Earlier this year I was so excited when I was picked to be on my local Hash House Harriers Ragnar Relay team. I was incredibly envious of Mike last year for being picked, and he had a great time!
For those of you who don’t know, Ragnar Relay is a 200 mile relay race with a team of twelve people in two vans. Ragnar Chicago started in Madison, Wisconsin and we ran & drove east to Milwaukee and then south, ending in Chicago at Monstrose Beach. It took our team approximately 30 hours to do this!
Before the race, I’d considered that my biggest challenge would be both the endurance of running multiple times in a 24 hour period, as well as managing nutrition. I don’t have the strongest running stomach and struggle as it is with eating well for a regular afternoon run (although I’ve been working on that!). I loosely trained by keeping my my regular training activities, running the Soldier Field 10 mile a few weeks earlier, and trying to plan a few “double days” where I ran twice in a single day.
I had been in San Francisco for work earlier in the week, and arrived back in Chicago late Wednesday night. I worked from home on Thursday, and then we were off to Madison early on Friday morning! Our team arrived and got together, and we went through the required safety training. This was a 10 minute lecture- Rangar doesn’t close the roads, so runners are sometimes running on the side of the road, or in the dark. We were required to wear headlamps and red blinky lights during nighttime hours. And then we saw our first runner off at 9 AM!
We also enjoyed looking at other vans’ decorations during this start time!
I was runner number 2 of my team, so we piled into the van and headed over to the first “exchange” where Janna was going to be running in and hand the slap bracelet off to me. We got there and I did my normal pre-race activities: tie shoe, port-a-potty, fill water bottle, and head to start line. It was 90 degrees already at 9:30 AM, so runners were coming in and looking worn! When Janna (#1) arrived, I was off!
I definitely left the exchange looking really strong, but started to fizzle in the heat. This 4.4 mile leg was challenging because I was running in the heat & sun, along the side of the road. I wasn’t around any other runners for almost 4 miles of the run. I slowed my pace down – from my initial 8:50 pace that I did my first half-mile, to closer to an 11 min pace. It was lonely on this run, and that was discouraging. Since the run was a straight shot, I knew I wasn’t lost, but I was losing motivation and wondering why I was doing this race.
A little before mile 4, someone came from behind and passed me. While that’s not great, it was good to see someone else and a little pick-me up to keep going strong. I finally saw the turn in for the 2nd exchange, where I then passed the slap bracelet off to the next person.
In between my first leg (or run), other runners in my van were running and we’d cheer them on. One person ran 11 miles, so we stopped along her route to provide aid in the form of water and ice! Overall it was brutally hot out, and most of what I saw of the run routes did not have shade.
Our van finished and we handed the slap bracelet off to Van 2 who then began the running! We then piled into get some Subway sandwiches and head to the spot where we’d next meet up with Van 2. We got there, and I was able to catch a catnap under the shade of a tree.
I began this 4.5 mile run at approximately 9:30 at night. It was still hot out, but the sun had gone down. I was feeling fast and declined to run with my water bottle. I ran and was getting approximately 9:30 splits, which I was happy with as that had been the pace I estimated I’d run at for Ragnar (they suggest using your 10K pace). Well, something in the snacks I’d been eating throughout the day didn’t agree with this pace, and I had to stop to use the bathroom. I didn’t feel good about that, but what are you going to do? There’s not much more than pull off to the side, make sure no one is coming, and go. Then get up and keep running. I finished this leg actually faster than my 4.4 mile run earlier that day!
In Between #2
It felt a bit more frantic chasing our runners during these nighttime runs, as the runs themselves were a bit shorter, and it was harder to navigate driving at night in unfamiliar territory! We barely made it to most posts before our runner came flying in and the next runner out.
When we exchanged with Van 2 for the second time, our van then headed to a Milwaukee hasher’s house for some much appreciated showers & rest. He was so kind to open up his home to 6 sweaty runners & then to cook for both his Ragnar van & ours! Nothing like a tiny plate of eggs & bacon in the middle of the night (remember, I wanted to redeem myself from my digestion issues on Run #2). We then caught a few hours of sleep, but were unfortunately late in getting to the Exchange where we’d start running again and Van 2 would get a break.
My third run occurred at 6 in the morning and was somewhere in Kenosha. I was glad I left just after six and didn’t have to wear the safety headlamp and blinky light in the dawn! It was already warm out, and I ran! There was a 2nd hash team that was starting to gain on us (we’d gotten an hour head start from them). We’d seen them at the first major exchange (after our van was done w/ the first set of runs) but hadn’t seen them until now. They were waiting for their runner to come in, and then would be running the same leg I was. I didn’t want to get passed by a team we knew! So I kept running at a tight clip and ran this leg of 6.2 miles in an hour, or a 9:33 min/mi pace.
I was running hard as I knew this was my last leg, and that other team actually helped me! It was really good to see them out on the course since they cheered for me, even though they were the friendly competition! And I knew if they were there waiting for me, then their runner (I wasn’t sure who it was, but knew I’d recognize him/her) was still behind me. I was able to roughly gauge how far behind they were based on when their van would then pass me again. I made it into my finish and handed off to the next runner with what I estimated was a half mile in front of their runner.
The rest of that morning felt much more fun – it was still a bit cooler, although heating up (!) but I didn’t have to worry about running any more. I gave all I could to helping support our runners with water & cheers while they finished, and that made for some fun stories:
- Hopping into the other team’s van to attempt to provide aid on a van-not-supported run. We weren’t sure if we were going to give our runners (my team’s being Mike, my husband) the support they needed as we hadn’t looked at the map before they left! We were concerned since we’d told them “see you at mile 3” but then realized that wasn’t supposed to occur.
- Climbing through someone’s backyard (with the owners’ permission) to provide aid to our runner on the hot sunny trail around Pleasant Prairie, WI. I think I may have brushed up against some poison ivy, as I’ve had a mild breakout on my feet & calves. It’s going down now, don’t worry.
- Cheering for Shaina, our last runner on her last run in the van! She was a trooper and had just completed her first Ironman in Texas three weeks earlier!
Once we made the final exchange with Van 2, we then headed back to Chicago to clean up, get some rest, before we would meet them at Montrose Beach for the finish. It was a quick afternoon, and HOT! but we had a good time.
Once we were completely finished, we definitely enjoyed some beers and just hanging out in the park sharing stories and enjoying the summer afternoon! I was beat by the time we arrived home, and practically fell asleep in my dinner before heading to bed at 9 PM. It was a long day!
Have you ever done a relay race? Would you do it again? Words of Wisdom?