Loving Loos and Ragnar Relay in 2014

Glowy wand
The nighttime run fairy’s weaponry

Notables from this year’s Ragnar Relay Great River, which ended for our Loo Lovers team around 3pm last Saturday: I ran all the way up that 2-mile hill. I kept a steady, pretty strong pace on my last (exhausted, humid) leg. And, I only showered once.

The former two seem to be signs that I have trained well. Maybe for Ragnar, but most hopefully, for my October marathon. I’m not sure what the latter means. Maybe that I’m getting older and it just doesn’t matter? Except it does, especially when it feels so darn good to shower off.

I have now done 7 relays in 6 years. All the priors are chronicled here:

2013 Reach the Beach

2012 Bourbon Chase

2012 Ragnar Relay Great River (RRGR)

2011 RRGR

2010 RRGR

2009 RRGR

I continue to love this kind of running event, mostly because it’s much more thoroughly engaging – and social – than the standard road or even trail race: the event itself takes longer, you need to bring along a few friends (or strangers), you’ll need to do more planning. You see new, or at least different from your regular, scenery, once a year. You may hallucinate, and if you don’t, you’ll feel weird in at least 3 ways anyway, until the following Tuesday.

Stockholm Exchange
All that you need

Also: Time becomes a different substance than usual; still linear but more fluid and on several planes. You see a van with a beaver painted on it, ahead of you, at 2pm, and suddenly it’s behind you at 5pm. Then it’s in a parking lot when you arrive, with snoozing occupants, at 2am. You see the same green running bra and pumping short, muscular legs, passing everything in sight, then you see it slide into a van’s open door. Which has already happened, at least once. Red licorice, Gu, dry cereal or fresh fruit each sound like a great idea, until they don’t. You grow tired of drinking water and its various salted forms. The only thing you’re sure of is that you need a porta-potty, and soon. Oh, you’re also sure that your post-race hash browns need more salt.

The above things are constants with the relay, as is the terrific fun I’ve had with 2 great, slightly fluctuating, and in wondrous ways, teams. Some things that seem different to me, this year, aside from too many runners wearing earbuds:

  1. As mentioned above, cleaning up after every run wasn’t as much of a priority; I felt ok staying salty, but I did change out of damp clothes each time. I did discover that putting clean clothes onto a salty body is more difficult than putting a wet swimsuit onto a wet body. Who knew? I was the only one in our van who caved, but that hot shower I took in a high school locker room was lovely and enabled me to relax and “sleep” for a couple hours, along with 300+ others on the Stillwater High School gym floor. How in heaven was there only one snorer in that room – who started right as I was leaving?
  2. I had expected an average pace of 9:15, based on my recent training, but was consistently just a little faster. Yay! I credit my mantric focus on short steps, using my glutes, getting as tall as I can be, and leaning/reaching forward from the hips (not necessarily in that order).
  3. This was my first relay wearing a GPS/running watch. I’m not convinced that I liked having access to my pace data in numbers, but it was interesting observing the regularity of my pace from a this perspective, rather than just by feel.
  4. The watch has two parts: a wristband/display component, and a clip (containing the GPS/antenna) that goes somewhere outside on the watch side of my body. I learned, for good, that it should never be placed on the waistband of my shorts. Not because of the raw, abraded skin that the metal clip caused, but because the clip fell into the porta-potty hole. Yep. I never, ever thought I’d be thankful for a mostly-full porta-potty, but I was. I was able to retrieve the antenna unit. Thankfully, there was still hand sanitizer available. It took me about 6 hours to get up the nerve to share the story with a teammate, who gave me said nerve by sharing an even better john-on-the-go story. No wonder we are called the “Loo Lovers”!
  5. I was happier than usual with my performance, even though didn’t PR, inasmuch as you can, on a relay. The weather wasn’t ideal for running (85 and somewhat humid), but it could have been worse, as it has in past years (95 and very humid). I was not fighting a sinus infection. My plantar fascia is behaving. I wanted to nail what I believed to be my 10k pace (9:15) at this point in my marathon training, and I beat it (hovering on either side of 9:00 mile splits).
  6. Packing a cooler and plenty of real food (as opposed to bringing along less perishable junk food and “energy” bars or relying mostly on dining out) was friendly to both the guts of the runners and to the other people around us at the major exchanges. This combo is a great way to make new friends!

So, that’s my 2014 Ragnar Relay experience, in sum. Except for the pictures. Here we go: