7:30 AM: Crandon Park – Key Biscayne, FL
I’m sitting on a patch of concrete next to a picnic table underneath a small tiki hut stretching my legs. To my right, the orange glow of the sun is peaking over the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Birds glide gracefully over the turquoise water. The scene is one of tranquility and peace. It sharply contrasts the scene to my left.
There, a giant orange archway spans a concrete pathway through the park. A crowd of people gathers around a giant watch and a man with a microphone sends 20 runners through the archway on a journey that will take them 190 miles to Key West.
I watch the events nervously and I breathe deeply, trying to let go of the frantic events of the previous few days. There were last minute lodging changes, vans to rent, schedules to coordinate, butt lights to acquire and long drives. I remind myself that everything has gone according to plan. The team is together. We’ve arrived at the start. We’ve completed our safety briefing. I’ve got #142 pinned to my chest and a bright yellow slap bracelet on my left wrist. I’m runner #1 for “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Run” and it’s almost time to start the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay.
8:00 AM: Crandon Park – Key Biscayne, FL
The starting horn goes off and I surge forward with the rest of the crowd. Britt, Tim, Sara, Pat, Colette, Taryn and Peter(driver) cheer loudly for me as I zip down the path. These are my teammates in van #2. They won’t start for another few hours. My own vanmates: Lindsay, Hunter, Daphne, Jim, Danna and Raffi (driver) have already begun their own race back to the van. Leg #1 is a 3 mile jaunt along the beach to the Miami Seaquarium and I’m not going slowly.
A small pack of three runners forms at the front of the race. There’s me, a skinny guy in a red shirt and a high school kid whose pants are falling down. I figure the high school kid will go out fast and fade so I just tuck in behind him looking at his attractive Hanes underwear waistband hanging several inches over his shorts.
Red shirt guy starts up a conversation. We briefly discuss last year’s central Florida relay, but high school kid starts to put a gap on us. Red shirt guy gives me a look and then darts forward with a pretty slick acceleration. He passes high school kid and disappears around a curve.
I’m not feeling as spry as I’d like to, but I’m still maintaining a decent pace even though the course goes through some deep sand and twists and turns around a shaded pathway. Eventually, we cross the street and head across a bridge to the Seaquarium. I finish in 19:47, just a few seconds behind high school kid. The bracelet goes to Daphne and I try not to puke. Leg 1 completed.
8:40 AM: Miami Expo Center – Miami, FL
I’m changing out of my running outfit into some comfortable clothes for the van. I can’t find my new Sugoi compression socks. Really?!?! I asked for these for Christmas specifically so I’d have them for this relay. Crap. I sulk briefly while consuming my Snickers marathon recovery bar.
Daphne hands off to Danna.
9:45 AM: Matheson Hammock Park – Miami, FL
Lindsay has changed into her running gear and now resembles the pictures on her blog. We’ve just wound our way through lovely Coral Gables, FL. Having briefly been lost, we somehow kept driving straight and ended up in the right place. On a tree lined street, Danna makes her way to the exchange and hands off to Lindsay.
10:10 AM: Old Cutler Presbyterian Church – Palmetto Bay, FL
We exit the van to see a man in full pirate gear charging up the sidewalk with a sword in each hand.
“Ahoy exchange 4,” he yells, “Prepare to be boarded!”. He is running against us and he is presumably beating us – though it’s hard to tell with the staggered starts. The crowd cheers him home and he hands off to the next pirate.
Soon after, Lindsay arrives and hands off to Hunter.
11:00 AM: The corner of Ingraham Highway and SW 87th Ave – Miami, FL
Not all exchanges in the Ragnar Relay take place at an “official” location. This one is on the street corner and it gives us the opportunity to use our orange safety flags. This year, Ragnar requires all teams to use orange safety flags when crossing streets. I figure we may as well have some fun with it. I grab the flags and perform a little rhythmic gymnastics number. It gets rave reviews from Daphne and I lead the team across the street with much gusto, earning myself the nickname, “Safety Guy”.
I guide Hunter in for a landing with my bright orange flags. She hands off to Jim.
11:30 AM: Gould’s Park – Miami, FL
We somehow manage to find a parking spot in the extremely crowded parking lot at exchange #6 – the first major exchange. Everyone gets out of the van happy with our first set of legs and ready for a good hearty meal. We fan out in search of our van #2 teammates and find them scattered throughout the park.
Peter, Sara and Irish Pat wait near the exchange point on a running track. Pat has his number pinned on and he’s ready to go. In the parking, we can see the vans of “11 women running wild and1 lucky guy”. They’ve become our nemesis for no other reason than that they are always nearby and they are easily recognizable by the cheetah print skirts they run in.
After some confusion following an announcement that team #42 has arrived, we hear an announcement that team #142 (that’s us) is approaching the exchange. I jog up the straightaway of the track and see a “cheetah girl” round the fence onto the track. Ten seconds later, Jim does the same. I yell at Jim to catch the Cheetah girl and he makes up some ground, but she beats him to the exchange. Jim hands off the Irish Pat who immediately passes the next Cheetah girl in line.
We take a few pictures with the folks in van #2, then head off to IHOP. Our van, at least, is one third of the way finished.