Monday, March 31, 2014

Finishing the Ragnar

I didn't want to leave you all hanging if you wanted to know how my Ragnar ended.
Again, these are the memories I have as I'm heading into a relay of epic proportions compared to the Ragnar...
But we are doing this new relay to raise money for Boston Marathon victims, so a little craziness won't hold us back. You can support us by contributing to our efforts at www.runnowrelay.org. 100% of the donations will go directly to Boston charities. We simply hope to run the check to them personally (literally).

Ragnar: Hours 16-20 something....

(originally posted October 2012)

I forgot to tell you about the shower situation.

I keep forgetting to mention things that happened earlier, but that's actually perfect. Because it keeps you confused and not knowing what hour in the day we are, or what leg we're on, or who's running at the time. Which is exactly how the entire race felt..

So back to the showers. First, I'm super grateful we had them, as I don't think that's always the case on Ragnar courses. The high school we used just happens to do this to get donations from Ragnar for their sports programs in return for them letting us use their facilities. By the time you get there, you'd offer them a kidney for food and a shower, so it's a win win.

But when I get to the showers, we have two options.
One was a giant room with shower heads where everyone is just straight up nude in front of each other. Which is awkard enough, but there was also no place to set your stuff down in there, so I went with option two, which was standing in line waiting for 4 curtained off personal showers.

Except the 4th one was broken, so make that three.

So you wait for awhile, and you keep hearing the girls in front of you come out and say something about not being able to adjust the temperature.

But they seem fine enough when they emerge, so I'm trying not to worry about it. Then it's my turn and I get in -

and the water. is. SCALDING.

Like, so bad that I can only stand under the water for a few seconds until I nearly yell outloud, so I have to keep jumping out of the shower to regroup, then going in again and repeating the process. At one point I start giggling at how obsured it was and all the while I hear the girls waiting in line outside say things like "well this would work if people got in and got out quickly, but you can't ponder life in there...."

I take pleasure thinking about those girls later getting scalded themselves.

Anyway, back to the race. We all get through our night runs like so:

And the sun starts to come up and yep...still running!

Who came up with this idea again?

And I failed to come back to the fact that, as I mentioned, one of my teammates is a highschool principal. And his school is an alternative school, where kids that get into trouble go. So while we are dealing with all our other situations, and keeping up with runners, and living in  increasingly smelly vans that might not make it through the race, we also hear one half of random phone conversations that go like this:

"Ok, so we'll need to check into what legal action needs to be taken for when someone with that disease spits in a teacher's food...."


"so you're saying the fight started because one boy accidentally walked into the other boy's bathroom stall..."

So that added fun to the rest of our strange days.

And by this point, we've now wound our way back into D.C. so I'm feeling more comfortable because my last leg is actually on a piece of my regular running trail, so at least if I get lost this time -- I can just walk home.

And somewhere around Chevy Chase D.C., we find an exchange that offers pancakes.
That is the extent of possible excitement after this many hours of a race
and more folks tried to catch some sleep

Again, we paid to become this....
And I forgot to mention that another aspect of this was the fact that I was in a van of Tennessee boys. And I've never met funnier people than Tennessee boys, for whatever reason. They just have a way about them and the things they say combined with the accent never fails to make me laugh all the time. And after we take off for yet another exchange point, we pass one of the other racers - a male wearing gold lamé shorts and a superhero sign on his bare chest - and Captain America in my van opens the van door as we roll down the street and yells:

"I like yer britches!"

And the other Tennessee boys in the van are all "Dude, they don't say Britches in these parts! He's gunna have to look that up in the Urban Dictionary...

...or..Rural Dictionary....."

Ha! Anyway, we continue on and we are starting to get to the last few legs of the race, and realize --

we are now completely out of water.

And the worst planned race ever continues.

And I "only" have a 4.4 mile leg left and supposedly there's a water stop during it, so I'll be fine but still. I've been dehydrated before and it's not pleasant. And some of our other runners have longer legs left to do than mine.

And the only other female runner is pregnant. Yep, found out right before the race. Totally fitting, considering all the other things happening here...
So I take it upon myself to go find us all water.

After I asking around if there's any water at the exchange stop we're at and finding nothing, I naturally go to the creepy van offering free candy.

I try to be cute and ask "I don't need candy, but would you possibly have a bottle of water you'd let me have?" *batting eyelashes*

And I get a big fat no.

Jerks. You'll never kidnap people with that attitude!

But I persevere and stalk another van and -jackpot! They were so kind and wouldn't let me just take one little bottle, but gave me an entire jug of water! Aw! I love runners.

So I triumphantly bring my spoils back to our van and we take off yet again. And eventually I start preparing myself for my last leg by laying out my iPhone, headphones, and bottle of water (in case there ISN'T a water stop or I just need more for some reason).

And I get to my exchange point, jump out of the van as it continues on to find parking, and I realize:

that darned bottle of water is still sitting on my seat in the van.

Fine, it's not that crucial.

Then I realize -- I didn't attach my headphone to my iPhone so now I'm music-less.

That needs to be fixed, dang it!

I text FGB Robert who brings me my headphones and I get the "baton" slapped on my wrist and take off.

And by this point on a Saturday, there are a ton of regular runners on this trail so I can only tell if I'm passing Ragnar people if they happen to have the Ragnar symbol on the back of their leg like I did:

And the other normal, non-Ragnar D.C. people out on the trail probably were wondering why I looked so tired and I really wanted to announce to each one that I'd been in a race for over 24 hours already, but I didn't. And the water stop I was depending on -- ended up being poorly placed right at the start of my leg, leaving 4 more miles of me baking in the sun without hydration. Whatever - HOME STRETCH!

We finally drop off our very last runner -- FGB Robert, who has been running like a mad man through each of his legs. And we all race to get to the finish line before him so we can all cross the line as a team. And by this point, we're all hobbling a little, pretty sore, very tired, and we see Robert round the bend and we all gather around and try to join.

But he's still kinda truckin'. So I hear one of my tired teammates yell out a "Easy! Robert. Eeeasy!" and Robert adjusts and we all trot across the finish line and officially become - Ragnarians.

The End.

Monday, March 24, 2014

That Time I Joined a 1,000 Mile Relay Team

As I've mentioned, one of my recent terrible decisions exciting developments was joining a team of 25 other people running a 1,000 mile relay from Tennessee to Boston. The group is doing this in solidarity with the running community after last year's Boston Marathon bombing, and to raise $50,000 for Boston charities, one of which is providing prosthesis to the victims of the bombings.

To explain a little of how this might go, I thought I'd re-post the only other relay I've been a part of- Ragnar. Several members of my Ragnar just happen to also be on this new endeavor (details of the new endeavor are at RunNowRelay.org).

I wrote about my Ragnar Here, here, here, here, here, and here (hey, a lot happened....), but I'll just leave hours 1-15 below for now so you get a little of what we may be in for...except this new team is going 1,000 miles over 8 days, as opposed to 200 miles...over two days...and we are the only "team" on the road...Lord Help Us All......

Ragnar: Hours 1-15 

(originally posted October 2012)

and we continue:

Our team splits into the two vans we now have (one replacement from Knoxville, one church van donated by the Pastor we stayed with the night before) and we are split based on where we are in the team line up.

Here's how a Ragnar team works: you're each assigned a number 1-12 and that's the first leg you start. Then you stay in order through 2 more legs, so if you are racer #1, you'll do leg 1,12 and 24.

And the legs vary in difficulty, so some folks are running like a 9 mile hilly leg, an 8 mile flat leg, and 4 mile really hilly leg. Some may run all 7 milers. I ran a 5.7, a 3.6, and a 4.4 and all my legs were really flat - until the very end. And then every single one of my legs ended on a hill. So I'm sure I always came into the exchange points looking even more haggard than usual. Awesome.

Anyway, the first 6 runners get in the same van, while the other van heads on to the 7th exchange point because that's the first time one of that van's runners will be getting the baton.

Did I mention the "baton" is actually a slap bracelet? Which sounds awesome, until you start thinking about how much sweat that thing collects through the course of 30 hours of continually being on runners' arms. Ew.

I was in the second van, so after the excitement of seeing our first runner off at the start line - we pretty much just have several hours of just waiting.

Although the start line was pretty fun because the teams all get really into this and decorate their vans, wear costumes, use noisemakers at each exchanges, etc.

At one point, we parked next the "Creepy Van Running Club" van which was offering Cute Puppies and Free Candy on its windows. Not so trustworthy, I'd say....
And in the spirit of doing this on the cheap, one of our teammates snagged a few Safety Vests from the school he's the principal of and our runners used those instead of regular runner vests (we all had to wear them - they cost about $10 but why not get one for free from the "Incident Response" stash of a school instead?)

We told the guys they should play those up on the run and ask if people needed any medical help, or help...ordering....supplies? What does Logistics do? ....

And besides safety vests, we also had to have -

Head Lamps.

Because this is a continuous relay, through the night, remember. So vest, lamp, and a bike reflector on your backside somewhere. Once we got into the night runs, it looked like a bunch of giant fireflies bobbing up and down on the course. Very amusing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. So we started the race and headed to our exchange point several miles away - and waited. Or, slept, like Former-Green-Beret Robert is doing here:
And it was also here that I made the delightful discovery that one of the teammates in my van was planning to run his legs.. in THIS:

He earned the nickname Captain America and developed quite the fan following on the course.

And it was during the Captain's first leg that we found out --

Our other van lost it's brakes.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's TWO vans we've now lost. Two of two.

And I forgot to mention that this race is through some hills in Maryland and you don't always get cell reception. So our two vans have to try various methods of texting/calling each other, trying different cell carriers to see which will go through. And now we have to try to find a rental car around 6:30 pm to come find us wherever we are and replace our second van.

At one point I really thought we were just going to have to throw in the towel before I even got one leg in.

Several phone calls later, we find out the teammates in our second van have resourcefully just jumped into other peoples' vans and were heading like sweaty hitchhikers to the next big exchange point.

But we couldn't keep doing that the whole race, and we weren't having luck finding a rental van.

And then, a miracle happens. And Former-Green-Beret Robert is on the phone with the nearest rental company and they are literally in the process of saying "I'm sorry, we have absolutely no vans....wait." And while they are on the phone, someone randomly returned a van right then. Right before closing and right when we need one.

The race will go on!

We joyously meet up with Van 2 at the next big exchange point, which happens to be at a local high school who opens up for this race so that the runners can eat, shower, and sleep there - like so:

And you don't sleep much, because soon your van has to leave again to grab the next runner, but it's better than nothing. And soon we were off again and I got ready to do my second leg -- the dreaded night run.....

more in the next post....

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Why Can't You Just Sit Still?"

I was asked that question a lot, as a child. I came out of the womb looking for something to get into, always bouncing between six different activities, my biggest fear in life being boredom. I was a little entrepreneur: selling friendship bracelet to kids too lazy to make their own; and hosting a cookie/lemonade boutique at my mother's yard sales. I was a pint-size time-share program seminar: "Why would you buy a refrigerator magnet when I will make you one to your specifications and sell it to you cheaper?"

I took dance lessons, piano lessons, played softball and basketball, was the class president in the fifth grade, tried to start a school newspaper during my appendectomy recovery, tried to organize a 3rd grade-wide girls dance routine.  By gosh, I was on track to take over a third-world country by the time I entered high school.

....and then there were boys and drivers' licenses in high school, and my world domination plans were a little derailed.

But then my insatiable curiosity, FOMO, and YOLO tendencies built back up to epic proportions in my adulthood. That's why I now know what it's like to have baboons try to steal my camping equipment, and what it's like to live on the top bunk of a bus on a bluegrass music tour, and what it's like to be bathed as an adult by a topless Turkish woman. 

I just feel like we shouldn't fall quietly asleep at the end of life, but we should look more like this:

End of Biathlon at Sochi Olympics 

Spent. Exhausted. Literally can't go on anymore. Doesn't that sound more fun?!?

It's why I ran a marathon, it's why I do weird things like this, and it's why I finally decided to join the military (more updates on that to come soon, I'm still in the paperwork phase of becoming a Naval officer. Because what else would I do immediately after finally finishing grad school? Sit? But that sounds boring, mom

It's why I identify with people like Peter Savodnik who wrote in Condé Nast Traveler,

"in the age of microcomputers and synthetic nervous systems and genetically altered puppies, I am rendered nearly drunk with joy when confronted with the possibility of getting lost or losing my balance."

 (he went on to describe an experience of watching mini vans race across an icy lake in Russia. At one point, a spectator states "When the ice cracks, perhaps we will be in the wrong place," to which he replied, "This is good." I've loved him ever since.)

And it's why I like to think of myself kind of like Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, when he recounted his major victory during the Civil War, and explained, "I had, deep within me, the inability to do nothing.”

Except instead of being fearless in battle, I just have the inability to do nothing, you know, on a typical Thursday evening. I will go forth and be social within the throngs of this city, or I shall die trying, so help me!

Ok, maybe it's more accurate to liken myself to this guy, instead:

Hilarious dog at race start

Freaking out to just get started already, while everyone else is all "what is your problem?!"

I feel you, overly excited puppy dog. I feel you.

Anyway, as I was recently hanging with friends, I casually mentioned that before I left work that day, I had:

A. signed up to be part of a Flash Mob dance
B. joined a 1,000 mile relay race.*

To which my friend Sean simply closed his eyes, exhaled defeatedly, and started to reply with "...wha?....Why can't you just be?!"

And sometimes, I wonder that too. Like when I find myself going directly from replying to an email from my Navy recruiter about the fact that I do not, for the last time, have tuberculosis; to running to the ladies room to snap a quick profile photo for a charity website (I mean, it was the only place I could quickly identify that had a white background and enough seclusion to take a quick selfie at work...); to calling the humanitarian law expert that I was supposed to interview for the Red Cross blog; to running back to my computer to hit "purchase" on that baby shower gift. ...Or was it wedding gift? ...Crap, I hope that baby likes fondue sets....

Yes. Why can't some of us just sit still for once? Is it an undiagnosed disorder? Do we have a fear of silence? I really do intend to create more margins in my life, but then I keep getting distracted by all those things that may not come around again, people!

I was recently trying to simply plan a running date with a boy and I kept going back to him with the small windows of time I had in between all the other silliness I'd committed myself to. He finally replied with "Ah yes. I am not so encumbered :) Perhaps next time."

Sigh. I need to get less...cumbered.

Maybe I should make that a late New Year's resolution....

...as soon as I finish that next half marathon...and see that Elephant Polo match overseas....

*For details on that 1,000 mile relay (and to see a photo of me that may or may not have been taken in a womens' bathroom), visit http://runnowrelay.org.

And please considering clicking donate to help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 for Boston charities in memory of last year's bombing victims!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dixieland Delight: More Wedding Adventures Part Two

Let's continue with my last bridesmaid adventure.

We left off with me finally arriving in Cleveland, the night before the wedding. The next day, we all head to the bridal suite to get our hair done.

I sit down when it's my turn, and field the typical question of whether or not I'm actually a spy (some of my friends that don't live in DC and have never understood my jobs are convinced that that's what I actually do. And there's really no convincing people otherwise, because who's gunna come right out and admit that they are a spy? So protesting just makes me look guiltier, and the cycle continues.)

At some point, the person doing my hair looks at the other lady doing hair, and they hand off this curling...contraption.

I can't see what's going on but I hear "it just sucks the hair in?" and I hear "I've never used this before."

I'm sorry, what was that? I'm picturing the Flowbee scene from Wayne's world

And, "I've never done this before" is pretty much the last thing you want to hear from someone about to do your hair.

But I try not to panic, and we get through it. My hair dresser does exactly what I told her I wanted, and my friend Beverly's hair dresser does exactly what she told her she wanted.

Then we both immediately second guess ourselves. The room started to fill with questions like:

"Do I look like a 14-year old going to prom?"

"Do I look like Princess Leia?"

The day is already starting well.

We finish dressing and head to the church for photos. (Outside. In the snow. In our strapless dresses. Beauty is pain - am I right, ladies?)

And if any of you men out there wonder what we look like backstage, getting ready to come out -- it's this:

Tired, freezing, wearing uggs and puffer jackets over our gowns. Glamour=We Haz It 

After the photos, we start to line up upstairs. And that's when it starts to sink in that -- oh yeah! I don't actually have any idea what I'm supposed to do in this wedding, since I was driving a Mustang through a post-snow-acopalyptic world during rehearsal yesterday!

I ask which groomsman I'm supposed to walk out with, hoping I can just follow his lead. But - as you might've expected - he also missed rehearsal! Of course he did! Because that would've been too convenient to have at least one of us know how we are supposed to conduct ourselves in front of a crowd of people on the most important day of our friends' lives.

We try to get instructions for how to walk out and where to stand. We sort of understand and get it mostly right. (We, of course, were the first to go up to our side of the alter, so we had no one to follow. The next couple that joined us quietly shifted us over to where we were actually supposed to be. #Awkward)

But then I settled in and focused on the ceremony and also on not locking my knees and fainting (that's the first thing you are usually taught as a bridesmaid. Very important.)

And I'm dreamily watching the bride and groom and suddenly realize in horror that while I tried to get instructions for how to get up to the alter -

I neglected to ask how on earth we get back down.

I immediately glance over at Beverly and she sees my panicked deer-in-headlights face and reads my mind and mouths "just follow us."

Thank goodness she did, because the way we ended up leaving was so not the way I would've guessed. But we made it! And the ceremony ends and we all head to the reception.

And receptions are my group of friends' forte. We are naturally ridiculous. We love to dance, sing, and make idiots of ourselves (and each other, if the opportunity arises). One member of the group always does a stellar Michael Jackson impression, we always end up square-dancing and screaming out the lyrics to Rocky Top and Dixieland Delight, and we typically all end up dancing around the bride and groom in a giant love-circle in the end.

The husbands that have now joined our group are often left to sit back and watch in amusement.

Although, I'll point out here that those husbands also ended up looking like this by the end of this reception:

So they can't say too much.

The night ended with all of us circling around the bride and groom before sending them off to wedded bliss. On my drive home the next day, I could still hear the lyrics that always make me smile:

Rollin' down a backwoods, Tennessee by-way,
One arm on the wheel.
Holdin' my lover with the other,
A sweet, soft, southern thrill.
Worked hard all week; got a little jingle,
On a Tennessee Saturday night.
Couldn't feel better, I'm together,
With my Dixieland Delight.....

.....Fits my life.
Oh so right.
My dixieland delight.....

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dixieland Delight: More Wedding Adventures, Part One

I've mentioned some of my Adventures in Bridesmaid-land before. Here's my most recent one:

I have a group of girlfriends that I met at my southern college. We call our little group The Besties, and we've stayed in touch through single life, heartbreak, weddings, babies, health scares, vacations, job changes, moves, --you name it.

Well the last of the Besties to get married (well, besides me. See my dating life here, here, and here for explanation) just got engaged last year. So the bridesmaid adventure began again.

Let's skip over the part where she was trying to ask me to be a bridesmaid but I was too busy complaining about another wedding I had been in...because leave it to me to make things awkward. And really ironic.

Let's instead jump straight to right before the wedding when -

there's a snow storm.

...and my flight is cancelled.


The bride and I try to figure out a way for me to still get there that doesn't involve dog sledding and at one point she tells me some friends of hers are leaving from Baltimore that night and maybe I could carpool with them.

The wedding is in Cleveland, Tennessee. I'm sorry, but a 9+ hour drive with people I don't really know, on potentially bad roads? I'd rather dog sled.

(I find out later that it took them twenty one hours to make the trip in the end. DEAR GOODNESS, I would've killed someone. Then ate them. Because that's a long time to be trapped in a car with no food.)

And I drive a mustang, so driving in snow is not really an option. But when I wake up on the day of the wedding rehearsal, it looks like traffic is moving outside my apartment. So I figure - what the heck. Let's see how far we can make it.

I throw things in a bag, kiss Chloe, and flee. And as I'm driving down the interstate, I start to see carnage from the night before. A car slid off here, a transfer trailer truck flipped there --- yep, this is looking like such a good idea.

But the roads ended up being fine so I just keep going. And in my haste, I didn't really think through timing. So as my trip progresses, I realize there's no way I'll make it for rehearsal, but that I might possibly make rehearsal dinner.

But I'm wearing leggings and no makeup.


I wonder if I can roll into town in enough time to stop by a friends' to change. Then, with each mile that passses, I realize that is so not going to happen.

So about 20 minutes outside of Cleveland, I pull into a gas station and proceed to make it my dressing room.

I change clothes in the stall, then move to hair and makeup at the sink. At some point, the perfume bottle I brought in crashes to the floor and breaks, leaving me to scurry around picking up pieces of glass.

So far, this is going really well.

I continue with makeup. But I quickly learn that the door to the stall keeps falling open, pinning me against the sink. This will not do. In frustration, counting down the minutes, I finally side kick the door closed, in my nice lace dress, and hold it there, leaving me to look like this from the waist up:

And this from the waist down.


Finally, I finish, jump back on the road and I end up driving into the dinner venue with literally four minutes to spare.

I'm getting too old for these shenanigans....

I see all my friends and we bounce around greeting each other like Golden Retrievers at a dog park, until finally, we sit down for the festivities.

And that's when the bride's grandfather is saying a prayer --- and I hear something next to me.

And I realize in horror that two of my friends have just entered -- the Giggle Loop.

Dear goodness, get me out of here.

I open my eyes and try to give them the Mom Look but they are too far gone. Finally one of them lets out a a snort/cough sound and thankfully the prayer ends.

This is why I love these girls. So inappropriate. Even in our 30's.

Anyway, the rest of the night goes well. That is, until I need to find my other friend's house, who was kind enough to let me stay with her.

I head out of the downtown area and onto the road where my friend lives.  But all I can find by the mailbox with her address on it is an unpaved road that seemingly leads into nothingness. And it's dark.

And here's where I have to explain that something happened to me when I moved to a city. I'm now so used to traffic noise, sirens, gun shots, what have you, that now the country scares me. Here, people aren't bothering to lock their doors but all I can think is "no one can hear me scream!"

So I call her.

"Um...am I in the right place?"

She says yes, that I just need to keep driving down that driveway. She also reminds me that I've totally been to her house before (Ah. Another win for Queen Oblivious.).

At last, I get in and fall into bed after my crazy day. I glance at my phone, on which I neglected to turn off the navigation system, and the screen just says:

Yes. Yes, I finally did.

More on the actual wedding in the next post.