We survived. All ten of us. Through all 197 miles, from Madison, Wis. to Chicago. From early Friday morning into Saturday afternoon. Nonstop. Five per van, two vans, no sleep, superb navigational skills and an excessive number of baby wipe baths, forevermore called the "whores shower." It all ended on a beach in Chicago after the longest 7.8 miles of my whole life, and it ended with THIS:
Oh, and also THIS:
So, clearly, IT WAS AWESOME. That medal is also a beer bottle opener, BTW. Also so is the guy, it turns out, so... PERFECT.
I was in a van christened the Dad Van. On our team -- Team Mom & Dad -- we had a Dad Van and a Mom Van. Our van looked something like this. Very, um, creative:
Our 28-and-a-half hours of relay adventure consisted of a lot of driving and dropping off runners and driving some more and arguing over directions and eating Red Vines and occasional napping and listening to oldies and whining and more driving and more running and more running and laughing and more running and changing in port-a-potties and pooping in port-a-potties and "showering" in port-a-potties and cheering and sweating and freezing and getting rained on and yelling loudly at passersby with an air horn and getting cranky and getting crankier and running again and doing a complete outfit change in the front seat of a moving van under the cover of a sleeping bag with a headlamp on your head and more running and chafing and tweeting and hugging friends and running again.
Until it was all over.
I ran 28 miles total. Four different legs, mostly spread out by hours, one in the middle of the night on a dark, lonely bike path. By the time I reached the final leg for me and for the entire relay, I was pretty sure I'd die. I had 7.8 miles to get our team to the finish line, and my calculations might be slightly off due to lack of sleep and energy, but I'm PRETTY sure it was really 356.4 miles. Give or take. It's true. But in the last 100 meters, your team gets to join you and, as a team, you all get to cross the finish line after the longest, most exhausting 197 miles of your lives.
Mine was special. I saw the finish up ahead, and the bright blue shirts of my teammates. As I got closer, I saw a familiar gesture of my best friends back home -- the "power arch." It was something we all picked up from the "Hood to Coast" documentary, where a group of people stand on either side of the path with their arms up in the shape of an arch over the runner that's passing through. I smiled, thinking of my friends, who were somewhere out on the course. I hadn't come across their team at all, which made me sad. I was overwhelmed by all the noise and excitement and the power arch, but when I glanced to my left just as I was passing through I saw it WAS my friends! Their team was already at the finish. THEY FOUND ME. THEY GAVE ME A POWER ARCH. It was a split second of joy and recognition that nearly made me fall on my face. It was my first burst of absolute joy in 28 hours. I love them for that.
There are so many intricate details of the weekend that I don't think I'd ever be able to get into or describe, but know this -- it was HARD. I got cranky. I got tired. By 6 a.m. Saturday, on 24 hours and 14 miles of no sleep, I felt like I had the worst hangover in the history of mankind, and I still had 14 miles left to run. I wanted nothing more than to lay down, flat. Somewhere NOT crunched up in the front seat of a 12-passenger van. Somewhere away from people. Somewhere NOT in motion. Away from running shoes and baby wipes and wet, uncomfortable clothing. My shins were screaming, my hair was drenched in sweat. We smelled.
BUT IT WAS AWESOME. This is why I run. These people are why I do this. The adventure. The stories. The camaraderie. We were one team, but I had friends spread across several teams and not one of them has told me they regret their decision to run Ragnar. We live for this. I met new friends, I hugged old friends. We all made memories and took pictures and have stories of baby wipe showers and bloodied blisters to tell our families.
We ran 197 miles as a team. And that is badass.