Let’s talk Ragnar (sshhhhh. You’re not tired of hearing about it. I’m almost done. Until next year.).
What is Ragnar? And why do I care?
Ragnar is a 200 mile relay race for insane people who like to wear costumes, hang out in stinky, decorated vans for two days and run between 11 and 23 miles over three legs.
There are 12 people to a team and 36 legs. You start in Wickenburg and hand-off to your next runner at designated transition points and don’t stop until you get to Tempe. You run all day Friday, through the night and into Saturday.
By the time you finish you know more about your teammates than you’ve probably ever wanted to know about another human being. You’ve also learned that your own physical and mental limits aren’t made up of concrete and 6-inch thick bullet-proof glass like you thought. You’ve realized the boundaries you’d always stayed within were an illusion and really just tissue paper you can push through and soar past to places you’d never even imagined. (Either that or you get a little high off of sleep deprivation, endorphins and lack of food and the combination makes you think thoughts like this.)
Those are the basics. You care because it’s rad and hardcore and you kind of want to do it next year (right?).
I was a Ragnar virgin until this weekend. I have to admit I’m trying not to get too sappy, here, but it was kind of one of those things that makes you feel different. It makes you feel like you could do anything.
This is not to say it was all good. It wasn’t. It was sort of like childbirth. The further you get away from it, the easier it is to consider ever wanting to do it again. The good was so very good, but the bad… well the bad was horrible.
Good – I was totally pleased with my very first run outfit:
I had trained up enough for this race that I have a decent amount of endurance. I can continue at a run-like pace for a pretty long time. This training, however, has not yet translated to speed. I’m real real slow, is what I’m trying to say.
I have found it helps my ego if I have a really good outfit while I’m running. So when people pass me like I’m standing still, rather than just hating myself and wanting to lay down on the asphalt and cry, I can just think to myself: It’s OK. She’s faster but my outfit is cuter. She’s just compensating for the fact that she doesn’t have rad hot pink feather earrings.
Bad – My first run was 8.3 miles straight up hill. It was the run all of the other people in my van said they wouldn’t be willing to do (after, of course, I’d already done it. There was none of this discussion BEFORE I’d agreed to this leg). Last weekend I ran in SF and this run was worse than that. Toward the end I got to the very top of the last hill and paused for a second and wondered if I should just to lie on my side and roll down the hill for awhile because I’d still be moving forward but not actually using any energy. This honestly seemed to make sense at the time.
Good – When I first joined this team and learned our team name was ‘The Schitt Family’ and we each had scatological puns for individual names (I was Noe Schitt-Sherlock), I have to admit I was a tiny bit grossed out. I’m no delicate flower, but bathroom humor is not usually my very favorite variety of humor. I was a little worried we would be that over-the-top, super vulgar team that everyone rolled their eyes that.
Boy, was I wrong. Our team name was not even close to the grossest or most vulgar.
Our team name was completely appropriate and we got lots of compliments. Other team names of note were:
2 slow 2 win 2 stubborn 2 quit
Menage a 12
3 Chicks and 3 Dicks (an ultra team of 6 instead of 12)
More cowbell!!! (They had pictures of Will Ferrell taped to their van and a cowbell the driver would somehow clang while driving to cheer all the runners on.)
“Very Hard, Moderate, Easy…that’s what she said”
Super Heroes in Training (These people ran in underoos and capes.)
There was a team that had bright colored bras taped all over their van and their headshots and bra sizes written on the windows (Why, you ask? I do not know.). There was also a team who wore sequined skirts of different colors and tiaras and tshirts that said in glitter, “Does this skirt make my ass look fast?”
Lots of vans had hilarious sayings on them and fun decorations. There was all kinds of just random dressing up for no obvious reason (one of my favorite kinds of dressing up). Tagging of other vans with window markers was encouraged. Our tag was, ‘Schitt happens’. Our driver, Chris, took it upon himself to tag at every opportunity.
Bad – Our awesomely decorated van got completely stuck in the sand at exchange 2. We had to be towed out. It was probably karma for the tagging.
Good – After my hellish first run my other two runs seemed like a piece of cake. My second leg was 6 miles, at about 7:30PM (when the sun was down but it wasn’t chilly yet) and it was completely flat. I never thought there would ever be a time when running 6 miles in any conditions would be easy and nearly relaxing, but that’s what this run was. I actually sprinted into the finish. (Well, I felt like I was sprinting, but since another girl passed me as I was crossing, I guess it probably just looked like ‘running at a medium pace’ to everyone else. But I didn’t even mind that much; that’s how awesome I felt.)
Bad – I did not survive the first run injury-free. The IT band issue on my left leg I thought I had healed through the power of Google reared its ugly head. I’ve been limping to varying degrees ever since. I’m starting to think I’ll just walk like an elderly pirate for the rest of my life.
I am also apparently stupid enough that I managed to create a completely unnecessary injury for myself just because I was freaking out. The morning of my first run, I found a small cut on the tip of my middle toe that hurt a little bit and decided it would get completely irritated during the race, so I should wrap it up really good so it didn’t rub. I did this with several layers of moleskin and athletic tape. While I was running my toe felt like it was on fire. At several points I had to just tell myself there’s no such thing as pain to be able to continue. When I finally finished and took off my shoe, expecting it to be filled with a puddle of blood and razorblades, it turned out the pain was from the toe next to the toe with the cut on it. I had rubbed it to death on the protection I created for the other toe.
Pretty, right? I am so stupid.
Bad – Porta potties are not my friends. I actually stopped drinking fluids after my second run because the idea of going pee in a porta potty in the dark was so horrifying and repulsive to me I would rather just be dehydrated. Eventually I had to go and rather than braving them, I crouched behind a bush to pee. Not my finest hour.
Bad – The sleep deprivation was no joke. We had a few hours of rest Friday during the day while van 2 of our team was running. The ‘rest’, however, looked like this:
Yep, that’s sleeping bags rolled out underneath the bleachers at a nearby high school.
Our next chance to get any sleep happened from 3AM to 5AM in the parking lot of a church (I think. This was when I was refusing to leave the van). There was a space cleared outside for people to roll out their sleeping bags, but seeing as how it was in the 40s, most of us just slept in the van in whatever position we could find most comfortable.
At 5AM when I had to strip down in the van, put on running clothes and head out into the cold to run with a blister, an aching knee, sore legs and completely dehydrated because I was afraid of the dark porta potty monster I told my teammates, “I have never, in my life wanted to do anything less,” and meant it. I actually burst into tears about 10 minutes into the run because the song ‘This Year’ came on my iPod and when they sang, I am going to make it, through this year, if it kills me, all I could think was that I wasn’t even going to make it through this run because it was actually going to kill me.
Good – That last run did get better. I loosened up and it was short, and when I was done, I felt like a million bucks. I went from the lowest of lows, to the highest of highs in less than half an hour.
My team of former strangers now feels like family. I’ve learned I can do so much more than I thought I could. I’ve learned you don’t really need to brush your teeth every day. I’m a Ragnar convert. You can bet I’ll be back.