Last weekend I ran my very first Ragnar Relay through Southern California. And listen, I know that sounds really quite crazy but those 37 hours through Southern California was one of the best times of my whole life. If you want to dominate the shit out of this relay like my band of honey badgers did this weekend, then you’re in luck because I’ve put together this easy to follow guide for you. Just follow these steps:
Step One: Assemble the fiercest group of honey badgers you can find.
Step Two: Realize that while ten months ago when you signed up for this thing your reaction might have been: “Two days in a van with the internet? Sign me up!” your reaction is now the much more frantic: “WHAT THE SHIT DID I AGREE TO?!” Try to remain calm.
Step Three: Spend the final three weeks before the race running no more than four miles at a time and cursing your injured hamstring. Hope you will somehow make it through the 16.5 miles you’ve signed up for without injury.
Step Four: Stock up on all of the glitter everything in the land. Throw in some fur for good measure.
Step Five: Do not miss your flight to Los Angeles. Unless you are me. Then maybe just try not to miss your flight next time, mmk?
Step Six: Fail to recognize that missing your flight is just the beginning of all the possible things that could go wrong (and eventually do).
Step Seven: Make it less than one hour in Los Angeles before THE NICOLE EFFECT STRIKES AGAIN. Agree to sign up for all the things.
Step Eight: Come up with a two day meal plan that involves lots of bananas, almond butter, and banana and almond butter sandwiches. Also Swedish Fish. And Goldfish Crackers. But no real fish please. Your van mates will thank you.
Step Nine: Go to bed really early. Spend the night absolutely not sleeping because obviously your brain is aware of the fact that you are already not planning on getting any sleep for the next forty-eight and is just trying to help you out.
Step Ten: Drive to your first exchange and decorate the shit out of your sweet ass ride (aka home) for the next two days. Also decorate yourself. Spoiler alert: a week after this is done you will still be finding glitter on your body.
Step Eleven: Wave your cowbell like a madwoman as the baton (in the form of an awesome slap bracelet) is passed from Van #1 to Van #2. IT’S GAME TIME.
Step Twelve: Drive frantically from exchange to exchange in order to exchange one exhausted runner for a fresh and ready to go runner.
Step Thirteen: Learn that the heat index is approximately 101 degrees as you prepare to set off for your 100% uphill 5.4 mile run through the California desert at 3:00 pm in the effing afternoon.
Step Fourteen: Receive the baton from your teammate and set off in to the desert heat.
Step Fifteen: Practically cry happy tears as some amazing individuals from another van offer to pour water on your head at mile 3. Contemplate accepting a popsicle from the sweet little girls handing them out to runners, think better of it.
Step Sixteen: Fall madly in love with your legs as you learn that you are a much stronger runner than you ever give yourself credit for. Dust off your pom poms and cheerlead your way to the next exchange. Accept that your run practically just qualified you for Badwater. Decide to think about it later.
Step Seventeen: Pick up the final runner from your van and drive like crazy to the fancy hotel awaiting you at the next major exchange.
Step Eighteen: Check in to the nicest mother effing suite of all time and allow yourself to be really sad that you only plan on spending four hours sleeping in it before setting off to run some more.
Step Nineteen: Have your precious slumber interrupted about one hour in by a frantic phone call from your Van #1 team mates. Learn that their van has been declared dead. GO GO GADGET RESCUE MODE.
Step Twenty: Pack all of your shit in OLYMPIC RECORD TIME and copilot Tara to rescue your fellow honey badgers from sketchy parking lot in the literal middle of nowhere.
Step Twenty One: Prove to the world that you have the best team of all time by efficiently and flawlessly transferring everything from Van # 1 in to Van #2 and driving like crazy to pick up your stranded team mate at the next exchange.
Step Twenty Two: Get your daily dose of humility when you quickly learn that while you are the world’s best copilot during daylight hours, you are in fact the world’s worst copilot at 1 am in the god damn morning.
Step Twenty Three: See the final runner from Van #1 off for her second leg and then hurriedly get the remaning members of Van #1 to the hotel so that they can hopefully get some sleep.
Step Twenty Four: Meet your injured runner from Van #1 at the next exchange and watch as the first member of Van #2′s headlight bobs off in to the distance. Note that it is now 3 am.
Step Twenty Five: Squeal to the tenth degree as one of your teammates finishes the longest run of her entire life.
Step Twenty Six: Run the fastest four miles of your entire life as the sun rises over beautiful Southern California. Fall even more in love with your strong legs.
Step Twenty Seven: While driving to pick up the sleeping members of Van #1 come up with the brilliant idea of doing a Hunger Games themed team for next year. Oh yeah, while everything is going wrong, never once stop talking about how excited you are to do another Ragnar because you genuinely are the most excited.
Step Twenty Eight: Pick up the members of Van #1 and decide as a team to finish the race in a single van, rather than getting another van from the rental company. This will be the best decision you make all weekend.
Step Twenty Nine: Miraculously fit eleven runners and all of their running gear, food and luggage in to a fifteen passenger van. This is a feat worthy of a car from the Ministry of Magic.
Step Thirty: Continue cheering on your teammates as they run through the desert. Never stop smiling and laughing even though you are all sleep deprived and entirely exhausted.
Step Thirty One: Finally find the beach. Post a million pictures of the beach just to make sure the internet knows you are at the beach. Also, the beach makes everything better.
Step Thirty Two: Keep on running.
Step Thirty Three: Pick up a lost team mate three miles from where she was supposed to be because Ragnar signs are really confusing. Never stop smiling, laughing, and rejoicing.
Step Thirty Four: Decide to run the final 5.5 mile leg with two of your other team mates. Just kidding, this will be the best decision you make all weekend.
Step Thirty Five: Meet up with the rest of the honey badgers and run the final quarter mile as a team of mother fucking champions.
Step Thirty Six: Spend the rest of the weekend talking about how the thirty seven hours and 200 miles you just spent running through Southern California was one of the best times of your entire life.
Step Thirty Seven: Commit to running another Ragnar next year because “Two days in a van with the internet? Sign me up!”
Seriously though you guys, those thirty seven hours taught me more about myself as a runner than any other race I have ever run. Even though I have technically been a runner for nearly two years now (See also: WHAT IS TIME?!), I still largely think of myself as a beginner. I tell myself “can’t” more often than “can” and waste so much of my energy psyching myself out before I even begin a run. Ragnar taught me that I am capable of so much more than I think I am and that it is time to stop thinking about myself as the girl who couldn’t even run a minute without wanting to cry, because I haven’t been that girl for a very long time. When I start thinking about how little my pace has improved over the past two years, I get easily discouraged. But I now realize that I am the only thing standing in the way of beating my PRs. Last weekend proved to me that I am ready and more importantly that I CAN train harder. As I prepare to start training for my first marathon, I hope to carry this lesson with me every step of the way. Can’t is no longer an option.
I also learned last weekend that running is my happiness. In the past two years I can think of few things that have made me happier than talking about running, reading about running, and actually effing running. I am so happy I allowed the internet (read: Nicole) to bully me in to signing up for my first half marathon two short years ago.
Finally, if someone can please figure out how to bottle up and sell this Ragnar high I have got going on right now, I will totally split the profits with you 80/20. Okay fine 60/40.
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