Travel and Running: Ragnar Relay – #RagnarCapeCod

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

What happens when you put 12 people on a team, 6 people in each van with a driver, and run 200 miles over the course of two days during the day and night?  You get a Ragnar Relay or more simply put, “Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.”   It’s a great way to see an area you might have never visited before, get some running in, and spend time with friends, both old and new. 

Course overview map courtesy of
Course overview map courtesy of

Legs vary in length from 3-8 miles (some longer at 9 or even 12!), but this relay is great for the novice jogger like myself to the elite runner.  Every runner has 3 legs to run except for Ultra teams, which consist of 6 runners.  Basically, you run about every 12 hours and when your van is finished running, you find somewhere to eat and/or rest and then get ready to do it all over again.  Crazy?  Yes, but fun! 

packingWith our training behind us, all we had left to do was get to the start line in Hull.  Getting three people out the door for this race was a task in itself.  Since the weather forecast was all over the place with both rain, thunderstorms, and then temperatures in the 70’s, I had no idea what to pack. As per usual, I definitely overpacked and could have gone with far less items.  One must have item that I am so glad I packed?  The Huggies wipes, which served as an in van shower in between runs and cut down on having a too smelly van.  They really worked!

Dinner and a view the night before in Hull, MA
Dinner and a view the night before in Hull, MA

The team made it to Hull, MA where we had dinner the night before the race.  The view across from our restaurant was absolutely stunning.  

After dinner we checked into our hotel and then it was time to decorate our vans.  As our team name was “Crazy Running Peeps,” we had a crazy chicken on the side of each van along with the name of each team member. On the back we were set up for our “kills” or the number of people we passed during each of our legs.  Let’s just say some people became paid assassins and really enjoyed their kills!

Melissa and Peg from Van 1 for their safety gear check before running
Melissa and Peg from Van 1 for their safety gear check before running

Leg one for our team was at 6:45 am on Friday, September 9, 2014.  With 598 teams competing, team start times were staggered throughout the day depending on your race times submitted.  As you can see above, van one with runners 1-6 went in for their safety check on accessories for night runs, which was any run from 6:30 pm – 6:00 am.  Everyone was required to wear a safety vest, butt light, and a head light although extra lighting like knuckle lights were great to have for trail runs. 

The starting line was just past our hotel and you can see in the first picture all of the many white vans for teams alongside the road.  Once the runners left, it was time to hit the road and make our way to our first exchange.  

Van two began our legs of the race at Exchange 6 in Duxbury.  While waiting for Leslie who ran leg 6 and would be handing off to Jean, we had our safety gear check and briefing and then walked around to check out vendors and get our t-shirts.  

photo 12In case you didn’t notice, there were prizes for best costumes and best decorated vans, which might help explain the fun decorations and costumes.  How can you not love a pony on a van? 

My first leg left out of Plymouth and part of it was along the Cape Cod Canal trail, which was a pleasant flat run to the my finish line for the leg.  Of course, I had pain for probably the last mile of this leg, which would later come back to bite me. 

The crowd was huge at Exchange 12, Gallo Ice Arena in Buzzards Bay as runner 12 from van 2 was handing off to runner 1 from van 1, which basically meant all the teams were there. 

As the day turned to night, we really began to live up to our name as the craziness started showing.   The night gear was a must have, but why was I so wanting to lick the peeps on our antenna?  The last picture shows Team Captain Jess, runner 8, handing off to Cris, runner 9.   Although I was scared to death of running at night — mostly afraid of animals coming out and getting me — it was a peaceful and enjoyable run, but more importantly, a pain free run. 

After runner 12, Alex, ran her leg, we headed to one of the sleeping areas to grab a little sleep.  In our case, it would be Barnstable Intermediate School in Hyannis, which was Exchange 18.and was so well lit that it made it difficult for many to go to sleep.  However, at Exchange 30, Nauset Regional Technical High School in Eastham, part of the gym was dark and made it far easier to doze off.  But before we knew it, it was time to head out again as Jean, runner 7, had her last leg to attack. 

Photo courtesy of Jessica Kempter
Photo courtesy of Jessica Kempter

One of the welcome sites on any of our runs: “One mile to go!”  Each leg on their own isn’t terrible, but combine three in a short amount of time and that’s the true challenge.  But my team was truly amazing and did such a phenomenal job with each and every one of their legs.  

We met up with Jean in Wellfleet, when she handed off to Team Captain and runner 8, Jess.  There’s Jean on the left next to our amazing driver, Mark.  Who else would volunteer to drive for two days with a bunch of smelly, sweaty, and loud runners? 

photo 6There’s Jess above coming in to hand off to runner 9, Cris, after what was deemed an “easy” run, but was full of hills.  So not fair, especially with sand, but she rocked that run. 

photo 2Then we couldn’t help but rock her in the port-a-potty!  Sorry Jess!  It had to be done!  All joking aside, Jess was the best possible team captain as she was so motivating and supportive of everyone, including me when I had to pull out of the last of my legs due to the problem I encountered on my first leg.  I was devastated, but my team and Jess helped remind me to keep things in perspective. It’s just a race and there will always be more.  Better to be safe now than sorry later.  

Team 498 "Get Awesome" as Lucha Libre Wrestlers
Team 498 “Get Awesome” as Lucha Libre Wrestlers

It’s hard to stay focused on your sadness when you see other teams dressed in their gear having a good time.  Ragnar Relay is all about having a great time!

The finish line awaited us in Provincetown and we waited for Alex so we could run across the finish line together. Let’s just say there was a lot of emotion and tears from all the runners as we crossed, heard our team number and name, and were given our medals. 

Then it was time to celebrate at the base of Plymouth Monument with some spectacular views. Sponsors for the Ragnar Relay included Boloco Burritos, Sierra Nevada beer, and there was also plenty of hot clam chowder and spicy corn chowder.  Chowdah?  Yes, chowdah and it was wicked awesome!  

10269514_10202930862544689_1114648310600676759_nWe piled back into our van and headed to the hotel to shower, dress, and head out for dinner.  While some stayed behind to sleep, the rest of us (van two plus Virginia and Leslie from van one) headed to Governor Bradford’s for drinks and food.  A night full of Drag Karaoke, drinks, Alex singing, dancing, and overall fun made this night a perfect way to end the weekend. 

Photo courtesy of Alexandria Cuellar from Van 2 - Crazy Running Peeps
Photo courtesy of Alexandria Cuellar from Van 2 – Crazy Running Peeps

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing participating in Ragnar Cape Cod was for me personally. Never having been an athlete at any time in my life, despite being competitive in other parts of my life, I’ve never been one to push myself physically.  However, running this relay and competing with people who care about you and your well being can make all the difference.  It was fun to not only cheer on our team, but others as well.  Having the public cheer you on and show their support was so touching as well.  I can honestly tell you that there is nothing else in this world quite like a Ragnar Relay.  How often do we as adults take part in anything that pushes you hard and then gives you the team camaraderie that a Ragnar Relay does? 

What could possibly top Ragnar Cape Cod?  Rumor has it that the peeps are in talks to run the Reach the Beach Relay in September in New Hampshire, which is 200 miles in 24 hours.  Now I know we have all lost our minds!  I’m off to the doctor’s this morning to get my legs checked out and I suspect I will not be able to run for a few weeks, but when I can — it will be training time once again. 

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