I’m mostly caught up on sleep and ready to discuss Ragnar. What a weekend! Ragnar is a 200-mile relay race run by teams of 12 runners (or 6, known as ultra teams…or fewer, known as crazy assholes) over two days.
Our team – Run to the desert?! We thought you said dessert! or Team Dessert for short – started with our fearless leader, Nicole, taking the first leg at 5:30am (ALL of her legs were dark and cold…she’s a rockstar and looks good in that safety gear)! Both vans went to the start line to cheer her on and then figure it out from there. Van #1 (my van) had two runners that had done relays before, including del Sol last year, so that helped immensely and Nicole and her husband/our van driver, Lance, were all sorts of organized and prepared, so things actually went smoothly from the beginning.
We leapfrogged our way south from Wickenburg. I was the last runner in van #1 (the ice cream van) and my leg was going to take us almost into Tonopah, the southwestern most point before van #2 (the cupcake van) headed back north to Surprise.
My leg #1/race leg #6 – 4.6 miles | Moderate
By this point, I had watched everyone in my van take their turn and after all the hurry up and wait, I was ready to go. I knew how the beginning exchange would go, I told my team my support request (a mid-point water stop please), and I knew how the end exchange would go, so I just wanted to GO!
Because of that, I might have started with too much enthusiasm (8:34 first mile) and I got a stitch in my side that did not want to play nice, so I walked a little bit to try to ease it (10:06 second mile, 10:21 third mile), tried to breathe into it and then just sucked it up and ran since it was a short leg (9:49 fourth mile). The route was a pretty dusty road, but it was mostly flat. As I looked around, I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be, but I did recognize how nuts spending a weekend like this might seem to non-runners!
My only real turn was onto Indian School (soooo far from the Indian School that I know) and at that point, the other teams’ runners #7 were coming back out from the exchange. It was the first exchange where both vans were going to be there and after I finished, we’d be done and able to eat and rest…if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is!
Having successfully handed the slap bracelet off to Betty, the ice cream van was free to do what we wanted (except drink, cross the road without the flag or sleep on the ground in the exchange parking lots), so we made our way up toward our next exchange and had lunch at Macayo’s before posting up at the high school.
This happened to be where our awesome volunteers, Emily and Robin, were. Every team has to provide three volunteers to participate in the race and they were assigned to this major exchange, but unfortunately, the stop was overflowing with volunteers, but the runners weren’t coming in for a while, so there wasn’t much for them to do, but it was good to see them and be able to chat for a bit.
Karla was lucky runner #9 in the cupcake van and had the longest leg in Ragnar history during this break for the ice cream van. She ran OVER the distance of a half-marathon! The other runners had decent distances during their first shot as well, so we had a lot of time at the high school. There was sleeping in a field – it was windy, but the sun felt amazing and it was great – I got some work done, read a little bit and then for some reason with a few hours still left, we all just sat in the van in the parking lot. We had seven people in a minivan, so when everyone and all their stuff was in the van, we were packed to the brim. I think it’s safe to say we liked each other.
Finally we got word then Jenn was starting her short first leg. If I thought the hurry up and wait of being runner #6 was bad, I can’t imagine being runner #12 and not actually running until over 12 hours into the race, but yay, we were going to see the cupcake runners again and we were going to run again!
Nicole started us off for our second set and we pretty much ran through the night, through the desert (Melissa saw coyotes!) and quite a few unsupported legs, but that’s what runners do, right?! There was some sleeping, but not nearly enough. There was also some snacking. It would have been easy to get into a “road trip” mindset and eat junk, but I was trying to stay smart and remember I was fueling a run. I stuck to peanut butter and bagels, Shot Blocks and Starbucks Double Shots a few runners before my turn and lots of water, trying to avoid any more cramps on my legs.
My leg #2/race leg #18 – 5.7 miles | Hard
My second leg was a dark cloud looming over me ever since we were assigned our positions. It would be in the middle of the night (I started about 1 a.m.) and van support was not allowed for the last four miles. I imagined I would be too cold to move out of the way of a swerving drunk driver and when he left me on the side of the road, the coyotes would come in and finish me off. Power of positive thinking, right?
Perhaps it was because of my low expectations that it was absolutely my favorite leg. I was feeling it.
My foot felt cramped on my first run, but when I stopped I realized what it actually was…a very familiar feeling that came on after my IronGirl 10-miler that was diagnosed as peroneal tendonitis, but this time it was the other foot! Grr. And this time, the feeling actually hung around even when I wasn’t on it, but wasn’t as debilitating as it had been in my left foot and it didn’t hurt me too much on this leg.
I ran the entire thing, keeping an average of 9:40 pace and blew by my van support at the two mile mark, partially because it was so damn dark I couldn’t tell if it was actually Lance on the side of the road and partially because I was good to keep going.
My plan was to run as fast as I could so I could get back in the van and I pretty much did. The run was with traffic along the frontage road to a major highway either on the small road shoulder or on the rocky, muddy and uneven ground, so it still did feel a little unsafe. I took out my street side earbud and just kept on trucking.
I passed the most people on this leg – 11 in total, including two right at the very end who were trying to hold me off, and then said a dirty word when I buzzed past them just before the exchange. That’s fun. Because it was dark and because they had announced us in a different order than we actually came in at, my next runner actually grabbed the other woman’s bracelet! We got it straightened out and the rest of the cupcake van was there to greet me…we don’t need to discuss where I had seen my van while I was out running and why they were a little delayed getting to my finish line coughjackintheboxcough. The cupcake van took off to get to their next exchange and my van got to rest and clean up at the Anthem Community Center.
I liked that this stop was right after my run and I donated $3 to take a shower at the center. It definitely helped me feel like I hadn’t been awake for 24 hours driving in a van and running. I put on some comfy clothes, grabbed my pillow, my book and a Rockin’ Refuel (the only mistake I made the entire trip, my tummy paid for that one). My teammates were half sleeping in the van and half on the gym floor, but I didn’t have a sleeping bag (okay, perhaps another mistake) and my stinky-ass blanket had been commandeered in the van (which, I didn’t really mind considering it was so rank), but I had my pillow and was able to find a spot on a couch.
This downtime was a little shorter, so before long, I was wandering around the gym looking for my teammates and we took off about 4 a.m. to get to our next exchange in Cave Creek.
The last legs for our van were pretty tough to begin with and then adding in the lack of sleep and amount of running we’d already done, they were extra hard. By this point, we were getting a little punchy, everything was hilarious, particularly YouTube videos and Grumpy Cat.
The end of each runner’s leg was a celebration because they were DONE and we were one runner closer to being DONE (and DONE = rest, eat, party). Finally, it was my turn again and time to wrap it up for the ice cream van.
My leg #3/race leg #30 – 5.5 miles | Moderate
This leg took our team from Rio Verde down into Fountain Hills and because of that location, was all short rolling hills. I ran most of them, but did walk a little. About a mile in, I could really have laid down right there and taken a nap, but we were so close, I had to keep going. I made the walking productive by texting my van to ask for Shot Blocks at my water point because I realized I had forgotten to have some before I started and figured my muscles could use a little fuel. Then I realized Nicole’s phone wasn’t getting great reception, but she got the message and they met me at mile 3 with both water and the Blocks. Fantastic!
It was all downhill mileage-wise from there. Hill-wise, it was actually all downhill and uphill and downhill and uphill from there, but I started to feel better and came in right about a 10-minute pace.
Our vans split from the exchange again pretty quickly, Cupcake had to go get their runner and Ice Cream was headed to round up our cars and get some lunch at Pita Jungle before going to the finish line at Tempe Beach Park (gosh, I’ve certainly been there an awful lot lately). We all changed into our awesome team shirts, ready to cross the line together.
The Finish Line
We got word that Jenn had started her leg and the other van was on their way. Our van’s plan was to jump in front of Ms. Speedy so we could keep up in our sore state, but she had her eyes on the prize and we finished in 34 HOURS 53 minutes and 57 seconds. Damn, that’s pretty badass.
We were a rag tag group of sore, tired and stinky ladies, but for me at least, the finish gave me a little boost of energy to keep me going for a little bit longer. Nicole and I got our dollar beers and Robin and Emily came down too! We shopped a bit and then when the sun went down pretty quickly, we decided to call it a well-earned night.
I picked up my pup from his Grandma’s and went home to crash by about 8 p.m. Glorious.
The next day, after Rigo’s 5k, I had an appointment to show a client some homes that got pushed back because he was “hungover.” I really wanted to say, “Hey dude, that’s cool, we all make stupid decisions. I ran a 35-hour relay race over the past two days and have a total Ragnar hangover.” And I did…I was tired, my whole body hurt, including my hair and I knew I wouldn’t be fully functioning for a few more days, but it was so worth it!