So, you don’t remember me talking up running Ragnar DC? Well, that’s because I didn’t…because I wasn’t planning on running it. I thought about it once my new job started and I began to have Fridays and Saturdays off. However, I had plans with Jake that weekend, and I am flying home this weekend… However, when I saw quite a few teams in need of a runner less than 48 hours before the event, I felt a calling, and I had to follow it.
I’ve struggled with how I want to write this recap, because a Ragnar is so multi-dimensional. There’s the physical aspect of the running, the mental aspect of running three times in two days, with one time in the middle of the night, and also the emotional aspect of being stuck in a van with 5 other people. I’ll start today with the more “running” aspects of the race, and later share the emotional aspects of the race.
What is a Ragnar Relay? Well, if you’re a runner and don’t know this, I’m afraid that you may be living under a rock. In short, it’s an adult relay race. A Ragnar (typically) consists of 12 runners, split into two vans. Each runner runs 3 legs, and all together, the race is about 200 miles, point to point.
9:30 Wednesday: I was talking to Andi, from team The Last in the Furious. It seemed like a perfect group for me – lots of newbies and no stress on pace. Jake let me out of our plans for Saturday (which I still feel guilty and selfish about, but he keeps telling me to stop freaking out), and I was IN. I was up until about 1:00 doing laundry and trying to get myself together. I had an idea that I would be runner 10, but wasn’t completely sure.
Thursday: After doing errands and finishing packing up, I was off to Northern Virginia to meet my team. I left around 2:30 to beat traffic, and arrived to packet pickup in Falls Church around 4:45. I found the Mad Fox Brewery to relax at and met my team later that evening. I was overwhelmed by their graciousness of my volunteering to run with them, while also trying to help them get ready for the Relay. We were all first timers.
Friday: I woke up Friday morning to hear that we were already behind schedule because our first runner got lost and ran a few extra miles. I tried not to stress out too much as we made our way to the first major exchange and met up with our team’s other van. Following our other runners on their legs was intimidating because they were seriously running up mountains. It was so hot and I was really nervous!
Leg 1 – Ragnar leg 10, 8.77 miles, rated HARD
I didn’t get to run until about 4:00. It was HOT and super sunny. I was thankful that my leg (leg 10) was the flattest of the course so far, and it was on a shady trail! I seriously lucked out with that. I planned not to go out too fast, but yet, I was stressed about us being approximately 2:30 behind pace at that point. I set out at 90:30 intervals, with plans to run about an 11:00/mi pace as to save myself for my other two legs.
Thankfully, my directions were simple – about half a mile through Hancock, MD, then onto the C&O Canal Trail. I felt great and was easily busting out 10:30ish miles. In that heat, I was suprirsed, but okay with it. Along the way, I got passed (killed) by about 5 runners, and also got 10 kills myself. Around mile 7, my knees started to bother me a little. You see, I was silly and wore new shoes…not completely new as they were my third pair of Hoka Clifton 3’s, but it was probably a bad idea…Around then, I also felt the wheels start to “fall off” due to feeling overheated. When my watch hit 8 miles, I had yet to see the infamous “one more mile” Ragnar sign and got a little worried. I had been in contact with my team, but wanted to make sure they would be ready for me at the exchange.
Around 8.25 miles, I started seeing runners coming from the other direction and could tell that I was finally close. I pushed as hard as I could, although my pace didn’t increase all that much. The last bit was the only hill of the course, and I busted up the hill to hand off my slap bracelet/baton ANDDDD……MY TEAM WASN’T THERE.
We eventually figured out that my team were at the wrong exchange, and about 10 minutes later, they were there and our next runner was off. Thank goodness, because I had bottomed out and was out of water. There was no exciting exchange, just me giving runner 11 the bracelet (in the middle of the road, whoops) and telling her to go. I was trying not to seem too pissed, but I was pretty furious. It took all I had to put myself together to cheer on the others as they finished their legs without a hitch.
Leg 1 stats: 8.8 miles, 1:32:20, 10:30/mi avg, 10 kills
Leg 2 – Ragnar leg 22, 6.0 miles, rated HARD
Leg 2 was the leg I was most excited about – running at night! My van-mates were all nervous about their night runs and used the “buddy system” so they didn’t have to run alone. I was excited for this challenging part of the relay, and outright denied someone running with me. I felt slightly better mentally because I was somewhat familiar with the area that I was running through (Adamstown, MD), and the elevation chart was one again easy.
With “buddying up”, we were attempting to catch up on time. However, I still ended up starting about 20 minutes behind schedule. Although I had changed into my Hoka Arahi’s, I was still worried about my knees and started out slow, with 60:30 intervals. I was passed about 3 times by super speedy men in the first mile, then I was completely alone, aside from a few van sightings. There was no one to pass or to pass me. And it was SO dark. That was the hardest part – the darkness and then the fog. It was also a little chilly, but I’d rather have that than horrible heat.
Just before the 2 mile mark, I was feeling great and moved back up to 90:30 intervals. I felt strong and loved the fact that I couldn’t worry about the elevation around me. It was calming to just run, and only know there was a up/down hill by listening to my legs. I’d never felt so connected to running before! I only used my phone to notify my team when I was at miles 3 and 5, as I told them I didn’t need “support.” Around mile 5.5, someone finally came up to me, and we ran closely for a bit. I tried to catch him at the end, but wasn’t quite able to do it. And what happened when I finished? My team wasn’t ready for me….(Insert explatives here).
Leg 2 stats: 6.0 mi, 1:03:30, 10:35 mi/avg
Post leg 2 My legs felt good, but I otherwise felt completely exhausted. Before our van left for our second legs, I had only gotten about half an hour of sleep, and had been running off of Red Bull, gatorade/water, a plate of (not good) pasta, and random snacks. I finished at about 4:50am, and it was at about 8:00am before we got to an iHop (ew) and ordered food. I don’t do eggs, and I was a little dumb and got chicken and fries. My theory – it had lots of calories, carbs, protein, and fat. But seeing as it was iHop and it tasted like it was cooked the night before than microwaved…I didn’t feel to well after eating it. After breakfast, I tried and failed to get more sleep. By the time my third leg came around, I had probably gotten a total of about 2.5 hours.
Leg 3 – Ragnar leg 34, 1.8 miles, rated EASY
By the time my third leg came around, we were just about back on schedule to finish at 7:30, which made me feel much more at ease. Because my leg was only 1.8 miles, I had the mentality to go as hard as I could and give my all. It was about 3:30 when the time came, and I was stoked!
I ran with 2:30 run and :30 walk intervals. I wanted to do a “straight” run, but with the heat above 90 degrees again, I was nervous to do that. There was a possibility that I would have to run some miles in the last leg, so I didn’t want to completely kill myself.
This leg, while “easy” ended up being the hardest for me. The course had a lot of turns, which made it hard to keep my speed even. There were a couple of good hills, and the last hill had two stop lights, which I got stuck at. This ruined my momentum and made it harder to keep people behind me. I really kicked it in and was finally able to hand off the slap bracelet to a team that was ready for me!! I felt so accomplished and really proud that I had finished faster than was predicted to gain some precious minutes for my team. (The Ragnar calculator predicted me to run about 21 minutes, so I gained a solid 4 minutes).
Leg 3 stats: 1.76 mi, 17:03, 9:40/mi avg, 2 kills
Total distance run: 16.56 miles
That’s about all for my running for Ragnar DC! I was thankful that I didn’t have to step in during the last leg, because it was frighteningly hot and I felt so bad for all of the people running out in the sun. Part of me is pretty surprised that it wasn’t “black flagged”, but I’m glad that we did get to finish, right at the predicted time. I’ll share more about the finish in my next post, because I wasn’t happy with that part of the Ragnar experience…
Have you ever run a Ragnar Relay? What was the hardest part, physically, for you?