I could not begin to sum up the weekend without first making this blanket statement:
It was the best two days of my life.
I met the most wonderful people, felt inspired every second and had some of my fastest times. Would I do it again this weekend?
I wanted to go more in depth with each of my legs because they were all so different and I learned so much from each one.
Leg 1: 7.7 miles (6:09 average pace)
My first leg began outside a dairy farm. Immediately seeing cows behind bars reminded me of the reason this team began. We are vegans. We think animals should be treated with the same respect as humans. Not many people know this, but my greatest fear is a cage. This came long before I was vegan and felt trapped in my parent’s house under their control. Luckily for me, I was smart enough to escape and make my own way free from their financial support. Animals aren’t so lucky. They are born in cages, stolen from their mothers, raised crammed together inside feed lots, pumped full of antibiotics, milked into oblivion and then carted off to slaughter. Being reminded of that right before I took off lit a fire, I was ready to race.
I began running at a good clip. My legs felt wobbly but that can be expected as I had been up since 1AM and driving around all day (my long legs hate cars). I hit the first mile in sub 6 minute pace, I saw a Ragnar sign telling me to go straight, which I did directly down a huge hill. Lucky for me (so I thought). The road had absolutely no shoulder, which I found odd, but I don’t say no to free speed. As soon as I got to the bottom, a woman in a van pulled over and told me I was going to wrong way.
“Honey, I think you missed the turn. Actually, I’m positive you missed it.”
Cue heartbreak. I turned around and started going back up that same hill. The tears started flowing and I felt stupid. Why did I think I was good enough to be on this team? All the hard work J did in his last leg was for nothing. I should just stop now.
I didn’t stop. I prayed. Through the tears I saw a lesson. God was telling me not to give up. I had a team to represent, animals to fight for and a reason to keep going. So I made a wrong turn, at least that’s over and I will not make another. I felt more motivation to kick it into gear. I powered up that hill and through the next few miles. Eventually, my team caught up with me, knowing I missed a turn. They asked if I wanted to hand off earlier. I said no. I would finish and do my leg. I kept going at an unknown pace (if something in a race goes wrong, I lose the time expectations I have and just focus on working hard) and made it to the hand off.
I felt like crap for the last mile, but not because the run was bad, I was just pushing it really hard. The fire was burning and I was going to finish strong. The hand off was successful and I felt a huge surge of endorphins as my watched clocked a 6:09 average pace with a 5:34 fastest mile ever! Self clap was needed. A quick prayer of thanks to the Big Guy and I was ready to sit.
Leg 2: 6.4 miles (6:38 average pace)
I had never run at night before. The darkest I get is running at 6AM before the sun comes up. For this race, I bought my first headlamp and reflective vest. I was really excited to run under the moon, but anxious about getting lost. My teammates reassured me that the course is marked well and, being the second leg, I would be surrounded by more runners.
I got the hand off from J and started cruising. It was SO PRETTY! I felt really good even though I didn’t sleep (or rest) very well. About a half hour before the race, S gave me this Monster Energy tea with tons of caffeine. I have never had energy drinks before because I don’t like carbonation. I also do not drink caffeine regularly. I stick to decaf coffee and tea having weened myself off the dependency I had in college. The tea was not carbonated and tasted really good. It was sweet, but not like I had to brush my teeth after a sip. I credit that and the picky bars I ate before hand to the feeling of energy through my race.
The run felt like a couple seconds. I had a runner’s high the whole time and did not want it to end. A moth flew in my mouth and then (luckily for him I was breathing out) flew out and lived! I ended up passing 21 runners and even cheered on a fellow SHVP teammate from Team B! They were CRUSHING IT!
The hand off to S was kind of awkward because the exchange zone was right over a pothole! Who would put it there? I handed the bracelet off to him and then fell in it. Thankfully, my teammate A was thinking ahead and there to catch me. Vegans always think ahead. I was euphoric again, but ready to sleep…which I didn’t, but resting up certainly helped my next leg.
Leg 3: 6.6 miles (7:30 average pace)
The morning was beautiful. I received my hand off at about 8:30 and my feet were numb. I did not see J coming in to the shoot, so I felt a bit flustered. My numb toes made the first two miles rather painful. Despite those things (which would have thrown me off in the past), it finally it me that I was almost done with a 200 mile race. I was having the best weekend of my life. I had just made 39 new friends, all of whom were VEGAN! There was nothing that could keep me from enjoying this leg. It’s a good thing I had those things to focus on, because my legs were not having it. They basically said “Ellie, we love you, but you are not going any faster right now. So sit back and enjoy the ride. You’ve earned it.”
The legs feed the wolf. I did not argue. I was running by a beautiful lake in the mountains. I was on my first VACATION ever! Life could not get any better than it was. I followed a man in a red t-shirt the whole time. He had nice form except his arm wigged out a bit. My mind wandered and I wondered if he kept it in how much energy he could save and how much faster he would be. Well, he was ahead of me so maybe I should try that! The hand off to S felt liberating and sad at the same time. I was so happy to be able to rest and enjoy the rest of the race, but sad that my part was done.
Leg 4: Syracuse –> Ithaca (the drive home)
I had to give this it’s own leg because it might have been the most challenging. I did have a couple offers to spend the night, but I wanted my own bed. I was ready to see my cats and rest back in Ithaca. After the race we drove to Albany to eat some great pizza and wings. Then I caught a ride back to Syracuse with probably the most competitive person I’ve ever met and another wonderful runner who were both ready to get home. They both offered me a bed, but I knew I could get home. We got back to Syracuse at around 11:3PM and I began the 1.5 hour drive home. I knew I had to be smart…so I blasted the AC and sang loudly to Taylor Swift and whatever else came on the radio. It was probably my hardest leg. There is no lie in that statement. I got home around 1…and fell into bed. My cat of course jumped on me, but I was too tired to fight him. I was out so fast, and woke up with him on my back #teammates
The next day, I was so sore. It takes a lot out of you to race three times hard. I didn’t get up until 1PM. I went to my work to get breakfast…and was asked to work that afternoon. My legs were like NOOOOOOOOOOOO! But my wallet was like YESSSSSSSSSSS! I sided with the wallet. I went home, rested for a couple hours, baked brownies, put on my compression sleeves and went into work. I actually think keeping the blood moving was good for my legs because I was able to jog the next day.
I don’t think many people would consider it a vacation. Sleep deprivation, 20+ miles raced (racing is different than running), numb fingers and toes, basically no fruit until 2AM (thanks Team B!!!) and sitting in a van for hours does not sound like something many people would sign up for.
Honestly, I would do another one this weekend if I could. I remembered what it meant to be on a team of people who are rooting for you. It was awesome to have friends who look at the world through the same lens I do. I felt connected on a deeper level to these people. I actually check the Facebook page now to see what they are up to. It’s pretty awesome!
What’s next? Ragnar Cape Cod for sure, the Vegan Power 50K hopefully, and meet ups throughout the year. I feel so blessed to be a part of this team.
This punk rock, hippy-dippy, tofu loving, tree huggers who are way faster than you!