As you can tell, by reading this post, I survived the Ragnar Relay! I avoided getting hit by any cars or eaten by coyotes, which means my wife can't cash in on my life insurance policy (Sorry Laura!). This is probably going to end up being a pretty long recap, so sorry. Let's get to it!
If you don't know anything about the Ragnar Relay series, it's a running series that spans around 200 miles at each event. It's done as a team, and most teams consist of 12 runners. They can be all male, all female, or any sort of mix; there's a ton of division that you can compete in, based on your teams' makeup. There's also teams of 6, and those are considered "ultra". Using your public school education, you can understand that the runners on the teams of 6 run twice as far! I'm only going to talk about how a team of 12 works, since that's how we rolled.
Each runner runs three times, and everyone's distances vary. I was running third in the rotation, so my legs were going to equal 21 miles. We had 2 vehicles with 6 runners in each. While van 1 was running, van 2 was off in the distance relaxing. When van 1 finished, van 2 started running and van 1 went to relax. We actually did things a bit different, and we had a 5th wheel (a big camper that attaches to the back of a truck) for our second vehicle. Technically, this was against the rules, but rules are really just suggestions, right? Anyway, it was definitely the way to go. Sleeping in a bed for the 90 minutes of sleep that I got during the race was awesome! Way better than sleeping in a van.
The race started on Friday, with teams starting all throughout the day. Each runner submitted their 10k pace, which then led to a team average, which led to a predicted finish time. The Ragnar people try to get everyone to finish within a certain time frame, so there's teams starting all day long, with the slower ones starting first. We started in the second to last group, which meant we were apparently going to be pretty fast.
|This is almost exactly what we used|
My first leg was advertised as a 7.0 mile leg, with a difficulty rating of hard. It was overall a downhill run, but was straight as an arrow and in the middle of nowhere on a 2 lane road. Pretty boring. I'm assuming that's why they labeled it as hard. The only excitement was when a semi would come driving down the road! I felt really great during the run. I locked in my pace and ended up averaging 6:58/mile during this first leg. The one thing we noticed early on was that Ragnar is really bad at letting you know when each leg is almost done. They put up "one mile to go" signs, but I'm pretty sure they just put them out randomly, without measuring the distance at all. My "one mile to go" sign came at mile 5.8 (according to my Garmin) and I ended up running 7.05 miles. So either my gps was way off, or that last mile marker was a quarter mile off! I'm going to have to trust my $300 watch. Funny thing was that this was pretty much the case on every leg. Those signs were almost never right! Regardless, I finished the run feeling really good. Once van 1 finished all of our legs, it was our turn in the 5th wheel. Time to sleep? Nope. We stayed up playing pitch. Probably not the smartest thing we could have done.
|My first leg|
My second leg (leg 15) was at 12:33 a.m. on Saturday morning. It was pitch black outside, and the only other souls I saw were the ones in my support van. Talk about lonely! From the moment I started this leg, my right IT band was killing me. I kept hoping that it would loosen up as I ran, but it didn't. I have a few different theories as to what caused this issue. First, I never did my typical warm up and stretch or cool down. Next, I was sitting in an Excursion for about 3 hours, then jumped out and started running. Another reason might be that during my first leg, I was running on a slightly slanted shoulder. Or maybe I didn't rest enough after the Goofy Challenge, or run out on the roads enough before this race. Lastly (and I know my wife will say this is garbage), I did yoga for the first time last Monday and maybe I over did a stretch or two. Either way, it hurt and I'm not too excited about walking during a race, so I just kept running. To make things worse, there was a section about a mile long that was down in a river bed/trail. During the day, that would have been fine. But at night and with a hurting IT band? Awesome. Some of it was in sand, some of it was over big river rocks. It was really a good time. After the off road experience, it was uphill for the next four miles, which also does wonders for a hurting IT band. Really. Next time your IT band hurts, go out and run uphill for four miles. You'll thank me. I was pretty glad to finally see the exchange chute after this run. I immediately began icing my knee and trying to stretch it out as best I could. I was kind of concerned because I still had my longest leg left. Leg 15 was advertised as 6.3 miles. I did 6.41 mile at an 8:37/mile pace. Pretty good for a bum knee! This time, when we got to the 5th wheel, we all fell asleep immediately.
|My second leg|
When we started our third and final rotation, we realized how beat up our runners were. We had one guy who had a bad knee before we started, and his knee was now locking up, meaning he couldn't run his third leg. We had another guy who's back was spasming after he finished his second leg. He was going to start his third leg and go as long as he could. And my leg still wasn't feeling great. The good news? After this, we were done. The guy with the bad back was before me. I decided that once he tapped out, I would just take over for him and start my 7.7 mile leg early. Well, he had to tap out with about 2.5 miles left of his leg. I took over and felt pretty good for the first 3 miles. I had been rubbing and stretching my leg for about an hour, and rubbed a ton of flexall on my knee. I was able to hold on for a total of 8.85 miles, which was a mile short of finishing my leg where I was supposed to. I felt that my pace was slowing too much and decided to let the allstar of our team take over. He was covering the leg after mine anyways, so he added a mile onto that section, making it around 5 miles. This was my longest, and slowest showing of the race. I held an 8:47/mile pace, which was disappointing for me, but was definitely happy to be done.
|My third and final leg (minus the two or so miles I added to the beginning)|
Once our van finished, there was total relief all around. Now it was time to head to the finish and wait for van 2 to finish up. We were originally a team of 12 public service people (all male), but due to some injuries and last minute cancellations, we had 2 females and one other guy who were not public safety. Because of Ragnar's stupid rules (not all of them are stupid, just ones that we didn't like. The "no campers/5th wheels" rule for example), we just replaced our runners without telling them because there is a fine for swapping runners. So don't tell them! Officially, we finished in 27:19:37, which was good enough for 3rd place out of 11 in the Public Service Men Regular division, and 39th out of 306 overall! Not too shabby.
We had a few snags along the way, and probably would have enjoyed the experience a little more if we had planned it out a little better. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time and even though we don't want to admit it now, we'd probably do it again. It was hard at times having the 5th wheel, because we had to go off course to meet up since it was against the rules. We also spent a lot of time searching through stuff in the Excursion, because it was a car full of guys and got quite messy. I'm still missing a few things in fact! I will say, though, that the goody bags were extremely lame, as well as the finish line amenities. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly we paid for...the roads weren't closed so there wasn't any police to pay for (only a couple were out at night), we only saw 4 water stations on the course, and those were manned with volunteers, and the stuff we did see at the major exchanges (the exchanges where not only runners switched off, but the vans switched) was most likely donated. I've seen better stuff at 5k's! Even still, I'm glad I did it and would consider doing it again in the future. I guess the only question now is, where do I get my Ragnar tattoo?