So what is a Ragnar Relay ULTRA you ask? Well it’s like a traditional Ragnar Relay, except instead of 12 people running 200ish miles, 6 people run 200ish miles. Yea, I know that’s just insane. It kinda is, but if non-runers are going to say we’re crazy for doing what we love, then we might as well give them some fuel, right?
So after the Ragnar Relay – Chicago, on our way home, while basking in the euphoria of just having completed a 12 person relay that ran from Madison Wisconsin to Chicago Illinois, which is about 200 miles, a plan was hatched to do another one and oh, yea, because this one did not kill us, lets make it an ULTRA.
So the first thing you need to do is pick a Theme for your team. Not registering with Ragnar, Not paying your registration fee, Not determine the logistics of how your going to get there, no, no, no, nothing is more important than a Team Name.
So the process started. Ideas were tossed around, with little excitement, then Janet through out “Mean Girls” and then I think Kate (AKA Katie, Kitty Kate, etc.) added that I could be Glen Coco! Bam! Just like that we had our theme.
Of course we needed a movie night to re-watch the 80’s movie Mean Girls, for research of course.
So once we had a Theme, all was right in the world. Glen Coco and the Mean Girls were going to run 200ish miles.
Next was getting our uniforms. Yea, that’s right, Theme then Tee Shirts, then everything else. With a Theme and Shirts, then all would be good.
So on Thursday (September 29th) in the afternoon we met at Janet’s house to start the process. This was a well thought out process. Each of us had our own page from the “Burn Book” (ok, so at this point, maybe you better rent the movie and watch it, so you can keep up, Ill wait), ok back now?
With the the van adequately decorated we could pack and hit the road.
We arrived in Muskegon Michigan at about 8:00 pm, and met up with team “Ramming Speed” a 12 person team from Toledo made up of fellow Chicago Ragnar Team Mates, Coaches from Dave’s Running MIT Program and a few MIT Participants as well. Together we enjoyed a per-race dinner at a local Pizza Grill.
It was Asses in the seats on Friday morning at 4:15 am for the short drive to the start line, we had to watch a safety video, then the race started at 5:30 am.
Our running order was Janet, Kate, Danielle, Sara, Allison then me. We would repeat this 6 times. Each runner would run 6 legs, and average just over 30 miles.
After each runner would start their run, the van would drive to the next exchange point and wait for the runner to come in. While we waited, the next runner would ready themselves and as the runner came in they would pass off the “Slap Bracelet” which acted as the baton and out they would go.
We progressed throughout the day and into the night. Reflective vests, head light and tail lights were the required garb.
Things were going great for me, then after leg 3, the doors started to fall off as they say. My first leg was a 3.6 mile and my second leg was a 3.5 mile and both were well below my planned pace of 9:30 per mile.
My 3rd leg was again a shorter leg of 3.7 miles that started at about 7:45 pm on Friday and thats really when the pain started.
To back track some, off an on all sumer I’d been having some minor issues with the heal of my right foot. I had it looked at and it was deterred that I had a minor case of Fat Pad Syndrome.
“Very similar to a Heel Bruise, Fat Pad Syndrome refers to an injury where there is a displacement of a portion of the fat pad that protects the heel – usually to one side of the heel or the other. It is most often the result of trauma from landing heel-first on a hard surface (after a jump or fall) or from prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces with inadequate protection from footwear. Some cases of Fat Pad Syndrome can be attributed to the aging process where over time, the fat pad flattens and displaces, losing its ability to absorb shock and protect the heel bone”
I did as told and iced, put gel inserts in my shoes and took ibuprofen and things were going fine with it. I ran a half marathons the week before this event and really had no issues.
Back to the race. I felt some discomfort on legs 1 and 2, but nothing like what happened on leg 3. I literally stopped twice to walk because of of the pain. The best way I can describe it is if you have ever stepped on a marble or maybe a Lego bare foot right on your heal! The pain was incredible. Pain with every step.
At this point, I had ran my three shorter legs of 3 miles or so each and I had my three longer legs of 6 miles or so each yet to come
So here I am at 10:00 pm on Friday night, some 16 hours into a 36 hour event and wondering how in the world I could ever walk, let alone run 18 miles yet.
Like they say, I was in a very Dark Place. I was sitting in the drivers seat of the van and Kate was setting alongside me in the passenger seat. She knew I was in pain, and was being very supporting. I was reading the Ragnar Rules book to see what options there were for inured runners. It was prettily simple, “if an injured runner pulled out, the other members of the team had to run the injured runners miles or face disqualification”.
If it only effect me, I would have surely just dropped out, but it didn’t, It would effect the entire team as well. How could I possibly ask them to take on 18 of my miles along with the 30ish miles they needed to run. After I read that, It was clear, I could not do that to my team. I had to finish somehow.
Ok, what to do. Thanks to some info my PT had sent me, I spent an hour reading up on treatments and found that taping it might help. Danielle, had a role of KT Tape with her so I used the entire roll and tapped the living shit out of my foot.
Let 4 – 2:19 am Saturday morning. It was do or die time and quite honestly, dyeing might have been better. Up to this point our team had a goal to finish at 4:00 pm on Saturday and we were presently about 1-hour ahead of that. I knew that my times would effect that, so my my plan was to try to run (shuffle) as such as possible and only walk if needed, I figured that if I could muster a 12:30 minute mile, over the course of the 18 miles I had left, we would still be in by 4:00 pm.
I started out and it hurt like hell, I was shuffling at about 13:30 to 14 minute pace. I started to experiment with my gate and surprising I found a gate landing on the ball of my right foot that reduced the pain level and was able to pick up the pace. I finished the 6.52 miles in 1:19:45 or 12:14 pace. Not great but much better than I thought. Now to rest it and plan for the next 2 legs.
Leg 5 – 9:11 am Saturday. The one thing about Ragnar Michigan, was the “Hills”. As you can see above, leg 5 stared with a strong downhill., which I had hopped would result in a faster pace, but as it turned out, running down hill in my saturation was even harder than flat or uphill, but I was able to finish it with an overall pace of 12:26. Not great but coupled with the fact that my teammates were killing their paces, I’m sure to compensate for my lack of speed, we were still about 45 minutes ahead of our goal, but it was early and a lot could still go wrong.
Leg 6 – 2:04 pm, Saturday. At this point we had all been up for about 34 hours. I had the last leg, leg 36 of the race and it was up to me to bring it home. My leg was 6.5 miles long with a huge down hill at the end (see above). Normally, I would love a big downhill like that, but not so much now. Again, my awesome teammates had gained even more ground to give me some room to walk if needed and they all kept telling me to use the bank of time and walk as much as I needed to. I wanted to make them proud and I wanted to try to redeem myself some. So before I stated this leg, I decited to add more tape to my foot, but we were out of KT Tape, so Duct Tape it was. LOL Yep, you can do anything with Duct Tape.
I started out as fast as possible to allow some time to walk on the downhill side if needed. The extra tape helped and my strategy had worked and I finished my leg in 1:09:03, with a 11:09 pace and we finished the race at 3:14 pm. 33 hours and 46 minutes to run 200 miles, about a 10:12 minutes per mile average pace and 46 minutes before our planned finish of 4:00 pm.
I was never so happy to see a “one mile to go” sign in my life.
First, and foremost, thank you to my teammates for being patient and sportive when I was in that dark place. I think as runners we’ve all been there. All we need to survive is someone to just listen and be there for us. Don’t try to “fix” it, as runners we know what we need to do, it just may take us some time to get here.
Second, as the quote goes, “Run when you can, walk if you need to, crawl if you must, but NEVER give up“. Truer words were never spoken.
Lastly, As I reflected on this event it would be easy to hate it, and to be negative, but I choose not to look at things that way. Not that I am glad it happened, but how I preformed is what really matters to me. Im glad I finished and did not give up.