Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oops, I Ragnared Again...

Anyone who has ever read this blog (all 12 of you) knows that I developed a serious Ragnar sickness last year.  I've managed to reign it in a bit, but I still jumped at the chance to sign up for the inaugural Ragnar Niagara Ontario.  I even captained the team.  Team American Bacon.

And I meant business, bitches.
I threw out a Facebook message and tagged everyone I've ever met that has ever run a mile and got 8 "YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!" responses almost immediately.  It was awesome.  So I registered us and we found some awesome friends of friends who would become new friends (sickening, right?) and we were set!  Here is the super kick ass part: Absolutely every single solitary person PAID ME BACK!  From what I hear that is vanishingly rare in the Ragnarverse.  I was very, very happy.
No Ragnar is without its hiccups.  Pretty much every one I've ever run has had something go awry.  From family emergencies to transportation difficulties to multiple runners dropping out with days to go before a race, it happens to every team.  This Ragnar hit a snag when the fabulous(ly stupid) people at Enterprise realized they ordered a fleet of vans for the wrong weekend then called all the teams a week beforehand to notify us.  Fortunately we had the vans from 2 different companies, and we were able to scramble together a Yukon XL for the missing van.  Unfortunately, one team member had to drop out the day before the race for a family emergency.  We sent out mass emails and texts, but ended up running one runner down. 
Still, 11 runners is a pretty good crew.  Especially when one of them is some kind of robot superhero who volunteers to run doubles AND hula hoops "to keep my hips loose."
Super Susan!
Once we had the runner situation squared away (and our travel woes behind us-damn thunderstorms), we were off to Canada in our supersize vehicles.  Driving a huge white van across the border was a trifle nerve wracking.

I pictured "the man" as somewhat more ominous.
I'm fairly certain the guy that checked out passports was Archie Bunker.  He also didn't appreciate my attempts at humor.  Whatever.  At least he didn't notice the birthdate on my passport is wrong.
We drove through driving rain and shitastic traffic to a town called Port Hope where we bunked for the night.  We found a decent restaurant to have dinner at just a couple of miles from the hotel, and were all happily snoozing by around 10pm.  I was the lone Van 2-er in a room full of Van 1-ers that had to be ready for a 7am start.  I didn't mind.  I'm pretty much incapable of sleeping past 6am.  I was dressed and ready to cheer the team at the starting arch.
Since this was an inaugural race, there were only about 120 teams.  The starting area was sparse, but there was plenty of parking, and everyone was in great spirits.  The weather was perfect, and we were ready to haul ass around Lake Ontario!  But first?  Breakfast.

Ain't no way I'm passing up bacon.
Then we hightailed it to Exchange 6.  Again, much more lightly inhabited than past Ragnars I've done, but that was not at all a bad thing.
Van 2.  Emily, Jen, Megan, Jess, Me, and Brett
Oh.  One more thing about Exchange 6:
Only slightly photoshopped.
Motherfucking elephant rides.  Now before you go all animal rights, this elephant is named Limba and she is a rescue that is unable to reside with other elephants because of the way she was raised.  The zoo in Bowmanville takes good care of her, and her human trainers are her surrogate family.  The money charged for riding her pays for her food and care.  She was adorable, and very, very gentle. 
So we ran.  And we ran some more.  And it was hot.  HOT, I say! Not Chicago 2012 hot, but hot.  Still, the scenery was beautiful, and we handed off to Van 1 at Exchange 12 then headed in to Toronto for some food and rest.  Only we didn't really rest.  First, we ate pork products and sampled a Canadian favorite: Poutine.
Yeah.  This did nothing for me at all. 
French fries with gravy and cheese curds.  No.
We took a little driving tour of Toronto and then went up the CN tower (the tallest building in North America!) and took in the sunset over Toronto and the lake.  The view was amazeballs.
oooooooooo.  aaaaaaaaaaaaah.
While we were taking in the sights, Tim was dodging cruisers (I'm not talking about motorcycles, people) on a dark beach trail and Charli was getting scared out of her wits by her husband who found us on the trail and surprised her (is that cute or what?).  We made for exchange 18 and prepped Megan for her first ever midnight run.  She was lit up like a Christmas tree and armed with mace.  We honestly thought she was going to mace random runners.  "How many kills did you get?"  "ALL OF THEM!!!! I KILLED ALL OF THEM!!!"  She was also carrying a tiny teddy bear that seemed to give her confidence.  Whatever works for you...
We had been warned and warned and warned again to "Respect the Residents" in a particularly swank area of the western Toronto suburbs.  There were fucking road signs that the race peeps put up all over the course to remind us.  Imagine our surprise when one of the residents mugged a runner.  Tried to steal her $5 headphones.  Fortunately, there were a crapload of cops all over (you know, to manage us rowdy runners) and the incident was dealt with swiftly.  Still, having been the victim of violent crime in the past, I ran my dark leg like I was being chased.  2.4 miles, 22:57.  As a result, I had to wait at exchange runner was still in the port-a-john.  No one expected me that soon!
After the handoff, we went to exchange 30 and took advantage of some indoor sleeping.  It was nice of the church to open their doors for us, but I could've done without the piped in Jesus music.  It was another gorgeous day and we took the handoff from Van 1 for our final legs.  Everyone was running on a mission.  In spite of the heat they all did great.  Emily was a frakking machine on a sunny leg through a vinyard.  We barely had enough time to stop for fresh roadside strawberries.  Tragic, right?
When I took the hand off for my final leg (just shy of 8 miles, pretty much all uphill) I warned my team not to look for me for at least 90 minutes...probably longer.  Turns out that was pretty accurate.  I ran, and walked, and took pictures.
Water stop.  That's a Buddhist temple.
In spite of my snail like pace, I scored 2 kills on my final leg.  As we came into the finish, I was feeling pretty damn good.
There are some advantages to being the captain.  Finishing is one of them.  Especially when this is the view from the finish:
Now, the fact that the finish line was up a flight of stairs was a bit of a bummer at that point, but that view makes up for a lot.  Also there was beer at the top.  I fucking love beer.
The whole team gathered for a shot at the end:
Charlie, Annette, Emily, Jess, Jen, Me, Megan, Brett, Marc, Tim, and Susan
Team American Bacon!
That night we ate an obscene amount of Greek food and watched hockey while we drank.  It was a big lovefest with both vans.  The very best of Ragnar.
The next day we said good-bye to several team members early (after slamming a couple of bottles of wine that we couldn't carry on the plane). Then some of us went hunting for tshirts, etc for the smalls in our lives.  Niagara Falls themselves are visually stunning.  The town of Niagara Falls?  Visually sickening.  To quote Brett "It's like the Wisconsin Dells and Reno had a bastard child."  So what did we do? Played Dinosaur Putt Putt golf, of course.
Because nothing says "Niagara Falls" like plastic dinosaurs.
This was a great team.  We had a great time.  I would Ragnar with any one of these people again in a heartbeat.  The course was beautiful and the race was extremely well organized (especially considering its inaugural staus!!).  Staff was always available, and the atmosphere was really positive.
This year's medal style was a little different than last year.  So were the tech shirts.  I liked them both.  Charlie was fond of the medal.
Who needs a medal hanger when you can hang them on kids?
Of course we were already discussing our next adventure by the time we got to the airport.  Lake Tahoe trail Ragnar 2014.  Can't wait.

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