Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ragnar Cape Cod - the journey of No Man's Van

Still not sure how I made it on this "dream team" of relay runners, I woke up bright and early Friday morning to board one of our highly decorated transport systems (rental vans).

I would be spending the next 27+ hours in this "home away from home," and living the good life, also known as Ragnar Cape Cod.

Slated as our team's 7th runner, I had 21.56 miles total to run, and would be the first runner in Van 2.
Being in Van 2 has its perks... you get to wake up early to send off the other van and then go somewhere to wait for all of them to run their first legs!
Both Reebok teams together in Hull, MA, before the start. (Note the reindeer photobomb.) Photo credit: Reebok

Sinead, our team's first runner, took off like a gut-shot cat.
We had fun after the race using apps and sketchy math to compares miles to K's to see if we would be compatible running partners.
Of course we would!?

Ragnar Tip: Enjoy your free time while it lasts!
After watching the speedy Canadian writer, Sinead, take off on leg 1, we did what any smart team would do, and headed to a nearby breakfast place.
We figured we had until 4 or 5 pm until we ran.
We were WRONG. But, we had a delicious and overfilling breakfast!

Next, after someone texted us that Van 1 was running faster than predicted, we rolled ourselves over to the next major exchange to look for our team.
I had about 45 minutes to spare and used the restroom.
Ragnar Tip: Use the restroom when there is a short line if you have the chance!

Quickly, I changed into a pair of Reebok shorts, generously supplied at the last minute by the Reebok/Ragnar store tent. This was my saving grace. I don't run well overheated!

As our team's 6th runner approached, I was excited for the hand-off. The music was great and I had a personal goal to run 7:30 pace, which for me is reasonable given legs of ~10 miles, 5 miles and 6 miles.

Often runners will keep track of kills in a relay (people they pass). I don't like to operate that way; I just try not to be passed, have FUN, and stay at my personal pace goal. After a mile or so, I caught up with a man who was the last person I could see in front of me. He mentioned that he wondered if he might be lost.
Uh oh.

Then he told me he saw a sign earlier that said right, but he thought maybe he needed to go straight.
How could I have been following this guy and not be looking for signs? Serious racing error! I didn't even glance at the map before my run. Lesson learned! You can't just follow like a sheep.
Ragnar Tip: When you Ragnar, look for the direction signs.

I asked a few boys on bikes if they had seen any other runners. The first group said "Yes".. the second group we came to said "No".
At that moment I had to make a choice, and I decided to trust the first group of kids and just keep running.

Eventually Mr. Running Lost and I found another runner, and we were back in the game. (Not without a little stress though. After looking at Strava, we apparently took a scenic route, adding a half a mile of coastline  views to our 9.6 miles).

Running like mad, and totally unaware I had added a half a mile to my relay leg..

Somewhere in all of this I saw my van pulled over, and all my teammates were outside cheering for me! Applause is not needed for me to run happy, but it sure helps the team to get rallied.
 Ragnar Tip: Be a team player / cheerleader.

I wondered why my first leg was long after I hit the 10 mile mark.. but I had a downhill and just kept plugging at it. When I entered the exchange corral, there was a lot of cheering from people (So NICE!), but my hand-off person was not there.
Ragnar Tip: Try to stay ahead your runner.

Stretching a bit, I just smiled and enjoyed the time outside of the van to rest. I felt sorry for Amy, who was frantically getting ready to run!

Apparently my teammates in "No Man's Van" hit traffic and got stuck trying to drive from their last cheer point to the hand-off. Something like that might bug you if you are super competitive, but this was a relay-- and it's much more important to remember you are there for the FUN.
Ragnar Tip: Be flexible and forgiving.

Having a little too much fun on Instagram before dark :)

As we hit the exchanges and darkness fell, a new Night Ragnar emerged.
We donned our required safety gear (vests, headlamps and blinking lights) and kept the rotation going as skies filled with rain clouds.
Ragnar Tip: Embrace the elements.

photo courtesy of Reebok

Keeping in contact with Van 1 became more critical, and we made use of texting as well as whatsapp, (which the Brits and the Canadians all use), to determine how long we had until we needed to run next.

After our second major van exchange, in all of the wet darkness, we decided we were ready to eat something besides Clif bars, granola bars, peanut butter rice cakes and Nuun.

It can be a challenge to find a restaurant serving food at 9:30 PM out on the cape. We considered going into a few venues, but it was Friday night and the only places open looked to be bars.

With some discussion we passed on the opportunity for a sit-down meal and also for a potential McDonald's. We decided on Subway, but they were closing and would only make "basic sandwiches", without the veggies.

Back and forth we drove through town (which town, I am not sure), looking for someplace open, determined to get some sort of sandwiches with vegetables. We were hungry, wet, sweaty, and craving salt..

Ironically, we ended up at a gas station, buying beef jerky.

At the next exchange we were able to buy hot chicken soup, or meatless spaghetti, or egg sandwiches..without vegetables, from Boy Scouts (God bless them, every one). But at this point nobody really cared what we ate, so long as it wasn't in a plastic wrapper.
Ragnar tip: You might get hungrier than you expect and at odd hours. Buy that sub sandwich during the daytime for the 10PM munchies.

After our delicious meal, we made our way to the next major exchange where we would attempt to sleep before I started off our next series of Van 2 runs.

Upon arrival, we set up camp in a semi-quiet gymnasium. Right before unrolling our sleeping bags, we learned that the other van was making good time running, which meant that we would only have an hour or so to sleep before leaving again. I tried to be cheerful, really, as I got comfortable in my sleeping bag on the gym floor, thinking about running 5 miles in the dark rain.

Then, just as I was falling asleep, Hilary came and got me for my next run. I tried not to wake everyone else, found my reflective vest and jacket and went to the exchange (forgetting to wear my race number).
Ragnar tip: Sleep is a luxury you won't need for a few days.

I was there a few minutes before I saw the Van 1 crew. Lindsay and her crew were always smiling as they waited for their last runner, and it was a boost to get me out the chute.

Night time running doesn't bother me, but in the rain it is essential that I have contact lenses in, which I did. The Ragnar turn signs were easier to see in the dark because of their lights. The rain let up, making it a comfortable running temperature; and, the darkness at 12:40 AM gave me the adrenaline needed to crank out my fastest miles for the race.

Runner by runner we handed off the slap bracelet baton, until the sun was coming up over the horizon. At the next major exchange, we sent off Van 1 and then took our van to do something I hope every Ragnarian gets to experience: we saw the sun rise as a team.

Ladies of No Man's Van (Reebok team 2) embracing the dawn 
Ragnar Tip: Go see that sunrise together. You won't regret it!

Riding along with my teammates and watching them run revealed a lot about these new-found friends. Emma could hold a wicked-fast pace and had just finished running London Marathon. Amy was pretty quiet, but made everything look easy. Monica was great with maps and finding the next place. Laura always wore a smile, despite some knee pain that really intensified in the last leg. Hilary was a great driver and would be running the longest run of her life to date!

We drove ahead to the next exchange and looked for a chance to sleep and eat. It was a beautiful morning at the regional school we parked at. After some lovely breakfast sandwiches, A few people went in the gym to sleep, while I joined a few teammates in the van. There were a few hours to pass, but I wasn't sure how many. Knowing I had to run next made it hard for me to fall asleep, though I did try. 
Emma became an expert at coordinating runners and sending out PR, all while snuggling rice cakes, Gatorade and gym bags.

At 8 am it was warm enough to wear shorts and short sleeves outside, so I put on my sunglasses and prepared to run my last leg. As I "warmed up" I got a few funny looks and even a comment.

At this point most runners felt pretty trashed for running hard twice over some very hilly legs. The rollers were my biggest surprise of the Ragnar Cape Cod course, but thankfully I have been doing a lot of hill training and long runs.

As we neared Provicetown, the view really started to take on the classic "Cape Cod" look. It's hard not to be distracted by breathtaking seascapes that go on for miles!

Waiting for the very last hand-off. Wish we could have stayed longer!
Now we were really feeling the sun and doing our best to help each teammate finish strong. Hilary, whose longest run ever had been 6 miles, ran in the final 10 mile leg for our team. I was inspired.

The Pilgrim monument - an unmistakable landmark towering above the Ragnar Cape Cod finish line.

Due to some misunderstanding regarding the finish line shuttle, (and perhaps over-zealous cheering), we managed to miss being at the finish line to run in with her.  Luckily the Van 1 runners were there to do the honors, 27 hours 45 minutes 58.6 seconds after we started our adventure, making us the 27th coed mixed team, but the first all women's team IF we had entered that division.

Ragnar relay medals make a special message only visible with all teammates' medals together.

Shortly after Hilary finished, some of us walked, (and some of us hobbled), our way from the parking lot up the hill to the finish line at the Pilgrim monument.

Clam chowder, quinoa salad and (for some of us) beer, have never tasted so good as they did Saturday afternoon, sitting in Provincetown with my teammates.

In reflection, Ragnar Cape Cod all went by so quickly. But I have no doubt the memories will last for a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to do a Ragnar relay, I hope you'll take it.

Thanks again for the opportunity, Reebok!


  1. I loved following along, Raina - what an awesome adventure!

  2. Nice running, and if you only missed one exchange and got lost once, I think that's a success!

  3. So cool, and I love the way you wrote the report! Very impressive running. I am so not a night runner!

    1. Thanks Dawn! I've ran some crazy hours.. I wish I could have seen the beautiful houses I was running past!

  4. Yay!!! I loved reading this!!! I was runner 7 last year! Your night leg went right by my street!! Yes the Cape is very hilly...a lot of people don't realize that! And yes in the off-season everything closes wicked early!! Come June it will be all open! I'm so glad you had such a fun experience!

    1. I forgot about it being the off season! It must be crazy in a few weeks..
      Wish I could have seen ya, Nancy! I sure hope to get back :)

  5. What a well written and fun report. Thanks for sharing your story, looks like a great adventure!

  6. Very nice an read Raina. Nice that you share it. 😃

    1. Thanks for reading Tor-Kenneth! Maybe someday Ragnar will reach Norway :)

  7. What a fun adventure! It's been 10 years since I ran in Cape Cod. Yes, hilly!

  8. Look at you ladies kicking butt! Love this recap for so many reasons, what a strong runner you are! What a blessing to get a dream weekend :)

    1. It was like a dream! Thanks for the positive words Karen❤️

  9. Thank you much Raina. That was fun to follow. My best for you and all your teammates.

    1. It means a lot to have you read! Thanks Greg!!

  10. Your photos look absolutely beautiful! I love the sunrise and the beach shots! Congrats on an awesome run!

    1. The East coast has its own kind of beauty. I'm so glad I got to see it! Thanks Michelle!

  11. Well done you and team. NEXT year you'll have to enter as an all women's team! Great collection of photos and memories there. Congratulations on not getting lost ;) I like the list of Ragnar Relay tips, not that I'll ever get to use them.

    1. I agree Ewen! Getting lost can be fun.. just not in the middle of a race.


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