“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.” ~Tim Cahill
I hope you’re not tired of hearing about Ragnar Relay, because I’m not tired of talking/writing about it! I’ve shared Scott Spitz’s compelling account of the event, and I’ve also shared my own. Some of the other teammates have great things to say about their experiences as well. Their words are so touching I want to share them with everyone!
“One of my most memorable moments from the race was Joel, Scott, and Jared’s heartfelt and emotional speeches at the end in the parking lot. I’m a sucker for raw emotion and there was a big outpouring then.
Other moments included our van’s shared horror at hearing tag 185 called and
having JUST seen Mario but not knowing where he was as Scott was coming in; Mike and Alan’s ‘bad slap’/headbutt at their 1st exchange (see picture with Alan’s account below); the feeling of exhilaration running down other teams in my second and by far most populated leg.
Just watching Alan run was great; out of everyone else on our team, and possibly anyone I’ve ever seen, the sheer joy of running is practically blasting out of every pore of his body. I never once felt like he was pushing thru anything, not to say he wasn’t running at capacity, but the grim determination of many athletes was instead filled with what I can only describe as what a rambunctious puppy might be feeling as it struggles to obey a ‘sit’ request when every fiber of its being wants to rocket across a field in pursuit
of a squirrel.
Speaking of rocketing; van 1 also had a moment when, I think Mario, was passing
around his phone showing us a short video of Joel Capolongo slapping the relay
bracelet on a certain diminutive member of our team and the subsequent Road
Runneresque departure. That might have been the point that cemented our
faith in our team as a force to be reckoned with.
I was pretty grateful when after being passed by my own van without even a honk
(Van 1 was decidedly tough love/hard cases), van 2 giving me a slug of coconut
water to calm the Nuun tablet that was frothing in my stomach and taking my
longsleeve compression shirt I had been methodically removing while trying to
A point of contention about the tablet debacle: I do know how they work, but I
had been woken up from a fairly restless nap and told I had roughly 20 minutes
until I was running my last leg. The only thing with caffeine I was aware
of in the van was the Kona cola tablets I had bought earlier and my water
bottle was full of Laura’s beet juice. Rather than dump it out and refill, or make a almost certainly ghastly bottle of beet cola, I went for the direct route. I chose poorly!”
“The highlights of the trip for me were many. Super hard to pick just one, but sticking with my Scott-love theme, watching him hobbled and blistered and battered between runs, only to bounce back and crush each of his legs was nothing short of amazing. I was so happy for him and so happy for all of us who were able to witness such an incredible feat. Prior to his second leg we were talking about Scott’s treatments and he rattled off the specific chemo drugs that he had endured just the week before. I was all too familiar with the drugs that he rattled off – my mother was on those same drugs two years ago battling ovarian cancer and I witnessed the effects of those drugs on a woman who was an avid tennis player and athlete in her own right. What Scott did could have easily been lost on all of us because he is who he is and he never complained and just kept on crushing. It could have been easy to forget what he was dealing with both mentally and physically because he was so damn awesome. Clearly it was not lost on any of us. Watching Laura Ryan complete her very difficult third leg was strong proof of that. I am sure she battled through her knee injury thinking about Scott’s battle. I have witnessed many courageous runners battle through substantial adversity, illness and or pain, but nothing can compare to what we were all so lucky to witness and be a part of. Life changing shit!”
In case you missed his account the first time, the second time, or you just need some inspiration to get off the couch today – here it is again: Adirondacks Ragnar Relay 2013 Experience Recap
“I went into the Ragnar relay with no idea what to expect and everything about it was awesome. Representing veganism with a bunch of other awesome athletes was an incredible experience. So much of the media especially in the athletic realm paints veganism as a diet or trend but our group definitely stuck to the animal rights foundations of veganism and this was a super fun opportunity to share that with other athletes. I expected Ragnar to be a bit of a novelty, but behind all the costumes and light-heartedness this was still a race and we brought our A game. I don’t have a lot of running experience and zero relay experience leading up to Ragnar, so my only strategy was go out hard, hold on as long as I could, and hope I recovered in time for
the next leg to do the same. I don’t know if it was the best strategy to push myself until I was dizzy and had to lay down to catch my breath every single time out, but it was a lot of fun and we all killed our legs and crushed the Adirondacks like it was our job. By the last leg I was pretty exhausted but despite some mountain climbs I had a negative elevation profile, fresh coffee, and the sun coming up over the mountains to keep me going. There was a certain sick irony to taking a trip with a friend battling cancer
to run a race with a team named “Strong Hearts” when my partner/best friend/race crew has a damaged heart from the effects of chemotherapy. Any thought of walking the steep sections or settling into a more comfortable pace on the downhills just made me think of how insignificant the discomfort of tired quads from doing something I love was compared to life’s bigger struggles. The entire weekend was a crazy mix of seriousness and silliness that somehow balanced itself out.”
“When assembling the team initially, the goal was to simply find enough other vegan runners who wanted to do this. That’s was pretty much it. Get 12 vegan runners together and give it a go. As the team came together piece by piece and estimated pace times were calculated, it became very clear very quickly, that we had a chance to do very well in this event. Once we had all 12 members locked in, the goal changed from simply finishing the race to kicking some serious ass in it. No one disappointed. In fact, I think everyone bested their pace estimates and as a team we bested our per mile pace estimate by 4 seconds per mile over the course of the entire 196.2 miles. Everyone gave 100% and it showed in the times people were posting throughout each leg of the race.
For me personally, I wanted to do my best not only for myself, but for my team. Having support from my van members along my first leg which was a 9.4 mile leg, was absolutely critical for me. I had only run this distance 3 times prior to this event in my entire life. I went out way too fast and I knew it but I also knew I was going to blast it as hard as I could and worry about getting tired later. Once I started picking off runners one by one, my confidence grew and I just ran harder. Having my teammates cheer me along throughout the leg and offering me water several times was a huge boost for me. I wanted to appear strong not only for them but for the other runners who were around us. I was wearing a Strong Hearts VEGAN POWER shirt and I was going to be damned if I wasn’t going to appear as strong, fast and powerful as I could. I was not only running for myself and my team, but to represent vegan athletes everywhere who are often mocked and chastised for training solely based on plant power while eschewing animal proteins.
I was also running hard because my teammates Scott Spitz and Jared Avigliano had been huge supporters and inspirations for me while I was just beginning to get in to running and while I trained for this race. A few days after Scott came out of his surgery to remove cancerous tumors from his abdomen, he posted a picture on Instagram of himself in his hospital robe hanging on to his IV pole with his father close behind while he mustered up the strength to walk 13.1 laps around the floor of the hospital. He was walking in solidarity with some of his friends who were running a half marathon in Indianapolis that day. That picture has stayed in mind and I think about it on every run when I am winded, my legs hurt and just want to stop. It is impossible to count how many miles that photograph has made me run but it’s suffice to say that it’s been A LOT. Scott has been a constant inspiration for me and has gotten me in to the streets for a run many, many times when I just wanted to stay in bed in the morning and play on my phone. It’s impossible to measure how important he has been to me in this regard and I owed it to him to give this 9.4 miles and the next 2 legs I had to run every ounce of energy I had. Jared has also been a huge motivator for me and did a fantastic job at holding me accountable throughout my time training for this race and others we have run this year. He pushed me out the door for a run as many times as Scott has and his contributions to my running can also not be overstated.
I was making good time and I had passed 6 people without being passed when I passed the “One Mile To Go” sign. I knew my team was up ahead waiting for me to come rolling in at the exchange. I knew I was about to hand off the slap bracelet to Laura K., an elite runner who would be running in the 6 minute per mile range. I also knew, due to researching the legs I had to run before the race even began, that the exchange I was running towards was taking place on an active dairy farm. Even though there were no more runners between me and the exchange point that was now within sight, I was going to be goddamned if I didn’t run as fast I could the last 1/4 mile or so, so that’s exactly what I did. I had to come in fast. I had to for my team, and to represent veganism in a way that made the other teams realize we were for real and weren’t the kind of vegans who you could fuck with. When all was said and done and my first leg was complete, I had run the distance over 15 seconds per mile faster than I had generously predicted I would be able to. That was huge for me. I ran a race this distance 5 months earlier and did it 22 MINUTES SLOWER than what I did this run in. I had improved tremendously and I was overwhelmingly happy with my time and being able to push it as hard as I did.
My next legs were short ones, 2.4 and 2.2 miles respectively. My second leg was run around midnight that night and without the benefit of even so much as a nap. Didn’t matter. The first mile of my second leg was the fastest mile I’ve ever recorded myself running coming in at 7:14. I ended that 2.4 mile leg with a pace of 8:10 per mile which ironically would end up being the pace for our entire team during the entire race. My third and final leg was run in the sunrise hours of the next day after our van was able to stop and catch some catnaps at the last major exchange. Without any plausible explanation, this was my fastest leg of the race coming in at a 8:01 pace. Somehow, someway, the more tired I got and less sleep I had, the faster I ran. Maybe it was the exhilaration of knowing that once this leg was done, I didn’t have to run any more or maybe it was because I was trying to get one final “kill” on another runner who only came in to view ahead of me about a mile from the finish line, but I finished as strong as I was physically able to. I left everything I had on the streets of the small Adirondack town of Ausable Forks, NY that morning and I can hold my head high knowing there was nothing left in my tank at the end.
I’ve done a lot of just absolutely crazy awesome shit in my lifetime that would melt your mind if you knew about it, but this is right up there with the things I am most proud of. The way this team supported each other and represented veganism is something I will always be proud to say I was a part of. The camaraderie and overall spirit of cooperation and support was just incredible. The way our team ran with such a real sense of purpose was undeniably strong and seemed to electrify the air around us at all times. While it was mostly serious business when we were running, we also had plenty of time to laugh and goof off with each other when we were driving from point to point. This was a really FUN time! While I am incredibly excited that we placed 25th out of the 215 teams that entered the competition, I am equally as excited to keep the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team spirit alive by continuing to plan future team running events and drawing even more committed people in to the fold. We have an incredibly strong foundation from which to build upon now and knowing that this race is going to be the start of something huge is just as exciting for me. Until next time… Strong Hearts to the Front!”
“The friendships made or strengthened in the 26 hours that we all spent crammed in a van was epic. This race was by far the most fun I have had in years. I flew home Sunday knowing that we represented veganism like champs. We ran as rebels, we ran as rouges, but ran as sworn brothers.”
“It goes without saying that the whole race was an incredible experience. Leading up to it I was excited for sure, but I had no idea the emotional whirlwind I was embarking on. I have been in withdrawal all week and am so pumped on running!
The funniest thing that happened was when Jonny was running his first leg. We had just talked about that creepy old guy with all boarded up windows and how he was high-fiving all of the female runners. Then Jonny comes around the corner and just starts yelling at the guy to come run with him. Somehow Jonny knew we thought the guy was a creep and ended up calling him a terrorist. Team unity.
The most emotional part for me was preparing for my third leg. I was talking with everyone trying to figure out what to do about my knee. I KNEW I had to run but I didn’t think I was physically able to. During that run I was holding back tears both from the pain and the overwhelming support of my team to push me to the finish. I couldn’t have done it without all of you, but especially Alan.
I’m so excited about all the great new friends I have and the future of our running careers!”
“This past weekend was the best weekend and I have shared with others in my entire life. I never thought that getting together with twelve other vegans would make such an impact on my life, but it did more than I can put into words. We each have a story that brought us to the points in our life that we are at now and it was so incredible sharing those stories amongst each other. It was also amazing how interested others were about our mission and how word got around about our team so quickly.
Van 2 has so many hilarious stories it’s hard to choose just one, but I think my favorite is when Johnny was running his first leg and passed that creepy old guy and called him a terrorist because he wouldn’t run alongside him.
On a real note though, the best part of the weekend was the end of the race when we all got together and presented a few awards. I was trying to hide it behind my sunglasses as best as I could, but what Joel and Scott had to say brought me to tears. Especially when Joel was talking about how he was able to do this because of people like Scott and Jared pushing him. I realized then how all of this inspiration is a chain reaction. The way Joel feels that Scott and Jared inspired him is how I feel that he inspired me. After Iron Girl I was going to be done with running because I hated it, but Joel pushed me to do other races and to do Ragnar and I can’t imagine my life without running now. We all inspire each other in some way and it is such a beautiful thing. I can’t wait until the next Strong Hearts Vegan Power event!”
“The week leading up to the Ragnar was super intense – I wasn’t really sleeping, my
insides were filled with butterflies and the more I tried to fight it, to restrict it, to let a normal state takeover the worse it got. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of an approaching long term goal, anxiety about all the moving pieces that needed to come together or what, but it was intense. I got
nervous about not being rested for the race, I got nervous about getting sick, I got nervous about a van breaking down. I was hoping once we got on the road it would calm down, that wasn’t the case though. It just got worse. Then I started getting scared that I would bonk hard during the race. Sure
enough once my first leg got underway the intensity dropped off and I realized
I needed to dig deep to get through my first leg. The first half of the of the leg was on a desolate strip, no team to cheer and hardly any blinking lights to chase down. Just past the halfway part my team was waiting for me and screaming like crazy, JUST WHAT I NEEDED! At that moment I realized I wasn’t alone and things were much bigger than what was going on in my head. I realized I was running on a team filled with ethics, thoughtfulness, and compassion, things I’m always searching and striving for. From that point on I calmed down and a huge sense of relief took over and I knew the weekend was going to be just fine. Not in some fairytale way, but rather in a much more tangible way. I knew no matter what, I was running with the most badass group imaginable and not one of them would let an obstacle stand in their way let alone a fellow teammates
way. From that point on I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the weekend.
Whether it was J Hero’s constant jokes, Beccas’s baked goods, or Laura Ryan’s
determination, every part was truly enjoyable.”