Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ragnar Relay Recap

This past weekend I got a chance to do something I've wanted to do for 2 years now. Participate in the Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago.  I mean, what sounds more fun than a team of people running a total of 195 miles, sitting in a van for countless hours, trying to sleep sitting up, using endless amounts of port-a-potties, and not showering for 2 days.  I know!  I couldn't wait to do it!

I took the day off of work to finish (start?) packing and in the afternoon, I was going to head over to meet my teammates.  My teammates were mostly other bloggers and/or members of the FNRC!  My trip started with going to Kate LF's house since it's in my neighborhood.  Kate S. was meeting us there and together (along with Sam, Kate LF's hubby who was a driver, and Maggie) headed to Melanie's house.  We were using Melanie's mini van as one of the two vehicles for our relay.  The other was going to be a 15 person van that we were renting.  We headed to get the van and luckily I had my credit card to use to rent the van as most of the girls (and Sam) didn't bring a credit card (major CC - not debit) with them on this trip.  We got the rented van and headed over to Suzanne's where the entire team was meeting for some photos for the sponsors and to get all the rest of the stuff together before heading to Madison, WI.

After arriving (later than expected) in Madison, we checked into our hotel, decorated our vans with the patriotic theme, and headed inside to make sure we had all necessary safety gear we needed for check in for our vans.  I shared a room with Melanie, Maggie, and Sara.  Maggie had pulled out some red and blue nail polish and I decided my nails needed some work!  At about 10:30, we headed to bed.  4:30 was going to come all too quick!

Patriotic Nails
Wow!  The day was finally here!  My room got up and dressed and headed downstairs to meet our teammates.  Our hotel was nice enough to move the breakfast up from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. for the Ragnar people staying there.  Our start time was 7:00 a.m. and we wanted to be there at 6:00 a.m.
While eating, we put on some patriotic tattoos and checked out some of the other teams.  Our team was decked out in matching red, white and blue gear and we got a lot of compliments at the hotel.

We got to the race, checked in, went through the briefing and waited for the 7:00 a.m. start.  Of course, we had to get a few team photos by the start line!  I was really excited to begin our adventure!

Race morning
American Sweathearts
Excited to start Ragnar!!
Our van :)

Our van #1

Suzanne (one of the Ragnar veterans) was starting us off.  Our team waited off to the side to cheer her on!  As soon as she passed, I looked around and didn't spot my team!  Where'd they go?  I looked in the store but no luck.  I didn't want to move too far in case they were around.  I thought...This is bad news if I'm losing my team already!  We just started.  I texted Maggie and she said they were on their way to the van.  On my way there, Melanie had come back for me (thanks Melanie!). 

On to the race!  I was in Van #1 and so we were on the move.  Van #1 would go through all their runners first and then Van #2 would take over.  Since we were a 9 person team instead of a 12 person team, we mostly all had an extra leg added on.  Suzanne was running a double first.  We drove past her several times on the way to the next exchange to cheer her on!  It was a lot of fun yelling, "GO SUZANNE!!  USA! USA!!" as we passed by!

The runner order in our Van was Suzanne, Sara, Me, Maggie, Kate LF.  We tried to pass our runners at least once if the route allowed for it and stop to cheer them on at at least one point on the course for the first set of legs.  I wanted to get a photo of all of Van #1's runners running at least once!  We were having a lot of fun and there was a lot of action!

Kate LF
Kate S. & Melanie
I had the 5th leg (3rd runner, since Suzanne and Sara did double legs to start).  My run started about 10:00 a.m. and was 6.3 miles  I decided to carry water with me for every leg I did as I knew there wouldn't be any water for me on the course.  I also carried fuel whether I thought I would need it or not.  Better to be prepared. 

Waiting to start my first leg
My team having fun cheering me on during my first leg
Yay!  Farmland!
My leg ended up being on back roads (aka nothing-land, aka farm land, aka so boring) and provided no shade!  The temperature might have been about 65 (maybe nearing 70) and full sun.  I got really hot but I just tried to keep moving.  I stopped to walk while eating my GU around mile 4. While walking, I noticed a bunch of the vans (most teams had these 15 person vans) waiting up ahead to cheer on the various runners.  I figured my team was probably up there too (because they were awesome support!) and I didn't want them to catch me walking!  I started running and met up with my awesome team who was cheering me on and taking photos!!  They headed to the exchange and I finished out my leg.  At the exchange, my team was cheering so loudly.  And all the other runners were so nice that everyone there was cheering my name!!  It was a great feeling!  At the exchange, we had to slap a "slap bracelet" onto the next runners arm.  I couldn't get that darn thing to slap!  Anyway, Maggie was off!

Maggie's first leg was not on a supported course, meaning our van couldn't follow her or stop to cheer her on. So we went to the next leg and I took a photo of her coming into the exchange.  She handed over to Kate LF.  During Kate's leg, she called Sam (our driver and her hubby) saying someone ran past her and told her there was 3.8 miles added to her leg.  Now, poor Kate.  Her leg was originally only 4 miles.  That got extended prior to race day to 7.7 miles.  Now 3.8 more miles got added on right in the middle of the leg??  It was the middle of the day and hot and we knew we should try to swap out the runners.  The next runner was Lisa and her leg was cut to 2.7 miles so she said she would do about 4 miles of Kate's leg.  Sam was a stalker husband and tracking Kate on the phone and it was a good thing. It made it really easy to find her (and Kate was calling us to let us know if she made a turn).  We swapped runners and all was good in the Ragnar world.  Kate did awesome though! 

While Van #2 was doing their legs, our van had down time.  We stopped at the exchange and waited for their last runner Melanie to come in.  We had a good 5-6 hours to wait.  We got free candy (that we got to make ourselves) at this exchange and some grub.  The boy scouts were putting on this pit stop that included burgers, chicken sandwiches, sub sandwiches, etc.  It was a little disorganized as we were there right when they opened.  I decided to get a burger to eat then and a sub sandwich to eat later in the day or evening (thanks to great thinking by Maggie!).  While eating, I decided to check if there were any caches (geocaches) in the area (we were at a park).  There were and one was really close to me.  I debated on going to look for it because Ragnar has strict rules and I didn't want to be wandering around and get a strike against our team!  After watching other wander around, I thought it might be ok so I went to the van and got a pen.  For those that don't know, google geochaching.  :)  But really, on the app on the phone it will tell you where one is and you walk towards it and it might be hidden in a tree or under rocks or wherever.  It's just something someone hides and has a log in it for you to sign saying you were there and found it. 

Where did I find this one?  Right by the exchange!  People were probably wondering what I was doing searching in the tree/bush. 

Anyway, the exchange happened.  Run, rest, repeat.  it was our van's turn again.  My leg didn't come up again until about 9:15 p.m.  I had a double leg (legs 16 & 17) which were 4.9 miles and 3.8 miles (total 8.7 miles).  I was so thankful it was dark and the sun was down. I've never been so happy to run at night before!  We had to wear reflective vests, lights and a light on the back.  My first leg was on a bike path.  I really like running on the nice flat surface.  The only downside was it was a little scary s there weren't many runners around (one would pass every once in a while).  But I really enjoyed this leg!  Nice and cool weather.  Refreshing!  I came into the exchange but since I was doing a double, kept right on running.  The next leg was on some regular neighborhood streets and regular streets with large intersections.  I almost twisted my ankle twice stepping on some holes in the streets and decided since I knew my legs were tired, I needed to slow it up and make sure I don't fall!  I headed into the exchange and handed off to Maggie.  3 our of my 4 legs were done!  I just had 1 more the next day! 

Night Leg
After we headed into the next exchange where Maggie handed off to Kate, I took a nap in the back of the van.  I was out for a full solid hour and missed Kate coming back in!  When our van was done, we tried to get rest.  We let Sam, our awesome driver, sleep in the back since he had been driving all day.  I tried to sleep sitting up and it was really (REALLY) difficult.  I kind of ended up trying to sleep in a hunched over position with my head on the window and bent down towards my knees.  I think I got another 1-2 hours of really choppy sleep and woke up.  Oops...it's Saturday now...

I decided to stay awake because sleeping kind of sucked.  Our final legs would be starting soon.  I knew I'd probably be running about 9:00 a.m. for my final leg.  While waiting in Kenosha for Van #1's final legs to begin, I got to see the sun rise over the lake.  It was maybe 4:30-5:00 a.m.  I'm never up early enough to see the sun rise and I couldn't resist getting out and taking a few photos of it.  It was really beautiful! 

Beautiful sunrise!
My final leg was from Zion to Waukegan.  It was on a crushed gravel bike trail.  I don't typically run on this surface and so it takes me a little bit to get used to it.  My quads were sore and I had a slight pain on the side of my calf/shin.  I decided to wear compression shorts and compression sleeves.  I took some Ibuprofen as well.  I think all of this helped my legs slightly and even though they were tired and I was tired, they felt "ok" on the final leg.  However, I was mentally exhausted and after 11 minutes of running, decided to do a run/walk of 9 mins running and 1 min walking to help keep me going!  Otherwise I wanted to walk the whole thing.  I saw the exchange up ahead and never ran as fast as I did to that exchange!  I really wanted to be done with my leg!  And everyone was cheering (even people I didn't know), I loved it!  I handed to Maggie and cheered her on for her final leg!

Before my last leg =- so exhausted
We finished off our van and headed to get something to eat. Considering we were smelly, sweaty, and had run clothes on, we decided on Wendy's.  I got a baked potato and some chili.  Afterwards, we headed to Montrose Harbor in CHICAGO (YAY!!) for Van #2 and where the finish line was!  We rested for a bit and I took the backseat in the van for about another 30-45 minutes of solid sleep.  At that point, I was going to take whatever I could get.

And finally, we were waiting on the final stretch before the finish line waiting for our final runner Melanie to come in!  I saw her and we all jogged off as a team to the finish! 

Running to the finish


t-shirt and awesome medal

Teammates and drivers!

We were all so happy to be done and finished!  We got our medals.  They also gave two whole pizzas to the finish team.  It tasted delicious after all the granola bars, bagels w/ PB, and candy I ate for 2 days.  Our team finished around 3:30+ in the afternoon on Saturday.  Our predicted time from a sheet I brought with was about 3:23 p.m.  So even with the 3.8 miles added on, we only came in about 10 minutes past our expected finish time!  (These calculations were based on a 9:30 average pace per runner.  Some runners were much speedier and some were a little slower).  It turned out to be a good average base time for us to go off of.

- I really liked our team.  Kate S. and Suzanne were veteran Ragnar runners and helped keep us organized!  All the rest of the girls were awesome!  Everyone gave it their all.  We stayed positive and had fun!  Sam and Kelly W. were the drivers and they had a hard job!  They were awesome!

- I loved the exchanges! (Except when they had us running on weird surfaces to get to the exchange).  I loved the camaraderie and all the cheering.  Strangers were yelling my name!  It was an awesome feeling!

- It's got to be hard for Ragnar to put on these events!  Just the logistics that go into organizing something like this that goes through multiple states, towns, etc. have got to be difficult.  I found some of the paths dangerous and I almost got hit by cars not paying attention twice.  But I think Ragnar does a great job trying to organize this.  And how else are you going to get runners to run 200 miles without running where there are cars??

- I'm not sure if I'll ever do another Ragnar.  It's exhausting.  As much fun as I had, I'm tired!  With that said, if another team needed someone, I might consider it.  And if we were doing one in another state, I might consider it.  Ragnar may be a "one time done" deal for me (??)...

Kudos to all my teammates, drivers and the volunteers for our team.  I couldn't have done it without you and if I did, it wouldn't have been as much fun!!

I didn't tag them in the post but here are some of my blogger teammates race recaps!
Maggie - recap here
Kelly J. - recap here 
Kelly W (Driver) - recap here

Recaps not yet available...but read their blogs!


  1. Loved this recap Amanda! What an exciting thing to do. And you got to see the sunrise - woop!

    I love all the different races you do - its inspiring!

    1. Thanks Biz! And yea, I never see the sun rise! I try to sleep until the last possible minute! Ha!

  2. What a great recap! Congrats on a great weekend! I'm so happy for everyone on the team. Everyone did a really awesome job!!! :)

    1. Thanks for being a driver Kelly!!

  3. Great recap! Thanks for being part of our team. It was great sharing the weekend with you!

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