The crew met up at the supermarket to shop for food, drinks, and bare essentials that we'd need for the trip. That was the plan anyway. But in addition to Gatorade, water, peanut butter, and assorted trail mix, my van 2 mates (SE, MT, BS, JT, CK) and I individually and collectively searched the aisle for cookies, candies, and assorted treats that would serve as "rewards" during the ride. That's when I knew this was "my crew" and that's when I knew we'd have a fun, fun trip.
We were introduced to the rest of the crew over dinner later that night. SE and MT (the couple in our group) were gracious enough to open up their apartment and serve us homemade pasta and garlic bread after our shopping trip. Van 1 consisted of DC (captain), BH (Flyer VP and 2:52 Boston marathoner), JPM (speedy North Bklyn runner), EC (ultra-specialist from London), SN (good fast running friend of captain), JG (good fast running friend of BH). It became fairly obvious that while Van 2 is all about fun and games, Van 1 was all about business!
As we ate our "Last Supper" prior to race day, we went over leg assignments and our roles and responsibilities in our respective vans. DC also presented us with awesome team shirts that she'd designed and made for all of us. She also handed out colored sunglasses that were supercool and went with our outfits for the trip. As a group, we, "Kidz Who Whiz," projected we'd finish the relay in about 24 hours. We knew this because someone in Van 1 had taken the time to determine an approximate finishing time for each of the 36 legs based on the runner's average race pace, the length of the leg, and the difficulty of the leg. "Beat the Grid" became the rallying cry for all of us running our legs during the next 24 hours.
Because our team race start wasn't until 2pm, and the trip to Woodstock, NY was not going to take more than 2 hours, we had plenty of time to drive upstate from the city the next morning. Still, being the troopers that we are, we all met up early at SE/MT's apartment for breakfast, loaded up our two vans with our food and gear, and was on the road by 9am. The drive to Woodstock was uneventful, although a sporadic thunderstorm with heavy rain midway during the trip had us worried. For the most part, we listened to a mixed CD that MT prepared, collectively came up with nicknames and spirit animals to be used during the relay, and joked and laughed about what it'd be like running in the dark for the first time. Would we see stars? Would we get lost? What if you looked up with your headlamp and found a pair of animal eyes staring back at you? Would you keep running, stand still, or run back in the opposite direction? Haha! We were all already freaked out even before we got there.
It had turned into a pretty sunny and warm day by the time we got to Woodstock at around 11:30am or so. We were all excited to see the starting area fully functioning and operational and other teams with their colorful costumes and vans setting up shop at various spots around the parking lot. Because Ragnar uses staggered starts beginning at 9am in 30 minute intervals, we got to witness the starting ceremonies for some of the other teams as we waited around for race registration to take place. Many of us also recognized friends on other teams around the city who had made the trip upstate as well, which is always fun.
After a brief tour of the staging area, it was back to business for us. While waiting for van 1 to register and attend their Ragnar safety class, van 2 took the opportunity to decorate our Rag mobile. Some of us drew our spirit animals while others of us just wrote down every inspirational phrase we knew with the words "Kidz" or "Whiz" in it. It's a shame I don't draw well myself but those in our group who did really turned our ride into a mobile work of art!
After van 1 came back, we took some pictures and helped them decorate their van. We also practiced the slap bracelet transfer and held an impromptu dance party right there on the parking lot! (Hey, we needed to show the rest of Ragnar we're here to kick their race AND have fun doing it!) Soon it was time for one last meal (Mexican - we made do), one last pee stop (at the one municipal restroom in town), one last round of pictures, before the race would officially begin for us.
The Race Begins...And We Wait
As a team, we all gathered right next to the starting gate and cheered for all the Leg 1 runners as they were individually introduced representing their respective teams. There were some funny teams and costumes out there! Some of the more memorable ones were the Flying Borgines (out in full fledged Viking headpiece and dresses) and Post-Fontaine (with headband and knee high socks). It was really a spectacle to behold. Soon after the introductions, the runners, including our very own JPM, took off to a smattering of woops and cheers, and the relay race was ON!
We watched the runners streak down the sidewalk and wished good luck to our Van 1 mates as they drove toward the next exchange point to meet JPM and prepare for their own runs. As we weren't due to run for another three to four hours, our van had plenty of time to kill. So we loitered around a bit, took our time to drive to Relay Station 6 (where we would receive the handoff from van 1), underwent our own safety training, and ate and relaxed for the next several hours. I also took this time to familiarize myself with the driving directions since I'd be taking over the wheel while SE (our main driver) ran the first leg for us.
At around 5:30pm, DC came through like a gazelle to our relay station looking as if she was just back from a light morning jog. She handed off the slap bracelet to SE, who took off down the dusty road and we were officially on duty! We went back to the van, and took off after him. He had a tough and hilly 8 mile run to start and we wanted to support him the best we can. We stopped at mile 3 and mile 6 to offer him water/Gatorade as it was getting pretty hot and humid out. He worked the course like a champ though and got a few road kills early for our van as he handed off to MT, his wife, for Leg 8. We repeated the same process for her as we did for SE, stopping about half-way or so to provide cheers, water/Gatorade and support. We also tried to cheer for other runners when we drove past them on the road, knowing we were all out there running the same course and suffering the same hot weather. MT ran well, ran strong, and ran happy as she came through our exchange all smiles from a good hard effort.
Leg 9 went well too, as BS blistered his 10K run at a 7:05 pace as he would tell me later. He looked strong, fast, and really had fun out there. He also scored a few road kills for us which was always very motivating. The only trouble we had in the early going was in Leg 10 when CK started to have calf/knee issues early in the first mile. We all knew prior to the race that CK had been dealing with injuries off and on for the past several weeks, but like her, we thought (or hoped) that her body would be kind to her during the race. As we drove past her, she already looked as if she was limping a little. We really got concerned when a stranger came up to us as we were waiting for her at mile 3 of her 6 mile leg and asked if we knew the runner limping badly a little further back. However, by the time we drove back and found her again, her muscles had loosened and she was running more comfortably than when we last saw her in mile one. Yes, to a man, we were all proud of her that she'd "worked it out". We gave her some water and she had no further issues on the rest of that leg.
Next up was Leg 11, which went to JK. It was almost completely dark by the time she suited up with her reflective vest and headlamp for her run. Although I didn't know her before this trip, I could tell she would handle herself well on this course. The woman had just run a 50K out in Long Island five days before, so her 4 mile leg was probably not even enough to be a warmup run for her, even if it was a bit hilly. She did not disappoint as she held a good form, a good pace and handed off to me a little before the expected time.
Refer to the previous post for the story of my leg 12.
By the time I was done and handed the bracelet back to van 1, we as a group were all a bit exhausted, though happy and satisfied that we didn't die, didn't get lost, and made it through Day 1 with our bodies intact, ready for the challenge of Day 2.