This will be the first in at least two posts about Ragnar.
The basics of a relay race is that you split up the 193 mile race into more doable segments. Ragnar’s Great River Relay is broken into 36 legs which get split up between 12 runners (or 6 in the Ultra division). The average runner ran 16 miles over 3 runs. I personally ran 13 miles. At least one person ran in the 20’s. Several people in my van were in marathon training and this is good timing for “long runs.” The 12 runners are split into 2 vans of who leap frog each other throughout the overnight relay.
I was in Van 1 which was “on” first. I was runner number 3 which meant I ran leg 3, 15, and 27.
Leg 3 was fairly flat and on wide-open road. I ran on the shoulder as much as possible. The route took a turn off WI-35 (which the runners saw, but many vans missed) onto a country road in corn fields! I had seen a bank sign that said 85 degrees and there was no doubt that the humidity was quite high, but it was very cloudy. This leg had non-supported sections, which meant that in places my van could give me water. I misunderstood the wording of the Race Bible – legs that were “non-supported” would have water stops if they were over 4 miles. I assumed I’d have a water stop, so I was disappointed after the half-way mark when there weren’t any. With about 1.5 miles to go my van caught up to me (they missed the turn) and gave me some water! I finished the 5.3 miles in 46:56 or 8:52 pace.
The great thing about Ragnar is that you run through the night! Any runner on the road after 7:30pm had to have a reflective vest, a head light, and a tail light on. Any member of the team outside the van after 7:30pm had to wear a reflective vest. After relaxing at Major Exchange 12 in Stockholm, WI our van took back over for our night leg. I didn’t end up running until after 11pm. I woke up at 5am on Friday to finish getting ready and to pick up the van, etc. I was surprised that I didn’t feel too bad – though there was lots of adrenaline. It was in the mid 70’s and still quite humid, though there was no sun since it was dark!
All geared up I ran Leg 15’s 5.22 miles in 45 minutes for an 8:38 pace. This route ended up being hillier than I had expected it to be. I knew there was one hill towards the beginning, but it seemed like there were more noticeable hills. I could have also just been getting tired! Running in the dark was quite interesting. You couldn’t see very far ahead, behind, or around you and all you could see in the distance was little red flashing lights of runners and Ragnar signs. I did have a water stop this time! The dark also made it quite hard for vans to figure out if you were their runner or not, but mine did find me and cheer me on. As I got closer to the exchange area, I started to see lots of headlights and a glow so I knew I was getting close. On each leg Ragnar posts a sign that says “One Mile to Go” but on this particular leg it seemed to take forever for that last mile. I got 8 “road kills” on this section. In Ragnar language a road kill is a person that you pass from another team. I only got passed by one guy. For whatever reason, the headlamp I was wearing gave the weird sensation of wearing sunglasses. It was something to do with how the light was shaped. It was fun running in the dark!
We were able to shower and eat spaghetti sauce (they ran out of noodles) at Prescott High School (Major Exchange 18) before driving through some very dense fog to get to Stillwater, MN. It was 2 or 3am and I was driving. It was a little nerve racking because there were runners and lots of vans on the road, though fortunately, not many other cars. We decided to stop in Hudson for breakfast at Denny’s. I’m pretty sure I was the only person awake in the van (don’t tell Ragnar that my Safety Officer fell asleep!) After Denny’s we drove to Major Exchange 24 in Stillwater, just North of the Liftbridge. I had to sleep in the driver’s seat of the van and maybe got 30 minutes of real sleep. We had miscalculated our timing and I started waking up the van around 5:45 to get ready. After 6:30am runners and support people were no longer required to be illuminated.
My last leg was 27. Now in Minnesota we switched to more suburban areas for most of the run. Just an FYI that this exchange didn’t have port-a-potties, good thing I didn’t need one. This leg started out on the road and went under I-94 before running on a paved trail next to the roads. This felt like a long steady uphill, but I’m sure my legs were completely exhausted at this point. I’m not sure of the temperature, but it was very overcast and very humid. The fog actually almost felt like a mist at points. I got at least 8 more road kills on this leg. Some guy passed me, which made me mad, then I realized he wasn’t wearing the Ragnar Wrist Band (the baton) so I didn’t feel quite as bad! I got a couple of road kills at the very end and set Mike up to get a few himself! I did the 3.38 miles in 27:15 or 8:04 pace. (Note: each leg was faster than the last!) It felt really good to be done. We didn’t have a lot of time to sit around though, because most of these legs were fairly short. So I stretched a little and off we went.
You can kind of see an exchange in this video. This is me running into my final exchange handing off to Mike:
After my final leg I was triumphant, as seen in this short video:
After arriving at Major Exchange 30 at Lifetime in Woodbury our team started to break apart. Our van was done with running and a few people needed to head out so we sorted out the van, drove some people to their cars, and ended up with only 2 of us waiting around at the Boom Island finish area. We got massages, ate some pizza, and tried to relax. My body was so worn out that it didn’t like the idea of laying down on the grass. Several hours later I got the call – we are dropping off the last runner. A 3rd teammate rejoined us and 7 of us waited anxiously for the final runner to come down the trail. We joined her about 100 yards from the finish and ran triumphantly across the finish line!! We had done it!
Team Hodge Podge finished 169th out of 286 teams for a total time of 29:46:15 which is an average 9:19 pace! Well done ! (full results)