Now I know why so many people break their Ragnar recap into three parts. You can read my two “on the road” posts here and here, my leg 1 recap here, and my leg 2 recap here. For good measure, here’s my original Ragnar packing list, but I expect to update that later this week.
When I last left you, it was 3:00 am in a dark high school gymnasium, and I had suddenly woken up feeling oddly alert and refreshed. I tried to go back to sleep but wasn’t getting any traction on that, so I decided to pack up early, change, and head out to the van. My phone hadn’t gotten service in many, many hours, so there was no way to communicate with my team (and vice versa), but I wasn’t too worried since they basically knew where I was, plus I knew I’d be ready in time.
As quietly as possible, but still with an audible hiss, I deflated my air mattress and pillow and crammed my sleeping bag into its stuff-sack. Just as I was finishing gathering my things and about to leave the gym, I noticed someone going around with a headlamp checking on people. He approached me with a whisper, and I realized it was Runner 6 looking for me. “Oh no,” I said, “Am I late?” “No, but we have to go,” he said. We hustled out of the dark and mostly empty gym and I asked him if I should head straight to the van or if I had time to change in the bathroom. He said I had time to change, so I quickly put on my running gear and hightailed it to the van. I learned that Runners 1, 3, 4, and 6 all slept (or tried to sleep) in the van, while only Runners 2 and 5 slept inside (I specifically brought my sleeping gear so I could free up space in the van for those who didn’t own air mattresses or sleeping bags). They said it got really cold in the van, and Runner 6 only slept about 30 minutes. Lesson #11 – Bring something comfy to sleep in or on (if you don’t have an air mattress, a cheap pool float can work in a pinch), and sleep outside the van if possible. And even if you plan to sleep in the van, bring a warm sleeping bag or blanket. I heard Van 2 all slept in the van, just sitting upright in the seats instead of lying on the benches, and I don’t know how they did it.
We didn’t have much time to make it to the next exchange, plus it was dark and foggy. We made a wrong turn out of the school but quickly turned ourselves around and headed to Major Exchange 24. We drove past a surprising number of runners on legs 19 to 24, and I did not envy their nighttime fog run. At this point we were definitely late and our first runner needed to use the bathroom before her run. We tried to tell her not to worry, that it didn’t matter if there were a few minutes between handoffs, that we obviously weren’t going for time, but it was a little stressful anyway. We finally made it to the exchange and Runner 12 was already there, but we learned he had only been waiting for about 2 minutes, so it wasn’t that bad. That turned out to be the only real “mistake” we made during the weekend, which was so minor I was surprised we emerged so unscathed. For a team full of newbies, I expected a lot worse.
Runner 1 was not terribly excited for her final leg, but she took off like a champ. We leapfrogged her several times to check that she was ok, and we all noticed her leg was fairly hilly. I was up next, and since it was my shortest leg at only 4 miles, I decided not to wear my Camelbak and instead requested my van to meet me at mile 2 with water. I still had to wear all my night safety gear since it was still dark (and well before 7:30 am which Ragnar considered “morning” when we didn’t have to wear the vests anymore), and before I knew it Runner 1 was passing me the bracelet.
My final leg started on a dirt road, which was surprisingly treacherous in the pitch dark, but I was rewarded with an early morning sunrise, which I stopped to photograph. Only one runner passed me on this leg (not because I was suddenly fast – it was oddly deserted both in front of and behind me), and she said something philosophical about how we had to enjoy these miles since it was our last leg. I turned off the dirt road and onto the highway and pushed my legs as fast as they would go. I felt like I was flying! Turns out I was running at a 10:30 pace. I tried to pick it up even more, and ultimately averaged about 10 minute miles for my last leg, which was fast for me.
At mile 2 my van was there with water and cowbell, and I dumped some warm weather items on them, guzzled my water, and took off again. I only stopped for one other photo op, and I tried not to leave much in the tank as I made a few more turns into town. When I got to the exchange, Runner 3 wasn’t quite ready for me yet. But a few seconds later he took the bracelet and started his final leg, too. It was really, really nice to be done running, as the pressure was off, and I promptly ate two frosted blueberry pop tarts (my first of the weekend), an apple, multiple chocolates, a granola bar, salt & vinegar chips, grape-flavored Nuun, and some other stuff I can’t even remember. I was hungry but also not worried about making myself sick anymore. Huzzah to eating lots of junk food without hesitation!
It took us until the final leg to realize we all should have been cheering for each other more (unfortunately legs 27 & 28 were “no van support” legs which meant we weren’t allowed to stop and cheer, although many, many teams seemed to break that rule). We did a slightly better job of cheering for Runner 5 and a much better job for Runner 6, when we finally broke out the Jambox bluetooth radio and orange safety flags and danced and cheered for him along his final 8 miles. We should have been doing exactly that every chance we got, and I know if we ever do another Rangar together we will be a much more cheer-oriented team (not that we didn’t cheer – we did cheer our own runners, plus we rang the cowbell for many other teams’ runners, but we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have). The cheering isn’t only good for the runner – it was a lot of fun and probably the highlight for me of the final leg. With the perfect weather we had, we definitely had no excuse. Lesson #12 – Just like taking photos, cheer more than you think you should, and be ridiculous when you do so.
We lucked out with perfect weather for the whole weekend – temps in the 40s to low 70s, overcast on Friday and sunny on Saturday. It was a bit chillier than any of us expected, so next time I’d bring an even warmer jacket to wear between legs, but otherwise I was pretty good clothing-wise (I wore long-sleeved shirts for all three of my legs, but I like to be warm when I run). Lesson #13 – Don’t overpack, but make sure to bring something warm for those chilly nights and mornings.
And seemingly just like that, we reached Major Exchange 30 and the end of Van 1’s running! When we met up with Van 2 they were making the same jokes we were about offering to sell their final leg to the highest bidder, and some of them were nervous about a hilly course ahead, but they all ended up flying through their legs despite the hot sun (and they had some really gorgeous scenery during that section, too). While they were running we headed to Country Bear Diner to get some breakfast. Unlike the last place we went, Country Bear had some seriously delicious food. I’m still dreaming of their thick-cut French toast (it had a slight sweet crust on it that made it extra crazy good). It’s a small diner, and we split up to eat (sitting in separate groups of 3), but I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area. Plus it’s right on the running route so you can watch fellow Ragnarians run by as you pour the syrup on your stack of pancakes and sip coffee with cream. Lesson #14 – Say yes to Country Bear.
After breakfast my van-mates really wanted to check into the hotel for showers before we headed to the finish. I was worried we’d be late but they insisted we could quickly shower and be there. So the three girls went to one of the rooms and the three boys went to the other, and we all showered as quickly as possible. All three girls were finished while the second boy was still in the shower. What were they doing in there? Shaving their legs? Deep conditioning their hair? Luckily, despite the high-maintenance boys, we got to the finish line in time to take a few photos and sit in the shade while Van 2 made their way to the end. We all wore our team t-shirts except for Runner 4 who was back in his Walter White/Heisenberg costume (and I was wearing a yellow hazmat suit, blue gloves, and gas mask and goggles on my head). Runner 3 wore a rubber chemistry vest and blue gloves, but he didn’t strip down to his underwear, much to everyone’s disappointment (ok, maybe not his girlfriend’s disappointment).
Van 2 arrived and soon after we spotted Runner 12 coming down the road. The 11 of us gathered together so we could run with Runner 12 across the finish line as a team. We whooped and cheered, ran down the grassy hill and under the inflatable arch, and finished our first ever Ragnar. Right after we finished we got our medals and our picture taken by the professional photographer (you get one free photo as a team), and as we posed several other runners stopped to take our picture, too. I’m sure it was because we were all so good-looking…
After some milling about, we entered the beer area to redeem our beer coupons (each bib got you one beer for $1, and regular beers were available for $4) and eat our pizza (1 free pizza per van), but we didn’t stay long. Soon we headed back to the hotel to shower (again) and nap (for most… I was way too amped up to sleep and never felt all that tired until Monday afternoon). In the parking lot of the hotel we met Van 1 of Herd O Turtles, including blogger Jen is Green, which was super exciting for me because I had read her blog in preparation for this race! Later our team tried to get dinner as a group but every restaurant in town was full, so we ended up getting Subway and eating leftovers from the van. Lesson #15 – If you think you’ll want a hot meal at the end, make reservations in town early. I was totally fine with PB&J since we didn’t eat any during the actual race.
The next morning we cleaned the paint off our vans and had a team brunch at the ADK Cafe (super-excellent despite slow service and their running out of lots of food, including hashbrowns! But the giant portions and great food made up for it) before driving back down to the city and returning the vans that served us so well. It was definitely a letdown for me to be done, and when I got home and watched the Breaking Bad finale that night, I was doubly sad for two awesome things ending in one weekend. But just as there will most definitely be other TV shows in my future, I think there will be other Ragnar Relays, too.
And that concludes our first Ragnar Relay! Stay tuned for an updated packing list including all the items we used, didn’t use, and weren’t included on the list but should be on there (cough cough Chawel cough cough), because the 50,000 words I’ve already written about this race is not enough.
For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1, Leg 2, and Leg 3, my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List. If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.