Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ragnar Cape Cod 2012

Boston River Rats at Ragnar Cape Cod
With less than 24 hours of distance from Ragnar Cape Cod, I've already gone through the progression of: This is so much fun!... This sucks, and If I ever have to use a foul, disgusting "porta-john" that's already been used by hundreds of runners ever again I'm going to die... well, now that it's over I'm glad I did it... I hope they're putting together a team for next year...

It's kind of a typical post-race thought process, but at Ragnar everything is a bit more intense. For those who don't know (you may want to stop reading now: ignorance is bliss) Ragnar is one of the increasingly-popular 24 hour, almost 200 mile-long relay races that test ability to withstand lack of sleep and extreme proximity to other runners as much as physical fitness. Typical teams are made up of 12 runners, but two of ours dropped out the day before the race began, which meant we would have to pick up the slack. We left for Myles Standish State Park at 8 a.m. Friday morning to check in and go through a safety briefing. Our first runner took off at 11. I was in the second van, so we had until about 3 p.m. until our first runner (myself) began.

I won't go on about all of the details, but in brief: we all ran between 10 and 24 miles, I had a 9 miler at 3 p.m., a 10 miler at midnight, and a 6.3 miler at 7:30 a.m. My first run was a pleasant jaunt through Plymouth on narrow roads. The weather was perfect - about 50 degrees, and it started sprinkling toward the end. My first leg out of the way, the other four runners in my van each completed their first legs, with one runner picking up an extra leg to cover our missing runner, and then we passed off to van 1 and had some time to get something to eat and rest before our next legs. We got pizza at a small local restaurant near where we had finished (famished runners were descending on their business in droves, and we got the feeling they would be happy if they never saw another runner in their lives), then after sitting in traffic caused by construction on the Sagamore Bridge, we drove to the next transition area at Dowse's Beach to try to get some sleep. It was billed as a designated sleeping area, but that area was on the uncovered beach, and as I and the others in my van were loath to sleep outside in 40-degree weather, we converted our van into a designated sleeping area and tried to get some rest. I think I was the only one who actually fell asleep, and was confused and irritated when, 45 minutes after closing my eyes, the phone rang and we were told it was time to get ready to run again.

My midnight run was one of the best of my life (how many times have I said that?). The weather was cool and misty and as I ran through Hyannis on residential roads I could smell that distinct sulferous cape smell and feel the salty ocean air. I couldn't see that much, but I passed by Craigville beach where the beach side shacks selling ice-cream and clams looked other-worldly in the middle of the night. I passed by beautiful beach houses and as I ran I dreamt of someday living on the beach. Something about the air felt, at the risk of sounding silly, magical, and I almost felt like I was floating. I felt light and strong and was running faster than I had thought I would. I was trying to soak up the feeling, and at one point thought about slowing down to make the experience last longer. I finished and passed off to my next runner, and she to the next, and so on until about 4 a.m.

Our van's last legs began at 7:30 a.m. with my last run, which was a beautiful, sun-soaked run through Wellfleet, but I was tired (we had slept for almost an hour on the floor of a school gymnasium) my legs were sore, and I was ready for it all to be over. Deb had the last leg - a 7 miler, and we all were in Provincetown waiting for her when she arrived. We jumped in to run the last 100 meters with her, exhausted, cheering the whole way, and when we finished and got our medals we got a beer and sat on the grass of the beer tent  reminiscing about the trials and tribulations along the way. I did this race because I wanted to hang out and run with other women-runners (we were an all-women team) and in the end that's what I loved about it. I got to spend more time with some runners that I really like and respect, and get to know some new ones. We got to talk running, but also just hang out and have fun. And I got to spend some quality running time essentially alone, forcing myself to reflect on my own life - a race like Ragnar helps you remember to take things as they come, to soak up the beauty of doing something crazy in the middle of the night, that you can get by with less sleep than you thought, that we're all in this together and everyone's doing their best, and that peeing in the woods is way better than using a porta-john, any day.

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