Ragnar Cape Cod – My Perspective

by nomeatbarefeet

So I have been “working on” this post for, holy hell has it already been a MONTH since the race?!?!?! Ok, I am just going to post it and to hell with the left out details. The pictures and my brief words should be enough to describe the sheer awesomeness of this experience.

The alarm went off at 5:30, but I was already awake. One of my roomies had already been up for I don’t know how long, had showered, and then went back to bed. I rolled out of bed and began to get myself together. My team (Team B) didn’t start running until after 10am, but we all needed to be at the start for Team C’s start around 8:30am; Team A would head off at 1pm. The 6 hours of sleep I had gotten would hopefully get me through the next 24hrs+ of racing, but right now all that I wanted was a very large cup of coffee.

When I first found out that there was going to be a Strong Hearts Vegan Power (SHVP) team to run Cape Cod I knew I had to be there. I could not miss the chance to connect with all the friends I had been making online, to spread the message of veganism, and to show that vegans are not a bunch of wusses afraid to bring the thunder, kick some ass, and make some kills.

SHVP consisted of 36 runners on 3 teams with each team consisting of 12 runners split into 2 vans (6 in each van). We came from all over the place (6 or 7 states I think) but were are connected by our dedication to spread the message of “saving animals lives and furthering the notion that veganism is a compassionate lifestyle that is best for our own health, the health of the planet, and most importantly, the animals themselves.” The race — Ragnar Cape Cod — ran from Hull to Provincetown, MA — about 200 miles. Teams set off Friday morning (some very early) and finished on Saturday (throughout the day). The procedure works like this: the first runner from van 1 starts off and that van drives to the first exchange where runner 1 hands off to runner 2, then the van sets off to the second exchange and so on. Eventually runner 6 will hand off to runner 7 (of van 2) and the runners from van 1 can then take a break while the runners of van 2 begin their first set of legs. In total each van has three sets of legs for a total of 36 legs.

If you are looking for a perspective from the front of the pack check out Scott Spitz’s or Laura Kline’s report (both of these two are really fast, so read theirs and think ‘mid-pack’ when you think if me). Scott summed up the SHVP dynamics quite aptly, and its worth repeating:

We show up in force.
We are aesthetically intimidating.
We are organized.
We are deliberate in our message.
And we are FAST.

How do you summarize an entire event that takes place over 24+ hours, where you are stuck in the same van with 6 other people, but which, for much of that time, you are sore, sleep deprived, exhausted from running, hungry and/or thirsty and thoroughly stanky? You don’t. So I won’t try. What I’ll do is say that my time with the runners of Team B Van 2 was incredible. I had the pleasure of running, traveling, eating, sleeping, laughing and commiserating with an amazing group of people, who were there being ambassadors for a truly worthy cause. There was no angst; there was no bickering; there were no tense moments. We just had a damn fun time. My Team B runners are a wonderful group of individuals and I am so appreciative of spending time getting to know them.

9.8 miles (leg 1 — 2:15pm)

I was so nervous about this first leg. Not only for myself, but also because I had other people relying on how well I did. I had had injuries prior to the race so I didn’t know what to expect. The leg started on a beach then crossed a long wooden causeway, which gave me a spectacular view. I tried to stay at a steady pace and not push things too hard. Though I was passed a number of times by some speedy runners I was able to rack up 7 kills, which felt pretty good. I actually felt great for this first run; my leg didn’t hurt; my breathing was good; but I should have carried water with me — it was deceptively hot with the sun peaking out behind cloud cover. Coming into Plymouth and seeing the one mile marker I tried to aim for a runner far up ahead hoping to get one last kill. Martin Rowe’s mighty vavuzalu welcomed me into the exchanged and I handed off to Laura. I ended up finishing in 1:16, just three minutes over the projected time. With a 7:45 pace I felt very proud of myself for keeping it together and finishing my longest leg on very little training. Two more to go…

5.4 miles (leg 2 — 12:40am)

Why the hell do I have to run??? We had tried to grab some sleep after eating a delicious parking lot picnic but trying to get comfortable in the back of a Suburban proved impossible. A heavy damp fog had settled over everything, yet nothing was wet– it covered the night in a coat of humidity but it simply wouldn’t rain (which was fine by me). We all waited at the exchange for our runner to come through, though perhaps we headed out there a tad early cause I started to get a bit chilly, my legs started to tighten. Then we heard out number — “152” — and I grabbed the bracket and took off.

Almost immediately a problem: one of the directional signs had been slightly turned so you could not tell which direction to go in. I thought I remembered driving in from the right so we (a few runners had stopped to caucus) headed that way. Eventually we saw another sign and it was on.

By all accounts the run went really well. Lots of rolling climbs with a majority of flatter sections made for a brisk pace.  My legs felt really good, so I tried maintaining a slightly uncomfortable pace to try and catch up with Peter from Team C who had gone through the exchange ahead of us not to long ago. (I never did pass him.) I knew the night run might be a challenge, but this seemed not so much challenging as, well, different. The headlamp only cut through the fog so far; street lights illuminated islands of pavement; red lights in the distance designated future kills; and through all of it the humidity clung to my throat and lungs. I kept pushing as we came to “1 Mile To Go” marker and caught 3 runners right in the fail quarter mile. Some how Laura noticed me in the dark and grabbed the bracket from me to head off on her leg. I still don’t know how she recognized me. I felt exhausted but really happy with my ability to run hard, not get injured, and stay awake.

Two down, one to go…

6.3 miles (leg 3 — 8:39am)

One and half hours of sleep later I rolled over in my sleeping bag and looked at Scott laying a few feet away. Had I been asleep at all? Overcast grey morning light was streaming into the open-air of the gymnasium, so I must have as gotten at least a little sleep. I muttered something incoherent and began picking up my pile of clothes hoping that there was coffee and food somewhere–there turned out to be breakfast in the school but the caffeine was the most important thing. After chugging my coffee and inhaling a banana I changed clothes in the front seat of the Suburban (sorry people looking at me in the next van) and hustled to the exchange. Turned out that the last runner from Van 1 had gotten injured (?) so one of the Team A runners was filling in…however my wait at the exchange grew longer and longer upon realizing that we had misinformation about when he would be coming through.

Finally I was off. I was nervous about how my legs would hold up — they were tight and cramping a bit — but I flew out of the exchange and immediately found myself at a brisk pace with a runner nipping at my heels. As we turned onto a bike path I let him go — his pace was too much for me and I didn’t want to burnout. I focused on staying steady, constant, and wracking up as many kills as I could. As the path was relatively flat I could keep a nice pace without overexerting myself, and eventually, when the route turned back on the the roads, I was feeling good.

I excited the bike path with a runner ahead of me — killed her and then turned onto the main road. By now however any small incline in the road felt like a mountain, and my legs were starting to feel a bit jelloy. At the “1 Mile to Go” sign the road rose at a steady grade for about a half mile. This was it, the last mile of my final leg so I just busted it out, pushing as hard as I could. This turned out to catch my teammates off guard because they were doing this:

🙂 Laura saw me coming at the last minute, chucked her belongings aside and grabbed the bracelet as I came in. Exhausted I crumbled to the ground, my lungs & legs on fire. “Wow.” “Great Job!” “Get in the van we have to go” All of these were said, perhaps all in one breath. Done and done I climbed into the van and proceeded to devour a quite delicious baguette, washing it down with some Vega recovery drink. Yum.

Driving around with Team B in Van 2 was a great experience — Meghann, Kaitlin, Dana, Laura, Scott and Martin I love you guys girls all! While I love all of my Vegan Power peeps, us 7 were crammed into the B van, smelly, hungry and tired, and I could have been more happy to be there with you. However, Martin, it should be said, is one funny guy. Hearing him craft a critique of the currently playing Hatebread song in proper British-English, or blow a long, low sonic wave of vuvuzela thunder out the window of a moving van, or just standing still and having him magic some Chao cheese into existence — the mood was always lightened, to say the least. Thank you for that.

Finally, here is Chris Cooney’s (of Vegan Zombie fame) vlog of the event.

Vegan Power! To the front!