By the time we packed everything up and got out to the van, our runner 12, David, was either in the exchange or very close to it. While our runner 1 was getting all his gear together, David was definitely in the exchange. We set off slightly fuzzy, and then all too soon, my husband, our runner 2 was off. I was up next. Even though I knew full well that the temperatures were going to be in the 20's, I just packed a long sleeve Lux Layer, a running jacket, some compression socks and my trusty Long Rogas for this leg. I probably could have gone with capris (or even long tights!) for this run, but no matter. Jason came into the exchange and handed off the slap bracelet right after a large group of runners had come through. I was happy that I would have company on this very dark leg: it was about 4AM. Another woman had come through just a few moments before Jason, and I was hoping to catch up to her. Almost immediately, I had the sensation that my shorts were not sitting as low on my legs, where I was used to feeling them hit. I kept checking to see that they were still there. They weren't riding up: my legs were so numb that I couldn't feel that they were there anymore.
My rabbit stayed in front of me. She wasn't getting any closer, she wasn't getting any farther away. It looked like she was keeping the exact same pace as me, which, at that hour, was the most desperate and sad position for me to be in. I wanted company. It was juuuust out of reach ever so slightly. Lots of vans had pulled over to offer support for their runners, and van-mates' shadows from the headlights were long and spindly on the road. I watched these shadows move across the road as people crossed to offer water and encouragement to the runners. Then, oddly, a short stubby shadow trotted across from the far side of the road.
It was a dog.
Now, last year my teammate Lindsay had been trailed by some feral dogs during this race. A friend on dailymile warned me that one of her friends had actually been attacked two years previous. I readied myself to get ready to... what? I don't know. Kick, I guess. Blind the attacking dog with my headlamp? I had left the mace in the van and wasn't carrying a water bottle.
But, this dog was a happy puppy. He flitted back and forth from the shoulder and the road, then stuck close to a few runners ahead of me. As I passed them, he picked up with me for a while, and then surged up to run with my rabbit. Ragnar pup had joined the race.
About a mile from the exchange, I had slowly inched up to my rabbit, and asked her if I could run with her and the pup. She said, sure. We didn't talk much, except to complain lightly about the dog's habit of running right under our feet. As we came into the exchange, we tried to give the dog some water. He had no collar except for one to protect him against fleas and ticks. It was a shame, because he had to be at least 4 miles from home at that point. Everyone around us was enchanted with Ragnar pup. But, he wasn't interested in sticking around, and soon was off with the next runner out of the exchange.
My Ragnar was done. It was a great feeling of relief. I was so happy about being done that I didn't bother changing out of any of my sweaty clothes, but just piled on more layers to keep warm. Apparently that wasn't going to fly. As I drifted off into a drowsy nap in the back of the van, my sweet husband sprayed me down with Febreeze. ("I love you, honey, but you smell reeeeeaaaally bad".)
Ragnar pup made several more appearances on the course. Someone in the van joked that he was *clearly* on an ultra team. I hope that he found his way home.
We waited at the next exchange with the van engine running so the heater would keep the car warm. We had a timer going on our runner, who apparently wasn't so optimistic about what his pace was going to be. Our next runner was ready to go, but to keep warm, we waited in the van. Our runner, however, had killed it. He sped through his leg, and was already waiting in the exchange, where it was 20-something degrees.
There was a Ragnar volunteer at our van window. Knock, knock, knock. "Van 165?"
"Yes! That's us!" we said.
"Your runner is in the exchange". (Probably frozen to the core.)
Oh Aron! We failed you. Thankfully, he was a true sport about it, and we continued on. The sun began to peek out its head, and as the world became light again, I felt a lot more energy.
We headed to Exchange 30 to cheer in our runner and say hey to the rest of the team. As we watched Holly tear off again, we piled back into the van in search of what every Relay runner wants in the morning: COFFEE. Thankfully, there is a great Starbucks in Franklin, TN, and we loaded up on java and breakfast goods.
After that, we had several hours to whittle away as Van 2 tore up the course. Everyone seemed game to go visit the Parthenon in Nashville, so we set off for that.
Then we headed to the finish line, and enjoyed some of the best brisket I've ever had, and cheered David on into the finish.
Thanks, Ragnar, for such a great race. And, a special thank you to all the volunteers who spent long hours out in the cold to keep us safe and organized.
Read my reacap of Ragnar TN leg 1 here, and leg 2 here.