I left off with Van 2 heading to The Creamery at Exchange 18 in hopes of getting some sleep while we waited for Van 1 to run their legs. To set the stage, not only had it been raining for our entire trip, but for several days prior. As we were directed to park behind the creamery, we were told not to hit the brakes, not to hit the gas, just coast across the field at a steady speed. Anytime directions that specific are given, you know that the volunteers have already encountered many stuck vans!
Almost on cue, our van got stuck, and the volunteer directing us called over some guys to help push us out. Eventually one of the volunteers hopped in the van to drive as more guys came to help push us out of the mud. At that point he told us that people had been getting stuck all night, and he was getting pretty good at maneuvering stuck vans out of that mess.
As soon as our van was safely backed into a parking space we tried to get some rest, but quickly realized we would probably get very little sleep. Over and over just outside our van we heard volunteers shouting, “Parking or leaving?” as they guided vans through the muddy mess.
Eventually it was time to get our first runner going so our team captain Amanda walked Kim to the exchange chute. Since it was the middle of the night and we were tying to get some rest (even though we couldn’t get to sleep), we took turns walking our runners to their start rather than the whole van going out.
Our overnight legs would be made up of:
- Runner 7 – Kim – 4.90 miles – Moderate
- Runner 8 – Amanda – 6.90 miles – Hard
- Runner 9 – Laurie – 6.70 miles – Moderate
- Runner 10 – Rachel – 3.50 miles – Easy
- Runner 11 – Debi –
9.20 miles – Very HardCanceled
- Runner 12 – Deb – 9.60 miles – Very Hard
Next up to run after Kim was Amanda. Amanda took off and them immediately stopped, and I snapped this picture of Kim helping Amanda adjust her reflective vest before Amanda resumed running.
While Amanda was out on her run, we got word from one of the volunteers that Leg 23 had been canceled due to flooding along that course. Alrighty then – suddenly my sunrise run would be totally in the dark. After some quick texts to Van 1 to let them know they’d have about an hour and a half less time to sleep than they’d expected, we started adjusting our plans. Expecting to start running at 4 AM, I sent a text to Bill letting him know that I’d be arriving in Gaithersburg around 5:30 AM instead of 7 AM as previously expected, and for him not to try to come see me finish my leg. He had planned to come cheer me in, take pictures, and then take our van out to breakfast.
Once we arrived at the next exchange, Laurie got a text from her husband saying he wanted to see her before her night run. He had just driven all of the way from home and was at the exchange in front of us. She directed him to the correct exchange and he waited with us, taking in all of the 2 AM sights of Ragnar, until Laurie took off on her night leg. He knew she was nervous about running in the middle of the night, so he came up for moral support. Don’t we have the sweetest husbands?
Soon we saw Amanda coming in from her run, and Laurie took off with her husband in hot pursuit! We later learned that he had stopped a few times along the way to cheer her on!
Around 3 AM while driving to pick Laurie up and drop Rachel off, we stopped at IHOP to pick up pancakes to go. While waiting in the lobby of the restaurant for our order to be completed, we noticed that some of the other patrons coming in to eat were a bit inebriated, to the point that one young man said, “I’m so drunk; I need food.” Keep in mind that there were only a handful of customers since it was close to 3 AM.
Tired, I decided to lie down on the bench and rest while our order was being prepared. Just as I got in a comfortable position, a man leaving the restaurant asked, “You gonna be okay there?” As he started to walk out the door, it hit me, and I sat up laughing and responded to my teammates, “Oh my God, he thinks I’m passed out drunk!”
Since I would be running in about an hour, I skipped the deliciously aromatic pancakes and fueled instead on a few sweet potato fries. Kim gave me a bite of her pancakes just to taste, and later I thanked Rachel for sharing – I was that tired!
Once we picked Laurie up from her run, and dropped Rachel off we had to do some recalculating on where I needed to be dropped of since Leg 23 had been canceled. In the confusion, we almost forgot to pick up Rachel! When Rachel came in from her run, she tried to hand the slap bracelet off to Amanda, forgetting that she needed to get in the van and give the slap bracelet to me. It just didn’t seem right not to be passing it along to someone else in the exchange chute.
It seemed equally weird for me to arrive at my exchange and take off without waiting for a runner to come to give me the slap bracelet – all I had to do was check-in with a volunteer so they could record my departure time. Just before taking off, I had a little porta potty mishap and had to run back to the van for hand sanitizer, leaving my van-mates laughing hysterically!
Since the temperature was 49° and breezy with a light rain when I started my run, I chose to wear shorts, a tank, and an unlined nylon jacket. With the reflective vest on top, I assumed I would get too warm, but knew if I took off the jacket I would probably be too cool so I opted to leave my jacket on which ended up working out just fine.
I finally started out on my leg around 4:25 AM and quickly found myself in the middle of nowhere on completely dark narrow country roads. Pretty early on I missed a right turn. Two runners followed me straight, but fortunately a van driver saw the turn sign, rolled down his window, and yelled for us to come back.
For the most part I could see flashing tail lights at a distance in front of me, and headlamps way behind me. At times, when I was all alone, I would have liked a few more kills or even to be passed, but we all seemed to be at a pretty steady pace and remained spread out until close to the end of the run.
During my run I kept thinking about a video that Bill and I watched a few weeks ago of a trail runner shooting video during his run. Pepper spray is all that prevented him from getting attacked by a cougar, and it was at that moment that I realized that I’d left my pepper spray at home.
At one point I was passed by a flat-bed truck, and later came upon van-after-van stuck behind something going on up ahead. After passing about twenty vans, I came across the team Chaffing the Dream standing in the middle of the road while their van was being pulled out of a ditch by a tow truck. Shortly thereafter, van-after-van passed me once the roadblock was cleared, and of course they started passing me just as my stomach got very funky and I was trying to find a private place along the road. Timing is everything…
About a half mile out from the finish of my 9.6-mile run, I thought I could hear cheering, and smiled because I knew that I was closing in on my run. I caught up with a young woman just as a young man caught up with both of us. The three of us ran together as we saw the traffic circle with the trail to the right that we knew we were supposed to finish on. A race volunteer walking toward us dragging a cone cheered us on and said, “Follow the path!” to each of us as we ran by.
We soon came to a point where the asphalt path ended beside a parking lot entrance, but continued on as a concrete path straight ahead. We stayed on the path as directed and circled back around behind a school just as another runner came flying past us. We questioned if we were going the correct way, and he seemed confident that we were. We followed him and the path eventually took us across the road where we had just been and took us toward a huge parking lot. I could see two porta potties in the distance and assumed we were headed in the right direction. Once we got to the end of the path and onto the church parking lot, we realized that it was completely empty. Not a van in sight!
We ran to the back side of the church and that parking lot was empty as well… The young man who was now running along side of me, screamed for the speedy runner to come back. Knowing we were lost, we stopped and I pulled out my phone and opened the Ragnar app. We took a look at the Ragnar leg 24 course map and could see that our little blue blinking GPS dot was way off course – rats!
The three of us turned and headed back in the direction we had just come from, now maintaining about an 8:00 pace. Speedy guy passed us again, and I was now hanging with my new best friend as the girl with us fell back a little. I told the young man at my side that I was hanging with him to increase my badassery status when I finally came into the exchange. He offered to let me finish in front of him, but I told him we were in it together (i.e. lost), and we’d finish together.
Once we got back to where we made the wrong turn, the volunteer we’d seen about ten minutes earlier was in her correct spot at the corner telling us to cross the parking lot entrance and continue on the path. My new best friend told her we’d gone the wrong way before when she told us to stay on the path, and that we’d run over a mile out of our way. She quickly apologized and we told her, “No worries,” as we sped away.
Just as I could hear the cheering at the exchange chute in the distance, Van 1 drove toward me as they were heading out in search of me. I heard them calling my name, so I waved. Little did I know that my team had already contacted Ragnar to report me missing – even telling them that I was wearing hot pink shorts, a black top, and a pink reflective vest. They’d also called Bill to see where I was on my Glympse app. Unfortunately, I had turned on Glympse, but had failed to invite Bill or any of my teammates to follow me…
Bill had run leg 24 last year and remembered that it had been harder than he’d expected, so he assured my teammates that I was probably just running slower than planned. Yep that had happened, plus my bathroom break and getting lost twice had added up to a greatly delayed arrival for me. Also, getting lost had turned my 9.6-mile run into a 10.78-mile run.
As I sprinted into the exchange, I could hear Amanda cheering and calling my name, and I tried to hand the slap bracelet to someone standing next to her. Stacy was a few yards away in the exchange chute, but I didn’t see her. Poor Stacy had been waiting and waiting for me to come in to the chute and was freezing by the time I got there!
As soon as I stopped, I realized that I had two missed calls and multiple texts from my teammates wondering where I was. Kim immediately called Bill back to tell him all was well, and that I had been found!
We jumped in the van so quickly that I failed to get a picture of the little lost girl – now found. In the back of the van, I changed into my next leg’s clothes, and we headed to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. With a slightly upset stomach still, I opted for only part of my egg and bagel sandwich.
And since this picture was taken at Dunkin Donuts, I’m going to give a quick shout-out to these two amazing ladies (Kim and Amanda) who were running the Chicago Marathon just one week after our Ragnar DC adventures!
Tomorrow I’ll take you on Van 2’s final set of runs through suburban Maryland, Virginia, and DC, so be sure to come back to join us as we complete our epic adventure. See you then!
Editor’s note: Click here for Part 4.
- Do you mind running at night?
- Do you prefer running on asphalt or dirt trail?
- Have you ever run Ragnar DC, another Ragnar, or similar relay?
Happy Running! ~ Deb