I had wanted to run a Ragnar Relay for a few years, but as I’d mentioned in my last post, I don’t have many friends or family that run. I’m also not brave enough to run races with strangers. Especially races that involve close proximity, sharing food, and no sleep or showers. I changed my mind a bit though when a friend asked me if I was interested in running with her and a couple of people she knew. She said she didn’t know everyone and I only knew her. I jumped at the opportunity knowing it might not come again even thought 10 of the other 11 ladies would be strangers…but not for long!
I was already training for a marathon when I was asked, so the only adjustments I made to my schedule were getting in a couple double/triple runs where you run twice in one day and then in the morning of the following day. I only did one triple run and I was wiped that morning and day while trying to work. The good news is after the real race I wouldn’t be going to work! The summer training again involved heat, humidity, and balancing working at my second job, finishing my master’s degree, and the grant for school. Luckily after July ended I could cross two time intensive responsibilities off my list: the grant and my master’s. I graduated with my master’s degree mid-month.
August brought opportunities to train in several unique areas. Ryan and I spent several day camping in Copper Falls State Park. We ran and hiked the trails everyday. By the end of our three days there we had hiked and ran over 30 miles.
I then took a trip to even hotter weather-Texas. I spent a week right before Ragnar in Texas visiting friends, my sister, and my dad. With daily highs between 105-109 while I was there and nights in the upper 80’s, I had no choice but to get up in the dark hours of the morning and start my runs before the sun rose too high so I wouldn’t die. Yes, I said and meant die!
I did get to enjoy some new running routes. My sister doesn’t live near any great places to run, so I drove to nearby Memorial Park. I couldn’t believe what an awesome place there was to run right in the middle of the city and how many runners were out and about. It was awesome. I also knew that the previous Great River Ragnar took place during several days of 90 degree temperatures, so I forced myself through these miles knowing it might be the exact training I needed.
My sister and I also spent a few days in Austin, another extremely runner friendly city. I, again, could not believe the trail
system they had and the number or runners using them. I was in runner heaven minus the heat of course. I loved the city of Austin and would like to come back some February to help keep Austin weird in its marathon.
My flight got in Thursday evening around 5:00 in Madison the night before our Ragnar journey began. I got home around 6:30 and began packing. It was a late night to bed and an early morning to rise with my alarm set for 4:15 am. I had to meet Alana at 5:15 in Sparta where we were riding together to La Crosse to get our “van” ready. We were actually taking a tricked out Suburban which turned out to be so much more spacious and comfortable over the 30+ hours we would spend in it with 6 people and their gear.
With the Suburban packed we were headed to Winona, MN for the start of the relay. The weather was perfect; no 90 degrees, rain, or wind. Our team had to do a safety check and prove we head all the required gear: slap wrist band, reflective vest, head lamps, and flashing tail lights to wear during the hours of 7 am to 7 pm. After the safety check it was time for me to get ready to run because I had the first leg. At 8:00 the Missihippies journey began.
Our journey would take us 198 miles from Winona, MN to St. Paul, MN with much of the race along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River via the Great River Road. The route would be winding and with many hills, but this also meant beautiful views of the river throughout various portions of the course. Each runner runs 3 legs of various distances throughout the nearly 200 miles. Each runner wears a slap bracelet signifying they are the current runner, and then slaps it on the the next runner so they can begin their leg. After 36 legs the relay reaches the finish and the entire team runs across the finish line victorious, tired, excited, and proud.
My first leg was the start of the race running from Winona, MN to Fountain City, WI. It was listed as very hard, but I described it as moderate. I started by doing a quick loop in Winona, then crossing a bridge over the mighty Mississippi River entering Wisconsin and then running along highway 35 until I reached Fountain City. The whole leg I was running on adrenaline and pure excitement for what the next day and a half held. The 7.7 miles flew by & in no time I was slapping the bracelet onto the next runner.
We spent the next few hours cheering everyone on in our van and trying to keep in touch with the other van so they knew what time to meet us at the first big exchange where van 1 hands the bracelet to van 2.
After our van reached the first major exchange we grabbed some food and our sleeping bags for a quick nap in the park with the other Ragnarians.
Around 7:00 pm it was time for my second leg which was 6.6 miles and listed as very hard. It was hard because it was hilly and my legs had just ran almost eight miles earlier that morning, but again the adrenaline and the amazing views near Perrot State Park made it seem pretty great.
As night began to fall we were racing around trying to get runners to their next legs, back track for shoes, and get back to our runners. We finally made it to Stillwater High School in MN where we would get to set up sleeping bags and sleep for less than two hours. It was after 1:30 am when we got to bed, and I would be the first runner going when our #2 van told us they were nearing. That call meant it would soon be time to get up and run. That call came at 3:30 am and I was running again at 4:30 am. Luckily it was my shortest leg, 3.3 miles and moderate.
About a half mile in to my last leg another runner came up behind me. The runner’s headlamp wasn’t working so we ran together and talked. She had just done the Ragnar in Chicago and was telling me stories about her experience and comparing the two races. It really helped those last tired miles on very stiff legs go by quickly. I could think of little but sleeping when I was done, but the team wouldn’t be done for at least 7 or 8 hours. Once daylight hit there were plenty of entertaining costumes to keep everyone awake!
Our van was the first to start, which meant first ones done. We got to start the celebration early while we waited for van 2 to finish and join us to run the last 100 meters across the finish line with our entire team.
Our team ran across the finish line in 29 hours and 10 minutes. We beat another all girls team we had been eyeing the entire race. We also beat a male team from our area we were hoping to beat by two hours. In their defense they got lost for an hour, but navigating the 200 mile course was part of the race. Guys and their maps and directions!
I can’t wait to run another Ragnar Relay. It was an exhausting, exhilarating experience with new friends being made.
Great River Ragnar Relay
Page: 8:51 (team)
(individual)Leg 1=7.61 miles @ 8:20 pace, Leg 2=6.21 miles @ 8:25 pace, Leg 3=3.36 miles @ 10:25 pace
Overall: 133/316 total teams
Gender: 8/27 all women teams