I’m running a bit behind on my race reports. This one details my adventures in rural East and Middle Tennessee running the Ragnar Relay. It all started on a cold fall evening in November near Vanderbilt in Nashville. Our team of 12 runners (and two drivers), met up for the drive down to Chattanooga for the start of the race the following morning. Our team consisted of runners Joe, Emily, Chrystyna, Ryan, Gail and Karen with drivers Nicole and Mark in van 1. Runners Victoria, Lou, Derek, Phil, Erin, and yours truly with driver Byron filled out van 2. The runners in van 1 would run legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30, while van 2 would run 7-12, 19-24, and 31-36. My personal legs were 10, 22, and 34.

After a stop over in Murfreesboro for some pre-race pasta, we continued down to Chattanooga to get our hotel at around 9 or 10pm. After settling on sleeping arrangements, I announced that I was going to head out to seek something to drink. Phil offered to go with me and asked what I wanted to drink. I said, “I really want a beer.” He said, “I knew I was walking with the right guy.” After a night filled with, obscure brews, stinky bums, stolen darts, women with wiffle ball bats, and a possible wholesale steel deal, Phil and I ended up in the hotel swimming pool at 5am waving to van 1 as they left to go running. We then headed upstairs to catch a few zees before heading off to run our legs a few hours later.

My first leg was pretty brutal. It rained for most of Phil’s leg right before mine, but the sun came out at the end and that’s how I started mine. The sun only lasted for about 5 minutes though and then the clouds and rain came back. Then the sleet came and was blowing directly into my eyes. I was running with my eyes closed for about a mile until the sleet slacked up and turned into a light, wet snow. It then rained on and off the rest of the run. At the end I came in under my goal pace of 10:15, but was wet, cold, and spitting blood. I warmed up at an outdoor store in Monteagle and bought some Little Debbie Star Crunches and immediately ate four.

After Erin and Victoria did their legs (the picture above was taken during Victoria’s leg down Monteagle), we stopped to eat and catch some sleep. I had brought a tarp and spread it out on the ground and got in my sleeping bag. After an hour of sleep it started raining again, so I put my junk back in the van and Phil and I went over and drank some free hot chocolate and chatted with some race volunteers. A while later, van 1 showed up and they handed over to us and we were off to the races again.

The best leg of the race by far was leg 14 which Lou ran. It was out in the middle of nowhere, TN and the night sky was crystal clear at this point. Simply beautiful. My next leg was through Shelbyville, TN and was short, but cold and I was running with 3 hours of sleep. I slogged through it starting out quick and not entirely sure where I was going. The middle part was a bit slow, but I finished strong and got my pace under 10:00. I quickly jumped in the van to get out of the cold.

Our next hand-off spot was in the Cool Springs area of Nashville. Healthways, a sponsor, had opened their building for the use of the runners. I threw my tarp down again to sleep on the grass in the office park and this time Erin joined me rather than trying her luck in the van. We slept for an hour or two and finally got up when the noise was too loud to sleep through. We went in the building to use the bathrooms and eat breakfast. I stripped down for a quick whore bath using my baby wipes (if you bring nothing else on your Ragnar adventure, bring baby wipes) and then got a bagel sandwich.

It was then our turn to run again, this time in the Nashville Metro area. My leg was through the historic Belle Meade area and was hilly and not much fun after running 10 miles the day before with limited sleep in cold cramped conditions. My pace was probably around 11:15 or so with a lot of walking incorporated. Still, I finished as best I could. After Erin’s final run we dropped Victoria off for the last leg and headed for the finish on 1st Avenue in Nashville. We parked and hurried over to the meeting area where we met the people from van 1 (who were clean and showered) for the final 100 yard dash. We got really excited when Victoria came into view and everyone took off running at nearly a sprint to finish up the race. We all ran across the finish line together with an official time of 36:40:06 for the 195.5 mile distance.

Despite finishing dead last (which we expected considering out team name was “First Out Last In”), despite the cold, the sleet, the lack of sleep, and the chafing, this was the funnest race I have done. I met a lot of great people and had a ton of fun with everyone in my van. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat and hope I can do it again next year.