Ragnar weekend has came and went, and it makes me think of that classic Beastie Boys anthem. I think I am finally recovered from insomnia + running my butt off + driving all over the midwest. What an extraordinary weekend it was, though!
Margot, Jill, and I left on Thursday afternoon to head to Minneapolis for some pre-race peace-of-mind. It was pouring rain during much of the drive, and I am not a fan of driving through big, heavy droplets on the interstate. We made it safely to the Cities, though, and were lucky to have the wonderful hosts (Margot’s future in-laws, Walt and Julie). We ate, talked, and got a great night’s sleep in comfy beds. Margot and I got up in the morning for an easy jog around Palmer Park. We then ate a delicious breakfast and waited for the rest of the Northern Squad to arrive from Duluth (Leslie and Sam). Sarah arrived shortly therafter and we packed up the Suburban and headed off to pick up Lisa. With a full vehicle and a full belly, we drove onward to Winona, Minnesota to meet the rest of the crew and start the 2009 Great River Ragnar Relay!
Margot was our first runner, and speedy she was. She ran across the Mississippi right off the bat and the crew in Van 2 (myself included) headed to the first major exchange. One unfortunate thing about having a group of 12 (instead of 6) is that you don’t really know what the other van is doing. It’s nearly impossible to cheer on the other half of the team because of vehicle crowding issues. So the Flexmobile, which included Lisa, Megan D., Jess, Mel, Sarah, and myself headed to some random Wisconsin town and waited.
I took a nap (sweet!), saw some interesting Ragnarly costumes (Ragnar 911) and the sun was setting by the time Sam made it into the exchange. Lisa, the Flexmobile’s 1st runner, had a few serious hills to climb, which were unrelenting for our second runner, Megan D. I was the third runner from our van, and my 3.2mile leg was fairly downhill. I hammered it out for 21 minutes and some change (thinking that my 5K split was pretty close to 20 minutes) and handed off the slap-bracelet baton to Jess. By the time Sarah was done running, we were all tired and hungry. Unfortunately, Margot missed Sarah’s arrival in the exchange, but it was only about a 30 sec delay. I ate some potato salad and beans from a local buffet at midnight, which nicely supplemented my gluten-free cookies and jar of peanut butter, and we headed to the high school for some much needed rest. Sarah, Jess, Mel, and I slept in sleeping bags on the grass, and I don’t think I’ve slept that hard for 90minutes before. Well, maybe at last year’s Ragnar… There’s something about sleeping under the stars. They were so bright and we could see the Milky Way. Very peaceful.
Lisa took off for her second leg at around 4am, and I was able to run my second leg during the sunrise. Beautiful! My second leg was a little over 5 miles, and I averaged sub 7min/miles, which is better than the 5miler I did earlier this summer. I also did negative splits, so I was content. By the time we were all done with our second legs, we were getting sore, stiff, but I think we had all caught our second wind. Sarah was lucky enough to cross the Stillwater Bridge during daylight! Fun Fun.
As Sam came in for her final exchange, Lisa was geared up to tackle the big hills of her 6mile course. My last leg was entirely along a ped path along the river, with the sun blazing and the heat rising. I went out a little too fast, and was glad that my final leg was only 4miles and change.
Our excitement rose with each exchange, and before we knew it, Sarah was entering the stadium at Boom Island Park. We formed a tunnel for her to pass through and ran through the finish. We donned our giant medals/beer bottle openers and headed back to civilization with running water, showers, and real food. We sat around and chatted, drank beer and wine, and went to bed at 8pm.
I always love the Ragnar Series. They are so well organized, and the volunteers are incredible. The race starter has a long day, because from 10am-4pm he has to be excited and ambitious and energetic at the starting line. Then, there is the oasis in the desert; to see the reflective orange tape and headlamps as you approach the exchanges in the middle of the night is just a crazy different experience. It’s 2am and people are cheering. It’s 3am and people are still out there, making sure you make it from one spot to the next. It’s 4am and the volunteers are standing around drinking coffee and waiting for you to exchange your slap bracelet. You start to catch up with other teams, clang the cowbell in the middle of some Wisconsin farmland where the next houselight you see is a half mile away. You squint to keep your sight on the road directly in front of you as the headlights of cars cloud your sight. It’s the adrenaline, really, that keeps you moving forward. It’s the red lights you see in front of you as you crest a hill. Is that another runner that you can catch, or the “1 mile to go” blinking light? You won’t know until you get closer. So you just keep going, your headlamp lighting the way.