August 28, 2011

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Since moving to Minnesota, I've consciously adopted an aggressive "Just say yes" attitude.  It hasn't been difficult, as one of the motivations behind my move was the desire to experience and live life differently.  So, since moving, I've gone to parties alone, met strangers for ice cream, canoed 16 miles down Minnehaha Creek, relearned how to drive a stick shift, biked to a Peter, Bjorn & John concert before hitting an art opening before hitting a bar with pals one night.  All of that has been fun, but by far the best and most thrilling thing I've done was to agree to fill in for an injured runner on a Ragnar Relay team.

A sweltering stretch on a Wisconsin highway.

Ragnar relays are held in 11 or 12 places around the country and they generally work like this: teams of 12 take turns running legs of the race that are between four and eight miles long.  The total distance run is about 200 hundred miles.  Each runner runs three legs and you always run in the same order (e.g. runner 1, then 2, then 3, until runner 12 finishes her leg, then runner 1 goes again).   The teams usually shuttle themselves in two vans of six runners per van.  When you're not running, you're cheering on your teammate.  When everyone in your van has finished their leg, you eat or rest while your teammates in the other van run, and when they finish their legs, you start to running, in order, again.  It sounds chaotic, but it's really quite orderly and well organized.

Looking for my incoming teammate.

When James, a friend from college, contacted me to see if I'd be interested in filling in, and consequently running about 15 miles over 20 hours, my first reaction was to say that I was busy that weekend and so couldn't do it; my fitness level is pretty low right now and I hadn't run more than 3 miles at a stretch in several months.  But the more I thought about it, the more this seemed like an amazing opportunity to see an old friend, meet new people and challenge myself in a completely unexpected way.  So I said yes, and it's probably the best decision I've made since deciding to move to Minneapolis.

Teammate in site; bouncing with excitement before my first leg.
Because I was by far the weakest runner on the team, I was quite nervous about my performance and abilities, but my teammates were incredibly warm and encouraging and supportive.   There's nothing like slogging your way down blistering highway in 96 degree heat without a lick of shade and then rounding a corner to see your pals waving and cheering for you and hearing the call of the vuvuzela (yes, we had one of those) pulling you forward.  Periodic improvised showers didn't hurt, either.

While the running was fun,

we were all happy to be done with our legs when we finished them.

The oppressive heat was a common post-run topic of conversation.
 We ran through some beautiful (and hilly) parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota

Sunset on Lake Pepin
 and met some enthusiastic fans and volunteers.

Best cheering: Stockholm, WI.

The race started at 11 Friday morning, and by 10 pm Van 1 (my van), was gearing up to run our second legs of the race, which we finished around 2:00 am.  We napped briefly in the town of Stillwater while Van 2 ran through the grim hours of the morning, and by 7:15 am we up and running again. I finished my third and final leg around 9 am and our team as a whole finished around 3:30 Saturday afternoon.  

Van 1 at the completion of our portion of the relay
In addition to having an awesome weekend with spirited, dynamic, fun and interesting people, running in the Ragnar Relay reminded me that I can do more than I sometimes think, that it's possible to acknowledge one's limitations while simultaneously pushing oneself, that there's seldom anything to be gained in saying no, that life is wonderful if you are open to living it and that  there's no better feeling than pride in a job well done.

Thank you Ragnar and Team Kittens and Yarn!  Here's hoping for another adventure in 2012!


Erin Joy said... Best Blogger Tips

Good for you for saying yes - what a terrific experience!

Oiyi said... Best Blogger Tips

That is amazing! What a wonderful accomplishment.