When Kelly first mentioned that she was doing the Ragnar Cape Cod with a bunch of other “birds” (Oiselle team members), I just knew that I would end up playing a part in the weekend. I was given the option of being a volunteer for the race or driving one of the vans.
Usually, I prefer to volunteer at races because the activity is centralized around a certain point and there is an all-access element to volunteering. However, given the spread nature of Ragnar, I would have ended up working in a specific location and seeing the team only once all weekend. For that reason, I opted to drive one of the vans. The basic idea was that we would get a 12-person van from Bradley airport and then drive up on Friday morning for the start of the race. When I went to secure a van, I could only get a reservation if I actually picked it up on Wednesday.
In the end, that turned out to be a good thing because Kelly had to do a deposition in Houston on Thursday before the race which meant she wasn’t going to be available to help with the pre-race logistics/packing. To make it all work, she flew to/from Houston via Logan airport, where I picked her up late Thursday night and stayed in a hotel near the airport. We picked up the other members of Van 1 at their hotel on Friday morning. There is something about the shared experience of sleep deprivation that can either bring people together or drive them apart. I was fortunate to have a group that gelled together and formed a tighter bond.
I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect from the event. I had a rough idea of the concept but didn’t realize the number of legs or how the transfers from one van to another would really work. That’s where Melissa, our detail oriented CPA, came in. She showed up with the “bible” plus multiple copies of each leg of the race, collated into different forms (group by van, group by runner, overall). This really helped me out because I was able to flip through and enter the exchange points into Waze so that we knew exactly how to get to the next location.
Legs 1-6 were relatively uneventful as everyone took their first turn and we started to settle into the rhythm of the day. After our first handoff to Van 2, we grabbed lunch as a local place that Stacey had recommended and it was fantastic food. I felt bad for our server because we walked into an empty restaurant and five minutes later, it was packed with tables of 5-8 people as other groups of runners came in from their exchanges.
I suffer from severe anxiety disorder and knowing where we were going many steps ahead was very helpful in managing my anxiety throughout the race. The only real issue I had during the race was during our first switchover (when Van 2 was the active team) and we took a detour to find a Starbucks. I thought I had found one close by the exchange but, only after it was too late, I realized we were crossing back over the bridge off of Cape Cod and I started to freak out. All I could focus on was the traffic to get back and how my mistake was ruining one of the few times the team could actually get some rest. In the end, it worked out because Rebecca helped get me around the traffic (post-Starbucks) and back across the bridge with enough time to let them spread out and take a break.
Leg 13 was the first of the night-time stages for us and I was a bit surprised how it went from dusk to dark so quickly. We were clicking through the night-time stages and I was very happy when I saw Kelly come in from her stage without any blood on her. When we caught up with Melissa on her second run, her stride was looking a bit “off” so we stopped and checked on her. Her shin was acting up and it was getting tough for her to run. We kept tabs on her to make sure she was ok, physically and mentally. I’ve walked the run of three of my IM races so I know how walking alone, in the dark, can take a mental toll and Kelly has experience at keeping someone motivated when they’re not feeling at the top of their game. I told Kelly that she should get changed and I wanted her to join Melissa, at the very least, to keep her company.
When Melissa reached the exchange point and handed off to Van 2, we made sure that she got some ice and then we headed for the overnight stay location. (I’m sorry, Melissa, if it seemed I was ordering you around. I go into “protector” mode and I treated you the same way I treat Kelly when I think she is understating how badly she is hurting.) The drive to the overnight area was the longest 20 minute drive of the day. I was exhausted and the team was quiet (possibly sleeping) but that drive did end up giving us the soundtrack anthem for our van.
Once we reached the overnight stay, the team scattered find somewhere to burrow and catch some sleep. I curled up in the van and passed out around 2:45am after checking to make sure someone else had responsibility for making sure we were up. At 4:45, I woke up when Ali came to the van to let me know Van 2 had started their last leg before the handoff. I knew it was a short leg with a fast runner so we had to hustle. I ran over and shook awake two lumps on the Picky Bar blanket, thinking one of them was Kelly. With everyone wearing similar clothes, the lump I thought was Kelly was actually Melissa. Luckily Kelly was sleeping near Ali so she was already making her way back to the van.
With everyone accounted for, we hopped in the van and made it over to the exchange just in time for Ali to take the handoff from Van 2 and we were back on the clock for our final stint. During the first two legs, the energy level in the van was definitely lower than Friday morning. When Rebecca set out for her 9.4 mile jaunt, we were able to stop and get coffee, some sugar for Ali and a bacon/sausage sodium-bomb for Anne. Then, the group’s spirits started to pick back up and we hit our groove once again.
Seeing how much Melissa was hurting after leg 18, I went into protector mode again and lobbied hard for her not to go out for leg 30. Kelly was already prepared to go out with Melissa again but I really didn’t want to see her aggravate a nagging injury into something worse.
Melissa reluctantly agreed and Kelly took leg 30 but promised to dial it back since this was going to be her 5th leg (including the walking she did in leg 18). Predictably, Kelly being Kelly, she threw “dial it back” out the window and laid down 8:50s for that leg to bring home the final handoff from Van 1 to Van 2.
With Van 2 on the road to finish, we were able to grab an actual breakfast as a group before dropping Kelly off to run a 6th leg with a member of Van 2. We had a bit of a mix up with the route and stopped to cheer for people one leg ahead of where we were supposed to drop Kelly. Even though we weren’t staged in the right place, this was one of the highlights of the weekend. Everyone had completed running (except for Kelly, who wanted to be super overachiever girl) and that meant the mood was so much more relaxed. There were hijinks, sirens, megaphone shenanigans and, maybe, a selfie.
After we dropped Kelly off to finish with Van 2, we headed for Provincetown to meet the rest of the team at the finish line, when the anxiety meter started to creep up. I wasn’t sure about where we were going to be parking or how tight the spaces would be if we actually found something. Parking is always a major trigger for me, especially in an unknown town that doesn’t have big strip-mall style parking lots. Luckily, we were able to find parking relatively easily and walked up to the monument to hang out and wait.
Then the moment came. After 29 hours, 36 legs, 5 van exchanges and at least one lost butt light, the entire team ran across the finish line together. It was truly spectacular to be a part of that experience.
Once the pictures were over and the race was done, there was some confusion as to who was going where and in which van. It was largely my fault because I thought we were all leaving to go somewhere other than P-town to do a post-race party. When, actually, I misunderstood and the intent was to go somewhere else in town. In hindsight, I can admit that I was feeling emotionally torn. Kelly and I had a long drive ahead but I was having a good time and really just didn’t want it to end. After spending so much time together, simply saying goodbye while standing next to the finish line felt a bit anti-climactic. Maybe it’s my idealistic desire to see things sometimes end in a more special and symbolic way where the whole team at least walks away together.
In the end, it was a truly memorable experience and I want say Thank You to everyone who made it happen, and especially, the six women who put up with me…but first, let me take a selfie!