I ran a 200-mile relay race this weekend called the Ragnar Del Sol. It’s basically a weekend of living in a van, running more than I should, not eating, feeling sick, cheering others on, meeting new people and realizing that I’m not nearly as awesome as I think I am. That realization is usually a good thing for me 🙂
The logistics of the race are confusing, and I’m too lazy to try to explain them, but what you need to understand is that I ran 16.5 miles on less than 5 hours of sleep over about 36 hours… and I hope I do it every year forever.
It’s difficult to describe why I do things like this, because most people hear about it and say they’d rather be punched in the throat twelve times than run a race like this; they say it sounds horrible and torturous.
And it is.
But it’s wonderful too.
So… last year, I wrote this post about what I learned at Ragnar 2011. The post is called EFF THAT! I’M TORTOISE AND I’M COOL… it’s one of my better post titles EVER.
This year, I’m going to make you a nice list of more things I’ve learned after year 2.
Here’s the list:
5. Contribute what you can. I hate driving and did not once offer to drive the van. I’m sure that made people think I’m selfish. So… I tried to make up for it in other ways. I brought foods that were pretty popular, had water ready for our runners after they finished their runs (except for when I forgot), and tried to be a no-pressure buddy for the moments of frustration, alienation, and exhaustion that every single person on the team inevitably felt. I don’t know how (or have the capability) to create a mix-album to play in the van, so I brought CDs I already had, and tried to contribute in other ways. It’s not important that we contribute in just exactly the way everyone else contributes… in fact, it’s probably better if we don’t. But it is important that we contribute.
4. No matter how many miles I run, someone will find a way to make me feel fat. After running 16.5 miles, I grabbed my women’s medium-sized Ragnar shirt and tried it on… and it was too small! I’m not a large-sized sort of girl anymore. I totally was at one point, but I swear I’m medium-sized. I am! Yet, here I sit, wearing my large-sized shirt and thinking, “Man, this is a tight, large-sized shirt… there were lots of women running Ragnar who are probably large-sized, and there’s no way this would fit them. Now they probably feel extra-large-sized! Why is it the world’s mission to make us feel fat?”
3. Enjoy the people you’re with. Last year, I ran Ragnar in a van full of weaker runners who were occasionally mean-spirited. One of the coolest parts of Ragnar is how the vans can stop and support their runners. Some teams get megaphones and yell encouraging or hilarious things at their runners (“Don’t let a GIRL pass you! You should be ashamed!”), some wear costumes and play loud music for their runners, some give their runners water, some make spirit tunnels, or one of the people in the van will even run next to their runner for a bit to help him keep going…. last year in van 2, we drove past every single one of our runners. Sometimes we’d honk at them as we drove past, but that was as good as it got. No water. No cheering. No spirit tunnels. Still, I had fun, and didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything because I was able to enjoy EVERY single person I was in the van with.
This year, I was in a van full of stronger runners who got out and encouraged each other in all of the ways I listed above (except instead of having a megaphone, we had a cow bell… our team name was “Not Our First Rodeo”). However, we had a moment or two in the van of awkwardness, frustration and confusion. One of our runners in particular can be difficult to take because he doesn’t always say the right thing. BUT IT WAS SO MUCH FUN TO RUN WITH HIM. This runner brought the team SO much laughter (he definitely said, “I’m going to swallow tonight”… he was talking about water and didn’t realize a “That’s what she said” had to be added to that comment), he made up a lot of time for our team because he ran pretty fast, and he prayed with me before my second run. So… it doesn’t particularly matter which van you’re in or what obstacles you’re facing. Enjoying the people around you is crucial to a quality race.
2. Feeding yourself is SUPER important! I felt pretty crappy on my last and easiest leg of the race. My first run was 6.4 miles in the heat, but I ran it almost exactly on pace, wearing a cowgirl costume complete with pink pistols in pink holsters, denim vest over my shirt, and cowgirl hat… and it was SO much fun. My second run was 5.8 miles uphill at ten p.m., and even though I wanted to walk the whole damn thing because my head wasn’t in it, it was probably my favorite run of the race and I was a scoash faster than my pace. My last run was 4.2 miles extremely downhill, and I planned to tear it up and run faster than my pace, yet it was the worst run of the weekend for me. The thing is, I drank a gallon of water, ate a sandwich and several other things, and took a Gu shot to fuel the first run. By the last (and easiest) of my runs, it didn’t matter how much water I drank, because I hadn’t eaten much except for popcorn, a Luna bar, and pb & h for 24 hours before the run. I had to walk part of my 4.2 miles downhill because I hadn’t given my body enough fuel. It sounds selfish sometimes, but FEED YOURSELF. I promise it’s important – just try to run 4.2 miles downhill without it.
1. There are few things that teach me humility like encouraging an attractive, 20-something man who ought to be SO fast… but I’m passing him, AAAANNNDDDD… seconds later also encouraging a larger sort of girl who blows by me like she’s on wheels and I’m weighed down with anvils tied to my ankles… then I find out that she’s running something called an ULTRA, which means she’s probably got seven or eight miles to go after I quit running.
There’s something poetic about realizing that looks are deceiving, everybody is running the best race he knows how to run, and no matter how much or little a person is struggling, we all like to hear a “You’re doing great!” every-once-in-awhile. Runners who are seemingly better than the rest of us hear genuine encouragement way less frequently than those who are slower than the rest of us… because we often don’t understand how much it takes even the most experienced runners to keep running, and because we don’t have the humility to accept the truth that some people are faster and some are slower, and neither should change the way a girl thinks about the 16.5 miles she’s responsible for running.
I hope this post made you think something to the effect of, “Katie isn’t a weirdo for running Ragnar… I just didn’t realize how awesome and worthwhile it is for a girl to torture herself beyond sanity.” 🙂
You should probably all run Ragnar with me next year (or in November, because I’d love to run Ragnar Las Vegas!