Well, the holidays came and went and they were great. Right after New Year's, I went down to Miami with my running group to do Ragnar Florida Keys. This is a 197-mile 12-person relay race that starts in Miami and ends in Key West. It was a blast. We had two teams of 12, so 24 Minnesotans total, doing our best to adjust to the incredible Florida humidity before and during the race. No joke, it was like sticking your head in an oven. And then going for a run with your head in that oven.
Each person runs three legs of varying distances, so there are 36 legs total. We started at 1pm on a Friday and finished on Saturday afternoon, having run continuously through the night through the Everglades and the Upper Keys.
We all met up with South Beach (partay!). I happened to be on the same flight as two guys on the team, and we were some of the first to arrive on a red eye. We started strolling around the deserted strip at 7am. Something tells me "deserted" is how I would personally best appreciate South Beach.
Just north of South Beach is Miami Beach, and this is the north end of the Art Deco district. Tons of European tourists. By 9am I was not a fan of the denim I was wearing because it was already like 80 degrees and rising. In Minnesota, one forgets about sweating in one's clothes. Yeah, I probably don't need to be wearing a tank top under this T-shirt unless I'm trying to cut weight for some sport I don't compete in....
Here is my gaggle of vanmates. (Two vans per team, you do the math.) The day after everyone arrived, we drove over to the race start, which teams had been starting from all morning in a planned staggered fashion. We got a major safety and van driving briefing--which petrified me given its threats of disqualification--and then Brenner in the red singlet started Leg 1...at which time we drove quickly and carefully to the exchange for Leg 2.
After a few legs, it became clear that driving the vans "within the rules" consisted of nothing more than not being a complete idiot. I actually ended up driving many of the legs and when I wasn't, assisted with my exceptional navigation skills. Not that I'm amazing, but I'm truly in awe of how little sense of direction some people have. Less talking, more looking. That said, a few times I did not divulge to my vanmates how turned around I was because the route we were running was like that game Labrynth that backtracks on itself as much as it makes forward progress. This is because when your finish line is on an island (Key West), the race directors need to design the course from that point backwards (because I think 197 miles is the standard distance?) and make you run all over Miami. My first leg involved running along a very sketch stretch of Miami proper lined with auto shops. I started waving to every employee and truck driver for the heck of it and they got in the spirit.
My second leg was 7.8 miles from Key Largo to Islamorada around 3am. This was after two of my vanmates ran about 15 miles through the Everglades on a dirt road IN THE DARK. No thanks. But my run was much better, starting at a Shell World souvenir shop--booyah. There were so many layers of stars in the sky that you don't see when you're in the city, and it was a spiritual, peaceful run on a path next to the main road that runs through the Keys. We all had to wear reflective vests and blinking lights, and it was fun tracking down other runners in the dark and passing them. My run training hadn't been hardcore leading up to this, so I was nervous, but I stayed relentlessly in the moment and focused on appreciating the novelty. It was over before I knew it.
We slept in the vans from about 4-10am while our team's other van did their portion and I overcame my usual inability to fall asleep in things that are not beds. We woke up in some sort of campground and frankly all I wanted to do was puke, or eat a ton of food, or SOMETHING. I'm not sure. I was just completely dazed, and it didn't help that every vehicle there was a white rental van, so after walking to the bathroom facilities in a daze, I turned around and realized I had no idea where I had walked from. It took me a little too long to find white van #523. No joke, there were 500 teams doing this thing. That's like 1000 vans, all white 15-passenger ones.
We started Day 2 of running and it again was blazing hot. Does the heat not rise right off this photo? This was on the Overseas Highway, which runs parallel to the original bridge connecting the Keys.
My third and final leg through Big Coppitt Key and a few other little keys was short (under 4 miles) but brutally hot. By far the hottest thing I've ever run. It was one big exercise in restraint because notching it up even just a bit and I would have blown up, heart rate through the roof and reduced to walking immediately. I instead continued to run super slow, drink water every minute on the minute, and still pass people all over the place. So I guess it wasn't just a northerner thing.
The finish line in Key West. Your 12th runner comes through and the rest of your team runs the last 50 yards together to the finish line. It wasn't so much a race for time as for completion, so there wasn't a huge fixation on numbers and split times. Kind of refreshing, even though I usually love that stuff.
The stinky aftermath. Lots of laundry was done at our hotel. Though as much as I wanted to launder the couch I had to sleep on for fear of bed bugs (after determining that the pull-out bed part of it was a complete no-go), it was an impossibility. I have since made it through and show no signs of having been attacked. I'm not usually squeamish, but for some reason I was fixated on how many Spring Breaks this couch had seen. ("It's cheaper when you go five to a suite!")
Much prettier than that couch was the interior of the Hemingway House. Hemingway's not exactly my favorite person, but I do love the aesthetic.
And loved the ceiling medallions. A truly beautiful home, with six-toed cats all over the place.