It was the end of the leg and Melanie was on fire, flying down the hill to me and the transition area. Her look of determination, along with a big smile is something I’m pretty familiar with. It’s the same look I’ve seen a thousand times. She was happy to see me but something had caught my eye as she blew by. She turned the corner and sprinted to Boz. Wait. Why was there blood all over her wrist?
It was finally time for our journey to really begin. There were vans everywhere. Out here on the roads all you could see were vans. Some looked like they did when they were driven off of the rental lots, and others looked like something from a Spirit Day at a local high school. Our vehicle for the race was Melanie’s blue Toyota Sequoia, which looked normal when it arrived, but not for long. Soon we had the wash-off pink, green and white paint and magnetic signs all over the truck. We looked ready for any pep rally or parade at a school. We were getting more excited by the minute, and now we were actually at our first Transfer Station, Duxbury on the South Shore!
The race had already started and we were parked at the beach, Transition area 7. Van 1 had arrived earlier that morning, prepared for the launch of our journey. Runner 1, the unstoppable Beth Moore, started the race for us at 7AM this morning. She ran her first leg and then handed off the bracelet to Runner 2, Cathy Breslin. The bracelet is like a baton, except you don’t have to actually have to hold onto it. It is metal which slaps onto your wrist and then closes into a circular form fitting snugly to you. It’s a really cool way to pass off to the next team, especially since you don’t have to hold onto it. From there, each runner completes their course and hands off the bracelet as the van ensures the next runner arrives at the transition stations on time. Sometimes there’s time to pull over, hand off some water and cheer for your runner while they are running, but not always. In fact, the Cape Cod Relay offered far less opportunities for leapfrogging your runners than Reach the Beach through New Hampshire did.
We were waiting for Kevin. Stephanie, our Runner 7, was the first runner from our van and she was ready to go! She had over twenty miles total for the relay, and 9.9 to get our van started. We heard the man over the speaker announce “84! 84 is here!” We knew Kevin now was probably within a few hundred feet. Suddenly he came flying around the corner and we all cheered for his finish and for Stephanie as she flew out of the transition station. We reunited briefly with Van 1, and congratulated our teammates on their very successful start. Once Stephanie was out of sight, we jumped in the truck we had a bit of a surprise. Apparently the road was more hilly than any of us could tell from the maps, and Stephanie was in for some pretty tough climbs. We were now close to noon, and the breeze from the ocean would disappear as she moved a little inland. After only a few miles we rode up and down hill after hill, all the while wondering how Stephanie was doing.
With a quick stop by a Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee and food, and then decided to go to the transition area. Traffic was a complete nightmare, and even though we wanted to meet up with Stephanie, there was no chance to be sure we could make it to the transition area on time. We decided to head off and get Christine ready for her very first run.
Stephanie had run the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay before, so we knew her experience out here would help her to have a safe and solid run. The distance, hills and heat would be a huge challenge, but we were all very confident she would do great! Christine is a newer runner and was experiencing Ragnar for the first time, so this was a whole different thing for her. She was more than ready, though, and had worked as hard as anyone I’ve seen to prepare for her journey with us. Stephanie came over the top and now was running down the hill. She could see Christine and us cheering wildly, and she passed off the bracelet. Christine was off, and had a tough climb ahead of her in the warm afternoon sun.
Stephanie took a deep breath and let out a few choice words for the heat and hills she just endured. Every runner coming down the hill she finished on looked like they were in shock for what they had just been through. She got some water and caught her breath. We made it back to the van and left for the next transition area. Christine was our unknown factor. We could guess at her times, but none of really could be sure. We played it safe, though, because if there is one thing about Ragnar that is brutal, it’s being the runner who comes in and there is no team there to meet them.
We saw it at every transition area and it’s just horrible. A runner comes sprinting around the corner, giving it everything they have and a number is shouted out and no one is there. The runner flies in and has to just stand around while everyone keeps shouting out the number so anyone nearby can hear. They stand there alone and uncomfortable and it is completely awkward. If it’s just a minute, it’s not a big deal, but I’ve seen it stretch on awkwardly for a very long time far too often. As the person doing most of the driving, I was planned and determined to not miss one single transition station and to never let any of my fellow runners stand alone.
Stephanie was hydrating, cooling down and resting, while we drove about 5 miles to the next transition area. We parked and waited at the top of a pretty tough hill. Christine came around the corner and in just another minute Melanie would be gone. A fellow runner grabbed us at the transition area and let Melanie know she would have to stop for buses as she ran. A local school was just getting out the buses and had no intentions of being friendly and waiting for runners. With over five hundred teams participating, who could blame them? Another obstacle doesn’t mean so much out on the road. It’s just part of the whole experience.
Christine gutted out the last few feet and passed the bracelet to Melanie. She was exhausted and needed to get out of the heat, but Christine had come through for all of us and had finished strong. We were all so proud of her and her heroic efforts. She fought the whole to us, which is not a surprise. Christine is really the perfect teammate for the Ragnar Relay. She’s always positive and fun, but her enthusiasm and determination make her so good to have in the van. The best part is, it’s all contagious, and it worked perfectly for all of us.
Melanie was a memory, her usual speed launching her out of the transition area. We headed back to van when we noticed the blood on Christine’s wrist. Whoa! She thought it came from the bracelet, but she wasn’t in any type of pain. Melanie was long gone, so if there was a problem, we might not know about it for awhile.
They were right. The buses were blocking the runners, but Melanie was already through the mess and gone. We drove off the busy road, and were quickly back into a much quieter area, leading us into a park, which held the next transition area. The hills, again, were quite tough and not at all like the maps seemed to project. Melanie had a tough climb towards the end, but she had a nice downhill to finish, and when I saw her, she was flying with a big grin on her face. She hit the transition area, but I immediately noticed something was wrong. Her wrist was cut and there was blood all over her arm. Apparently this wasn’t only a problem for Christine. My mind was racing. I had to do something. I turned and jogged over to the transition area, but not fast enough. Before I was even close, the handoff had happened. Boz and the bracelet were now gone on a ten and a half mile run and there was nothing any of us could do to help him.