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For Part One, Click Here.

For Part Two, Click Here.

With Jason off on his final leg, we got back in the van and headed to exchange 31. It was still early, not too hot yet, and we were feeling somewhat refreshed. As we came close to Exchange 31, we could see the “Moores Lane Hill” that would be on David’s route. Since David called the Brentwood area home for many years, I don’t think he was surprised to see it, but I was. I had no idea I’d given him such a monster. Oh well, we train big hills in our own neighborhood, and I checked with him—he still loves me. 😉 As we waited for Jason to pull in, we hit up the porta-potties. I tell you this only because yes, there may be a time you need your own toilet paper because they’re all out. For us, in Tennessee, that time came around Exchange 30. Be prepared. I walked down past the exchange to get more video of runner coming in and had a nice conversation with one of the Master Blasters team members and his volunteer girlfriend.

Then David took off and up that hill—it appears to be a 300 foot gain in about .75 miles, with some additional up-down-up-down action thrown in for good measure. We pulled off at the bottom of the hill to offer up some pumpkin bread, pita chips, or water, but he was doing great. We stopped again a ways up and he took some water. It was starting to get a little warm but he still looked strong.

I took some time at the next exchange to get ready—changed my shirt into the Finisher’s shirt which is what we’d decided to wear across the finish line. Changed my shoes into my spare pair since my others were annoying me at the end of my 2nd leg. KT-taped my knees since they’ve been whining lately. In doing all that, I missed David coming in and Aron taking off. Aron had a long—nearly nine-mile– leg, so we wanted to support him along the way. Back into the van we climbed.

Y’all, this is where this course goes form ridiculously hilly to ridiculously gorgeous. We were getting close to Belle Meade, and this area was so green and spacious with so many mansions. There’s gotta be some country music money going on in these parts. I kept saying, “Look! There’s Taylor Swift’s house! Hey Tay-Tay!” But she never did come out with her cowbell to cheer anyone on…

This was a tough leg. It’s hard when your third leg is your longest, and it was hot. The runners were actually on a fine-gravel road and Aron’s nose eventually started bleeding from it. He was struggling and while I think he appreciated our cheering, he never took anything by way of support. He just powered on through and handed off to Katie at the end of a hard-fought 9-miler.

Katie was in Belle Meade proper, and with the houses, the wide roads, and the gorgeous fall foliage, there couldn’t have been a prettier spot along the entire course. I think it made up for her hard first leg. When we saw her at the 4-mile mark she said, “You guys! This is RIDICULOUS!!!” and ran happily on. When she got done she declared it her ‘favorite run ever,” and she’s been running for well over two decades. GO RAGNAR!

Brian headed out on  his 4-miler and we hopped-to to get me to Exchange 35. We were coming into Nashville and traffic was heavier. We got there, found the (hidden-up-on-a-hill) bathrooms, and I got ready. I did get a compliment on my hair walking toward the exchange, which is not too shabby for nearing the end of a Ragnar. Thanks, girls!

I hadn’t spent much time looking at the map of this leg; I knew it had lots of turns but I wasn’t too concerned. At the last minute, though, I ripped the map itself (not the turn-by-turn) off the page, folded it in half, and used my bib safety pin to attach it to my bib. This was a brilliant last minute move, if I do say so myself, and I recommend it for any Ragnar runner. It worked, it didn’t annoy me, and it was easy to look down and reference when I got nervous about the route.

The exchange chute was tight and cramped but I was shooting this last leg with a hand-held GoPro and managed to find a good line of sight down the sidewalk for when Brian came in. He slapped the bracelet on my wrist one last time and I headed toward the finish line.

I hadn’t thought a whole lot about this last leg—I was tired and had been on auto-pilot for most of the race. But as I took off, I thought about the fact that the rest of the team would be at the finish line ready and waiting on me to complete this thing, and I got a little emotional. They were such a strong team, such a dedicated team, such a fun and funny team, and such a good team–and so good to me, too! I’m grateful to them, and so thankful on so many levels that we hadn’t had any real problems, any real doubt of making it to the finish line, because I’m sure if that had been the case, I’d have been a mess. To distract myself, I turned to navigating the course.

Almost immediately, I was on Music Row. I know this road well, as it’s part of the Country Music ½ Marathon Course. It’s one of the reasons I was excited to run this leg, to run in the city that was the site of my first ½-marathon. But I hadn’t realized I’d be running on THE course. So I let my mind drift a bit to those memories. I did see a TV crew taping something on the course—possibly a video? It involved three look-alike blonde hotties. Oh, Nashville. You so crazy. I saw a lot of signs for a race happening the next day—a half that apparently a bunch of my friends from high school in Kentucky ended up running. I ran the dreaded mile 12 hill that I hated from the CMM half (at this point it’s a breeze; oh how I love random markers of fitness gains). I went through the industrial/interstate part of that course that I hate. At the water stop I briefly got some video of the volunteers helping out, as I think Ragnar wants to see that in the team video.

Then I was in the area near the Capitol! And then seeing more signs of life! And then the buildings were really tall! Oh look, there’s Printers Alley! Then there were people– people everywhere, going into and spilling out of restaurants, and bars, and horse-drawn carriages. I tried to take it in, but I also sped up, darting in and out of people, and hollering “Thank you!” to the volunteers helping me navigate the crowd.

As I got closer and closer to the finish, I still had no idea what to expect. I knew the leg was long enough that they had time to get there. But where? I saw people cheering and pointing me around the final turn, where it looked like a scene out of The Amazing Race. I was on a long expanse of park sidewalk lined with people, including the rest of my team, screaming their heads off. My smile must’ve stretched all the way to the riverfront at this point. It was…it was just really awesome.

I gestured at them to join me, and said, “Come on, come on!!!” but Cris looked at me and said “No, YOU lead.” Which was a great sentiment, but since I hadn’t seen the finish line for all the team-hunting I’d been doing, possibly not such a good idea. Heh. Then I looked up, saw the bright orange blow-up Ragnar finish line just ahead, and ran. The police held traffic for us going across the street, I could hear the band playing, and there were more crowds cheering as we ran across the line.

And then… we were done. Cris threw her arms around me for a long hug. There were high fives. We got our medals. We were Ragnarians, Tennessee-style. We were also tired, hungry, and ready to get home. It was time to hit the road back to Atlanta. Our work here… was done.

Hands up, Ragnarians!

Tomorrow: Thoughts on Captaining a Ragnar Team.