You’ve seen this post before if you follow VCG on social media, but in 12 short days I am running another Ragnar with the fine folks from Strong Hearts Vegan Power. This will be my third Ragnar with them. The first two were Cape Cod and the Adirondacks. This one is in PA and runs through Amish country and the Poconos.
Like the races we’ve run before, the team is raising money for an animal sanctuary. Our beneficiary this time is Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary. These guys are amazing and do great work to rescue animals from abusive conditions such as backyard “farms”, slaughterhouses and more. After the race, Saturday night, we are camping there and then hanging out with the animals the next day. You will surely see more than enough photos that day.
I’m asking you to click the link (https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/901647) and donate what you can to help me hit my goal of $250. I’m at $80 and change right now so I still have a while to go. Do you think you could help? Please?
As I prepare for my third Ragnar Relay I feel just as scatter brained as the first. I think that’s normal for any race though, you want to feel prepared both physically and mentally. I can’t help too much with the mental aspect, that’s all up to you, but what I can share is what has worked for me in the past and what I plan to bring for this upcoming Ragnar Relay in the Adirondacks. I’ve got some recommended stuff and then my complete packing list at the end of this post. This is a ton of info, try not to over think it like I did on my first.
Here we go:
There are these three core necessities which each runner needs before Ragnar will even officially let you start.
HEADLAMP: Make sure you have a decent headlamp. I’m serious, do not cheap out here. One of your three legs will be late at night and there will be small gaps where your headlamp will be providing you with the only light. This has to be wear you spend some money. I use a Princeton Tec remix and it’s been great. It’s not super expensive, $30, but it’s a quality product that I’ve used in the rain, while running Ragnars and in -20 degree weather in the mountains of Vermont.
BLINKING LIGHT: Ragnar recommends that Nathan brand strobe light and it’s what I went with as well. For $10 you can’t go wrong and it fits the criteria. Again, don’t skip out, it’s only $10!
REFLECTIVE SAFETY VEST: My first Ragnar I brought along my cable guy safety/ reflective vest figuring I could save a few bucks. I saved some bucks alright, and dealt with a much more baggy and bulkier vest than need be. The second time around I purchased a Nathan brand reflective vest that had much less material and was just as reflective and safe as the monstrosity I wore the year before. Again, Ragnar recommends the Nathan brand vest and for good reason, it works!
Those are just the basics. Remember, you are going to be in a van with 5 other people (possibly 6 if you have your own driver) for 24 hours. There are items you will need for yourself and items you will need for your van mates. Your van mates have their own list of stuff they are bringing for themselves, it will look similar to the one I’m about to share. But, I also said you need to bring stuff for them. Here’s my two lists for them and for you.
List #1; For Your Van Mates
DEODORANT: No, you don’t need to bring a stick for them, bring a stick for yourself so they do not have to smell you. Nothing worse than a stinky teammate that leans on you in the middle of night and tries to catch a couple z’s on your shoulder and stinks to the high heavens. It’s gross and slightly disrespectful. You share the same space and would expect the same of them, right?
WIPES: This is similar to the need for deodorant. You are going to get sweaty and nasty, it’s inevitable. The best things you can do for your van mates is to minimize that filth. Some Ragnar stops have showers, if you can’t use one or maybe feel uncomfortable, find a stall and wipe down with a baby wipe. I have more to come on this after the race as I’ll be trying out something new, but the fact remains; keep the stank to a minimal level.
TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE: Do I really need to explain this? Hygiene people, keep it real.
That’s a short list but besides food, can be the most important for those you are spending the weekend with. Speaking of food….
List #2; For you
FOOD – It’s only 24 hours, don’t over do it. Remember, the space in the van is going to be limited. Our van has been chatting and each person is bringing a particular item. For instance, I’m bringing a few containers of water and Nuun electrolytes. Another van mate is bringing trash bags, while another is bringing sandwich stuff. You also want to make sure what you bring can endure 24 hours in a warm van. We are bringing a cooler, but even with that things can go awry in 24 hours. It’s only 24 hours though, you can still eat decent and healthy (vegan). I know we always try to get at least one hot meal when our van is not on the clock. Don’t over think it.
WATER: Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Your body is going to be put the ringer and the least you can do for it is to stay hydrated, your recovery between runs depends on it. You can choose to add electrolytes to your water if you like, just be aware of the ingredients and that you are not poisoning yourself with unnecessary additives and dyes.
CLOTHING: Duh, right? You are not going out for a week, it’s 24 hours. Keep in mind though, you are running three times though so bring at least a couple of pair of shorts and undershorts. Back to hygiene for a sec, bring a plastic bag to put your stinky clothes in. You’re going to want a sweatshirt and maybe some pants you can put over your shorts while you wait for your next leg. You want to be comfortable while you wait, there is a ton of down time.
SHOES: Obviously you need a good pair that are going to make it through your three runs, but you also want to bring a second pair for the in between times. Heck you may even want flip-flops to let them barking dogs breathe a bit. Point is, you’re not going to wear the same shoes you are running in.
TECH: It’s the world we live in, so make sure you bring what you need to stay busy and that you bring stuff to charge it with or else you are out of luck. Most of the vans that are rented have tons of adapters to plug into, or you can share time.
So, those are the just the basics. You’ll see in my list below that it’s pretty much based on what you prefer. You get the general idea though right? Think there’s anything to add? Comment below.
Here’s my list
The 3 Ragnar essentials: Vest, blinking light and headlamp)
Hygienic Items: Deodorant, wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste)
Food: Like I mentioned, our van has been talking and we are each bringing a particular item to share, I’m bring the water and electrolytes. As a runner on Strong Hearts Vegan Power we are also afforded samples from our sponsors. Food is not going to be an issue). I’m also bring a couple baggies with single servings of protein powder. While nutrition will be somewhat on point, with all the running I need to add in the protein. It’s taken me too long to gain weight, I’m not looking to lose any.
Clothing: 3 pair of running shorts, 1 pair of warm-up pants, 3-4 pair of socks, 3-4 pair of underwear (2 of which are compression shorts), of course I’ve got my SHVP gear (tech tee, singlet and sweatshirt). That’s it, basic stuff. No need to complicate things.
Shoes: I’m bringing my pair of running kicks and a pair to loaf around in. I’m skipping the flip-flops for this round as it’ll be much colder in the Adirondacks at the end of September compared to Cape Cod in the late spring/ early summer.
Tech: TomTom GPS watch, headphones, my phone (obviously) and phone charger with dual input.
Incidentals: Body Glide (friction sucks), comb, toilet paper, Kleenex and maybe a small bottle of ibuprofen for any pain or headaches. I am also bringing my massage/ roller stick. It’s an awesome tool to keep the blood flowing and helps in recovery between runs, it’s essential for me.
I’ve said it a ton of times, keep it simple and do not over think this. If you have issues head over to Facebook and ask some Ragnar veterans what they think. This is my third, like I said, and I’d be happy to help as well. Just comment below!
5+ years ago I started running and tomorrow, 5 years to the exact date, I will be running the first race I ever ran; The Mighty Meehan. It’s just a 5k, but I remember that when I signed up the fear and trepidation were legit.
As a new runner I was not only concerned with how I would perform but would I look like a runner? As I ran would I make weird faces? What does a runner even look like? I’d never run a race before so, would I finish?
I was already setting myself up for disappointment and I sure as heck was overthinking it. I’m not going to recount the whole day, looking back now I know what I did wrong. It wasn’t how fast I ran, or slow for that matter. It was the fact that it mattered and it shouldn’t have. Just starting a race at 37 years old was a feat for me, so I should have looked at it as a positive. I should have realized I’d been running 3+ miles for a bit before hand and this would be no different, it might even be easier as it was a super flat course.
In the end, I ran and felt more accomplished than I ever had. The noise fell away and I reflected on the fact I set a goal and did it. Since then I’ve set loftier goals like finish and ultra-marathon, finish and obstacle course race, compete in a death race, etc. I did all of those and pushed my body and mind harder than I could imagine.
Tomorrows goal is a simple one; finish. If we are going to add something to it though, which the OCD in me is trying to do, let’s beat my time of 31:33 from my first time on this course. I am shooting for 28 minutes, not to lofty but doable as I’ve done that before. Can I PR? I’d love that even more.
So let’s see what the day holds, I know what tonight holds! Some pre-race carb loading with pasta, homemade sauce and tofurkey Italian sausage.
I skipped doing the “Meme Monday” post today. There wasn’t much content posted last week and I didn’t want to just have a bunch of “Meme Mondays” and “Freakin’ Out Friday” posts as the most recent. To be honest, after deciding not to post it I really had no intention of posting at all. Yet here I am, watching Bear Grylls and Shaq hike around the Adirondacks and thinking how beautiful the area is and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be there at the end of the month.
Over the past month or so, as many of you know, I’ve been training for the next Ragnar Relay with Strong Hearts Vegan Power. This will be my third time running a Ragnar, but it will be my first not on Cape Cod; this one is in the Adirondacks.
Similar to Cape, Strong Hearts is sending multiple teams to this Ragnar; 4 teams to be exact! Team A is the elite of elites. While they will be having as much fun as the rest of us, they will be doing it at a much faster clip. These guys and gals are truly elite. They win races all the time. The podium has become a second home for some. Sending a team of elite vegan racers to places such as Ragnar help to disprove the myth that vegans are weak; far from it. This past years Cape Cod Ragnar, the A Team placed 4 overall, and 2nd in their division. Ya… so…
As you can imagine, training for the Adirondacks hasn’t been super easy here on flat ole Cape Cod. When I have found a hill with any sort of elevation, it’s been relentless hill repeats. The road I live on has a couple good one’s, so when not doing repeats I’m just doing loops as often as possible. I have a feeling my hill repeats may not have me completely prepared but I’m going to bust my ass the best I can and make sure my team knows I will not let them down.
A week or so ago I had one of the simpler leg assignments. After a teammate reached out though and said they might be running injured we switched. I went from having 14.8 miles to do over three legs to 19.5 and all mys legs were listed as moderate, moderate and moderate; yet went to hard, very hard and moderate. I love the challenge and again, appreciate the opportunity to get the miles done. I may not be fast, but I can do the miles.
I’m really looking forward to meeting some new teammates and spending time with one’s I’ve already created lasting friendships with. My gratitude to Joel, Dana and other organizers is immense. This team has changed my life and helped solidify the choices I have been making over the past years.
Now that I’ve had a few days to let everything settle down, including the achy legs, I’m ready to put down on (metaphorical) paper what would become one of my favorite races so far. That’s a hefty way to start this but you will understand by the end.
I heard of this race, The Vegan Power Ultra, last year and had wanted to run it. I was already running a 50k though (The TARC Summer Classic) and figured doing two within a few months (when I had never done 1 to begin with) might be a bad idea. It was my first attempt at an ultra and I wanted to make sure I finished. So I passed and waited until 2016.
For 2016 though, I decided against the 50k option and did the 25k. I’m really glad I did. Even before the race I hadn’t run enough for 30+ miles and I knew it would result in a DNF with the lack of training. So rather than do that, it was the 25k for me. I’m glad I chose it because it gave me an opportunity to hang with my new-found teammates on the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.
I also met a bunch of people I’ve chatted with online. This group of racers, volunteers and spectators were all genuinely kind and considerate. I don’t think I saw a frown the whole day. Even when racers got injured and had to drop out, they did so with a smile and didn’t beat themselves up over it. The overall feeling of the day was amazing, I haven’t felt that calm and centered since I went on a meditation retreat a few years back.
But I digress, let’s talk about my night before real quick. Driving to Pittsfield, MA from Cape Cod is a 3.5-4 hour drive depending on traffic. Upon my wifes recommendation, I went up the night before so I didn’t have to drive up that morning and could get a good nights sleep. Being the cheap prick I am I booked a room at the Motel 6 in Chicopee. I got there at roughly 6:30-7pm and quickly check in and headed to Northampton to grab something to eat a highly recommended place, Paul and Elizabeth’s. I decided on the Thai-Style Seitan and Udon Noodle Sauté and took it to go. Honestly, I had tried to order from a place called Bela first but they don’t allow to-go orders and are super high-end, which is kind of bullshit, but whatever.
On the ride home I saw a Target, and we don’t have one of those near the Cape. Why mention Target in a race report? Well this has nothing to do with the race but has EVERYTHING to do with cookies. You see, they are one of the few places to sell Hamptons Creeks “Just Cookies” and I had to have some. So, I bought some.
I got back to my room, and tore into my dinner. I had such high hopes and was let down. First, I was told how spicy it was and that it’s a “good thing I like spice because it’s spicy.” That’s what I was told at least. It wasn’t. The seitan was super soggy and was just like hot mush. The meal was a complete let down, but I finished it because I needed the veggies, carbs and protein for the race the next day. After trying an AMAZING cookie, I went to bed.
No sooner had I gone to sleep, ok maybe a couple of hours after, the flippin fire alarms started going off and multiple fire engines rolled. The alarm went off for nearly 45 minutes and made it impossible to go back to sleep until it was done. Once they left and reset the alarm I was about to fall back asleep made 30 minutes later. The alarm clock on my phone came way too soon and I was not ready to get up, but I had to.
I ate some breakfast and started making my way toward Pittsfield. It’s been some time since I’ve been in any sort of mountain range. I realize the Berkshires are no Rockies, but I was still humbled by the mountains and their grandeur made my heart flutter a bit. I think I lived in the mountains in a previous life. Maybe I was a mountain yogi or something, I feel really at peace around mountains. But anyway…
I arrived and said hello to my brothers and sisters of SHVP and went over to registration. I finally met Ana Wolf, the RD, and she is just as genuinely nice in person as she is online. I wasn’t sure someone could carry that kindness into the real world, but you have to be real person to do so and she is. The event, while somewhat small, takes some major work to do. From co-ordinating volunteers, getting medals done up, designing and printing t-shirts, co-ordinating with the beneficiary of race funds, etc. Ana did it all and with grace, it was never about her but about everyone else. She is amazing.
10am came rather quick and it was go time. I was as ready as I was going to be and hit the first hill, the only major hill on the course, as hard as I could. I had heard people saying how it should be taken slow and I did on lap 2 and 3. I wanted to get out as quick as I could, which time and again, proves to be my downfall as I can’t seem to sustain that energy the whole race. Regardless, it’s how it went this time, again.
The trails were absolutely gorgeous and were marked extremely well, probably the best I’ve seen at a race. They were dry but not dusty. There were spots that were quite rocky and were also filled with roots. At times you could see people who looked like they had been running a mud run as they were quite dirty from clipping a root or two.The days weather was great and was warm but no muggy. The flora and fauna was green and healthy. It wasn’t until later that I noticed I probably touched some poison oak at some point. Yeah, It’s really itchy right now!
Lap 1 went off pretty well. I was 5-6 minutes slower than I really wanted to be but I was having fun and I wasn’t really looking to push it, I just wanted to finish. The third lap, during the last mile, the wheels started to come off a bit and I’m really glad I stuck with the 25k option. I finished my race in 3 hours and 48 minutes. Not an awesome time, it’s not competitive in the least. But again, that was not my goal. I hit my goal; I finished.
I had so much fun. After the run there was all sorts of vegan grub to be had. There was pizza from Baba Louies, rice and curried veggies from Veggie Galaxy. There were other items that folk brought such as brownies, bars and all sorts of treats. I absolutely devoured my bowl of curries veggies and rice. Having burnt nearly 1,500 calories I was famished.
Overall, I would do this race again and again. I hope to make it next year and might even dare to try the 50k option and make it my second 50k race. I don’t think I could pick a better race to support and accomplish that goal. I want to thank my teammates who supported me, supported each-other, supported other runners, supported Ana and more importantly supported Vine Sanctuary, who was the beneficiary of the race funds; over $6000! Thank you to the volunteers who were all gracious, and thank you to Ben Kimball for all the amazing race photos.
I can’t wait to go back next year!!
ps. Congrats to SHVP teammates Jason and Samantha for winning the men’s and women’s 50k races and to our first relay team for taking home the crown.
It’s taken a few days (a week) to digest this years Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. Ever since running it for the first time last year, I knew I had to run it again in 2016. I’m sure I’ve told the story more than a few times but let me preface this post with how I first met Strong Hearts Vegan Power and how I ended up running with the team.
They were impossible NOT to spot on the course. The very in your face design on the gear was 100% noticeable. The other racers were buzzing about them; who were they and what was their deal? It was at the last major exchange (Nauset High School) that I was able to approach the team. I walked up to Peter Nussbaum (I also met Julie Henderson, Scott Henderson and Kathleen Froico), introduced myself and asked how I could get one of the cool shirts the team was wearing. “You have to run with the team to get one,” he said. So, my next question was an obvious one, “how do I run with the team?”
Fast forward a year I got the opportunity.
It’s been a long time since I was really nervous to run a race. I’m somewhat of an introvert so to have to introduce myself to people I didn’t know at all was, well, it was a daunting task. I arrived to the Park and Ride in Rockland where we were meeting up to leave our vehicles and then divide into our vans before heading to the start line. I recognized some faces so I went to say hi. I recognized some faces from Facebook and Instagram, so that helped break the ice a bit. The one thing that was clear, especially among us new to the team; we were pumped to get our team gear!
Kaitlin was handing out all the gear. Besides the race itself, this was the moment I was waiting for. She handed me some gear and it was magical, no fuck that, it was MAGNIFICENT! I unrolled it and slid on my new hoodie. I felt like a damn superhero! Not only did I have the power to pound pavement three times in 24 hours but I had to power to be a representative for those that lack the voices to represent themselves; the animals. That’s truly why, like the badass vegan superheroes we were, we had all assembled.
In a flurry I met teammate after teammate and was soon introduced to those in my van, which was the B Team, van 1. Our driver/ navigator, and seemingly most important person, was Meghan. The other 5 were Skott, Jay, Laura, Suzie and Lia. We instantly got along and it seemed like the next 24 hours should go off swimmingly. It did.
After sending off Laura on her first leg we all piled in and it was off to the races (pun intended). What I really like about Ragnar is all the searching. Yes, we know where they are going and where we are supposed to go, but it kind of feels like a treasure hunt of sorts. You follow the clues and there’s the exchange, and most of the time; your runner. It went on like this for a bit until it was my turn to go.
My first leg was through the town of Marshfield and was 7.3 miles. That was better than 12.8 I had started out with last year; that was a leg killer for sure. I cranked out my 7.3 the best I could, handed off to Jay and he took off. After his leg it was off to our first major exchange in Bourne, the Gallo Ice Arena.
After devouring all sorts of yummy food, including Tofurky sandwiches on Pretzilla buns it was time to figure out the plan for the next few hours until our first runner had to get back out there. The rain had started to settle in and we were all going to try to get some rest since our second set of runs would be in the middle of the night and quite possibly in the rain. Mine would be at 3am, and was 5.5 miles, so I needed some z’s. The ladies took the sleeping bags into the arena and the guys stretched out in the van. It was less than an hour later and some jokester thought it would be funny to mess with the handles of the van and jiggle them. I was awake after that, until I started to slowly slip back under and then… the girls were back. Huh? It seemed another jokester thought it would be funny to pull the fire alarm and ruin it for everyone. So, until they could clear the arena of any hazards, no one was allowed in. Needless to say, not one of us got any sort of true restful sleep.
After a bit we got Laura over to the exchange point and off we were again. My leg was until we hit the Cotuit area but it came sooner than I had hoped. I had rolled out my quads a bit, as they were tightening up after sitting in the van for a while. I had to get some food in me besides the pumpkin seeds and trail mix I was snacking on so I devoured a bag of Rhythm Superfoods Ranch Kale Chips for some green fuel. At roughly 3:30am Suzie passed me the slapband and my run was on. I didn’t take my headphones this time as I wanted to be aware of my surroundings, especially at that time of night. The run was fun, but it was Friday the 13th and my mind played a couple tricks on me. As you can imagine, I heard things in the woods and freaked out. You’d think my pace should have been better as I felt like I running a million miles a minute, but alas, that was not the case.
As I ran through a very desolate downtown Osterville it was a sight I’m not used to seeing as a Cape Codder. Osterville is usually bustling, even in the off-season. But all the stores were closed, there were no cars parked anywhere or driving anywhere for that matter. The only people who were awake and alert were other Ragnarians. I handed off to Jay and headed back to the van. Minus Meghan, they were all out cold. I stayed up with her so we could find Jay at some points to cheer him on and get through the waning hours of the night. Lucky for him the sun was starting to come up and he caught that second wind. After he passed the slapband to Scott Spitz of Van B we were off to Harwich and the Monomoy High School.
I have not been back to the school since I graduated in 1992. It was much different back then. Heck the building isn’t even there anymore, it was demolished and rebuilt for the new regional school, Monomoy, which is shared by Harwich and Chatham. It is a beautiful school, with all sorts of green tech, etc.
I don’t remember much here except falling asleep, finally.
I woke up to see Laura off on her third and final leg and the treasure hunt started all over again. My third and final leg would go from Orleans into Eastham, an area I know very well as it’s where I work most of the time. I was pumped to get this leg as it went down Bridge Road and went across a beautiful bridge over a marsh. It’s one of my favorite spots. A short bit after the bridge my wife and boys caught up with me. I really needed to see them and the boost they gave me with their cheers and encouragement was more welcomed than I thought possible. While this leg was only 4.6 miles, it was brutal as there were a couple decent hills and my legs were shot. I needed to see them. I shuffled quite a bit but picked up the pace where I could.
I finally made it to Arnold’s Clam Shack, the next exchange, handed off to Jay and was done!
We met Jay over at Nauset High School, the next major exchange and, going back, the place that started it all for me and Strong Hearts Vegan Power. I felt accomplished, the team felt accomplished. We took a team photo and headed off to Provincetown to meet the next van when they got there.
When their runner arrived we all followed them toward the finish line and crossed together. It was absolutely mind numbing how great it felt. But at the same time, I knew from last year, that the high would pass and I would start missing the team soon.
After the last team came in we all went back up to the Park and Ride for an award ceremony and to say our goodbye’s. It was bittersweet to see my truck there, I knew it was over. That said, in that very short period of time we spent as a team I feel like I made some really good new friends. And that’s not just our van alone. I f*cking love everyone we met. This was where I was meant to be for the period of time, I felt it in my mind and in my heart. Both were full as I headed back to the Cape and home. I was excited though, it would only be another 24 hours until we were all reunited again, at Maple Farms Sanctuary, the beneficiary for all the funds we raised at Ragnar. That post is coming soon. I’m already at 1,600+ words and this is a blog, not a book.
Below is a small album of the 24 hours, and a great video by Rachel.
No, it’s not Christmas in May. It is time for the Ragnar Relay to invade Cape Cod again though, and to me, that’s nearly as good as Christmas. Last year was my first and it was so much fun. Running 3 times in 24 hours was just a side effect, the awesomeness of Ragnar is spent traversing the 192 mile course with a team of 12 broken down into two vans of six.
Last year was so much fun. I knew all the guys I was sharing the van with as we had been racing obstacle courses for a while as part of the New England Spahten team. Most of the guys on the team I had known since the team began in 2012, so we had quite a bit to talk about. The camaraderie was as solid as it gets, and at the end of the race we were like brothers.
This year is different though and while I am excited, I am super nervous. Minus social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, I really do not know any of the people I am running with. I’ve been talking to some of them since the last Ragnar though, that’s how I knew about them. Ironically, one of the teammates I will be in a van with is friends with a family that I consider part of my own family. That sounds more confusing than it is… Point is, it could be awkward; or you would think it would be.
Thing is, I don’t think it’s going to be at all. You see, we have more than racing in common; we share moral and ethical values. A couple of years ago I went vegan for my health, but like any choice or life change, once you head down a path your eyes open to much more. We adapt and evolve with each change we make. I went what I thought was “plant-based” but that lifestyle morphed into veganism. And while they may seem so much the same, they are not as close as you might think.
This year at Ragnar is going to be much different from last because of veganism. You see, the team is very outspoken and while they wear their emotions and consciousness on their proverbial sleeve, they also wear it on their chest. If you are around Cape Cod next week you will see us, dressed in mostly black with bold white lettering on our gear that proudly says, “Strong Hearts Vegan Power,” we will most certainly be one of the most noticeable teams.
Last year the team was heckled here and there with the usual “BACON” cat calls, but for the most part people seemed interested in hearing the message. The folks at SHVP are not the preachy vegan types, they are willing to take the time to explain factual information, not just regurgitated one liners from documentaries. When I approached them they were nothing but welcoming.
So, maybe I’m not as nervous as I thought. I do know these people, they are me.
Bring it on Ragnar, SHVP is coming!
ps. Check out this video from last years Ragnar and SHVP.