Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ragnar Relay Redux - Part II

Got the Runs posing at the finish.
When the gun went off, the magnitude of what we were setting out to do hadn’t quite set in yet.  And truth be told, I’m still not sure it has.  We did the pictures, got through the safety check, and lined up along the start corral with cameras poised.  The announcer called “Go!” and my friend Sarah was off, scooting passed us, to begin the long 200 mi trek back to D.C.  As she disappeared around the bend, we looked at one another and said, “So, buffet?”  And with that, myself and the four other members of Van 2 went back to the hotel for omelets and oatmeal.
Somewhere in the middle of that sweltering Friday afternoon, it seemed to come upon each one of us all at once.  While we were driving, or eating, or laughing, or not sleeping, someone from our team covered ground.  
But before then, it was all about getting each other from point A to point B.  Not the finish line mind you, just the next checkpoint.  We prepped each other as the mercury rose reaching then surpassing record highs.  This on the heels of it being perfect fall weather all week and a near perfect Sunday as well.  No, we had to shuffle through the sweltering heat that rippled above the highway and dirt trails that snaked their way in, around, and according to my straining quads, UP!
In fact, on each of those first legs, we returned to the van a little delirious, a little cranky, and a little closer to embodying our team name.  But heart rates returned to normal, a lot of peanut butter was consumed, and though the salami sandwich hit the spot, it wasn't until another bag was torn open that I truly felt life return.

You see, I stared blankly ahead for sometime while the van drove on.  I drew my gatorade robotically to my mouth and sipped, hoping to regain all of those lost fluids.  Willing myself to recover, knowing that this wasn't the end...not by a long shot.  Then, someone pulled out the beef jerky.  The envelope was passed around.  When it came to me, I reached in, took a handful and started gnawing.  It could have been the salt, it could have been the teriyaki flavor, hell, it could have been the fact that it was dry meat, but I tell you this, that beef jerky was as good as sex right then.

My eyes widened and I moaned deliciously.  This of course brought on odd stares and laughter, but the speed limit on the road to recovery just got a little faster.

And so we carried on.  Other highlights from the trip included getting word that my friend Ski whom I play hockey with made it through his 6.9 mile leg, the farthest he'd ever run at one time, and hearing the utter jubilation that poured from him talking about it.

Having two members from Van 1 join us for the last two legs stirred up the dynamic in our van, though I'm not so sure it cut down on the crudeness, but then again when your team is called Got the Runs, I suppose it's to be expected.

The smell of manure growing stronger on my midnight run.  I knew the checkpoint was at a creamery and figured cheese equals cows equals manure; therefore, the end must be near.

Ebo, at the end of his 9.8 miler, going into an all out sprint so epic, he completely missed Rachel waiting for him in the chute.

Eliding over the the Rock Creek trail and having one runner shout, "Dammit, man, this is the third time you've passed me!"  And not long after, seeing the woman with the walky talky in her hand.
I pointed to her and called: "Are you standing there to radio me in?"
"Sure, am, sweetheart.  What's your number?"
"159!  Hell yeah!"
"Go, go, go!  You're almost there!"

The bittersweet feeling that in fact we were going to finish this race as the roads became familiar.  I likened it to a vacation where at the beginning, it seems like you have all the time in the world, then in a snap of your fingers, you're suddenly back on the plane heading home.

Prior to the last leg, as I mentioned yesterday in Part I, we spent, I want to say a night, but really it was more like an hour, sleeping on the soccer field of a middle school.  I remember unrolling my sleeping bag, sliding in, and falling instantly into a deep slumber.  But, I awoke to the tink tink sound of a spike being nailed into the ground.  I peered out and saw 11-year-olds clad in bright orange soccer uniforms gathered around the tinking sound.  

"Why are all these homeless people on our soccer field, coach?"  I heard, then laughed.  
"These aren't homeless people," he said.  "They're running a race and, well, never mind.  They'll be off the field before it's game time."

Homeless people we were not.  But we very well may have smelled like homeless people.

So many other memories will keep coming back.  mnchick34 posted on my blog last week about how the high of running Ragnar stays with her for weeks following the race.  I look forward to these memories surfacing on my runs, in pictures, and even when something pops up and conjures up a moment.

But of course, my last memory that I'll share is the one of seeing my wife wringing sweat, making her way across the Wilson Bridge, baking in the Saturday sun, no shade to protect her, the last two miles of our odyssey to cover.  I was so proud to watch her trudge on and not stop.  

We waited for her 100m from the finish and saw her white hat bobbing along the boardwalk. That's when we unleashed the screaming.  She reached us with a big sweaty grin and we fell in step and charged up the final hill to cross the finish, 11 runners, 203 mi, 32:42 behind us, and a life-changing experience.

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