Tag Archives: Chattanooga

Ironman Chatty Take 2

Super PackAt first, when sitting down to write my obligatory race report, I couldn’t put words down on paper. I was not only physically exhausted but mentally exhausted. The whole year leading up to Ironman Chattanooga was an exercise of endurance, resiliency and grit. After crossing the finish line, I didn’t have anymore to give. Training wasn’t always the priority in a year of family emergencies, revitalizing a camp, moving a bale of cotton to Mississippi, along with all the other things life brings in a given calendar year. But just like running an Ironman triathlon, you have to take one challenge, one hurdle or one difficulty at a time. So lets talk triathlon now.

Pre Race
I woke up much earlier than I had for other line-up starts. Typically, I like to be at the back of a swim line to stay out of traffic. But I felt like I would need every minute to finish this triathlon. I also wanted to enjoy as much of the early morning temperatures on the bike. The forecasters had predicted a high of 95 degrees for the day. I found my spot in line at 5 AM and camped out for the next 2:30 hours with Roxanne, a triathlete from California with Alabama roots. Nerves didn’t hit me until I heard the pros start the race. At that point, I hoped and prayed I could make it to the finish line later in the evening.

Swim
Not much to say about the swim. The water was 83 degrees and I felt very sorry for swimmers who chose to swim in wetsuits. I know the benefits of wearing a wetsuit, but the heat would be a factor all day long. As I entered the water, wanted to get away from the bank and near the center of the river, but I felt like I over shot that goal. For the first half of the swim, I felt like I had set myself up poorly. I refocused and started spotting on a large white boat near the shoreline. Once I saw the bridges, I felt like I was home free. Those bridges, whether running over or swimming under, they are a welcome site. I popped out of the swim with a 1:08 time. I knew the easiest part of my day was over and I needed to shift my mental focus from an easy river swim to a long bike ride through Georgia.

Bike
The plan was to not push too hard on the bike. I had a pace set in my mind that could get me safely into T2 before the cut off time of 6:00 PM. My training wasn’t the best for this event and I was especially weak on the bike. For all practical purposes, I took two months off during the summer while working at Camp Cha La Kee. However, I feel certain that unloading, building & rebuilding bunk beds could count as endurance training. No matter what, I was on the bike and as I crossed into Georgia the reality was slow and steady finishes the race.

The first loop was somewhat pleasant and enjoyable. I was happy with the partial shade and cooler temperatures on most of the first 40 miles. My plan of an early start was working as I kept moving forward. Around mile 25, an athlete passed me who I clearly seemed to not be paying attention. I slowed my cadence and watched him carefully as I distance my self from him. I thought to myself, “he is going to cause an accident”. Roughly 30 seconds later, there were four cyclists caught in his cone of chaos. Everyone was OK, but water bottles, bikes, nutrition and people were scattered along the road. I stopped and did all I could to help the riders and clear the path. I wasn’t stopped long.

The second loop was much hotter than the first. The temperature hit a high of 97 during the last half of the 116 miles. The pavement felt like a hot skillet radiating heat. I had never done a triathlon or any endurance race in 90+ degree weather. Because of the extreme heat, I questioned, what did a DNF look like or feel like mentally and physically? If you can identify the monster it is easier to stay away from the monster. I decided to create rules for myself. If I couldn’t do simple math or if I started vomiting from the heat, I would stop. With these simple rules, I kept moving forward.

As my legs keep churning forward, up and down the rolling hills, I remembered details from 2014’s IM Chattanooga, I remember talking to many cyclist during the ride, but not this year. To survive the heat, everyone had focused intensity that would rival hardened professional triathletes. My focus had to be on the finish line and nothing else. As Admiral Wm. McRaven advises, “Never Ring the Bell”, never quit. As aid the aid station near mile 95 past I remember, I hadn’t had a pee break since the bushes right before swim  start. I started  to drink more fluids worried that dehydration would get the best of me. I drank more and peddled as hard as I could. My bike and I returned to T2 just before 4:00 PM. Plenty of cushion between me and the bike cut off time.

Run
I felt OK as I transitioned from cycling to running. Only trouble I had in T2 was my socks. I love Feetures, but the kind volunteer helping me didn’t know there was a left sock and a right sock. We looked for the left sock for a bit before finding it in her hand. No worries! I managed to get my socks & shoes on my feet and none of it involved simple math. I could hear the sweet sound of cowbells as I started the run.

My plan to take in more water on the last part of the bike backfired. I had too much liquid sitting on my stomach, which caused my stomach to hurt. I longed to vomit or burp. So I walked… A lot! I had lots of day light left and plenty of time before midnight. I walked most of the first loop. I didn’t take in many fluids, but I did do everything I could to cool my body. Which I think worked. I felt better with each step. The first lap would be recovery.

I crossed the walking bridge headed for my second lap when I started chatting with a local athlete about various things. Ryan was a veteran of many Ironman competitions and a trail runner. He had run in many of Huntsville’s races, including Mountain Mist. We started running together and shortly there after we passed my swim line buddy, Roxanne. Roxanne was running with Julie since somewhere on the first loop. We traded greetings and a commitment to run together. Thus the “Super Pack” was formed on the outbound portion of the second loop. We picked up Kelsey and Bob at some point along the way. Roxanne would check on each of us like a mother hen or protective mother. We all ran better and kept each other moving forward. We traded nutrition, war stories and concern for one another. We formed our own little triathlon family. The best part was when we made it to the North Shore section where the neighborhood spectators cheered for our commitment to team! “Hey, look at them… they are sticking together”!

I couldn’t leave my group. Not even when I saw Coach Dana! I had wanted to see her all day long. But my commitment to my comrades was greater than my desire to chat. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Dana committing to help coach me in the eleventh hour of training, I wouldn’t have made it to the start line or to the second lap of the run. Life, like triathlon, is about your support system! Friends, family and other relationships that are formed along the way is the purpose of life and give life meaning and value. Without a support team in our lives to give us strength when we are weak, we can’t make it to the finish line. Being apart of the Super Pack was going to get me to the finish line. We wouldn’t leave each other.

Finish
The Super Pack finished! It was a sweet finish. My original triathlon goal was to do an Ironman triathlon before I turned 40 years old. I have now finished two on the course in Chattanooga. Reflecting after my first, I was happy to have completed it in a great time. Time wasn’t important to me this year. The people along the way were what mattered. My nephew Rhett’s road to recovery, the campers and staff at Cha La Kee, and even the people I lost contact with during the year are more important than the finish itself. Chris asked if I like running across the walking bridge on the first loop or the second loop. I immediately said the second loop, because I am closer to the finish. He really was asking about the view, the scenery along the river comparing the daylight and the darkness. Both can be an analogy for life or even a topic for another blog post.

The second finish at IM Chattanooga was so much sweeter because of what I had experienced along the way. Like I said, time wasn’t important. I am extremely ok with a finish of 14:28:07 on a 97 degree day when only 1651 athletes finished. I am a much different person, triathlete, friend, and human than my first 144.6 finish. The first IM was truly about achieving it as single goal. My 2016 finish was about the journey itself. You have heard of people cramming for a final exam, but what about cramming for an Ironman. Should I have trained differently, yes. Would I change it, no. I learned a lot in 9 1/2 weeks I did train. I have heard Ironman described as learning to make 10,000 decisions in one day. Learning to live with your decisions and the mistakes along the way. I am a better person because of the people I have surrounded myself with, the decisions I make, and learning to keep moving forward no matter what!

Bib 761

Rocket RideMy triathlon season will start in two weeks in Chattanooga, where last season ended.  Seems like many years not just seven months ago, so much has happened and so many stories along the way.  I had every intention of writing more in 2015, but didn’t.  My goal was to try to refocus my blog – I do have a new look. In April, during Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN I ran behind a man who had phatboyrunning.com stenciled his shirt tail. As a passed him, I told him I had been looking at his butt and wanted to read his blog.  After returning home and reading Phat Boy’s blog, I was jealous of the drive and commitment of others. I have goals, but sometimes I don’t communicate them nor do I share with others.

Yesterday, I ventured to Elkmont, AL for the Spring Krusher Ride.  The ride began at eight o’clock in the morning at the local high school and I rode the first 25 miles with friends and then the last 38 solo.  I tried to keep up with a nice lady named Geri, however I wasn’t able to keep up.  I am simply not in shape.  I struggled.  I have run 2 half marathons, a Ragnar Trail and a traditional Ragnar Relay, but I haven’t spent much time on the bike.  That is my fault.  Beyond not being ready, I had a fantastic time riding.

Rides in north Alabama are so much fun!  You meet so many wonderful people along the way, as well as seeing God’s wonderful creation.  There was a hillside with cattle grazing which appeared to be straight from the children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand.  I also peddled through the charming town of Prospect, TN. Which seemed like a perfect town to quit in, but I didn’t!  I trudged on and did complete the 63 mile ride.  Later in the day, I got a speeding ticket – not on the bike.  Sometimes on a glorious day in Alabama you forget where you are and what the speed limit is.

No matter what, each day that ticks away brings me closer to my fourth Half Ironman.  On the start line in Chattanooga, I will be wearing bib 761. Born in 1976 and I only get 1 chance at this life.  A larger more important goal in my life is to make a meaningful impact on the world around me.  Each day that ticks by, I lose a chance at that goal.  Time to buckle down, I am almost 40… Shocking!

Running Stinks

War Eagle & Hail StateHave you ever wanted to be a super hero?  Well, I have!  Unfortunately, if asked for super powers, I would ask to spell every word correctly and run a six minute marathon pace.  These are my choices because I can’t spell and only molasses in Juno, Alaska is slower than me.  Tonight, I won’t talk about the words I can’t spell.  I will talk about my four favorite races that didn’t envolve other people, swimming or biking.  Here are my Mount Rushmore of races!

Scenic City Half Marathon in February was my first run of 2014.  This Chattanooga run laid the foundation for my whole season.  I am a multi-sport athlete, therefore I like events which give me some other variable than just sneakers on pavement.  In 2013, Scenic City was my first half marathon.  I ran the course in 2:25:02 which was epic for a slow fat, pasty white kid.  I ended 2013 with a trip to Baku, the flu and a long Christmas season.  February came early this year and so did my first road race of the season… Scenic City.  It was not pretty, but I ran the course in 2:24:05, a course PR and a shot of confidence for Ironman Chattanooga which would run some of the same streets and highways.  I love Chattanooga!  How could I not pick this race for my Mount Rushmore.

Cotton Row 10K on Memorial Day in Huntsville is a treat for any distant runner in the Tennessee Valley.  I finally got the guts to run the 10K version of Cotton Row.  I simply love saying I ran Cotton Row since I have a full size bale of cotton sitting in the front room of my home.  There is a little hill you must run up along the 10K version of Cotton Row that could be intimidating for most… it intimidated the crap out of me!  I enjoyed Cotton Row and recorded a 1:06:51 time, however, I hadn’t really started training in 2014 yet! Vic Balch kicked my ass in 2014… I am looking forward to 2015!

This spot was a toss up between the Liz Hurley 5K Ribbon Run and the Monte Sano 15K which are both Huntsville Track Club races.  The winner was, Monte Sano!  The winner was the 15K!  Monte Sano is my favorite place to run!  This year I have had dozens of training runs atop of Monte Sano.  This 15K was my first long run after Ironman Chattanooga and it was on the same day as the MSU vs. Auburn football game.  I ran this race with my Auburn friend Jen DiCarlo.  She wore Auburn attire and I had on maroon & white! How could a little 5K top this unique and special race.  Heck, I got an awesome photo along the 15K course which I finished in 1:44:48.  It was a great day and a fun race. (Photo credit We Run Huntsville)

Last, but certainly not least would be my most recent race, the new and improved, Rocket City Marathon.  I ran this race with Jen DiCarlo in 4:58:20.  This race is a taste of Huntsville, Alabama.  The new Rocket City Marathon course shows off the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the majestic Saturn V.  I felt, honored to help in the process, volunteer during packet stuffing, and then ran the 26.2 mile course! I look forward to running this course again in the future, but next year, I promised Shaggy he could run RCM and I would help at the Rocket Center!  Big thanks to Shaggy, Katie and Will for watching over the logisitics so I could run this race!

After all the miles, this year was a good year for running, but running really does suck!

Mount Rushmore Style

Headed to Chick-fil-AThis is has been a really good year! Could have been great with the exception a just a hand full of moments.  This year I wanted to do something different from my normal year end blog. Since the mighty Bulldogs of Mississippi State had a great year and at one point in time were in the top four in college football, I am going to honor that top four ranking system in a series of blog post. You could call it a Mount Rushmore style to topical blogging.  All of the topics this month will be focused on the best four of 2014.

To start out, I have picked a simple topic: the most important meal of the day, breakfast!  Here is a list of my top four most memorable breakfast meals of 2014 in no particular order.

Big Ed’s in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina is a traditional country style breakfast.  They are known for their hot cakes in the morning and southern style meat and three lunch menu.  During my 38 years on this planet, I think there are only two places that had pig brain on the menu, Winona City Cafe and Big Ed’s.  Truthfully, I didn’t eat pig brain or Big Ed’s hot cakes.  I played it safe with traditional eggs, country ham and grits.  It was amazing!  Big shout out to Jen Kramer who floated in to Big Ed’s like a master culinary critic with her little man, Isaiah.  Kramer selected Big Ed’s for breakfast for me and my road tripping friends.  All there will agree she floated!

Aretha Frankensteins in the north shore area of Chattanooga, Tennessee is a spot that even Rachel Ray has enjoyed.  I have eaten at Aretha’s before, however 2014 was my first chance to eat breakfast at the small twenty or so patron restaurant.  I chose an omelet with ham, cheese and jalapeños.  All was right in the world!  We had to show up before the doors even opened to make sure we secured our seat in a home that was converted into one of Chattanooga’s most famous places to eat.  I sat at the bar with friends where I could watch the comings and goings of the staff.  The place was hopping, but I feel like it is always hopping. Great breakfast… food, especially an omelet, is the fuel of an athlete!

Cracker Barrel, could be a Cracker Barrel anywhere because I always order the same thing.  However, the breakfast I remember was with a group of veteran Ironman triathletes in Nashville, Tennessee on a Sunday morning after an open water swim.  It was the same morning I saw two A-10 Warthogs fly over Nashville in formation.  For this breakfast I had my standard Old Timer’s Breakfast with toast not biscuits and gravy.  I enjoyed good nutrition that day, but I learned about   the nutrition that would save my butt during Ironman Chattanooga. I am very thankful for that meal and all the useful advice!

The last breakfast should probably be one of the many Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits eaten at Aviation Challenge on Fridays and once this summer on Saturday during a kids triathlon.  However, I remember each calorie of my Ironman Chattanooga breakfast.  I had a protein bar and Diet Mountain Dew to start the morning at five o’clock and then snacked on a pack of brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts and water while waiting for the swim start.  Might not sound like the most healthy of meals, but each portion served a purpose.  I think I have written about this breakfast so I won’t bore you.  That was a good day and each an every day is a glorious day if you keep the main thing the main thing.

There you have it! Big Ed’s, Aretha’s, the crack house and an ala cart meal the morning of a big race.  2014 has given me some great memories.  I should have been better about sharing these moments during the year, so I am now.  I hope you enjoy this Top 4/Mount Rushmore approach to my year end blogging.  If you have a topic for me to pick four on, please share that with me on Twitter @Graphitefree.  Enjoy your holiday and please be safe!

The Ragnar Effect

AOBJ 3This weekend I had the pleasure of joining eleven other athletes to run from Chattanooga to Nashville for the third straight year.  There is something about the relay experience that is unique and special.  To say the experience is simply a chance to run, drive, sleep and then repeat would be omitting the best part of the experience, which is the team.  Your team encourages you, motivates you and shares all gross and sweaty things with you.  Over the days and weeks that follow this experience, you run faster, walk taller, and preform at a higher level. You try to explain to everyone you come in contact with about the adventure you had while crammed into a van.  This is called the Ragnar Effect!

What is the Ragnar Effect?  The Ragnar Effect is running further than you ever have before, because your team is counting on you.  It is running up a giant hill with little to no training. The Ragnar Effect is knowing when your teammate needs a pace runner and when you should just let them blow off steam. It is also setting a personal record in their next race or two. It is having a bond with people who you have little to nothing in common with except for 30 plus hours in a van together.

I was somewhat apprehensive about Against Our Better Judgment 3.0.  It seemed like we were a rag tag group of misfits.  We really didn’t have a lot in common.  We had new runners, half marathoners, friends, colleagues and a hitchhiker or two.  But in a relay, it doesn’t matter your running pedigree.  What matters is can you work as a team.  Can you push harder on the run for those driving in the van or sleeping on a gym floor?  Can you suck up your pain and focus on encouraging others?  Can you find joy in running slower to help a fellow runner make it to the next exchange in the dark?  This group of AOBJ runners did all of that and more.  I feel like I personally learned more along the way!

We don’t show up to win, we come to encourage and grow! Each runner of Against Our Better Judgement has tons of fun and along the way we push ourselves to run faster and farther than we thought we could.  I may have rambled in the post, but it truly is amazing how much I love every single miserable moment driving through the hills of Tennessee!  I am amazed by my teammates and love each and everyone of them!  The Ragnar Effect is the closest I will ever be to being a superhero!

144.6

I have spent the last year training, and now that the long day of the race has come and gone, I have had time to reflect.  I have read a lot of race reports and seen hundreds of Facebook or other social media commentary about Ironman Chattanooga. I am taking a different approach to my race report since I am quirky and have my own blog site. I spent the last year being self-absorbed with all things triathlon and what is more self-absorbed than a blog post.  I feel I learned more about myself and have become more appreciative of my family, friends and fellow racers.

Q&A with Ruth Marie Oliver, Red Bull, racer 1009:

Was there a time that you thought you couldn’t finish? 

Heck, yes! Coming back into Chattanooga between mile 100 and T2 my lower back was hurting so bad. It was a tight ball of frustration and hurt.  At around mile 110 someone yelled at me, “You can do this! Riding 116 miles in an Ironman will only be done by y’all!” I started to tear up because most unique sports stories make me cry and the four extra miles made Chattanooga different than all other Ironman races.  I knew if I let my emotions take over, I would surely wilt.  I checked my watch at mile 112 and I still hurt, however someone said while passing me, “I am ready for a different kind of pain”.  This tortured my mind, something else will hurt, there will be a new kind of pain on the run. I rolled into T2 and gingerly trotted to the changing tent.  I sat in a folding chair which felt like a LazyBoy recliner to ready myself for the run.  First, I walked slowly one foot in front of another, then I trotted, then a slow jog on the the run course.  Seeing all the Huntsville volunteer girls gave me hope and encouragement on the run!  Only then, I felt like I could finish the journey to becoming an Ironman.

Did you pee on yourself?

No! I peed at the second to last aid station on the bike course and the in T2.  Next question!

How was your first marathon? 

WOW! I can’t believe I survived run in only 5:39.  Along the way, I was encouraged by the runners, the spectators who lined the course, the volunteers and my personal support team lead by Sandy & CK.  I ran with a lady from Richmond, Virginia named Jessie.  She and her husband were both competing in Ironman Chattanooga.  She gave me a dose of encouragement and bravery to keep running.  I ran with her for miles on the back half of the marathon course and then met her again in the finisher gear tent the next day.  I also loved all the yard parties being hosted in the north shore neighborhoods.  I would high five the former frat boys while “Red Solo Cup” or “Eye of the Tiger” bleared from their audio systems and promised to return for one victory beer after the race.  I hope they are not still waiting.  I also was reminded on the course that run, walk or crawl across the finish line, they would call me an “Ironman”.  I am sure the next marathon I run, I will not act like a ham as I cross the finish line.

Ironman Chattanooga FinishWas there anything during your training that gave you the extra confidence to keep going? 

I think this is a trick question looking back on the year I have had.  I was definitely inspired, motivated and encouraged my by friend Rhonda Cox.  Jen DiCarlo and Amazon have been there almost every step of the way giving me the courage to keep going.  Of course Sandy Henson planted the Ironman seed in my head, gave me a few tons of fertilizer and gallons of water to grow the Ironman dream into maturity.  One more encourager was Lara Fiscus, a complete stranger to me until this year.  I met her after a long swim at the Southeast YMCA in February.  I was discouraged and being an Ironman finisher seemed too lofty of a goal of me to achieve. Lara, a two time Ironman finisher, encouraged me that day and each time I saw her throughout the year.  There are countless other encouragers that came into my life this year.  But most of all, my parents gave me resilience and tenacity to do almost anything my little brain could conceive.  I feel like training started on the cotton farm many years ago!

Will you run another Ironman?

If you asked me the day before Ironman Chattanooga I would have said, NO!  And the day after my answer would be… maybe.  The thing I really want to do next year is volunteer at Ironman Chattanooga.  The volunteers made the race for me.  I know that Ironman brand races are a multi-billon dollar business but they wouldn’t happen without thousands upon thousands of volunteers.  I was helped and encouraged by volunteers.  Heck, the team of volunteers from Huntsville made my race so memorable. I want to be a volunteer to give that joy and encouragement to other racers.

Are you getting an M-Dot tattoo?

Maybe, need to find the right place to put the darn thing! I want Isaiah 41:10 ESV incorporated into to the tattoo. That verse is “fear not for I am with you”.

The course for Ironman Chattanooga was longer than the traditional 140.6 mile course.  So obviously it would have more controversy and drama leading up to race day.  There was a hotel scandal, a bike course controversy of extra miles, heck the sun didn’t seem to rise early enough to start the race at the traditional time. During the race some crazy person in north Georgia put tacks and oil on the bike course.  All of this made the stories more epic and the memories more vivid.  The extra miles were hard and my body did hurt. When the day was over I crossed the finish line, I thanked God for getting me that far and was pleased with my over all time, 13:39:21.

What Was I Thinking

What was I thinking while caught up in a moment of “Billy Bad Assisum”?  What was I thinking signing up for a FULL Ironman triathlon.  I guess I really thought I knew what I was doing.  I guess I thought… “that which does not kill you makes you stronger”!  I guess if I have come so far along this path, I can go just a little further.  The problem is that a full Ironman is twice as long as I have ever swam, ran or biked before.  Can I do this?  Am I strong enough?

Yes, I believe I can finish a full Ironman, but will it be within the time limit?  Yes, I feel like I can train enough to finish a full Ironman, but what will be the cost?  Yes, I feel like I can give what is needed to do all of those things and be the Vice Principal of Space Camp, but will that even be enough?  I am not Amazon.  I am not a freak of nature, physical specimen of what God ordained as a triathlete.  Heck, Amazon was a triathlete before she could even swim!  I am seriously in over my head.

Well, the next four months will tell me if I can swim 2.4 miles in the Tennessee River, if I can bike 112 miles through Tennessee and mostly north Georgia, and finish with a marathon through the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Will I do it?  Will Dixon Ticonderoga still use graphite as the pencil core?  Will Aviation Challenge still be associated with the color green?  Well, I am only sure about one thing.  I am in over my head!

As Derek Jeter is my witness, my number one goal until the morning of September 29th after 140.6 miles is Chattanooga!  I don’t know Derek Jeter personally, but he dated Mariah Carey and he is a New York Yankee!  He can be my pinstriped patron saint of athletic endeavors!  Peyton can only be my boyfriend!

Against Our Better Judgment

It has been a week since our team completed the Tennessee Ragnar Relay.  It took months to prepare for our Ragnar adventure.  So it is fitting that it took me a week to write about this experience.  Our team was made up of families and friends.  Whether we were all close friends or met for the first time last Thursday, we now have a connection which is rooted along the highways that lead us from Chattanooga to Nashville.  There is a mutual respect and gratitude we have for each of our team mates.  Let me tell you just a bit our our epic adventure.

I had never heard of Ragnar until I stumbled across a race brochure in Fleet Feet here in Huntsville for this crazy adventure.  I had heard from Sandy a few months before about Hood to Coast, the grandfather of all 200 mile relays.  But really, I was completely uneducated by what this relay would be.  Sandy and Snapper immediately committed to forming a team. I knew my friend Amazon would surely join the insanity, because at the time she was riding her bike from Maine to Key West! She and her bother Rob would soon commit.

It wasn’t until a Sunday afternoon dinner in Madison where the Ragnar team became a reality.  Snapper and I talked about this possible adventure while sitting on her aunt’s front porch. This is when Chris and her friend Barb committed to running. Kitten would soon join the team. On a whim I started text messaging counselors and staff from Space Camp.  Ham thought it was a 200 meter relay.  Sometimes text messages can be deceiving.  I asked Marcia to join our team. Surprisingly she said yes without skipping a beat. It didn’t take much to convince Ham and Shaggy joined our team.

Now we had a team, next up was a team name and logo. The logo was a joint project by Snapper and her Uncle Russ which would take some time, because we needed a name.  Our first option for a team name was the Chuck Drivers, because Sandy and Marcia’s husbands both named Chuck would be our van drivers.  This name didn’t catch on. Eventually, Marcia would suggest Against Our Better Judgment.  I think at that moment I really felt like we had a team and would make it to Chattanooga.

For me training didn’t come easy.  I had a knee injury in mid August that would side line me for weeks.  I only swam for weeks and didn’t start running again until the Racin’ the Station duathlon in late September.  I honestly think that I wouldn’t have been ready to run if I had not started to work nights at Space Camp in mid October. I ran in the mornings and worked at night.  I was ready, but still not a lightning fast runner.  Amazon, woke up one morning during her training and ran a half marathon.  Let’s be honest, Amazon is a freight train!

November finally arrived.  Hotels were booked, rental cars secured, training was over and our team was making their way to Chattanooga.  We replaced a runner at the last minute for an injured team member.  Dena would be a tremendous asset to our team.  Ragnar goes through her home town, so for years she had wanted to run this crazy relay.  She would get her chance and we were thankful! Wow, I am at 567 words and I haven’t got to the running.

The morning of the race came.  Van 1 was at the start line with Sandy leading off the race for Against Our Better Judgement.  It was foggy in Chattanooga and not the best conditions for running in morning traffic.  Sandy was a trooper and we quickly learned the routine of supporting our runners.  Really nothing except starting the relay could prepare us for this adventure.  The miles clocked by and it was Snapper’s turn to face the climb up to the Cumberland Plateau.  She muscled up the mountain passing many runners.  Barb smoked down the mountain Snapper climbed.  Barb passed the baton to Chris, who would pass it to me.  It was now my time to run.  The whole reality of Ragnar was not real until the orange slap bracelet was around my right wrist.  It was my time to take our team further down the road.

As I finished my run, I would learn quickly that I loved to see Marcia in the exchange shoot.  She would cheer me on the final few meters of my run and off she would go.  My next step was chocolate milk and the car chalk to dot my first leg.  We kept track of our progress by marking off boxes on the van windows.  Van 2 would mark off the miles after their runs.  Running this crazy Ragnar relay is really just completing one small step, followed another small step.  Progress was marked by our victories along the way.  It was so motivating to finish a leg and cheer on the next runner.  After Marcia completed her leg Van 1 was off and Van 2 would continue on.

The exchanges between Van 1 and Van 2 were far too brief.  We loved seeing our team mates and wanted to know more about their adventure.  We enjoyed hearing about the play list of van 2, the fact Rob ran each of his legs shirtless, and the fact Amazon got blue all over her from a porta potty… yuck!  Van 1 would drive along the relay route to a Dollar General and then rest in a field behind a middle school.  It would soon be our time to run again and darkness was upon us.

Darkness was the one variable we really didn’t consider.  I think we all felt like there would be more light, more people and more comfort along the dark roads.  It was tough running through the night.  I took the baton near Lynchburg.  I enjoyed running in the dark because I felt like I was on the county roads near my home in Mississippi.  I saw opossums and two deer along the way.  There were some scary dogs, but I tried not to let them bother me.  I have heard dogs smell fear.  It was on this leg that I got my only road kill. Forgive me team, I am slow!

We would see Van 2 quickly at Moore County High School and there we would start our off time.  It wouldn’t be a long off shift, Van 2 smoked through their legs.  Our naps would be cut short and we were running again.  These early morning legs were very difficult but our runners rallied together.  Chris had the darkest and coldest leg of all the race.  Seeing her commitment to the team to push on was awe inspiring.  Others on the team ran along side her, Barb ran the first 2.5 miles along side Chris, then Sandy and finally Snapper. The greatest thing I experienced during this adventure was the commitment each runner had to the team.  We couldn’t let any of our team down.  We had to make it to the finish line.

Van 2 would take over shorty after I finished my last leg.  They had the sun beating down on them while Van 1 made our way to Nashville and the finish line.  We showered, which was a team sport as well.  Marcia and Barb showered in the fitness center showers sharing hair products and mascara.  Sandy, Snapper, Chris and myself rotated through the shower in our hotel room.  I am not sure about Chuck, but he was clean when he joined us. I remember being so eager to make our way to the finish line.  I wanted to see the rest of our team mates.

I think my team mates would all agree with me, the hardest leg for each runner was their third leg.  We were mentally and physically exhausted.  To complete our finial legs, we had to pull our strength from somewhere else.  One of the most touching memories I will carry forward is Rob, Amazon’s brother, running to join Amazon to finish the race.  We all needed a little bit more to finish the relay.  Hymns and Bible verses, cheers and chats pushed our runners along the final stretch.  We did it! We finished the relay.  Twelve friends joined together to get us from Chattanooga to Nashville! It is one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Thank you team! Thanks for every memory!