Running a Ragnar Relay has been on my bucket list for a few years. Now, I can officially say I am a Ragnarian!!!
For me, spending 36 or so hours in a van with 5 other people as well as another van of 6 people running 200ish miles up the “coast” of Minnesota and Wisconsin sounds like an amazing time. So, when the opportunity to run Ragnar Great River came up this year, you can be sure I wasn’t going to turn it down! Then my fall happened and I was worried that Ragnar may not happen. But after starting therapy for my traumatic brain injury, my medical team assured me that I would be ready to run Ragnar Great River in August. And, I was (maybe not where I wanted to be but I was able to get out there)!
I have had several friend and running coaches participate in Ragnar so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. I knew that starting out the great adventure on 4 hours of sleep was not exactly the best way to start. However, I was going to make the most out of it! I got up at 4am to go to Farrell’s for Friday Funday’s Circle of Death (the name says it all). Then I headed home to shower and hit the road to meet my the rest of my vanfam.
Our vanfam was up in the air for a few days prior to departure but we got it figured out. It consisted of three people I work with (Tim, Collin, and Bonnie) and one random stranger (Kristine) who is an ultra runner so she actually counted as two runners. I kind of knew what to expect with Tim and Collin since I played softball with them last summer and I really enjoy working with Bonnie. However, Kristine was a wild card and much to my surprise it was the wild card we all needed. I ended up with the most amazing vanfam! We all got along wonderfully and came out of Ragnar Great River with an awesome bond!
Ragnar Great River wasn’t without its kinks though, we had a lot of rain in the days prior and due to that several roads on the course were washed out. Instead of canceling the relay, Ragnar cut the impacted legs out (legs 5-9) and put a hold on the runners for a few hours. Van 1 ran legs 1-4 and Van 2 resumed running on leg 10. Since Collin and Tim missed out on their first legs they doubled up with Bonnie and I. Collin and Bonnie headed out on leg 10 and Tim and I on leg 11.
My first leg was pretty uneventful other than the hill from hell at the very end of my run, I am positive it was strategically placed there. I tried running up it but midway I had to walk. I sent Tim on his way and I walked .2 of a mile straight up. And then I broke my one running rule, I ran down the other side of the hill (my rule, if you walk up the hill you have to walk down the other side). I had already damaged my ego enough having to walk up the hill from hell, I didn’t want to have to walk into transition too. Yes, the transition was right on the other side of the hill.
Kristine was our vans last runner so once she was done we drove ahead to eat and try to sleep before we started running again. Tim was the first runner in van 2, he headed out in the dark and we drove ahead to cheer him on. Do you know how hard it is to find your runner in the dark? It is freaking hard! We lost Tim and didn’t find him until he got to the his exchange point. Then Kristine was off, we did a much better job of keep track of her! And then it was Collin’s turn and then we lost him too! However, we did end up finding him but he was only a mile away from his exchange point. Next up was Bonnie, she had a shorter run so we knew we would just meet her at the exchange. However, we didn’t expect that she would be waiting for us to get there. Finally, it was my turn to run at night.
Bonnie was patiently waiting for us at the exchange point. However, instead of exchanging with me she decided to run with me. I knew something was going on but it wasn’t until we were half way in that I got it out of her. You see Bonnie is a mom, and her mom instincts kicked in, she was worried about me running at night by myself due to my accident earlier this year. Initially I was really irritated but Bonnie was a godsend! That leg proved to be pure hell. I had no idea what I was getting myself into between the headlamp, the vehicle headlights coming straight at me, and yet another hill from hell (only this was was the whole 5 mile leg, it went up the whole way) I was in straight up hell. I got very dizzy from the headlamp light moving in front of me and the vehicle headlight coming straight at me which made running near impossible. I can honestly say, I really don’t know if I would have made it with out Bonnie. (Thank you, Bonnie! I appreciate your motherly instincts!) You have no idea how happy I was to see that transition point and Kristine!
I was in a really bad place after that leg. I was so upset with myself and my performance. I didn’t want a pep talk from anyone, I just wanted to be left alone. However, Kristine pulled me a side and gave me that pep talk anyway and it made all the difference. She said exactly what I needed to hear at the right time. I am pretty sure if it would not have been for her I most likely would have given up before my final leg. (Thank you, Kristine!)
And then it was time to sleep! We had gotten a hotel room so we would have a place to sleep and shower. The place was nothing spectacular but at the point of being up for over 24 hours and sweaty as hell, it was heaven on earth! I was only able to sleep for a hour and I didn’t shower but it was still great.
My anxiety started to rear its ugly head about this point. My final leg was a few hours away and it was my longest leg. After my terrible performance I really questioned if I was going to be able to do it. And I spent the rest of the day stressing about it. It got really bad once we transitioned Collin for Bonnie. I knew I only had an hour until judgment time.
I let me team know that I didn’t need support on the leg before I took off. Really I didn’t want them to see me struggling so I didn’t want them to stop. However, they did not listen. I made it two miles in and there they were waiting for me with cold water. At this point I wanted to die. I knew my leg because I had run it many times (it is part of many race courses in St. Paul) and it is the most boring stretch of road. But I kept running. Four miles in my vanfam surprised me yet again, they were there to cheer me on and give me more cold water. I guess seeing them was what I needed because at that point I knew I had it. I was going to finish this leg! I assumed that they would then drive ahead to wait with Kristine for our transition. However, Collin and Tim waited for me one more time with yet another cold bottle of water (Thank you, Collin & Tim). And not soon after that I saw the transition point. As soon as I saw it I kicked as hard as I could! I proved to myself right then and there I could do it.
After that we didn’t have much time to get to the finish area, park, and meet van 1 and Kristine at the finish line. We all moved as quickly as we could which wasn’t super fast. We didn’t have to wait long for Kristine to make it to the finish line. We saw her coming and all joined her to cross the finish line!
Ragnar Great River was an experience I will never forget! My vanfam was beyond amazing! They made the weekend so much fun! I experienced just about every emotion in those 36 hours but I would not change a minute of it! In fact, we are already talking about next year and the possibility of running Ragnar Northwest Passage…