12 people, 2 vans, 200ish miles. If you have never heard of a Ragnar Relay before, that’s it in a nutshell. I first heard about Ragnar when I watched the Netflix documentary “From Fat to Finish Line,” and after that I knew I had to run one. My problem though was that I don’t know 11 other people that are as crazy as me to get a team together. Well, on my birthday this year luck was on my side because my husband saw a post in our Hogwarts Running Club Facebook group where a team was looking for a runner. As a “birthday” present he said I could do it, this was a big deal because he wants to do one too. That’s when my journey began. I joined 11 strangers (some of of them already knew each other) to complete 200ish miles from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois just days after finishing the San Diego Marathon. The scariest part wasn’t meeting new people, it was the fact that I am not a fast runner and I would be one of the slowest people on the team. I was just hoping I could keep my pace for almost 16 more miles after just completing 26.2!
Our team Bae Goals or Bagels left for Madison on a Thursday morning to begin running on Friday morning. Since many of our team members live in the St. Louis area, we took two cars and began our drive to Chicago, where we met a few more team members and picked up our two 12 passenger vans. We had a team dinner where everyone met as a group for the first time and got on the road to Madison. Once in Madison we stayed at a hotel where we broke up into our two van groups, I was in van 2, to get some rest before starting our journey. Van 2’s hotel room had a strange smell of reheated fried fish that just didn’t seem to go away, little did we know this was just the beginning of things to come for van 2.
On Friday morning we got up early and went to the starting line to cheer on our first runner as he began our race. It was cool and cloudy, but the weather did not stay that way. While at the starting line we took sometime to decorate our van because having cool van decorations is part of the Ragnar experience.
Next, my van headed back to the hotel to collect our things, stopped by Target to get some supplies for the race, and then made our way to the first major exchange point. Major exchange points are where teams switch to the next van of runners. Now it was starting to get hot, and all 6 runners in our van would have to run during the hottest part of the day. At the major exchange we completed our safety check and waited to cheer on our #6 runner as she made her way to exchange with our #7 runner.
Once our runner was off, we hit the road to meet her at the next minor exchange. Minor exchanges are where runners from the same van switch. It was fun to watch the runners at the exchanges and cheer for all of the teams. I was the #9 runner, so soon it would be my turn. I tried to prepare by eating a light snack, hydrating, and relaxing.
My team chose to wear black for everyone’s first leg of the race. Since I love Sparkle Skirts I decided to wear my Fairy Tales skirt. You can see in my pictures that I am also wearing sunglasses, they are awesome lightweight non-slip running sunglasses made by Goodr, plus they are cheap!
For my first run I was scheduled to run 7.1 miles. I began running in the early afternoon and it was sunny and hot. My run started on a typical farm road with rolling hills, but I spent most of the run on a trail. I was thankful that the trail provided plenty of shade from the bright sun. As I was running I could tell that the heat was making it difficult, but I pushed hard and was able to keep my predicted pace. I finished right at an 11:29/mile pace. I was so excited because I didn’t want to let my team down. I was surprised by how quickly the 7 miles went by even though they were difficult. This was my longest run of the relay, so I was glad that it would be “all downhill” from here.
After my run I could relax and cheer on my other teammates at the rest of the exchanges. When it was time to head to the exchange between our #11 and #12 runners we realized that we went to the wrong place. We had to get back on the road quickly and luckily we made it to the correct location just in time to see our runner coming and make the exchange with no lost time (little did we know that this was going to happen again!)
Our van finished our first leg around 7:30 p.m. and we were excited to get some food and some rest before our next leg. We decided to head towards the next major exchange and stopped at a Applebee’s for dinner. Our team had a system of sending a text as each runner finished and while we were at the restaurant the other van was finishing their individual legs quickly, we even had to get our checks as soon as we got our food. We quickly finished our dinner and headed to the major exchange to try to get some sleep. I decided to try to sleep in the back of the van, but couldn’t really get much sleep. I hoped that after my next run maybe I would be able to get more. Our team took over running around midnight.
Around this time my van started to noticed that we seemed to be getting the shaft throughout this race. We ran during the heat of the day, were about to run through the middle of the night, and so far our runners had longer amounts to run which is why we seemed to have such a short amount of time to eat and rest. This became a unifying point for our van members and a running joke for the rest of the relay.
I will continue this post next week starting with leg 2 of the race and how I got to #chasethemoon.