The Heat is ON: Ragnar Relay Episode II

“I think I might be melting.”

That pretty much sums up my thoughts as I ran my first leg of Ragnar Relay: Washington DC as part of Team Sarah: The Badass Mother Runners. (Click here to catch up on Episode I. Key words: heat index, sports bra, and tutu.) But my leg wasn’t so much hot, as it was a doozy.

ragnar legs DC training marathonI’m not gonna lie, it was tough, but I knew it would be. I specifically trained for it and I really don’t mind hills. But the heat…OH THE HEAT. Hello October? July called. It wants it weather back. It was hotter than the Devil’s farts.

As soon as I started climbing I knew that I needed to keep my heart rate manageable or I’d be (burnt) toast. So I tried to keep my pace slow-ish on the twisty-turny bottom half of the hill, and as soon as I felt my HR creeping up I’d walk a little. My stoopid gut was still in knots, as it has been all day, but I had taken an Immodium about 3 hours earlier and it was finally kicking in, so at least I didn’t have to stop for that. About 1/2 way up the hill, I finally spied a runner in front of me, about 100 yards ahead. He turned around and realized someone with a tutu was gaining on him, and he turned up the speed a little. The Ragnar folks had set up a water station (this was a “no van support” leg) just ahead and he and I both stopped, and I caught him as he lingered at the water stop. He was red-faced and toasty. Here comes the tutu, dude. While I was hot, I felt okay, so I topped off my handheld bottle, and doused my hat with cold water and slapped it back on my noggin, and set off again, while red-faced dude stuck around. Technically, my first kill!. (That’s Ragnar-speak for passing someone.)

The next part of the climb was a looooooong, far-as-the-eye-can see uphill. Oh how I wish I had brought my camera. So, I just plodded along, and I just kept getting hotter and hotter. At this point I ignored my music and my GPS watch and just played a game of mental hopscotch: Just run to the crack in the road, then you can walk. Just run to that reflector, then you can walk. I did a few short walk breaks, again trying to make sure my heart didn’t burst out of my chest. A few welcome cloud breaks would come across…then BAM! pure sunshine inferno. My fellow Badass Mother Runners passed by in the van, cheering and pom-poming and cowbelling. That is a flash of a wonderful memory that is etched in my mind.

I won’t mention how many times I got “killed” on that part of the climb, because those are things of which we don’t speak, but at the top of the hill (oh who am I kidding – it was a mountain)  I did kill a guy who had stopped to stretch his calves – he had just killed me a few hundred yards back. So the tutu got ya, eh?

But then he just couldn’t swallow that and he killed me on the way down. Saving my legs, bro. Have a nice Leg 2 on your BLOWN OUT CALVES.

The downhill was just a blur. But I do remember the faces of the regular drivers as they noticed the string of crazy people running down the mountain and hey that chick’s wearing a tutu.

As I imagined, the downhill was almost harder than the uphill. Why? Three words: CONTINUAL QUADRICEPS ENGAGEMENT. Engaging one’s quads while trying not to have a hard landing for over 30 minutes is really hard and really burny. Despite efforts to land lightly, you still end up pounding the hell out of your feet on long downhills.

You know what’s important in a relay race? Spotting the next runner in the exchange chute (saw many runners fly by their teammate confusedly) and for the next runner to see the oncoming runner. The garish tutu colors made it easy to spot each other. For the second time, the tutu became functional. *Strikes contemplative pose*

ragnar Relay DC what the hill

Can you see me now?

OF COURSE this leg HAD to end on an uphill.

ragnar DC mountain hill

Hoofin’ it. I’m almost the same color as the tutu.

I hand off the slap-bracelet to my teammate Michelle, and I’m DONE! Iliana draped a cooling towel over my shoulders. I felt briefly like I was going to barf, then it passed. I stretched for about 5 minutes, then we’re off to the next exchange. No time for dramatic recaps. Such is life at a Ragnar race!

All things considered (those things being heat and gut), I’m HAPPY with Leg One. It was slower than my normal pace, but my average pace was 11:12 per mile, and the last 1/2 mile I was about 8:30, even on the uphill! SHA-BAM(R)!

We went though the next 4 runners in our van, which each person heading out with a “I’M GONNA KILL IT!” look on their faces, but coming back in afterward with a “HOLY HELL, DID I JUST RUN THROUGH HADES?” look.

After a short break to grab a quick bite of real food (well, Jersey Mike’s subs) to go and finding our van’s last runner, we stopped and recharged at the next major exchange point, which was a local high school. They offered hot showers for $1, which I gladly took. The shower made everything right with the world again. After the shower, we had about 2 hours to get some “sleep,” with “sleep” being a relative term. I rolled out my sleeping bag and my CHAWEL in a patch of grass near the van, put on my sleep mask and headphones, and tried to sleep…but my legs and gut were still twitchy and once I came close to falling into real sleep, then the town’s emergency siren went off RIGHT OVER OUR HEADS. Mudder fudger.

ragnar DC resting sleeping

Iliana took this. That’s me on the right wishing the dudes in front of me would be a little quieter.

My phone alarm went off at 12:30 as we needed to leave at 1 AM to get to the next major exchange and start our second legs. WAIT, I HAVE TO RUN AGAIN? Oh yeah, now I remember. I was stiff and creaky and kind of dehydrated from the heat of the day, but Rebecca drove and I took over navigation duties and off we went.

Ragnar at night feels like a completely different race. Our next major exchange point was at a place called South Mountain Creamery, a working daily farm. Despite it being 1:30AM, the place was hoppin’. It was all lit up, burgers and ribs and ice cream (of which I abstained and instead tossed a couple few alternating handfuls of JellyBellys and Lay’s Wavy Chips into my mouth – WAY MORE NUTRITIOUS) were being served, and it was generally a party kind of atmosphere.

ragnar dc South Mountain Creamery

There’s Renee, waiting at the exchange point. Note the Ragnar tent behind her – best tagline ever: “Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.”

It also smelled like cows. Pair that with rave-style blinky bracelets and rings that we had, and it might have been a big ole’ DANCE party. With cows.

As we waited for Runner #6, Terri, to arrive, we were finally able to snatch a picture of the six of us from Van #2:

ragnar relay DC

Here we are all decked out in our reflective gear: Renee, me, Rebecca, Michelle, Iliana, and Lorraine. BAMRs!

Ragnar requires all “on” runners – one hour before sunset until one hour after sunrise – to wear a highly reflective vest, a headlamp, and a red blinking tail light. I repeat: You wear a red blinking light on your ass. Even “off” runners are required to wear the reflective vest anytime to you’re outside the van at night. Safety first, party second. That’s fine by me, as I’m not so much YOLO as I am YOLOSYBTCOY: You Only Live Once, (So You’d Better Take Care Of Yourself).

We watched Terri, who DIY’d herself a sweet LIGHTED TUTU, hand off the slap bracelet to Renee.

ragnar DC exchange

Kind of blurry, but you can see Terri’s lights through her tutu, and she’s giving Renee a sweet go-get-’em pat, I think.

After chatting a little with Van #1, we got back in ours and off we went. My leg was next.

Once at the next exchange point, I got on all of my reflective gear. SO MUCH STUFF. It felt like a triathlon. Headlamp, reflective vest, blinky red tail light (which I stuck on the back of my hat – GENIUS), knuckle lights, tutu…check! I opted to forgo the blinky rave-bracelets, as I thought wearing them on my wrist while running might give me a migraine. Luckily, this wasn’t a “no van support” leg so I made plans with other gals to meet me around mile 4, which was about the time I would need a GU and some water.

ragnar DC night running

I’m ready! You can’t see it well here but I’m also wearing my flaming skull-themed capris. They juxtapose well with the tutu.

As you can see by the way I’m dressed that it was still quite warm, but thankfully it was just in the low 60’s, so it was manageable. I was feeling pretty psyched and my gut was in check (though not 100%, and it wouldn’t be until I got home the next day). We spotted Renee easily with the tutu and blinky lights, she handed the bracelet off to me, and there I went, off into the DARK OF NIGHT for 6.8 miles, at about 2:30 AM!

I started in a residential McMansion-y kind of neighborhood, but then the course switched to country roads. The stars were out (no moon, though, bummer). I felt strong. I did not run with music this time, (again, YOLOSYBTCOY) so it was just me and my breath and the deer (at least, I hoped it was deer). The runners were pretty spread apart by now, but I made one kill in the residential neighborhood and almost made another on a big uphill, about a 400 foot climb in less than a mile. Obvs nothing like my first leg, but still, PERSPECTIVE, it’s still a big one, and I walked once. The van met me at about mile 4, ready with GU and water like the awesome professional pit crew the were. After that, I ran through some more residential neighborhoods that were just PITCH DARK. Thank god I had the knuckle lights – they’re like using the high beams on a car. I made one more kill and just surged and SURGED! Due to me not knowing how to work my (new) Timex GPS watch properly, I didn’t get my mile pace info, but it offered me a running time of 1:09, which is a 10:10/mile average pace, even with the uphill walk parts. DON’T MIND IF I DO.

After I handed off the bracelet to Michelle, I stretched a little, and climbed back in the van. That’s when the sleepiness hit me HARD and I just about fell asleep in the JellyBelly bag. Luckily, we had an unspoken rule in the van that whomever just ran didn’t have to drive or navigate. So I changed out of my running clothes (using my new CHAWEL) into comfy clothes, took over one full bench on the van, put my head on my CHAWEL, and actually fell asleep. I think I might have drooled. (BTW, if you do a Ragnar, just splurge and rent a big 12-passengar van. I honestly don’t know how people in minivans survived.)

The rest of those morning legs was another blur. I think I slept for about 90 minutes. I do remember waking up when Iliana needed someone to drive. I remember Iliana running the hardest leg (IMHO) – 9 miles through a dark and scary forest. This cool photo isn’t Iliana, but members of the other team on that same leg. I just love it. Mostly ’cause I didn’t have to run it.

ragnar DC night running

The tutus are coming to haunt you.

I remember dawn breaking beautifully on Iliana’s run. I remember cheering Lorraine, our last runner into a major exchange. I remember that instead of us plopping down to sleep, we found a Panera and got some real food and caffeinated beverages. I then remember people in Panera staring at us as we laughed and laughed over this video:

This video IS pretty funny, but at that moment, it was the FUNNIEST THING WE HAD EVER WATCHED IN THE HISTORY OF FUNNY THINGS. That’s what Ragnar does to you. You’re so loopy that little things are hysterical and you end up with secret in-jokes for life. It was a nice bonding moment for the 6 of us, who, up until 36 hours ago, had never met (well, Lorraine and Renee are buds and Iliana and I had met briefly at a running event, but we were all pretty much strangers).

The STOOPID government shutdown was happening during all of this, so many of the routes in DC were closed, including most of my leg #3. The Ragnar folks, instead of re-routing everything, just paired up the last 6 runners. So I was going to run 2.2 miles with Renee (instead of 6.9), and being that the temps were climbing to hideous highs again and that I had slept a total of NEGATIVE 2 HOURS, I was totally cool with that. It turns out, the Tea Party saved us about 17 miles total from the 199 miles we were supposed to run.

The day got hotter and hotter. We met up with Van #1 in a DC suburb at our final last major exchange before the finish. I was able to find some shade, roll out the CHAWEL again and catch about 30 minutes of pseudo-zzz’s. I was trying to keep my body as still as possible, because moving = hot. Meanwhile, Terri, Runner #6, had been promised a burrito from a nearby Chipotle after she finished her hot long bitch of a leg, so this exchange from Terri to myself/Renee, became known as the FLYING BURRITO EXCHANGE.

ragnar DC

I’m witnessing the handoff.

I’m glad I had someone to run this leg with, because that meant I had someone with which to WALLOW IN HOT MISERY. Renee was awesome. We tried our best to distract each other with small talk, but honestly, we were DONE…just DONE. But not done enough to not take a running-selfie:

Ragnar DC

GET US OUT OF HERE!!

2.2 miles felt like 22 miles, and it took just about that long. And OF COURSE, it ended on an uphill! In this next photo, you can just SENSE THE ENTHUSIASM as Renee and I reach the exchange.

ragnar DC

Clap…clap…clap…

The next couple of hours, we were just hanging on for dear life, and we were barely functional. We got word that Dimity’s team had finished, and that our team’s Van #1 had also arrived at the finish area, so now, everyone’s waiting for us, Van #2. Did I mention it just got hotter and hotter? HOTTER. More “stay hydrated” texts arrived from the Ragnar people. We got lost more than once. Finally, we sent off Iliana and Lorraine on the final leg! HOTTER, STILL. Heat index 99 degrees, no joke. WTH, October?

Our Van #2 arrived at the finish area, in National Harbor, MD. It was set up like a party! We waited a little for Iliana and Lorraine to come in, when lo and behold, from across the bridge, over a 1/4 mile away, we see 2 hot pink streaks coming toward us. TUTUS!!

ragnar DC

OK, this wasn’t shot from 1/4 mile away. But seriously, we saw them coming from the bridge ramp in the background!

The rest of the team gathered about 100 feet out from the finish, so that we could all run in together. And FINALLY, through the finish chute we go!

Here we are at the finish, looking hot literally and figuratively:

ragnar dc

Hotties.

We didn’t stick around long, just long enough to grab a slice of pizza and a cold beer, then we had to go clean out the vans (NOT AS EASY AS ONE WOULD THINK) and Iliana and I had to get back to our hotel. Let me just say that I slept for 12 hours STRAIGHT, with no bladder wake-up calls. That should tell you how tired/dehydrated I was!

All in all, Ragnar was a BLAST! I think I might have enjoyed it more if I weren’t so zombie-fied from the…everybody say it now…HEAT!! It took a lot out of me and I needed a few days to recover before I could resume my regular running routine. I’m not sure I’d do another Ragnar in the middle of a marathon training cycle again. My only TRUE regret is that I didn’t get to spend more time with these awesome Badass Mother Runners (on both teams). They are just the BEST! Luckily, we have a private Facebook page where we continue root each other on and the inside jokes can live on forever (“NOT Pat.”, “Cows!” and “I’m under a tree!” come to mind…I guess you just had to be there.) I only hope that I can do another Ragnar with them someday.

As for the tutu, well, let’s just say you MIGHT be seeing a 40-something woman wearing a Badass Mother Runner cap and a hot pink tutu with black trim at the Philadelphia marathon on November 17th. *Caresses tutu lovingly*

Run on, BADASSES!!

ragnar dc finish

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