This past weekend I participated in my first Ragnar. It is a race from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL for a total of 198.3 miles. Now, I didn’t run this by myself but instead with 11 other runners. Why did I want to do this? Well, I’ve done pretty much every kind of race that is out there from a 5K to an ultra marathon and I wanted to do something different.
I did not know all of the team members. I did meet for lunch one of the captains and she gave me an idea of what to expect. There was another team meeting that I went and met 5 additional members. There was constant email communication prior to the race so I felt a little better before the race.
The night before I gathered my stuff to pack. I had various lists to consult. One was provided by the captain and I also checked out Lazy Bones Running’s blog. Even with so much information I knew I was bound to forget something. Oh well. I hoped one of the other team members will have it. On Thursday morning I went over my stuff again and packed it in a hiking backpack. Whew! Heavy bag!!
The team was scheduled to be on the road to Madison by 1:30 pm. Unfortunately, as we all waited to make sure we were all there, one of the vans was towed. I remember hearing that it was parked in an illegal spot thinking that it would only be for a few minutes. In fact it was only a few minutes and we were all shocked when we found out it was gone. While we waited to get the van back we decorated the other van. I know, one picture is simply not enough. Finally, the van arrived and off we went.
It was a nice ride to Madison. I relaxed and talked to a few of the team members. I tried to take a nap but I couldn’t. We arrived at Madison at about 5:30 pm. We checked into the hotel and had plenty of time to unpack and unwind before dinner at 7 pm.
For dinner we went to Monk’s Bar and Grill. I had a buffalo chicken sandwich with fries. It was delicious! After dinner it was back to the hotel. By then it was about 8:30 or so. I still had to get my stuff together for the next day. I was runner #6 and my first run (10.9 miles) was at about 10am. Since I was in Van #1 we were scheduled to start at 6am but check in at 5:30 so that meant being up at 4:30. Lights were off by 9:30.
Van #1 left the hotel at 5am. Check in was a breeze. Perfect morning weather. However, we had been warned that it would be up to 100 degrees with the heat index. That freaked me out! I was ready runner-wise but anything could go wrong with the heat. Our first runner took off at 6am for a 4.4 mile run. Dang, next time I want to be runner #1.
It was fun driving to the various exchanges. It was also fun being there when the runners arrived and took off to the next exchange. Finally, my turn came. I was nervous because by then it was HOT. The path was mostly straight but lonely. There was also various up hills. I was doing OK for the first few miles but then had to stop because it was so HOT!!! I carried my own water but that was gone. There was no water support like there usually is during a half or full marathon. I was annoyed. There were a few vans along the way that gave me water.
My goal was to pass a girl that had been ahead of me since the beginning. It wasn’t because I really wanted to pass her up but it was more of a motivation for me. As you can see, it isn’t like a regular race where there are runners left and right. Finally, I saw that magical “One Mile To Go” sign. Time to let my team members know I was almost done.
Van #1 was done for the moment. It was about 12:30 and we were all tired, hot, and hungry. We went to get something to eat. I had a grilled cheese sandwich that came with crackers. Seriously? No french fries? I also drank a big glass of chocolate milk. It was delicious and hit the spot.
We had about 5 hours to “kill” before it was our turn to run again. We went to Sports Authority because one of the girls had chafed and needed another pair of shorts. We also bought more ice and water. Off we went to the next exchange. There were so many people there. I took out my yoga mat and blanket and found a spot to rest and take a nap. However, I was too tired and hot to sleep. It just felt good not to be sitting in the van. Besides, I was still hungry. I was not going to run till close to midnight so I knew I had to eat something else. Luckily, the Girls Scout were there selling burgers. I bought one and eat it in probably two bites.
It was pretty neat to be at the exchange area. There were many other vans and it was cool to see how they were decorated. Also, it was during this time that one of the team members put up lost posters outside the van. I think mine is pretty cool.
My second run was much better. It was only 3 miles but in the dark. It was my first time running in the dark. I had a reflective vest, a head lamp, and a light blinking in my back. No way anyone would not see me. When I was done I received my prize from Pacifico for running the longest leg. Anxious to know what it was? A pair of sunglasses. Yep, a pair of bright yellow sunglasses. I got over my slight disappointment. Now it was time to shower and sleep.
It was hot again. Luckily my last run was 5.8 miles. By the time my turn came it was hot and sunny again. Ugh! No backing out. I could do it. While waiting for my turn we used the bathroom at the YMCA. I did not want to use another port-a-potty. There are more people at my exchanges (this is when both vans had to be together) and the potties were getting kind of smelly.
Time to run again. The course took me through a bike path and then through Waukegan and North Chicago. Definitely not pretty areas. Oh well. I ran but made a few stops along the way. I was so happy when I was finally done. Now it was Van #2’s turn to run. We went to eat (I had a delicious cheeseburger with fries) and then off we went to Chicago. I slept along the way. I had not had a good night sleep since Thursday night.
We arrived at one of the team members’ house and we unloaded and cleaned the van. Then she was nice enough to let us shower. I felt much better afterwards. We hung around for a little bit till about 3 or so and then went to Montrose Harbor to reunite with the rest of the members. Our last runner was still on the path and our plan was to meet up with him and cross the finish line together. When we finally saw him we were screaming and yelling. It was so good to see him!! What a great feeling to cross the finish line.
We took a group picture together then enjoyed our free beer and pizza!!!
I had a great time during the relay. It was tiring but so worth it. I might do another one next year but at least now I know what to expect. By the way, I overpacked. I did have pretty much everything I needed and more. Next time I will take a smaller backpack.
I encourage you to do a Ragnar Relay. You’ll meet so many great people and it will be a wonderful experience!!!