I’ve started & restarted this recap so many times already. I don’t know where to start, so I decided to try something different and share some things I learned during the Reebok Ragnar Relay race! Buckle up–this is gonna be a long one!
Have you ever met those people who say they don’t need friends? They’re lying. No matter how introverted I can be at times or how unsure I am that I want to be around a group of people for a long period of time–I still need friends.
I’ve wanted to run a Ragnar relay race for years, but simply didn’t have enough running friends to form a team. Sometime last year that changed and I met a ton of runners (that I actually liked!); Ragnar announced their return to Canada and I immediately freaked out with excitement! I joined the Ragnar team as an ambassador and quickly assembled my team complete with a few people I only knew from the online world.
Throughout every moment of this race: the planning, the even more planning, the excessive planning, the decorating, the millions of messages and questions, and then during the actual race part, all I could think was how amazing my friends are. This race has so many logistics that it could easily end in frustration if you had the wrong team. Lucky for me, my team rocked and showed me once again that friendship truly matters!
Probably the best decision I made was asking Cathy to be on my team! She designed all of our graphics and then she and her husband (who, btw, made an Instagram account the morning of the race just so he could follow along….) printed all our decals at their print shop, Gawck. We definitely had the best-looking vans at the race!
Her graphic skills definitely helped our team, but more than that, Cathy did so much behind the scenes. I got too much credit as the captain because honestly, I couldn’t have done it without Cathy! She was always there to jump in when I needed help making a final decision, she went to the captain’s meeting because I couldn’t make it and she was my sounding board during every bit of the planning for this race!
I KINDA, SORTA LIKE TO BE IN CHARGE
Okay….this is not a new revelation or anything, but I guess I really learned during the planning and execution of this race that I actually enjoy planning stuff like this. It’s not a matter of wanting everything to go my way; but more a matter of the “fun” of organizing a team. Reebok contacted us a couple months before the race and as we began working with them as our team sponsor, I truly enjoyed dealing with the details. I’ve been in charge of lots of things in my life like directing school choirs or dramas and working with groups of women to pull off events, but this was a little different and I enjoyed learning so many new things!
That being said, I probably (read…definitely) spent too long obsessing over the race details and not enough time on my training!
I NEED TO HYDRATE MORE (aka Leg 1)
Van 1 left for their 9AM start in Cobourg early Friday morning & Van 2 headed to Bowmanville after hitting Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. I was the first runner for our van and was hardcore nervous! It was fairly chilly on Friday and the rest of my team was in sweatpants and hoodies while I stood waiting in my tank and shorts. I overheat when I run, but it was dreary and cloudy with no sign of the sun so I didn’t really think much about being too hot.
As we were waiting for the first van to get closer I realized I hadn’t had any water. It was 12:30 and I had had a couple of coffees, a breakfast sandwich, and a cookie. We had tons of water in the van, yet for some reason, I hadn’t had any! Major rookie move right there, so I tried to drink what I could before I ran out of time!
It wasn’t long before Ben came into the exchange to pass off to me.
I took off and began my 7.8k run. It took me exactly five minutes to realize that the clouds had parted, the sun was out and I was not in shape to continue running a 5:20/km pace. I slowed down, took a few walk breaks and focused on trying to get to the guy in the red shirt ahead of me. I kept him in view until I caught him a little after 5k and we started chatting! Chris from California and I ran the rest of the way together until the very end when he told me I could sprint past him into the exchange. Thanks Chris!
As I passed off to Cathy, I saw Anson and J standing off to the side so I ran to hug them. It was so nice to see my family waiting to cheer for me. Lisa gave J a cookie so she’s probably his favourite now!
HAVING FUN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEING FAST (aka Leg 2)
We had some fast people on our team–these people win races; yet, they were willing to put aside any aspirations of winning to simply have a good time. As the night legs started happening and the headlamps, tail lights and safety vests came out, I started to feel nervous. Now, I am not a nervous person. I like running in the dark and hate early morning runs, but I don’t usually run somewhere brand new to me in the dark. Michelle told all of us girls that if we wanted someone to run with us that we could have someone and it was no big deal.
Ben easily agreed to run with me during my 5.3km night run, so instead of passing off to me after running his 12.7km leg, he just kept running.
This was my favourite leg of the race because I wasn’t alone. I got to know Ben a little more (we are basically best friends now) and I have no idea how long the run took because I didn’t wear my watch or take my phone. I am in no shape to worry about speed right now–enjoying the run is exactly what I needed!
SLEEP IS ACTUALLY OPTIONAL
We finished our night legs around 4AM and drove to the next major exchange in St. Catherines where we tried to go to sleep at 5AM. I had (so kindly) given Michelle my blanket to use while we were driving and when we stopped the van to sleep she was curled up so nicely in it that I didn’t have the heart to take it away. I laid myself on the floor between the front seats and fell asleep. I woke up thinking I slept for hours and checked my phone. Yep. I slept for 42 whole minutes!! I sent Carmy a few texts to see how their van was doing, thought about how cold the van had gotten, tried to roll on my side which didn’t work (cramped quarters I chose to lay in!!!) and eventually fell back to sleep for another half an hour. Around 6:30 everyone started to stir and Lisa and Cathy shared how they didn’t actually sleep at all. We figured out that there was a Starbucks close by, so we headed there to get some breakfast. My stomach wasn’t feeling so great so I opted for a peppermint tea only since my next running leg was soon.
I changed in the Starbucks and we headed back to the exchange point. Somehow along the way those few minutes of sleep felt like hours and hours. My adrenaline was real during this race & I never once felt exhausted. This time sleep was actually optional!
PEOPLE IN BOSTON SHIRTS WILL ALWAYS PASS ME (aka Leg 3)
After we got back to our exchange point I knew I needed to put my socks and shoes on. I was dreading it because I had a blister on the inside of my right foot in the same spot I usually get one after a long run. It hurt to put my shoe on, so I made the choice to use one of the pins from my race bib and pop it. I stuck one of Michelle’s moleskin bandages on it and put my socks and shoes on. I hobbled to the bathroom where I spent far too long (TMI…sorry!!) and hoped I wouldn’t miss Ben coming into the exchange!
I didn’t have to wait for too long before Ben came charging into the exchange, did an epic jump and passed me the slap bracelet (which I never wore btw. I just carried it in my hand!).
I headed off down the road into the wind and waved to an elderly man mowing his lawn. He waved back and cheered for me which totally made my morning! Everything was going along fine until just after the 1km to go sign. The path went over a bridge and then curved to the left, but the road kept going straight. In Ragnar rules, you always stay straight unless there is a sign telling you to turn. I hesitated for a few seconds because I was on a path (I couldn’t run on the road where I was) and the path turned. I saw a lady in a tutu out of the corner of my eye and was instantly annoyed that someone in a tutu was so close. Then I saw that she was wearing a Boston Marathon shirt. My judgemental self chilled out and immediately gave the speedy lady in the tutu permission to pass, but she didn’t. She stopped dead and looked at me. Neither of us was sure where to go so I sent my van a message and asked, “is the exchange by the water or no?” Krysten replied, “NO!” and I knew where to head! The tutu-clad Boston runner beat me into the exchange, but that’s okay–she ran Boston! She can pass me all day every day!
HUGS ARE MY JAM
I used to hate hugging people. I’m not sure when it changed, but sometime in the past 5 years I have gotten over that completely. Now I hug people when I first meet them. I hug my friends to say hi and then again to say bye. My van decided that we needed to have exchange dances, but they decided this when I was out for my first run so I kinda missed the memo! When they told me after I said that I would pass off to Cathy with a hug. Sure that seems boring, but to me it was perfect!
When I finished my final leg, Michelle was there instead of Cathy because they had switched legs! Michelle didn’t know my ritual so the hug didn’t happen, but as soon as I passed off the bracelet I turned and saw Nancy standing there in a volunteer hat. Nancy is one of my favourite people ever and I knew she was volunteering, but I was still so happy to see her! Getting a hug from her as I finished my part of Ragnar was pretty special to me. Maybe I didn’t have a special dance, but hugs? Those I can do!
I NEVER WANT TO DRIVE FOR A RAGNAR RACE
I don’t mind driving at all, but I seriously don’t ever want to drive for a Ragnar race. Both of our drivers are runners who didn’t get to run during Ragnar. The way that they stepped up to drive for us with literally zero complaints was amazing. Leanne drove my van and how she put up with us is pretty impressive. I probably would’ve slammed on the brakes, pulled to the side of the road and demanded that everyone BE QUIET! Leanne and Maria deserve a medal and if there’s one thing I wish Ragnar would change is that the drivers don’t get anything–not even a race shirt. They deserve just as much as the runners in my opinion! Their jobs are not easy!
I LOVE SEEING MY FRIENDS SUCCEED
I focus way too much on myself just like probably 98% of the population does. I’m selfish and I’m not afraid to admit it; but, lately, I’ve started to notice how much I genuinely love to see my friends succeed. Sure, I would like to do well myself, but my own Ragnar legs were quickly forgotten once my teammates started running! Seeing Courtney make up lost time for us by running so much faster than she knew she could; seeing Cathy take on a longer leg than planned to help Michelle out and then seeing Lisa power through the final leg after overcoming a year plagued by injury had me overcome with joy.
I LOVE BEING PART OF A TEAM
I knew I was going to be emotional to some extent but I didn’t expect it to hit me quite so hard! We cheered as Courtney headed out for her final leg and then jumped in the van. I pulled out my phone to text my team and my eyes filled with tears as I typed these words:
“Courtney’s on route. We are headed to the final exchange before the finish.”
I am not sure what happened but the emotion of it all overwhelmed me. Realizing that 14 people worked together to accomplish one goal meant so much to me. Stopping at each exchange and seeing people laughing and talking with each made me so happy. I am an observer. Sometimes I joke that my excellent memory helps me not be fooled, but it’s really probably my observation skills more than anything. I remember people nervously biting their lips before their runs; people talking too much to try to make it look like they were comfortable; and people staying back from the crowds just watching what everyone was doing. I was laughing and having fun the entire time, but I was watching too.
I know that my team could’ve placed in our division if they had really wanted to. I know that I was the slowest runner on the team (I’m not an idiot!!)! I also know that they all did Ragnar because I asked them and honestly, at the end of the race–it overwhelmed me to realize that this race wasn’t about running. This race was about love. It was about friendship. It was about a team.
Shortly after we crossed the finish line, I did an interview with Reebok. I don’t remember most of what I said (pro tip–try to speak coherently on camera after not sleeping for over 30 hours!). I do remember talking about running the night leg with Ben & how it really made me realize that we were a team. It was no longer one van running and then the second van running after they were finished. During that night leg, our team blended into one as we worked together to get closer to the finish. It was in the darkness that I truly learned what a Ragnar Relay race is all about.
*This post is sponsored by Reebok Canada but as always, all opinions are my own. A special thank you to Reebok for taking care of our team during our training & on race day. They provided us with all our apparel as well as Floatride shoes to run in. All our outfits and shoes can be purchased at Reebok.ca as well as at select Running Room stores!