It was 7:00am on Friday morning, and I was headed out to begin my second attempt at #RagnarTN, after having injured myself during last year's attempt. Along with five Ragnar newbies, we were about to undertake an event that I have said before can be "life changing."
Ok, false. We actually ended up at Major Exchange 12 first. But eventually we got pointed in the right direction.
We stopped and got snacks and drinks and took a moment to decorate our new home for the weekend, adding flair and some personal touches, including Cupid's Undie Run references for me and an homage to Team RWB. My girl Kels has a serious future in decorating vehicles with window markers if her current job doesn't pan out. Seriously. Impressive.
Or at least to run straight up the side of a mountain. And by that, I mean, according to the Ragnar Leg Map, I was looking at 1132' of elevation gain. FML.
1,132 feet. Uphill.
I didn't start off as fast as I would have liked. And I definitely had to stop and walk up parts. Towards the last mile, I just started negotiating with myself.
"Ok, Jessica. You can walk from one cone to the next - but then! Then you're gonna run for two cones. Don't die! Made it two cones? Try for one more before passing out!"
My only motivation to not stop and walk that entire beast of a hill was that running meant it would be over with sooner.
I'm not sure it helped, or hurt, but I also ran up the mountain in my undies while wearing white feather wings. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I wished those wings had been functional.
Ok, another lie. I was WAY off my predicted pace. But my predicted pace didn't account for mountain goat status.
Night time hours began as we finished up our first legs, and as Van 1 set off to start their second set of legs, we headed for Applebee's, where all of us were craving MEAT and real food. I have to say, having never stopped at a restaurant to eat during Ragnar before, this was pretty much the best idea ever. Sitting down, eating real food, using a real bathroom and washing my hands and face made me feel almost human after a first leg that had tried to break me.
We fell asleep in the van for a few hours at the ridiculously early hour of 9pm and managed to get an hour or so of sleep before getting a text that Runner 6 had left the exchange and was headed our way. Time to prep for my night leg!
Having run a Ragnar (or two) before, the idea of the night run was no longer intimidating to me. Now, that's not to say my imagination doesn't sometimes get carried away thinking...
"Yeah, they could totally film an episode of Criminal Minds at that scary motel. It would be about a truck driver, who goes from town to town, following Ragnar Relay across the country and abducting runners during the middle of the night to rape and murder them."
But for the most part, I enjoy the night time runs. Being out under the stars, with the peace and quiet... Only the sound of other runners and passing strangely decorated vans... Ok, ok... That might be weird. But I find the night legs to be soothing. And I had tried to convince my fellow van mates that, despite their aprehension, they too would enjoy their middle of the night jogs.
And one by one, they came in to the exchange to finish their leg and proclaim how enjoyable that run had been. How despite their worries about getting lost or being alone out on the roads, they were oddly calmed and that the night sky really was gorgeous.
I love sharing moments like that with your teammates.
It's part of what makes Ragnar so amazing.
And so, as we finished up our night legs, we notified Van One that we were ready for them to take over... And then we waited.
See Van One thought a hotel would be a GREAT idea. I am a Ragnar purist. In my mind, a hotel in the middle of the night? CHEATING. And also the easiest way to guarantee that you are late to a major exchange. Which they were. Over a half an hour late. C'est la vie. So while we waited, we used indoor plumbing and stretched our legs.
At this point, while we were waiting I was begining to think back. Before the race, I had posted a challenge. For every $100 that was donated to my Cupid's Undie Run page, I would run one leg of #RagnarTN in my undies. And while I had only raised $100 before the race started, I was happy with that. The thought of running all three legs in undies had seemed daunting and to be completely honest, running my night leg in undies seemed like a sure-fire way to turn my Criminal Minds episode in to a reality.
But reflecting in that school at 4 in the morning, the first leg in my undies had gone really well. And raising $100 was not enough. We're trying to find a CURE for neurofibromatosis. Not just a cure, no. A way to COMPLETELY END IT. And $100 was not gonna cut it. So I posted another challenge. If I could raise another $100 before my third leg, I would do it again. Leg 3, through Cool Springs, past my office, in my bedroom best. BRING IT.
I should have known y'all would follow through!
I was amazed when over the next few hours, I got not just $100, but over $200 towards my cause.
Bring Back The Panties!
My third and final leg, which had promised to be relatively flat.
I knew it wouldn't be entirely, since I run this neighborhood every Monday night with the Tin Roof 2 Running Crew...
But would I be able to hang in there for one more leg? Would wearing undies finally bring about the dreaded chaffing everyone had warned me about?
Would I die?!?!?!
Yes, I could hang in for one more leg. And when I reached the point where I considered walking, I sucked it up and trudged on. Because I knew my teammate Sally still had nearly nine miles to do through the rolling hills of Franklin. And dammit, I wasn't going to let Sally down.
Chaffing? Definitely. Although not horribly, just enough to be irritating and make me wish for a thigh gap more than ever in my life.
Would I die?!?! Well obviously not. But at times, the heat and hills made me feel like I might. But I moved one foot in front of the other, setting small manageable goals. Just make it to that next cone. To the next light pole. To the top of this hill. And slowly, piece by piece, I reached the end of my third and final leg. Alive and with no major injuries or aches or pains. The first Ragnar Relay where I would cross that finish line without a gimp or a limp. Maybe my body was finally adjusting to this crazy lifestyle! Maybe my training had finally paid off! Happy and healthy!
I saw them encourage others, not just our own teammates, but others out on the course. Congratulating the ones who looked strong, moving quickly and offering support, water, and encouragement to those who were struggling. Out on the course, we were all out there together. It wasn't about the six of us in that van finishing. It was about making sure everyone got to that finish line.
I had told my van mates before the race started that Ragnar had been life changing. They all kind of nodded, accepting what I was saying but without understanding. I think after this weekend they get it. Ragnar isn't just a 5k. It's not a race where you go out, run, and then move on with your life. IT's about testing yourself, physically and mentally. About supporting your teammates and your fellow runners. And that's why I love it so much.
In the days that followed, I got message from my teammates. Thankful for the experience and eager to plan the next one. While they may have cursed the hills of Tennessee, they also swore revenge on them, anxious to comeback and conquer the same hills that wore them down. And I can't wait for them to come back, like I did this year, and own that course the next time.
People often ask if we won and my answer is yes. Because anyone who runs a Ragnar is a winner in my book. (End cheesy moments!) :)