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How to have a Ragnarly, dude! relay race September 5, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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Today, we are a week out from Ragnar DC – squee!  I started re-reading posts this morning from Ragnar TN back in 2012, and it got me all excited for the fun that is to come.  But, I also started getting a little anxious about logistics and packing – after all, there are a LOT of moving parts when you’re talking about 12 people, 2 vans, 200 miles, and zero sleep.

There are oodles of blog posts about how to pack for Ragnar.  When I was prepping for Tennessee, the chronic overpacker in me got really frustrated – you want to have everything you could possibly need for 3 different “mini” races (and for lots of potential weather scenarios), but you also can’t take up so much room in the van that you don’t have any left for the really important stuff (otherwise known as your teammates and a cooler).

So, rather than put together yet another in-depth packing list, I’m going to talk about the things you probably DON’T need to bring to Ragnar…

Lounging/non-running clothes – Okay, so I’m not talking about clothes for partying after you finish the race, or PJs for in the hotel the night before the start.  I’m talking about clothes for DURING the race, after you have completed one of your legs and the waiting begins.  While I definitely recommend bringing three separate running outfits, there is no point in putting on “regular” clothes in between.  You probably won’t have time anyway.  Make sure you have flip flops or slippers or other comfortable non-running shoes, and call it a day.

Enough food for a small army – Yes, you will definitely eat a lot during Ragnar.  But, not everyone likes the same things, and even ONE person’s tastes will vary during a 30+hour period (for example, I liked pumpkin muffins at the beginning of Ragnar TN, but I had eaten so many of them by the end of my second leg that I never wanted to see another one as long as I lived).  Make sure you have plenty of hydration, and sure, pack some portable and chewable fuel, but remember that you can usually stop for food at least once or twice during the journey.  I distinctly recall both a Zaxby’s AND a Cracker Barrel stop during our van’s off time.  At the time, they were both the best meals I have ever had.

Full size pillows – They take up a LOT of room.  Chances are, not everyone will be sleeping at the same time, so you could always use folded up sleeping bags and/or blankets to rest your head.  If you have one of those airplane neck pillow things, all the better – it’s small, and it works for both sitting up sleep AND laying down sleep!

Your pet – I love my furbabies as much as the next person.  Probably more, come to think about it.  But as much as you don’t want to take Fifi to the kennel while you run around the countryside, do the humane thing and spare your dogs/cats/cockatoos the misery of being crammed into a van with a bunch of crazy, delirious humans.  Plus, you don’t want your best buddy breaking loose when one of your teammates, in a sleep deprived haze, opens the door to the van before you’ve actually put the leash on.

A bad attitude – Seriously, just don’t.  Ragnar is FUN!!!  If you come expecting to have a good time, meet some cool people, and enhance your existing friendships, you’ll be in great shape.  The opportunity to be tired and cranky will most certainly present itself, but don’t take the bait!

Anyone else have tips on what not to bring?


Running Up(s) and Down(s) September 4, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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The downer is that I decided not to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year (booooo).  As thrilled as I was to win a spot in the lottery, the summer turned out to be way busier than I was anticipating, and training fell by the wayside.  There was no way I was prepared to run 26.2 miles, and I didn’t want to do it unless I could really do it well.  The good news is that MCM has a deferral program, so I paid a fee to guarantee my entry in the 2015 race.

So, what am I going to do to ensure that 2015 doesn’t go the way of 2014?  First things first, I had a consultation with a personal trainer last night – I think losing some weight and incorporating strength training into my fitness routine are both excellent ways to make progress towards next years race(s).  The workout was TOUGH, and I am still hurting today, but my miserable excuses for push-ups demonstrated that I need to get some expert help and not just focus on cardio.

Second, I am going to try to have a BLAST at Ragnar DC next weekend – hopefully, that will kick-start my get-back-in-shape campaign and renew my love of running and fitness.  Even reading some blog entries and recaps of last year’s DC Ragnar has started to get me in the spirit – so look for a post in the near future about things I am looking forward to (and hoping to do differently) during my second relay experience!

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 3 December 10, 2012

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You wouldn’t think you could get decent sleep on the floor of a high school gym with 200 other people.  You would be wrong.  I completely zonked out and was disappointed, to say the least, when my alarm rudely awakened me to tell me it was time to get moving again.  The good news?  It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, and after two nighttime legs, I was downright giddy about running during daylight hours.  We gathered the Van 2 folks and headed to the last major exchange, stopping for breakfast on the way.

Van 2

Before we knew it, we were off and running again.  The last bunch of legs were tough – Shawn had yet another doozy full of hills, and Jeremy had his longest mileage yet – but the scenery was lovely, and it took us through some really ritzy areas of suburban Nashville.  I kept secretly hoping that a country music star would pop out of his or her house to cheer us on.  I mean, come on, Blake Shelton – is that too much to ask?!?!

Then, before I knew it, it was time for me to bring it on home.  That’s right, I was charged with running the final leg, the leg that would bring me into downtown Nashville and our whole team over the finish line.  The team planned to meet me a little bit before the finish, so we could all cross together, and I couldn’t wait to make it happen.  I started off feeling awesome, just happy that I wasn’t decked out with headlamps and blinky lights.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a LOT warmer than I had anticipated, and my body was just plain beat up.  I tried to power through, but the course was super confusing (read: demoralizing), there was construction everywhere (read: fumes), and I just couldn’t gear myself up the way I wanted.  I walked.  A lot.  I felt a little better when I saw a hydration station (yet again, I was running a no-van-support leg), so I could refill my long-since-empty bottle.  When I came through a lovely park near town, I started to hype myself up.  Your team is waiting.  DO IT.  I picked up the pace, and then WHAM.  Tourist-ville.  It was like a wall of big hair and cigarette smoke.  GAH.  I said a number of not-safe-for-country-radio words, but then I crossed the street and FINALLY saw my team.  Woo hoo!  We all ran across the finish line, in various stages of battered, bruised, broken-ness, and became Ragnarians.  We did it!  We ran from Chattanooga to Nashville and lived to tell the tale.  More importantly, we didn’t kill each other, and we emerged better friends than when we started the journey.


Bottom line: Ragnar was hard.  Like, REALLY hard.  There are definitely things I would do differently next time.  But there WILL be a next time.  I had a blast, and I would recommend the race to anyone.  I will always treasure the experience – and it is pretty badass to be able to drive home from Nashville to Chattanooga and think, “Yeah…I ran that.”  😉

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 2 November 24, 2012

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After our first full cycle of both vans, our van decided to find something to eat and hit the local Wal-Mart before moving to the next major exchange for showers and possible naptime.  That turned out to be ill-advised, because a) the exchange didn’t open when we were ready, due to a high school football game, and b) Van 1 absolutely BLEW through their second legs, and they put us about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  So, I was naked in a locker room (after simultaneously the best and worst shower of my life) when I got a text from Van 1 that basically said, “Get ready, here we come!”  After some squealing and running around and minor panicking, we got our shit together and headed to the handoff point.  Unfortunately, this is where pictures get kind of spotty – it is hard to capture nighttime Ragnar-ing!

The second legs seemed to go really well.  They were a lot quieter than the first round – I think that makes sense, since they were in the middle of the night AND they were each generally a bit shorter.  We tried to stay close to our runners as much as possible, which ended up being fortuitous for Raphael, who took a wrong turn at the beginning of his leg and would have wound up in Ohio had we not seen him and put him back on the right path.

By the time it was my turn to run again, everyone had one thing on their minds – SLEEP.  I was less anxious about this leg, since it was half the distance and I had already survived one overnight run, but I gotta tell ya – it still worked my nerves.  There were dogs barking EVERYWHERE in the distance, and I was sure I was going to have a run-in with one of them at some point.  Thankfully, I focused on my breathing and I got through the 3.6 miles with my sanity in tact.  After passing the bracelet to Van 1, I headed into the high school gym and settled into my sleeping bag.  Two hours of sleep would have to do…

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 1 November 18, 2012

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As I mentioned previously, Ragnar kind of snuck up on us.  Even though we had a team meeting and generally knew what our plan was, I woke up the Thursday we were supposed to depart and I was VERY nervous.  Thankfully, I had taken the day off, so I had plenty of time to pack and prepare.  I baked some pumpkin muffins for the team, dropped the pupster off at doggie camp, and worked for far too many hours on the shockingly difficult process of packing for an overnight race.  Seriously, it is HARD to pack for two days in a van.  I ended up bringing a completely different outfit for each leg (awesome idea), and some extra clothes for lounging (totally unnecessary, as there was not as much time/opportunity to change as I thought), but overall I tried to bring as little as possible.  I am a chronic overpacker, so it was quite challenging!

We met at our captain’s house around 6:30 PM, as not everyone had the luxury of not working.  We distributed some gear and goodies, and we were on our way.  By the time we arrived in Chattanooga, it was pretty late and everyone just wanted to get to sleep, so we decided to decorate the van the following morning.  Unfortunately, I slept TERRIBLY – I don’t know if it was excitement or terror or what, but I just did not get any quality rest.  Boo.  Soon enough, it was race morning – time to head to the start line and see Van 1 off!  Well, after a team picture, of course…

As soon as we sent Van 1 on its way, we headed to the Cracker Barrel for a good solid breakfast.  As soon as we ordered, I got a text from one of our Van 1 compatriots – turns out that Runner #1 decided to attempt a “running moon” and, well, it did not turn out so great.  Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt (well, I still maintain that we were all mentally scarred), but it definitely set the tone for the crazy journey ahead of us.  I mean, really – 30 minutes in and we were already talking about someone’s naked ass?  Oy…

With full tummies, we headed to exchange 6 for our Van 2 safety briefing.  Before we knew it, it was time for the handoff and for our van to take over.  Shawn was our first runner up, and after we passed him coming out of the park, we realized he was in for a MONSTER challenge.  As we drove his leg, our jaws just dropped farther and farther open – it was a really steep incline, and it just never seemed to end.  We got to the exchange and waited, and we were all so proud and impressed when Shawn crested the hill and passed the bracelet on.  Whew!  The next few legs were easy to moderate – Jason, Jeremy, Raphael, and Stephanie all did great, and we enjoyed cheering them on as we passed them on the road AND met them at the exchange points.  We also enjoyed a lot of funny looks AND mad respect for our injured comrades – Raph was running in his sling (dislocated shoulder), and Jaclyn was driving us around in her boot (stress fracture)!

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, it was time for my first leg.  It was already full-on dark.  I was full-on panicking.  I got geared up in my reflective vest, two blinky rear lights, and head lamp.  Stephanie ended up running the previous leg faster than we anticipated, so I had to bust ass to go get the bracelet from her – it totally wasn’t her fault, but it just added extra anxiety to an already nerve-wracking situation.  My heart rate was all over the place.  The first little bit was uphill, but then there was a serious and steady decline, and it. Was. HORRIFYING.  I mean, I am not trying to be melodramatic, but it may have been the scariest thing I have ever done.  Think about it – as a woman, you are always told, don’t run in the dark, don’t run by yourself, don’t run in areas you don’t know.  Well, I was knocking out all three of those no-no’s all at once.  Every noise made me worry that I was going to be attacked by wild animals.  Every curve or bump in the road made me terrified that I was going to fall and break my ankle (again).  INTENSE.  Thankfully, a lovely young lady from another team paced with me for a couple of miles, and it really helped.  After the long downhill, the leg become more challenging – a lot more climbing than I had anticipated.  Between the darkness, the terrain, and the solitude, I really think those 7.9 miles may have been harder, at least mentally, than either of the two marathons I’ve completed.

When I saw the “one mile to go” sign, I was super duper happy.  When I saw the lights and heard the cheers from the exchange point, I was even MORE super duper happy!  I passed the bracelet to Runner #1, and the rotation started all over again.  After hugs all around, it was time to find a shower…


Seasons change November 8, 2012

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Last time I posted, it was summer – I was talking about record high temperatures and the Peachtree Road Race.  Now it is November, and holy crap, we are leaving today to embark upon the craziest running event ever (the Tennessee Ragnar – more on that in a minute).  What the hell happened???

Well, life and work and all of that crap happened.  After my boss got promoted in late April/early May, things just snowballed out of control until his replacement (long story) arrived in October.  Then October decided to be a hella hairy month instead of the usual breather (we switch over our fiscal year in October, so generally we get at least SOME kind of break – not so this time around).  In between, I traveled a lot for business, I tried to get into yoga (verdict: I like it, but I definitely need more practice, and finding the time is tough), and we also trained for and completed both the Bike MS two-day ride AND the Athens half marathon.  So, it’s not like we’ve been sitting on our asses, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been focusing on our training quite the way we’d like.

Which brings me to today.  Ragnar COMPLETELY snuck up on us.  I wasn’t stressing it TOO much, since my legs were easy-to-moderate difficulty, but then one of our teammates had an awful family emergency and had to back out at the last minute.  We couldn’t find a replacement runner on such short notice, so we had to play fruit basket turnover and switch everyone around.  Now I am running more mileage and harder legs than I was before, so I am a lot more nervous about the whole thing.  Plus, I believe now more of my assigned shifts will be in the dark of night than previously.  Eek!  Guess I better use the time I have today and make sure I have some Mace to carry with me…I am such a weenie when it comes to running in the dark.  I can only pray the someone else will be running around my pace, and I will have some company!

All anxiety aside, I am looking forward to the Ragnar experience.  I think it is going to be a lot of fun.  Challenging, definitely.  But how many people can say they have run from Chattanooga to Nashville with a dozen of their friends?  🙂

I am sure there will be a follow up post.  Stay tuned!