This past weekend was perhaps the best weekend of my life. I was surrounded by wonderful people who combine two beautiful things: running and vegan activism. I feel so blessed to have been a part of a team a people who not only care for each other, but also for animals. I could not have had a better vacation.
The weekend began on Friday morning at 1AM. I left my house for Syracuse, NY to meet up with a couple of my teammates near Strong Hearts Vegan Café. The team is the child of a core group of vegans who are associated with that café hence our team name:
Strong Hearts Vegan Power
We then got into two vans and made our way to the Adirondacks, meeting all the other team members in an Aldi’s parking lot. There were 32 runners that made up the A, B and C Strong Hearts teams. I was in team A, van 2. All the vans were decorated according to the team name. Ours was pretty great if you ask me!
At that point, it was about 6:30AM and the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street was looking mighty fabulous. I had the opportunity to introduce myself to another teammate and host of my favorite podcast, Our Hen House, Ms. Jasmin Singer. I was momentarily star struck because I feel like I know her life. I think it was fate that we met in the DD, because I love both those things.
We then made our way back to the vans and headed to Saratoga Springs where the race began. Ragnar ADK is a 200 mile relay race where teams of 12 runners each complete three legs of a 32 leg race. Some of the teams had really creative costumes. I would hate running in a costume for 20 miles, but if being the Mario character meant you got a piggy back ride from Yoshi, I would consider it.
Our C team began the race at 7:30AM which is why we had to leave so early.
Team B began at 8:45AM
and my team began at 12:00PM.
After seeing each of the other teams off, we went to a natural foods co-op to eat breakfast and relax.
There was some great food there and I opted for a nut and date muffin. Look at the FULL DATES inside that baby! All I needed was some peanut butter, but alas I would not have it the entire weekend. I can’t believe I made it…but I definitely busted out the jar for breakfast Sunday morning.
At around 3:30PM my van began our legs. My first teammate J crushed his first leg! His wife and children decided to surprise him at his exchange (where he handed the slap bracelet off to me). How ironic that our exchange was at a dairy farm 😦 It was a great reminder for me about who I was running for.
I got my bracelet at around 4:20ish and headed out. My route was pretty flat and the sluggishness left my legs pretty fast. I was feeling good and picked up speed after seeing the first Ragnar race sign to go straight. That is when things got interesting. About 5 feet behind that first sign was another one telling me to turn left. I did not see that sign…so I kept going straight picking up speed as I hit a major downhill.
Then…things came to a halt. A woman pulled over and told me (when I got to the bottom of the hill) that I missed the turn and had to turn around. I was crushed. I not only had to go up a really steep hill, but I felt like I was letting my team down. I turned around and started going up the hill and broke out in tears. They only lasted for a few minutes however because I realized I could only keep pushing hard now. What happened is over and hopefully it won’t happen again. I said a few prayers, and kicked it into gear.
My team was awesome about this. They had missed the same turn I did and pulled up next to me around mile 4 asking if I was ok and if I wanted to hand it off to my teammate S earlier. I said no, I was determined to finish my leg. After about 2 more miles, I kind of wished I had said I wanted to hand it off…but finishing the leg was so much better after all the problems. It was really tough, I’ll admit it, but my teammate was ready to go and make up for my lost time going off course (he’s a complete straight edge BADA**)
After that leg, I downed some serious food and felt really exhilarated. It was the most alive I had felt that whole day. It’s amazing how running endorphins and awesome people can make you feel great! Speaking of food, we had some awesome sponsors who provided great food for the event. One of my favorites was Picky Bars (created by a professional runner and her husband).
We also had food donated by:
As the sun went down, we handed off the bracelet to the other van and tried to get some sleep. I was really tired at that point, so I attempted to sleep in the van while everyone else ate dinner. I rested, but could not sleep because I was super into the conversation being had by my teammates. They were talking about the best food they had ever made as vegans…and the fails they experienced. My teammate A shared his experience hating hummus because he thought it was made with peanut butter, and tofu because he just bought a block of it and ate it with a spoon. I would throw up too. He then shared his experience making French toast using vegan mayo. I still cannot quite get my mind around that one…but if he were to make it for me, I would give it a go.
My next leg began at about 1:30ish. I had never run at night before so I was a bit apprehensive about doing that. The rules for Ragnar state that you have to run with a head lamp and reflective gear from 6PM to 7AM. I had a pink vest and a great Petzl headlamp bought from the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Store (I’ll write a review sometime in the next week).
How did it go? Well, it was so much fun! My legs were a bit tired from earlier, but I got the runner’s high pretty early and that propelled me to a great time for the 7.5 miles. The moon was almost full and the stars came out shining so brightly I could not have been happier. This is also the leg where I got the most “kills”. A kill is defined as when you pass another runner (no matter what team or starting time) while racing. On this section I got 21 kills. I think I just saw their head lights and wanted to catch up. I averaged 6:30s for the 7 miles.
I handed off again to my teammate S, who had a fantastic run despite being hurt in his leg. I was so fortunate to not struggle with any injuries or pain during the whole 200 miles. I cannot imagine doing this and also being in pain. That is some STRONG HEARTS VEGAN POWER right there! Not only did we have injuries, on the next leg of our race, our van went to the wrong exchange, so my teammate L (who is a badass triathlete and ultrarunner in her own right) ran TWO LEGS! That’s right! She did TWO IN A ROW! #StrongHearts represent!
Our least teammate A finished a tough leg and handed it off to the other van thus concluding the night legs. We went to the next major exchange to wait for van 1 and all crashed pretty hard. I didn’t fall asleep, but I made a cocoon out of my blankets and rested listening to, what else, the Our Hen House podcast. I found out it is really hard for me to sleep in cars. Dualy noted.
For our last legs, we were all pretty much wasted, but still cranked out some impressive times. My legs were toast. The first two miles, my toes were numb, so that hurt a lot. I realized that I was not going to be able to go any faster than about 7:30 pace, which was still incredible for me. My leg was around some beautiful mountains and scenery. I enjoyed every second of it (especially handing the bracelet to S and saying I’M DONE!)
After I finished, I was just focused on cheering and being happy for every runner (yes, even those who yelled BACON at us). My teammates S, L, P and A ran so strong and courageously their last legs. You know how some runners are able to “slack off” and not try hard? It is honestly impossible to do that when you are on this team. I couldn’t not try. I was so inspired by them and by our cause that I would never want to not try and give it my best. I was proud to be on a team of people who felt the same way. The last leg, ran by A was 7.8 miles. That’s a really long time after two days of no sleep and 200 miles. He CRUSHED it! We finished the 200 miles in a time of 24 hours and 10 minutes. 200 miles in one day! That’s insane!
The announcer played a song A loves and we as a team decided to surprise him by dedicating the race to his partner. I think we did her proud!
Our team finished a little after noon on Saturday, so the rest of the afternoon was spent eating, talking, eating, fooling around, eating, sleeping, eating and waiting for teams B and C to finishing kicking butt.
No one is ever too tired to make a human pyramid.
Or have some photo fun. Credit to P
I took a picture of some of the other decorated cars. Not as cool as ours, but they tried at least.
Team C crossed the finish line around 6PM. We concluded the race with an award ceremony, a picture and amazing vegan pizza.
How did the race end up?
My team got 1st in our division and 2nd overall! The winners were a submasters men’s team and our’s was in the open co-ed division.
I call that STRONG HEARTS VEGAN POWER!
I will post my race reflections in a future post (because this is getting long). I just want to conclude by expression my gratitude to the SHVP team for letting me be a part of this race. I feel so blessed to have met some beautiful people who really love animals and running. If any of them read this, you guys are AMAZING!
Much love ❤