Tag Archives: Ragnar

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!

Turkey Blog 4.0

Do you know where you were a few days before Thanksgiving four years ago? Well, my answer to that question is, right here. I was sitting on this couch with my laptop computer creating my blog, GraphiteFree.  I haven’t been the most faithful companion to my blog. Life sometimes happens and it is less than eventful when you put it into print. This post is to help mark the anniversary and the Thanksgiving season.

The latest Facebook trend this month is to put what you are thankful for each day of November.  I didn’t discover this until a few days ago. I am less than observant at times. This is my futile attempt to be as cool as everyone who started on November 1st, listing what they are thankful for and desperately hoping to keep my blog relevant.

One – God:  I am very thank for our gracious Creator. Knowing that our God and Father is watching over us and loved us enough to save us is the most precious thing in our lives. This is what I am most thankful for.

Two – Family:  I have a wonderful family. Being home in Mississippi recharges my heart and soul. I love being on the farm near my family with my mom cooking in the kitchen and daddy in his chair. On top of that, I have a wonderful extended family in Madison County Alabama.

Three – Blinkers:  I love safety. I am the Be Ready Girl! Blinkers represent planning ahead… look for the safest route to your final goal… and not running into the driver next to you. Blinkers are important.

Four – Freedom:  Until the socialist take my freedom. I will be very thankful for this. Don’t believe everything you read. Thinking for yourself is the best way to experience freedom. The ability to pick and choose what you want to do on a daily basis is a glorious thing.

Five – Great Friends:  Throughout my life I have all ways been surrounded by wonderful people. Life is not much fun unless you have great friends to enjoy life with.

Six – Sports:  I am very thankful to be a fan of sports, a lover of ESPN Sports Center and a competitor in many sporting events. I love crying at sports movies and those touching “Inside the Lines” stories on Sunday mornings.

Seven – Bunnies:  This year, I was blessed by having a litter of rabbit kits. There were seven of the little guys. It was one of the coolest things ever! I now want to start a farm.

Eight – Health:  God has truly blessed me with great health. I can do all things I need to do. I have been given great endurance and I am seldom sick.

Nine – Ragnar:  On November 9th, a team of crazy friends and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville. I am thankful for friends and for the ability run… I am still not fast, but I can run.

Ten – Soda Box Cookies:  These cookies are not made from some super secret recipe. These cookies however are the best ever conceived and my grandmother taught me how to make them. I miss my grandparents and are truly thankful to have some of the greatest to ever live.

Eleven – Electricity:  I could be one of those people who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. However, electricity and technology has given us so much extra enjoyment in life. Without refrigeration our modern day Thanksgiving would not be possible.  It is great to type a blog and not use graphite to record all my ramblings.

Twelve – Cowbells:  No, Mississippi State is not known for its multiple national titles, but it is know for its cowbells. Mississippi State is a wonderful place with many happy memories attached to it. Hearing a cowbell ring gives me great joy! I am thankful for the Bulldogs and I hope they beat the University of Mississippi on Saturday.

Thirteen – Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever conceived.  There is not a push to over commercialize it. People don’t get lost in shopping to help fuel our economy.  It is a day where we all pause and thank God for those things that are truly important in our lives.

Fourteen – Pencils:  The Dixon Ticonderoga is the quintessential American pencil.  It has been in my backpack, on my desk and behind my ear for many years. I love the pencil, because it does not expect me to be perfect like the pen does. The pencil is a non-judgmental companion that I am very thankful for.

Fifteen – Peanut Butter:  I was a picky eater growing up.  Some say I am still a picky eater.  However, if it wasn’t for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might not have lived to see the age fifteen. Heck, I didn’t like pizza for a while. I feel sorry for all the poor souls who are allergic to peanut butter.

Sixteen – Golf:  Is there anything better than taking a club and beating the crap out of a small round object. To focus your energy on one single point in space and driving the ball beyond your own expectations is one of the best ways to release stress!

Seventeen – Math:  Seventeen is a prime number.  So is 37, which will be my age this time next year. No matter the number or age, I love math. I loved teaching math and doing math. I even like the new exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Math Alive.

Eighteen – Peyton Manning:  True, Peyton is not with the Colts anymore, but he is still my most favorite boy friend. But I am still very lucky to see my favorite Manning playing football this season! Thank you for Peyton’s health! Also, I am very happy Peyton attended Rocky Top and not Ole Piss.

Nineteen – Okra:  Delta State is a wonderful university found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Knowing how quirky I am, you should know that I would go to school where they have a mascot like the Fighting Okra. I am an okra girl. The Statesmen is a dumb mascot!

Twenty – Salt:  What would we do without salt? It a multifunctional tool which I can not imagine a day without. It makes stuff taste better. It is used for many great Biblical analogies. And it is useful in making ice cream.

Twenty One – Antiperspirant:  Let me be honest with you all, I sweat more than most human beings do. If it were not for Degree antiperspirant I wouldn’t have friends and my Ragnar team mates would have kicked me out of the van after my first run. I am very thankful for the help I receive in the use of antiperspirant.

Twenty Two – Cotton:  I love being a farm kid. I love all the amazing memories I have either in the cotton field or the cotton gin. I loved having acres and acres to roam when growing up. I am very thankful for my farming family.

Twenty Three – Proof Readers:  I can’t spell or write very well without an army of people to help me. I need to have proof readers to make this blog thing a reality. It is fun connecting with people though my blog. I couldn’t do that without people to help me.

Twenty Four – Weddings:  This is going to seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for Anderson’s wedding last year. After the wedding my mom saw pictures of me on Facebook. She thought I was fat and told me I was fat. Later that fall she told me again after another wedding. I am thankful for this, because it was the kick in the pants I needed to get in shape!

Twenty Five – Running: I am thankful to be able to run, because it makes me not so fat. However, I wish I could be thankful for good genetics which makes me a good runner. But that is not the case, I am slow and thankful for the abilities I do have.

Twenty Six – Recruiting Staff:  Yes, I am very thankful for the efforts made to recruit new staff for Space Camp. But one of the most coolest things about staff recruitment, is staff training is not far behind. Did I mention, I have the coolest job in the world.

Twenty Seven – Baseball:  Since I was 20 months old I have been fascinated with the game of baseball. I have been to many professional, college and high school games. It doesn’t matter if it is a World Series or a little league game, I love the game of baseball. Get well soon Derek Jeter.

Twenty Eight – Gadgets:  I love knives, first aid supplies, tools and electronics. I like being ready for most anything that life could through at me. I am thankful that Lysol can kill 99.9% of germs. I am thankful for those who invented these things and the spirit of innovation.

Twenty Nine – Space Camp:  I am truly thankful for being able to work at a camp that operates year around.  Space Camp has wonderful staff. Everyday is a different day! I am thankful to work at the coolest place for space!

Thirty – Turkey:  I am a turkey for some of the things I have listed. But all in all, I have enjoyed this exercise. I will enjoy my time with my family around the Thanksgiving table. Thank you so much Mr. Butterball!

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!