Wednesday, May 13, 2015

" the middle of nowhere, you find yourself."

Currently, I'm sitting in Boston Logan as I prepare to leave Massachusetts after what has been an indescribably life-changing weekend. I want to cry and quite honestly I'm on the verge of overwhelming tears reminiscing over what just happened, but they're happy tears.

This entire weekend/week I have had a permanent, genuine toothy smile plastered from ear to ear.

To me, it's always amazing to hear someone's stories, learn about someone, or anyone really and where they came from, how they were raised, how in this very moment, this very second, they arrived at this point of life. I was able to do this walking in with only meeting one of my team members face-to-face just a short few weeks ago (hi Carly!), and knowing one other teammate only through online outlets (hi Dacia!), however someone I consider a close friend.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod is an event, a weekend, and vacation that has truly changed my life. I met 11 strangers who I just knew going in to this love to run; 11 folks who had to work together and trust each other enough to travel 192 miles from Hull to Provincetown, MA by either running shoe or by white van.

Overall, I ran a total of 12.8 miles over three separate legs, the first being 4.2 miles, the second (at 11:30pm) being 5.5 miles, and the third being a 5k with only a brief nap over a 36 hour period. Where we finished in our journey doesn't matter, out of 508 total teams. Honestly if we came in dead last during the relay, I wouldn't care (we didn't, but we weren't far from it). If you ever get the chance to run Ragnar, DO IT. Do it and sign up without hesitation. 

I can't really fathom or put in to words the fun experience I had, with too-many-to-count inside jokes with Van 1 teammates, and the friendships that were made with my teammates, teammates I now consider not just friends, but family. (We're already planning a marathon-reunion in October. Milwaukee, baby!)

Since I can't really put in to words how to express what this experience was like (life-changing doesn't even cut it), I'll do my best with photo:

Carly and I met up at Dayton International for an early, early morning flight to Boston via Philly. I only met Carly once before, as she lives nearby and we both thought if we were traveling together, we probably outta meet first. ;) (...and boy was Carly awesome! She lives nearby, and I cannot wait to run a race with her locally soon!)

After Carly and I's flight(s) to Boston, we landed and took in a little of the North End, complete with a visit to Mike's Pastry on Hanover. Duh.
After hanging around Long Wharf for a bit and a few beers, we met up with our teammate (and my new soon-to-be van-mate for an extremely LONG time) Mike, coming in from Wisconsin. Mike has lost a total of 230 pounds from diet and exercise, another SUPER fast runner that we added to our arsenal. He's also afraid of the dark, and the cucui. (More on that later...)

After hopping a ferry from Long Wharf to Hull via Hingham, we met up with our other teammates, and went to dinner! (W00t, carb loading!)
The 'Running Down a Dream' Team, from left to right - Vicki, Carly, Valerie, Rik, Rik's wife Cynthia, Jen, Mike, Rudy, Dacia, (Erick, Dacia's Fiance is back there behind Don), Don, Ber-gen (giggle), and me, using a self-stick for the first time.

After dinner, we prepped the vans!

The night before our big journey began, I didn't sleep well. I knew I needed to, but excitement and nerves got in the way as I attempted to drift off in slumber. Over the next 36 hours, I would sleep 1.5 hours... In a van... In the parking lot of some random high school.

...and Rudy is off!
Our first exchange of many - Vicki passes the "baton," a bright orange slap bracelet, to Mike - who kicked it!
...then Mike passes to Dani on some lonesome piece of pavement. We were surrounded by others, though, and had a blast getting to know many other teams we would see along our journey.
My turn! On my first leg, I ran to Duxbury, across a rather smelly saltwater marsh.
As Runner 6, my job was to pass the baton to Rik, Runner 7 who also kicked off Van 2's first leg. Each time I met Rik, he had a hug and a smile waiting on me. Thank you for being an amazing captain and so incredibly encouraging, Rik.
...check our sweet ride, and our sweet safety officer, Dani. She's kind of the shit. We spoon trees together.

Did you say, "Hockey?!"
...the joys of Ragnaring. Sleeping in "the barn."

Magnet Tag!

...and you also meet the Easter Bunny at an ice rink while running. NOT random, not at all. #onlyatRagnar
Teammate Dani to the left, rip-snorting' ready-to-run Mike to my right. A bunch of damn bandits.
The night running #ShineBrightLikeaDiamond

P.S. Night running in strange territory sucks shit. I'm not even kidding. I honestly was a bit freaked out, and kept saying, "Rik, I'm so happy to see you." I actually found another female runner, a new friend who later found our team on Facebook, Tammy from Vermont, to pace with for a while. We were stopped by, what I assume was, a car load of drunk/stoned/dip-shit teenagers. Add in the fact we were JUST discussing the cucui - the Spanish boogie-man, bullfrogs and shadows were enough to take a year off of my life. I am NOT a fan of night running, nor did I see Nantucket. It was foggy, dark, and that's how horror movies start. I'm not stupid.


We foam-rolled in parking lots. #dontbeaDennis

We're still not sure whether Speedo-guy changed his Speedo or not. True story - I got a text from Dani the day after, as she ran a 5k (she's a flipping beast, folks) with Speedo-guy present... In a red Speedo. Someone get this guy a sponsorship?!

The friendship between these two was gold, comedy gold. #selfieachievementunlocked
Gearing up for my final run, a rip snorting' 5k!
...this dude was getting' down. The Ragnar volunteers were AWESOME.
DONE! Whew!
Van 1 from left - Rudy (Runner 1), Vicki (Runner 2), Mike (Runner 3), Dani (Runner 4), Dacia (Runner 5), and yours truly.

Lobster roll count this trip? 2.

Dunkins count this trip? I honestly don't know... #Van1RunsonDunkin #GetDaniaDunkinsSponsorship

The view of Cape Cod from our balcony after we were complete.

After. Officially Ragnarians. Hoodlums, too?
The hardware.
(Photo credit: Ragnar Relay Series)

Each time I walk away from Boston, the city itself, I leave a little piece of my heart. I'm saddened but certainly happy to go home, to sleep in my own bed (not a gym floor under bleachers or a random hockey rink), and to actually shower, in my own bathroom, not a random port-o-potty worrying about the cucui reaching its hand up from the depths to grab my ass, or a Dunkins.

But this city will always feel somewhat of a home to me, I feel I belong. It's an indescribable feeling, but when it feels right, I completely immerse myself. Take a look...

"Why aren't you answering when I call you. Wasting all these quarters..."

Ber-gen and I survived the hostile hostel, and only saw one dude half naked in a purple towel while waiting for the elevator. We were educated.

Beer count this trip? I have no idea, but Sam Adams Brick Red is my poison. (...and not available at home.)
I Ragnar'd, and I can't wait to do it again.

P.S.: Spooning trees in Boston Commons is kinda fun. Again, Van 1 inside joke. :)