I pushed myself harder than I ever had before—Ragnar relay was pretty amazing. Now, I don’t want to say that I am going to turn this into a “Bragnar” post, but what a fun experience it was. What is it about Ragnar that makes it so fun making people want to do it over and over again? I don’t know, but here’s what I do know.
Going into running the Ragnar relay I was skeptical about what was going to happen. Really, I thought this was a bunch of crazy people that did stupid stuff: decorating their cars, cheering on runners, and doing it at the most inconvenient times. That’s exactly what it is, but really so much more.
Walking up to my team (well, at least the six I would be riding in a car with) I was nervous. Even though I knew two thirds of them I was still nervous. I didn’t know what they would expect from me and when I don’t know people I have a hard time opening up and talking to them. This wasn’t the case. We quickly bonded as we spent 24 hours cheering, encouraging and smelling each other.
I was completely upfront and I told them I did all my training on a treadmill and quickly they became nervous. If you have ever ran on a treadmill and then ran on the road, it’s completely different. They thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle my legs of the race because of the major differences. But I not only surprised them—I surprised myself too.
We got up to the first meeting spot and this is when I first realized the madness. You look around and there are large vans, trucks, everything decorated. Not only are they decorated, they have the most unique names on their vehicles for their team name. Some of them include “chaffing dreams,” “TNT: totally not trained,” “legs miserable.” Our team name was “the world’s okest runners.” Some teams even had matching attire like sombreros or tutus.
First we have to sign all the wavers that we won’t sue anyone if we get hurt. Basically you have two parts of your team or at least we did. We had one car that ran the first 6 legs and then our car ran the next 6. So we tag teamed the milage. We used approximate running speeds to estimate the arrival times of each runner for each of the different legs. I was the second to last runner of our car, my first leg was 4.4 miles and didn’t faze me at all. It was actually a pretty good run. I think there is something about the whole nature of the race that motivates even the non-runners of the groups to push extra hard.
After you run your first leg, you are going to have a break. Once all the people in your car finish their first leg, you then exchange with the first car. We lucked out in that we had the exchange at Snowbasin ski resort. The weather was perfect and we were able to sit and have dinner.
Planning ahead, we decided that we all would bring food to share. That meant chicken salad on pita bread, pasta salad, watermelon, and grapes. It was absolutely delicious! You know when you are so hungry that everything you eat is amazing, but it’s not like we did a ton. The food was delicious and it was great to sit on the grass and enjoy the people watching and views of the Utah mountains.
Now, our second exchange was a little harder. For me I was going to be running at 1:30 am. Since I usually go to sleep everyday around 8:30 pm, this was exhausting. As we were driving the dozing off started happening strong for me. About an hour before running though I thankfully woke up and started getting my energy back. I mean you can’t let your team down! Or at least you can’t be the worst one on your team!
Quickly, I drank an energy drink, stepped out into the 34-degree weather and got myself prepared to run 9.7 miles in the middle of the night. As I stood there I got nervous. Ragnar is different from any other race you’ve ever done because you aren’t running with a crowd of people. Basically, it’s so staggered that you don’t run with more than a couple people.
When you night run (which they describe as any time between 7:30 pm – 5:30 am) you had to wear a vest. Not only that you have to run with a head lamp. Never had I ran with a head lamp and had to quickly get used to it. My battery was dying, but I had enough of a glow to get me through the run.
The frustrating part though were people with brighter headlamps that would come up behind you. As they approached you would make a shadow in your track so you couldn’t see the ground you were running on. One guy I had to let pass me because I couldn’t see anything with his headlamp blocking my vision. Once he passed me though, his rear lamp was like a strobe light. I felt like I was going to have a seizure if I was behind him for too long. It was out of control. So I slowed my pace down a bit to avoid any accidents.
Everyone says they love that portion of the race because of how beautiful it is. Well, it’s night and you can’t see a thing. I could see the gorgeous stars and half-moon if I looked up. If I looked down, the dust from the dirt trail I was running on caused so much dust I couldn’t see. That plus the soft light of my head lamp and the bright headlamps behind me was a constant struggle. It was not my favorite part of the race.
Thankfully, I was running 10 miles a day and knew that I could do the amount without an issue. But I hadn’t trained on dirt trails, or even streets. It was completely different and harder than I would have expected, but I did it. When I finished that leg I couldn’t have felt more accomplished. I was on cloud nine!
We were lucky enough to go to a cabin to shower and sleep a couple hours after our last runner finished. I didn’t think this was going to be that big of a deal, but you get in a shower after all that and it changes your life.
Plus, you lay flat on a bed and even though it was only for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, it completely makes a difference.
If you have followed my running you know that when I get to about four miles, I have a major bathroom issue. I learned that bananas help bind you up, but give you the energy you need. So I was eating dried bananas throughout the entire race. I also had some amazing Pressed by Kind bars. They were seriously a simple breakfast or snack to get me through the race.
Waking up I wasn’t stiff, I wasn’t exhausted, I was ready. Training had helped me get used to what was to come. I only had a two mile run left and was ready for it, but it came at the hottest time of the day. I think that made it harder for me than anything else. Thankfully my awesome cheering crew were there to boost me up! My son was waving his American flag yelling bravo! My little family was there at the start and finish of my last leg and made all the difference for me.
After my leg we waited for our last runner to finish his leg. Our team gathered to wait for him to come over the final hill and run through the finish line together as a team. It’s the only time really that your entire team does any running all together. It was totally thrilling.
Would I do this race again? Absolutely! It was such a fun experience and really helped me remember that I can do hard things. I still don’t get the reasoning for all the stickers on the cars showing how many you’ve done. But I did love that I got my sticker after finishing. It felt more like it was more of a trophy than just a sticker I got with my goodie bag.
Thank you to all who cheered me on. The team was a great group to work with and I will say I did make some new friends. Thanks to RunGr8 Running Center for helping me figure out my planter fasciitis. If it wasn’t for them helping me get the right items to prevent pain I wouldn’t have been able to do this race—or any of the races I’ll be doing.
Finally, thank you to my amazing wife. She came to the end to cheer me on with all three kids. She was there for the start and finish of my last leg. Kids make this hard, but she pushed and was ready to be there and support. I love her and so grateful to have her as my support team.