Monday, September 27, 2010

Ragnar Relay Redux - Part I

Team Got the Runs before the adventure began.
The alarm went off and I woke with a start.  Had I actually slept?  Where was I? I started crawling out of my sleeping bag and noticed that I now shared this patch of grass with 20 strangers who weren't there before, so I must have fallen asleep.  But for how long?  I got my bearings and heard my wife talking on her phone.

"Now?" with urgency in her voice.  "How long is her leg?  Shit! Ok, we'll get ready."  She gestured to me to get up and get moving.  
"What is it?"
"Betsy just started her last leg.  She'll be here in about 40 minutes."
"What?!  We just went to bed."
"Well, she's coming."

I pulled myself up, rolled up the sleeping bag, and hustled over to the car, thankful already that I'd prepped all my running gear before heading to bed for what couldn't have been more than 20 minutes of actual sleep time.

I pulled off my mesh shorts and t-shirt, stripping down to my running gear, slipped into my reflective vest and secured my headlamp.  Rachel clipped a butt blinky to my back, we were like the airborne doing one last safety check before jumping head on into the inky night.

More of my team arrived bleary eyed and groggy.  I pulled out the peanut butter and wolfed down half a sandwich with some electrolytes.  Butterflies batted around in my stomach.  This was either going to be a 6.8 mi run or a half marathon, depending on whether or not we could get someone from van 1 to take the vacant leg.  Rachel dialed up van 1 again and appeared to have a solution.  I swished some nuun in my mouth to get the stale taste of sleep out as well as get one more swig of fluid.  

"Ok," she said, "Sarah's going to take the short leg if Ebo takes the longer leg.  Ebo?"
"Sure, I'll take it."

And like that, the butterflies vanished.  

"Let's head up to the exchange point."

We trotted up to the chute and waited for the volunteer to call out "159!" through her bullhorn.  Van 1 showed up and we shared a minute of stories from the last leg.  "Scary as hell!" said one.  Just what I wanted to hear.  I shook my legs out nervously.  I repeated the street names over and over in my head in case the course hadn't been marked.  Headlamps flickered like LED fireflies across the church parking lot.  Reflective vests caught the stray lights and lit up like strange cyborgs rolling through the night.

"159 coming in!" the girl cried.  A shot of adrenaline dropped down and spread through my body.  The cheer went up from my teammates.  The stream of light bobbed up and down coming toward us.  "Let's go, Betsy!  Bring it home!" We yelled.  

She peeled the slap bracelet from her wrist and snapped it on to mine.  More shouts.  And I was off.  The cheering rapidly disappearing behind me as I found my stride.  The PB burning slow.  I found a rhythm and shot through the black black night and disappeared into corn fields illuminated by a full moon.  Just the rhythmic pounding of my asics and the steady exhale of my breath as I covered ground in a hurry to the next exchange.

That's how the second leg for Van 2 of Team Got the Runs started.  When I let out, it was just past 11:00 p.m.  Our team started from Cumberland, MD at 7:30 that morning and had been ticking off the miles back to D.C. ever since.  Those blissful 20 minutes of sleep were the last I'd get for another 7.5 hours.  Until then, we prepped water bottles and recovery food for the runner already out and the one getting ready to take over.  Then a mad dash to the next exchange point, stopping for a moment to cheer our runner on and check up on their fluids and food.  

The hours of that night rolled by and I marveled at how awake and energized I felt.  Even reaching the final exchange, while my vanmates slept, I hopped up and walked around, chatting with other runners, and eventually finding van 1 and listening with jealousy at how they'd gotten to catch some z's for a few hours.

The crash didn't come until 6:30 a.m.  Rachel and our friend Paul tried in vain to follow directions to the next major exchange only to get turned around several times.  Our short term memories had become sieves.  "Turn right on Barnesville," Rachel would say.
"Got it."  A beat.  "I'm going left on what?"
"Um, it's a right...and it's on Barnesville."

And so on. 

Once we pulled in to the middle school, I turned the car off, reached back for my sleeping bag and headed out to find a nice patch of grass to close my eyes once again.

Check out Part II to see what was in store for Team Got the Runs upon waking up as well as other highlights from the race including the necessity to always have a steady supply of beef jerky on you.


  1. This is great! Brad, you're such a fantastic writer!

  2. Thanks, Kara...and thanks for reading!

  3. Awesome recap. Makes me want to go out and do it all over again!



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