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Click here to read about Leg 1.

So, where were we? Ah yes, in the hills of Middle Tennessee, in the dark. I had just finished a 2nd leg, after pinch-hitting for my husband, who had been delayed by work. He showed up within minutes of my arrival at Exchange 12, and we dropped his car nearby and ferried him away in search of food.

Now, I grew up in a rural area. Yet I always forget how short on restaurants rural areas are. We were in my great-aunt and uncle’s town of Tullahoma, and there was…not much choice. After much, much hemming and hawing, we wound up at Wendy’s. WENDY’S, Y’ALL. Barf-o-rama. I haven’t eaten at a Wendy’s in years—literally, years.I only went along with this because a) we were desperate and b) David was going to have to make up for a missed leg to make his three legs and become a Ragnarian—so I wasn’t running again till the next afternoon. I had a fairly innocuous baked potato and junior cheeseburger. And ended up with no ill side effects—hurrah.

This next bit is the blurriest of the trip for me. It was about 9:30 at night and I had been up for a while, with miles to go before, you know. But I’ll do my best to patch it together. Next stop was Exchange 18-Moore County High School.  The next legs for Van 1 were short, and there wasn’t a ton of time. We arrived and the sleepers went inside to sleep. I texted with Van 1 to check on them, then looked at all the info on the next legs so I would be fresh on what to expect for the other runners and for myself. David started moving video files around, and at some point I did get to sleep in the van for about 30 minutes. Then it was time to pay $1 to go to the bathroom inside, and to go in the gym and kick the sleepers (not really) to wake them up.

Sleepers Gon’ Sleep. Katie hates me for taking this, even though she’s completely hidden by her blankie.

It was time for coffee. We had power inverters so we could have electric in the vans, and so we brought coffee makers. I got Katie’s machine all set up and started pouring water in it when… it went everywhere. Coffee fail. Somehow the back of the machine had come apart from the rest of it and it… well, it ended up in a trash can at Moore County High School. And so began the all-night hunt for coffee in Middle Tennessee.

With leg 18 being just 1.6 miles, Van 1 arrived just a couple of minutes before Lori came thundering into the exchange. J-Ran took off and we caught up with Van 1 for just a few minutes before heading off in search of the next exchange and… coffee.

Nighttime exchange. Lori to J-Ran.

This was the point where I started to feel better about the road-running situation. When you’re out there running it can feel very solitary. But out on the road, there are so many cones, so many headlamps, so many blinky lights, just one after another after another in a line—this is not a sight that is easy to miss! Of course, none of us are truly safe when we are out on the road, but it felt better to get a real perspective on what drivers were seeing.

Jason was running in an area that I guess was not too hip to having us there, so we were instructed not to cheer for runners, and certainly not to honk or rattle the cowbell. We spotted Jason and—we have this on video– I pulled up next to him and whisper-hissed, “Good job Jason! You’re doing great! Oh wait, you’re not Jason.” Cue foot on the gas, and off we zoomed in embarrassment. Oh well.  Good job, random runner that had been Jason roadkill!

At the next exchange David took off for his 3-mile route. He came in fast and nearly puked. (Cough, cough WENDY’S). Aron took off and didn’t lose any blinky lights this time! Huzzah. Yet still, no coffee. Nary a McDonald’s to be had. During Katie’s leg we were close, but didn’t know if it was a 24-hour deal and didn’t want to leaving her alone at the exchange.  Coffee or no, Katie was clearly enjoying her 2nd leg, running through Shelbyville. The Katie Running Smile. It’s a good thing. She handed off to Brian and he took off on his leg.

Still, no coffee.

David ran his second leg, leg 24. No puking this time.

And still, no coffee.

We went to Exchange 24, at the well-appointed Community High School. There were promises that there be coffee here!

Aaaaaaaand… they were out.

While we were feeling the tired, Van 1 was hyped up, bundled up and waiting for David to come in. Jan had donned a Snuggie and looked toasty as she waited. (Sidenote: Ragnar needs to sell branded Snuggies. They’d make a killing.) We took advantage of the photo opp, and after a false alarm that our runner was coming in, and some more waiting, David came around the corner. Jan ripped off her Snuggie, pro-wrestling style, and the rest of Van 1 off to complete their final legs.

We couldn’t head to Exchange 30 yet, so we decided to stay at 24 until about an hour before Van 1 would be ready to hand off again. We went back in to the (coffee-less) high school and ate and/or paid $1 to shower. If you’ve ever wanted to experience a humble-yet-incredible shower, run a Ragnar. You’ll appreciate basic cleanliness more than you thought possible. The sleepers went into the gym to sleep, and I headed to the van. I did the Check-on-Van-1, alert the sleepers to our ETD, and plan the rest-of-the-route thing, then dozed off for another 30-minute sleep. When I woke, it was first light and I was staring at a baby cow in the field just beyond our dashboard. Baby cows! Sunrise! Fog! This is why we Ragnar.

Good Mooooooooorning!

I went in and found the sleepers already packing up. We headed out. Still coffee-less, but I had a good feeling about our chances of finding caffeine as we got out of the hills and closer to Nashville. This patience would be greatly rewarded later. We were making good time, and were starting to get texts about Van 1’s runners struggling. That’s never good, but they told me Lori had jumped out to pace Elise a bit. No serious struggling, from the sound of it, so I was relieved. And it was the 3rd leg—that’s normal. Also normal—teamwork! They were taking good care of each other—our Van 1 pretty much ruled.

We, however, had extra time. Extra time to hunt for coffee. We were headed to Cool Springs, and no longer would a simple, humble McDonald’s do. No we needed the big guns. It was Starbucks I was after, and I had truly lofty goals: Cool Springs is a relatively chi-chi area and I was hoping to find a Starby’s with a Clover machine. We headed for one right near the mall and right near Exchange 30 and two great things happened. The first, was the sighting of the Beards’ van in the parking lot—Unattended! Yes! I hopped out and started writing in girly cursive on the side. Since the team’s name is Fellowship of the Beards, I wrote “One Beard to Rule Them All?” across the side of the van, and then lots and lots of girly flowers, hearts, and “Call Me Maybe?” on the windows. Yesssssss. At 7 AM on Ragnar Friturday, it’s the little things, I tell ya. I walked in to the store and said to The Beards, “Hello, boys.”  They went out to check my work, but I think they were charmed by the Lord of the Rings reference and paid us back by simply putting the hashtag ‘Beards’ on the front dash of our van. Coulda been worse.

The Girly-fied Beard Van.

It was time… for coffee. The Clover was well worth the wait. Dark, strong, and smooth. I was ready to get this thing over with—we all were. We were on track to finish strong, and way sooner than our Chicago team, which, like all Chicago teams, was majorly delayed by the oppressive June heat. This Ragnar was feeling as much like a breeze as a Ragnar can—it was strange to be about to start our last legs this soon after sunrise.

Finally. Coffee.

We headed to Exchange 30, which was in a private office parking lot for Healthways, a Ragnar TN sponsor. We still had some time to kill, so we cleaned out the van a bit. Then Katie and I had a foam rolling party on a spot of grass, and enjoyed our coffee and the painful awesomeness of the foam roller. Ahhhhhhhh…

Heyyyyyyy! It’s a foam rolling partaaaaaaaaay!

Have I told you yet that Aron spent a brief period of time in a boy band? He had let that slip and let’s just say… we’re still having fun with that tidbit of information. A lady at Exchange 30 was watching him dance and commented that he had ‘moves.’ Little do you know, lady.

Aron’s portrait on the van got some added… fans.

Soon enough I got the text that Lori was on her way. Jason was ready, and David and I grabbed the GoPros to get video of the exchange. I caught Lori as she rounded the corner and told her I was following her, but that girl sprinted into the exchange so fast that I couldn’t keep pace with her and shoot at the same time. That girl can run!

Just like that, Van 1 had survived, and Van 2 was ready to rip it up on our last legs. We watched Jason go, directed Van 2 to the Starbucks, and left to complete our adventure. We were caffeinated, we were feeling good, and we were closing in on Nashville.