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Race Recap: Ragnar Pennsylvania 2017

WARNING: A copious amount of reading ahead! Turn back now or if you so desire, enjoy the copious amount of rambling verbiage that lay before you…

It’s hard to really sum up a weekend like the previous one. It’s an emotional weekend. It’s a physically draining weekend. It’s a constant comedy of ramblings and silliness type of weekend. It can even be a stinky weekend. It’s an “eat all the vegan snacks” type of weekend. And for certain it’s a weekend that goes by way to flippin’ fast!

This was my fourth Ragnar; third as a member of Strong Hearts Vegan Power and they’ve become a second family for me. I’ve raced on a few different teams, and there really is no comparison because they all had people who meant a lot to me but if I HAD to compare them one thing would separate SHVP from the rest and that’s equality. No matter who you meet on this team there is a connection that goes beyond primal, it’s a fundamental understanding you are both on the same level and the thing that you are about to do is so important to each and every one of you. While we may have an A, B, C, D and even an E team we are all one Strong Hearts Vegan Power family.

We had members converge upon PA from all over the country, this time we even had a married couple (Corey and Channon who were in my van) who came from Chattanooga, TN. A good portion of the team is from New York, Boston and Philly but we’ve got folks from the West Coast as well. For most,  the trip started on Thursday. I left my house at about 7:30am to make it to Worcester (Marie’s house) by 10am.

At about 8:15am a series of events played out in front of me and I wasn’t as quick to react, I crashed my truck into the guy in front of me that stopped short. Thankfully this was not some sort of calamitous foreshadowing of the weekend, just a blip in the road; literally. After assessing the damage and realizing it was just a glancing blow, we traded info and were on our way.

I got to where I needed to be, albeit earlier than I thought I had to. Shortly after I showed, the rest of the Boston contingent arrived. We arranged all our stuff in two vans and off to Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary we went. The plan was to drop our camping gear there as we would be camping out Saturday night after the race. Some of us thought it’d be smart to set up our tents before hand so we got that done and got back into the vans to head to Philly to meet more teammates and look for food.

One of our sponsors was Blackbird Pizzeria, an all vegan pizza joint in Philly. Not only do they do pizza but they do vegan cheese steak subs and the most glorious seitan wings. We got in kind of late and I think they were overwhelmed. I did reach out when we were about 30 minutes away, but they were busy and 10-15 more bodies on top of their rush was formidable at best. Since we had nowhere else to be, we were patient. Most of us had not been to Blackbird before so between the table, we ordered just about everything they offered. I chose the habanero seitan wings and cheese fries. I sincerely regret not getting the cheese steak, but my stomach can only hold so much and with all those miles coming up, I didn’t want to have to deal with gastric stuff mid run; that would NOT have been good. The wings were great, some of the pieces were quite thick and weren’t as cooked as they could have been, but again; they were overwhelmed so I will give them a pass because the flavor was off the charts. The cheese fries were amazing. I’d give them a solid 4.5 stars!

After sleeping the night away (thanks for the hospitality Erin), 4am came really quick and we were out the door by 4:30am. We hit a Wawa for coffee and off to the start line we went for pre-race meeting, team photo and to see our first team off. We had three teams taking off at 830am including my team for the weekend; team C. Even though we officially started at 8:30am, we were van 2 and that meant we weren’t on the clock until runner six hit the first major exchange at Salisbury Township Community Park, which is where we headed off to.

We checked in, watched our safety video and relaxed a bit. While walking around we had to come to terms with a few things. We were in farm country and we surely would see some stuff that bothered us. Looking around at some of the farms close by not only did you see animals grazing but there were some of those small white containers (veal crates) all grouped together. You know, the one’s where young male cows are hidden away from their moms to live a short life and become veal? Yeah, those things were all over and the realization was horrifying as there was not much anyone could do. The best thing we could continue to do though was to stay visible, it was hard not to notice a bunch of (mostly) tattooed vegans dressed in black with “Strong Hearts Vegan Power” emblazoned on the front in white lettering. And that’s a big part of the reason we are at these things, to represent the animals and be a voice for them.

I’m not sure the exact time but Michael Harren was coming in and the hand-off to Corey was imminent. There were a couple other teams hanging out waiting for their runners so we all crowded the exchange and Michael rounded the corner, came up to the line and… WHAT? Yup, Ragnar moment for sure and the slap-bracelet bent a weird way and it hit the deck. Corey recovered and Team C van 2 was on the clock!

It wasn’t until a little before 4pm that my first run started. The sun had peaked and it was beating down. In my first 2-3 miles my water bottle was empty and I could have used an aid station, but I didn’t see one anywhere. This would become a running theme for the weekend. There were either no aid stations on my run or the one’s that were there didn’t have anyone at them or water in the jugs they so blatantly left unattended.

The hills were rolling and there was not as much elevation as my next two runs were going to have. As I mentioned, this was farm country and most of them are run by the Amish. You could see them everywhere. If they weren’t flying by trying to run you off the road in a horse-drawn buggy, they were zipping along on push scooters. Yeah one Amish  guy did try to run me off the road all the while staring me down, it felt very Amish mafia so I just kept running)Even in the hottest heat of the day, the younger kids were outside playing basketball in button down shirts, suspenders and jeans. I started to get into a zone thank to Pandora and the amazing playlist I had going. Nothing like a Black Tongue beat-down as you run through Amish country. The total run was 6.3 miles in 1:08:04 with an elevation change of only a couple hundred feet. Not the best time or pace but I was trying to save something for later, it was about to get real.

At this point, once your van is done you do one of two things, get food or sleep. I say either or because sometimes that is all you can do. We basically lived at Giant Food grocery stores on our time off. Our first stop I grabbed some fresh strawberries, watermelon and a couple of green juices. Everything I bought had a coupon on it and the juices were buy one get on free. This seemed to confuse the person behind the counter and they had to call over some back up. I got over $10 worth of fresh fruits for $3 though; I’m a cheap vegan and look for a bargain everywhere and anywhere I am!! After scarfing our grub we did head to the next exchange and waited for van 1.

I didn’t start my next leg until almost 2am. I was prepared for the hand off and headed up the mountain for some nasty elevation. I was about to see 800+ feet of elevation gain in a 2.5 mile climb. Good thing is there was also a 2.5 mile downhill. Getting up was a challenge as my legs we already a tad tired but I slogged on and actually got some kills headed up the mountain. Not being the fastest runner, I am not one to notch too many kills, so it was nice to get some under my belt. I did this run without music. I’m not a huge fan of running in the mountains late at night without being able to hear what is possibly coming out of the woods to eat me. Luckily the bears didn’t see me so I was off the menu; Aaron didn’t see me either so I was doing a good job at not being noticed (just kidding Aaron). The backside of the mountain was great and I gave it all I had. Again, I’m not a fast runner but using momentum was able to log 7:20 for a good amount of the run down. 6.8 miles after starting this leg of the race I handed off the slap-bracelet to Britt. After our van was done we went to the next exchange and I think we actually got some sleep; I’m sure I did because I woke up not knowing where the heck we were, haha!

At 2pm I finally started my last leg and it was going to be brutal to say the least. I was getting out of the port-a-potty just as Brian was hitting the exchange and I wasn’t ready. I grabbed the slap-bracelet though and started the 800+ feet of elevation gain in two miles span; it was a soul crusher for sure. 3/4 of the way up the top the van had pulled over to give me my handheld, again I was unprepared to start this leg. I started pounding the water right away and probably should have tried to save it. I was losing steam fast and for the first time I slow to a thru-hike like pace. As I hit the top I felt a wave of nausea overcome me and I ran for the woods. I lost whatever I had in my stomach and was out of water.

I have never had this happen before but I’m sure a combo of the heat and the abuse my legs were taking from all the elevation changes had a bit to do with it. I got myself back together and put one foot in front of the other and got a run going again. I felt something in my handheld shaking, yet I knew there was no water. Luckily, Johnny had squirreled away some GU Chews for me and they came in really f*cking handy at that point.I ate them with sincere ferocity and got into a zone to finish this leg. 5.8 miles later and 900+ elevation gain, I did!

The rest of the van crushed it and the final 4 runners got a great pace going as we headed toward the finish line. Channon brought it home for us and as she came toward the finish we followed behind her, along with van A, and finished together. There was an overwhelming sense of elation for the team, more so for myself. I’ve done races with elevation before, but PA really taxed my ability to sustain forward momentum. I’m so proud of my teammates, not just C team but ALL of the teams. Everyone truly shined in what was probably the toughest Ragnar course we’ve run to date.

We headed toward Tamerlaine after the race for a pizza party and to crash. I seriously don’t know how long it took me to fall asleep but it was quick I know that. The next morning we awoke to the sounds of farm animals starting their day. There were roosters crowing, goats bleating and in the distance (not at Tamerlaine) a peacock was screaming at the top of its lungs. Well, that’s what it sounded like to me. Gabby and Peter (co-owners of Tamerlaine) as well as other volunteers were getting things settled and were also working on an amazing breakfast for SHVP. There was coffee, bagels from a local shop and just about anything you could want on them. I simply had a untoasted sesame seed bagel with almond butter, I was more looking forward to the view out of the back of the veranda more than anything. There was this stunning sense of peace that came over me just sitting there enjoying my breakfast. With all of the hubbub of the race, it was wondrous to slow down and just be present. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that calm and it was beautiful.

Members of the team that had camped on site were waking up and starting to make their way to the veranda for rations and coffee as others who had stayed at local hotels showed up as well. Everyone enjoyed a fantastic breakfast filled with joy and friendship. There was talk of the race, obviously, but it seems that Tamerlaine kind of took over for people and the animals were calling. We all had to go see them.

We first went to hang with the turkeys and the newest resident, Pecan the pig. Things started getting a little hairy when the male turkeys started getting competitive with one of the woman from the team, we had to leave the pen so they could calm down. We made our way over to the goats and they were all so amazing. They were not shy at all and wanted nothing more than to cuddle and to be scratched.

We toured the farm some more and met other residents such as all the roosters and chickens. Some of those chickens were saved from the Kaporos ritual  (the link is horrifying, watch with caution) that is held in Brooklyn. All of the animals here were saved in one way or another. Whether it was from a slaughterhouse or some crap backyard farm where the owners got over the head. Tamerlaine is doing some amazing work. It was mind-blowing to know that the fundraiser we had for them that ran concurrent to Ragnar raised over $10,000 for those animals. Some of the donations were from readers here and I thank you as do the folks at Tamerlaine.

Later on in the afternoon it was time to head back to the real world so we got the MA contingent together and off we went. Minus getting caught in some major traffic in CT, the drive was far less eventful than my ride to meet them on Thrusday. Here’s where I finally wrap this up and thank you for sticking with me and reading, but I also want to thank the folks in SHVP. When I say this I truly mean it, I love you guys! It’s hard to put into words what you have done for me just by being here and showing me kindness. I am humbled that you have accepted me as one of your own and cannot wait to see you all next!!!

Lastly, thank you to our sponsors The Herbivorous Butcher, Dandies, Blackbird Pizzeria, Grindcore House, GU Energy, Little Secrets and Newzill! Your support not only helps us do what we do but shows the integrity that stands behind your business, thank you!

 

Race Recap: Ragnar Adirondacks 2016

img_1565“It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song…”

No this isn’t a rendition of Sinead O’Connors “Nothing Compares 2 U” but it is an ode to those that have become a part of my family, the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.

You see, this past weekend I ran my third Ragnar Relay and second with the team. Rather than it be on Cape Cod like the previous two, and be on familiar territory being a native and all; this one was held in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Nothing could have prepared this flat-lander for what was to come, but my training had as many hills as I could find and the incline was always on when using the treadmill.

img_1467We had an early start for the race, 6 am on Friday morning, so many of us came into the area early to get some sleep. A group of us was staying at Jess and Andrews house (thank you for the hospitality) and while we were all headed that way it was decided we would try to concoct vegan Big Macs. We were all given certain things to pick up on our way and for what ever reason we still ended up with extra Chao cheese.

Casey popped the burgers into some pans, I created the “special sauce”, shredded some lettuce (after Caseys valuable tip) and sliced some buns up. We had a variety of patties to choose from such as Field Roast, Gardein and even some Beast Burgers from Beyond Meat. I love those one’s so my Big Mac was merely ginormous and was super filling. We had also brought stuff for s’mores but by the time we had all gorged on vegan Big Macs we were full and people were starting to think about bed. That was a great idea since we had to be up early so we all crashed.

img_14753:45am-4:00am came waaaay to soon but we were up and at em and headed off to the starting line. It was awesome to see so many people I had met from the Cape Cod Ragnar and to meet people who were coming in for their first race with the team. We all found our teams, were given our race gear and plans were put into motion about how the next 24-30 hours or so would play out. At this point, after chatting and catching up with teammates, it was time for C team van 1 (Rachel, Evan, Christine, Jeanine, Molly, our driver & Captain Melissa and myself) to head over to registration and get checked in, watch the safety video and prepare for our first runner to get going.

Originally I was supposed to be runner 1, but due to an unforeseen injury from a fellow teammate, I switched to her leg which was six. She then had to pull out completely so the legs were arranged a bit and we took on another runner as she moved into the van driver role. The way this team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, operates is amazing. Even when the most minor thing happens, or major, it gets ironed out quick and is given no more thought; it just gets done. We had runners on other teams go down and again, the slack was picked up and it went off without a hitch.

img_1494After seeing runner 1 off the race was officially on for us. If you’ve never run a Ragnar this is where the fun, and chaos, begins. We swiftly got back to our van and headed of to the next exchange. When our van was on the clock this is how it would go. Drop a runner off at an exchange and then drive to the next where the nest runner would wait for the slap bracelet to be handed off and then on to the next. Each van had 6 runners and 1 driver. After the 6 from that van ran, the slap bracelet was handed off to the second van of 6 making 12 totals runners per team. When our van was off the clock we would head to the next major exchange to chill, clean up, eat, recoup or whatever it is we needed to do.

After our first leg, we had an injury. Rachel had rolled her ankle at one point during her leg. Sam taped her up and we were unsure if she could continue on. Somehow she muscled through and ran her second leg, even claiming two kills in the process. After that though it was decided that she was out and we would have to figure out what to do for her last leg. In order of runners, Christine ran before Rachel and I after. Christine and I decided to split her last leg in half and share it. So how easy that was, we got it done!

img_1644How did my legs go? Amazing! My first run was just a bit over 6 miles and I just kind of took it easy as I knew I had a nearly 9 mile run later that night. The Adirondacks are beautiful so the run was relaxing. My second legs had a few hills, quite a few actually. It killed me running up them but going down? I set new records for myself. I have never run anything faster than a 7 minute pace for more than 20 second sprints. As I was bombing down a hill I peaked at my watch and saw I was going 6:24! What?? So I grabbed my phone and took a pic, at that point I had slowed to 6:37 but that was still way flippin’ faster than I had ever run before.Of course I’m not an elite runner, so keeping that pace was a dream. I went back to my usual 9:00-9:30 pace and settled in.

My third leg was just in the morning. It was just about to hit 7am and that was when you didn’t have to wear all the night gear, I was grateful for that. Again, I settled in to a good pace and powered through my last run. There were some absolutely gorgeous sites to see as I ran this leg. It seemed that the trees color was changing a bit more on this side of the Adirondacks so it made it even more spectacular. There was a spot that had a great downhill and I miraculously achieved another sub 7 pace for about 30 seconds and that felt refreshing as the morning was quite chilly. I’d have layered up but by the time the 6 miles was up I was sweating and would not have wanted to carry a sweatshirt with me the whole way. After my leg, we handed off to van 2 and then headed off to the finish line to wait for all the teams to come in.

img_1523The finish line was in Lake Placid where they held the Olympics some time ago. There was still signs that they were held there as the ski jump was still up and even the spot where the Olympic flame was lit. It was probably even more beautiful than, in its Olympic glory and all. It wasn’t too shabby though and was the perfect place to have a Ragnar party!!

They had some of their sponsoring vendors there such as Nathan and Nuun. Each runner gets a meal ticket and we were blown away that there was a veg option that we didn’t have to ask for anything to be changed or taken out. I even had a coffee at the pop-up cafe and they offered me coconut milk; the world is changing folks!

While we waited for our van and the others, A team came blasting in with a time of just over 22 hours garnering them 3rd overall and 1st in their division. Who said vegans were slow and unhealthy?? From what I can tell on the prelim results the other van results are:

C = 30:31:46 (my team)
B = 31:06:38
D = 31:28:05

I loved running this race and couldn’t be happier with those that were selected to share the van w/ me. You guys are all my dear friends from here on out, thank you for the laughs (#jesusjumpedup) and thank you for the amazing memories.

teamcfullWhile I’m writing my thanks let me add to it some of the most important folks and that Joel, Laura, Dana and any other admin that helps to set all of this up. After creating and helping admin an enormous OCR team I can only imagine what you guys are doing between registration, collecting money for that, gear order, getting contributions from vendors, etc. You guys are all amazing and we do what we do because you set it all up. We couldn’t do it without you. We couldn’t spread the message of ethical veganism the way we do unless we had you standing behind us. Thank you!

I’d like to also thank all the businesses/ companies that sponsored Strong Hearts Vegan Power. Your support is amazing and the team is proud to be partners with you!

Financial Sponsors

Little Anthonys
Louisville Vegan Jerky
Our Hen House
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Vegan Outdoor Adventures

In-Kind Sponsors

GU Energy Gels
Healthy Living Market & Cafe
Health Warrior
Beanfields
Munk Pack
Louisville Vegan Jerky
Natures Bakery
The Herbivore Clothing Company
Primal Strip
Skinny Pop
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Raw Revolution

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Race Recap: 2016 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay Pt 1.

13256262_10208991995055083_2079768877071564274_nIt’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.

Like this year, 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 on 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.

IMG_0222In 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 Tofurkey 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.

IMG_0072As 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!

Last_Exchange

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.

Enjoy and talk to you in Part 2!

 

It’s the most wonderful time, of the year… Ragnar week is coming!

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.