Ding, ding, ding...round two of the Ultimate Mother Runner Showdown is up today, recounting Ragnar Relay D.C. Team Sarah is on display, and these momma's are going to knock you out. (Ha. I crack myself up.) (Team Dimity took the stage on Tuesday, in case you missed it.)
Once again, a huge shout out to all our partners who gear us up, fuel us strong, and keep us as happy and healthy as possible. Couldn't do it without you all.
And we're off again on another 190+-mile journey.
I kicked things off for Team Sarah, and my most memorable run was my first one; the excitement, the energy, and the support from teammates at the start of the race is unforgettable. After a pep talk from Nicole (who had been runner #1 in a different Ragnar Relay) and a warm-up jog with my pal Bethany, I was eager to get started! A sea of pink tutus, flailing arms, and loud cheers surrounded the sidelines to send me off onto a gorgeous 4.9-mile trail run around Lake Habeeb.
As I approached the last stretch of the run and was battling thoughts of wanting to walk—I had gone out too fast—I heard a wave of cheers from teammates as I came out of the trail. I was out of the woods, and could see everyone again. The cheers were just what I needed to give me the energy to charge through to the end of my leg, and I was ready to run strong for the next 30+ hours.
I’m a girl who approaches life with a plan. And Ragnar was no exception.
Plan #1: Have fun.
Plan #2: Be present.
Plan #3: Kill it during my 2nd run. In the dark. On a road with no shoulder somewhere in Maryland.
At 9:30PM, with "Empire State of Mind" queued up, sweaty slap bracelet around my wrist, I took off. Time to kill it. Boom. Picked off one guy. Boom. Boom. Picked off a couple running side by side. The music built, and so did my momentum. It was all going according to plan. Yay, me! I’m killing it! [To remind you, a kill, in Ragnar-speak, is somebody who you passed on a run.]
Just ahead, I glimpsed the silhouettes of 3 broad shouldered men. Jackpot! As I approached them, I noticed their gaits were unlike mine. All 3 of them were on crutches. Three wounded veterans. Each of them missing a leg. 3 men. Younger than I. In the dark. On a road. With no shoulder. Somewhere in Maryland. Side by side. Killing it.
I tugged out my ear-buds, ditched my pace, and ran alongside them for a spell. They laughed at my tutu as I wrestled the lump in my throat long enough to thank them for their bravery.
Plans be damned.
The human spirit is full of awesome.
What a ride this life can be when first you practice to run free.
My roomie and vanmate, Nicole, and I had discussed running Ragnar as an ultra some time. Which sounds really great before the hill that seemed to go on forever. During it however, I felt like that was the dumbest idea ever and that I needed to be committed.
I didn’t know how I would keep the expected pace on this one. I went a little off course, but zipped back to take two kills on this endless climb. It was the battle I was looking for. It continued with steep gravel hills with clouded dust in the air, and this is where I found my mojo: a few moments to strut a walk up the slope, followed by quick downhill runs to make up time. As I approached the team doing a little dance, I started yelling, “Where is she?”
Sarah, the next runner, was busy and not in sight. She seemed to have popped out of nowhere just when I hit the exchange. I was 7 minutes under the predicted time.
Okay, Ultra Ragnar is sounding pretty good again. Who’s with me?
I've been racking my brains about a race vignette to share: Should I write about passing a barechested-save-for-his-reflective-vest dude as all his vanmates watched? Cheering for Terri (runner #6 on Team Sarah) on her final leg as she cruised through lovely Rock Creek Park? Giving myself "permission" to walk up a long, dusty ascent because the guy who'd passed me slowed to a walk?
No, instead I've realized all my favorite moments happened with my fantabulous, badass teammates at leg exchanges and in the van. As much as I love running (which is, you might have noticed, a lot!), relay races are social venues, not athletic ones, for me. My core got a better workout from laughing than from staying stable to push the pace. I love puns and jokes that get repeated over and over, and relay races are a ripe environment for jokes that can get beaten into the ground. Midday on Friday, as my vanmates and I guffawed at lines that would fall flat out of context, I said, "Just think how hilarious this will be at 2 a.m.!"
Sure enough, the laughter and jokes kept rolling along, just like our dusty, decorated van.
How Do I Love Thee Mother Runners? Let me count the ways…
How do I love thee Mother Runners? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with all my heart, you my sisters in sport
As far as my legs can run on dusty roads while white vans rumble by
For the laughter, support and passion that comes with running
In the dark of night with red blinking lights and Christmas lights on tutus.
I love thee as much as Cherry Limeade Nuun and tabouli salad made with care.
Most quiet need, by sun and headlamps.
I love thee freely, as tightly as my compression socks squeeze my calves.
I love thee purely, as that communal shower cleansed me.
I love thee as I pass that sweaty slap bracelet
And as my quads ache from tearing down those hills.
I love thee with a love and an appreciation for the generosity of spirit
That is shared among us as we ventured together,
Smiles, dance parties at the finish—and if our paths should cross again,
I shall but love thee better as an Ultra Team in Ragnars to come!
Ragnar from A to Z
AMR knows how to throw a party!
Bad Asses, every one of us.
Camaraderie of Team Sarah; great energies.
Dimity's Team was so supportive!
Energized by Chomps and pompom action.
Friends, new and dear friends.
Great hand offs included burritos and tampons.
Heat index in the upper 90s°.
Ice in baggies from Team Sarah's Van 1 all along Leg 30 saved me.
*Jokes of the inside kind.
Kissable kinetic kooky crushes.
Leg done? Check your box.*
Mary Poppins reading tarot on the high school lawn.
Never shower alone.
Obliques hurting from laughter.
Pat? NOT Pat.* 2 hours of sleep thanks to a woman sticking her face into my sleeping bag looking for "Pat."
Quiet at Exchange 24 broken with cheers for other teams.
Rock Creek Park in the heat of the day.
South Mountain at 1AM, a million stars on a magical new moon night.
Texting Team Sarah's Van 2 to keep in touch.
Vans in a line, taillights bobbing, clouds of dust.
Watch for the Womb Pink® tutu!
X-change 18, LED lights on my tutu and my name on the bull horn!
You've just been "CHICKED!"
Zapped hydration replenished by Nuun!
As a runner the mantra “kill the hill” is a very familiar one. However, nothing could have prepared me for the massive Mountain o’ Hills that were Ragnar Leg 7. This leg was described as “very hard!” by the organizers. Quite frankly, I thought to myself hard is relative, I run in Atlanta, it is all good. Admittedly, I had fear and trepidation knowing I was in store for at least 4.5 miles of my 7.9-mile leg to be “hilly” but if I truly knew what I was up against, I probably would have been stressed daily until the race.
In addition to the terrain, the weather did not cooperate. "The high will be in the upper 80s with a heat index of 99 degrees and 100% humidity," wrote the Ragnar staff in a text to all teams, "Someone is going to the hospital. Hydrate. Don’t let it be you!” I drank Nuun and water and filled my Ultimate Direction water bottle with ice.
What followed were the hardest 7.9 miles of my life. I prayed, I cussed, I ran, and I walked. When it was all said and done, I killed every hill; for me, a kill means completing it. Plus, I had the best race support a girl could ask for! At pit stops my teammates sprayed me with water, put ice down my back, and lied to me about being “almost to the top." Thanks for all the help, ladies!
Here’s what I was thinking during my Leg #1:
“What strange and wonderful opportunities running has given me, because right now I’m climbing a 1000+ ft mountain, in a sports bra, in 89+ degree weather, as a part of a team, all while wearing a hot pink tutu. This is awesome.”
Here’s what I was thinking during my Leg #2:
“Is this really ME running at 2:30 AM? Wow, it’s also really, really dark. Hmm, running really is easier when it’s not hotter than Hades. This is kinda cool! (*almost trips) OMG, pick up your darn feet, Nancy. (hears rustling) Please let that be just a deer. OK, am I done yet?”
Here’s what I was thinking during my Leg #3:
“Running with Renee fun glad to double up sun is frying my soul don’t think just run don’t think just run why is leg finishing on uphill is this really only 2.2 miles feels like 22 for the love of pete make it stop”
Here’s what I thought when I crossed the finish line with all of Team Sarah:
That was freaking awesome. We are such badasses. I am so doing this again someday.
Ragnar Top Ten Do + Don’t List
10. Do follow Dimity’s packing list to a T (T is for tutu!)
9. Do want it! The first run for van 2 started with a 4.5 mile steep climb in the sun. And it went downhill (and uphill) from there.
8. Do bring your compassion. I loved that our team really thought about the needs of each runner as their turn came. It made the focus so positive!
7. Don’t do this with strangers; we barely knew each other, but we were BAMRs, and that meant a lot. Without a strong connection, it seemed like it could all go south in a hurry.
6. Don’t bring your kids; it is demoralizing for others to be passed by a twelve-year-old in the middle of the night.
5. Always put “Badass” in your team name. People loved our van!
4. Do count your kills: 18 runners passed for me!
3. Or don’t count your kills- whichever is going to be more fun for you!
2. Do put the multitasking Ragnar medal in your utensil drawer and use it to open all of your bottles from here on out.
My second leg on Ragnar: the infamous Leg #23 that is described as a 9.6 VERY HARD trail run goes through a state park and includes a mountain climb in the dark. I started having nightmares and panic attacks about this leg. I dreamed of getting lost, not finishing, and disappointing the team. I went through anger, then denial, and finally, acceptance that I would do this no matter what.
My teammate Rebecca showed true team spirit and paced me for the first 3 miles. We ran and chatted together for a little while until we arrived to the entrance to the mountain. Our van picked her up, then, it was all me... the darkness of an unknown trail, the sounds of the forest. All I could see was whatever my headlamp and Knuckle Lights showed me. Far away, I could see small lights of runners ahead of me getting farther and farther away. Climb after climb, my anxiety continued to rise, until I met my team van again at mile 5. I saw my teammates, and I could see they were afraid for me. I saw that they thought I would not be able to make it.
That is when I knew I had it. I could and would do this. I reassured them I would be OK and took off into the dark again. I embraced my run, my struggle and ran in the moment. I reflected and was thankful for being lucky enough to be here at this exact moment, doing what I was doing. I had been chosen to participate in the adventure of a lifetime...my thoughts drove me to complete the hardest climb on the leg and as I reached the top, the sun came out and the horizon was filled with light. From the top of the mountain, I could see the valley below, the farms, the mountains surrounding me.
Barely awake for my 6.7 mile “Children of the Corn” rural farmland leg
Awesome team support; especially from those in Team Sarah, Van 2
Did someone say “It will be fun?”
Applause and cowbells at every exchange
Sleep-deprivation makes everything humorous
Scared of running alone in the dark - fear conquered!
Mountains of crap in the van (food, clothes, sleeping bags, water, ice, coolers, etc.)
Out of your comfort zone and loving every minute of it!
Tutu: I may never run another race without one.
Hills: Cumberland, Maryland has a different definition than this flatlander.
Establishing new friendships that will last a lifetime.
Relay racing is a fun and new twist to the mostly solitary sport of running.
Roaring siren while “resting” at Exchange 18 that scared us all into a state of panic!
Ultra teams are “super cool.”
Nuun – don’t leave home without it – see above.
Ninety plus degrees in the daytime = not ideal running conditions for this northern girl
Eating junk food to fuel your runs while in a van for 24+ hours is a necessity.
Ragnar volunteers and race organization were the best I’ve experienced.
Sorry that it had to end and looking forward to the next grand adventure!
I've run in a tutu before, but never in the dark. Up a hill. A REALLY long, steep hill. With cows cheering me on. Yes, cows. Not bells. There was a moment during my first leg around 8 p.m. when I paused my iPhone and heard a loud, deep "moo," calling to me in the very near distance.
Well, that's one way to get me to PR.
Seriously, not only did I crank up my music—and my pace—I don't think I took my headphones off again until I passed that slap bracelet to my badass teammate Schuy. That was the beginning of the 21.1 miles I would conquer at Ragnar; and it was amazing.
I did things during those 30+ hours that I would normally never do. At home, I don't like to walk downstairs to get a glass of water in the dark, so running through unfamiliar, rural roads with cows following me was definitely a huge step outside my comfort zone. Huge. What made it even sweeter was to experience it with my BRF, Renee, and all of the extraordinary mamas on Team Sarah and Team Dimity. It's amazing how 25 women can come together and bond so quickly as if we've known each other for years. I'll never forget the awesomeness of this weekend: the camaraderie, the laughter, the accomplishments, and the cows.
Can't forget the cows.