I have a confession to make. I was excited about Ragnar when we started making the plans (somewhere back in October?), but as it crept up, my excitement started to wane and I actually got a little anxious about the whole thing.
Priorities shifted, I ran more races than I have in past years, and this is about the point in running season where I feel a little burnt out anyway, an injury popped up and derailed my training further.
I was assigned to be runner #6 and my legs were all about 5 miles, which felt totally manageable, so I was never concerned about being able to complete them and do decently well. I was, however, a little concerned about some of the legs in terms of safety (Ragnar has had a few deaths, including an Arizona high schooler a few years ago).
I think my nerves mostly came up out of fear of the unknown.
You can read the race bible, you can read blog recaps, but you don’t know what Ragnar is until you do it. Before you do it, you can only imagine the running, the lack of sleep, the cramped quarters might actually be awful.
It’s not. Well, okay, it probably still could be (in fact, my van talked about all the ways things could have gone horribly wrong), but my experience was not the awful I was worried about and now I think it’s funny how apprehensive I was about it.
In the week before, we lost three runners due to illness or injury, but it worked out for the best. We threw in last-minute replacements and our team was fantastic just the way it ended up being.
Part of my anxiety came from just being a socially anxious person in general. I like my alone time and I’m shy around new people and the thought of relying on mostly strangers, having them rely on me and being stuck in a van with them did not sound like a good time.
I kept telling myself (and any non-runners who could not comprehend the race in general) that I was just doing it for the experience, to see what it’s like and to bucket list it.
That changed so fast.
Ragnar is like Burning Man meets a marathon meets one of those Disneyland turnaround trips you do when you’re in high school. So, in a word, awesome.
The running part, as I said, was never a huge concern anyway. I got my legs done and everyone on the team just wanted to do their best and have their teammates do the same. It is a little strange to be the one running because in that moment, you think you’re the sole reason everyone’s out in the desert anyway. You’re not.
Everyone’s having a great time cheering you on or sleeping or laughing until they cry. Yeah, there’s running, but it’s not so serious. At least on our team, it wasn’t, and maybe that’s why we worked. To the boys high school team who kicked our butt and won the whole thing, yeah, maybe they were a little more hardcore about it.
My routes were all straight shots, so I didn’t have to worry about getting lost (there seemed to be an awful lot of info about that at the meetings). The routes felt safer than I was imagining and for the most part, you’re in sight of your van or another team’s and someone is looking out for you. Once I posted my runner’s view picture to Facebook, my mom, who was maybe more nervous than I was, said she felt better about the whole thing. The vans were hyperaware and the non-vans were probably hyperaware once they saw all the vans and runners. Safety gear does wonders too.
I LOVE sleep and I hate being tired. On a normal night, by 8:30 my eyes are HEAVY and I’m done. That was not going to fly during Ragnar, but it was okay. I slept four hours on Thursday night before we left, a few cat naps in the van and a little bit at the longer exchanges, but I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be. The group energy keeps you going. In the grand scheme, 40ish hours isn’t all that bad to be mostly awake.
Yes, it was cramped. We had a mini van and seven people in it, so unless someone was out running, that’s one seat per butt. And then our stuff! It was everywhere, it got stepped on and dug through by people who a day ago were practically strangers, it started to smell. It was all okay.
As for my stranger danger apprehension, I got over it. We had the best group in our van and this is really what made the race. We may not have all known everyone’s names (haha), but that was irrelevant. We talked, we laughed, we cheered. I was able to be myself and it was FUN.
If there had to be a WORST part of the experience, I guess I’d say it was the cold. Phoenix got SNOW two days before the race and it had started warming up, but was still chilly and windy at a lot of the overnight and early morning exchanges. I hate being cold, but really it was only for a few minutes while switching runners and my legs were not all that cold, so it’s really the best worst there could be.
Making an effort to just curb my anxieties and expectations and just experience it probably helped immensely. After last weekend, it’s not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s something I plan to do again and again!