I have so much to say about RagnarDC! I will start with my Ragnar recap — what it was like running Ragnar DC — and fill you in on the rest later.
I was Runner #7–the first runner of Van 2. We met at my friend’s house at 6:30 am, loaded our gear into the back of our rented 12-passenger van, and headed up to Exchange 6 at Little Orleans, Maryland. Our estimated start time wasn’t until 11:20 am, but we wanted to beat the D.C.-area traffic and have plenty of time to get oriented and organized at our starting exchange.
As it turns out, we were 2 hours early, but the time passed quickly. We had to check in, listen to the safety orientation, and get our t-shirts and race bibs. I visited the Nuun tent, bought a pink Ragnar BoniBand, and checked out the other sponsors. We decorated our van and applied our Ragnar tattoos.
Van 1 was updating us with their progress via text message, and it looked like we were on track for an on-time start. We headed over to the exchange point and watched other runners come in. I wish I hadn’t looked up the moment a guy wearing nothing but a bow tie and gold lame speedo came running through, but that image will be forever burned in my brain as a Ragnar memory!
My teammate came through the chute, slapped the orange slap bracelet onto my wrist, and I was off. I smiled at the photographer stationed shortly after the start, and then grimaced as I realized how steep the climb had gotten so suddenly–I hope he got my smile and not my ugly face!
I passed one runner quickly, and then spent the rest of the leg trying to catch up to another runner. In Ragnar lingo passing a runner is called a “kill,” so I basically spent an hour plotting how to murder this guy! I didn’t want to burn out too quickly, but I thought he was close enough to catch. I seemed to gain on him during the uphill sections, but he put more distance between us on the downhill sections. As we approached a flat segment that led up to the finish line, I decided to sprint to the end to pass him. I was so happy–not because I’d beat him, but because I had set a goal and achieved it. My quads may have paid the price, but the mental game helped me take my mind off the brutal elevation profile.
My finish was at a gas station with a restaurant and ice cream shop, which I took as a sign that I should have a root beer float. Needless to say, it was the best root beer float ever!
The last runner in our van finished his first run at Exchange 12, which was at a high school where we took showers (well-worth the $1 charge) and talked to our teammates from Van 1 (except Runner #1 who took off when Runner #12 finished). We had decided to get “real” food for dinner, and found a Ruby Tuesday’s in Hagerstown. After a good dinner, many glasses of ice cold water, and a few trips to bathrooms with plumbing, we made our way to Exchange 18 at South Mountain Creamery where we would take over from Van 1 and start running again.
Since I was running next, I didn’t get any ice cream at the Creamery, but their coffee was good and helped me stay awake while Runners #8-12 tried to take naps in the van. I made sure my Verve Vest met the Ragnar requirements for a safety vest and tail light (yes, as long as I had it in flashing mode), talked to some other runners, and watched other runners come in.
As we got updates from Van 1, we were surprised to learn that, once again, we were right on track with our estimated times–isn’t that amazing after 18 legs? I was glad that several runners were starting about the same time I was, but they must have been faster than I am because I didn’t see them for very long. No kills on leg 2, but nobody killed me either!
As I ran along the first segment on country roads, I soaked up the loveliness of the night. The weather was perfect, the sky was clear, and the moon was bright enough to light up the fields beside me. My van “leapfrogged” me for the first two miles–they drove to where I was, cheered me on, drove a bit further until I caught up, checked up on me, etc.–but then they had to get to the next exchange point so Runner #8 could get ready.
I had my only near-death experience when the route took me across a major highway (Route 40). There was a police car parked to the left, but the policeman stayed in his car and didn’t give me directions or stop traffic. The road was clear as I approached, but after I processed the Ragnar directions sign to figure out whether I was supposed to cross the highway to run against traffic (yes), I looked up and saw three cars heading at me from the right. I made a split-second decision to sprint the rest of the way across the road. I made it, but it felt like a close call. I tried to be more cautious after that, and was glad that I had on the Verve Vest in full-color flashing mode, because I knew that cars could see me, even if most didn’t seem to slow down that much.
My finish was at a shopping center with a Safeway that was still open, even though it was after 11:00 pm. I was sad that the Starbucks kiosk was closed, but glad to have access to a bathroom where I could wash my face and change out of my sweaty clothes.
I was the navigator for my friend’s run on a dirt road up Sugarloaf Mountain (she was Runner #11) and stayed awake while we leapfrogged Runner #12, but when we started driving straight to the next exchange, I had to close my eyes–it was 4:30 am and I had been awake for almost 24 hours.
Instead of camping out at Exchange 30 (our next starting exchange), we had made arrangements to crash at my friend’s friend’s house who lived 5 minutes away. (There are no words for how awesome that was!) We arrived at about 6 am, and by the time I had a shower and got organized for my next run, all of my other teammates were asleep. I checked in with Van 1 to see what time we would be starting again, and was surprised to learn that they were making up the time that we had lost. (We finished leg 24 about 45 minutes behind schedule.) Since it was almost 7:oo am and they were estimating a 9:30-ish start time for me, I decided not to try to sleep. I did as much foam rolling as I could stand and snuck out to the Starbucks that was only a few blocks away. I was almost done cleaning out the van and re-organizing our gear when my teammates came out and said it was time to go. We drove to the Starbucks so they could have coffee and breakfast too, and then we met Van 1 at Exchange 30.
My quads had been sore after my first leg and locked up even more after my second leg–walking down stairs or even stepping down off a curb was nearly impossible–so I knew I had to take some time to warm up. At first an easy jog was more like a wobbly hobble, but after a few laps around the parking lot I felt like I would actually be able to run my last leg.
This leg was two relatively flat miles, and I had decided to give it my all. I got lucky with the few traffic lights along the route, enjoyed the stretch along the Capital Crescent trail, but could have done without that last climb to the finish. Clearly that’s a “before” picture in my FitSnapp photo because I was a sweaty mess after those two miles! We didn’t have much time to get to the next exchange, but I took a few minutes to wash the sweat off my face with some bottled water and change my shirt and sports bra before we headed off to meet Runner #8 at the next exchange.
Even though I was finished running Ragnar DC at this point, we still had 25 miles to cover as a team. Most of these legs were short and/or on bike paths, so after the finishing runner took a few minutes to change and rest, we drove directly to the next exchange and passed the time cleaning off our van and getting organized again. We got subs for lunch after runner #10 had started and encountered a few other teams at The Italian Store who had the same idea. By the time runner #11 started, it was raining pretty hard. That made for a dismal finish, but we all got out and trudged to finish line so we could cheer in our last runner, pick up our medals, and pose for our team picture.
Well, I think those are the highlights of what it was like running Ragnar DC. I’ll share more about what I ate during the 36 hour
ordeal adventure (on Wednesday of course), what I learned, and my Ragnar do’s and don’ts in upcoming posts.
Have you ever done a relay race?
Can you understand how it could be fun to spend 36 hours with 6 people in a van to run half of a 200 mile course?