Where do I start? Would I do it again? Yes! I don’t even have to think about it.
A running relay was on my list of things to do, but I did not think it would happen in 2011. Silly me, you never know when an opportunity will pop-up on twitter. When Jenn asked if there were any women interested in joining a Ragnar Chicago team I thought “Why not?” and told her yes. I was replacing a runner who got a new job or didn’t want to do it anymore or possibly even a lamer excuse, but it didn’t matter, I was really excited to join a team. Ragnar Chicago started in Madison, WI (my second favorite “city”) and then takes the most ridiculous route ever to get to Chicago.
The road to Ragnar was a crazy adventure as runners began dropping like flies. Our team only had 3, that’s right, 3 of the original team members. Our amazing team captain, Jenn, was constantly trying to find more runners. I felt bad that I couldn’t come up with anyone. There were several times I thought poor Jenn may lose it, but she survived and somehow we made it to Madison.
Of course in the days before Ragnar one of the teammates came down with strep throat and another sprained her ankle so we really only had 10 runners. Our team (those who made it to Madison) was comprised of Jenn (@jenn_if_er), Dee (@deeFSU), Tara (@frenchiegurl), me (@rshill37), Katie N (@katietris), Katie F (@katiefaris18), Kim (@MsIndigo), Maureen (@rushourunner), Ginesa (@ptg1002), Kelsey (@chelseykelsey), and Laura (who doesn’t use twitter, no I didn’t know that was possible). And of course there was the team handle @ORelationship.
Thursday evening was a ton of fun as none of us had met each other before. I dragged Kim, Dee and Kelsey to the Great Dane for dinner before we went to the grocery store. I love being in Madison no matter the reason. I kind of didn’t want to leave. I barely had 12 hours in my town. Once everyone else finally arrived we all filed into one of the hotel rooms talking over each other trying to figure out this whole 10 runners thing. Mind you none of us had met previously, oh social media. We realized we really needed to get the runners figured out. Several awesome people stepped up and volunteer to run extra. I personally did not want to add mileage as I already had 20.1, but finally caved and got assigned another 3.6 miles. I didn’t realize it was a second leg in the middle of the night, but oh well, for the team, blah, blah, blah. We had to pack up the vans and decorate them and attempt to get some sleep. Ok, really Van 1 needed to get sleep. Jenn, Tara and I went down to the hotel bar, which was packed with runners, mostly Van 2 people. Lots of fun chatting with other teams. I finally climbed into bed while trying to make no noise (I was in a room with two Van 1 runners).
Four AM came way too early. Not that I had to get up, but I heard Kim and Ginesa getting ready. Van 1 was off at 6:00am (yuck). Once they were off, I kind of went back to sleep. Van 2 had some time to get ourselves together and then drove across Madison to pick-up Katie N, who got to sleep in her own bed, and then we were off to Lake Mills. Van 2 was me, Jenn, Maureen, Katie N and Laura. It’s amazing how five people can trash a 15 passenger van in a matter of moments. Our first stop was Walgreens and then McDonalds for caffeine where there were several other Ragnar teams. Since Van 2 had yet to check in we had to do the safety check when we got to Lake Mills High School. Wow was that a joke. They didn’t check how many vests we had or lights or even runners. We used our time in Lake Mills to redecorate the van since the lovely overnight rain had washed it all off and reorganize all our crap inside the van. It was fun to check out the other vans, chat with other teams, and just take it all in. Here is Van 2 just hanging out (right).
Finally, or what just felt like an eternity, it was Van 2’s turn to run. Katie N was our first runner. Tara came running in to hand off to Katie N and then she was off. We chatted for a short time with Van 1, but basically had to take off to the next exchange. I was finally getting excited to run, but realized I still wasn’t going to run forever (I was runner 12). I kind of knew the area we were driving/running through. The Glacial Drumlin Trail is beautiful and the runners were really enjoying it. Van 2 didn’t get rained on at all by some random luck. I drove some. After Laura was off for Leg 9 we went to get some food and ended up over in Johnsons Creek. We got Kelsey back with second to spare and she was off for her second leg of the day. She passed off to Jenn and I called my parents to update them on our timing to get to Dousman.
I was really excited for my first leg. It started in Dousman, across the street from Bicycle Doctor, a bike shop I worked at in high school. I went into the store to say hi to a bunch of the people I know and then my parents came. It was awesome that they came out to support me and see me off. My mom got a great picture of me and my dad.
We watched for Jenn to come in and she passed the slap bracelet off to me and Leg 12 began. I was running on the paved-portion of the Glacial Drumlin Trail, parts of which I had run before. I watched my pace pretty carefully as I didn’t want to go out too fast on my first of four legs. I passed two runners and a few passed me (I refused to count that number). It was starting to get foggy and a bit misty. The “one mile to go” sign was definitely off. I had my garmin so it wasn’t a big deal, just noticeable. Being runner 12 meant I got to run into the big exchanges with both vans of people. I came flying into exchange 12 to pass off to Kim.
Van 2 decided to eat and then go rest/sleep/relax. We went to Noodles in Delafield which was basically half full of families with young kids and Ragnar teams. After eating we drove to Martin Luther High School. I “slept” on the gym floor for maybe 1.5-2 hours. I’m truly amazed how well the sounds of snoring spread around a gymnasium. Suddenly it was our turn to run again. This was where I had two legs in about 2 hours. I ran Leg 22 with a flashlight and headlamp. Wow, was the trail dark. The streets at least had some light from street lamps and houses. This leg wasn’t too bad since it was only 3.6 miles. I just trucked along. I started to feel nauseous toward the end of the leg. Once I passed off to Jenn I downed a Gatorade and two packages of Cliff Shot Bloks. I started to feel better and immediately had to switch my mind over to my next leg. Here is what Maureen looked like with all her awesome night gear.
Less than an hour of rest sucks. There is no other way to put it. I had myself wrapped up in my fleece blanket as we waited for Jenn to come in. It was also really strange to hand off to Jenn and have her hand off to me. Leg 24 was rough. My legs were tired, it was 3:30 in the morning and I didn’t really want to be running. I had decided to let my first mile be whatever it needed to be to loosen up my legs. I was trying hard, but not moving at a pace I wanted to be moving at. I heard people coming up behind me, most passed right on by, but one guy started running with me, which was awesome. He asked if it was okay to run with me and I wanted to hug him. Running the last 3 miles or so while chatting with someone was exactly what I needed. He helped me keep moving and not run too slow. I barely remember this hand-off to Van 1. I was so tired at this point.
Thankfully my van decided we would sleep at exchange 18 and then drive forward after a few hours of sleep. I passed out in a matter of moments in the first row of the van. I think the only person asleep before me was Maureen. Jenn and Laura went inside the church to sleep. When my alarm went off at 7:30am I actually felt rested. I posted on twitter that it was the best 3 hours of sleep of my life which garnered a lot of responses along the lines of “how on earth did you get 3 hours?” or “I am so jealous”. I count myself very lucky to have gotten 3 solid hours of sleep. We went to Panera for breakfast and finally made it across the state line and into Illinois. We were closely watching the texts from Van 1 to make sure we got to the exchange on time.
Exchange 30 was a lot of fun. We were stupid-giddy at this point and basically just sat in the van giggling and tweeting like idiots. I some of the runners from 12 Sweaty Nuts so went and said hi. Van 1 got to the exchange so we all went out to cheer for Tara as she came in and then Katie N was off. The next exchange was at a YMCA, which meant flushable toilets and showers. Now I didn’t shower since I still had to run, but Katie N and Jenn showered. We sent Maureen off for her 9.9 mile leg. Thankfully she found someone to run with on this leg as it went through some questionable areas. She passed off to Laura who in turned passed back to Maureen. Jenn got a bit nervous about her 8.2 mile leg so our awesome teammates, Katie N and Laura, offered to run a bit more to cheer Jenn along. Jenn kicked ass on her leg and sprinted in to exchange 35 where I was waiting to run the final leg.
I started at Northwestern University and Leg 36 basically followed the lake south. My hat ripped not even a half mile in so I just threw it away. I was not going to carry it for 7 miles. I have to say it would have been nice to have a few more signs. It went straight for so long I would start to wonder if I was still going the right direction. I was running with the mentality of “if I run faster, I will be done faster”. I still don’t know how I pulled out those 7.8 miles. I kept the first four miles around a 8:35-8:40 pace. I texted Katie N to let her know that I was way ahead of where I thought I would be since everyone was waiting for me at the finish line. I came around one of the last big turns and could finally see the finish line. It turned out to be a tease as I was over a mile away. I kept an eye on my garmin and chose to push it harder. I just wanted to be done. I knew they had champagne at the finish line. I knew everyone had worked really hard to get us to where we were and all I had to do was get to the finish line. They were all waiting probably 10 yards from the finish and we crossed as a team. I thought I was going to cry and/or vomit, but managed to not do either. I don’t think I will ever know how I pulled off that final leg. We had our champagne on the beach as I caught my breath, took a bunch of pictures and then went back to the vans. And the medal is a bottle opener! How cool is that? It was an amazing 197 mile journey that we completed together and I would do it all over again.