Race Recap: First Watch Sarasota

Now that mom’s a half marathoner, we’ve been on a quest to find interesting races that we can to together. Given that mom is a walker (granted, a fast one, but a walker), we are always searching for races that advertise as being walker-friendly, or that have a good cut off time suitable for walkers in interesting locations. In our quest to find interesting races that fit the criteria, we identified the FirstWatch Sarasota Half Marathon as a contender. Once we leaded about the area, we signed up immediately. A run over a bridge, on a key, and through stately homes, all ocean-front? Yes, please!

Mom and I decided that the best plan was to stay overnight in a hotel in Sarasota (terrible, I know) and enjoy the area before the half marathon. We found our place easily and set off to check out the area. It’s gorgeous. For those of you who haven’t been to Sarasota, look it up on a map. The whole city is right on the water, with keys along the coast. It’s amazing. The city also seems to enjoy art, as evidenced by the amazing art installations all along the city sidewalks.

art

After enjoying some time in the city, admiring the enormous statue of the kissing sailor, it was time for our early bed time. Race morning dawned early, with clear skies and crisp air. It was approximately 68 degrees at race start, perfect racing conditions. Mom and I snapped a few quick pictures, then set off.

Before Sarasota

The course went along Route 41, the waterfront main drag and immediately headed out toward the Ringling Bridge. The view over the bridge was amazing – stately homes, bobbing boats, and water as far as the eye could see. Next, the course wound through St. Armand’s Circle, the little shopping area and center of St. Armand’s Key. It was lovely, old Florida style. Next, it was back up and over the bridge. By this time the sun was up and the day was bright and clear. The course continued back along the main drag, past several well-staffed aid stations, and right past the Ringling art museum. It’s a funny pink building nestled in the midst of a small neighborhood. The neighborhood was an eclectic mix of beach cottages, vacation homes, and lovely waterfront mansions, complete with their associated compound behind firmly closed gates. Each section of the neighborhood had its own little park, all of them water front. As we wound through the homes and past the parks, we were treated to great views and friendly spectators. About halfway through the neighborhood, we passed a fabulous art deco school. Sadly, I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture, but it was a great piece of Florida architecture. The neighborhood section was calm, quiet, and shady. All along the way we encountered great characters – only in Florida does a race marshall bring his own parrot.

Parrot

Once out of the neighborhood, it was just another mile or two to the finish line. Both mom and I loved the course. It was perhaps the best designed course I’ve ever run. It was just perfect. The hills were manageable, even for Floridians, the views spectacular, and the shady neighborhood positioned at just the right spot. There were cheering fans, great water stops, and friendly people all along the way.

At the finish line, volunteers greeted us with our medals (a lovely abstract dolphin) and water. There was a huge finish line party with a live band and tents on the water’s edge. Perhaps the only thing not wonderful about the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon was the post-race food. It was not good at all. There were bagels (plain and raisin), a few muffins that looked like they wilted in the heat, and a disgusting-looking melted yogurt parfait. There were lots of parfaits left over. The yogurt was warm and runny and even these starving half marathoners couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it.

It’s worth note that the race really was walker friendly. Mom and I were far from the last walkers and the spectators and water stop volunteers were cheerful, plentiful, and happy to see us. We enjoyed all the same amenities as runners. I felt welcomed and encouraged as a walker.

Overall, I loved the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. Not only would I do it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a well designed course with great views. And though it’s hilly for Florida, anyone who conquers the bridge is rewarded with a great view.

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

 

Runner on the Road

Lately I’ve been traveling a lot. Some travel has been work and some has been personal, but I’ve been away from home a lot. I normally enjoy travel, but I think I’m reaching my travel limit. I’m reliant on my routine to get in my runs and to follow my nutrition plan. Those runs and meals are what keep me on track, organized, and sane. Without my precious fitness routine, things start to get off track. I’m doing my best to stick to my routine. I’ve been running and working out in all variety of hotel gyms. Some were excellent…

Marriott gym

And some were not. I’ve run in industrial areas, commercial office parks, and along residential streets. I have devised airport fitness routines and even do squats while I’m on breaks in meetings.

I have had amazing, delicious food in wonderful restaurants. I’ve partaken of many of my favorite treats, including fabulous barbecue at Jim N Nick’s in Atlanta.

Biscuit

All in all, it’s been fun. I’ve been lucky to make it home despite pretty difficult and snowy travel conditions.

Snowy airport

I’m home for a while and glad to be back in my own house. Today I’m back on my routine. I am headed to the gym to visit the treadmill tonight, and crossing my fingers spring comes quickly.

My Life on the Road

It’s been a crazy time – I’m writing this post while sitting in the tenth airport I’ve been in in the past three weeks.

It all started with my amazing whirlwind trip to all lands Disney for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon and the Disney Marathon Weekend. That vacation was quickly followed up with two work-related trips. I haven’t been home on a Monday in a while. It’s a crazy time and it’s been wreaking havoc on my usual diet and exercise routine.

First off, work trips usually involve lots of snacks, mostly of the unhealthy variety.

Treats

Airport travel practically requires my favorite Starbucks refresher…and maybe the occasional treat.

Strabucks

I’ve also been spending much more time in airports than anticipated thanks to winter weather.

Cancelations

Eating healthy on the road is a challenge. I’m adding extra lettuce and pickles to my burgers and substituting veggies for every side I get in a restaurant (though Southerners have a strange definition of what constitutes a vegetable…but the macaroni and cheese *was* good). As I sit here in the airport, surrounded by pretzels, candy, and bad Chinese food, I keep thinking about apples. I would love a nice, crisp apple. It will be the first thing I eat when I get home.

All this travel also means I’ve had to get creative with my workouts. In addition to squeezing in a run whenever I can, I’ve developed some new airport fitness tricks. Yes, I’m that crazy lady doing squats at the gate. Hi. My name is Rachel and I do body weight exercises in the airport lounge.

My favorite airport workout is my terminal power hike. While waiting for a flight, pace back and forth through the terminal at top speed. Each round, switch suitcase carrying arms to ensure an even shoulder workout. I can usually get several rounds in before the TSA gets suspicious and I have to change the routine. Just last week I walked for over and hour back and forth through a construction area at the Dallas airport. It isn’t pretty or high-intensity, but it’s something. I’ve also experimented with some airport intervals – run to flight, walk around slow people, stop at gate to learn gate changed, run to next gate, repeat.

I love to travel, but I think I’m ready for a few nights in my own bed and a few runs through my usual neighborhood. Just one more trip to go until that dream becomes a reality. Until then, it’s time to fly.

Fly

Race Recap: Harrisburg Marathon

Recently, my running friend and I were discussing marathons. Both of us were craving another marathon. We discovered our schedules were similar and started to look at marathons we might run together. I found the Harrisburg Marathon and we  immediately signed up and started planning our trip to Harrisburg.

I knew that the trip to Harrisburg would be a quick one. I would be nearing the end of my crazy travel and running extravaganza. In fact, I would leave directly from the airport following my trip to San Antonio and head right to Harrisburg. Luckily, a last minute change in my flight schedule let us get an early start to Harrisburg. It was a pleasant drive through lovely countryside. We got to Harrisburg around dinner time, checked in to our amazing hotel, and headed to dinner. We stayed at the Raddison Harrisburg. For anyone planning a trip to Harrisburg, consider the Raddison. The staff were wonderfully kind, the hotel was clean, the beds were comfy, and they hotel staff offered to let us stay as late as we liked on Sunday after the marathon. We couldn’t ask for a better hotel. After dinner, we decided to ride down to the race start to get a sense of parking and race-day organization.

Harrisburg night

It was gorgeous. The race start was at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that lead from City Island to city center. The capitol was lit up for the night and the whole scene was lovely.

Race day morning dawned bight and early. It was clear, sunny, and really hilly at 35 degrees. Packet pick up was in a large building on City Island. Thankfully, the building was heated by huge heat fans. Food and drinks were plentiful and the volunteers were friendly.

Harrisburg Marathon check in

The race was small and runners gathered inside awaiting the start of the race. Professional pacing was provided by MarathonPacing.com.

The race began on City Island and moved across the bridge to the city center. The course wound briefly through the city center, through a small park (a half mile or so were on a gravel trail) and paved trail along the river. Then, the course went across the Market Street Bridge back to City Island. The early miles of the course were lovely. The bridges are charming and the sun was shining. The course was well-marked.

Harrisburg bridges

The weather was fall weather at its finest. Unfortunately, the bliss of the early miles would fade. A few miles later, the course would curve along the river and the weather would turn. The sky clouded, the light darkened, and the wind picked up. What was pleasant, 45 degree running weather quickly turned into 35 degrees and cloudy with a significant windchill. The course went along the river for a while and then into a neighborhood. The residents seemed a bit perplexed as to why we were running through their neighborhood, but volunteers were on hand to direct traffic and help the runners move smoothly through the course. I had been running along well, hanging with a friend who was pacing for the race. We had a nice time chatting, and I enjoyed her group.

Unfortunately, things started to deteriorate around mile 15. Near the end of the neighborhood section, I had to visit the port-a-pottie. Not good. I wasn’t feeling the best and slowed my pace a bit. Around mile 16, the course moved into an industrial area. The industrial area was unpleasant at best. The road was bumpy, the scenery was terrible (distribution centers, barbed wire, and tractor trailers as far as the eye could see), and I struggled mentally. I knew some late hills were coming, so I conserved my energy and moved along at a steady pace. The course then passed into a community college parking lot. This part of the course was inexplicable. I don’t know why it was necessary to run through such an unpleasant area. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, we turned into a park. I was delighted. A park! Sadly, the joy was short lived. At mile 18, the hills began. And they were hills. With hills at the worst possible time, I struggled. I was freezing cold, mentally spent, and physically exhausted. The hills seemed relentless. Finally, at mile 21, we left the park and headed back to the neighborhood. I was done. Mentally, I was worn out. Finishing the rest of the race was a struggle. It was a lesson in the importance of

As we turned back along the river and the steady wind blew me around, I tried to stay positive. I was running a marathon and enjoying a fun trip with a friend. The course was challenging. Those hills just ate me up. It was difficult mentally. All in all, I struggled in this marathon. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult.

Overall, the race was well done. The organizers sent multiple emails before the race, outlining aspects of the race that are critical to runners. The pre-race food was nice, check in was organized, and bag check was easy to use. The course was well marked and the aid stations were well stocked. At the finish line, cheering fans greeted the runners. Each finisher got an attractive finishers’ medal and a mylar blanket (best blanket ever!) and was ushered into the warm building. In the post-race building, there was ample food and drink. There were sandwiches, chips, fruit, and candy. It was a nice spread.

With the excellent organization and big-race amenities and a small race field, the Harrisburg Marathon was a nice event. The course was challenging and I’m not sure I would run it again. I would have loved to have some of the race run through Harrisburg itself. It looked like a cute city with friendly people and clean streets.

Harrisburg

San Antonio Shuffle

I got to check another new city off my travel life list when I went to San Antonio for a work conference. It was a quick trip – I flew in for a meeting and a presentation and then went home. Though I only had a little bit of time to spend in San Antonio, I tried to make the most of it.

I started my first morning in the city off with a run on the River Walk. The River Walk goes along a canal in the center of the city. It’s a lovely path, paved and clean. The best thing about the River Walk is the scenery. The path is lined with gorgeous vegetation – plants, flowers, and trees. I loved seeing palm trees in November and running past flowers and colorful shrubs.

River Walk

The River Walk was so nice I ran the entire length of it, out to a museum, past a golf course, all over town. I enjoyed seeing the restaurants and bars and got to watch staff on boats clean up the riverfront. The weather was perfect and the run was great.

Later that day, I decided to visit The Alamo. I toured through the building itself and all over the Alamo grounds.

Remember the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo!

I ate lots of Mexican food at local places.

Mexican food

All in all, I had fun in San Antonio. It was a great city for running and an event better city for enjoying local food.

Planes, Training, and Automobiles

The last month or so has been crazy! I’ve been traveling all over and getting in lots of fabulous fall races. As my whirlwind month winds down, I’m reflecting on the good, the bad, and the training.

It all started the last week in September with the back-to-back races. On Saturday, I ran the West Hartford Relay. The West Hartford Relay is a local event that lets teams of runners run through the pretty neighborhoods is West Hartford. Never one to pass up an opportunity to run and hang out with my running friends, I happily joined team Lululemon Athletica. We had a great time and enjoyed some lovely fall weather. Sunday was the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon. I had a great time, got a shiny new PR, and enjoyed Providence. This was the race I had planned as my peak race, so I was thrilled to know that my training was successful. My race went well and I felt fit and strong throughout the race.

The very next weekend I paced the Wineglass Half Marathon in upstate New York. I had an amazing time, met fun new running friends, and drove 12 hours in a 2-day period. I tried Air BnB for the first time (cool, I recommend it), and even ran in an impromptu local 5k.

Columbus Day weekend in Connecticut means Hartford Marathon. Cementing my crazy-lady status with non-running friends, I changed my registration at the expo from half marathon to marathon (!).

Marathon upgrade

I made the change for lots of reasons. Mostly, I just wanted to run the marathon. I had been considering it since I decided to train with a friend running it as her first marathon. I went through the 16/17 mile run with her in my prep for Providence and felt fit. I knew that I could finish the marathon and, in a fit of impulse, signed up for it. I had so much fun that I was probably bordering on manic. I was the runner no one wants to be with at mile 20 (“we’re running a marathon – how amazing is that?!!?!?!?!?!?”). Everything I said and did had lots of extra exclamation points. I joyfully trotted across the finish line and felt so amazing I annoyed those around me (“aren’t marathons amazing!!”) for days to come.

Hartford Marathon 2013 finish

The next week it was off to Portland, Oregon for a work trip. Portland was lovely and a true running city, so I got in lots of miles and some good recovery/training for my next events.

After a few days at home, it was off to Florida for mom’s first half marathon – an adventure and a great experience. I ran a few miles, but mostly walked with mom. I enjoy every moment we spend exercising together and considered all the miles of walking great time on my feet training. I made it home in time to celebrate Halloween and worked on getting organized again.

Halloween dog costume

Last weekend, I ran the Commercial Services by Glass America Half Marathon put on by my friend at Ocean State Multisport. It was my first real fall race, with temperatures in the low 40s and a steady, chilling mist. Having just returned from Florida, I was frozen throughout the race. It was a the first hint that my racing season might be coming to a close. That motivated me to enjoy the race and the New England scenery. As usual, the event was well organized, and carefully planned. The course wound through neighborhoods and farmland, over bridges, and past fields cleared for winter. Gary and his team always do a great job – the volunteers are plentiful and friendly and the race course is well marked and nicely planned. Local police drive the route repeatedly, keeping motorists attentive. I struggled in the race, but had fun and was fairly pleased with my finish. Gary greeted finishers with pizza, fruit, and Kind bars (my favorite!).

For those of you keeping track that’s 7 races in 5 weeks. I admit it, it’s crazy. There’s just one more to go. When I get back from this work trip (yes, I’m on a plane as I write this), I will run the Harrisburg Marathon to close my season. It’s been a great season, but I think I’m ready for some rest, time at home, and a return to normal training.

Running in Portland

Last week, I traveled to Portland, Oregon for a work conference. I had been in Portland before (for Hood to Coast) and loved it, so I was excited to return. I remembered Portland as I clean, friendly city with great opportunities for fitness. My return visit only confirmed that view. I loved my trip to Portland. I’ll share my highlights.

First, the food in Portland was amazing! I love food and Portland is a great place for fun food. There were tons of great food trucks, avocado at every meal, and options for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.

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I love donuts. A lot. And Portland is donut heaven. Portland has Voodoo Donuts, the most amazing, creative donut shop ever. I had an apple fritter that was without a doubt the best apple fritter I’ve ever had. If I’m being honest, I had lots of donuts. And every one was the best donut of its kind I’ve ever had.

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Portland has a fun downtown and the Pearl District offers unique shops and restaurants. It’s a very walkable city. The opportunities for running were outstanding. Not only could I run all over town, I enjoyed several runs on the paved trail next to the Willamette River. It was gorgeous. And, thanks to being on Eastern Time, I got to see the sun rise over the river almost very day.

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All in all, I enjoyed my trip to Portland. Of course, it was a little painful Monday morning to find I wasn’t on Pacific Time anymore. But it was worth it. Portland is clean, friendly, and fun.

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Race Recap: Wineglass Half Marathon

This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to be an official pacer for Marathonpacing.com for the 2013 Wineglass Marathon half marathon. The Wineglass Marathon Weekend events included a 5k, half marathon, and marathon. This year was the 32nd running of the marathon and the third year of the popular half marathon. The Wineglass Marathon is advertised as “flat, fast and scenic 26.2 miles starting in Bath, NY and finishing in Corning, NY on historic Market Street”. I had never been to the Finger Lakes region of New York, so I signed up immediately when the opportunity to pace the race presented itself. I love traveling and I love racing, so it was the perfect combination.

On the way to the Wineglass races, I made an overnight stop in Binghampton, NY. It was an adorable little college town that just happened to have a tiny, local 5k Saturday morning. I couldn’t help myself and signed up on a whim. I ran in the Run for Our Futures 5k. I wanted to practice my race pace for Sunday (pacing 2:30 half marathon), so I ran a quick 4 miles before the 5k at my race pacing pace to warm up. The 5k itself was in a lovely park, the Otsiningo Park.

NY park

The park had lovely paved trails, playground areas, and soccer fields. The 5k was run on the paved trails and it was a lovely, but humid fall day.

Otsingingo Park trail

I didn’t run my fastest 5k, but I did win a prize, so I was happy. After the 5k, I hit the road for Corning, NY, home of the Wineglass Marathon.

Corning is an adorable small town. With only about 10,000 residents, it’s a small town with a big river through the middle of town. The town was bustling with marathon activity.

Corning NY

I enjoyed a few hours walking around Corning’s old fashioned downtown and taking in the local sights. I ate at an excellent deli and then headed over to the race expo. The Wineglass Marathon expo was in the local YMCA, a large new building on the river. The expo was well organized and efficiently run. I got a lot of great swag – a string pack bag, a pretty purple long sleeve shirt, a wineglass, and a tiny split of champagne. The expo didn’t have many retailers, but they made up for that with Bart Yasso, the mayor of running, who was on hand to sign books and take pictures.

It rained off and on overnight before the Sunday race. Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:50am to the sound of pouring rain beating against my hotel room window. Not exciting for marathon/half marathon day. But, the weather cleared and left us with a warm and humid, but rain-free start. The races are point-to-point, so race morning involved a short bus trip to the half marathon start. At the start, gear check was well organized and there were ample port-potties. I didn’t have to wait in line for a porta-pottie for perhaps the first time ever at a race. A starting line announcer offered continuous instructions for runners. I found the start to be well organized and efficient.

Wineglass Marathon pacing

The race course itself was well marked and easy to follow. The half marathon course was a straight shot from Campbell, NY through Painted Post, and on to Corning. It is a fairly flat course. Coming from hill country, I was impressed by how flat the course was. There were only a few inclines on the course, one at mile 1.25, but it was otherwise flat or downhill.

Wineglass Half Marathon Elevation

The course featured well-maked mile markers and lots of water stops. Each water stop was staffed by cheering volunteers and everyone seemed organized and prepared for the runners. My pace group and I had a nice run through the countryside, through the small town of Painted Post, and on to a bike path. All the roads were even and the varied scenery was enjoyable to run through.

The real highlight of the Wineglass half marathon and marathon is the finish line. The last little bit of the race winds through Corning and across a large bridge. In the last half mile, the course turns on to Market Street, the anchor street in the old fashioned downtown, and finishes right in front of a cute clock tower on a little square. There are tons of cheering spectators and it’s a great finish. The finish chute was well organized and the food was amazing. There was soup, fresh pizza, cookies, fruit, and Coke products all delivered by friendly volunteers. In a nod to Corning’s glass making industry, the medal was beautiful, hand shaped glass.

Wineglass Half Marathon medal

Overall, I loved the Wineglass Marathon half marathon. As promised, it was a flat, fast, and scenic course. It was a well organized race and a friendly location. I highly recommend the Wineglass Marathon, particularly if you’re looking for a BQ or PR race!

Race Recap: Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay

A few weeks ago, some running friends and I made the trek to upstate New York for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay. Organized by Fleet Feet Sports Rochester and Yellow Jacket Racing, we made the trek to run with some friends who live in the area and are part of the Fleet Feet Endurance Team.

Our weekend started with a great trail run at a favorite local spot. Friday, we picked up packets at Fleet Feet and got to see both locations. The staff were friendly and the running gear selection was excellent. The weather wasn’t great (39 degrees and rainy – in June!), so we spend the rest of the day inside, resting up for the race. The race includes a marathon and a 2- and 4-person relay option. We were signed up for the 4-person team and were ready for a fun day.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we made our way up to the Mount Morris Dam. The Dam is on the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. The Dam is remarkable. I had no idea that the Sehgahunda Valley was so deep and wide. The sights were simply amazing!

Mt. Morris Dam

It was a gorgeous day, cold, and bright. A small group gathered at the start and listened to some last minute instructions.

Sehgahunda start

Runners were told to mind the trail, watching for roots, rocks, and “gullies”. Having never experienced a gully, I asked some local runners. Apparently a gully is a ditch with a stream in the middle. The trail is advertised as highly technical and it didn’t disappoint. I ran the first leg, about six miles through open plain, forrest, and rocky hillside. The trail was highly technical, with roots and rocks galore. I lost count after about 10 gullies. Some were little bumps in the trail, others were deep crevasses with a mud puddle at the bottom. One was easily 5 feet deep with sheer mud sides. Crawling was required. Another had a flowing stream in the bottom, requiring a shuffle through six inches of swiftly moving water. I loved the course. It was well marked and the trail was clearly identified and well thought out. It was clear that runners organized and planned the course. It was such an enjoyable experience to run that I lost track of the miles.

I made it through my miles quickly and managed to pass a few people. I loved the scenery and enjoyed the challenge of the new terrain. I was covered in mud by the time I reached the incline up to River Road for the exchange.

Sehgahunda exchange 1

Each exchange point was staffed with helpful volunteers who filled water bottles and passed out food and drinks. A great food selection was available at each check point – chips, fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a variety of commercial fuels from Honey Stinger.

Overall, I loved the course and had so much fun. Everyone I interacted with was amazing – helpful and happy. Every aspect of the race was well organized and carefully run. The Fleet Feet Endurance Team did an amazing job. I would highly recommend the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay for trail runners looking for a challenge. I hope to be running it again next year!

Ragnar Cape Cod 2013

You know what’s fun? Cruising around in a van with five friends on Cape Cod, one of whom occasionally hops out to run. That’s the basic premise behind Ragnar Relays and I love them!

A few friends thought Ragnar Cape Cod sounded like fun. I was quick to sign up, having loved Hood to Coast. The camaraderie, running fun, and adventure makes an overnight relay totally worth the lack of sleep. We planned and organized, rented vans and a house, and, finally, Ragnar was upon us. I packed using my super awesome Hood to Coast packing list and was ready to run the (slightly cooler) Cape Cod relay. I headed up to our rental house on the Cape the night before and met my team. Though I sort of knew most of the runners, it was pretty much a friend-of-a-friend situation and I had signed up to spend two days in a van with total strangers. Luckily, they were awesome and we became fast friends. Friday morning dawned bright and early, with Van 1 heading up the to start at Hull, MA.

Ragnar Cape Cod Course

It was freezing! We’re talking 45 degrees, cloudy, and 40 mile and hour winds. We underwent our safety check, flag distribution, and safety briefing and it was time for our first runner to start. Everyone else loaded into the van and I drove us to Exchange 1. Excellent. Ragnar was underway. I had 7 miles (which turned out to be 6.4 – the Rag Mag gave an update of the course that didn’t totally match what was online) of “very hard” running ahead of me. It turned out to be an amazing day to run. I loved it. I cruised along at a decent, but conservative, clip and finished my miles in what seemed like no time. I was having a great time!

Ragnar Leg 2

After my run, it was time to hop in the van and cruise around some more. There was singing along with the radio – our van had XM!

Ragnar Fun

Generally, we had a good time and made it to the first major exchange upbeat, happy, and bonded in the way only strangers trapped in a van together can bond. We decided on a trip to a nearby mall and dinner for our first van break. I bought gardening gloves because my hands were freezing. A teammate got some new tights. We were suited up, hydrated, and ready for dinner. A quick stop at a chain restaurant and we were back on the road. My view was pretty much the same.

Ragnar Van

Run two was a night run, so headlamp and vest were required. I suited up and headed out on a run that made our local runner shake his head. Never a good sign. I asked if it was flat and he snorted an evil laugh. Apparently there was some massive hill in the middle of my 6 miles. I got running and the course started going up around mile 2. “This isn’t so bad”, I thought. And then, in the distance, I saw the headlights way, way above me. As I got closer, I heard the steady stream of vans shifting into a lower gear, struggling to get up the hill with the cargo of runners. Let’s just say it isn’t terribly encouraging to know that vans are struggling to get up a hill you’re about to run. In the dark. I think the darkness might have helped. I couldn’t see how high or steep the hill was, only the tiny patch in front of me, so I put my head down and pushed up the hill. I passed a lot of people. Seeing their little blinking lights ahead was highly motivating and I cruised along into a town. After a quick run past some office buildings, my second run was done. Hooray! Time to sleep! Our van decided to head back to the house and sleep in our own (rental) beds and shower. It was a great idea. I plopped down in bed and was asleep right away. I got a whole hour of sleep. Actual, in-a-bed sleep. Then I woke up, took a hot shower, ate an apple, and got back in the van, ready to run.

My last run was supposed to be 5 miles, moderate. I was sore, but not terribly sore, so I trotted along and tried to focus on the rising sun. It was kind of pretty – being in the middle of nowhere and listening to the birds. I came up over a hill, and there was the exchange, 2 miles too early. My first thought was that I had blacked out. No. Not the case. My second thought was that I would just run through. There was no way my team would be there since I was only 20-something minutes into a much longer run. Imagine my surprise when I came up and found my teammate not only there, but ready and excited to run the extra two miles (making his leg 9!) that were added due to the change in exchange. I still don’t know why the exchange was moved, and I was a little sad I didn’t get my full mileage. Now that I’ve just written that I’m thinking – what a weirdo. I was sad to be shorted 2 miles in an overnight relay. I wanted to run more. Clearly I’m a crazy lady. Anyhow, I was overjoyed to be done.

Done with Ragnar

My team made a morning stop at the most amazing French bakery ever. We had what I refer to as the French Food Orgy. We were all so hungry, and so tired, we ate pastry like animals. It was amazing. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the finish line at Provincetown and climb the memorial to the pilgrims. It was a gorgeous day, a well-organized course, and an overall fun adventure. I had an amazing time, met great new friends, and ran a little. If you have 11 friends, two vans, and a weekend, run a Ragnar. It’s an amazing experience!

P-town