By Barbara Powell, a member of team Twisted Blister
One Hundred and Ninety-Two miles. That’s a hell of a lot of miles to run. But that number represents much more than that. For Team Twisted Blister, the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay was one hundred and ninety-two miles shared by twelve runners crammed into two mini industrial vans racing against five hundred other teams over the course of twenty four hours. Whew!
It was a motley crew. Cut and pasted from Western Mass roots, Eastern Mass limbs, and New York City heart, Team TB flanked the starting line at 3:30 on Friday afternoon. It was a quiet start with only two other teams present, including Northeastern University (who would go on to win after a smoking time of 20:18:55). The Atlantic’s oceanic backdrop lapped up against the inflatable RAGNAR RELAYS START arch. The starting horn blared and the cold Nantasket Beach wind pushed our first runner, Dylan Amaral, out of the gate. Although teams had been starting at various times since before sunrise, for us the race had finally begun.
Ragnar Relay is an event that everyone in their lifetime should experience. It is the only string of moments where it is acceptable to be sweaty and a little stinky, crammed up against fellow sweaty and stinky runners for over twenty hours. It’s where you’re allowed to change clothes on a dime, to crack nonstop innuendos (giggity!) and to share a sleepless night of strenuous miles with once-strangers.
Team TB drove our way across the Cape in two mini industrial vans sponsored by Paleo Naturals (deserving of a shoutout, check out their food here). The Van 2 driver, Rachael Alfaro, is a rep for Paleo Naturals and escorted the team to their designated hand-offs. Van 1 driver, Russell McAfee, was also the number 6 Twisted Blister. Not only did he safely drive his teammates to their destinations, but also ran significant PR’s in the mile and two 5ks back to back! If that ain’t rock and roll, what is?
Running for your Ragnar team is a powerful performance enhancer. There is something about the injection of teammate camaraderie. It’s the safest, most legal substance you can push into your veins. Blister Jeff Reed dropped the fire, scorching through all three of his legs at low-6 pace. Cait Deely, who only started running 2 years ago at 11:30 pacing, dropped the hammer at sub-8 pace for each of her splits. Captain Meghan Rogers rightfully claimed, “I ran more miles faster than I ever have in my life.” You see, something happens when you run for something greater than yourself. You discover an untapped motivation inside of you that trickles down into your legs (giggity?) and shoots up to your pumping arms. And suddenly, you are running like hell for a purpose.
Blister Todd Deely eloquently ran through this point: “The last two miles [of my final leg] is somewhat of a haze… All I could think about the last stretch was getting the bracelet to Joe. My last mile was over a minute faster than the first 8 (with 3 kills) and I attribute that 100% to the extra boost, drive, spirit and energy that comes from being part of something bigger than yourself. I can honestly say I have not suffered that much on a run physically since college and I probably would have walked or jogged it in if Joe was not waiting at the end.”
You know, there just may have been something in the Atlantic water. Although ultimately a cobbled-together team, Team TB created a lifelong bond. As the race progressed, so did the relationships. Jacki Selwyn put it perfectly: “I loved how quickly a bond could form. I feel like I’ve made life-time friends and I’m so sad its over. 25 hours on Ragnar is equivalent to 500 hours of normal life.” It’s true, running is so damn intimate. But, running and living in a van at the same time is even more so.
Of course, the race had its awkward moments. There was the accidental acceptance of another team’s slap-bracelet-baton at one exchange, and then when Ragnar volunteers shouted “RUN!” to a Blister when he was walking along the route to cheer for our actual runner on the course. There were the bloody nipples, the accidental come-ons, the wrong turns and Runner’s World avalanches. The most memorable of all, though, was living out of the mini vans. It was like setting up shop with the grandparents of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We didn’t need bedpans, but “like Grandpa Joe, we sprung from the bed and got it done!” (Credit goes to Kimberly Kaye and Jacki Selwyn for that one!)
Each time a runner hit the course for their leg, there was a need not only to run well, but to log “kills.” Each runner passed on the course was considered a “kill.” Due to a later start, the very first set of legs were quiet, just the Blisters trekking out against the shoreline. As the race took flight, the battles ensued and the gritty efforts to kill grew. By high noon on Saturday, the final miles of Twisted Blister were sought, final legs chasing down the remaining competition. By the day’s end, we had completed the race in 25:39:06.4, placing 47th overall.
— Level Renner (@levelrenner) May 9, 2015
I purposefully bury that time near the end of this for a reason. The Ragnar Relay was not ultimately about what place you got, how fast the team was overall, or how many “kills” you logged. These numbers, although worthy and yes, motivational, aren’t the reason to get out and run for 24 hours with a van-full of nutty runners. The Ragnar Relay is a race to celebrate the rawness of runners, the kick-assness of a team, the grit and heart of a weary group of athletes, and the rock-and-roll realness of friendship. It is a collection of moments that are woven into a fantastic memory. Moments like this, from Blister Kate Diogo: “I loved running right next to Plymouth rock. Closest I’ve come to running stoned.” Moments, also, from Blister Kevin Silva, reminiscing about “the Loon spotted on the horizon on the calm beach. [We] debated whether it was a seal, a rock that moved around a lot, or a mirage.”
But mostly, the Ragnar memory clangs like a final lap bell in the moments where silliness meets ass-kicking.Team Twisted Blister will never forget team mascot, Joe Brito, rocking out to his final 1.6 mile up a beachside mountain in a searing blue mohawk, Diddy sunglasses and an inflatable guitar, killing 4 runners along the way. Because, like Rock and Roll, Team Twisted Blister and the Ragnar Relay memories never stop.
This was the first of what we hope to by many submissions to Level Renner by Barbara Powell. We go way back, all the way back to our group runs when she was part of the Skechers crew. Barbara’s a very talented writer who will be bringing a lot of exciting material and a unique perspective to our site. Please welcome us in joining her, and be sure to check out her blog The Days Between: NOT QUITE SUNDAY.