There’s this thing that happens when you run a relay with strangers – something I’ve done seven times now. Actually, there are lots of things that happen when you run a relay with strangers, but as I’ve said before, those things don’t often translate well when you’re talking about them after the fact. If you were a camp kid or a theater kid, or (as I was) a speech kid, you get it. It’s all the best and the funniest and most awesome while it’s happening and then you try and explain it to someone later and it sorta falls flat.
But the specific thing I was talking about that happens is the moment at the beginning, when the people you’ll be running with for the next 24+ hours converge in one place and the six of you climb into the van that’s so clean and soon will be so not clean. You’re there. You’re in the van, headed either to the start (if you’re Van 1) or the first major exchange (if you’re Van 2). Your legs are fresh and you’re ready to run. And you look around at these strangers who you’re having very pleasant conversation with about running and other nice things and if you’ve run relays before, you might feel a little… dismayed. You might think, “These people seem really great. No, really. Seriously. They seem super nice. But… I’ve never eaten a pickled egg with any of them. They don’t know what seagull fishing is! None of them will have any idea what I’m talking about if I mention that one Hood to Coast when Emily fell face first into a pile of horse shit…” It’s not like they don’t all seem like nice, fun, funny people, but they’re not YOUR relay people and you might be a little nervous.
And then… AND THEN. Fast forward about eight hours to 10 p.m. on a Friday night and you’re walking out of the bathroom of an Applebee’s somewhere in (or perhaps just outside of) Las Vegas. You walk back to your table, where those same nice people from earlier in the van are sitting and you find yourself saying, “Guys. GUYS. I just need you to understand that Sarah McLachlan was playing on the radio in the bathroom just now and I AM HAVING A MOMENT.” You say it like you would say it to any of your oldest and dearest friends at home, who you trust to hear the ridiculous things that come out of your mouth and brain and love you anyway. And you say it to the nice van people now sitting at a table at a Las Vegas Applebee’s at 10 p.m. on a Friday night because, in spite of (or more likely because of) the sheer insanity of what you’re doing together, they have become your people.
There’s more. So much more. And I’ll tell you a little bit about some parts of it next, but what happened at Applebee’s is what you really need to know to understand why I run relays and why I love it so much. It’s an opportunity to expand my tribe and collect a few more most favorite people ever in the history of ever.
How about some more pictures while I struggle for a while to find the words?
I loved running with this team. We were eleven women and one kick ass dude who stepped up to fill the last remaining spot on the team about 48 hours before we were scheduled to run. As per relay usual, I didn’t get to know the Van 1 ladies very well since we only see them briefly a few times on the course, when we hand off to the other van. But they seemed like they were having as great a time as we were and you can read more about their experiences in a few different places, including my fellow recap slacker Nicole’s blog. She has links to the rest of the team’s blogs/recaps in her post, so I’m gonna be lazy and let her do that heavy lifting. Thanks Nicole!
Here are some more pictures.
As far as the running goes, it was SPECTACULAR. My first leg was Friday evening, around 8 or 8:30, I think. It was a fast 5.4 miles, with a goodly chunk of that downhill. After a few hours in the van waiting for my turn to run (Runner 11, yo), I was ready. Yeah, yeah, it was downhill, but clocking two sub-8 minute miles during that leg ranks high on my list of running-related happy moments.
My second leg was a fairly forgettable 3.9 miles in the early morning hours. I really don’t dig the middle leg of a relay. I’m always tired and out of sorts, so was really glad that this was my shortest leg. The best part actually was as I finished, when my vanmate and cousin, Sara, excitedly dragged me over to see a porta potty that had met an unfortunate, explosive, flamey end.
My third leg kicked SO MUCH ASS. 7.7 miles in some hot, November-in-Nevada sun. This leg was near (and practically along at some points) Lake Mead, so I had some pretty fantastic views. Despite the heat, the fatigue and the rolling hills, I kinda killed it. I settled in during the first mile or so, acclimating myself to running not only in the heat, but also daylight, after two legs in the dark. And as I settled, something weird happened. I started passing people. Lots of people. I don’t normally have “kills” during relays and I’m okay with that. I’m not a super speedster, but I can cover the miles. I know my place. But out there in the desert, my place turned out to include passing 16 people. It made for some great motivation as the miles kept coming and the sun kept beating down. And when I handed off to Brennan, our last runner, I really felt like I had given it every single last bit of myself that there was to give.
And then, once Brennan crossed the finish line, it was over. But not quite because we were in Las Vegas and had to do a little bit of fun having.
And then after the sad and staggered goodbyes to my team members, it was time for a couple of days of cousin fun! Sara’s sister Hannah was a champ and shuttled our asses around before the relay and then joined us at the Luxor when it was all finished so we could revel in some not-running.
Turns out, the universe decided to be all, “Hey Jenny. We kinda dig you. Here’s a thing you will like.”
There was… a Titanic exhibit at the very hotel I was staying at. FOR REAL.
In case you didn’t know this about me, I really really really love anything to do with the Titanic. Really.
We even got some equal parts cheesy and awesome green screen photos.
The exhibit was all artifacts from the ship, displayed in recreated settings – the ship’s deck, the grand staircase, first class and steerage cabins. I have some mixed feelings about all of the stuff being brought up from what is essentially a graveyard, but it was also just incredibly cool. Including a GIANT piece of the ship (the one we’re green screened in front of in the second picture up there) aptly named The Big Piece. I was unprepared for the sheer enormity – both literal and emotional – of seeing an actual piece of the ship. My always rule-abiding self wanted desperately to ignore the “Don’t touch” signs, hop the rope and get my hands all over that thing.
After we nerded out (yes, the cousins were super into it too), we did some more typical Vegas stuff.
We even managed to get one picture of the three of us together at the airport before I flew home.
So, that was Ragnar Vegas. Plus some other stuff. And of course, there was more. There is always more that doesn’t get shared because, y’know, lost in translation and all. I loved it though, every cold, dark, hot, bright, exhausted, crazed second of it. Big thanks to Nuun and PRO Compression for sponsoring us, outfitting us, hydrating us and just generally making the whole experience possible.
Most importantly, thank you to Van 2. Sara, Brie, Hyla, Ron, Matt and Brennan. Thanks for being my people and for being awesome and for making sure that I will never see Applebee’s quite the same way ever again. You guys are the best.