The next entry into my running summer of failure was the Pennsylvania Ragnar Relay. Don’t take that to mean I didn’t have fun, because I had a total blast! I just suffered again from blisters that sidelined me, and it was beyond frustrating. I wanted to scream and cry, and it didn’t help that I didn’t fuel properly. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My dad and I headed across the state to Lancaster on Thursday, where we ate lunch at an Italian place and he dropped me off at the hotel our team would be staying at. I hung around for awhile, observed some dueling church conferences, and got some snacks from Sheetz. My team arrived at the hotel, where I hoped into the car as we drove the five minutes to the Ragnar start line.
Both cars for our ultra team convened at the start line area, where we checked in and watched our safety briefing. Everyone else on the team said that it was super-convenient to do a nighttime check-in, and I’d have to agree. We headed back to the hotel, got both of our rooms figured out, and had a team meeting before we went to bed. Even though I was with a bunch of strangers, I could already tell that we were going to have a blast.
In the morning, we divvied up everything between both cars – we had a support car of cheerleaders and our rest van. We loaded up and headed out to the start line, where not having to worry about check-in was wonderful! Our team captain became the unofficial Ragnar start line photographer for all the teams. We made a few quick friends with other teams, then our first runner was off. Go Kim!
Both of our vehicles loaded back up, and I was in the support car as the race bible navigator. Kim had taken off, because it took us over a mile to catch up with her. She was totally killing it, and she didn’t need water or anything. We instead just rang our cowbells as loudly as possible and screamed out the car window. We headed into a park where the first exchange was. Our second runner, Lauren, was ready to go, but Kim was nowhere to be found. We waited around for a while, growing more and more worried when she didn’t make it. Finally she tore down the hill, looking no worse for wear. She passed the snap bracelet off to Lauren, and away she went.
Apparently there was an unmarked fork in a trail that had caused a group of runners some grief, as they weren’t sure which way to go. Nevertheless, we all loaded back into the car and headed off to support Lauren.
It was such a blast, as there were tons of other vans out cheering and clapping and screaming for their runners. There were funny signs, vans that were decorated beautifully, and just an overall awesome vibe. There were quite a few churches that we could pull into their parking lots to cheer for Lauren as she zoomed by (seriously, she’s a speed demon).
Even though it was about a 7-mile leg, the next exchange came up quickly. Kelly was off, and I headed back in the support car. It was starting to get really hot, so we planned to stop every mile and a half to two miles to make sure she had water. It was on this leg that Kim and I ran into another runner from the Sub30 Club – hey Vinnie!
The next exchange is where I switched over to drive the rest van, as I was the runner on deck. When Beth came in, she got a bite to eat and we hopped into Lauren’s van to head to the following exchange. She got us on some back-country roads that got us to our next location easily, so I got ready to run. I also met a van full of Subbers – woo!
Hung around at the exchange for a while, but then it was my turn! Since we were an ultra team, instead of running six separate legs, we each had one run that was two shorter legs combined into one run. My first leg was just shy of three miles, and it felt great! Even though it was hot as hell, it was beautiful and scenic and I was near some other awesome runners. The second leg of my run started to hurt like hell though; even though I’d done everything right in blister prevention, they were back. I was riding the struggle bus pretty hard. I was walking way more than I would have liked, and it was killing me. My feet felt like they were on fire, and I felt like a disappointment. They were some hard feelings to deal with.
I finally came in at the exchange, where I handed the slap bracelet off to Candace and immediately went to the med tent. There wasn’t much they could do for me, but I at least got some ointment to throw on those suckers. We headed to the next exchange after a while, which was at the Intercourse Fire Hall. Hell yeah, so glad Eastern PA has some town-name gold mines as well. We hung out for a while there until Candace came in, and it was off again!
I loved being in the support car, as I enjoyed cheering for everyone as they zoomed past. It was so beautiful out, everyone seemed to be clicking along well, and I made up for my uselessness as a runner by being a good navigator… I only told our car to go the wrong way once, and that happened late on Saturday. We took our time to enjoy the sights and sounds and smells that Amish Country has to offer.
We also took our time to poke fun at the Vegan Van… It seemed that everywhere we turned, there was a van full of vegans nearby. It was almost a bit unnerving how it kept happening.
Anyway, it soon became my turn to run again. I bandaged up over my blisters, took some ibuprofen, and just prayed that my 7.8-mile run would go okay. It actually went better than okay, to be honest. I felt like I was flying on the first half of my run, all the way up until the massive hill in the last mile or so. At that point, I was hurting emotionally and mentally (not so much physically) and power-walked up the hill as fast as I could. I wish I had taken a picture of this hill, as there’s no way I can describe it. When I got into the exchange, my support car said they knew I was probably cursing that hill out the whole way up. That part was pretty miserable, but I survived.
The next exchange was a major one, so we had some time to hang out and I got to eat some of the food from the back of the support car. I was pretty tired at that point, but my feet were feeling alright. There were a few more exchanges before our car of three went off to try to sleep. We had to do some doubling back to get supplies to our other car, but then we headed off to try to sleep. Our next exchange was at a PennDOT work site, so it was kind of creepy being around all the empty pipe and the site trailer and piles of dirt. We had cots, but it was a little chillier than we would have liked and we wanted to feel as safe as possible in the car.
None of us got a ton of sleep, but I dozed on and off in the backseat for a few hours. I was the first runner up, so I got changed, lathered up my feet, and took another round of naproxen. It was after two in the morning when I hit the road, and I was in for a world of hurt. I immediately could barely breathe, felt radiating pain in my feet as pressure was put on my blisters, and could feel my body trying to get rid of my dinner. I made it over two miles into my leg, power-walking as fast as I could while keeping my food down. I had to stop a few times on the side of the road because I thought everything was coming up.
I eventually texted the support car, and those two took me to the next exchange. They talked to the volunteer, who noted our team and time. Candace headed out for the next leg, and I stayed curled up in the back seat, fighting off nausea. In our car, that was the beginning of the end. Little did we know at the time, but it was also approaching the beginning on the end in the other car.
We met up as a group at the next major exchange, where we all talked it out. Three of the six of us were seriously sick, which was putting a damper on the whole experience. Since we were so far to the back of the pack, one of the Ragnar volunteers came up to our car and gave us the options we had for the remainder of the race. As a team, we made the decision that those who were feeling up to it could run whichever legs they wanted out of what was left, while we had to check in with any exchanges that we skipped. I put my limited abilities at that point to use by listing out the remaining legs and their lengths. We divvied everything up as we wanted, and our moods immediately lifted.
We mostly kept both cars together for a while, where we leapfrogged to different exchanges to let them know of our passing. When our runners went out on the course, we of course had to have a good dance party and cheer for them and the others on the course.
We mostly rode along the rest of the course, cheering and screaming for everyone we drove by. I do have to admit, the Eastern part of the state is pretty beautiful.
After a while, Kelly and I split off to do the check-in process while others were running. The cars rejoined so we could be a full support team, and we resumed cheering. The injured runners car headed to the finish line, where we had to walk all over God’s green Earth from where our car was parked. I met up with my mom, who had come earlier in the morning when our team decided to do some leapfrogging. I sat by her near the finish line until we got word that Lauren was almost into the finish line.
We all stood near the finish line as we saw her pink shirt coming down through the woods. We crossed the finish line as a team, all of us jogging (even though my feet were absolutely dying). It was such a blast, and we were still all smiling.
We headed back to the cars, and I pulled my stuff from both. I tossed everything into the backseat of my mom’s car, and then we headed the four hours back home.
Even though it didn’t end as we expected, I 100% had an amazing experience. The five other ladies that I met were awesome, and they took to me immediately. It was weird to be in the car with my mom on the way home and it was just her. We kept texting our recoveries to each other for a few days after, and I’m glad it wasn’t just me who struggled.
Ultralicious for Life!