Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod 2013 in Review

One and done ... despite the many obstacles that we hurdled to cross the finish line at the New England Relay, that introduction to long-distance relay racing was enough to get me hooked.  I was a bit burnt out on being the team captain and primary logistician and recruiter and planner and coordinator, so I kept my fingers crossed that some other crazy person out there (because 99% of my friends think these types of brainstorms are literally insane) would need a runner.  And finally an offer came through!  The friend of a co-worker tried to recruit her for a Ragnar Relay.  She wisely pointed out that he should be recruiting me instead.  So he did.  And I turned around a recruited the other half of our team because we were way short on runners and I was not about to do a NER Part 2!

The first weekend in May 2013 found me huddled on a windy, chilly, cloudy beach near Hull, Massachusetts with three friends and six strangers preparing to send off our first runner in Ragnar Relay Cape Cod.  I believe only two of us had done a long-distance relay previously, but all of us were unbaptized Ragnarians.  The Ragnar Nation is pretty huge in the U.S., so it was exciting to see what their races are all about!  And I must say, they do have the system figured out.  Despite the huge numbers of vans and people, there really weren't any snafus or traffic jams.  (At least none over which Ragnar had any control.  There's not much to be done when there's only one highway that goes out to the end of Cape Cod, and all the weekenders want to use it along with the Ragnarians!)

As I said, the race started in Hull.  It was a brisk morning.  We weren't quite prepared for such chilly weather.  The course then wound its way south along the coast through lovely country neighborhoods and rural areas with stereotypical New England charm.  Van 1 handed over to Van 2 in Plymouth after a jaunt through the historic downtown, including a sprint past the famous Plymouth Rock.  Van 2 then got to enjoy some lovely scenery on the Cape Cod Canal, where they passed back to Van 1 right at dusk.  Time to bust out the disco belts and reflective vests and blinking lights and head lamps and let the night games begin!

I'm sure the areas we passed through that night were also gorgeous, but naturally it was pitch dark and we couldn't see anything.  I ran along a beach at one point, cuz there was a bit of white sand spreading over into the road as well.  Van 1 passed back to Van 2 at a school around 11pm, and then we tried to sleep on the gym floor for a few hours, but for whatever reason, the air conditioner was cranked up and we were not prepared with sleeping bags.  Mental note for next time!  So we weren't exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when Van 2 sent us off for our final section, but it was a beautiful morning and we were truly out on Cape Cod by this point, which was enough to put smiles on all our faces.  My last six miles were in those peaceful, quiet hours when the sun is up but the people are not, so there was hardly any traffic on the paved roads (I had some dirt roads and bike paths too) and it was one of those wonderful runs where it's just you, your footsteps, and your breathing.  Fantastic way to finish up my contribution to our Ragnar adventure.  Then Van 2 took over to bring us to the finish!

The finish was in downtown Provincetown, which is a fantastic quirky town perched right at the end of Cape Cod.  There's a huge monument on a hill (yes, a hill ... they made the poor final runner finish going up hill!!!) which was a great spot to host the loads of teams and spectators coming through to enjoy the beer tent and chowder and other goodies.  Ragnar had also figured out a good shuttle system to Van 1 could park out by a beach and get bused to the finish, thereby reducing the vehicle traffic in town.  We limped and cheered our way across the finish as a team, received our initiation Ragnar medals, and then it was time for some beer!

Comparison?  Both courses (NER and Ragnar Cape Cod) were great.  You really get to enjoy the New England countryside in all its variety.  Ragnar was more organized through exchange points and other support aspects (having the gym to crash in), but I'm sure NER has upped its game since that very first race.  The runners and team spirit and van decorations and camaraderie are overwhelming .... I suspect that's a distance relay thing not unique to any single race series.  I'm game for another Ragnar.  Or another NER!  Sign me up!

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