Ragnar Relay – Chicago

So what is this Ragnar Relay all the cool kids are talking about?  Think 12 people, 2 vans, 200(ish) miles, 36 hours, and no sleep! Sounds awesome, right?  Well it is and last weekend I completed my first one.
The race is 200 miles, from Madison WI, to Chicago IL. It’s broken down into 36 individual legs.  Each of the two vans has 6 runners in it. Van 1 (my van) started the race at 5:30 am on Friday morning, with runner #1 running leg #1.  Then runner #2 runs leg #2, then runner #3, etc until all 6 of the runners in Van 1 complete their runs.  Van 2 meets at exchange 6 and their first runner runs leg 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, then Van 1 takes back over.  You do this three times.
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I was runner #4 and as I said, I was in Van 1, which, by the way was the “Cool Van”!  My first leg was at about 8:00 am on Friday morning. It was 7.7 miles and consisted mostly of gravel trails. I felt good on this run, I was able to hit my predicted pace, it was like most races, I was well nourished and rested, but that would change in the later legs.

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On the course, the Ragnar Staff put out theses 1-mile to go signs to let you know you’re nearing an exchange.  Selfie Opp!

We met up with Van 2 at exchange 6.  Welcomed in our last runner in and sent off their first runner.  The Major Exchanges, where one van is finished and the next van takes over, is a huge party.  Music, food and shopping.  I hit the Ragnar Store pretty hard and loaded up on some cool Race stuff.

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Next we headed to exchange 12.  By now it was about 6:00 pm on Friday and it had gotten very hot throughout the day.  Van 2’s last runner arrived and our 1st runner headed out.  Now the nights runs started.  My second run was at about 8:30 pm, it was 4.9 miles and it was again on a trail.  It had started to cool down some and I felt very good and was able to beat my predicted pace by a few minutes.  Our last runner finished her leg at about 10:30 pm at exchange 18 and we headed for exchange 24.  This exchange was a at a YMCA and the plan was to camp out in the gym and get some sleep wile we waited for van 2’s runner to arrive.   Yea, well that dident happen!  With several hundred other runners coming and going at all different times and right next to us was “Snoring guy”, so needles to say, NO SLEEP was had by our team. Saturday was gong to be a Long day!

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At about 4:30 am on Saturday, van 2’s runner arrived and our runner headed out.  My 3rd and final leg started at about 8:30 am.  At this point I had been awake for about 29 hours. Surprisingly I felt pretty good at the start.  Oh, by the way did I tell you that this leg was was the Ragnar Reebok Leg? (Reebok sponsors it)  No, I didn’t think so.  At every Ragnar Race they pick out the hardest leg and the give a special medal to the runner that competes this leg. Yep, I was about to run the hardest Leg of the entire 200 miles! WTF was I thinking when I volunteered for this?

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Our runner arrived and I was off.  I set an early pace of about 8:30 minute miles. It was predicted to be in the 90″s that day and I think it was already in the 90’s by mile 3, at least it felt that way.  It became apparent that I was not gong to be able to hold that pace for the entire 7.9 miles, so I decided to back off some, which I would end up doing several times before I finished.  My predicted pace was 9:00 minute miles and I finished at a 10:02 min average pace.  No what I had planned for, but it was over and I was very happy for that. Normally, 7.9 miles is not a difficult run for me, but with the heat, the lack of sleep and proper nutrition, it was hands down, the hardest race I’ve ever run. But I got a cool medal tough, so it was was worth it. LOL

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By late afternoon we are at the finish line, which was on Montrose Beach, just north of down town Chicago, waiting for van 2’s final runner to arrive. Huge party as each team crosses the finish line.  Music, pizza, beer, hot and oh yea, 45+ mph winds blowing sand everywhere, just what was needed after over 36 hour of not bathing! lol.

Our runner arrived, we all joined him to cross the finish line together.  35 hours and 19 minutes!  Our plan was 36 hours!!

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Van 1 Runners: (L-R) Allison, Danielle, Sara, Me, Tara and Janet
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Van 2 Runners, (L-R) Casey, Tona, Kate, Tim, Kellie and Jeff
There are so many stories I could share, but like all long runs, we always envoke the “Vegas Rule”!  What goes on or what’s talked about on a long run or in this case a Ragnar Relay, stays on the run.
I was blessed to have been with such an amazing group of fellow runners to compete this race with.  Some I have known for a while and some i’d just met, but all are now friends for life now!
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When all 12 medals are put together, it creates this ” Together we can Accomplish anything”
Until next time. happy running!
Have you ever ran a Ragnar (or any other long) Relay race?
Do you use the Vegas Rule on your long runs?


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