Rangnarök: Gristle Goes Pop

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Racing

Ragnarock or Ragnarök? Depending on how you came out of it, either one could be appropriate. Ragnarock sums up my relay experience that I had with my coworkers at the Ragnar Cape Cod over the weekend. It was an absolute blast fighting through the lack of sleep and getting to know everyone a little better as we all did our best to get to that finish line as fast as we could.

Ragnarök, which some of you may know as the apocalypse in Norse mythology, selfishly sums up my own feeling towards how I came out of it. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed every minute of it with my Puma Herzo Good team. But, when you’re sort of looked at as ‘the runner’ on the team and your hamstring/glute/groin goes ‘bang’ 5 miles into your first leg, then things aren’t so rosy anymore.

It’s one thing that I might not be able to handle my own workload, but that meant that my workload would become a further burden to a couple other teammates of mine. That’s just not fair all around.

Luckily Van #1 was stacked full of ballers who could handle the load. While it was a shot to my manhood, I sucked it up and did a lot of night driving to help do my part. A bag of ‘night Doritos’ nestled next to the driver seat certainly helped a bit.

Before things went all Norse, I was feeling pretty optimistic about the entire event. My team was made up of fun people, all eager to do it. Plus, I have been on a roll in training and was feeling very confident about how I would fare in my first ever distance relay.

Mari led off for us with a 5.1 mile leg. Since it wasn’t a very long leg, we shot straight out to Exchange 1 to get Elizabeth ready for Leg #2. Elizabeth had only a 2.3 mile leg, and that made for a hectic transition. I was to run leg 3, and if we encountered any traffic then we might not get there ahead of her. Decisions, decisions.

Well, it wasn’t much of a decision. A 2.3 mi warm up really is nothing new. The older I get the more time it seems to take for my body to actually ‘get into it’. So I forged ahead, feeling a little guilty about not seeing Elizabeth off.

They have strict rules about crossing and traffic so I basically just followed the course, hoping I wouldn’t get confused for a competitor. As I approached the exchange, they started shouting for me to come in. Dammit. I shouted back “it’s just a warm up.” Voices became urgent, stating that I needed to be in the exchange area. I repeated ‘warm up’. One guy got it, and he tried to tell the Exchange Sheriff, but she was now ignoring him and me. Finally I was like “This is a race right? I was just warming up!” and she either got the point or lost interest.

Elizabeth came rolling through, my teammates were there offering last second encouragement, energy was high. This is it! She slapped the bracelet on me and I was off.

Now I had felt pretty good in the warm up, but I felt borderline invincible when I was finally racing. My first four splits: 5:59, 5:53, 6:01, 5:59, 5:49, all while telling myself to slow down. This was all good because the goal was for my nearly 22 miles of relay racing to all be at or near marathon pace. But something started to feel a little off in my left hip near the end of the fifth mile. In the 6th mile, it pretty much went ‘bang’. My upper hamstring/glute/groin locked up in a spasm or cramp the likes of which I had never experienced. I didn’t know what to do. Somehow I still rolled out a 5:55 for that 6th mile but ‘severe distress’ doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.

“We can strengthen the mind, temper the spirit, make the heart a goddamn turbine. But then a strand of gristle goes pop and presto you’re a pedestrian.” - Bruce Denton

It was terrible timing for that particular strand of gristle to go ‘pop’. What really had me concerned was this: originally my leg was supposed to be 6.3 miles. A couple of days prior they changed it to 8.3 miles. In my head I knew I could limp home to 6.3 miles. In no uncertain terms, I had no fucking clue how I was going to make it another 2+ miles. After a whole lot of cursing only somewhat under my breath, along with a few prayers, I noticed something up ahead: my teammates! They were there just after the original spot! To paraphrase Jules Winfield:

The many faces of pain once the gristle goes pop.


“I mean, it could be that God allowed me to run far enough to reach the exchange, or He changed Coke to Pepsi, He found my fucking car keys. You don’t judge shit like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an ‘according to Hoyle’ miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.”

Yes, this was a miracle. I would most certainly not have made it another two miles. The miracles stopped there though. I was Verbal Kint for the rest of the trip (telling stories while dragging a leg as I shuffled along).

I got on the phone with my massage therapist buddy (Chad) to see if there was anything I could possibly do to get this knot out. When it’s about as high up in the inner thigh as it possibly could be, not only is it nearly impossible to take care of it yourself, but it was also fairly awkward for a professional to work around (nevermind a van full of female coworkers). Typically a line like ‘who wants to dig an elbow into my ass?’ is followed by an email from HR (not that I know from experience).

My day was done as far as competing went, but the adventure was far from over. We got to the 6th exchange a little ahead of schedule and were greeted by colder temps and even worse wind. Van #2 was in high spirits and raring to go. We were excited because it meant we could drive ahead to exchange to 12 and get some rest while the others got their first crack at it.

Seeing that we met at 8:00 am on Friday morning and parted ways closer to 6:00 pm Saturday evening, it’s really just too much time to capture everything. Perhaps some Rag-notes would be best to go over the highlights:

Herzo Good

Our team name was the shit: Puma Herzo Good. For those non-Puma employees out there, the main Puma office is located in Herzoganarauch, Germany, which we all refer to as Herzo. Clever. Only by sheer luck, the Ragnar people included us in the starting wave with Hurt So Good. Yeah, not confusing at all. What are the odds? (note to self: make ‘What Are the Odds?’ the team name for 2016). We pulled a lot of it together at the last minute, but I’d be remiss to not thank Puma for bankrolling this team building experience. Beeze Tees did a tremendous job of handling our last minute order in expert fashion. If the weather was a little warmer, we probably would’ve been displaying the new t-shirts a little more than we actually were.

BYOTP

The lack of toilet paper was staggering. Look, in an event of that magnitude, it’s unreasonable to expect them to not run out at some point. But when we got to the first exchange sometime before noon on Friday, there were already quite a few portajons that had none. More on this later.

The Smoke Monster

Could’ve done without the sprinkler attacks at Tent City. Kudos on the special effects though. Don’t know how they managed to get the Smoke Monster from Lost to make an appearance, but all in all it made for an interesting nap session. Seriously, whoever was in tent city at around 3 am Saturday morning, what the heck was that? At first I thought some city slicker couldn’t handle sleeping in a tent for an hour and needed to blow up an air mattress with some high-powered, rapid fill pump. But then I kept hearing the same exact sound for the same duration coming from all over. The Smoke Monster was actively claiming souls. Speaking of Tent City…as welcome a sight at that was, I was amazed at how much TP was on the ground outside of the portajons while there was basically none inside those damn filth boxes. Maybe if they cut the Smoke Monster appearance budget and used the extra cash on more TP then we’d have been comfortable.

Killing Me Softly

Kill. An event that seemed to be the ultimate ‘completion’ event, more focused on comradarie, teamwork, and just enjoying it featured one suprising element. Apparently when you pass someone it’s referred to as a ‘kill’. People were quite fond of their kill counts and proudly displayed them. I didn’t find out about this until after my time was done, so I didn’t keep a body count. During my run I thought I was jus pitying fools, but apparently I was killing people without even knowing it. After I was reduced to a shuffling mess, people were flying by me even on my ‘walk’ to the portajons. So yes, I was getting killed in more than one sense of the word every time I went to the bathroom. If you saw the conditions of those wretched turd boxes then you’d know what the other sense was.

Rag-no….just no

They had us watch a pre-race instructional video, which was awful. Listen, I appreciate trying to make something somewhat entertaining when it’s extremely dry by nature, but they overdid it. We were eager to get going, not watch a couple of nobodies ham it up in front of the camera. What they really needed to show us was how to deal with life post-race. When I was presented with my first opportunity to shower and brush my teeth, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do. I looked up above the bathroom door half-expecting to see ‘BROOKS WAS HERE’ crudely carved above into the wood.

Oh No They Didn’t…

Someone totally swiped a letter from our van. If you see someone walking around with an ‘O’ that clearly doesn’t belong to them, please notify the authorities. Do not attempt to confront this person since they are armed with an ‘O’ and probably dangerous.

Yeah Boy!

Collaborating with Flava Flav on the finisher medals was a nice touch. But do we really need 6 lbs of metal hanging from our necks after a race? Probably not. Cut back on the money spent on the medals and reinvest that in toilet paper. Okay, so I clearly needed to get in one more toilet paper jab there. That being said, the medals were pretty cool. Each team got a set of 12, and if you flipped them over it basically made for a big puzzle.

Going the Distance

Here’s the breakdown of distances run by my team (which may be off slightly since I was going from an older chart).

Scottie heating ready to take the baton.

Mari - 13.6
Elizabeth - 12.3
Eric - 6.3
*Scottie - 23.3
*Jordan - 20
Heather - 13
Matt - 21.3
Tobin - 16
Maureen - 16.5
Dan - 20.1
Kyle - 11.4
Tessa - 16.3

Special shout outs to Scottie and Jordan who directly carried my dead weight. With the shuffling to cover for me, Scottie ended up doing two legs on each of his last two turns, and Jordan switched out to do my longer final 9.4 mile run. Look at that big number for Scottie though…23.3 miles. Damn! Total team effort, and I was lucky enough to be part of a tough as nails team that was also pretty fun to hang out with too.

Note: Although I enjoyed taking a few (attempted) humorous jabs at the event, I would not hesitate to do it again. It’s a great experience and I think everyone should try a Ragnar Relay at some point. Plus, any piece where I can reference Once a Runner, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Lost, the Shawshank Redemption and Flava Flav is an instant classic in my mind. This might be my masterpiece.

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