Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Measured the Fun in Miles

The Ragnar Relay Race, New York, begins in Woodstock and runs 184.1 miles to Dobbs Ferry.

12 people to a team, 6 people to a van, each person runs 3 legs.

My team, Team JetPack, ran it.

I had no idea what to expect going in.

I was the first runner, and I didn't expect a start so fast. Upon reflection, I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. I was passed by everyone...until the final hill, when I started passing. That felt pretty good.

I wasn't expecting our 4th runner, Joe, to pull on a mullet wig and trucker hat a mile into his run, and chug down the road like Forest Gump, just to "spice things up".

I didn't see bright, hot, and H-U-M-I-D for the first legs of our run. It was impossible to sit in the team van without sitting on someones sweat-drenched seat (gross, I know, but true).

(Van 1 after Leg 1, 25 miles in)

I didn't expect to be so baffled about what to eat. I asked all of our team what they were eating, and the answers were oddly similar: granola bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas. The problem was, when? You don't want to eat right before a run, but it was hot, and humid, and it was hard to want to down a pb&j at any other point.

I didn't expect that the 2 most commonly heard phrases in our van would be, "I have to go to the bathroom", and, "where's the trail mix?".

I didn't expect to enjoy my night run as much as I did. Our night runs were on very dark, very quiet country roads, some lined with houses, some with woods on both sides. I loved my run, and I loved pacing (running with the other runners on parts of their legs).

I didn't expect to like the reflective vests we were required to wear (pictured below) as much as I did. But, I'll tell you, once you put it on, you just kind of forget about it. Like a second skin - but mesh.

I can't say I was totally surprised when James, not to be outdone by Joe's shenanigans, took off his shirt and ran his entire 5.1 mile leg in just his reflective vest.

James didn't expect that last insane-o hill just before he ran across the Mid Hudson Bridge. When I caught him at the top to hand him gatorade, he was unable to speak. Tyson jumped out and ran the bridge with him. When we meet them at the exchange, they were both enchanted by the experience.

Shiloh didn't expect to love her 7.6 mile night run (which she insisted on running alone). But she did.

(Van 2 after Leg 2, another 32.1 miles in. It was 3 am)

When we pulled into the parking lot of the high school that was offering indoor sleeping, I wasn't expecting to get any sleep. We walked into the gym, which was warm and dark, and filled with hundreds of sleeping runners. James said it looked like a tornado had just hit upstate New York, and this was a refugee camp. Shiloh said it looked like that part in Harry Potter (book 3), when the students all sleep in the Great Hall while the teachers search for Sirius Black. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and spread out my blanket, and thought that this was the fittest slumber party I had ever attended. And then I fell asleep.

When Shiloh woke me up, an hour and a half later, I did not expect to love the run that followed. 7.5 miles, termed by the race bible as "Very Hard". Luckily, I was still pretty drowsy when Micah handed off the Official Slap Bracelet, so I hadn't had time to get annoyed at how tired I was.

The thing is, I did love those miles. My body was still waking up, and I felt an assortment of aches and stitches and cramps. But, 7 and a half miles is plenty of time for those things to work themselves out. I even loved the last mile, which was all hills.

I expected to love finishing, which I did, but I wasn't expecting the twinge of sadness that it was all over.

I had told myself, and said it to other people, that I wasn't going in with any expectations. This was a totally different kind of race, and I was prepared to take the circumstances as they came. But really, in my heart, I expected--rather, I hoped--that I wouldn't have to walk at any point; and I didn't. This was a small, but profound, victory.

(Van 1 after Leg 3, our last 30.8 miles)

It must be impossible to come out of such a new experience without a single regret. There are things that I would do differently next time, but overall, the experience was crazy and sleepy and painful and perfect.

I had no idea that I would love this run as much as I did.

Thanks to our captain, Shiloh, and the whole of Team JetPack.

(an X for every leg completed)


  1. I'm glad you had a lot of fun and I'm just a little sad you didn't mention the puking pyrotechnics.

    I was wondering if you all felt like a troop of commandoes that had all seen combat together and were now best friends for life?

    Also, I smell some James Best poetry about running from the past or something resulting from this.

  2. Are you talking about Tyson? Don't worry, I have video of him telling me he threw up his bananas.

  3. I bow down to each and every one of you. What an awesome adventure!

  4. Wow -- I'm amazed. And, this post inspired me, a non-runner who wish I was, to jog a little extra on the treadmill today. That's right, you're inspiring.

    Can I come hang out in New York sometime? Every time I read your blog I get a little nostalgic for the place.

  5. Caitlin, it was just that.

    Katie, I would loooooooooooooooove a visit. Anytime.