Ritual of Ragnar

ragnar relay scene
An Elvis, a mud-flap girl, a cowbell, and a 2009 Ragnar t-shirt on Michael say it all.

It’s an Olympics year, so it’s not surprising that the media (i.e. here on the Washingtonian, here at the Telegraph or on Yahoo Sports) once again investigates the superstitions or rituals of high-level athletes.

This amateur/recreational athlete’s pre-race ritual, as you may have read here before, is chiefly to consume a bowl of hot cereal, the morning of (before) the event. It’s good endurance fuel, it’s comforting, and a little sweet. Snuggling up to a bowl of it makes me feel a little like a kid, which is one thing that is really important when I’m about to compete: prepare to be a kid again, and have a little fun. Enjoy passing someone. Enjoy getting passed by someone in a tutu. Hurdle the turtle.

My secondary rituals:

  1. Making sure I have not showered right before the event. I won’t arrive stinky, of course, but I like to view competition as a sort of cleansing, spiritually. I know that literally, by the end of it, I will surely be physically dirtier, but I’ll feel newer, and better.
  2. I’d have scoffed at this in my 20s, but: making a decision about jewelry. When I played rugby, it was to be sure that I had none on (it was a rule on the pitch). Now, in most cases, it’s selecting whatever talisman seems to be needed. Often, it’s my cross of Iona pendant, which is a symbol of stamina for me. Sometimes, feeling a little glamorous can motivate me for speed or being otherwise spectacular, and I’ll pick something that sparkles.
smiling runners
Loo Lovers 10, 11, and 8.

Onward, to when I most recently engaged in such ritual: While my first leg on this past weekend’s relay race didn’t begin until dusk, I did make sure to have a bowl of hot cereal in the morning. The late run afforded me the luxury of a whole free morning, so I had plenty of time to cook up a batch of Power Porridge, instead of the usual instant or reheated plain oatmeal.

I did shower that morning – but as we had several hours of car ride before my run, I figured I had plenty of time to gather road dust (and minivan aroma).

On the jewelry front: This summer, it’s been a necklace with a Ganesha pendant, similar to this one, made by the same artist. I discovered Ganesha in my yoga teacher training. This Hindu diety, who has the head of an elephant, is often evoked at the start of a large undertaking, when extra help removing obstacles (of any kind) may be needed. My husband gave it to me right before a rock climbing trip a few years ago, which was a fun and epic-free trip. I wore it on our Grand Canyon hike this July, which was problem-free yet memorable as well. I wore it on this past weekend’s Ragnar Relay Great River race, and once again, our team did well, given the conditions, and we had a great time, too. Actually, I wore it for much of last week, as I was worried about catching the double sinus infection that plagued me, last year.

Just how well did we do? Team Loo Lovers shaved 35 minutes from our projected time! How? I’ll first suggest that damn, we are good runners who have done some great training this year. Then I’ll suggest that we have good chemistry as a group – both in terms of personality and in terms of minivan stink management.

sleeper
A Sleepy Loo Lover, in the Shadows

Then, I’ll offer that Mother Nature dealt us a good hand this year: sunny, with very pleasant temps. Western Wisconsin and suburban Twin Cities Fahrenheit numbers were in the low 80s, at the highest, and high 40’s, at the lowest. A runner almost couldn’t ask for better weather, especially when sleep deprivation is a factor for some of the miles to be run.

Thirty-five is almost exactly how many fewer minutes of sleep I got during the event, compared to last year (this year’s total was 40 minutes, give or take a 5-minute back-seat nap). This was a year in which I picked a runner number whose last leg had the most miles of my three running legs. Irreverence and a thirst for challenge drove me to pick it, but I also figured that perhaps having a longer last run would be easier on me: it’s not short, so why try to go fast? My body usually takes about 30 minutes to get into its happy running place, anyway.

I felt more tired than in prior years, but I managed to control the side-ache nasties and the 7.1 miles went reasonably well. I even made one “kill,” passing one competitor. I pulled myself up the difficult hill out of Hidden Falls Park, then cruised along an unfamiliar but quite lovely stretch of the Mississippi River. I thanked the water-stop volunteer profusely. Shortly later, I arrived near the finish area, to find my team, who joined me to cross the finish line. We hooted, hollered, collected our medals, hugged, then departed to return the rental vans and make our way toward some sweet sleep.

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