Well, better late that never…..
Almost a month ago I completed the Ragnar Relay. Me, 11 others, running just shy of 200 miles, non-stop. Think slumber party meets fitness. Initially we were all couples running the race together, so we were deemed “The Better Halves” but injury, work, and other life commitments had 3 of the 6 couples turn into different arrangements and pairs. Be forewarned, this is long, but I wanted to recap and remember the weekend for my own respects, so if it gets boring, feel free to just look at the pics :)
I was runner 12 of the 12, so the anticipation was a long time building. My van was van 2, and we had to wait for runners 1-6 to finish before we even saw our first runner hit the road. Needless to say, we had a little time to kill before the action started.
At a few occasions, our entire team was together briefly for a hand off of an awesome slap bracelet as van 1 ended and van 2 began. Before our van started running, we received word that one of van 1’s runners was running his leg very slowly due to some pain in his knees and it was suspected that he would not be able to run any more miles; our pace had extremely slowed past anticipated times and van 1 went into “how do we pick up his miles mode” since their van had to cover them and our van needed to gain back out time, which is just what we did.
The sun was about to set and the temps were dropping swiftly when my time to run came. I was prepared to pace out my first leg of 8 miles. My team was chatting, a team member brought out to me my ipod from the van, and we were all keeping an eye out for our runner. Suddenly, we hear, “Hey!”and there he was, our teammate Frank, and I was on the other side of the street, barely stretched, no watch on, no ipod set, no time started. I hurriedly darted across the small street to where Frank was standing, exhausted from his 5 miles, and after the snap of the bracelet on my wrist, I took off running—in the wrong direction! Everyone was clapping, laughing, and yelling, pointing me the opposite way. I jerked myself around and took off for my 8 miles.
To say I was distracted and unprepared is an understatement. Since I don’t have a GPS fancy watch, it was going to be a guessing game on distance (they only mark with a distance sign when you are 1 mile from end of your leg). I know my body though and my general pace, and when looking at my time, I would be able to average what I was pacing. Unfortunately, since I jetted out unprepared, I had not set a timer. I was just running, in a completely unfamiliar environment, in the complete dark, without a clue to how fast I was running. Since I didn’t have my ipod on, I fiddled with it trying to secure it so I could run, which resulted in it falling twice and me subsequently having to pick it up twice. My safety light in the back also fell off and bounced down the road. It was extremely frustrating. I decided to just keep running, hoping that my adrenaline from the frazzled start didn’t pace me too fast for the 8 miles and that I didn’t run the 8 so fast that I couldn’t complete the other 10 to follow before race end. With cars driving way too fast and way too close while it was way too dark, I just set my sights on the blinking light in front of me, which represented another runner, and ran for a “road kill,” which means to catch up and pass someone in front of me. On my 8th road kill pass, I figured it might pay off to ask that runner how much further we had to go. Perhaps she had a fancy watch. Turns out she did and the watch told her we had 2 more miles to log.
As the night got even darker and the people left to physically pass got fewer, I began to second guess myself, thinking I had made a wrong turn. I didn’t see any more lights ahead and mentally that stressed me. So, when I saw a white van with shoe polish on the windows getting gas, I knew they were Ragnar folks, so I yelled, “Hey Ragnar! Am I going the right way?” Turns out I was, and while looking at them and looking back at the sidewalk, I saw a big curb to run/jump over. I mismanaged my stride and ended up tripping, catching myself on my hands and not my face, fortunately, but I could tell my shin and ankle were throbbing and had taken a decent blow.
After a bit more, I hit the mile left sign and was glad to know I was almost done. Approaching the exchange point, the silence and darkness of the road turned into applause, lights, crowds, and bull horns. At this exchange, being a main exchange, my team was well prepped for my entry because they polled bib numbers about a 1/4 mile out from finish to get the next runner ready. Slap bracelet off, I learned I paced a 7:50 for the 8 miles, which made me pleased. Done with leg 1, I now had 11 more runners until leg 2.
We chilled in our van, laughed, rested, “slept” and had genuine fun. Come 1 AM though, it was my time for my 2nd leg.
This leg was severely uneventful. A few about 1/4 a mile in, I blew past a guy, and after that, I never saw another person. It was pretty creepy running in the middle of the night, not seeing a soul, not seeing any lights, having no clue where I was running, my path lit only by my tiny headlamp. I did run with my cell phone, in case I fell over or broke and ankle, but fortunately, I didn’t trip again, so no phone calls were made, although now that I think about it, I likely didn’t have cell service anyway. Again, my team knew I was close due to it being a major exchange, but with it being so late/early in the day, I took them still by surprise. I paced with leg at about a 8:00 mile for 3 and a half miles, finishing a little after 1:30 in the morning.
And for the first time in my life, I directly paid someone to let me take a shower, for that major exchange was a high school where you could pay for sleeping, eating, or bathing. My team all chose to do different things, but we all decided to drive to our next exchange and sleep in the van. Surprisingly, I grabbed a few hours of sleep, thanks
to my eye mask and ear plugs :)
At this point, everyone began hurting. Little sleep, fast paces, long miles, consistently crunched up in a van, and matters of the like, began to catch up with us. We all, however, had one final leg to run. Although they seemed to tick away slowly, my last run came closer and closer, as the weather became hotter and hotter, and my leg from tripping on my first run began to swell and bruise.
Finally, I was off for my last 6.8 miles. At start, I was pacing well, but it was surprising what a contrast my first two runs were compared to the bustling activity found in my final run. Downtown Nashville sounds like a great place to run, but when no one is paying attention to runners, the areas and turns are poorly marked, cars never stop coming from all directions, and the weather was surprisingly warm for the season, it all added up and was impacting. Following the girl in front of me, who seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, we went the wrong way. We crossed the street as the sign said, but then she and I continued straight rather than turning again and going right. Fortunately, we only ran about 1/4 a mile out of the way but when you have to run that back, you’ve added about 1/2 a mile total, and mentally I was wiped at that point.
I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, hoping soon I would see that coveted “one mile to go” sign. Finally, I rounded a corner and could hear the load speakers and cheers of the end. As the final runner, I got the privilege of running to my teammates and leading us through the final .1 of the 200 mile race and ultimately all across the finish line. My team put my medal on me, and I was glad to be done! But I never stopped my time and at that point no one even cared, just as long as we were done, so I have no clue what my pace was for leg 3. Immediately, we headed to our photo ops and cheering section.
In the end it was a great time, and Ragnar in no way compares to any other race I have ever run. The idea of multiple legs at various distances at all hours of the day is quite a challenge that is hard to prepare for without just doing it. Our team did just as we had hoped, even being down an injured runner, and we finished the race in about 30 hours. Not too shabby for 200 miles!