What is Ragnar you ask? Ragnar Relay is an overnight running relay event. You have a team of either 12 or 6 (if you are super extra crazy) people who split up into 2 vans (for the 12 person teams) and run 200ish miles from Point A to Point B over approximately 24-36 hours. Fun right?!
So last year, I found an AWESOME team from Chicago who had a spot for 1 runner on their Ragnar team. I was so excited! And then injury struck. Ah well.
This year, I put myself as “available” on the Ragnar site. I figured why not! Bryan reached out to me about 2 months before the race. .. I was thrilled! Perfect timing, as I didn’t have anything to look forward to after the Mini Marathon. We corresponded via email a few times and text message closer to the race, but other than that, I didn’t know anyone on the team with me.
Fast forward to race weekend. I took Thursday and Friday off work, as we had to drive up on Thursday, and our start time was 5AM Friday (NOT me, thank goodness). I met Bryan and most of the rest of the team at his house on the northeast side of Indy, and got in a van with 8 people I had never met before to drive 8 hrs and run 200 miles. As I’ve told this story, some people look at me with their eyes bugging out. . but really it was great. Now that I look back on it; it could have been really bad. . what if there was someone in there that I just couldn’t STAND to be stuck with for 36 hours?! The good news: It’s only 36 hours and I would have never had to see them again. The REALLY good new is that totally didn’t happen and I got to meet some really awesome people. Also . .6 dudes, 2 girls. Andrea and I got along great and I was very glad to have another girl along for the ride!
If you don’t want to read my (pretty long!) race recap, you can watch this awesome YouTube video put together by my teammate Mitch.
Winona MN is 491.5 miles from Indianapolis. That’s about 7.5 hours. . and we had to stop in Chicago and pick up another runner at Midway. We left Indy at 11AM, and arrived in Winona at right around 7:50pm. (We had an hour in our favor when going from IN to IL with time zones too). We literally made it right at the end of the safety briefing time. Also. . we may have run out of gas, and had to push the Yukon XL about a half mile to a gas station. Team building, right?
The way the race works is that you split up into 2 vans, and switch off (if you have 12ish people). If you are an Ultra team, then you have one van/SUV that runs the whole time. THIS I think would be crazy. Rest time when you are cramming so many miles into a short amount of time was much needed (at least for me).
Van 1 started at 5AM on Friday. We asked for an early start time, as our average pace was going to be around 11 min/miles so we wanted to be sure to finish in enough time to enjoy the post-race party. My van had a late start, so we had time to get breakfast at the hotel, and make it to the first major exchange with time to decorate our Yukon!
The first van came into the exchange, handed off the 80’s era day glo orange slap bracelet and Andrea was on her way!
By the time it was FINALLY my turn to run my leg, I was SO ready to go. My first leg was my longest, and hardest. It also happened that it was 98ish degrees with a heat index of 100+. It was 8 miles, and it took me FOREVER. I had taken gels and water, and there were 3 water stops on the route, but it was just SO hot. I walked a lot. . even more than my walk/run intervals. I couldn’t get my HR down at all. Even walking was putting me over my range. At the 2nd water stop, the girl was like “take some ice and put it in your bra”. I thought “duh, why didn’t I think of this!” As a nurse, we put ice packs on people’s groin/neck/armpits to cool them off, and what I needed was to get my core temp down. After the ice in the bra, taking off my shirt and throwing it to another van (for real . .I told them my team # and REALLY hoped I’d get it back as it was my very fave running shirt), I negative split the last 4 miles. Also, I drank 50ish ounces of water. I filled my bottle up twice, and it was full when I went out. And I still didn’t have to pee when I got done.
We ran our legs, and finished up around 630pm. We had reserved a hotel for the middle of the race to share between the 2 vans, about halfway between the 2 major exchanges that were happening at night/early AM. Best. Thing. Ever. Shower, an actual bed to sleep for a couple hours, and peaceful downtime. I didn’t realize how really great this was until I saw lots of people asleep at the early AM exchange on the tennis courts, football field, grass (chiggers, people, CHIGGERS!!) at the local high school. This was probably the best extra $ spent all weekend, I would highly recommend this!
My 2nd leg was in the middle of the night. It was a nice 5 miles of city running. It was still VERY humid, but much cooler. My pace was almost 2 min faster per mile. Some of my teammates had great country road running which somehow I missed out on. HOWEVER they also had climbs of 500+ feet vertical gain, so I’m not sad I missed that(see #1 below). The night runs required headlamp, reflective vest and blinky tail light. Lots of blinking lights to follow, so that made it easier to make sure we were going the right way!
My 3rd leg was almost all downhill, and crossed and followed the Mississippi River. GREAT views. As I was coming up on the river, a bald eagle came from the left, crossed over in front of me and went down towards the water. Beautiful.
When you come in to the finish, the team all gets to join your runner and cross together!! Super fun. Also, one free beer, and it was Sierra Nevada. I chose the Oktoberfest, and it was excellent.
Ragnar is quite the experience. Once again, I have learned that I’m much more capable than I believed myself to be in the beginning. I ended up running almost 20 miles over the course of the 36 hours! It made me realize that a full marathon isn’t that far out of reach (did I just say that OUT LOUD?!). I would totally do this again. It was fun to do with people I’d never met before, and I can guarantee it would be a BLAST if you did it with people you knew (just make sure you are fine with being in VERY close quarters with them for 36+hrs!!). I was the navigator for most of the time (sort of default when you’re the one who needs to sit in the front or be carsick) and I LOVED it. My Dad would be proud of my map and direction abilities!
Some things we didn’t anticipate:
- Lots of hills (and a couple of named mountains!! I had no idea that MN/WI was SO HILLY.
- Small town=not as many places to stop and get ice/snacks as you’d think. It was better the 2nd half of the race (and I LOVED running thru the country!!) but we had a moment where we were worried we’d run out of water before we could fill up the cooler.
- The heat. Wisconsin had 3 days of 90+ degree weather so far for 2015. 2 of those days, we were running in. Heat indexes were over 100 most of the mid-day running hours.
Otherwise the whole experience was awesome. Would you do a relay race with people you’d never met before?