Tuesday, September 29, 2009

27 Hours-2 Vans-200 Miles-12 Tired Monkeys

The race is over, I managed to catch up on some sleep, and most of the scaring has faded. All-in-all it was an amazing weekend and certainly an experience I won't soon forget.

Ragnar-The DC edition- took us 199.3 miles from Cumberland, MD to RFK stadium in DC. Posing as the mild-mannered Captain Awesome, I along with my "Big Bag of Monkeys" completed the race in 27 hrs and 33 min.

The race was a 36-leg relay with each team member running 3 of those legs. You can visit the Ragnar DC site to see the course maps. Each team was broken up in two vans (runners 1-6 and 7-12).

The morning for me started early at home with some team captain-y work on the computer nailing down some final logistics. I met the vans, who came up from Virginia, near my place and we packed them tight with decorations, running gear, and enough food to feed several refugee camps for the next 46 years.

After a few potty breaks we arrived in Cumberland and got busy checking in and getting the vans decorated. As you can see from the photos, it looked like a glorified homecoming float, complete with a 6 ft inflatable monkey tied to the back of each van!

At just after 1pm, Sonia took off from the starting line and Captain Awesome and His Big Bag of Monkeys were on our way.

Since I was part of Van 2 (the best one out there IMHO), we were not allowed to park at the exchange points that the Van 1 was using. We found ways around that though and with a few exceptions, and once parking on Department of Homeland Security land, we managed to catch most of the handoffs and even saw some of the runners in the middle of their legs.

As the sun began its decent for Friday evening our Van was getting ready to begin our legs. First up was Jimm and his sick 800+ ft climb into Berkley Springs, WV (oh we also saw Paw Paw, WV which is a real treat...I must remember to add that place to my "never go there alone" list of destinations). Evan took over from there and headed out 40 to the next exchange.

After taking a small wrong turn and getting on I-68, Van 2 found are way and dropped me off for my first leg, a 10.3 mile (the longest single leg of the race) jaunt down a bike path that followed I-68. The path was quite beautiful, I imagine, only I couldn't see that much of it as it was 830pm and the only thing illuminating was the small LED headlamp I was sporting. It was actually very surreal. I was able to judge about 10-15 ft ahead of me at any time but my peripheral vision was completely dark. I think I know what those Clydesdale's with the blinders feel like now. Actually the dark wasn't so bad, but what made this particularly tough was that there really weren't any other runners around. I got passed by one guy and saw his flashing "taillight" in the distance but that was about it for 6 miles. I did manage to catch up to another runner at that point and we hung together to finish the leg. Marianne who other then the use of her Rite-Aide hand sanitizer is the best, greeted me with a cold PBR and one leg was in the books.

We finished the rest of our first legs and handed the baton back to Van 1 at the Hagerstown Speedway. Unfortunately our last runner, James, was the victim of a produce assault when he was hit by a pear thrown from a moving car. Luckily he was ok and continued on. When we arrived, we flopped down with one of our awesome volunteers, Britney, for some well earned s'mores over a charcoal pit fire.

After some debating back and forth we decided to head to the next major exchange point and get a little rest. The exchange point was at a church in Boonsboro, MD and the people working there couldn't have been nicer. They had indoor bathrooms, chicken dinner (we skipped this as it was now 1230 am), and hot coffee. We parked the van with about 70 or so other teams and tried to catch a little sleep. This is where I should point out that the drivers seat of a 12-persin van is not the most comfortable place to get some Z's. What's worse is when you use an inflatable monkey as a pillow. 45 minutes into my sleep I got the call from Van 1 that we were running ahead of time so Jimm had to get up and ready to run his next leg through Funkstown (really disappointed I didn't get a picture here).

After another giant mountain climb for him went well except for the few minutes he got lost. Evan took over and battled up a hill of his own then handed off to me for a downhill 5k stretch into Frederick. 22 minutes and 9 seconds later I handed off to Stig (Christina) and had a new PR to add to my list.

After she took off we were warned by the course wardens that there had been some "sketchy" characters walking around Frederick and we should be alert. Well we checked in on Stig mid run and she was ok but wanted to help Marianne too so I grabbed Jimm's bike and rode with her on her 5 mile trip to Liberty. It was a great run as we saw the sun rise over the farms and almost got run off the road a few times by semis barreling down the road at 55mph.

After James wrapped up his leg we headed into Germantown to get some 630am bagels (this is pronounced with a "hard A" not a "eh" sound for the reference of that van who couldn't pronounce it right!) I introduced a bunch of southerners to what a NY Bagel should taste like. Well ok they were from Northern Virginia and DC but still...they have every right to know a good bagel from a Lenders bagel. We met up with Van 1 and got ready to finish our last legs.

Our first leg (Jimm) went right through our neighborhood so the wife and dog met us and then continued to follow us through the rest of the race. Having Mooks there gave us a bit of a lift which complemented the shot of 5-Hour Energy I popped earlier. I have to think that might have been the key to me flying through my final 7-mile leg. It might have been nice to have some better directional signage as I ran through the Rock Creek Trail in Rockville, Bethesda, and Kensington. Luckily I knew where I was going...I can’t say the same for the 5 other runners I passed.

The rain held off all race until the last three legs. Unfortunately that meant Stig, Marianne, and James got drenched. But before too long, James came bounding around the corner of RFK stadium where we all met him, (with Matt in the Banana Suit and Andreas with the giant inflatable Monkey). We crossed the finish line in a steady downpour. We were wet, tired, sore but Kate’s boyfriend brining us Valentino’s Pizza somehow made it all better.

This was truly an adventure and we are excited to have gone though it. Jimm is working on cutting the team video which I’ll post here along with more pictures in the coming days. Now to catch up on some sleep.

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