Monday, June 10, 2013

Ragnar Relay First Timer

Well, my first (and ask me in a week if it was my last) Ragnar Relay is in the books.   Participated in the Madison to Chicago Ragnar.  With tons of friends in Utah, i have been hearing about Ragnar almost since its inception of Wasatch Back, but never signed up for one.  However, this year, Tia (Our Captain and Ragnar Ambassador) convinced me to give it a go!  She also hooked us with a Sponsored Van from Honda.  It was awesome to have a 14-pass van for Van#1 as we all had space to lay out and get comfy.  I was Runner #3, running ~16 miles broken up in 3 legs.  For those unfamiliar with Ragnar.. you can learn more HERE

Here is my best attempt at a race review/thoughts as the race took ~30 hours.

Lety is ready!
To make logistics easier, they start teams on a staggered start to decrease congestion at the exchange points.   Our team started at 10:30 so we left Chicago in the Van around 7.  Traffic was surprisingly great on the reverse commute out of the city.  We got up there in time to listen to the mandatory safety meeting, verify we had the appropriate evening gear (vests/headlamps/tail lamps) and then pick up our packet (bibs, wristbands, tech shirts, bumper stickers, temp tattoos) and then hit up the Ragnar shop before the start.  Gotta say, Ragnar knows how to merchandise! 

Leticia was Runner #1 and she was off!  We quickly got over to the second checkpoint and we got into the groove.  The runners run through trails, sidewalks or against traffic.  The checkpoints were usually in places with large parking lots (i.e. schools/churches).  Runners run into the checkpoints and then pass off the baton (i.e. SLAP BRACELET) off to the next runner.  This happens....  36 times!

I was Runner #3 and was anxious to get running! However, I went to get ready in the van only to realize 2 things.  1.  I left my Garmin charging at home and 2. my ipod that worked the day before and was FULLY charged... wasn't working... BOOO!!!  However, it was time to run!  Tagged off and started my first leg.  It was only 2.7 miles and I was pumped up, ran it faster than I anticipated and tagged off to runner #3 in 25 minutes. Then we drove around tagging off to each other until our van (Runner's 1-6) were all completed with our first leg.  We tagged off to Van2 mid afternoon.  After we tagged off, we grabbed some food.  All i was craving was a big salad.  (like the Seinfeld.. Big Salad) .  There are only so many powerbars/snack foods you can eat.  After we were done with food, we went to our next checkpoint and crashed out in a field for an hour and then go ready to start our night legs.  
Taking pics with random awesome vans
My second leg was ~5.5 miles in the dark (I started around 11pm).  During the hours I was in the car, i realized i could stream Pandora on my phone and my no music issue was solved!  I started in a college campus and then proceeded on a road for the rest of the time.  My night run was nice and not scary and also really appreciated that we   One of the girls ran 5 miles in the trail and didnt' see a single person and then another girl ran by what she figured out was a camping ground and she kept hearing people talking which totally creeped her out! With lots of Utah friends, I heard about this runners death a few years ago and it made me a bit apprehensive about the night running.  I was very attentive on the road and thankful all of us were safe on our legs.  We did see two incidents of multiple cars drag racing during our night runs.  College town, friday night.. i am not surprised but it is definitely even more reason  for us runners to be super watchful when we are on the road at night (whether after dusk on your own or in the middle of night for Ragnar). Per my phone, kept a 10:27/mile pace which was perfect for my 10:30 expected. 

After our second leg, we drove to our final checkpoint and stayed at the YMCA.  For $2, you can get a shower, place to sleep and a towel!   Funny how sleeping on the gym floor felt so good!  We got a whole 3 hours and were woken up by the YMCA lady telling us "I don't mean to wake you up but we open at 6am and there are people coming in shortly."  Within 2 minutes, 3 treadmills were going and we got the hint to get going!  The scene from outside the Y was beautiful and it was a perfect day to finish!

Leg 3
Luckily, I was not very sore when i woke up and was ready to finish this up!  My last leg (~6 miles) ran through downtown Kenosha and then through some residential areas.  Half of my leg was the same as it was during the Wisconsin Half a few weeks ago.  It was nice to feel like i knew where i was going.  Ran the first 3 miles under 10/minutes each and felt great.  Then Mile 4, my Pandora stopped streaming and slowed down a lot. (like to a 12 min/mile).  Combined with fiddling with my phone and then not wanting to start up, i was dragging.   Then, Pandora started streaming again and I was off!  Finished the last miles in 10 min average.  The last stretch of my run was on grass which really sucked.  Even though it was only ~400 meters, it definitely made it hard to really kick it at the end.

Tagged off to Runner#4 and then accepted an offer to crash on some random Ultra runners blankets in the shade. 

Once our van was done (around N Chicago), we completed our portion of the running!  We stopped and got some food and then had a few hours till we had to meet Van#2 at the finish.   I took advantage of us driving right by our house and got dropped off.  Did laundry and chilled with the family.  Made our way to Montrose Beach to run through the chute with our crew.  It was awesome to celebrate together and split a cold dominos pizza!

Post Race Thoughts from a Newbie:

  • It really was an awesome experience and even though I only knew 1 person, i came out with 10 more friends.  Especially the group in Van#1
  • I am still not sure how I felt taking a vacation day for the run.... ask me in a few days
  • Ragnar is an experience vs. a race.  You have fun with friends, enjoy the process and do this all on very little sleep and lots of bathroom breaks
  • There were some really awesome outfits out there!  
  • Loved how much the community seemed to support us.  At many of the exchanges, they had tents selling food to benefit local community groups and I was happy to support even when my stomach couldn't quite handle a brat.   
  • Definitely happy i tried it out and would recommend every runner to try it at least once.  You can decide if you are addicted or not :)
  • Definitely happy I brought a sleeping bag vs a blanket. Because temps cooled down, it was great to be able to zip up the bag vs. trying to wrap yourself in a fleece
  • The travel U pillow was also a good choice b/c it was small and did everything a full size pillow would have.  
  • Took tia's advice and put each running outfit in a zippy bag so i could then throw it back in there after I was done.  Eliminated a lot of random odors and our van actually did not smell at all!  
Much thanks to our Team Captain and Running BFF Tia for making this all happen, driving like the road warrior she is and including all of us along for the Run.Eat.Sleep.Repeat!


  1. Congrats on the Ragnar Finish! Sounds like a fun time.

  2. You were smart to bring a sleeping bag. I bummed a blanket off of a teammate and hoped it was a sufficient barrier between me and wrestling mats in the high school basement so I didn't get ringworm. So far, I'm infection free.

    1. Amazing how gross that sounds now but probably how awesome it was to lay on those mats that night!

  3. Hey great job! I didn't know you were in the "Sticky Rice" van -- I was in a (mostly) undecorated van alongside you guys for much of the race. Ragnar is fun although I questioned the use of the vacation day this year... and taking away from a training weekend in the height of tri season!

    1. Oh, i wasn't in the AsianVan.. just took an awesome pic with them :) Yes, the vaca day is definitely part of the reason i am not sold on Ragnar.