I sent the email out last spring to my best running buddies: our partner Nuun has offered me an entry to Colorado Ragnar. Who wants in? Some replied immediately yes! Others needed a few miles to discuss the possibility of spotting a mountain lion, of slowing us down, of wondering if they could really do it. Fast forward about six months, and the original eleven who I invited were standing on the starting line in our Tough Girl Tutus at Copper Mountain. The fact that none of us were injured during training, had a last-minute conflict, or otherwise had to bail meant good things were ahead.
And indeed they were.
I was in the first van, and was runner number six. So five runners went and kicked badass before I could get my first miles in. They were not, as I proclaimed as I handed the Ragnar slap bracelet to Becky, runner number seven, "the easiest miles of my life." Despite the Biblical rains we're getting here in Colorado right now, Ragnar weekend was h.o.t. And the sun feels like it burns right through your skin, especially when your first run ends at nearly 10,000 feet after 800 feet of climbing over 7.5 miles. Holy hamstrings. (Yes, I had to get all those stats in.) The Ragnar thing is to record "kills"–or runners you pass—and I was dismayed to be killed by six during that run, and to only kill two. (One passed me earlier, then had serious stomach issues, one I caught while he waited for a traffic light. Neither felt legit.)
My issues, however, were nothing compared to what van two of Morning. Nuun. Night: We mothers run. was about to face.
No mountain lions, thankfully, and really, in the scheme of 192 miles, no drama you wouldn't expect. After Emily descended most of Vail pass (over 1,900 feet of downhill, which she blitzed, then couldn't walk down stairs for 3 days afterward), Bine, our yogi runner missed a transition area. Which happened to be in the dark. While it was raining. And she had a hurt hamstring. And her stomach was going south quickly. And she ran 11 miles instead of 7. So that whole episode kind of threw van 2, understandably, into a tailspin.
(Then I had the great timing to text Van 2 at that very moment to ask for a Diet Coke—I needed more caffeine than that Nuun's Kona Cola to get me to my 12:30 a.m. run—which they didn't know they had in their van. Hysterical about four hours later. It probably doesn't feel funny to you, and I get that: Ragnar is kind of like summer camp. Terribly funny and interesting to the people who experienced it, not so much to the people who didn't.)
And so Van 1 of Morning. Nuun. Night. took back the slap bracelet around 10 p.m., and we had a few momentary freak-outs on directions and such, but nothing that shook us too much. Ms.Afraid of Mountain Lions had voiced her concerns in front of her family, and her son sweetly gave him his Bear Grylls survival kit to carry on her night leg. She didn't carry Bear's fire starter and knife, but she did take another teammate for the 2.5 mile spin, which was through neighborhoods and ended at an elementary school. (Read: the most populated part of our route that night. Again, uproarious laughter later about this fact.)
I had 8.8 miles of gradual downhill in the dark. After my slaughterfest earlier, I wasn't super psyched to run again. (Who, me?) But the first mile was so downhill, I had a sub-8 minute mile, and my Pandora knew exactly what I needed to hear. (Thank you, Pink: Run just as fast as I can/To the middle of nowhere/To the middle of my frustrated fears.) The stars were scattered as densely as Legos are on my basement floor, and what would've been an ugly daylight run—I ran past the Vail airport, complete with Hertz rental car drop-off—was sublime at 1 a.m.
I got my Diet Coke, and Van 2 rallied for their second legs as Van 2.0. They rejiggered their legs a little to cover for Bine, who needed to rest, and were all speed and smiles. As they were jamming, we were drooling on our pillows as we "slept" on the gym floor of a local high school. I must admit, I was impressed with the gym—super quiet, and no shoes allowed—and with Ragnar in general. Safety is key—you must wear reflective vests from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.—and we were 100% satisfied with how it was organized and 96% with how the course was marked. (Not sure if it was user error or just a little unclear, but we had a few runners slide off course for just a few minutes.)
The last runs for Van 1 were probably my favorite. We were on the back roads of Western 'rado, the sun was coming up (see ya, vests!), and life felt perfect. We jammed our tunes from our van, we shared our zucchini bread with the volunteers, we rang our pink cowbells endlessly, and I slapped a couple runners on their butts with my magic wand. I had 3 measly miles to complete my first Ragnar race, and I'm happy to report I recorded two legit kills.
The sun kept rising, and daytime temps were intense for Van 2's last hurrah. Seriously glad we had Nuun to constantly sip, as it kept us hydrated and strong. While I'm proud of every single mile this team ran, I have to call out Becky, who took on an unsupported 10.4 mile leg with 1,100 feet of climbing for her final run and killed oh, about 12 runners. And Katherine the mountain goat, who climbed almost 2,000 feet over 8.2 miles to bring us home, passing 15ish other teams. (That's her on the bottom left, pointing to the top of Snowmass, where she climbed—then descended.)
Speaking of Katherine, I have to throw this in here. Our pink Tough Girl Tutus were beloved and bombproof through all 192 miles. The built-in race belt was invaluable (no need to move your bib); they're barely noticeable when you have one on; yet the unique profile makes it easy to spot a teammate—and easy to be hunted down.
To wit: a comment we received after the race, which I pretty much love (and thank Jim for sending it!).
You guys didn’t know us I’m sure—nor did you care about us during the race—but after leapfrogging your team the entire race, you guys became a self-made-up rival to our team by the end of the race. It evolved from when we’d be completely spent during a legs 1 & 2 and then one of you would come just prancing by with your Tutu like nothing was wrong and it drove a few of us crazy in a most competitive and yet humbling way. So after leg two, we (at least my van 2) would talk about how we each did on our leg in relation to “those dog-gone Tutus URGG” and how we either passed one or got passed by one. Anyway, you guys were great and we were shocked and thrilled that our last runner passed your last runner coming down the mountain to the finish line, only because we got a text from him halfway through leg 36 saying he just got passed by the Tutu who, btw, started that leg ~5 min after he did and chased him down to take the lead. Our hopes were all but crushed. So that’s why we were acting like we just won the Superbowl [when we saw you at the finish line.] [KATHERINE COMMENTS: "He had a buddy join him to coax him to turn on his jets, and I would've gone harder if I would've known." She's hardcore, that Kat.]
At the end of the race, we were beyond wiped, and by the time we gathered for dinner at 7 on Saturday night, you could just feel the exhaustion seeping out of us as quickly as sweat had for the previous 31 hours. I think I speak for all 12 of us, though, when I say those 31 hours were some of the best of this summer. It truly was a girls' weekend with 192 miles thrown in, and girlfriend time—and all the laughs, inside jokes, important conversations, pizzas, Twizzlers and celebrity gossip mags that comprise it—is so rare and valuable, I'd climb almost any mountain for it..
A massive thanks to Nuun, who sponsored this whole shebang and to Tough Girl Tutus. And a huge thanks to mother runner Sarah Johnson, who not only was our second runner, but she took most of these amazing pics.
Finally, proud to report that Morning. Nuun. Night., in our mother runner debut effort, took 98th out of 194 teams and 5th out of 18 women's-only teams. Running on a Prayer beat us by 6 seconds, which means only one thing: The MNN Tutus have some unfinished business to tend to next year.