Hey there, fast and fabulous friends! It’s been a while since I wrote a race report for you guys. I have been doing little races here and there all along, and some of them even went pretty well, but nothing really seemed like Fast and Fabulous caliber… Until last weekend when 11 of my favorite running BFFs and I, armed with a lifetime supply of Shittens, made awesomeness and glory rain down on Ragnar DC all the way from Cumberland to National Harbor. Before we go any further, you should know that I had been looking forward to this race for as long as I can remember, and it was everything that I dreamed it would be and more. Pair that with my affinity for writing borderline inappropriately long, adjective-intensive blog posts, and you’ve got yourself one long-ass race report. So hold on to your plush turkey hats. You’ve been warned.
There are many moving parts to our #TeamShittens Ragnar DC Odyssey, but we’ll start with the running…
Leg #3: 7.8 miles, 4 Road Kills, 1 Sweet New Belt Buckle
Holy balls, guys. This was a tough one. When we arrived to check in at the start line all the volunteers were like “Who has leg #3? Oh, bless your heart!” I wondered if I should be legitimately concerned by this. Leg 3 was definitely advertised as being the toughest one of the race. It was rated “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” on the Ragnar Relay scale of “Easy” to” You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. As it turned out, this leg was, in fact pretty dang tough for a number of reasons.
Reason number one being that it was effing hot as balls. For reals. It was undoubtedly 85 degrees or warmer. And just to make it extra fun, the first 2.5 miles or so of “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me” were on a most un-scenic, freshly re-blacktopped, shade-free road which was littered with cigarette-smoking construction workers. Awesome. I was very interested to notice that this road seemed to parallel an interstate, seeing as there was very little interstate to be found the day before on our drive from Durham to Maryland. I also noted that my impressions of Maryland so far were that it was hilly and reeked of cows and road kill (and I don’t mean the good Ragnar kind of road kill, although I did score a few of those on this leg) but I digress…
Anyway, just when I thought this leg couldn’t get any suckier, the blue Ragnar directional signs sent me onto a remote dirt road and so began the great dust bowl of 2013. The heat got hotter, the hills got hillier, and the splits got hella-slow. I channeled Sheryl Sandberg as I leaned in to the hills and repeated our team mantra in my head. (I will refrain from actually writing the team mantra, as it contains adult language, but I’ve included a photo below that might help you figure it out.) Just as I started to long for my fuel belt, despite its decided uncoolness according to the survey from my last blog post, a nice team hanging out at a turn off at the base of particularly gnarly hill offered me a bottle of water. I gladly took it, but after drinking a few sips, I regretted having this extra accoutrement to lug around. I strongly considered ditching the bottle, but just as I was about to chuck it, I spotted a sign that read “Littering: $1,000 Fine”. I thought $1,000 seemed like an extremely high price to pay for empty-handed running, so I soldiered on with the bottle. Shortly after the littering sign and just as my Garmin chirped off a mile split that started with a 10 (*cringe*), I crested a particularly heinous and dusty hill to the glorious sight of our Shittens-themed van and my fabulous cheering teammates. I felt like utter hell, but I managed to muster up a hearty fist pump, a mile split update, and a that’s what she said joke (you know, something about it being really hard), so I guess things could have been going worse.
After another mile of climbing, I finally found the downhill I was so desperately seeking. I tried with all my might to get those last couple of miles down into the lactate threshold pace zone, both to make up time lost on that big ass climb, and because my running guru, Coach Bigs had prescribed at least 10 minutes at LT pace (which is 6:45ish for me) per leg. I successfully made up some serious time, and even added a couple more road kills to my total for the leg, but it wasn’t until the final flat .8 into the exchange zone that I managed to get a split that started with 6 on the watch.
I knew I was way off my goal time based on the 10K pace I had submitted for time projection purposes, and I was feeling a little down on myself as I handed off to Brittany. But my spirits were instantly lifted by the encouraging words of my teammates, who lovingly wiped the copious amounts of dust from my face and limbs with Shittens while showering me with compliments. (Let me tell you friends, it just doesn’t get much better than being showered with Shittens and compliments at the same time!) And then a nice volunteer presented me with a delightfully tacky Ragnar DC belt buckle for completing the hardest leg of the race! #Winning! Legs 2 and 3 promised to be much easier, so this was a tremendous relief! Go Team Shittens!
Leg #14: 4.8 Miles, 8 Road Kills, 1 Kankle-Inducing Ankle Roll.
Go time for Leg 2! After a little down time which included but was not limited to a hearty rural West Virginia dinning experience filled with fascinating/ horrifying people watching, an after-dark photo shoot, and a fun chance meet up with Oiselle Teammate Steph G., I was ready to rock and roll all over my 2nd leg. The description read that it was essentially flat and easy, so I set out to make up some of those lost minutes at LT pace from leg 1.
I warmed up with a couple of 7:20-something splits and then settled into some close-enough-to-LT- pace-for-me miles for next 2.78 (6:49, 6:45, 6:46 for the last .78). There is no doubt that those tempo-ish miles felt like work, but whateves. They’re supposed to feel like work, not to mention the fact that I had run through an epic uphill dust bowl just a few hours earlier, as well as the fact that this run started at 11:11 pm, which is a far cry from my typical run time. (I know a lot of you people out there get pretty excited about those kind of numbers, so #omgiheartnumbers to that!)
Anyhoo, despite my higher-than-ideal rate of perceived of exertion, I started to feel like an awesome badass for mentally keeping my shit together enough to maintain something akin to my goal pace despite the bizarre relay circumstances. As a runner who historically struggles with the mental game side of training and racing this felt like a big win for me. My ego continued to inflate as I opened up a sizable gap on this dude who was clearly bound and determined that he would not be chicked by me. We had been engaging in a little back and forth passing game for the better part of a mile or so when I finally wore him down, crushed his dreams, and broke his spirit as I added him to my growing list of road kills. I must have lost focus while I was high- fiving myself and signing Queen’s “We are the Champions” and that “All I Do is Win” rap song simultaneously in my head, because shortly after leaving Mr. I-would-sooner-die-than-get-passed-by-a-girl in the dust I rolled the ever-loving crap out of my ankle on a rogue littered beer can. I couldn’t help but feel super-annoyed by this since I had gone to great lengths to maintain good anti-littering karma during my previous leg, but I suppose I was due for a great moment of humility. I’ve done enough rolling of the ankles while running to know that there are two types of ankle rolls: The standard kind that are like “Oh, no big deal. I’ll just take a few seconds to walk this off and it will be fine,” and the far less common “Yikes, my ankle is going to be the size of my face tomorrow!” variety. I knew right away that this was the latter, but there was no effing way in hell that I was going to let that guy reclaim my hard-fought road kill victory. You best believe that my freshly minted kankle and I continued hauling arse towards the exchange zone, maintaining our sub-7 pace like it was our job, because that’s just how we do here at Team Shittens. In your face road kill dude!
Please let my Ragnar DC second leg experience be a reminder to all of you that littering is bad for many reasons, one such reason being that it could contribute to the kankling of perfectly innocent, well-meaning nighttime runners. Don’t do it!
Leg #26: 3.2 Miles, 4 Road Kills, 1 Frustrating Traffic Stop.
After a rest period that included all the ice packs, ibuprofen and compression socks, a few hundred trips to the porta potty, a sleeping-turned-unintentional-spooning session in a wet sleeping bag with my college BFF , and some life changing photo booth shenanigans it was time for the 3rd and final leg of Ragnar DC. And you bet your Shittens I was ready for it.
My ankle was definitely swollen, but not to the point of severe alarm. Since it didn’t hurt to put weight on it, my plan was to take it easy and do only what I had to do to get through it so I could be done once and for all. When my spooning buddy Cat hauled into the exchange zone and handed off to me I took off and quickly decided that the kankle was not effecting my running game. Instantly my new goal became to get this over with as fast as humanly possible. I rolled through the 1st mile in just over 7, and mile 2 was my fastest of the entire Ragnar experience at 6:37. The final mile of my 3.2 mile leg was slightly uphill, which slowed me back down to 6:57. Then I very nearly threw a temper tantrum when I was stopped by a crossing guard at the last busy intersection separating me from the final .2 of my leg and the exchange zone. I was made to stand still for several minutes in clear view of the finish waiting for the light to change. (Seriously, whose brilliant idea was it to put the exchange zone on the far side of a busy intersection anyway?!) These were the longest several minutes of my life. I asked the crossing guard when the light would be changing and if I could go yet at least once every 5 seconds. (Very adult and rational of me, I know.) At long last that glorious little white stick figure guy popped up on the crosswalk sign and I bolted across the street and into the exchange, but not before my average pace for the whole leg slipped from the 6s into the 7s. Thanks for nothing, DC area traffic. But it was oh-so-fabulous to be done, and the kankle didn’t seem to slow me down, so all is well that ends well.
An infinite number of laughs, photo shoots, pretzels, Swedish fish,Tums, Gatorade, Picky Bars, and Shittens later our final runner crossed the finished line at National Harbor with 24:41 on the clock and enough road kills to bring our team total to over 200! I take great pride and joy in reporting to you that this was good enough to clinch the win in the Regular Women’s Open division, and an 11th place finish overall! Victory, all the bragging rights, and those sweet golden Ragnar batons that they mail out to the winners are ours! In other exciting and possibly less surprising news, we also won the team spirit award thanks to all of that great social media hype that you surely enjoyed experiencing during the race, and of course, our hilariously novel yet highly functional miracle product sponsor, Shittens.
Other Cool Ragnar DC Stuff Worth Mentioning…
A Shittens Shout-Out: Before I conclude this post, I would like to send out a big mitten-shaped wet wipe-clad high-five to the awesome people who created Shittens. Our our unbelievably organized and on-the-ball team captain, Kara discovered this little gem of a bathroom product on a hilarious celebrity gossip blog by the name of Dlisted. Our running group was so enamored by the concept of Shittens that we sent their customer service department a compelling email about our platform for promoting their product in the running community. And lo and behold, they sent us AN ENTIRE CASE to use and distribute to the masses at the race! Talk about awesome swag win of the millennium!
As it turns out, Shittens really are well, you know… the shit. We found myriad uses for them on our Ragnar DC adventure from errrr, their intended purpose to shower substitutions to cleaning dust and marker off the van post-race. And their fresh, lemon-y scent is truly divine. Visit getshittens.com and checkout the fun little jingle below to learn more about this versatile, ingenious, hilarious product!
If You Haven’t Done a Relay Race, You’re Doing it Wrong: Speaking of things that are the shit, I really just can’t say enough about how much freaking fun these overnight relay races are. For reals y’all, whether your are in the company of people who are already your BFFs or that of perfect strangers who you only previously knew from Twitter, nothing brings people together like the folly and animated discussions of bodily functions that happen when you put a bunch of runners in a van, feed them only bagels, bananas, and Immodium, and deprive them of sleep for two days. To quote the wise and profound Taylor Swift,” it’s miserable and magical.” But mostly magical. I honestly do not have the words to describe all the love I have for my fabulous, hilarious, witty, inspiring, beautiful Team Shittens teammates and how much epic fun we had together. All the hugs and high fives to you, Kara, Caren, Sarah, Cat, Brittany, Kate, Kim, Liz, Jennifer, Gretchen, and Kathryn! We totally rocked the Shittens out of that race, and I can think of another group of people I would rather spend 24 + sweaty, shower-less hours in a van with! Let’s do this again as soon as possible!
Also, much love to all you Oiselle birds I ran into out there! It’s pretty cool when someone just walks up and hugs you because the two of you are wearing matching outfits, and that happened several times at Ragnar DC. It was such a treat meeting Steph G., Steph D., and Michelle, and I was super-bummed that I missed Nicole, but proud of her for nailing some serious finish line jumping pics in her fly pink tutu!
And mad props to the people at Ragnar for putting on a great race! I shutter to think about what a logistical nightmare it must be to coordinate an event like this, and this specific race was further complicated with last-minute route modifications thanks to the government shutdown. Through it all the Ragnar staff and race volunteers remained friendly, upbeat, organized, communicative. I have done several other relays races of this sort, and this was certainly one of the most organized and congenial I have ever encountered. Cheers to Ragnar DC’s party atmosphere, its baller bottle opener finishers medals (I think these may double as some sort of ninja weaponry?), and the fact that was there was plentiful pizza, beer, and general merriment for all at the finish line. If you have not yet checked the overnight relay race off your running bucket list you need to stop doing it wrong and sign up for one post-haste! You surely will not regret it! Only 2 weeks and counting until the next Ragnar adventure! Hold on to your Shittens, Team NUUNapalooza! Ragnar Tennessee is sure to be a wild ride!