Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ragnar Recap

On Thursday, June 9th, a twelve person passenger van pulled up outside my house with a Scottish driver - Joanne. Don't let the driver position fool you, she's really a quite fast marathoner and a member of the Universal Sole team!

Joanne and I drove up the North Shore, picked up Jessica and Jackie, and then headed up to Madison. We spent the car ride getting to know each other. The fifth member of our van would meet us at the start line the next day. The sixth member of our van was Kim, who sadly couldn't participate in Ragnar due to a stress fracture.

We checked in to our hotel that evening, had a bite to eat and then headed to bed. Our van (#1) would arrive at the start at 8:30am for a 9:30am start. Van #2 arrived in Madison later in the evening and would not begin their legs until the afternoon. I had a hard time falling asleep. I had so many questions. How would this all work?

Friday morning we grabbed breakfast and headed to the start. That's when we saw the true size of this event. Hundreds of passenger vans, suvs, and mini vans were parked at the start, transporting their respective teams. The start line was staggered depending on your team's overall predicted pace. The faster overall pace your team had, the later you started in the day. We heard of some teams starting at 6:30am and others starting at 1pm.

After a few safety briefings, the gun went off and Jessica began her first leg of the race. Our van would meet Jessica at the first exchange point, where I would take the baton (er, slap bracelet) from her and run the second leg (in place of Kim).  The van would continue in this leap frog fashion until we reached exchange point 6 where van #2 would take over legs 7-12 with their runners.

I started leg two (my first run) around a lake in Madison. The 4.5 route took me through a few neighborhood streets and then in to a church parking lot where I passed off the baton. The first run felt good. I had about an hour and a half break before run 2 (leg 5) started.

Run two started at a high school in Cambridge, Wisconsin. The 6.4 mile run started down Liberty street in Cambridge. The street was lined with American Flags - fitting for a small town. Then I turned on to the Glacial Drumlin trail. After a short distance on the trail, I ran across the path of a possum.  No worries, he was more scared than I. Then on to country roads where I saw farms and dairy cows for a few miles. At one point, a cow ran along side me. This kind of stuff just can't happen running along the lake in Chicago!

At the conclusion of my second run, I took was was the first of many baby wipe baths of the relay. Let's just say I'm glad I bought the biggest container Target had. The bath made a world of a difference and I thought of how my brother went for weeks without a real shower the first time he was deployed to Iraq. Putting on a fresh pair of clothes seemed ok now. No point in taking a real shower anyway - I was running again in less than 12 hours.

After Jackie ran her first leg, we headed forward to exchange point 12 where we attempted to get some sleep. Trying to sleep outside in a sleeping bag in the middle of the day does have it's challenges, but we caught what little sleep we could, or couldn't.

It was reaching dusk when our team's runner came in to exchange 12 and Jessica was on her way again. This time, she was outfitted with a headlamp, tail lamp, and safety vest. By the time she finished her leg, it was dark out. As the night carried on, the relay became more challenging. Signs were harder to see. It was easy to lose sense of direction. Not to mention, we were sorta getting tired. But we pushed on.

Around midnight I prepared for a 4.3 mile run through a park in Greenfield, Wisconsin which would take me into Milwaukee. I have never had a run quite like this. This was the first time I was running with a headlamp. With no street lights. With no cars passing by or barely the sight of any other runners. I was scared. Scared of what else was out in the night and also scared of falling on my face. As I started running, all I could hear was the sound of my footsteps and the faint echo of other runners footsteps. No sirens, no horns, no crickets, nothing.  Weird.

After arriving at exchange 18, Jackie had to run one more leg before the van could rest for a few hours. When she finished, it was after 1am. We drove to a church somewhere in the Milwaukee area and parked in a field with hundreds of other vans. We tried to get comfortable in the van to take a catnap. I managed a short baby wipe bath and put on my compression socks. We had lights out for a about two hours, then it was time to pack up and head out to Racine where we'd meet up with van #2 again.

The sun had yet to rise as Jessica started her last leg. Once she completed her leg in Racine, Joanne ran two back to back 6 mile legs (one for Kim and one of her own). Amazing! Around 7:30 it was time for me to run my last leg, which was just 2.9 miles through Kenosha. The run was labeled 'easy' which, I would agree, it was the easiest of all my runs, but after the day I'd had, it felt like the last six miles of  a marathon. I think that's what kept me going - the debate of if the way I was feeling at that time was better or worse than the last few miles of the marathon. Then, somehow, I was at the exchange point and my part of the race was complete.

Later in the day, we met the runners of van #2 down at Montrose Harbor at the race's finish line. Our last runner was about to come in the home stretch of the race at 3:30pm on Saturday. As our runner approached, we jumped in with her and ran to the end. Volunteers offered us snacks and metals which double as bottle openers (now somebody's thinking!). We took a few photos, had a few laughs, said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.

It's 4pm on a Saturday. I've run over 18 miles in the last 24 hours. I'm on about three hours of sleep in the last day and a half.  But I had a great time, and I can't wait to do it again.

1 comment:

Read/Write/Run said...

Hey Laura,

I can't do that early morning run thing anymore. Hats off to you for being able to do it. I must admit though that 11 miles is a long way to go.

I came across your blog looking for other runners. I enjoyed your post about the Ragnar relay race. I used to do the Cape Cod Relays years ago.

Good luck with your training. If you get a chance, stop by my blog and say hello.