchange I got to say, “Hello,” to the group from van 2 and meet the couple of new people I didn’t know yet. Everyone was super awesome. We swapped hugs and people said, “Great job.” I was pleased at my fantastic first run — much different from last year.

We didn’t hang out in Duxbury long, though there were some vendor tables at the beach. It was lunch time, and we were eager to catch some brunch. I sent a quick postcard to my mother from one of hte tables, and quickly changed into clean clothing in the van. I had earned my awesome Spahtens t-shirt from the #racelocal series I’ve been doing with the team. Knowing he’s see me, Paul brought my shirt to Ragnar, making me the third person (after Paul and his wife, Beth) to get the shirt. I modeled it outside the van, so that Jess and Paul could have a picture for the #racelocal Facebook page. The t-shirt is super soft and the logo is super giant. #racelocal people are in for a treat!

With Bobby’s Yelp skills and Jesika’s enthusiasm for cute place-names. We settled on a restaurant called the Blueberry Muffin for brunch. This place gets an A+ rating for its great food and service. Honestly, I have never seen such giant pancakes in my entire life. I had an omelet, which was large, but still kind of something you’d see. Paul, Jess, and Bobby got pancakes, and they were seriously giant and without a doubt the size of my head. They were super entertaining to see.

After brunch, we headed over to the next major exchange, exchange twelve, in Buzzards Bay / Sandwich. We had finished our vans set of legs around 11:00 a.m., and we’re schedule to run again until around 6:00 in the evening. We had around four and a half to five hours to kill at exchange twelve. We spent some time wandering around, stretching our legs, and digesting from our big lunch.

Bobby tagged some vans with our Spahten magnets. (Note: One of the things to do at Ragnar is “tag” other vans. In general, teams decorate there vans and then also get magnets with there team logo on them. At exchanges, people surreptitiously go around an put their team magnet on another team’s van. This is called tagging. At the end of the race, someone gets to bring home the magnets.) Bobby was an expert tagger, and did a lot of tagging for our team.

During our downtime, we also decorated our van a bit. Jesika did a great job drawing the Spahten logo on the side of the van. We also tracked our “kills” on the side of the van. Anytime you pass someone while you’re running one of your legs, this is called a kill, and it’s Ragnar custom for teams to track their kills. I got a couple of kills on each of my legs, and got to add those tallies to the side of the van. Some of our faster runners would get over a half dozen kills per leg. It wasn’t competitive for us; just a fun way to take part in a Ragnar tradition. We also added our names to the back of the van and added checks for each leg we completed.

Even after lunch and decorating the van, we had a lot of time to kill. We all made a mental note to bring some games for next year. Last year, van 2 had come to meet us at this exchange, meaning that we spent some time socializing with them. This year, van 2 was doing some sightseeing, so it was just us. Mostly, the five of us hung out and enjoyed each other’s company. Bobby, Wes, and I played a rousing game of dots. Categorize this under you-had-to-be-there-to-understand. Inevitably (and pleasingly) lots of inside jokes occur at Ragnar as a result of spending many sleep deprived hours with a handful of people in a small space. It’s part of what makes Ragnar so special, but it’s hard to explain this joy to outsiders specifically, though conceptually I am sure others have had this sort of experience. Either way, we hung out for a while having good times and waiting for Josh to come in and Jess to start the next set of legs for our van, which would keep us busy until around 11:00 p.m.

We were a bit ahead of schedule, so it was a bit before 6:00 p.m., I believe, when Josh came in. His van hadn’t quite arrived yet, but we were there to cheer him on and send Jess off. The next set of legs was fairly quick. I would be doing my next run at around 9:45 p.m.

The 9:45 p.m. run would be my night leg. As time went by and it got closer to the time of my run, I found I was feeling kind of poorly. We had all been up since around 4:00 a.m., and my body felt like it really was the middle of the night. I’d just had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner because I was feeling a bit nauseous. I was not looking forward to my night run. This was one of those times when being on a team is key. If it had been me by myself I would have thrown in the towel and said, “Forget about it. No run today.” As it was, I had my team to support. I had to run 5.5 miles, my longest leg, and I wanted to do it well.

Everyone could tell that I wasn’t feeling it, and they were really encouraging. This, plus some nice texts from people back home, helped motivate me. I was still feeling not 100% as I got to the exchange point to meet up with Wes, but I felt mentally focused.

It was pitch dark when I started my 5.5 run through Hyannis. For the first couple of minutes, I felt a bit queasy, but as I kept running and interesting thing happened, and I started to feel better. About a mile into the run, I knew I would be fine and dedicated myself to enjoying the unique experience of a nighttime run.

I am not, nor have I ever been, an evening person, and I do most of my exercise before lunchtime. For me, this makes the night run during Ragnar an even more unique experience. Running at night is fascinating. Even with the headlamp and reflective gear, nighttime running seems more like floating through dark space. It’s hard to have a sense of movement, and, at times, it almost didn’t feel like I was running. I had a sense of flow, and the miles seemed to roll by pretty seamlessly. I could detect some large houses and beaches as I ran along. There were plentiful signs to show me that I was on the right path (much better than for my night leg last year when I feared getting lost). So I went along an enjoyed the experience. Everything felt fine, and even the last mile where there was some slight elevation gain felt like no problem. My tired body was doing fine. I took the last turn and knew that sleep was at the end of it. I sped up and made it to the exchange where I handed off to Mik
e and then took a quick moment to congratulation Aaron who had completed a half marathon length leg while we were chilling out during the afternoon.

While van 2 headed out to follow their runner, we went back to the van so that I could change and we could make our way to the next major exchange. The second set of legs for van 2 were all either moderate or short distances, meaning that we’d be running again in a little over four hours. We wanted to get some shuteye before Jess had to run again at 3:00 a.m.

When we reached the next major exchange, I took the opportunity to go into the school that was hosting us and brush my teeth. Paul and Wes took their sleeping bags into the school for some sleep on the gym floor. I opted to stay in the van with Jess, Bobby, and Jesika. I rolled out my bag on one of the bench seats (which was the perfect size for me) and promptly fell asleep. Apparently there was all sorts of action in the van with people coming and going, but I had no idea. I probably got two to two and a half hours of sleep, which felt great.

I got up when Paul and Wes returned to the van. I was feeling kind of depleted because I hadn’t eaten after my night leg. To ward off dizziness, I snacked on a larabar. I really didn’t feel like eating, but I knew from last year that sometimes it’s necessary to force yourself to eat something. I am glad I did because after the larabar and some cherry juice, I felt loads better and was able to coordinate myself to get out and see Jess off for her last leg. This was the crazy night run I had done last year, so I knew Jess was going to have a very unique experience.

After Jess’s run, we were on the move again. It was dark for Bobby’s run and for the start of Jesika’s 9.4 miler. Her run, one of the toughest, in my opinion. Brought us into the daylight hours. When Jesika got back to the van, I realized that it was time for me to get ready for my last leg. Paul had a 5.6 miler and then Wes had 3.5 miles to run. I knew that they would both be pretty quick, and I wanted to be ready. I got out of the van to see Paul come in from his last leg, and then we had to move quickly to get to the next exchange before Wes. We booked it, and it was a good thing. By the time we got to the van and I walked down to the exchange point it was a short wait for Wes.

One does not really feel all that motivated to run 3.1 miles after running almost ten miles already and sleeping very little. I just wanted to get this finished! A 3.1 mile run is a pretty short on for me. I usually run 4 or 4.5 miles during training and, as I mentioned before, had been doing regular 4.5 milers for Ragnar training. I knew I could just bang this run out.

My third leg went through Eastham. My legs felt pretty tired and my right ankle was bothering me a little bit from a pothole I had stepped in wrong during my night leg, but overall I felt physically okay. It was only 3.1 miles. I willed myself to keep moving. This was a bit more of a challenge than on some of the other legs, but I was determined that I would not walk — not once — during all of my legs. I focused on supporting the team and putting one foot in front of the other. I made deals with myself of the sort that one does when one is tired and running, such as, “Do this, and you never have to run again.” The third leg was almost entirely on a gentle uphill. It was only a percent or two grade most of the time, but cumulatively it got a bit challenging feeling. When I’m having a bit of a difficult time during a run, I like to count. If I’m doing slightly over 10:00 miles then I know a mile takes 600 seconds. For the last mile, I began to count down from 600. I only had 549 sec
ond to go. Now only 466. I kept counting. It was only second, and I could do anything for a few seconds. I focus on getting to the finish line, slapping off that bracelet on Mike’s wrist, and being done, knowing I had done a good job and my part for the group. I kept moving, going as quickly as I could. “Let’s get this done.” I made a turn and could see Nauset High School where my run would end. I put on a final burst of speed and turned into the parking lot. I slapped off to Mike and was done!

Almost everyone from vans 1 and 2 was at the exchange point. We had a little bit of time before van 2 had to go off to meet Mike, so we headed back to van 1 so that I could change. Our van was done, and we were planning to get some Dunks and then head over to the final exchange in Provincetown where we were schedule to finish as a team by around 1:20 p.m. I was eager to change into comfy clothing, but allowed for a quick photo by a team van for Ginger Strong. (Dear Ginger Strong team. I don’t know who you are, but you have competition — our team had a statistically significant number of gingers!)

We headed out to Provincetown with a brief stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for that earlier mentioned best cappuccino ever. In P-town we took the ample time allotted to us before van 2 was schedule to arrive to start cleaning and organizing the van. We also explored the finish line festival area. This was similar to the exchange 6 area with sponsor tents, a Ragnar store, and hopping dance beats. We took the time to sign our names on the finishers wall before heading up to the Monument to have some lunch.

The lunch area had a “beer garden” and a lunch of chowder and wraps. It was pretty weak fare all around. There was no water up in the lunch area for those of us who don’t really feel like a post-race beer and the sandwich was kind of inedible. This was made up for by the amazing views and the plentiful oyster crackers for the soup.

Post-lunch, we headed back down to the the finish line area to wait for our last runner to come in. Van 2 arrived, which was nice, as it allowed us to hang out with the full group. Last year, van 1 and van 2 definitely interacted more than the two vans did this year, so it was a special treat whenever we were all together, especially since some of my van friends from 2014 defected to van 2 this year. (Mike. Aaron. You know who you are.)

One of the fun parts of Ragnar is running in with you final runner for the last few feet of the final leg. We spent some time waiting at the bottom of the hill for Josh. We’d been waiting a while when we got a text that said he had one mile left. Thinking I had some time, I stepped away for a minute and ended up missing the finish. The text had been delayed and he was actually just 200 yard away. Very very sadly, I missed crossing the line with the team. Fortunately, we had video footage that Paul took.

The medals that we got for Ragnar all had the same front, but on the the back contained puzzle pieces that together made the Ragnar logo.

There is not much more to say than that Ragnar proved to once again be a once-in-a-lifetime amazing event. Your team will make or break your Ragnar experience. I was luck enough to have a fantastic group to undertake this adventure with. Jess, Bobby, Jesika, Paul, Wes, Mike, Stephen, Jonna, Aaron, Cathy, and Josh, same time next year same place?

(Note: View this post with pictures at http://perseid85.blogspot.com/2015/05/ragnar-cape-cod-2015.html. Read about Ragnar 2014 at http://perseid85.blogspot.com/2014/05/ragnar-cape-cod.html)

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* From: Christopher Provost

* Event Details
This was something that I was pulled into about 2-3 weeks before the event. One of my wife’s coworkers mentioned to her that the team he was on was short a runner and was wondering if I’d be interested. All I’d have to pay would be gas money for the van and a portion of the van rental, plus whatever food I wanted. Even though I hadn’t been focusing on running yet, I had Ragnar on my race bucket list so I jumped at the chance to run it for short money. I was picked up in Nashua at 2:30 am the day of the race and carpooled to the Nantasket Beach Resort in Hull where the rest of the team was staying. We got all our food and gear situated in the massive white van and headed to the registration tent to register our team. We had an official 7:00 am start, but were able to push it up to 6:00 am. After watching the cheesy but funny safety video, we got our schwag bag (technical race shirt and window sticker) and went over the details of the race. Little did I know what I was in for.

* Race Details
Not only did I pop my Ragnar cherry, I also popped my ultra cherry on the same day. Our team was an ultra team running in the mixed open division. Ultra teams generally have 6 people. We only had 5. Due to an unfortunate family emergency, one of our team members had to drop out at the last minute, leaving us with the potential to run 192 miles as a four person team. Thankfully, a woman from TN jumped in at the 11th hour to bring us back up to 5. But 5 is still one shy of 6. Nonetheless, we broke the legs up as best we could. I was going to be responsible for 5 legs totaling 35.1 miles in distance. My legs were leg #10 (12.8 miles), leg #19 (5.4 miles), leg #20 (5.6 miles), leg #32 (2.3 miles), and leg #33 (9 miles). I was slightly anxious about this seeing as the farthest I had EVER run before was a half marathon and I had only a 5 miler, followed by a 3 miler, followed by a 10.5 mile run in the two weeks leading up to race day. I felt like I was in over my head, but it wa
s too late to back out now.

The captain of our Ultra Bada$$ team, Janeen, an organizational machine, running juggernaut, and type A personality par excellence all rolled into one, launched out of the starting gate at the appointed time, running the first 3 legs through Hull and Hingham and we were off.

By the time my first leg, leg #12 in Plymouth, rolled around it was about 2:30 pm and I was jazzed and ready to go. I was stretched out and warmed up. One minor problem. I was so nervous that I forgot to attach my bib! I quickly snagged the bib off our incoming runner, Vivian, strapped it on and bolted out of the chute, probably too fast. Mistake number one. Leg #10 is classified as very hard; so hard, in fact, they give you a special medal just for completing it. It was 12.8 miles and VERY hilly. During this leg I kept thinking to myself, “WTF! I thought Cape Cod was supposed to be flat!” Seeing as my prior distance record had only been 0.3 miles further than this, I struggled through this leg. I have to give a shout out to Aaron Farb here (who doesn’t know me from Adam) who saw me shuffling along toward the finish and gave me some much needed encouragement and motivation. I found him at the finish and, once I could muster enough breath to speak intelligibly, introduced
myself as a fellow Spahten (without gear yet) and thanked him for his kindness. His graciousness and attitude speak volumes about NES and he is yet another testament to how awesome the people in this group are.

Fast forward to 10:30 pm. My second “leg” is coming up. Actually, back to back legs of 5.4 and 5.6 miles, respectively. It was dark. It was chilly and misty. It was cold when you were just standing around but I knew it would be perfect running weather once I got going. The first half of the leg went fine, a moderate 5.4 miles. I felt good and ran surprisingly strong. Then as I approached the exchange and called out “Running through!” I could feel myself slowing down. Soon I hit…The Wall. I cursed and swore my way through the next 5.6 miles. I stubbed my toe badly and had to walk a portion of it. I was constantly blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars and the blinking headlamps and tail lamps of other runners. I felt demoralized as I watched other runners pass me left and right. The only highlight of this portion was that I got my first kill. I passed a woman who stopped to get a drink of water, only to have her immediately pass me about 10 seconds later.

Saturday morning. It is now approximately 8:30 am. I managed to get some sleep in the van, so while I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I’m not exactly sleep-deprived either. But I am tired. And sore. There’s a difference. All I could think was “I still have 11.3 miles left to go.” But when I saw our high-spirited teammate, Vivian, cruise into the exchange shouting, “I’m f***ing finished!” I got a surge of energy. I gave her a congratulatory hug, grabbed the slap band and headed up the road. This was an easy leg, leg #32; 2.3 miles almost all downhill. Once again, I felt good. I felt strong. I even managed to kill 2 more runners. I got to the exchange and shouted “Running through!” Then I stopped, confused. “Where am I supposed to go?” I asked. “Back the way you came,” was the answer. This being a family friendly review, I will not write the words that came out of my mouth at that time. Back UP the hill I went. For 9 miles. At least that’s how it seemed. I was O
K for about half of that, but there came a point, right about the time I crossed into Truro, where I was a broken man. I was reduced to walking up hills and “running” on flats and downhills. Again, the demoralization as runner after runner passed me. I was the designated killee. When I neared the end, a lithe elite runner passed me and said, “Less than 2 miles left to go!” Soon after I got a text from my teammates. “Let us know when you cross Rte. 6.” After what seemed like an eternity, I crossed Rte. 6 with fanfare from folks on the sidelines cheering the runners on. I texted back, “Just crossed Rte. 6.” To which they replied, “Great! Only 2 miles left to go!” This being a family friendly review, I will not write the words that came out of my mouth at that time. Finally, I came to the “One Mile To Go” sign. What it didn’t say was that the one mile was mostly uphill. After every corner, every curve, there seemed to be a new hill to climb. Again, I thought to myself, ”
WTF! I thought Cape Cod was supposed to be flat!” Eventually, I could see the exchange up ahead. Yes! I was almost finished! I started to move a little faster. Then a woman began to pass me. I told myself, “I am NOT going out like this.” I mustered every ounce of energy I had, turned on the jets, and killed her just before we entered the chute.

Our Ragnar team, Ultra Bada$$, came in 19th out of 32 in the mixed open division and 355th out of 508 teams total with a time of 30:42:25.9. Seeing as we only had 5 people running, and two of us were Ragnar virgins, I’ll take that with a side of whoop ass. This event was easily the hardest thing I’ve done physically so far. It made the Spartan Beast seem mild in comparison. Ragnar is generally run as a 12 man team, so there is a lot of down time. I ran on an ultra team. Ultra teams generally have 6 people. We only had 5. Honestly, if it weren’t for my teammates’ constant encouragement and overall great attitude, I’m not sure I would have finished it. I had to dig deeper than I ever had before on this one. By the end of the race, I was reduced to mostly walking up hills and shuffling on flats and downhills. While I was proud of my accomplishment, I was also disappointed in my performance and demoralized at times. It exposed a lot of weaknesses. I can honestly say, I don’t feel the nee
d to do this one again. At least not the ultra version. I told myself several times that I would never, NEVER, do this again. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I will.

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