|Photo courtesy of Mary Beth|
This is a long post. And it's not about food. It's about a crazy, scary, amazing adventure.
|Team My Running Girlfriends with our finisher medals|
Then I started training for it, about 14 weeks ago. And Clythie, her husband, and her running partner dropped out, because she got the opportunity to move to California. So now I was going to camp and run a relay race with seven other women, one of whom I had worked with many years ago, one of whom I had met for a beer after the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC, and six of whom I had never met at all (although we belonged to the same online running group). I think somewhere around week 8 or 9 of training, I came very close to dropping out because the whole thing just seemed too scary, too difficult, too crazy to do--and probably less because of the running and more because I'm socially awkward. But I felt we had already lost team members by then, and I couldn't place that burden on them, so I hung in there and decided to do this thing.
The week of the race rolled around. A few days before the race was supposed to start, one of our team members had to drop out because of a family emergency. Three of our team mates volunteered to take over one each of her legs, so even if we couldn't find a replacement, we would be able to cover our loops. Then the day before we were supposed to head to West Virginia, our team captain, Kristi, reported that she was ill. Now I was definitely worried and felt I had to be prepared to step up for an extra loop in case she wasn't well enough to run.
The day before the race, Mike and Sebastian drove me to West Virginia (the other team member from my area wasn't driving up until Friday morning, but I was starting us off at 10 a.m. and didn't feel comfortable driving up that early). Unfortunately, I was foolish enough to trust the directions on my phone, so the last few miles before we got to the campsite we were driving on a really rough gravel back road with huge craters. We don't have an SUV. We survived the road (although it was very tense) and finally made it to the camp site. Mike looked around to make sure everything seemed OK, unloaded my stuff, said hello to the team mates who had arrived, and headed back to Northern Virginia.
So now here I was with a bunch of people I barely knew (or didn't know at all), feeling awkward and extremely tense about the race and from coming off the road. Another team mate, Becky, who was en route, had car trouble along the way and was thinking about bailing out. That problem was eventually solved, but I was definitely feeling like a malevolent force in the universe was stacking the deck against us. I proceeded to drink a couple of beers, try unsuccessfully to be helpful about setting things up, and aimlessly move crates and sleeping bags hither and thither. Eventually I shacked up for the night with Mary Beth.
|Spectacular sunset our first night|
|Me (left) and Mary Beth (right)|
|It's a beautiful morning for Ragnar?|
|Waiting to watch the safety video|
|And I'm off!|
|Naughty Ninja on green loop #1|
The first run ended up being surprisingly hard. Not too much in terms of hills, but the run was very technical. It was discouraging that it felt so hard after all the training I had put in, and I worried about how the yellow and red loops were going to feel if this was the "easy" run. The heat had already started to rise again after the rain storm (it reached a heat index over 100), and I soaked my clothes for the second (but not last) time that day.
Near the end of the run, the three loops converged and traveled through part of the Ragnar camp site. Here runners yelled encouragement and rattled noisemakers, which was incredibly encouraging. I ran past Kevin, an unsettling clown-ghost-zombie thing hung in a tree near the transition area and reached the bridge across the road, which I would come to hate. The bridge was a narrow girder bridge that rose high above the road, with a steep incline and decline on either side and little protection on the sides. Two guys who were chasing each other passed me on the bridge, forcing me to the edge, where I stared through giant gaps, strongly activating my fear of heights. On the other side, the steep decline made my thighs scream. All in all, my first run was pretty terrible and made me terribly nervous about the next loops, which would be the hard and medium loops. But I made it back, transferred the belt, the bib, and the ninja to Kristen, the next runner on deck.
|Kevin, photo courtesy of Ragnar Trail Relays|
|The dreaded bridge, photo courtesy of Tatania (in foreground)|
|Kristen, badass runner|
|My deer friend|
|Naughty Ninja, red loop|
|Under the rock outcropping, shortly before dark|
Lots of people passed me on the trail. Many were encouraging, several checked in with me to make sure I was safe and healthy (runners are generally such a generous, caring bunch). One woman fell on the path just ahead of me, but assured me she was OK and then got up and kept running. Finally, I got to the one-mile mark, to the quarter-mile mark, and I was running through the camp (someone joked about how fast I was going, which was not fast). A light flared in my eyes, and I almost tripped on a rock. Suddenly a pair of red glowing eyes leered out of the darkness. I nearly screamed. I realized it was Kevin and laughed. Then I was climbing the hated bridge and passing through tiki torches to the other side. I passed the bib and the ninja to Kristen, and Amanda and Kristi met me with plates of food from the complimentary dinner. The salad was miraculously delicious.
|Photo courtesy of Kristen|
|Photo courtesy of Tatania|
|Amanda, badass Running Girlfriend|
|Tatania and Mary Beth, badass Running Girlfriends|
|A rocky section of the red loop|
|The village at night|
|The bonfire in the village, about 5:30 a.m.|
|Photo courtesy of Kristi|
|Photo courtesy of Kristi|
|The Naughty Ninja, yellow and last loop (of mine)|
|Greg and Becky head out on the last loop|
|Team My Running Girlfriends on the bridge (photo courtesy of Tatania)|
|Finishing team photo with our giant medals|
|Team photo showing off our fake tattoos|
|Winner of the best Naughty Ninja photo (courtesy of Becky)|
|Naughty Ninja and our incredible metal medal|
|Greg entering the transition area|
|Evening sets in|
|Kristi (fabulous team captain) and her great sport of a husband, Greg|
Some final thoughts:
- I am really proud of myself for finishing this race at 45 years old and at least 30 pounds overweight. It was incredibly hard, but it felt like a real achievement.
- I am proud and amazed by my wonderful team mates, including our honorary Running Girlfriend, Greg, who stepped in without really having trained so that we could finish without killing ourselves and helped us all so much.
- I want to thank and mention everyone on our team individually:
- Kristi, thanks for organizing and coordinating everything and keeping us going. Thanks for sticking it out even though you felt awful for much of it. Thanks for sharing Greg for a few days, he was an incredibly good sport and so helpful.
- Tatania, thanks for the ride home. You amaze me with your toughness. I hope you heal quickly and completely.
- Kristen, you are so incredibly energetic and fun. I wish I had seen more of your dancing. Thanks for taking an extra leg.
- Becky, thanks for the yoga and stretching and being such a bright spark of light.
- Amanda, thanks for letting me bawl all over you when I finished and for having such a wonderful smile. It brightened everything at a couple of times when I felt pretty low.
- Mary Beth, thanks for the beer, for being our "mom," for making sandwiches, and making us laugh.
- Greg, thanks for putting up tents and carrying stuff, helping us take care of our nutrition, and jumping in to run.
- Thank you Clythie, for starting My Running Girlfriends, and for convincing me to do crazy-ass stuff I would probably never do otherwise. I am going to miss you.
- And I almost forgot, but thank you Mike and Sebastian for supporting my running and allowing me to go off to West Virginia and do something insane. I love you both.