The First Annual Ultimate Mother Runner Showdown is complete—and what a showdown it was. We could all write a race report as long as the 199, hot, humid miles we ran in the Ragnar Relay from Cumberland, MD to the National Harbor in Washington D.C., but that's a little ambitious. (And truth be told, we didn't run 199 miles since 3 legs had to be canceled because of the government shut-down. But we didn't lose sleep over lost miles; given the 90+ degree temps, we definitely ran far enough.)
Instead, we had each runner write a little bit about her Ragnar experience. Here's Team Dimity's. Team Sarah's recap will be up on Thursday, and a video will be up sometime next week. (And to answer the question a few of you might have: Yes, we are 99% sure we'll do this contest again next year, so stay tuned.)
Before we launch into the race, though, we have to give a huge shout-out to our partners who geared all of us up so well so we could train properly and then kick badass during the race: Saucony generously outfitted us with Kinvara Short Sleeve Shirts, Ignite Tight Capris, and Mirage 3 Shoes; 110% squeezed us with Flat Out Socks; Sof Sole supported our soles with Fit Insoles; Ultimate Direction provided sweet Fastdraw handheld bottles and Nuun capably filled them; Knuckle Lights lit our way; Hyland's got us all to be Calms Forte converts; fathers, mothers, and kiddos went NuttZo for NuttZo (and then the mother runners smartly hid the jars...); GU, LARABAR, and Team Refuel's low-fat chocolate milk fueled us through the miles; and SkinFare soothed our skin when all was said and done. Oh, and Tough Girl Tutus inspired our best motto yet: Fear the Tutu.
Thank you, thank you for supporting all of us mother runners. We all reached the starting line—and finish line—thanks, in large part, to your support and excellent products. Very grateful.
Onto the show.
My favorite leg to run was leg one. It was our first daughter’s birthday on 10/4; we lost her 13 years ago. Funny to think if she never lost her battle with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, I would have never been a part of The Another Mother Runner Ragnar Team; my life would have gone down a different trail. So maybe life has it way of truly making things happen for a reason.
Leg one was a trail run through the woods and around a gorgeous lake. Full of emotion, I was ready to tear it up like never before. I went out too fast...faster than I would normally, but I know it was from all the excitement I had been holding in over the past few months leading up to this race.
I was jumping over rocks and cruising on paths going up and down hills and zigzagging left and right to keep from falling. I had to use my hands on the trees to keep upright while running up the rocky-rooty-crazy path. I loved it! I felt free and alive!
After a few miles, the pack broke up so we were not all over each other. I started to hear a person coming up behind me, but he never made a move to pass. I looked back once and said, “Let me know if you want to pass and I’ll move over,” but it never happened. What a feeling: here I am, a mom of 5 dressed in a tutu, and I’m faster than this man! I had one of those holy-sh&%!-I’m-really-doing-this moments. He was a nice guy and told me to watch it four time; my excitement was getting the best of me. Thank you large upright trees for catching me! I tallied five kills—Ragnar-speak for people you pass—to kick us off.
Everyone should Ragnar! Great friends, some running, and lots of laughter. The first leg I ran up a hill I didn’t know existed in Maryland! I climbed for 2.3 steep miles and then coasted downhill for 4 miles. My second leg was 4.5 miles in the dark of night. I ran with Karyn (my newest running friend), who helped me through a mentally tough patch. Because of her support I was able to kill (pass) 10 people. See ya! Before I started my third leg, I was tired, my legs hurt, and I chugged a Starbucks mocha. I set off for 2.8 miles, and ended up running them at 8:16 pace, about 2 minutes per mile faster than I thought I would be. I finished BAMR strong! During the whole race, I totaled 14 kills and was only killed by 6 men. I can say I gave everything I had in each leg and I am very proud of myself. I feel like a true BAMR now!
I'll be honest: pulling our first Ragnar contest together was kind of like my first run this weekend, which had 1,200 feet of climbing over 7.8 miles: challenging, a little nerve-wracking, pretty exhausting, but in the end, oh-so-worth-it. Our journey together confirms what I pretty much have known all along: Mother runners are funny, motivated, hard-working, smart women who get the job done with a smile on their faces. And I pretty much just love that spirit.
We had a few challenges—it wouldn't be Ragnar without them—but those speed bumps (sick bellies, pounding headaches, a few navigational issues, hot weather that just wouldn't relent) just cemented the friendships we made along the way.
Everybody who ran that first climb-a-licious run got a belt buckle at the end for the effort. A nice touch, but a hunk of medal is nothing compared to seeing mother runners push themselves miles out of their comfort zones, cheer crazy loud and shed tears for each other, and connect with each other in a way we'll remember for the rest of our lives.
Thank you all for playing along with Sarah and me.
My Ragnar was so special, I didn't want to rush any of it, even the long dusty hills. One of the moments that stands out for me is when I was taking off on my first run, just after I received the slap bracelet from Dimity. I was excited to run, and I saw and heard my teammates cheering me on. I truly felt their support and excitement for me, and I just knew it was as genuine as the support and excitement I gave to them as they started to run.
More memorable moments happened when the BAMRs drove by and cheered me on—even if I was squatting in the cornfield with my lights flashing at the time. [Editorial from Dimity: many of the night legs were running past very high cornfields. Schuy, from Team Sarah, brought a bounty of blinky things for us to wear, and Joan was done up like Lady Gaga. We drove by as she was emptying her bladder, and all we could see was a rainbow of lights blinking against the stalks. One of those at-Ragnar-only moments.]
It was just a weekend full of support, genuine enjoyment and appreciation of the experience. Catching up on sleep will take time, but it was so worth it. The best word I can use to describe it is magical. I am eternally grateful that I was able to be a part of this experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Pockets of cool mountain air hit my face. Entire constellations lit the sky. My watch read 10:30 PM, and I was chasing a flashing red light on my second Ragnar leg: 7.3 miles through the rolling hills of rural Maryland. My legs felt surprisingly fresh from my earlier 4-mile climb and descent. My footing was confident, the hills were conquerable, and I knew I was wearing a ridiculously goofy smile. I was truly and totally happy.
Let me be honest. When else does a frazzled homeschooling mom of three get an experience like this? No kids. No laundry or dishes. No responsibilities for anyone other than me. The entire weekend was truly a gift. It started with a good night’s sleep in a clean bed that I didn’t have to make. It included the company of 12 teammates whose idea of a vacation also included running nearly 200 miles without a shower. It provided me with an opportunity to be competitive in a positive way. And it didn’t feel selfish or indulgent at all.
So how did the rest of my second leg turn out? Incredible. I killed 14 runners, nailed an 8:34 pace in the dark, and checked off another box on my running bucket list.
10 things I learned at Ragnar...
1. People spend as much time on their costumes, creating a team name, and decorating their van as training for the race.
2. Wearing a tutu for 200 miles makes you really popular. People LOVE to cheer on a runner in a tutu.
3. Running in your sports bra is a fantastic idea when it is 90 degrees and humid.
4. You can get away with peeing in a corn field at midnight...unless you are wearing blinking jewelry and a flashing tail light.
5. Just because someone runs really fast and passes you doesn't mean they know the course or where the finish line is. Follow your map!
6. Candy and coffee are not food groups, and should not be your sole source of nutrition over 30 hours.
7. Don't forget to pack the Imodium.
8. If you are running near where the Blair Witch was filmed .... alone..... with no other runner in sight for 3.5 miles.... at midnight.....think happy thoughts. It's only a movie, right?
9. Your teammates will always park at the exact place you told yourself you could take a walk break 'if I just make it to the top of the hill'. You won't want to disappoint your team, so you keep on running strong right through that walk break, and then are so grateful for their encouragement when you hit awesome splits.
10. No matter what your speed or how many 'kills' (people you pass on the course), your teammates will always be at the end to cheer you on and give you a high five. (Unless your van was busy taking pictures of the scenery along the course and you finished before we got there... sorry about that Laura!)
As the alternate, my take is a bit different. Going into this trip, I knew that it wasn’t going to be about the running for me. Don’t get me wrong: I love to run, but this journey was about something different.
There were those who asked me, “Are you going to be ok with this? You know- the not running bit?” but I always had the same answer: Yes!
Yes, because this experience was like the chapter I had to finish, like the book I just can’t put down until it’s done. Yes, because I had already begun to get a sense of ‘who’ all of these women were so I knew I had to see this through. And yes, because I knew it was going to be incredible journey. Just absolutely yes.
I now have 25 new friends who are all amazing, strong women who have inspired me as I watched them climb mountains. We laughed, cheered, swapped stories and gained a greater understanding of each other. And I did get to run. Ragnar allows pacers during the evening legs, so I accompanied Krista, who was so determined to make every run count; Dimity who runs much faster then she lets on (Dimity adds: it helps to be at sea level) ; and Joan who always ran with a smile. I got in a total of very dark, very awesome 14.5 miles!
Funny thing is though, I don’t feel like this book is done yet. I have a feeling that we may have more chapters to add in the future….and I can’t wait!
As I process the Ragnar experience, I am also attempting to burn the moments into my memory. I often find myself recapping my first run, leg #7.
Temps were in the 80's as I anxiously watched for Jill, my teammate who would hand off to me. Team Sarah came through the exchange and I watched as Renee, her runner #7, tackled the first hill. Several minutes later Jill ran in, and after a quick 'hello' and a slap bracelet hand-off I was headed uphill as well. I took the uphills with patience and used any flat or downhill to recover for the next uphill. The heat was brutal and within a few miles I had passed 2 runners.
Next up: Team Sarah! I spotted Renee's tutu as I was climbing yet another hill and I had new motivation. The rolling hills continued and I claimed two more kills. 7.9 miles, 5 kills, and 1,079 ft of climbing later, I ran through the exchange and passed the slap bracelet off to Angela. As I chatted with the rest of my teammates I got a few high-5's and compliments from (male!) runners who had driven past me on the course.
Tackling those hills, taking over Team Sarah, and seeing my teammates at the end brought a huge smile to my Badass Mother Ragnar Runner face; the random compliments just made me beam brighter!
Barreling down the highway in a van decorated with caution tape and the words "Kills" and "Fear the Tutu" written on the side is something I never imagined I would do, which is why it is impossible to summarize my Ragnar experience. So I will just share one of my favorite memories. I took the lead on tagging the other vans at the exchange points. I think I probably tagged about 60 vans over the two days. Having never grafittied anything before, it was thrilling! I got really fast at making the BAMRR "logo" because you had to do it without anyone seeing. It pumped me up and was strangely satisfying to see the vans pass with our tag on them as I ran. Watch out, neighbors: I think Ragnar may have corrupted me!
Running at 2:30a.m. (in a tutu, mind you) on no sleep with nothing but the hills, the stars, and cows to keep me company offer a strange clarity. I actually liked being outside my comfort zone. I liked it A.L.O.T.
I lost a lot of sleep somewhere between Cumberland, MD and the National Harbor but found something way more important: I can truly conquer anything that running and life put in front of me. This picture shows me finishing up my blazingly hot first leg, crushing my projected pace, and what inspired the classic "LJ" line "15 kills Mother F'krs!" (Except that I said it fully—loud and proud—when I reached the transition point. Because that’s how Ragnar does to a mother runner.)
Three in the morning, no sleep—except for about an hour in a sleeping bag in a corn field—my second leg was 3.5 miles along a country road through fields of soybeans and a sky of stars. It's my favorite way to run: just me and my feet and my breath. I was soaking in the moment, and was a little sad when I saw the exchange coming up.
But that was nothing compared to my panic a few minutes later.
I looked down at my wrist to grab the slap bracelet "baton" to hand to our next runner and it was gone! "Oh s**t!" I shouted. "I lost the bracelet, what do we do?!" My mind jumped to the worst, with visions of the whole team being disqualified, all because I had been daydreaming in the dark. I frantically began looking around and patting down my tutu.
"It's on your arm! It's on your arm!" a teammate yelled. I looked at my bicep in relief. I had gotten hot and pushed up my long-sleeve shirt, and, with it, the bracelet. With huge relief, I passed the bracelet to our next runner and laughed with my teammates as we headed out to our next stop.
Team Dimity Van 2 Ragnar Stats
90.8: total miles run
40.8: miles run in the dark
8133: total feet of elevation gain
78: total kills
1: “killed” bride
over 100: visits to the port-o-john
12: unshaven legs
13: muscles in the leg
78: sore muscles in our legs
2: sightings of “Speedo Guy”
4: legs affected by the government shutdown
60+: BAMRR tags by Angela
1: tutu eaten by a pony
30+: Nuun tablets consumed
1: awesome slogan: “Fear the Tutu”
1,000+: rings of pink cowbells
5 or so: stink bugs hitching rides in the van
92: degrees of final leg into National Harbor
2: creepy history podcasts, including one about Edgar Allen Poe, listened to during my 4am mountain leg
11: sweaty pieces of my clothing stuffed in a ziplock
50: minutes of me lying in a cow pasture, unable to fall asleep
about 2: total hours of sleep for me
3: times I got lost driving the van
2: naked van clothing changes
If you give a mom a running weekend away and she gets chosen to run a Ragnar Relay with other badass mother runners, she'll decide to be runner 12. When she decides to be runner 12, she'll have to train extra hard to run 21 miles over 30 hours.
Then she'll fly off to DC for 5 days away.
Once she's there she'll meet 27 other badass mother runners from around the country.
She'll be awed by their talents and creativity on and off the running trails.
When she wakes early Friday morning in Cumberland, MD, she’ll realize how excited she is for the upcoming adventure. Then she'll put on her Tough Girl Tutu, 110% Flat Out Compresssion socks, Ultimate Direction water bottle, Saucony Mirage 3 shoes, Team Refuel visor and help decorate the van.
Her kids will message her the hairstyle daddy helped them with for school.
She'll have to wait until 6pm to run her first leg: 7.4 miles.
She'll be off for an awesome hill, running from dusk to dark, and get in to see her teammates blinking and glowing from afar.
She'll channel her 'inner Nikki' and love the hill, bouncing and smiling her way up.
She'll also say goodnight to her family as she heads dinner and rest until her van begins to run again at 1:30 a.m. (She will have slept only about 40 minutes so far.)
She'll drive for several hours through night cheering her teammates as they make their way through rural Maryland.
Then she'll get ready for her 9.6 miles that she'll start in the dark and run through a beautiful sunrise.
When running in the pitch dark, she'll come eye-to-eye with deer.
When he moves to a field, she'll be extra jumpy so when 4 fast runners and 5 vans ass her on a dark narrow road, she'll do a spectacular Superman flying fall.
Seeing blood on her hand, she'll know she has to finish the last 5 miles—just any badass mother would—and also be careful not get blood on her tutu.
She'll have some great battle wounds to always remember Ragnar.
She'll get to run the last leg with teammate Aimee. Up and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge they'll bring this incredible adventure of a lifetime to close.
When the race is over, she’ll decide she needs a mom’s running weekend away every year— and that all badass mothers need to do the same!