The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."
As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend twelve us, along with our amazing crew, took on the Ragnar Reach the Beach Relay in Cape Cod as part of the recently launched Oiselle Podium Project. Our one main goal, for obvious reasons, was to snag ourselves a spot on the podium, preferably first. The outcome? In a nutshell, mission accomplished. Our team, otherwise known as BirdmachineCC, was the first women's open team across the line, finishing in blazing time of 20 hours and 26 minutes (average pace 6:41). We also finished second overall out of the 462 teams that competed. Pardon my French, but that is a shit ton of teams. So, needless to say, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. Today, I'm going to try to give you a sense of how things unfolded over those 24 hours. It will undoubtedly be tough to put it all into words and I'll do my best to avoid going into too much detail. Even still, it's a long one so you might want to grab a cup of coffee before you dive in. Let's go ahead and start on Friday afternoon. First stop, Hull, MA where the race was set to begin. We had people fly and drive in from all over the country. Seattle, Austin, Philly, Manhattan, and, of course, the Boston area. Those of us who are local scooped up everyone who needed rides out to the start, all of us rolling in around 1:30 where we promptly grabbed coffee and food and then painted our vans. Well, actually, if I'm being honest here, Julia painted our vans. She's an artist and calligrapher and lots of other really cool things. Her ability to decorate our vans far surpassed anything the rest of us could do so she just did the whole damn thing and we loved her for it.
VAN ART by JULIA
After we got ourselves packed and our teams divided up into the two vans based on which leg we were running, we headed over to the race start for some administrative stuff. Both teams had to have a number of safety vests, flashing lights and headlamps between them as no runner could be on the road at night without all of these items lit up and on their person. We checked in with the staff as we had to physically show them our gear and then in return they gave us some safety flags for crossing the street and a bunch of other race related gear and promo swag. I'm not going to lie and tell you I didn't feel pretty badass hanging with this group of strong, beautiful, fearless women who were all wearing the same thing, which was also incredibly badass (thank you, Oiselle). Once we had the green light from the officials we did a team cheer and grabbed a photo and then lined up to wait as Kathleen, our first runner, got ready to go. Finally, at 3:00pm, she was off and the rest of us hopped in the vans and got ready to rock.
I was assigned to the fourth leg and my first run would be an easy 4.1 miles. I'd be grabbing the bracelet from the crazy fast Meg around 5:20pm. Since this was my easiest of the three runs I was going to push the pace a bit, aiming to hover right around 6:45. As expected, Meg came in hot and once she slapped the bracelet on my wrist I was off. The weather was gorgeous, 60s and sunny, and I cruised along at goal pace, smiling both because I was running and more so because I was stupidly excited about the relay in general.
HANDOFF FROM MEG
I could see a guy in a blue shirt in the distance and focused on following him since the official Ragnar markers on the road for us were few and far between. The first mile flew by and I finished mile 2 right one pace with a 6:46. Shortly after the 2 mile marker there was a RTB sign up ahead that showed an arrow to the left. I watched as the guy I had been following veered right. SHIT. Should I yell out, I wondered? I got to the sign and turned left deciding he was too far away to hear me. Bummer for him. Then about 20 steps after my turn I started to panic. Did I read the sign wrong? Did it mean stay on the left side of the road? SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. I turned around and went back to the sign which definitely said turn left. So that guy was either running on his own and wondering what the hell was going on in his town or he was in the process of getting really, really lost. Sadly, I lost some time on that third mile, rolling in at a 6:56 so I was determined to make up the time and cruised through my fourth mile in 6:36. I was a bit winded by the time I got to the exchange zone and had a tough time passing the bracelet off to Colleen, hence the awkward situation below.
HANDOFF TO COLLEEN
Ok, so not what I'd hoped for, but not a complete fail either. After my run I got back in the van and joined the rest of my team as they cheered for each runner at the next few handoffs, all of them successful. Once our sixth runner, Sophia, finished up her first leg our van was done for a while as Van 2 took over for the next 6 legs. We pulled off to grab dinner. (hmmm....what to eat when you've just raced and you'll be doing it again in less than 3 hours. Always a tricky one) Then we cruised over to the next exchange area where we'd be hanging out until Van 2 was finished. We attempted to get some sleep, some of us in the van and some outside on the grass. None of us did very well and by the time we were gearing up to start again all of us could feel the exhaustion settling in. I had to give myself a little talking to here. Buck up, Rebecca. You signed up for this.
VAN 2 AFTER THEIR FIRST ROUND
I started my second run at midnight. Now, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm typically in bed by 9:00pm. Thus, you can imagine how chipper I was after having already run earlier that day and gotten about one hour of sleep in the backseat of van which I shared with my teammate, Cait. I was not chipper. I have no photos of this run as I was a zombie before, during and after. I had to fight tooth and nail to hold a 6:50 pace as I was running totally on my own with no music in the pitch black and in small Cape Cod neighborhoods full of potholes and unexpected twists and turns. I got it done, but it was touch and go. Not pretty at all.
Some point in the middle of the night
I slinked back into the van, put some warm clothes on and waited quietly until all of us were done and we could get to the next exchange area for some sleep. You can see how sparkly our crew, Ania and Joan, were in the photo above. Bless them. They kept things rolling smoothly and always had smiles on their faces no matter what. It is a job I never could take on. You can also see how thrilled I look behind them. Let's just say it's been a while since I've been that tired. We rolled into the transition area around 3am and Cait and I grabbed our sleeping bags and headed over to the (wet) grass for a nap. Cait says I slept as I was apparently breathing heavily but I don't ever remember actually falling asleep. After what felt like five minutes our alarm went off and we slogged back over to the van in preparation for our third and final leg. It was now around 5am and the sun was just starting to poke through. It was pretty spectacular and as I looked out the van window I was able to appreciate the beauty of it as I attempted to summon up some untapped energy.
SUNRISE IN HARWICH
My final leg was my hardest for multiple reasons. One, it was my longest at 7.5 miles. Two, it had some gentle rollers in it. Three, it was my third run in less than 24 hours. And four I was running on fumes. I've done three marathons and one half marathon in the past two months. But, this 7.5 mile run felt significantly harder than all four of those races. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank and I was having to dig deeper than I've had to go for a while in order to hold a sub-7 minute pace. Again, I had to give myself a pep talk. Come on, Rebecca. It's 7 miles. You do this all the time. Embrace the suck and just keep going. I sporadically checked my pace to make sure I wasn't sliding but I did not check my distance figuring the less I knew the better.
FINISHING LEG 3
Finally, I could see the turn in for the transition area. That last stretch might as well have been a 5k. Everything hurt and I was almost crying tears of joy knowing that I was nearing the end. Why do I do this again? I'll get to that. I crawled into the van and slinked back to the corner as I decompressed, borderline shocked that I'd been able to pull it all off.
Next up? Breakfast. We pulled into Provincetown and walked down to Lizzie's cafe for some hard-earned food and bottomless cups of Joe. All of us were in a bit of daze. Tired, hungry and just completely drained both physically and mentally. Not much was said during this meal and there seemed to be a general understanding among us that it was enough to just sit and be together for the moment. Around 10:30 we received word that Van 2 was done. We also learned our official finish time which was significantly faster than we had predicted so we were thrilled. We wouldn't know our final place until later that day as we had to wait for all the teams to finish before they could determine the results. But, we felt pretty confident that we'd done what we'd set out to do based on the results that were tallied up until that point.
We gathered at the finish area so we could wait for Nicole, our final runner and fearless leader, to come up the hill and we could then run her in. All of us were a bit loco now as we were fully caffeinated and overtired which is always an interesting combo. Van 2 met up with us 12:00 and we traded stories for the next few minutes as we waited for Nicole. She booked up the hill around 12:30, so fast actually that none of us were prepared and had to make a serious effort to catch her so we could cross the line behind her. She was going hard to the finish and taking no prisoners along the way. Shout out to this woman who organized the whole shebang flawlessly. She is such a freaking rock star.
The race was now officially over and we had, for lack of a better phrase, crushed it. We made our way over to the finish table to get our medals and then back to the line for a final team photo. Then we ambled up to the food tent and got some snacks before rolling back down the hill to get ourselves re-organized and ready to head back to Hull. And just like that it was over. I knew it would go fast but, man, it just flew. I suppose that's what happens when you're having fun and working your ass off at the same time. As one of the more seasoned athletes on the team (translation...the oldest) I was a little worried that I'd have a hard time holding my own. Particularly given the fact that I had been been burning the candle at both ends over the past couple months between my own training, my job and my mom duties. I realized, though, that when something is important to you and you believe in it wholeheartedly, you can summon up strength and energy that you never knew you had to make it happen.
Photo Credit: JESS BARNARD
I love racing. But racing with a team and supporting each other as we aimed for a common goal was whole new level of awesome. It's one of the main reasons it was so important for me to be a part of this team. Our bond was sealed before we even started and from the minute the race began we became a force to be reckoned with, something that simply can't be done on your own. I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with people you love who share similar goals and dreams. Being able to do it for a full twenty four hours gave me a dose of amazing that will last me for many years to come. If I'm being honest I did have some thoughts in that final leg. Things like I don't know if I can do this again and I might be getting to old for this. But as I came into that final transition area and saw my team cheering for me, all smiles, jumping up and down and then wrapping me up in a hug because I'd done it, my doubt faded as I remembered that I'd earned my spot among this incredible group of women. I may have had to work a little harder to keep up, but so what. I'd done my part. And I knew, at that moment, that I'd do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity was presented to me. But first....coffee.
Listen to this:
Collide by The Givers