Running the Cape ~ Ragnar Cape Cod

So, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod.  Where do I even begin?  The fact that I ate more bread in a four-hour period than I had in two weeks (I’m talking heavenly delicious blueberry granola bread from When Pigs Fly)?  Or that I got a total of 3 hours’ max of restless sleep?  Or that I had three of the hardest runs in my life (or last four years) and pretty much was crying on leg #3, my second 9.6 trek? Or that I had an absolute blast and couldn’t stop laughing the entire trip?

Yeah, I don’t know where to begin either so let’s just start at the beginning.  As I mentioned last Friday, I had completed a few of these Ragnar Relays in the past.  As a matter of fact, I completed the Wasatch Back Relay, which was the inaugural Ragnar (it started back in 2003).  When you tell someone that you are voluntarily paying to run between 15-22 miles and sit in a car for 24+ hours, they will probably think you are insane. I tried again and again to explain what would happen and why it was fun but it turns out you can’t comprehend what will go down on one of these trips – no matter how many posts and articles you read – until you have completed one.

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(Source)

It started back when my friends Kayla and Lauren decided to enter the race lottery.  Due to the size of the cape and the sheer fact that we would be running through the streets during the day and night, a lottery application system was required.  When they found out that they had won a spot, they immediately started to fill a team.  To fill a full team, you will need 12 people.  For the longest time, we only had 6.  It fluttered between 5 and 6 a few times and then I started to freak out.  We were about a month out and still didn’t have a full team.  By the sheer grace of God, we managed to find enough runners only to have three drop within 2 days due to injury.

At this point I had many reasons why the universe was against us. Many of them I no longer remember and probably had made up to be dramatic.  In the end, we managed to get to the starting line and finish AND almost placed in our category (spoiler alert).  But let’s jump back to Thursday.

On Thursday morning, about five of us met up to pick up the minivan from La Guardia Enterprise and drive up to Boston.   Around 7 or so hours after meeting up, we had picked up food at Costco and arrived at Kayla’s house to spend the night.  Kayla’s mom made the most amazing dinner of cous cous, grilled vegetables, and salmon, which was topped with a maple glaze.  At some point during the afternoon we discovered that the van had a low tire and would need to be replaced.  (<< This was one of the incidents that made me believe the universe was against us).  The remaining runners arrived later that night and once we had a mini pow-wow about race strategy, we were off to bed.

Originally when we had submitted our running paces, we (Van #1) were set to start the race at 12pm.  By estimating a 9min mile pace for every runner, we were set to finish by 6:35 or after the race finish area was closed.  I didn’t consider the fact that some people might be 1) injured or sore and need to run slower or 2) people would feel fabulous and run like a bat out of hell.  Let’s just say that everyone had 2 of their 3 legs (and sometimes 3/3) with scenario #2.

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In the morning, we woke up and started to decorate and pack both vans.  Van #1 headed off early in hopes that they could start earlier than 12 and sure enough, they were able to start around 10:15!  Kayla’s mom was the real winner that weekend because she made both teams their own frittata.  Yours truly decided to eat breakfast with both teams because why not?  Well, my stomach would later regret this decision big-time.  Once we sent Van #1 off, a few of us went to pick up bread from Kayla’s favorite bakery When Pigs Fly as well as some cold brew coffee bottles for the next couple of days.

Folks.  This blueberry granola bread is crack.  Whether you toast it with a little butter or don’t toast it, it is pure heaven.  I would know since I pretty much ate half the loaf and I’m sure everyone commented on it.  Awwwwwkward.

Our van left the Boston area around 11:30ish, drove to the wrong destination, back tracked, and finally arrived at exchange #1 by 3:15 or so.  To be completely honest, I’m giving estimations of time because I didn’t note down every.single.thing.  Just go with me. 🙂  Once we arrived at the exchange, we were able to catch up with Van #1, pick up some free samples, and then check out all the other team’s decorations.  Like I said, people had dressed up their cars to the nines and had taken this thing super seriously.  I made mental notes for if (when) I do another race.  Our team was really rolling by the seat of our pants – a Kaitlin classic.

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When runner #6 from Van #1 came flying through the arch, it was time for our van to head off.  Kayla jetted out and away we went!  This was probably my favorite part of the day since I was driving and loooooove to drive (except in traffic but who does?).  It was also a bit like the Amazing Race, always needing to figure out the logistics on the fly, check in with the runner and make sure we were at the next pit stop in time, which we were not always.  I would blame that on the fact that one of our runners – Zoe – was SPEEDY and there were a couple of legs where we just couldn’t get in and out of the parking lot in time.

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Around 7:18 pm (thank you Strava) I headed out for my first run.  It was 9.6 miles and I was a little over eager at first.  You can totally notice the excitement start to decrease as the miles went on {7:38 – 7:48 – 7:40 – 7:52 – 8:16 – 8:06 – 8:12 – 8:48 – 8:34 – 8:51 all for a 8:09 average pace} .  Even though the scenery was pretty and the sunset was gorgeous, I was regretting the snacks and REALLY regretting that bread.

As soon as I finished, it was time for Van #1 to start their second leg and Van #2 to take a rest.  By our initial calculations, we should have finished around 11pm and should be ready to nap but that wasn’t going to happen.  In fact, runners usually get no more than 4 hours of sleep during these types of races.  Yikes!  Anyways, I chugged a chocolate milk in the back of the van and attempted to stretch out.  We ended up at the next pitstop and tried to catch a few winks of sleep.  I stretched outside, talked to the family for a few minutes, and then curled up in the van for about 2 hours of restless sleep.  People would be coming and going through the parking lot and chatting at all volumes so sleep was really pointless.

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Around 12:45, the girls came back from sleeping (resting) in the gym since it was time for Kayla to get ready and pumped up for leg #2.  Again, I must note that we didn’t expect for people to be racing these and yet, were running the legs a lot faster than anticipated.

Some people worry about running in the middle of the night but there is nothing to be concerned about.  You are required to wear a headlamp, vest, and reflector clips (“taillights”) and there are plenty of cones and volunteers to help along the way.  Plus, you do end up running most legs with other runners, passing some and some passing you.  My teammates had at least 10 “kills” (where they pass someone) on their routes but since I was stuck with the arguably tougher or just longer legs, I got a total of 9 between all three.

I ran my second leg around 4:15am {2.8 mi – 7:54 – 7:58 – 8} along a bike path and again regretted the bread and snacking that had occurred during the middle of the night.  This whole stomach situation I know is only minor in comparison to what some people have to deal with but is new to me.  It’s also why I love running on a fasted or semi-fasted stomach first thing in the morning.  When I finished around 4:45am, we packed up to go to the last exchange and settled down for a nap in the parking lot.  Ok, I settled into the van in the parking lot and a few of the girls tried to sleep in the school gym.  Again, it was colder and louder than anticipated and they later came back to rest in the van.

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Funny story though about the last exchange.  It was located 15 minutes away from Kayla’s Cape Cod house where we were planning to spend Saturday night.  That meant that we could have easily driven there, showered or at least passed out for a couple hours of SOLID sleep before running the last leg.  I had done something similar in Utah but didn’t realize that Kayla’s house was that close!  Well, hindsight is 20/20 right?

Around 10:15 (or so), our first runner Kayla set off for her third and final leg.  By this point, muscles were tight and stomachs were still out of whack (oh, just me? Cool).  It was an invigorating feeling to know that we were on the homestretch and that we were also crushing our anticipated finish time.  Everyone was coming back with at least 9-15 kills and I was somewhat dreading my last 9.6 miles.  Well, the time came for me to get moving and around 1:15 pm I headed out for the last leg.  For 9.6 miles I ran along a dirt path, side road, and main road to Provincetown {8:54 – 8:10 – 8:48 – 8:32 – 8:50 – 9:41 – 9:43 0 9:33 – 9:42 – 9:29}.  I passed a few people and a few passed me, including someone dressed as Forest Gump.

In my moments of weakness (yes, there were quite a few since it was hot and I was tired) I wondered why I had signed up for something like this.  Why was I running and what am I doing in my life?  Right now running and working out is a passion and there’s a passage from the latest Runner’s World that sums this up perfectly:

{It’s a way to push our limits, prove that we can accomplish something. It’s the stitching that holds our lives together; a means of training to step out of your comfort level.  Running isn’t about the places it takes you but the people you meet on the way.}

Just some food for thought.

So, while contemplating oh so many things and almost 90 minutes later, I arrived at P-Town and reconnected with the rest of my teammates.  Our team had finished in just over 28 hours and we later discovered that if we had a team of all girls (which we had initially), we would have placed 5th!!  Not only that but our name “Big Apple Cod Squad” was ranked as one of the top names from this year’s race!  After a quick and complementary meal of sandwich/soup, we started to head out to Kayla’s house for a night of celebration and relaxation.

All in all it was an amazing weekend.  I had no idea that it would go this well and I have not laughed this much in so long.  We had plenty of time on Sunday to chat/laugh about what went right and what went wrong.  There’s no point in writing it all out since it would be it’s own post and most of it wouldn’t make sense to anyone besides our van. But there were some tips and tricks we took away from the trip and were certainly use when/if we were to do this again.

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Tips

  • When runners are on deck (getting ready to run), you should have someone walk to the exchange point and wait for them to head off. You can also bring water, food, a blanket or whatever requested to hand over to the runner finishing their leg.
  • NYC poncho: Since we were in the NE, there were a ton of people who had run the NYC marathon and brought their super soft (and warm) poncho along. This is perfect for in the car or even while waiting between legs.  I definitely need to get more use out of this!
  • Try to cheer for your runner along their leg – either pick a halfway spot or cheer as you drive by (carefully…duh)
  • Portable speakers: Again, something I own and just don’t use that often. This would be helpful when hanging in the car or if we are camped out somewhere.  Our minivan didn’t have a cord to connect the phone to the speakers so portable and wireless would have come in clutch.
  • Pack your clothes for each leg in a separate plastic bag.  Bring warm clothes because it does cool off at night!!
  • Shelving for the van: There were tons of expert teams with mega vans, lights decorating the interior and exterior and a couple teams with better layouts than we did. Some had hammocks and sleeping bags and others had mattresses in their vans.  One team – Team Sloth – put a piece of shelving in their trunk so that they could place the bags on the bottom and plastic containers for each runner on the top. For a team that pretty much unpacked and repacked the car every.single.leg, this might have been helpful.
  • Have fun.

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Have you done a Ragnar or have any interest in Ragnars?

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3 thoughts on “Running the Cape ~ Ragnar Cape Cod

  1. Great write up. I was the #12 runner as well, the last leg to P-Town is daunting and a true test. Our team ran on behalf of the Avielle Foundation, running for a charity made the lonely times much easier to find a motivation to finish.

  2. Pingback: Life of Late ~ 5.26.17 | California Endless Summer

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