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Monday, November 12, 2012

Ragnar Relay - Tennessee

12 runners, 2 vans, 2 drivers, almost 200 miles... and 1 goal.

Team: I Thought This Was a 5k!

Van 1:
Driver: Lindsay
Runners: Cayla, Jenny, Kelly, Marc, Michael, Jayney

Van 2: (technically, it was a suburban)
Driver: David
Runners: Chris, Joel, Sho, Spencer, Sarah, Chris

It has been one hectic weekend.  On Thursday, I went to the McDonalds on Lovell Road to meet up with a few people that I have never met in my entire life.  A couple months previous to this meeting, I had decided that I would try to find a team to run a 196 mile relay (shirt says 197... not sure which is real... but whatever).  I looked up on facebook to see if there were any teams that were looking for individuals to join them, and I came across one person who had posted on Ragnar's facebook site that they were in need of a runner.  Non-chalantly, I sent an email, and thus started the road to getting together with 11 individuals I have never met before, and running from Chattanooga to Nashville in this  crazy relay.

Thursday at 1pm, I met up with one of our drivers, and 3 of our runners, got to know them a little bit while we waited for another runner from Oak Ridge to join.  Finally, when our fearless captain realized that she had been sending text messages to the wrong person (apparently, some random dude was getting texts but wasn't replying...) we got ahold of our last runner and off we went.  Our team name was 'I Thought This Was a 5k!' and we were ready to meet up with the rest of our crew in Chattanooga.  On the road down, we talked a little about who we were and what we did, and got to know everybody pretty well... maybe a little too well... but in any case, it was a lot of fun for me.  It wasn't just about meeting new people, it was about meeting new people that were as crazy as I was.

Talking for a couple hours, time flew as we traveled from Knoxville to Chattanooga and before we knew it, we were in Chattanooga, well ahead of the other group that was coming in from Nashville.  We chillaxed at the hotel (having trouble with our cardkeys), waited for the other half of our team to arrive, and as they came in, we went out and got to know each other over some Cracker-Barrel where I proceeded to fuel up.  I made a deal with our server that if I could eat more than a meal and 3 pancakes, I would get my meal for free, and the end result?  I got a free meal.  During our dinner/breakfast, we had a blast getting to know each other, everyone excited about meeting new people and about the upcoming relay.

Afterwards, we went to Walmart, bought some window chalk (idk what you call that...) and went back to the hotel, proceeding to decorate our vans as best as our artistic abilities allowed, although the aesthetic appeal wasn't the best, we were all proud of our work.  It was around then that I learned about the kill chart.  As the race had different waves going every half hour (250 teams running the race...) we had quite a few teams that started ahead of us.  Every time we passed someone, it would count as a kill.    We would then put our kills on the window, displaying for all to see the carnage we were responsible for.  After our artwork, we proceeded to go back to our hotel rooms and slept.

Excited about the race, I woke up at 2am, got myself a drink of water (proper hydration!!) and slept again, to wake up 5 hours later, taking a nice shower, and we were out at around 8:30.  We then went over to the starting area where we took a picture as a group, and ready to leave at 10:30.  We were all so pumped up to run, adrenaline in our system... but half of us soon realized that we weren't going to be running for the next few hours and that kind of ruined the atmosphere...

Cayla led the charge at 10:30, starting her leg, and as Van 1 went to support her, Van 2 decided to search for an IHOP... to of no avail.  Seems like it was replaced and nobody knew about it... ignoring the minor detail that the 'IHOP' was in fact not an IHOP, we went on and found a Chick-Fil-A, where we ate our 'breakfast' and went to our checkpoint, where Van 1's 6th runner would meet hand the run over to us.  We went to the checkpoint, checked in, went through the safety course, and got our little Ragnar bag with the toilet paper inside, we just bummed around, waiting for the other van to let us know when their last person started their leg.  Being nervous about the race, I got to know the port-a-potties really well and after hearing that there was a bathroom at the facility, I decided to venture over to see if I could find a more comfortable place to relieve some extra baggage, but as I didn't want to swim to the toilet, I thought better and just stuck with what worked.  Some runners can be messy... Also, as a voracious eater, I planned ahead and made sure to eat a nice jar of pasta saute that I prepared, and finally we heard from the other van that they had handed the slap band to their last runner... but they were behind schedule.

Due to the elevation change in the first few legs, it was hard to stay on schedule, but they managed to pull through and hand the slap band to us, and our mission was to kill and catch up.  As our first runner left (from Van 2), we went to our van and followed him.  Chris's first leg was a tough one, uphill basically all the way.  We followed and cheered and cowbelled him as we passed him on the way up, and just after the water station, we found a place to park and waited for him as he worked his way up the mountain.  As he neared us, we took pictures, videos, and cheered him on, afterwards driving up to the next checkpoint, as our next runner got ready to go for his run.

As we weren't allowed to go out due to the excessive amounts of people being there, we sent him and one other to the exchange point to continue on with the race and retrieve our runner.  The next leg wasn't as bad as the first leg, but it was still a race to kill and a race to catch up.  With the mission in mind and a task to do, Joel went on and strode out to kill as many as he could.  Next in line was me, not as ready as can be, but I was excited to go, still worried about the 7 minute pace that I promised early before my 50 miler.  Training for a 50 miler is a little different than running a shorter and faster leg and so I was worried like none other, unsure whether I could do the min/mile that I promised... but in the end decided that I would just give each race my all and kill as many as possible.

Taking off my glasses, putting on my bandana, my headlamp and led lights, and my  reflective vest... and most importantly, drinking my pedialyte, I got ready to run my leg.  We thought that Joel was coming down earlier, but we weren't sure and so I went on the other side, put my iPhone on Pandora, and listened to my Dream Theater station, ready to go... until I saw a dog and started paying attention to that... a little too much attention.  All of  a sudden, Joel was right beside me, I was slightly confused, and he slapped my wrist with the slap band, and a little shocked, I turned on my mapmyrun app and away I went.  At first, I couldn't really see anyone ahead of me and even though I promised to warm up the first little bit, I broke that promised and ran a little faster, seeing a little bobbing light ahead of me.  I went in for the kill.  As I felt the rush of adrenaline pumping through me, I saw my next target, this time moving ahead of me a little faster than this one.  I went after it like a wolf, drawing closer little by little. As I was doing this, the van passed by with everyone cheering and it felt good to be supported by such an awesome group.  I went on and managed to catch up with the next runner, and by then, it became pretty dark and so the only thing I could see were the few steps in front of me and the blinking red lights of the next person I was going to kill.  This went on (a lot slower than the pace you're reading this) for the whole leg, and as I was catching up to what could have been my 7th kill, it was time for me to hand off the band to Spencer... except Spencer wasn't there.  For a moment, I remembered what Van 1 told us about a different team that had an individual wait for his team to come, but after waiting for a good bit, nobody came... so he did the next leg.  Prepared to go out and run again, I looked around... and fortunately, as I reconsidered running another leg, I was met by Joel who told me that Spencer was just coming out of the bathroom, and after giving him the band, away he went.  I then stopped my mapmyrun app, and saw that I had run 6.06 miles in 37:47, a 6:14 average (official length was 5.8 miles, so would've been 6:31 min/mile).  6 kills.

I drank my pedialyte as soon as we got in the van to chase after Spencer, and also took over the 'whole' back seat, and we cheered him on as he went fast and stopped once or twice as he ran, getting Sarah ready for her leg.  Spencer had his fair share of kills too, and as he passed the band to Sarah, she took off and went her way on her first leg.  By the time Spencer had received the band, it was pitch black, but the leg that Sarah ran didn't have many streetlights, making it slightly more difficult for her.  We did our bit of cheering as she did her leg, stopping when it seemed right and timed it pretty well, getting to cheer for her... however, we didn't give Chris enough time to stretch before he ran, so when she handed off the band to him, he worked hard on his leg as we all cheered him on, waiting for him to get to the next checkpoint, where we would trade places with Van 1.  Chris's leg was a little bit more lit up compared to Sarah, and with his sweet reflective vest, it was a lot easier for us to recognize him coming along.

Once we passed the band to Van 1, we were hungry and tired, wanting to eat something... anything, and so we decided on eating at Wendy's.  Of course, I ate my usual Sho-sized meal of 2 Chicken Wraps, 2 Chicken Sandwiches and 2 Jr Cheese Burgers, but it didn't exactly sit well with my stomach, and alongside the nervousness, I wasn't sure how well I would be able to do my next leg, which was going to be 3.8 miles.  We then trickled out, and as I was the last one to pay, I left later, and saw that they had left the parking spot and was on the other side of Wendy's... now whether it was on purpose they had left me, or by accident, I didn't care, I just wanted out, so I went in, and attempted to crawl into a fetal position and sleep... well... tried.

Van 1, however, also had their fair share of trouble.  Jayney had gotten sick during this time and wasn't feeling too well so was unable to run, and Cayla took her place, running the 1.6 mile leg at the end, which wasn't too hard by itself, but more difficult because of the lack of time she would need to eat between runs.  We were already at the checkpoint, but we weren't sure if they would remember to let us know when she started running, to give Chris enough time to warm up before she came.  It was only AFTER they arrived that we learned that she had already started, Chris and I went out, and he didn't even have enough time to go to the bathroom because she just came and he had to take off (it made life a little more interesting, I'm sure).  After she gave the slap band to Chris, I had to take off, as we had to get our things together to go after Chris.  I'm glad that Chris took the 7th runner position.  It was not only the hardest because he had to run the most, but it was also because he had to run uphill... a lot.  Fortunately, this run wasn't too bad, being rolling hills, but he still had to work hard to go to the next exchange point.

At the exchange point, Joel was ready to get off and do his run.  It was going to be a short one, and I was going to have to be ready almost as soon as he went off, because the distance that he was going to run was only 3 miles.  We cheered him on as we passed him, and as soon as we got to the exchange point, I finished drinking the little bit of pedialyte to calm myself down and hydrate myself.  It was already cold, but I knew that as soon as I started running, it would feel hot for me, so I waited with Sarah for Joel to come and give me the slap band.  I was nervous because I put a lot of pressure on myself, but as he came, he whooped so we could hear him, my head instantly cleared and I became a runner, turned on my music, got my app ready, and as he slapped the band on me, I took off, starting with a decent pace, then picking it up bit by bit til I was running hard towards the next blinking light... kill #7. As I passed each individual, I saw the next and was able to continue on this relentless pursuit of kills, and got to the next exchange point in 22:54 (according to the mapmyrun app, it was 3.97 miles and an average of 5:46) which would've given me about 6:02 for the 3.8 miles.  I worked my butt off to race the best race I could in this leg, not worrying about the last leg I would have to run.

Spencer was there ready for me as I came in, and as I slapped the band on him, he took off... and I slowed to a stop, happy and proud of my accomplishments.  A fast time and 8 kills.  Spencer's leg was a little over 4 miles, so it was going to be another fast one.  Again, without too much time to stretch, I jumped in the van and we drove off after him, cheering him on as we passed him, me drinking my pedialyte and eating a banana and Sarah getting ready for her turn as soon as Spencer ended.  Spencer ran his fastest in this leg, running 40 seconds per mile faster than his last leg.  As he handed the band to Sarah, she went off, and for 4.5 miles, she worked hard, passing it on to Chris, who ran hard for 3.6 miles so that he could finish and we could all get a break.  By this time, it was early in the morning and we were so tired, we had no idea what anybody else was doing... we just wanted to crash somewhere.

Chris arrived and as Van 1 went off doing their longer leg, our group looked for somewhere to eat... We found an IHOP, but it was closed... and we just wanted to eat something, then sleep as soon as we get to the checkpoint... so we went to Waffle House at about 3 in the morning, where most of us attempted to eat, but only a little went in.  The most exciting part of the whole Waffle House trip was the fact that one of the workers were mentioning that she was asleep.  She turned around and told her that she was awake... but 20 seconds later, we looked over and she was leaning against the side, fast asleep (Spencer took a video of that...).  I wasn't able to eat a Sho-sized meal, so I stuck with the cheese steak omelette with hashbrowns and toast... it was a glorious meal and I ate slowly and felt good, the sick feeling from Wendy's went away.

We went to exchange station 30, but nobody seemed to be there.  A little confused, but not caring, everyone just started trying to sleep.  However, Chris was sure that something was up, so he left and asked people... and figured out that we had accidentally skipped 30 and went to exchange station 31.  Silly us.  We begrudgingly drove to the correct exchange station and tried to go to sleep.  At this point, I was one ticked off customer, wanting sleep desperately, but not able to get it.  It was miserable and I was angry at everyone and everything... especially the seat for being so close to me.  After being too exhausted to complain anymore, I fell asleep and when I woke up for a moment, I realized that Spencer wasn't beside me, that he had sneaked out to take his nap elsewhere... and just like the colonial days, I claimed this land for Sho and went back to sleep.  I woke up after a little bit as the world around me became bright and David let me know that Cayla was about to come back from her 5th leg, having run over 20 miles...  As she came through her last leg, she gave the band to Chris, and our van was off.  He had a 6.7 mile leg now so compared to his other legs, it wasn't too bad, but being the last leg... it was still pretty hard.  We cheered him on as he ran his last leg, all of us anxious to get to our legs and finish it... me dreading the 8.9 miles I would have to run.

As Chris gave Joel his band, we looked to see that Joel was having to go up a steep incline, and RIGHT after that, a steep decline which was just as hard.  We stopped once to cheer him on, and we went on to the check point, me drinking my pedialyte, ready to run my heart out on this one.  Just to add to the pressure and make me run faster, I told everyone that I was going to double up my kill count and go for 14 more kills in this leg.  I put some Ben Gay on my calves and hammies so that I would get them as loose as possible before the run.  I had some minty legs and I was ready to go.  As soon as I saw Joel's neon shirt far away, I turned on my music, put my hand out, and was ready to do my last leg.

Joel came in, and gave me the band and as I had it slapped on, I turned on my app, and started booking it.  The first half mile, I caught up with two runners that had just arrived before, breezing passed them, and looking forward to the next runner, I kept on going... but there was noone there.  For a moment, I was confused and wondered if I was going in the right direction.  I wavered a little bit but kept on going, pushing forward and finally came across a Ragnar sign, giving me the confidence to run forward.  After about 2 miles, the van came alongside to cheer me on, but I only had 2 kills for them... I was getting worried that the other people were way ahead of me and I wouldn't be able to kill any more people.  I picked up the pace a little, and realized that I didn't like running on gravel road.  I kept going and at about the 4-5 mile point, I saw ahead of me, a form of an individual runner.  I went a little faster, ready to go get him or her, but no matter what I did, it seemed like they were too far ahead of me (I guess I did see them about a half a mile ahead of me) but I kept on going.  Once again, I saw my group ahead, and cheering me as I went, I was still discouraged that I didn't get to kill anymore people.  I wanted a kill so bad... I kept going at the fast pace I was going, and little by little, the small dot became a tiny person, the tiny person began to get better and I would concentrate on their cadence and match it with bigger steps, pushing hard, and finally managed to catch up to the individual.  I saw some other support van ahead of me, and knowing they could see me, I pointed at the runner ahead of me, made the motion of slitting a throat with my hand, and then charged that 50 meter gap and blew past them.  No sooner had I passed the individual, I saw another runner waiting for me to pass them, and the next... I passed the next few runners and felt pretty happy about myself, even though it was only a third of what I promised my team.  After the 5th kill, I looked ahead and saw the familiar face of Chris holding a BOTTLE OF PEDIALYTE!  It was like a dream come true.  I took a good swig of that, and back to normal, I went towards the bigger hill that was ahead of me (up til now, it had been on and off mini rolling hills) and passed by one person who was walking, and passed another person towards the top.  As I went down, I saw a couple individuals, and I picked it up, and way up ahead of me, I saw a group of people that looked almost to be enough to make it to 14 people.  There was one mile left, and I didn't have that much time to catch and kill.  This was the last mile for me to race, and I went out with everything I had.  I looked at my splits and on average, my last mile was a 5:58, and knowing that I came in with everything I had at the end, I'm sure I was almost at a 5 min mile pace.  I passed the group of people, making my kill count to 13, and saw a couple guys up ahead closing in on the exchange zone.  I sprinted to get my 14th kill and seeing that 15 was just a little ways ahead, I flew by him and went to the exchange zone with 15 kills... and Spencer wasn't there. (finished the 8.9 miles in 1:00:52, an average of 6:50... mapmyrun says 9.13 miles... a 6:40 pace)

I wasn't a happy camper when I realized that some of the work I did to get there as soon as I could went to waste as the other runners came in and handed their band off to their teammate.  Chris told me that Spencer was stretching and would be there in a bit, and I was a little peeved... but eh, it's not my fault, I just ran my best.  29 kills altogether.  Spencer eventually came and I gave him his band and he went off, and since his leg was a little longer, I took off my shoes and stretched a little so that I could get some sort of relief for my feet before I went immobile in the car.  We changed tactics and dropped off Sarah at the exchange zone as we went back to give water to Spencer and cheer him on, and we got back in time to see Spencer and this other guy neck to neck, going for the finish line.  Unfortunately, Spencer was beaten at the end, but Sarah got the band and she went ahead, pushing onward to her last leg (her brother and his family met up with her at the exchange point cheering her on, so that was awesome).  We did the same thing again, dropping Chris off at the next exchange zone, then going back and cheering for her, and then going back again and getting out and waited for her to finish her last run.  Her family was also there to cheer her to her finish, and we hurried back to our van and we went to a place where we knew Chris would come, cheered him on, and then hurriedly parked so that we could go to the finish line and run through that as a team.  We met up with our members from Van 1 and as soon as Chris came around the corner, we went with him and ran to the finish line victorious.

I guess what made it more memorable was that we had this plan of finishing as a group, with Chris (the first one) taking a video of us all running as a team, together... but of course, we didn't tell the other Chris that... so he just sped up as we came closer to the end, mashing with another group that came, and when we ended... we beat the other team coming in, having our name called out first.  It was a wacky ending.  Overall... it was one amazing race.

Thursday I met a bunch of crazy strangers, and on Saturday, I said goodbye to a bunch of crazy friends.  This Ragnar Relay has been one of the best moments of my life.

It wasn't about the time and how fast we were as an individual, or a team.

It's about how 12 runners, 2 vans, and 2 drivers came together, and how we all ran for 200 miles to the finish line together.


  1. Excellent post Sho! So glad I got to be on a team with you!! Way to push through that last long leg in Green Hills! Beast mode!

    1. Haha. Thanks Kelly! Glad to be on your team too! Heard so much about how hard you were pushing on your legs. Hope you're all recovered from that!

      I personally can't wait to get to a point where I'm running that fast for a marathon or an ultra (if that's possible...) I'm going to be working on that Beast mode.