Written by: Sherrie of Van 2
The Van 2 Story…
I think Van 2 had big intentions of getting extra sleep before the first major exchange. Of course, with a bunch of insomniacs in the group that plan was destined to fail. So off we went to the start to see Van 1 off. Although it wasn’t overly crowded, you could feel the excitement (or maybe it was the humidity). This was going to be awesome.
As Van 1 left, we hit the local Wal-Mart for food and… workout shirts?? Love that place. Feeling antsy, we packed up the vans and made our way to the exchange point. If you’ve never been to Winona, MN it is very scenic and VERY hilly. Great if you’re a photographer; not so enjoyable if you’re a runner. We got registered, safetied and before long McKenzie came flying in. Jaclyn was off and our “tour of duty” had begun! Now we knew it was hot. But standing around hot and running hot are two very different things. Add to it, asphalted highways (cue the dead skunk), gravelly hills and not a tonne of shade, we definitely had some challenges. That’s when our team mates (who had already run) got out and ran more just to keep each other going. I couldn’t say thank you enough; that was the embodiment of BRFs (best running friends).
The sun set and we arrived at the next exchange but Van 1 was nowhere to be found; they had gone to the wrong location. They hurried to meet us and were off in a flash. Now we had two goals: food and sleep. But we split up for sleeping (note to self: don’t do that) and all of a sudden Van 1 showed up, Jaclyn was out on the road and chaos ensued. In true team spirit, Van 1 took Brooke while we regrouped and got on the road. Of course, Jaclyn and Brooke are now known as “the forgotten ones”. (“Remember that time when you forgot me?”) We collected both girls and sent Tricia on her way.
Now, when you’re running in the dark, the Ragnar bible states you must be lit up like a Christmas tree, complete with headlamp, tail light, and reflective vest while hauling a spotlight big enough for the Batman symbol (okay, that’s a mild exaggeration but you get the picture)and this must be worn until 7:15 am. By 6:30 the sun was up and Tricia was like a child in a back seat. Instead of asking, “Are we there yet?” all we heard was, “Can I take it off now?” We powered through the rest of our legs and Barb probably killed the biggest hill of her life. I didn’t actually hear anything come out of her, but I’m certain she swore at that thing the whole way up.
We arrived at the exchange and Van 1 started their final legs. We cleaned up (I’m using that term loosely), headed for lunch and made our way to the final major exchange. The end was in sight!
As we lay in the grass (sitting in an un-air conditioned gym was not happening) we were figuring out our paces and whether we would finish before the course closed (it was a valid concern, we were definitely the slow van). Ragnar is unbelievably organized and they want everyone to finish so naturally, there is a plan for these situations: Leapfrogging. You can skip ahead to the next leg and have two runners out together. It was a win-win! We would finish nearly two hours sooner than we anticipated and have company for our final legs!
McKenzie came flying in (pretty sure that girl doesn’t know how to go slow) for the last time and with renewed energy, we were off. I’m pretty sure Jaclyn had more hills on her legs than all of us and she killed every last one of them. Brooke flew over a 1.5 mile unsupported pedestrian overpass and Tricia and Neal took off. We knew downtown Minneapolis had a lot of construction happening; what we didn’t know was how it was going to impact us. We quickly found out when we lost our runners. We asked other runners and no one had seen them (how could you miss a guy in a yellow tutu?). Naturally we started to worry, as a van full of girls will. And then good news: someone had seen a guy and girl in tutus and they were on their way! That’s when our driver Andrew went over and above. He laced up and ran to meet them with water, Gatorade and a bag of ice. Soon, Barb and I were on our way. The home stretch; 5.6 miles and a good chunk of it was downhill.
In spite of everything she had done and accomplished, I don’t think Barb thought of herself as a runner. Until 200 meters before the finish line when the loose toenail that had been plaguing her finally came off. In an effort to stop the pain and get to the finish (we were so close!), Barb took off her shoes and threw them to our waiting team members. There was no doubt that, finishing in her socks; Barb was definitely a runner, and a hardcore one at that.
We finished possibly the most grueling and rewarding race of our lives hand in hand with 10 of the most awesome people I have ever met. What started out as a 40th birthday gift ended up being the experience of a lifetime that I would happily share with these people again. Many of us are already talking about where we should go next!
I think we all learned a lot in those 36 hours, about each other and about ourselves:
- What it means to be part of a team
- How to run distances from the marathon and half marathon experts on my team
- How to run in extreme heat and limited sleep
- How to train for Hills and more Hills.
- How to fuel your body for 36 hours of exertion, even when you’re not hungry
- How to use flags to make sure everyone is safe jumping in and out of a moving vehicle and crossing highways
- To trust that your Van will be up ahead waiting to encourage you on
- That your friends will jump out of the van and run extra miles with you in order to get you through a night run melt down and to the end of the race
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