Monday, August 18, 2014

Ragnar Relay Recap

I'm still having trouble really digesting what I just went through, even two days later. How does one really describe running over 200 miles with 12 people for 31+ hours in the hottest month of the year?


That's truly the only word I can use to describe it. It was crazy, fun, horrible, exhausting, grueling, and hilarious all in one. But awesome is the word I would pick to best describe Ragnar Relay Great River.

Get ready for some picture spam...

We all met up Thursday night in Minneapolis to get the vans, and then we trekked another 2 hours south to Winona where the race would start the next day.

Here we are, excited and naive to the adventure we would soon embark on.

Our team started running at 7am on Friday morning. Since I was in Van 2, we were able to sleep in a little and do our grocery shopping that morning. We arrived at Exchange 6 around 10:30 am, which was still too early but it was nice to not feel rushed.

The parking area at Exchange 6. Cornfields and hills as far as the eye could see.
Our first runner didn't start off until around 1:30 that afternoon. Our van got the unfortunate pleasure of running in the heat of the day. That's what we get for sleeping in, I guess! Ragnar Great River is known for being a very hilly course. I think that is pure understatement! It was nothing but hills and hills and hills. Our poor first runner had a hill that topped off the elevation chart!

This is the top of the Hill from Hell. It went down for about another mile or so. Horrible!
I finally got to start my leg around 3:45 that afternoon. My legs didn't have many hills, but I really paid for it. My first leg was 8 miles along a blacktop highway in 85 degree weather with no shade. Grueling!

Trying to have a positive attitude. "This is fun, right?!"
I did stop a few times to walk and cool off for a minute. Thankfully there were 3 water stops along the way, so I could grab some water and pour it over my head and shoulders. Whenever you pass someone, it's called a "kill". Because of the heat on this leg, I "killed" 23 people. A Van 2 record until our 12th runner got 25!

This probably looked pretty gruesome to someone not in the know.

I was never happier to get to the "finish" line, or the next exchange and send out our next runner. That check mark felt pretty good. 1 of 3 done!


After our van completed the first of our legs, we were able to rest for a few hours. The high school hosting that major exchange had showers we could use for a small donation of $2. Best $2 I ever spent! They also had a meal we could purchase and a gym we could use for a fee. We had a couple of food sensitivities in our van, so we went to Subway for dinner then made our way back to the exchange to sleep. I was the only person that wanted to pay to sleep in the gym, so we ended up sleeping outside in the grass. Correction, I ended up laying there for an hour not sleeping, then going in the van to try to sleep and not sleeping there either. Too noisy!

As close to camping as I've been in many, many years!
If you know me even a little, you know how much I dislike camping. This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I was trying to go with the flow and be a good team member! I'm pretty sure everyone was laughing at me by this point. 

The night runs were definitely the craziest. Two of our runners had to run 9 miles and 10 miles, respectively. This was along back country roads, darker than pitch black. Ragnar is really on top of safety, and requires that all runners run with a headlamp, reflective vest, and a blinking tail light. We also included some fun glow bracelets so we could identify our runners and provide them some aid. 

Sexy and they know it!

My night run, at 3:00 am, was thankfully short. It was scary though! I've run at night plenty of times, so that didn't bug me so much. What freaked me out was being the only runner out there, for some bizarre timing reason, and running past a bunch of drunks. It definitely made me run faster!

We finished up our 2nd legs somewhere around 5 am and made our way to the next major exchange to rest. That high school thankfully provided their gym to sleep in for free. I almost demanded that we sleep inside, but I think everyone was on board with that. We all got some much needed rest, but only 1.5-2 hours at that. 

The craziness that is Ragnar

Even sleeping on a hard gym floor, with nothing other than my foam yoga mat, my pillow, and a small blanket, I was thankful to not be running at this point. 

Our last legs were all mostly short except for our 11th runner who had nearly 7 miles to go, again in the heat. We got lost getting to one of the exchanges and our runner had to wait for us there, which was a little embarrassing but kind of funny! That was really the only hiccup we had though, so I think our van did great! 

My 3rd leg was kind of unremarkable, except that I really thought I got lost until I saw another van along the route. They had jumped out to push one of their runners down a hill in a shopping cart. Maybe cheating, but it looked like fun! There was a giant bridge to run up, then running along a bike path along the Mississippi River. I walked twice on this leg as well because of the heat, but really took some time to look around and enjoy the scenery. It was pretty!

We sent off our last runner and had to hurry to the finish line so that we could find parking, and get to the finish line on time. Ragnar is pretty cool in that they let your whole team run across the finish line. So we met up with Van 1 and waited for our runner to get there.

Trudging to the finish line. Everyone was just exhausted at this point. 

We beat him there, surprisingly. He only had a 4.5ish mile leg to go and said he was just going to book it. We lost him at one point on his first leg because he was running so fast, so we were all worried about getting there too late! 

I don't think you could find a group of happier, more exhausted runners than our team. Well, maybe all the other teams, too. I was so happy to be done!

The D'range'd Dozen

When we finally got home that night, I slept for almost 11 hours. The best sleep of my life, I'll tell ya! Right after we finished, if you had asked me if I would do this again I'm pretty sure my answer would have been no. But now that the discomfort is wearing off a little, I say yes. I will likely do this again if given the chance. I'd really like to be in Van 1 next time, just to see more of the race course. 

Van 2 after our adventure

One thing that I didn't love was that there really wasn't a lot of opportunity to visit with Van 1. We saw each other at the major exchanges, but inevitably the "on" van needed to hustle out so they could support their runner and get to the next exchange. So we ended up kind of feeling like different teams. But, I'll tell you what. There's no way we could have done this without all 12 people. There's no way I could have done this without the support of my van members. Seeing them cheering for me on the side of the road, and at the end of each leg, was really the best feeling. Knowing that you're part of a team, and each of you has to give it your all so that everyone can finish, is really something special. Major kudos to our van drivers, as well. They went without sleep just like we did, and still were able to get us from A to B safely. We'd really be stuck without them! All in all, a very successful Ragnar Relay Great River 2014!

Have you run a relay? Are you considering doing one? 


  1. Wow! I've never even thought of doing one of these. It sounds really intense! Do they have prizes or awards for the top finishing teams, or is the whole point just to finish? That is so great that everything worked out and you all made it! What an experience.

    1. They do have awards! They award the top teams, I believe for the top 3 teams in each category (ultra, regular, mens, womens, high school, etc), but also for best costumes and best decorated vans. It's really fun!

  2. This is probably too much for me (horrible at running for long periods of time), but it sounds like a great bonding experience. The "kill" count and the shopping cart story were hilarious, and it sounds like your time camping out with fellow runners was worth the lack of sleep.

    Another Beautiful Thing

    1. This was so far out of my comfort zone, it's not even funny! But I am super glad I did it. They have shorter legs (3-5 miles) for those that don't like distance running too!