If you missed the beginning of my Ragnar Relay recap, you can check it out here.
Day 3 (Saturday): The next couple legs happened in a hurry, and before I knew it I was standing out at the exchange with my nighttime gear on ready to head out for four miles. Except that I heard people talking about 7.3 miles. Say what?! This concerned me slightly, which I mentioned to my van mate, Sue (From This Mama Runs for Cupcakes), who was waiting with me. We both decided maybe I misheard or maybe they were confused. Until we heard another group talking about this 7.3 mile leg. It occurred to us all of a sudden that in the chaos of the past few hours we may have driven to the wrong exchange. Sue ran back to the van to talk to Tia and recheck the RagMag with all of our instructions. I then received a text that said “start running!” So I did. I was not sure what was going on at this point. But I started to run. This might be a good time to mention that despite multiple people suggesting to me that I “practice” some runs in the darkness, I failed to actually do this. This was the first time ever that I had run in complete darkness, and this was far more dark than the night sky of my suburban area. This was rural Wisconsin. To my great shock, I was actually having fun out there. I could see flashing lights (from another runner) up in the distance and lights behind me so I did not feel completely alone, but for the most part it was just me, the cool night air and the rural Wisconsin roads. I did have to turn some music on my iphone to avoid obsessing about the noises I was hearing (rustling in the grass nearby), but after that I was good. I ran with my phone to keep up with what was going on with our “exchange goof.” The worst part about this mistake is that it meant our van mate, Deb (From Word Chick on the Go), was left stranded at the exchange we should have been at (and she had no phone with her). It’s a wonder she still liked us all after that one! When the van got back to retrieve her, Tia talked to Ragnar officials about our mistake. I was halfway into my run by this point so they told her to send a runner out on the leg I was supposed to do and for a very short while we would be running simultaneously. Becky went out and ran a very quick 4 miles and they swooped her up and met me at the finish of my run where she went out and did another 4 miles! She was quickly becoming our team rockstar.
After our entire gang was done with our second legs, Becky and I decided we wanted to take a shower at the local YMCA that was open to runners. Worst. Shower. Ever. To say the showers did not have hot water is a huge understatement. The only thing I can compare that shower temperature to is my post-marathon training ice baths. Miserable! After that adventure, we headed to the next major exchange (where we would meet van 1 for the final time) to try to get some sleep. It was almost 4 a.m. by this time and we had all been awake for almost 24 hours…
Upon arriving at the exchange we saw several people sleeping in a large field. We followed suit and set up our sleeping bags. I had just fallen asleep when I was woken up to be told that we were not in the proper sleeping area. What?! We moved back to the van and all made a fruitless effort to fall back asleep before heading to McDonald’s to hang out and try to eat. We stayed there a couple hours enjoying the roomy booth over our van, and of course the real bathrooms instead of porta potties. (Isn’t Ragnar life sounding positively glamorous?)
At some point in the previous six hours or so we had decided how to sort out the remaining six legs amongst five of us. Ragnar rules do not allow legs to be split between runners, but we were allowed to trade legs around. My Saturday leg was only supposed to be 3.7 miles. We decided Becky would take my leg and her own and I would take a longer leg. The “extra” leg was the final leg of the race – over 9 miles. This was a bit much for me after adding mileage the previous day as well, so we ended up swapping me in for the first leg – a 6 miler – and gave that final 9+ to Sue. She was not only up for the challenge, but also the only one in the van who had never run on the Chicago lakefront (or even seen the city for that matter), so it was awesome to give her the “scenic leg.”
My last six miles was a combination of bike trail and residential streets through the northern suburbs of Chicago. I must say this leg was the most difficult in several ways. I had trouble psyching myself up to get out there. My body wasn’t feeling it. My legs were exhausted (Side note reminder that I have mostly laid off running for the past few weeks leading up to this to make sure my foot was good to go.). My whole body was tired from only getting 30 minutes of sleep. Once I got going I tried to only think about these six miles and not what we had been through the past 24+ hours. Around mile 2, I caught up to a man who suggested we run together for awhile. It was a much welcomed offer as he chatted with me about all the other Ragnar events he had done. His van stopped with support at one point and topped off my water for me as well. Around mile 4 I just couldn’t keep up anymore. I told him to take off and battled those last couple miles alone. The only thing I can compare them to is the last few miles at the marathon. My legs did not want to move. They felt like concrete. I had never been so happy to see my teammates as at that exchange where I was mercifully done!
The afternoon was an emotional roller coaster as we battled those last miles as a team. After we sent Sue out for her 9.4 mile leg, we hit horrendous Chicago traffic. There was a Cub’s game among many other events, festivals, etc. We were struggling to keep up with Sue and our worst nightmare was going to be missing her at the finish line. When we realized it wasn’t going to happen, Tia selflessly dropped the three of us off so that we could be there to cross the finish line with her while she parked the car. The emotions of the finish line were wild, and one of my biggest regrets of the weekend was not having Tia there to share it with us.
Final Thoughts: One of my facebook friends who also ran Ragnar posted that your van mates start in Madison as friends and end in Chicago as family. I could not agree more. We dealt with a lot over the course of 33 hours while in very close quarters and rather than hating each other by the end, we had a really strong bond. These four ladies define TEAM to me. We were thrown into the fire and either had to burn or work together to get this thing done. I feel like we all stepped up in different ways. After the race we all went our separate ways, but by Sunday it almost felt weird to not be together!
I find myself still exhausted after the weekend. My body is recovering (was even able to manage a “shake out run” on Monday morning and felt decent), but I am still feeling the effects of that 30 minutes of sleep. But was it worth it? Absolutely! I would do it again in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t change a thing. Okay, maybe a few minor changes, but I definitely wouldn’t have changed my teammates for the world!
This is one of those experiences that when I have told people about it, it does not sound fun. But I can assure you it was. It was not only fun, it was an amazing, unforgettable experience and I would do it again tomorrow. I will be forever grateful to the ladies at Swirlgear who set me up with this awesome opportunity!
Have you done a Ragnar Relay? If so, did you enjoy it? If you have never done anything like this, would you like to?