Monday, May 23, 2011

New England Ragnar

This was my second Ragnar race. The first one was three years ago in Utah - the Wasatch Back. I did that one with my family, husband and a few friends. This year, it was with friends from my ward (Mormon congregation). Both were amazing. Both were very different. Normally a team has 12 runners, but we ended up with only 9, which made things interesting. I had considered picking up an extra leg, but ended up just running three. Some of our team members ran 5, others ran 4. Crazy! Anyway, here's a (long) race report on the big ol' Ragnar.

We left at 5 am to pick our van (5 team members) and head to New Haven, CT. Our start time was 9 am. After a safety meeting and making sure we had everything ready, our first runner took off.

Run 1 (Leg 5) - 4.5 miles - Moderate (level of difficulty according to Ragnar)

I was runner 5 (I was also runner 5 when I did Wasatch Back). My first run was supposed to start at noon, but we were about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. There was a threat of lightening and rain, but the sky held off and I had a relatively cool run. It was a bit muggy, but nothing horrible. I had an easy 4.5 miles. I didn't want to push it too hard because I knew that my next two legs would be more difficult - add no sleep to that, I really felt the need to conserve. However, the racing bug got into me and I was off. It was a very pretty run through New Haven, close to the Long Island Sound shore. Really beautiful. And the stats:

Expected time - 41:37
Expected pace - 9:15
Actual time - 38:21
Actual pace - 8:31
Slowest mile - 8:48
Fastest mile - 8:19

Our van's last runner took off, rocked it and we finished with our first round 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We relaxed at the park where we finished, right on the beach, ate some lunch, took some pictures and then headed to the next major exchange, right on the Connecticut River.

We met up with van 2, who had just finished their first set of legs, ahead of schedule by 41 minutes. We grabbed a group picture, minus runner 12 who was finishing up. We cheered on runner 12 as she finished and watched runner 1 head out again. Then it was back in the van to leap frog our runners on their second legs. The night legs!

Run 2 (Leg 17) - 8 miles - Very Hard

By the time it was my turn to run, we were nearly an hour ahead of schedule, so instead of starting at 9:45, I started before 9. I don't think it mattered. It. was. dark. Seriously, the darkest run I have ever done. All runners running at night are required to wear a head lamp, reflective vest and a LED flasher on their back. (I really wish I had a picture of me in all my gear.) But still - so dark! When I told my husband that I would be running my eight miles in the dark, he told me to find a runner (or two) that I could stay with. No. such. luck. There were NO runners for nearly the first half of my run. I must have been in between teams by a long shot. Not only was it dark but it was foggy. And there were frogs. I didn't see them, but I could hear them. It was kind of creepy and cool. At one point I went so long without seeing any runners or support vehicles (including mine) that I really was worried I was lost. But luckily, I had stayed on the right path.

It was not an easy run. I gained a total of 714 ft in elevation - the highest elevation climb of the whole race - and lost 963 (um, can I say ouch on the quads). I told myself I could slow down to a 9:30 overall pace (which was what the team had calculated - we slowed everyone's expected time for their second and third legs) and there were times that I was almost at a 10 minute mile. But I really made up for it on the downhill. At mile 4 I took a Roctane GU. Mile 5 was an 8:11 mile (my fastest mile yet) because the downhill was awesome - and a girl dressed as Wonder Woman was in front of me and I just had to pass her. All in all, I did much better on this run than I expected. I mean, it wasn't amazing, but it was solid and I felt so strong!

Expected time - 1:15:51
Expected pace - 9:29
Actual time - 1:14:09
Actual pace - 9:16
Slowest mile: 9:54
Fastest mile - 8:10

After our last runner finished and we exchanged with van 2, it was time to shower and sleep (?) at a local high school. The shower was lovely and warm and perfect. Amy (the other female in our van) and I decided to sleep in the van. I didn't sleep great, because I was really cold, but I did get to rest a little. Van 2 went a lot faster than we expected so we suddenly had to high tail it out of our little rest area and get to the next major exchange as fast as possible. Unfortunately, due to the lack of sleep, the early hour (3 am), confusing directions and a GPS that was only somewhat reliable, we ended up at the WRONG EXCHANGE!!! We didn't realize it until van 2's last runner (and our team captain) had crossed her finish line and we weren't there. By the time we all gathered back into the van and got to the correct exchange, we were 15 minutes late. Needless to say, it was the low point of the whole race. An unfortunate mistake (that actually happened to a number of vans) that kind of dampened the mood for quite awhile. Luckily, on our third round of legs, we quickly made up that 15 minutes and then some.

Run 3 (Leg 29) - 5.2 - Moderate (ya right!)

My final run started at 6:30 am. I'm not going to lie. At this point I was exhausted. I didn't even get out of the van to cheer on Amy because I was so tired. I was falling asleep as we were driving to the exchange. My legs felt like they had nothing left. Not going to lie, I honestly wasn't sure I was going to get through it. If you don't finish a leg and someone has to finish for you, you can't run again. This didn't really mean anything since I was done after this anyway, so I did consider having someone finish part of it for me. I was that tired and done.The race bible said it was a moderate run. The hills (on the elevation graph) appeared to be rolling.

WRONG! OH MY GOSH! It was probably one of the toughest short runs I have done in a long time. On fresh legs it would have been difficult. On legs that had been going since 5 am the previous day, with no sleep - it felt impossible. The hills just kept coming. One after another after another. And with very little downhill to recover. I really thought I was going to die. My team would stop along the way, tell me it was the last hill (did they think that or were they lying?!) and cheer me on. They'd drive ahead and then BAM! another hill. It was the meanest run of my life.

But I did it. I kept every mile under 10 minutes. I never stopped and I never walked. I actually passed four runners on this particular leg. I was running pretty slow at some points, but I was still running. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. Yes, I yelled and cursed the hills, but I didn't cry. And I didn't quit. And when I finished, my legs were like jello. My quads refused to work. That was it. I left everything I had on that last leg. Everything.

Expected time - 50:30
Expected pace - 9:43
Actual time - 45:17
Actual pace - 8:43 (a full minute faster than I expected - maybe this was why I felt like I was going to die)
Slowest mile: 9:43
Fastest mile - 8:48

Dave, runner 1, finished up the last leg of our van (also brutal) and we met van 2 for the final exchange. We were glad to be done. We were tired, stinky and ready to relax. After runner 7 took off, we headed to Cambridge where we vacuumed and washed the van we borrowed from a family in our congregation. Then we headed to the finish line at Harvard. We figured van 2 would finish up around 12:30 so we just relaxed, got massages, enjoyed the vendors and talking and basking in the experience.

Van 2 showed up just about 5 minutes before their final runner came around the corner towards the track. We met up with Justin and we all ran halfway around the track to the finish line. It was awesome! Such a cool, cool accomplishment. We took some team photos, exchanged a few last minute stories, worked out a few details and then headed home.

This race really did rock. It wasn't easy, but I learned that I can push myself harder than I thought. I learned I am stronger than I believe. I learned that when I want to leave it all out there, I can and will leave it all out there. I learned that having a team to support and cheer you on is worth so much. I learned that sleep is very important and not at all overrated.

Apparently I was too tired to keep my eyes open.

Will I do it again? You betcha! I wish I could do another one this year, but it probably won't happen. I am already looking at next year. Maybe another location - Florida Keys anyone?! If you haven't done a Ragnar and this sounds like it might be your thing, seriously check it out. Nothing like it. Do it!


  1. Wow Rachel. You are seriously doing so great with all this. And I am sure I should make more comments about your running and blah blah blah but my comment is about how HOT you are and how SKINNY you are. You look like a true athlete.

  2. Ditto to Jacque's comment. Congrats on doing the race, I'm glad all went so well.

  3. Amen sistah! that race was so much fun. I am whole heartedly addicited to the ragnar. By the way, we really did think that each one of those hills was your last (based on the elevation map... liars!). We were as surprised as you when you hit hill after hill! it was brutal, but you rocked it!

  4. Way to go on this!!! I usually get my hats either at a running store or at Lids. They are mostly Nike but I have a bunch others!