So let me get this straight– you want me to run 17 miles in 24 hours, ride in a van for 30 hours, get no sleep (a.k.a sleep on my high school gym floor with a ROOM full of strangers) AND pay money to do this? Ok, let me think about it and get back to you.
Ha, this was the exact conversation I had in May when I was asked to join a Ragnar team. I would know only one other person on the team (and their hubby) but yet I was still intrigued. You know, in a crazy runner kind of way?
I have always been out of town on Ragnar weekend, so it has never been an option for me. Well, this year the timing worked out and I happened to be free on Great River Ragnar weekend. But, did I really want to do it? There was the no sleeping, being in a van with some strangers (who we would all probably be really smelly) and God only knows what else…….but yet I was intrigued. Runners are all sorts of crazy.
I said YES before I had too much time to think about it. I mean, running 200 miles as a team relay style from Winona to Minneapolis sounded a bit like the Amazing Race to me. I am done with marathon running, so this sounded like a perfect “do-able” goal for me. A little fun, a little crazy, a new adventure. But wait, there was that no sleeping thing.
So, I trained all summer. My runs (or legs as they call them) would be 6.2 miles, 5.1 and 5.2– (give or take). So I would run between 16 and 17 miles total. I would be in Van 1 leaving from Winona with a 6:30 am start time on Friday, and I was runner two so I would start around 7:10-7:15, which meant we had to get down to the area on Thursday night.
So the adventure began—the white Mystery Machine picked me up Thursday night. It was a sweet ride. My kids were even jealous and had to check it out!
We got to decorate it, we filled it with our running gear, mega snacks, water bottles, sleeping bags and anything else you can think that runners need- even a roll of toilet paper (no explanation necessary.)
On our way down to the Winona area we stopped for a bite at Panera and putting our team magnets on any other Ragnar vans that we saw as a little game (which I learned was called “tagging” them). OOOOh, I liked this already- razzing other teams has already begun without the running part.
We stayed in a hotel about 25 minutes from the starting line. Our alarms were set for 4:30 am to hit the road with hot coffee and yes pick up our last teammate on the highway. You heard me right, we literally pulled off the highway exit ramp and she hopped in our van at 4:45 am. Yep, runners are crazy.
Our first runner took off at 6:30 after we watched our safety video and checked in. I was the second runner and as our first runner came in, he slapped the wristband around me and off I went on my first Leg of just over 6 miles. I was a little excited, so I probably ran a little faster than normal, but it was do-able for me to keep it up with the adrenaline. See when you pass another runner you get to count it as a “kill” so I began to enjoy getting kills. My first run I would pick out the people I would “kill”– so 4 were in sight and I’d say yep, I can for sure kill them. Then I’d see another two and say yep, they are next. Then I’d see nobody and think I was done but soon enough my pace was decent enough to catch up with more and 16 came and went and I completed my first leg. I got really excited to tell my team that I had 11 kills when I saw them cheering for me at the roadside rest, and here’s how I was telling them I had 11 kills- LOL.
After each leg, it’s up to you if you want to stay in your sweaty nasty clothes and run in the again. Since I am an uber-clean lady who likes to shower more than most people, I changed out of my clothes the first chance I could and brought my awesome coconut wipes to wipe off the grime. I was “almost” good as new. 🙂
After my leg, we hopped in the van and went to cheer on runner three. We were somewhere in Wisconsin, and this runner got to run through a row of flags that each represented a fallen soldier. It was one of the coolest and most serene moments of the race– at about 7:20 in the morning we sat in silence as each runner ran through these flags. I will never forget this sight. Breathtaking.
My second leg was not until about 5:30 pm so we had a good lunch on Lake Pepin, although it was raining at that point a bit. I stuck with a healthy lunch as I wasn’t sure how it would be to run after a bacon cheeseburger and a beer, but man was I eyeing up the greasy goods around me.
My leg two came and I was ready, a bit nervous since my legs were tight from run one. I found out right before heading out that the last two miles of my five, were straight uphill. I was a little freaked out, but kept telling myself “I’ve got this.” The hill came and I felt like I was running up the Stillwater stairs- I took small strides and used my arms to pump. My goal was NOT to walk. I passed a handful of runners, and then one man on the hill who wasn’t happy that I killed him. 🙂 At that point, I couldn’t let him pass me (my competitive side coming out) so my goal was to just stay ahead of him. I made it the two miles and did walk about 3 steps and just kept telling myself “get through this one song.” It’s crazy how your mind plays a HUGE role in running. I am a fighter, I won’t go down. This second run was beautiful- watching the sun set over Lake Pepin. I didn’t have to run in the dark, but soon my team mates would.
After that leg, I changed again and did some serious foam rolling (and eating snacks of course). I tried to make myself eat a lot over the course of the day with all the running and the humidity.
Now here’s where things got interesting. We wrapped up our runs for Van 1 and we drove to my OLD HIGH SCHOOL (which is now a junior high) to catch some shut eye. Yep, I slept on the floor of my high school – it was a complete time warp laying down in the gym I played volleyball in. Of course I couldn’t really sleep with the loud guy snoring close by and the lady with the lit up screen so I headed out to take a hot shower and hoped that help for me to catch some zzzzsssss. I got snuggled into my sleeping bag on the hard floor, and finally drifted off for maybe about an hour. We had about three hours total before we had to get up and run again. Yeah, the snorer and the screen lady were not my friends at the moment. I needed sleep, but was afraid that maybe I’d miss the next run so I just rested.
It was 3:30 and time to get up to get ready for our next and FINAL stretch of runs. I was runner two, so I had to get my headlamp, lighted vest and running wear on. The first runner only had 3 miles so I knew my run would come quickly. Yep, I was doing this in the pitch dark at about 4:50, with one hour sleep. 🙂 But I was ready!
Did I mention I felt a little bit hungover from no sleep? 🙂 I headed out on my last 5 miles- pitch black and leaving from my hometown and ending up 3 miles from my house. It was a little freaky running in the dark, quiet hours of the wee morning with just some flashing red lights way ahead of me (other runners), but white vans passed by and I enjoyed the calm. I knew that after this one, I was done and could just enjoy cheering on my team for the remaining legs. I had a few kills to finish my 3rd run, and came in at a decent pace– a little slower than my first and second of course, but I was proud of how I pushed through with three runs like this in 24 hours.
After I was done, we made a stop at my house and I grabbed mimosas from my fridge, made myself a coffee and gave my husband a sweaty hug before taking off to cheer on my team. As our van completed our last runs, we stopped at Cottage Grove High to take showers and meet Van 2 to start their running. Wow did a nice shower feel great– but holy cow I was so sleep deprived I felt a little nauseous. We had about 4 hours until we had to be at the finish line and it was about 9 in the morning. We headed for a big breakfast in St. Paul, some people were snoozing at the high school either in their vans or out on the lawn. 🙂 I really wanted my own bed– but to cheer and finish as a team was the goal.
We ate a big breakfast, headed to Mpls to the finish line. Did a little toast in the parking lot– WOO-HOO I am a Ragnarian!
We put the mimosas in any type of drinking concoction we could find– yes, Jamie was the lucky winner of drinking hers out of a plastic bowl. Yep, runners do crazy things!
It was off to the finish line where we got to shop around, grab pizza or a beer, relax in the sun and wait for our FINAL runner to come down the chute where all 12 of us would join him and cross the finish line together. He came in around 1/1:30 and it was super cool to receiver our metals and put them all together to see what it spelled!
I felt proud for stepping out of my comfort zone and giving this a try. I felt happy for completing my three runs without injury and pushing myself. I truly enjoyed this experience– running for 200 miles with a team from Winona to Minneapolis. But yeah, then there’s that no sleep thing. 🙂 It definitely took me a few days to feel normal again. It’s tough to come home and have to be around for little kids when you had no sleep, but I knew going into it that I probably wouldn’t sleep and in the big picture it’s just one night!
Would I do it again? Hmmmm, still undecided. A part of me thinks that if I am going to be away from my family for a weekend, I may rather drink wine and relax (with a morning run on my own). But I will never say never! I am super glad I gave it a whirl and highly recommend all “runners” to do it at some point!