After Van 1 collectively finished our first leg (read the leg 1 recap here, plus on the road posts here and here) we relaxed a bit at Exchange 6 by enjoying free granola, stretching in the grass, and using the indoor toilets and sinks (where once again I realized just how amazing indoor plumbing and fresh running water can be). But pretty soon we headed out to Major Exchange 12 at Million Dollar Beach on Lake George to make sure we knew where to go, and also to get a real lunch with time to digest. We expected the next exchange to be at 6:00 or 6:30, but since we were already 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we thought Van 2 might knock off even more time, we wanted to make sure to be there early.
Pulling up to Lake George we were greeted with even more beautiful scenery. We were also greeted by the sight of dozens of people in sleeping bags dotting the lawn and beach. We all wondered how they could possibly sleep now, after only one leg and in the early afternoon, and I still don’t quite get it, since our van started on the early side and we weren’t remotely sleepy yet, but maybe they were all jetlagged Australians (just kidding – I didn’t hear a foreign accent during the entire race). After making sure we knew where the exchange was, we pulled back out of the lot and drove into town for lunch.
We circled a few blocks before choosing Adirondack Pub & Brewery, which I can wholeheartedly not recommend if you’re in town to eat and not drink. The service was terribly slow and the food was anti-delicious (and my standards were pretty low at that point), plus the amount of chicken on the chicken sandwich and chicken salad was literally laughable (I wish I took a picture of the tiny half-puck of chicken on Runner 3’s sandwich – it was about half the size of an iphone 4 and able to be hidden by a strip of bacon). That’s not to say I didn’t scarf down a huge amount of food, and I don’t think my van-mates were quite as disappointed as I was, so you can take my review with a grain of salt (if there is any left after I tried to drown my food in it to make it palatable). Lesson #6 – Don’t eat at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery.
Immediately after lunch we drove back to exchange 12 and slipped into a food coma in the van. Two of our runners fell asleep. I didn’t fall asleep but I also didn’t want to move because I was full, it was warm in the van, and it was cold outside. But I forced myself out of the soporific van to look at the beautiful beach, take a few pictures, and to enjoy the bathrooms and sinks again. They had showers available but I had no desire to take one, plus I would be running again so soon it seemed pointless. I changed into my running gear and was nervous and slightly dreading my next 8 mile leg in the dark.
This is the exchange where I spotted the disco ball van (Team “Roadside Dance Bandits”), which was decorated with lots and lots of tape. Before the race I had spent a considerable amount of time searching Google to see what kinds of markers could be used on van/car paint (versus just the windows) as there were many photos online of Ragnar vans that had decorated doors and hoods as well as windows. I never found a brand that advertised itself as safe for car paint, and we ultimately used Loew Cornell Simply Art Window Markers (which worked well, but you really have to push and squeeze hard to get the paint out, but not too hard or it will drip) and Crayola Washable Window Markers (which my team said basically didn’t show up) on the windows only. However, I do think it would have been fine to use the Loew markers on the van’s painted surfaces, but we didn’t risk it. Also, it all washed off surprisingly easily with water and paper towels (no special cleaner needed), so if you do decorate your van with those markers you won’t have to worry too much about washing it off the next day.
At any rate, upon seeing this beautifully decorated disco ball, I literally chased after the van to ask them what they used for the shiny disco ball and also for the other colorful decorations. The driver told me they had been doing Ragnar for years and they always used – wait for it – DUCT TAPE. I asked him if he was just trying to trick me into putting duct tape onto my car, but he swore it left no mark and didn’t harm the paint. He told me team Kings of Neon used it to decorate their van, too. I thanked him and went back to my van to report, but there’s still no way I’d use duct tape on a rental van’s paint. Painter’s tape, however, I’d use, and I think next time I’d definitely pack a roll or two of that for decoration.
Also, now is a good time to mention tagging – it’s basically when another team puts something on your van without you realizing, usually drawing or writing something with window markers or putting personalized magnets on your car. By the end of the race, we had several window decorations and a tidy pile of magnets, and not once did we actually see anyone do it. Our Van 2 would wash off any tags they got, but we left all of ours on, partially because they were clever (Kings of Neon drew a periodic table Neon symbol with a crown, sticking with our Breaking Ragnar theme, and someone else wrote #RunnersHigh on our van, also sticking with our theme) and partially because we thought someone else on our own team drew them. Lesson #7 – Next time I do Ragnar, in addition to the Loew markers, I’m bringing painter’s tape and (hopefully) getting some cool team magnets printed up to tag other vans.
We kept getting text updates from our Van 2 and pretty soon they arrived and we all gathered at the exchange point to bring in Runner 12 and send off Runner 1. Van 2 seemed in high spirits and was waiting for their runner with a bag of Oreos, explaining that they developed a system where the runner going two slots after the runner coming in would “pamper” the arriving runner with whatever he or she requested. Runner 12 requested that Oreo cookies be waiting for him at his exchanges. Another requested a certain jacket and bottle of Gatorade. I thought it was a great idea, but Van 1 never implemented it, partially because we didn’t have a driver so we were spread a little thinner than Van 2.
A little more on our Van 1 versus Van 2 – Van 2 was all co-workers who we had met only briefly (or not at all) during a few team meetups this summer. Van 1 was filled with basically strangers all connected by our Team Captain, Runner 6. Van 2 had a driver who made them hot coffee and ramen in the middle of the night using his camping stove. Van 1 was driven by Runner 1 and Runner 6, with the majority of navigation by Runners 1, 6, 3 and 4. Runner 2 basically just sat in the back wearing her Chawel. Surprisingly, I think both van experiences worked out well and everyone had a great time. I do think the race was significantly more difficult for our driving runners, especially our captain Runner 6, who only got about 30 minutes of sleep the entire weekend. I would never had been able to do this race without the organization and driving by the other runners, so I’m super grateful to them for that. (I mean, I have a driver’s license, but haven’t owned a car in 13 years and have never driven a giant 12-passenger van through narrow parking lots filled with other runners milling about and driving giant vans for the first time, too.)
At any rate, our first runner was off again on her second leg which took her through the town and up and down a bunch of hills for 4 miles to Exchange 13, where I was anxiously waiting, wearing every kind of reflective and flashing device known to mankind (besides the required reflective vest, headlamp, and tail light, I had a fully reflective hat, two additional blinking Vizlet LED lights, additional hat light (which I can’t recommend enough – it’s so small and light and for 7 bucks gave me peace of mind about seeing past my brim and backup in case my headlamp died), a “finger light,” and a flashing blue LED armband – my team told me they could see me coming a mile away, and I was definitely a lot easier to recognize in the dark, when we quickly learned that every runner looks the same). Lesson #8 – If you want your team to recognize you, wear additional lights, especially ones with colors other than red or white.
While I was warming up I noticed my knee was hurting, and I was pretty sure it was going to bother me during my run. Moments later Runner 1 handed the slap bracelet to me, and I was off, flashing and blinking in the early twilight. The beginning of my second leg did not start well at all. The first section was downhill, and my knee was definitely hurting. My reflective vest was also a major headache, sliding around over my Camelbak and riding up to choke and chafe me. I struggled with it for several minutes before finally giving up, tucking my buff into my shirt as much as possible to limit the chafing, and tried to ignore the vest as well as work through the knee pain. Lesson #9 – Despite my standard joke about “everything new on race day,” definitely test your reflective vest before Ragnar, even if you feel like a total dork wearing it during a daytime run (especially dorky if you have to wear it over a hydration backpack to test it properly). Eight miles of being choked and chafed were my punishment for not testing the dang thing.
I stopped to walk several times, quickly getting passed twice, the second time by a guy in a flashing cowboy hat who asked if I was ok. I told him it was just knee pain and I’d be fine. Eventually I started running again, and at some point around about one mile my knee felt better. I also noticed I was gaining on the cowboy, and pretty soon I had caught up to him. Somehow we started chatting and running together. I told him about my knee pain and he told me about his ankle pain. We were going at about the same pace and it had gotten pretty dark at this point, so we basically started running together.
The miles slowly ticked by. His van (Team “We thought this was a 5K”) leapfrogged and cheered for him many times over the 8 miles. (My favorite was after many miles of running together his van shouted “don’t let her pass you!”) We chatted nonstop, and while my knee felt better, his ankle just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually he had to stop to take a walk break, and then the walk breaks grew more frequent and longer. My knee felt fine at this point and he told me I could go on without him, but I stuck by his side for a couple of reasons. One, it was kind of a fun, unique experience to run and chat with a stranger wearing a flashing LED cowboy hat. Where else but at Ragnar would I ever have a chance to do that? Two, I was a little worried about him and wanted to keep him going. I wasn’t seriously concerned for his safety or well-being, and his team seemed to be staying on top of him really well, but I do think my inane chatter helped keep his mind off his ankle. And three, his company was helping me, too. It was dark, and not terribly scenic, and there were still a lot of cars on the road so it wasn’t relaxing, and my team was AWOL (they drove past me once on the way to the exchange, and later I learned they had gone to the grocery store for chips and chocolate – after my run, eating M&Ms in the back of the van, I weighed moral support against chocolate, and it was a close call). Eight miles is a long time to be running for me (especially at our slow pace), so it was nice to have some company. And really, I was never doing this race to shave off a few minutes of my time – it was always for the experience, and for fun, and this was both.
So I ran with the cowboy for about 7 of the 8 miles, walking up a lot of the big hill at the end (and getting passed by a lot of runners, all of whom were swearing under their breath at that freaking hill), until we eventually crested the hill and saw the exchange point. We were no more than 20 feet away from the exchange when suddenly he pulled up in a limp. I still stuck with him, and after almost an hour and a half of running, we reached exchange 13 together.
The other runners said their night runs were really special – beautiful, quiet, nature and star-filled experiences. My night run on leg 14 was not like that, but I’m glad it was what it was. (Lesson #10 – Be open to whatever your individual legs might throw at you.) After that, our runners quickly knocked out their second legs and suddenly we were on our Runner 6. Legs 15 through 19 were “no van support” legs, plus they were during “quiet hours,” so there wasn’t a lot of cheering or anything our van could do. We drove ahead to Major Exchange 18 at the middle school to get some rest and/or hot food for dinner (they had a spaghetti dinner that looked delicious but I skipped it to get some sleep in the gym). I felt terribly guilty not staying up to cheer the end of Runner 6’s second leg, but I knew he’d have Van 2 there to cheer, and I thought I could serve the team better by getting some rest than knocking myself out to stay awake all night.
So a little after midnight I paid $3 for access to the indoor bathrooms (skipping the shower again because my priority was sleep if I could get it), brushed my teeth, and went into the very dark, less crowded gym. I found a good spot on the floor, blew up my air mattress & air pillow, set up my sleeping bag, set my alarm on my phone for 3:45 am (using my earphones as ear plugs and as a way to wake me up without disturbing others), put on my eyeshade, and tried to relax myself to sleep. Eventually I did fall asleep, waking up once because I was freezing on top of my sleeping bag so I climbed inside. I fell asleep again until 3 am when I suddenly awoke, completely alert and wide awake without my alarm.
And that concludes leg 2. One leg left! Onward to Leg 3!
For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1, Leg 2, and Leg 3, my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List. If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.