Sunday, October 24, 2021

2021 Ragnar New England Recap

I did some research and while I still don't know the exact first time I learned of "a Ragnar", it was probably late 2015.  Nevertheless, in July 2016 I finally made my desires public about doing a Ragnar.  Wut is a Ragnar you might ask.  LET ME JUST TELL YOU (again, kinda).  

There are now several varieties of Ragnar race, but my ultimate goal was to run a Ragnar road relay; 200 miles covered by 12 (or 6) individuals over a 36 hour period, preferably in the northeast in the fall (during leaf season).  In my July 2016 post, I literally described running the Ragnar Cape Cod event and I didn't even realize it.  Ragnar Cape Cod doesn't exist anymore, but Ragnar New England replaced it and that was the race that I signed up for in August on a whim.  

I did an obnoxious amount of research before this race.  Obviously, people have done it before me and I wanted to be prepared in terms of what to bring and how to be the best teammate.  I was also researching for our NoVA Sunset at the same time, so 2 birds, 1 stone deal.  

So here's how this went down.
In late August I looked at my schedule and assessed that I was free Oct 23/34th and maaaayyybbeee I could find a run to fill my time.  At the time, I was starting to gear up for the Sunset Ragnar so I looked at the upcoming race schedule and saw that the New England event happened to be during my open weekend.  Convenient, one might say.  But I needed to find a team that needed a runner.  To the social medias I go!

I joined a "looking for group" Facebook group for Ragnar and other relay races and posted that I was looking for a team for my first road Ragnar.  I got a few responses, but mostly for ultra teams.  An ultra team is a team of 6 instead of 12.  So instead of running 3 legs, you run 6, but still all 200 miles.  It seemed like a big challenge for my first race, so I communicated that with the people who had messaged me and waited.  I saw 2 women post that they were looking for teammate and I contacted one who was in Delaware, but I took to long to pull the trigger with her and she filled the team before I could confirm.  Shit or get off the pot, so it was totally fair.  Then I contacted the other woman who had posted about needing teammates.  They were still looking and actually had 3 available spots.  I told her I'd take one.  

There was some Venmo shenanigans where I almost lost $350 to a ghost account (the race fee twice because the app sucks), but through a fucking miracle, Venmo refunded me my dollhairs.  I got money to the right person and was good to go.  Obviously, I was telling Teh Bestie about all of my drama plans and then she was like, you want me to go with you?  When would I ever say no to that?  SO THEEENNN, Teh Bestie said she'd run with me/us and she joined the team.  Then we had 1 more spot available in our van.  On a whim, I messaged Matilda and was like, "Yo, you wanna run a Ragnar with me and Teh Bestie?"  And she was like, "When? I'm in."  Our trio was going to reunite!  We hadn't run together since Feb 2020, so it was the ultimate excitement.

Teh Bestie and I had a zoom call with the rest of the group (prior to Matilda's commitment) to essentially get to know each other before we just showed up and spent 48 hours together (thanks to 2020 for making a zoom call a not weird way to meet people, lol).  Thankfully, the meet and greet went very well, the other 3 runners seemed to accept Teh Bestie and I and my/our craziness, so that was good.  In the week/s leading up to the race, we had a group text where we were able to ask questions and make sure we were all on the same page, which was very helpful.  

THEN FINALLYYYYY, it was runcation time!


PRE-RACE ADVENTURES

On Thursday, I picked up Teh Bestie at 0430 and we headed to the Amtrak station to catch our train to Westerly, RI.  We opted for the train because it took just as long as a flight but was $75 roundtrip for 2 people instead of $500.  It was a super early train because Teh Bestie wanted to do some touristing in Mystic, RI and get pizza at Mystic Pizza (yes, like from the movie (I've never seen)) for lunch.  We didn't realize the train actually stopped in Mystic, so instead of going all the way to Westerly and getting an Uber to get there and back, we hopped off the train at Mystic and just walked the 10 minutes into town (yes, with our luggage).  We did some window shopping as we made our way to the pizza place.


NYC


We were having a whale-y good time!


Perfection = brownie with pumpkie pie ice cream


The pizza was pretty good and then we followed it up with ice cream at the bridge, as was suggested.  After noms, we got a Lyft to Westerly where I outjoked our driver like a fucking boss.  Our hotel was right on the water, which was a nice surprise.  While I really wanted to go to the beach (my annual beach excursion) and make my snow-sacrifice (snacrifice, if you will, where I go to the beach (which I don't love) as an offering to Mother Nature so I receive some snow, it's a trade-off), I really needed a nap... which is what ended up happening and it was glorious.  I knew I was about to fuck up my normal routine, so it didn't matter too much.  


We woke up shortly before sunset and finally made our way to the beach, just in time for sunset which was PERFECTION.






As we were coming in from the beach, the rest of the team arrived (with Matilda, who they'd picked up on the way)!  We all met in person finally and after they got settled into their room, we headed out to dinner at Hoof's.  We literally popped into Connecticut and back into Rhode Island for a minute before dinner.



Swordfish with some stuff.

After dinner, we headed to Walmart to pick up van snacks and then we headed back to the hotel to try and get some rest.

LEG 1

In an unfortunate turn of event, van 1 lost 2 people the week of the race.  So they were down to 4 people, which caused some kerfluffles.  Actually, inconsiderate teammates caused kerfluffles, but we managed.  First off, Van 1 started too early and our team received a warning.  You get 3 strikes and you're out of a Ragnar race, which means you're disqualified (which means no medal, go home).  Strikes are given for safety violations and time violations.  They try to keep everyone on a schedule so people don't arrive too early at stops that haven't been set up yet or arrive to late and miss the amenities.  There is a LOT of calculation that goes into arrival/departure times in consideration of the current runner's pace/distance, so it is a science.  Because Van 1 was down 2 runners, that mean the recovery time for van 2 (our van) would be less, which fucking sucks.  Van 2 was not allowed to start until 10:15 on Friday morning, so at least we got to sleep in.  We all commented about how glad we were to not have to be waking up at 0530 to get to the start line by 0630 for a 0700 race start.  #runnerproblems lolz.  We got to our exchange (area where your team switches runners) and poked around.  We picked up our bibs/shirts and checked out the store (same stuff as at the Sunset race) and started to get set up for a group photo when the last runner from van 1 came into the exchange and our first runner, Abby, was off... (in the wrong direction because the person directing runners told her the wrong direction and it took a half mile for those runners to figure out they were going the wrong direction).  We loaded up into the van and headed for the next exchange where I would start running.

"Start line" selfie!

We were lucky that we had a driver for the van, instead of us runners having to navigate/drive.  We stopped ahead of Abby to offer her support if she wanted and also took the time to decorate the van.




At the exchange, Abby passed on the slap bracelet to me, and off I went for my first leg!




LOOK AT THAT PACE!
That's adrenaline for you!


I passed off the slap bracelet to Teh Bestie and off she went!  We headed to the next exchange to pick her up then Matilda would start her leg!

More Snacrifice

Why hello Air Force, didn't expect to find you here.



Then we headed to pick up Matilda and Monica set off!

Teh Bestie on flag duty so Matilda didn't get hit by a car.

So fast! Much fasts!

Then we headed to the next exchange, then finally to the major exchange where van 1 would start running again.  Another kerfluffle with van 1 when we asked them to take a water cooler we couldn't use from our van since we didn't really have room and they only had 4 people and they told us "not our problem".  I almost lost my shit.  The back of the van was re-Tetris-ed, but we were still extremely cramped.

All the vans!

Octopus is my new favorite critter.

Since we didn't have anyone running, we found dinner on the way to the next major exchange.  For me, it was a flop, but everyone else said the food was good.  I ordered steak (medium) frites, and my steak came out charred and extremely well done and I had to send it back.  I tried to be cool about it, but I felt like we had to wait an extremely long time for our server to take our order then for our food and then for my food to come back out, our glasses stayed mostly empty, and then it took forever to even get to ask for checks.  I was over it.  I knew I was tired, but I also was not impressed with the place.

LEG 2


Finally, we were on our way to the next major exchange, a school, so we could maybe sleep.  The school was open (bathrooms and the cafeteria), but there didn't seem to be an available sleep space, which kinda sucked.  So we set up on the grass outside (#RagnarStyle).  I had my pillow and a blanket, but had opted not to bring a sleeping bag to save on space.  It was all fine until the wind started blowing and the temp dropped and I got cold and woke up.  I relocated to the van.  Before Abby set out, I changed into my running outfit so I could be ready and brushed my teeth.  Once she started her leg, we headed to the next exchange.

Leg 2 was our night run.  I was excited about this because I enjoy night runs.  Because it's almost Halloween, there was some creepy shit about, but it was fine.  I was tired, but still kept a good pace, which I was proud of since I was worried my first leg burned me out (#overachiever).





This creepy guy with the glowy eyes at the door took me off-guard since it was 2-something in the middle of the night.



LEG 3


With my night leg complete, it was a matter of waiting until the next major exchange for more sleeps.  Thankfully, the next major exchange was a school with an open locker room and gym, which was perfection.  Matilda took the opportunity to shower.  Teh Bestie, Abby, and I wiped down and stretched.  After, a few of us fetched our sleeping stuff from the van and headed back to the gym to try and sleep.  I was torn on this because I really wanted something to eat before my last run, but the rest of the team wanted sleep more, so I prayed snacked would be sufficient (they were not, but the sleep wasn't so bad).

things I can talk to: sleeping in a unicorn onesie on the floor of a school basketball court.
#askmeanything loool



Again, because of being down 2 runners, van 1 was done in a short amount of time and we had to start rolling again.  Abby set off and we stopped to offer support (water/needs) about halfway, where I made some new friends.

New frans.
Obviously I'm not picky.

"high"-five line!

Once Abby gave us her jacket and continued on, we headed to the next exchange which we had difficulty finding.  This was good for the runners because we got to nap some, but bad for the driver/navigator since they had to figure out where we needed to be.  Thankfully, it was a long leg, but unfortunately, we arrived shortly before Abby did.  I was pulling up my pants in the porta-potty when I heard people start cheering for her as she ran into the exchange.  Uhh.. cool.  So I exited the porta-potty and Abby passed off the slap bracelet to me.  I commented that I wanted to grab my shirt from the van and other runners (not from our team) were like, "You'll be fine!  Just go!  You'll warm up fast."  My teeth finally stopped chattering after a mile.  

For leg 3, I took a different approach.  My body was hurting and my hip was angry.  I was running on no sleep, not the right fuel/food, and adrenaline mostly and I knew we had PLENTY of time (what with van 1 ghosting 2 runners).  So I let myself mentally slow down.  My pace was already slow from the rest of the circumstances (and the fallen pine needles that covered 90% of the trail when I wasn't running on the edge of the road), but rather than focus on getting to the end, I focused on all the things around me.  I stopped and took photos to have memories of this, not just the silly stuff to share, but things I appreciate that aren't for sharing (it's weird how I fall into the trap of only taking photos of things to share and I don't allow myself to keep things that only mean something to me).

The road less traveled.

When I passed through the park gate (behind me) and I knew there would be no van support to deliver the long sleeve shirt I had wanted.  C'est la vie.

Everything I had been waiting on for my New England run.
Just call me a leaf peeper.  IDC.

I could have stood here for HOURS.

Look at this good boi/gurl.

Motherfuckin fall yall.

More on this photo in a bit.

IDK what this building was, but it said Constitution with the ship, so I thought it was cool.

A sundial!


LAST LEG COMPLETE!
(It says: I am enough!)

Feels talk for a minute.

When I was running my first leg, I was running through Charlestown and feeling the irony because it will be our 1 year MD anniversary in a week.  But I was also amused at the irony of Charlestown being my leg when I moved from CharlesTON, it wouldn't have meant anything to anyone else.  I was thinking about how much I miss our Neighbor Besties and the GLCK and the life we had there and knowing where things were and not having to use GPS to get to everywhere and knowing the traffic patterns.. because we'd lived there for a while and learned those things.  We will learn those things about our new area too (we already have) and we've made new friends, but a new chapter isn't always easy and it doesn't stop us from missing what we had.

But before I even got to Charlestown, within the first 1.5 miles, I was running on the side of a highway like a fucking crazy person, a crazy person who paid to do this, and thinking to myself, THIS IS IT.  I FINALLY FUCKING DID IT.  I'M DOING IT RIGHT NOW.  I'M RUNNING A MOTHERFUCKIN' RAGNAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  There were tears.  This challenge felt impossible 5 years ago and I let the logistics scare me for FIVE YEARS and this year I threw caution to the wind (literally, I found people on the internet that I would spend 48 hours with that I didn't know from Adam).  I wasn't afraid of the running, I was afraid of the logistics... and once I stepped around that, I FUCKING ACHIEVED MY GOAL.  There isn't a single way of accomplishing something and that was the reinforced lesson of this achievement.  I didn't HAVE to find 12 people, I could be the ONE person that 11 people needed.  Or in my case, less than 11, but still.  I know social media gets a LOT of shit because it's awful sometimes, but it's also good sometimes.  It brings people together and can help people.  

During my 2nd leg, I was focused on not tripping on loose gravel or getting hit by cars that might not see me and not having heart attacks from creepy shit like the Sanderson sisters hanging from a tree by the road.  Also, I started a new audiobook with one of my favorite narrators and it started getting good, so I was excited to continue listening.  While my hurting bits were glad the run was over, I could have kept ignoring the pain to keep going so I could keep listening to my book and enjoy the night run.

For the 3rd leg, I was challenged from the start.  I was cold, I was tired, I was in a bad headspace and knew I needed to fix my attitude before I finished so I could be excited for the team.  Did I mention that I fought a headache from a few hours after my first leg until after the end of the race?  I medicated, but I think that I was dehydrated and that was causing problems.  The no sleep and weird eating didn't help either.  So I was in a bad place and I knew that focusing on WHY I was there and all the things that made me WANT to be there would help set me straight.  

So I was trudging along, taking the leaf photos and people were passing me (don't curr about your #killcount, if you care about how many people you pass, we're not doing this for the same reason), hoping my teeth wouldn't start chattering again, sighing heavily over the slippery pine needles that would probably try to kill me if I tried anything other than gingerly treading.  I passed the one-ish mile left sign, texted it to the team so they knew I was inbound, with a comment that I was taking it slow.  I had a mile to get my head right, that's ~10 minute for me.  Kept trudging for half a mile and I was looking at the houses, nbd.  Most of the houses have stone walls in the front yard and I thought that was cool, but this one house had a weird pattern of rocks on the hill in front of the stone wall and I thought it was interesting.  Then I realized the stones had words painted on them, so I stopped to read it.

The Kindness Rock Project
Take one for motivation, leave one for inspiration.

I thought to myself, that's a cute idea and turned to keep running on and before I could even start up running again, this rock, to the left of the design, caught my eye.

I AM ENOUGH

If you've been here for a minute, you know that "I am enough" is significant to me, to the point that I even have it as a tattoo.  I have struggled with not being enough and I've struggled with being more than enough.  But I should never have to quantify what my enough is, because as I am, I am enough.  

I am enough to want to do this race. 
I am enough to DO this race.
I am enough to complete this race.
I am enough to be a member of this team.
I am enough to be the captain of a team (NoVA Sunset).
I am enough to dress like a unicorn for most of the race (when I wasn't running).
I am enough to be the friend that motivates others.. (to want to do this race too).
I am enough.

I.
Am.
Enough.

I had to walk until I was done crying (because I didn't want to slip on the pine needles or trip on a broken spot in the path from a root emerging while I was unable to see) but once I stopped crying, I picked up the pace and made it through the finish line to the Cookie Godmother (a stranger who was handing out chocolate chip cookies at the exchange point) and my vanmates who were cheering me on (with a sweater in hand to give to me in case I still needed it, because they are the best (and had guilt, lol)) and to Teh Bestie who was waiting for the slap bracelet.  

This is why I wrote "I am enough" for my final leg checkbox.  I had been reminded.  I needed to be reminded and the Universe delivered.

I was finished with my race and from that point on all I had left to do was cheer on my vanmates and cross the finish line with the rest of the team.  I was hurting and exhausted and exhilarated and excited.  

We trekked on to the next exchange point to pick up Teh Bestie and for Matilda to start her final leg.



Since we had time, we made sure to get some group photos.  We only considered Van 1 our team based on technicality.  There were 2 rotten apples in Van 1 that really ruined it for us, that I'll make sure to never run with again, but the other 2 women were really nice and I'm kinda sad they had to deal with those other 2 individuals.  Anyways, we took our vanmates photos at this exchange because we knew the finish line area would be chaos and the background at the exchange was perfect.

2021 Between a Walk and a Snail's Pace Van 2!

2021 Between a Walk and a Snail's Pace Van 2 but tired.


We got lucky at the exchange point for our last runner.  What had happened was, the exchange was at a YMCA.  Know what YMCA's have?  Locker rooms.  Know what locker rooms have?  SHOWERS.  Captain Abby, Teh Bestie, and I snuck in like sneaky-sneaks and showered quicklike while we waited on Matilda to come back for our last runner to leave.  Ya'll, I've never appreciated a shower more than that one.  It wasn't that I felt all that gross (I mean, I was, but not the point), but we had planned to shower at the hotel of one of our vanmates after the race, but we kinda got the hint that they didn't want that to happen.  So when we discovered a shower opportunity, we took advantage of that.  Especially Teh Bestie and I, since we didn't really want to have to shower on the train.  I have no regrets.

Matilda opted not to shower and we packed the van back up and headed towards the finish line.


Tribute Time

Also, because this post is already 900 years long, I'm just gonna go ahead and throw in my Bestie tribute here.


To this woman who really does complete me (and my sentences and my thoughts and sometimes my actions when I forget what I'm doing), Teh Bestest Bestie,

What the fuck would I do without you?  I mean seriously.  You joined me on this crazy adventure with STRANGERS because you have listened to me go on and on and on about doing a Ragnar for years.  In fact, I didn't even have to ASK you to join me, you were just like, ok, so when is it so I can put it on the calendar and tell the Husband.  I literally could not ask for a better Bestie/not-wife-Wife.  I don't even have the words for how grateful I am every.single.day that you are my person and that I get YOU in MY life (and now the 8 hours closer version).

#TeamBrokeAsses
#MegNey4Eva


I'm also gonna give a shoutout to Matilda who joined us at the last minute because she thought we were in pickle so she joined us at the last minute despite a having minimal available time off and having homework due.  I'm so glad I chatted you up all those years ago and that you continue to tolerate my/our shenanigans and I've missed your face since Feb 2020 and I'm already ready for our next race.  Thank you for dealing with my attitude and I'm sorry that I'm kind of a bitch sometimes and I'm glad you're so awesome because you make me more awesome.



Ok, enough of the mushy stuff.

THE FINISH LINE

As is Ragnar tradition, the entire team crossed the finish line with the last runner.  Based on past experience with the runners of Van 1, the captain knew that they would probably leave as soon as they got their medals, which was fine, since we planned the same thing, AFTER medal photos!!!

2021 Between a Walk and a Snail's Pace!

Sooo maybe it should say "Together we can... We are Ragnarians.
Whatever, we do what we wawnt.
Each medal has a different line on the back.  The captain tried to give them out accordingly.
You can guess which one I got and then I'll show you. 

My WTF face when Cousin Eddie photobombed us.


HIGHLY recommend grabbing booties to get the BEST laughter photos.
#secrettrick (it works on Teh Bestie every time)

Van 2

So I forgot to explain something, the elephant unicorn in the room.  I am a morale booster and I'm not afraid to do silly shit.  Teh Bestie and I have this unicorn thing going on.  They are magical beasts, much like we are, so we are into that shit.  You're never to young for things that make you happy, so don't come at me with, "Unicorns are for kids."  Fuck off.  

So anyways, these unicorn onesies popped up on Woot a few weeks before the race and I sent the link to our Van group text and was like, "CAN WE PLEASE ALL WEAR THESE?!?!"  There was debate about the fact that our name has snails, so maybe a snail costume would be better and I did look for a snail, but then realized the whole shell thing and having something on your back being annoying and explained that and the captain said, yeah I get it, and approved the unicorns.  Only Teh Bestie and I purchased them though and with Woot, if you don't get it that day, it's likely not available later.  THENNNN, when we were at Walmart picking up our van snacks for the race, we went through the Halloween section to view the candy selection annnnddd there happened to be unicorn onesies, so Abby the Captain purchased one to wear with us.

The unicorn was the BEST silly idea I had for the entire race because it was rather chilly for the entire weekend and I was SUPER warm in the onesie.  It was slightly annoying when I needed to pee, but otherwise, I was extremely happy with the purchase.  Also, we got a lot of fun attention because of the costume.  We didn't run in them, having learned our polyester lesson in Nov 2019, but I wasn't sad about that since I knew we'd have enough challenges to deal with.  Several people asked for photos/a selfie with the unicorn (me).  I also may have pretended to milk a guy in a cow costume since it had utters.  #RagnarAdventures  The best though was a lady who came up to us and asked for a photo of the 3 of us in our unicorns because she had just had a conversation with one of her teammates where the teammate had said, "I'm so exhausted I'll probably start seeing unicorns soon."  Then, there we were so she HAD to send the photo of unicorns to her teammate.  

POST RACE THINGS

After we dropped off 3 vanmates at their car, Matilda, Teh Bestie, Abby the Captain, and I went to dinner.  Teh Bestie and I didn't have to be at the train station until 9:20pm, so we had time since we finished around 4pm, which was way earlier than we had anticipated (thanks to ghosting two runners).  I found a mexican place not far from the Amtrak station (which was where the we had to drop off the others anyways) and then we went and grabbed ice cream for dessert.

THIS TOILET.  OMG.
IT IS A TINY TOILET!
The seat of this toilet was maybe at my knee level.  I definitely had to break 90° to sit on this toilet, which was AGONY after sitting in a van for 36 hours with breaks to run 15 miles.
AGONYYYYYYY.  I should have stood beside it for reference.

#earnedit

After dinner, we were dropped off at the Amtrak, Matilda was dropped off at her hotel, and Abby headed back home.  Our train came and we had upgraded to the sleeper car and it was the best $75 I spent for any race amenity ever.  To be vertical on a cushioned surface... I cannot describe the bliss.  I was finally able to sleep for more than an hour and I woke up in a confused, but peaceful, trance.  We didn't realize it until after we'd shuffled out of bed and rearranged the beds back to the sitting space, but our train was delayed for over 50 minutes somewhere and we could have slept for another 50 minutes.  Oh well.  

I highly recommend Amtrak now.  Cost is significantly cheaper than flying, less baggage restrictions/no cost, and that sleeper car for a "red-eye" was absolutely worth every cent. 



So uhhh, TL;DR*:
I RAN A RAGNAR RELAY!!! Dream achieved.
I ran 15 miles in 36 hours.  Whew. 
I endured 6 other people for 48 hours.
6 other people endured ME for 48 hours.
I proudly wore a unicorn onesie in public (to include in restaurants). #NoShame 
I met some awesome people. YAY!
Yet another medal for the rack (actually 2, but they didn't have the 2nd one (yay shipping delays) and will mail it).  BOOM.

UniMeg!


*Because this post became more of an event recap, I will create another post for the race details.