I think will.i.am said it best: “What you gon’ do with all that junk/All that junk inside yo’ trunk?”
Run a relay, of course.
My muse for the 2011 report from Red Eye Running was Jane Austen. 2012 brings us Fergie. Clearly my sources for inspiration are headed in the right direction. Because here’s what I realized from my third Cape Relay: this whole team running thing is not unlike the mint in my garden. You plant the mint because it’s green and healthy, and then you find your garden consumed by it and try to keep up by drinking countless mojitos. Such is running and relays. You start running because it’s green and healthy, and then find yourself so consumed by it that you join a relay team so you can run a hundred-and-many-something miles in order to drink at the end of it.
That’s a relay. Cheers!
You know the relay drill:
200 189 176 miles run by 12 people over about 24 hours. Each person runs three times, you travel by van, and you get a medal that doubles as a bottle opener. But maybe you don’t know what happens when you’re not running. So here you go. I took many photos of this adventure to bring you the other side of Red Eye Running.
First, our team. We competed in the Mixed Submasters Division, which consists of men and women over 30. We won’t tell anyone that I’m not really in that age group, though.
After a revolving door of team members, including 2 days before the race, our team miraculously consisted of 6 women and 6 men, all with legs and feet. Here are our women. You know me; meet Jodi, Karolina, Moe, Jill, and Kate:
And here are our men, Chris, Christiaan, Micah, Bill, Jim, and Dan:
Yes, they’re over 30. Back off.
We also had a mascot, a Boston Terrier named Milo. He was less into cheerleading and more about snoring and farting, but we enjoyed his company nonetheless.
Obviously, we were serious about this race. But it’s also true that there’s a lot of downtime in a relay, so here are the three insider points to a successful relay experience:
You can’t run a relay without a little bit of the silly, especially if the race organizers use their name as a noun, adjective, and verb: “Has anyone here Ragnarred before?!” the announcer yelled at the Start. One must cope with abuse of a proper noun somehow, and they had strict rules about drinking on the course. So you have to go with shenanigans. For Red Eye, getting silly tends to involve mounting things on the roof of the van. Last year, we had a sea dragon that resembled an intestine.
This year, we had a sea plane and a Tire Fair. Van 2 had a lot of time to kill before we started running so we got straight to the silly. After we had lunch, of course. We finished lunch, grabbed our inflatable sea plane as any good relay team would, and noticed a tire store next to our Zagat-rated, wicked classy Ninety-Nine.
Someone in the van decided I should go ask a man in the tire store to inflate the plane. A little dubious that I’d been pimped by my team to flirt my way to an air compressor, I asked which man I should target. “The fat bald one,” someone said. Puh-lease. Too easy.
Also, he didn’t work there. He was buying tires. I grabbed the plane and walked up to the one with dimples.
“I have this plane that I need to inflate. Do you have anything that would use positive-displacement compression by matching two helical screws that, when turned, guide air into a chamber?”
What? I totally said that.
It may have come out like this, though: “I have this plane that I need to inflate. Do you have a machine thing that could, like, put some air in it?”
He looked at my plane. “Hmmm, what does the valve look like? I don’t know that it will work, even though you’re very beautiful.”
He totally said that. Except that last bit.
Given his hedging, I needed to step it up. So I said the thing women have said to men since the dawn of time when they want them to inflate their sea planes.
“I trust you.”
Actually, I really did say that. I’m not new. I might as well have been wearing a bikini. He took the plane out back.
And then I heard the sound of laughter and air filling plastic.
My quest for shenanigans and a floaty plane complete, we were ready to race like hell.
The tendency toward shenanigans derives from the fact that mostly you aren’t running. A relay is not a marathon or any kind of hard core athletic feat. Most people cover about 15 miles in about 24 hours. That’s a butt load of inactivity. A relay is mostly staring at a clock, waiting. Waiting to run. Waiting to sleep. (And in the case of Ragnar, waiting four days for your results to post.) Hence, the silliness.
Here is a photo of waiting with creepy locked hyperextended knees:
While you wait to Ragnar like a Ragnar, it is required that you wear a reflective vest and carry a neon safety flag. Supposedly this is for safety, but at one point in the middle of the night, I hopped out of the van with the flag to hand someone water from the side of the road, and a guy on another team walked right into my flag pole. From then on, I doubted the safety of the safety flag. Particularly when doing the Safety Dance.
Once you’ve mastered waiting and shenanigans, you can focus on the most important aspect of the relay experience: snacks.
Although I am skilled at shenanigans and staring into space, I didn’t do so well on the eating, mostly because I eat constantly if food is in arm’s reach. If you put me next to a 2-gallon Ziploc of trail mix, I will absentmindedly eat two gallons of trail mix and, within five minutes, notice the bags of Sun Chips under the seat.
This is pretty much why I’m a runner: I’d be morbidly obese otherwise. Ironically, my running in the relay suffered from my sad lack of restraint. I was on the verge of dehydragnar from all the salt. Next year, my van mates will have to put me on a strict feeding schedule and padlock the trail mix.
So there you have it. If you can manage the arts of snacking, waiting, and shenanigans, and you can put one foot in front of the other, you, too, can Ragnar. Our team started and finished with 12 mostly uninjured runners for the first time in Red Eye history and totally kicked ass in shenanigans, waiting, and snacks.
We also Ragnarred 2nd out of 27 teams in our division and 17th out of 365 teams, Ragnarring 176 miles in 22:25:21. Back again next year, without a doubt.