Did you know that I ran the Ragnar Relay the last two days? If you had no clue this happened, then you are definitely not friends with me… on Facebook and Instagram that is. 😉
Since my thoughts are so hard to organize and put down in words, I’ve decided to make a nice list for you. #crazythoughts
Before I list about my Ragnar love, maybe I should clue you in on what exactly Ragnar is. I’m still completely surprised that people who know me don’t know about Ragnar. I have a little bit of love for this annual relay. Just a little. The Ragnar Relay is a 12 person, 2 day, 200 mile relay race. I have ran the Great River Ragnar Relay every year since 2010, so this was my sixth time running this awesome event! How it works is you split up your 12 people into 2 vans – runners 1-6 and runners 7-12 or van 1 and van 2. The first van starts, the first runner runs a specified course to a specified exchange where they slap off our nifty Ragnar slap bracelet to the second runner. The van leapfrogs in front of the runner to cheer and then meets them at the exchange so the second runner can get out and the first runner can get in. The van continues to do this until they are out of runners, where they slap off to runner 7 and van 2 does their thing. At this point, van 1 gets to take a break, rest their legs, get some sleep, eat some food, and get ready to do it all again when van 2 is done. This is repeated until everyone has run their specified 3 times. Then you meet up, run through a Ragnar inflatable symbol arch, get a medal and team picture, and eat pizza (and drink a beer if you want). The Great River Ragnar Relay goes from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN. Although it starts and ends in MN, it’s actually mostly in WI since the course crosses the river from Winona, and then doesn’t cross back into MN again until Stillwater. Hence the name Great River.
Okay, let’s list.
Things You May Discover By Running Ragnar (Even After 5 Years)
1. You can chafe anywhere and everywhere. This was a biggie for me! I chafed my undercarriage… like “down there”. I was too hot and sweaty to change out of my running clothes after my first run, which was a huge mistake. One I’ve made before, so I knew better. This lady is not wearing undies for a while. Let her breathe! Is this too much info for you to know? Too bad.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – don’t go into this race dehydrated. I’ve learned in the past that just a butt ton (technical term) of water is needed when running this race. From my experiences, the best way I’ve learned to remember to hydrate during Ragnar is to always keep my water bottle with me. When I get out of the van to cheer on other teammates, I will always take my water with me. That reminds me to drink and refill while we’re stopped. My water is always next to me in the van as well. Dehydration is not something to laugh about, especially on a challenging course like Great River Ragnar. Which brings me to my next point –
3. Walking breaks are needed in the heat. I didn’t mention that on Friday, when we started the race, there was a heat index of 104. On Saturday it was in the 90s. HOT and humid. This was a very hot year and, as I mentioned above, Great River Ragnar is a challenging course. I don’t think there is a single leg of this relay that doesn’t have a pretty big hill. There are just a ton of monster hills since we run through the river valley. When the heat is so intense, your heart rate is gonna go up, and walking breaks will be needed. It’s just a fact. We encouraged everyone on our team to take them without shame. Unfortunately there were a lot of people who might not have followed this advice or the note above to hydrate religiously, and there were a ton of people taken away by ambulance. Even at the end of the race there were a few ambulances that came screaming in to assist with heat exhausted runners. It’s a serious and scary thing, and I’m glad most of my teammates took it seriously.
4. The heat will really slow you down. I’ve seen this to be true for myself, but I didn’t realize how much it impacts everyone’s pace. As I just noted, walking breaks are needed and encouraged when it’s so hot outside. It was actually really interesting to see how much it affected pace times. A ton of teams (it was described to me as about a third by a teammate) actually didn’t run the race the traditional way, but had to have 2 people running at once and 2 vans running at once so runners weren’t actually handing off to each other in order to end the race before they tore it down. My teammate even told me he talked to a team who had placed in the top 3 last year were doing that this year. Just nuts! It’s also the latest I’ve ever gotten done with Ragnar – after 7pm.
5. When you are exhausted, you can fall asleep anywhere and at any time. This one was pretty funny for me. I literally fell asleep in the McDonald’s drive thru after we had placed our order but before getting our food. I was that tired and exhausted. It was also 5:15am, and I had been awake, running and in the heat, since the previous 6am. Where we finally took our sleeping break? On an un-air conditioned middle school gym floor. Too tired to care. I also only slept there for about 2.5 hours, but somehow woke up refreshed. That should be another bullet point.
6. There are people who do not fall in love with Ragnar and want to quit and/or don’t want to do it again. This one completely surprises me, although I’ve heard it before. We had a bunch of newbies on our team this year, and I heard from another teammate that a lot of them wanted to quit and go home and/or don’t want to do it again next year. I admit, if this Ragnar was your first, it would be a tough one to fall in love with because of the extreme heat. It was probably the hottest Ragnar I’ve ever experienced, although others have been pretty hot as well. Still! I love the camaraderie and hanging out with my van and teammates. I love the bonding. I love becoming so close to complete strangers that it’s hard to believe you were strangers to each other just 2 days ago. I love that, when you’re taking a walk break, you might have other runners or other vans stop and ask you if you need water or help. Everyone looks out for each other. I love the challenge and the feeling of pride and fulfillment by finishing a run and meeting that challenge. It makes me sad to hear that other people don’t see this or feel this and are turned off.
7. I’ve met so many amazing people by being teammates. This might be the plus side of people not wanting to run again. Let me explain how I got into Ragnar and how my team has changed over the years. The first year I ran Ragnar, my aunt had noticed that I was (newly) into running, and some of her friends were putting together a Ragnar team. I joined that team, knowing only my aunt, although we hadn’t ever hung out just the two of us before. From there, my love affair of this race began! We kept the core group of me, my aunt, and two friends for the first four years, adding and subtracting other new friends along the way. Last year my core group decided they weren’t going to run again, so I found myself without a main team. Luckily, we had found a new teammate and friend the year before who wanted to run again, so we went about building a new team. We only found 6 of us, so we joined up with another group of 6 who were looking for another half. This year, that friend and I plus three new teammates and friends from last year, made up a whole team of 12. My first year and last year I only knew one person on my team. Now I have all of these people I know! Plus some other crazy things – a lot of these random adds, like the friend that I built a new team with last year and this year, were from Facebook! Just posting that our team needs a runner or two has found us so many new teammates and friends! Another person that we had added to our team from Facebook a few years ago and ran with us for a few years but then stopped came back to us this year. The other 6 that we joined last year? That came from another MN blogger who I knew and saw my posts on Twitter or Facebook about needing runners – her husband was captaining the other 6. This race is just awesome for bringing people together and making new friends. From complete strangers to good friends in 2 days.
8. I don’t think I ever want to quit. I’ve thought in the past that this could be my last year of running Ragnar. Now I just don’t want to quit. I might be completely addicted. It’s so strange too. Last year, and leading up to this year, I had kind of gone lukewarm about Ragnar. Yeah, it’s great, but it’s such a challenge. I’m not really loving running these days. I think switching from pushing myself to only run without any walking to planning and setting my pace time off of run/walking made a huge difference in my attitude. There wasn’t that feeling of failure if I took a walk break. With the heat and seeing how it affected everyone else, I also didn’t get that feeling of failure or letting everyone down by not hitting my pace time. Taking that away made me love it again. Now I don’t ever want to stop.
I was thinking about going to 10, but this is so long already! I better stop. Most of you probably haven’t made it this far. If you have, thanks for listening to my love affair! Now I’m going back to my couch to read and relax before my massage later today. I’m just a tiny bit sore, and can’t wait for it to be massaged away. Main sore areas – calves and back. Don’t tell my husband that I’ve been exaggerating the rest. 😉
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