11:00am on Saturday, September 22
I wasn’t doing very well. The rest of my team was more or less relaxed–albeit exhausted, though relaxed–but I was locked in a struggle to keep my muscles from spontaneously cramping. My final leg had felt like the last few miles of my Spring Thaw run from February.
Van 1 opted to drive straight to the finish line and meet Van 2 there, rather than risk getting stuck in city traffic trying to support our awesome but undoubtedly-hurting runners. On the way, I was downing as much water and as many Clif bars as I could manage, but my legs were a disaster. Upon parking the van, a cramp developed in muscles I didn’t even know I had, and I was somewhat frightened when I discovered I couldn’t find a way to stretch them out.
So we took the logical course of action: let’s walk to the finish line!
While some might chide this obviously-flawed course of action, miraculously it worked: the cramp in my leg eased, and my gait evened out. As long as I kept moving (and drinking).
We [slowly] made our way down to the docks, where the party was already in full-swing and teams were finishing every few minutes. There were tents playing music, selling Ragnar regalia, and handing out free bananas and water bottles. We also accidentally stumbled upon the motherlode: a large tent with dozens of huge tables, set up specifically for Ragnar teams to sit down, cash in their free beer ticket (!!!), and enjoy 1 free pizza per van.
Van 1 didn’t need any encouraging; we took our pizza and immediately chowed down, saving our beer tickets for when Van 2 arrived and we could toast everyone.
Here we relaxed until receiving a message a little after 2pm that The Lady had begun her leg. It was finally happening: the last of 36 legs was underway, and the finish line was the next stop!
Van 2 arrived, and made their way to the finish line. We stood ready to greet The Lady and finish together as a team. Soon enough, she appeared from around another tent, and we swarmed her amongst cheering, clapping, and incredibly high spirits.
The feeling of finishing hand in hand after nearly 30 hours of straight competition is unparalleled. The announcer waved us in–“Here comes team Four Score and Seven Miles Ago!”–and we crossed the finish line just a touch under 31 hours from when we started.
Ragnarians, we now were!
We hung out for a little while after, letting Van 2 recuperate as we toasted everyone with our free beers (Devin: “This is the whole reason I signed up for Ragnar–one glass of free beer at the end!“). Eventually we all made our way back to the vans, where we headed to a hotel graciously reserved by one of our teammates using her travel points to get us rooms for free.
After showering (there is literally no better feeling than a shower after running 197 miles, holy shit), Tim, Devin, and I made a beer run while another teammate ordered no fewer than 5 pizzas. The evening was incredible: our entire team crammed into one hotel room (though these were super swank suites, so they had a decent amount of space) eating pizza, drinking beer, and chatting about everything.
It was like everyone had been friends for years: some watched the college games that were on TV, others recalled the events of the race, others discussed their lives beyond Ragnar. Not a single moment of silence permeated the din of discourse.
Amazing. That’s the only way I can describe it.
I slept incredibly well that night.
Sunday, September 23
We rose early (or, least, earlier than our bodies wanted to) in order to meet a high school friend of mine, Emmarie, and her family for breakfast. It was a lovely event: I hadn’t seen her since I graduated back in 2003, though we spoke occasionally over instant messenger and social networks. The team and I enjoyed a healthy breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, bacon, french toast, and bacon.
Breakfast was the last time we were all together. Several of our out-of-town teammates opted to leave from D.C., while the rest of us drove the vans back to Pittsburgh.
The drive back was uneventful. We arrived at The Lady’s apartment, cleaned out the vans as best (and as quickly) as we could, then dropped them off at the airport. Thus ended Ragnar DC 2012.
In the days immediately following, I was in full-on recovery and catch-up mode; everything was pretty out of whack. Needless to say, the idea of ever doing Ragnar again wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.
But that Friday morning (Sept 28), while working out with two of my former Ragnar teammates, Matt and Devin, we observed a sudden shift:
We realized we’d love to do it again.
I don’t pretend to know when or even which one; it’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor to organize a Ragnar team. Even if I wasn’t a team captain and instead relied entirely on the organizational skills and efforts of others, the investment in pulling off such an event isn’t trivial. One idea we were passing around is looking into some sort of corporate sponsorship to help defray the cost; I would absolutely love to sport Google’s logo on our vans. I’d even attach a GPS device of theirs to my own to help them map the trails of the US countryside!
A lot of things had to go right for this experience to be as incredible as it was. Tim and Alys provided a lot of valuable insight using previous D.C. experience in terms of pitfalls to avoid (their previous experience was not so pleasant; in fact, they were very reticent to join our team at first). Their biggest concern was team chemistry, which in our case obviously worked out beautifully: every single one of my teammates I proudly call a friend of mine.
All the logistics had to pan out: food, van rentals, drivers, runner assignments, and hotel reservations. And once the race began, there were any number of things that could have gone wrong: somebody getting injured, a van breaking down, a runner getting lost, or a van being late to an exchange.
It all worked. Even with the few hiccups we ran into, it still worked. “Everything is fine, nothing is fucked” then gave way to:
“I do believe it’s time for another adventure.” Someday 🙂