Welcome to Friday Fitness: Ragnar edition! A few months ago my friend, Katie asked me if I would be interested in driving up to Chicago to run with her team. I thought for a moment and decided to just go for it. If you’re not familiar Ragnar is a relay race made up of 12 runners covering 200-ish miles in less than 2 days. You run day and night. This wasn’t my first relay, but definitely the longest!
I drove up to Chicago on Wednesday and helped pick up our vans from the rental company (which took forever!!). Then we ran back home, threw our stuff in the van and headed to our meet up point to pick up the rest of the team. Once everyone was loaded (6 people to a van) we hit the road and headed towards Madison, WI. We stopped along the way and had a delicious dinner (and were super disappointed we couldn’t take the leftovers with us). We finally arrived at our hotel and crashed pretty quickly.
Our team had an 8 am start time. Van 1 headed to the start line early and van 2 (my van) arrived around 7:30. We chatted, finished decorating the van (including strapping an inflatable flamingo, who we named Maggie, on top) and saw our first runner off. Van 1 headed to the next exchange and van 2 headed back to the hotel to eat and pack up.
We arrived at major exchange 6, went through our safety training, picked up our bibs and shirts and checked out the vendors and the merchandise tent. There was a BBQ food truck there that smell so good, but I was runner #7, which meant I was the first runner of our van so I couldn’t eat. *sad face*
My first leg was 7.5 miles and was rated “very hard.” It started off (at 12:48 pm) on some surface roads and toward a trail, which was gravel and a little annoying to run on. Luckily there was a good bit of shade, but the heat and humidity was rising. I stopped to take pictures of flamingos and an MRTT magnet along the way, but the first 4 miles went really well and then we were off the trail and out into the blazing sun. Mile 5 smacked me with a bug in the eye and a hill. Mile 6 was a little better and then with about a mile and a half to go I choked on my water and a van pulled over to ask me if I was ok. I was fading fast and it dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten! I struggled to the exchange point, handed off the slap bracelet and headed to the van for food!!!
The rest of my van ran through their legs and we headed to the next major exchange to trade off with van 1. While waiting for our runner to come in an announcement was made that the leg would be held because there was someone chasing runners on leg 13. We hung out for a bit with the other half of our team (the only time we saw them was at the major exchanges) before heading out to drive towards our next major exchange, which was about 40 minutes away.
We stopped and had some dinner and then headed to the high school that served as our exchange point. Some of the girls took a shower, most took a nap. I tried to stay awake because I was the first runner and I figured if I went to sleep it would be really hard to wake up and run.
My second leg started around 12:07 AM. I was really nervous about the night run, especially after the incident at leg 13. I was hoping to buddy up with someone, but the closest person to me was planning on running about 30 sec. faster per mile than me, so I just headed out on my own. She passed me about a mile in, but it turned out there were quite a few people out there. I was never alone. I even ran into a banana! The scariest part was running under an overpass. We crossed a few bridges, through a park. The last one had the sounds of a waterfall and then the bridge started bouncing! There were 3 of us on the bridge at the time and we all let out a squeal when it started bouncing. It threw our footing off! The cooler temperatures and the adequate fueling helped make the run less painful! 6.2 miles complete!
By the time our 5th runner was out on the course I was really starting to feel like lack of sleep. I had been awake for about 22 hours at that point and I was starting to feel sick, so I laid down in the van and tried to rest as much as I could in a moving vehicle and arriving at exchange points. I don’t know that I actually got any sleep, but at least I didn’t feel sick. And when we arrived at the next major exchange at 5 in the morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise over the lake! As our runner entered the exchange we sang happy birthday to her and it was a very cool moment.
And then we headed to the hotel to sleep! I face planted into the bed and got 3 hours of glorious sleep! I was really disappointed when I woke up after 3 hours! But it turned out to be a good thing because van 1 was ahead of schedule and we needed to get moving! We rallied the troops and headed out on the 45 minute drive the our last major exchange. After a stop for gas and to restock water we arrived with little time to spare.
I started my last leg at 11:52 AM on a very hot and sunny day. There was no shade on the path! Luckily it was a short leg of just 3.1 miles. I decided not to even look at my watch and just run the best I could in the conditions. I took it slow and easy and it went much better than I thought it would! I was so happy to be done and checking off that final box!
With just 5 runners after me we were nearing the finish line!!! We saw some great sights along the way, pretty houses, gorgeous views of the lake and lots of runners heading toward the beach! The finish line was at Montrose Beach and because it was such a warm day the beach was crazy busy!! We got stuck in a very large traffic jam causing us to miss our runner coming across the finish line. Van 1 and runner 12 came across it together on our team’s behalf and we met them at the after party. We were done!!!
We were rewarded with our bling and took lots of celebratory pictures.
We finished in 31:49:36.0, which was almost 2 hours faster than our predicted finish time!
We didn’t stick around too long for the after party because the 20+ mph wind gusts were throwing sand everywhere, including into our pizza.
It was a crazy whirlwind of two days! I’m happy I can check it off my bucket list. I’m not too sure I’d want to do it again. Sleep deprivation and I don’t get along! But I had a great team who made it a great experience!