TUTU MUCH FUN
Thus begins my recap of an adventure so big that it will require 3 posts to cover. It all started the day before Ragnar Relay from Cumberland MD to Washington DC.
Jim took the day off to help calm my nerves and drive me to Cumberland. We rocked out to tunes from ELO because I had read there was going to be a team named Electrolyte Orchestra. I never saw that team but loved the name.
I overestimated the time to get to Cumberland and we dawdled around the town as I waited to get together with the teams I was affiliated with through Another Mother Runner. It allowed us the opportunity to see an Elvis impersonator (lousy video here) who looked exactly like this guy.
I checked into the hotel and Jim started his drive home just as the other moms on the teams were arriving. Some of my team mates’ rooms weren’t ready so the Holiday Inn treated them to free beer, wings and nachos as they waited for some glitch to be ironed out and their rooms readied. This gave me a chance to get to know Renee and Lorraine of my team a bit.
I was so very happy for this moment because although we were all on the same team, they would be in Van 2 and I would see very little of them. They had flown in from Atlanta. I had made some carrot cake muffins for their van since it wouldn’t really make sense for them to try to fly with something like that or go shopping when they got in. Lorraine was so appreciative she started to offer me money. I told her that I just doubled the batch and only asked a favor that she pick up a burrito for me at Exchange 30.
I pulled out a map where Chipotle was across the street from where our vans would hand off from each other. I had my order printed out on the back and a $10 stapled to it. It. was. excessive. I know it was but they seemed game and we all got a pretty good laugh out of how crazy I was to have my lunch figured out 2 days in advance.
Supper that evening was very nice too. I had a chance to meet people from the other team whom I would almost never see. We chatted and I know I flipped some of the more conservative ones out with telling them about modeling from the School of Visual Arts. It’s not that I was trying to shock them, it’s just so matter of fact for me after so many years.
After a stop at a local ice cream spot (vegan mango sorbet – SCORE!) we had a logistics meeting for both teams/ all vans. We got our teams outfits of pink tutus. Anyone who knows me at all knows I am not a girlie-girl. I have always hated how any color has been an identifier of gender and when Arron was little I would catch so much flack anytime I would put him in something pink. It is another reason my color is indigo; a color that’s not blue, nor purple, nor pink and rarely identified with a gender. When it comes to tutus = fun I have to say I have never known a ballet dancer to wear one for fun.
I had resolved to fake that I loved my tutu the way Natalie Portman faked that she danced in Black Swan. In hot pink, I painted my booty shorts with our team’s catch phrase “Bad Ass” Mother Runner on them and planned on flipping up the back of my skirt in fun when the spirit moved me.
Our teams decorated our vans that night. I had made some posters that echoed the Tough Girl Tutu designs our team was wearing. Each van had snappy sayings and many had a place to check off when they had completed each of their legs and how many “kills” or people they had passed. We didn’t officially do kills, running hard and math didn’t mix for many of us.
The day started early with a photo shoot that was to be followed by a photo shoot then checking in with our safety meeting at the starting line. I had a lot to take to the van so I wore my second photo shoot outfit under my first only to find that the second was cancelled (story of my life is trying to save time with a schedule then the schedule changing). So if I look bulking in my Saucony gear, it was because I had a second outfit under it.
Leg 1 – Fall around Lake Habeeb
Rocky Gap Park was just beautiful in the misty dawn. Just outside of Cumberland, this large park was the starting line for every team. Our start time was 7:30 AM and we wasted no time getting checked in and going to our safety meeting. I helped carry the safety flags for crossing the roads and we all sported our pre-7:30 AM safety vests. Our first runner, Schuyler, was able to start her run without it. We cheered like crazy mothers as she went off for a loop around Lake Habeeb on some trails. All we had to do was walk across the parking lot to where Bethany would get the hand off at Exchange 1.
All of the hand offs were made with a retro-style slap bracelet that could be held like a baton or worn on the wrist so it wouldn’t get lost. Even after stopping to help a fallen and injured runner, Schuy came around the lake in good time. I loved seeing her through the fall foliage and on the cute bridge less than 1/10 mile from the exchange. Spirits were high as many a team sang and danced and chanted as they waited for their runners. We sent Bethany off with a big cheer and got into the van to drive to the next spot.
Leg 2 – Why are You Talking to Me?
Bethany had some hills and open highway to tackle and we drove by her about a mile into her run. We learned the protocol of navigating into the new parking areas for exchanges by giving runners the right of way and carefully maneuvering a huge van filled with enthusiastic runners.
I helped navigate on many of the legs and I hope I was more help than confusing. This exchange was a little out and back for the runners so we saw new runners coming out fresh as we were also driving by tried runners going in to hand off. We had some time before Bethany made it in but when we saw her she looked strong. As it turns out she had been trying to amicably chat with another runner who told her, “I’ve never had anyone run beside me and talk at Ragnar before.” It didn’t phase Bethany, she powered ahead and handed off to Jill.
Leg 3 – Killer!
This is where the seriously dry and dusty roads started, Jill took on the hardest legs with a crazy ascent in the middle. We drove past her, gave her cheers and “a little pom pom action” and drove slowly for what seemed like forever on dirt roads that climbed and climbed.
Not wanting to make the dirt worse, we crept past runners and cheered for them to keep their spirits up. One fellow from the spirited team called Runners on the Lam had been really enthusiastic at exchange 1. We saw him and rolled the windows down to do the same call and respond chant he had been leading along the lake. Darned if he didn’t have the breath to sign along! Team mates called him Charles Manson because he had a Ragnar temp tattoo his forehead.
As we pulled into the grassy lot for exchange 3 we were greeted with a row of stern runners holding craggy sticks over their heads. Many of the teams had themes. Some dressed as cavemen, some carried plush toys, some were dressed as cartoon characters. Each had creative names and van decorations that went along with their costume themes. I racked my brain but could not think of any solemn stick carrier team. Weird.
We pulled way into the grass and just as Schuy turned off the engine I saw them; hundreds of annoying bugs flying by our window. Runners that were outside their vans we frantically waving their hands in front of their faces to keep the bugs out of their eyes. Some were holding their hands way above their heads because the bugs were attracted to the highest point on a person. The mystery of the stick holders was solved!
It was a long and hilly leg for Jill but for her efforts she was to be rewarded with an extra prize at the end of her run. I had no idea how long it would take her but went out to the edge of the lot to watch for her pink tutu down the dusty road. Charles Manson came in and asked if I knew where the van with candy was. I said that I didn’t but he later returned to say that he had snagged some Twizzlers from ours.
Just after his Twizzler remark, I saw a flash of hot pink in the distance. Jill was cruising up the road and none of our other team mates were anywhere in sight. I bellowed in the direction of our van for Sarah who was to take the hand off from Jill. Another team mate heard me and ran to get her as I stayed to greet Jill just in case no one was there to take the bracelet. Sarah made it in time and headed down the very dusty road.
Jill was given a really great belt buckle for her great contribution to our team. Even after a brief wrong turn, she ran so quickly that she caught us unaware. Jill is made of speed and power.
Leg 4 – Clouds in the Sky
More terrible dirty back roads were all of Sarah’s run. We tried going very slowly to keep the dust down. We eventually made it to a vista that was high enough that I had cell phone service for the first time that morning. Texts of support from my family came pouring in after Schuy was directed where to park by an intense guy wearing a green bug net hat.
Nicole ran next and she was very focused on making the exchange from Sarah. We did all pose for a shot at the vista but she was always keeping an eye on the road for Sarah’s pink tutu. This exchange was one of the more difficult styles because there was no real lot to pull into. Vans lined the road well before and after the exchange and the intense bug net guy tried to keep it all in order.
Port-a-potties were at almost every exchange and I can’t remember ever having to wait more than 30 seconds to get into one. The day was getting hot and I had been drinking Nuun all morning to be hydrated for my run. This meant that I was visiting the little green huts at almost every, no every exchange. Drink. Pee. Drink. Pee. I was ready to run.
As we waited to spy Sarah coming out of the clouds of dust in the distance, I took notice that we were meeting up with many of the same teams that we had started with. The intense KNIFE HANDS had outdistanced us but parked at vista was Beer View Mirror, What Rhymes with Hug Me? and the good old Runners on the Lam (see Charles Manson to the left in the exchange photo).
Leg 5 – Twist …
More never ending ups and downs driving on back mountain roads greeted us after Nicole took off and Sarah was ready to get in the van. The dust was so thick sometimes it was hard to see the runners in the distance. There were other times it would clear out and the fall foliage would just beautifully frame a lone runner in the distance. It was those moments of natural beauty that really fed my soul and how I want to remember Ragnar DC.
I was a little distracted with making sure I had everything ready to run and the hairpin turns just seemed never ending on this leg as we drove it. We passed Nicole who was moving really well and gave her a huge cheer and rang the cowbells for her.
Following the same route as the runners made it easy, just keep looking for runners in the distance and occasionally blue signage would tell us exactly where to turn. The next exchange was another one of those that had no real lot so I got myself to the exact chute where Nicole would hand off to me. I remember grabbing a Twizzler before I left the van. Everyone was getting hungry because they had already run. I wasn’t hungry but itching to run and thought maybe I would just carry the Twizzler as a prop. I stuck it in my waist band and thought of it like a gun in a holster.
Bethany and Jill walked with me for a bit and I stood at the chute waiting for Nicole. As I saw her in the distance it was just enough time to turn on my music and get my hat back on. I held out my arm and she slapped the bracelet on as Jill shouted a Return with Honor salute to Nicole and I was off.
Leg 6 – …and Shout
I was mistaken in thinking all of my 6 miles were paved. I was on dusty gravel for about 1/2 of my run with vans passing at a respectful speed. I ran without water but some other teams had their vans stop and offer them hydration on the way. None of us had really wanted that and mine was just 6 miles with the final 2 a pretty intense downhill.
I heard my team van well before they passed me. They cheered and clanged the noise makers and I waved my Twizzler at them. I think it changed from a gun to a riding crop about then because I wasn’t about to put it back in my waist band.
The next mile was a little glum. My peeps had passed and I needed to climb a few little rolling hills. I kept focused, running into traffic with very few vehicles traveling toward me ever. The few that did were not all that pleased with the amount of congestion this race was adding to their little back roads. They gave me little room when they passed and didn’t seem very cheery. I took a bite of Twizzler to brighten my mood.
I wasn’t making terrific time and when I hit the turn I knew was about 1/2 way I was disappointed that the terrain wasn’t allowing any view of the Potomac as I had hoped and dreamed of on my training runs. Occasionally other team vans were still passing me and they would give a little, “Looking good.” Not the hearty love from my own van but still very welcome.
My techno music kicked in and I picked up my pace as I heard another van approaching from behind. They were going all out cheering and I knew there were no other runners any where near me. Crazy raucous cheering just for me!? As they approached I gave them a flash of the back of my booty shorts by lifting my tutu in the back so they would be able to read “Bad Ass.” Their cheers went wild as I looked over my right shoulder and waggled my Twizzler Groucho Marx style at none other than Charles Manson driving for Runners on the Lam.
That pepped me up and, even though it was getting quite hot out, I kept pushing hard. My toes got jammed a bit on the final 2 mile descent but I kept envisioning our entire team at the campground. I was handing off to Renee who had admitted being really nervous about her first leg. I had promised to yell at her like she was Forest Gump, “RUUUN RENEEEE!” She loved that idea and said it would get her going.
The final 1/10 of a mile turned a corner and I could see the chute in the distance. I picked up the pace and knew that I couldn’t yell it too far in advance or I would have a lot of ground to cover and it would be anti-climactic. All of my team and even some of the other team were there cheering loudly so I shouted at the top of my lungs and Renee smiled broadly. That made the finish of my first leg wonderful.
Did we get some real food? Did we catch up to KNIFE HANDS? How about a shower!? What happened to Runners on the Lam? My next post will cover all those questions and more! Check out Dusk ’til Dawn.
Thank you to ALL my teammates for taking photos that I have used here. Jill, Lorraine, Nicole, Schuyler, Bethany, Michelle, Renne and Sarah took so many great shots and I must give them credit.