If I could describe Ragnar in one word it would probably be: amusing. That is pretty much how I felt the entire two days, just amused at everything that was going on around me. For those of you unfamiliar with this relay series, they describe it best on their website:
“Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-8 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain. Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, a great finish line party and unforgettable stories. Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it Ragnar.”
I signed up for this race back in July. I originally heard about Ragnar Relay Key West from an acquaintance on Facebook. A girl I knew in high school posted pictures of the same race a few years ago. Ever since I saw those pictures I wanted to do it. I signed up with my friend Jenna and 10 other strangers.
Going into this race I honestly didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t even know what I should expect, I was clueless. When the day finally came my nerves started rattling like crazy. The legs I was assigned to weren’t actually that bad, it was more so the timing of them and the time between them all. I mean how to you even train for a two day race where you hardly sleep, but have to run in extreme heat at all different hours of the day?
Thursday night, we met up with the rest of our team for dinner. We had a great time chatting with everyone and introducing ourselves to our new team members. I learned very quickly that we had some fast runners on our team. I for sure was not one of them. One girl could run a 6 minute mile, a few others 7 minutes, 8 minutes… I was just hoping that the 10 minute mile I put down for was accurate and I wasn’t actually slower… Needless to say, after meeting the rest of the team I was immediately intimidated and even more nervous than I was before.
Jenna and I shared a room with two girls from Baltimore Amy and Lauren. They were both super nice and we were excited to meet them. We all spent the night talking about the race and what we thought it might be like, none of us really had any idea…
The next day our team was scheduled to start at 12:30pm. Dan our fearless leader dressed for the occasion…
After the race started our van (Van #2) left to get some lunch and to decorate our van before we started. They handed out magnets for us to “tag” other vans with. The idea was to put these on opposing team vans and to try and get as many as you can out there. It turned out to be a fun game.
I was runner #9 and third to go in van #2. My first leg was a 3.7 mile run that started around 5pm. I was sooooo nervous before I started running. I had no idea what I was in for. The thing that makes Ragnar different from other races is that this is an “adventure race.” You weren’t surrounded by hundreds of other runners, you weren’t passing crowds of people cheering you on, and roads weren’t closed just for you to run through.
I started off my first leg good. I had to wear my night gear (any runners after 4:30pm had to wear reflective vest, head lamp, and red flashing light on your back). As I started off I quickly realized how hot it was in Florida. I was used to running in freezing cold temperatures, so it took me a second to get used to the heat.
As soon as I started getting into my running grove, I got stuck at a traffic light. After what felt like an eternity there I finally started again as another runner passed by me, hey at least I knew I wasn’t alone! I ran with my phone so that I could listen to music, since silly me forgot my ipod! The 3.7 miles went by faster than I expected it to which was nice. I was happy to see my team waiting for me at the next transition point and to have some water! Getting this first run over with definitely helped to calm my nerves.
I waited and cheered on the rest of my team until we were all finished with our first legs. We met up with van #1 at the next exchange around 10pm? (not 100% sure of the timeframe) After that our van “attempted” to get some sleep. Jenna and I didn’t want to travel with sleeping bags and pillows so when we first arrived in Florida we bought $4 blankets that we could throw away when we were done. After attempting to sleep in the van on the same seat with Jenna we eventually went out onto the grass with our teeny tiny blankets. I probably got around 4 hours sleep total that night, which was good enough for me at the time. Around 3am we woke up and headed off to start our second legs of the race.
(Roadkill: people you pass while running). This run was my favorite for a few reasons. One- anytime I run over 5 miles, I usually enjoy myself. Two- I had my first road kill, in fact I had 4 roadkills! Three- I got to see a beautiful sunrise while running through the Florida Keys. Four- Around mile 6 when I thought I was going to die of thirst, hunger, heat (since by this point the sun was fully up) a magic van showed up and offered me a bottle of Gatorade (I will forever be thankful of that!). I ran this half in the dark, half in the sun, it was over a beautiful bridge surrounded by water…. It was simply magical.
Finally seeing this sign… made it THAT much better…
When our team finished our second legs we were kind of at that point in the race where you begin to question why you are doing this. I mean really? We still have ONE more run left, can’t I just go to sleep in a nice comfy, air conditioned hotel room? PLEASE?????? After taking another nap in the dreaded heat we were more than ready to finish this race.
My last leg was only 2.7 miles. Those were The. Longest. 2.7 miles. Of. My. Life…. I started these around 3:00pm, right when the sun was probably at it’s hottest. Yes it was pretty running over the 7 mile bridge, but it was hard to think about the pretty water when I would have preferred to jump off the bridge into it. Which I almost did several times. I started to perk up when these two cute ladies were walking on the bridge holding a sign that said “You may feel awful, but you look amazing!” That made me happy and gave me the energy I needed to finish off the race. At the end of my leg there were two other runners there and we all high five’d realizing that we FINISHED!!!!!
The plan after the last runner took off was to meet her at the finish line and cross it with the rest of the team….
You may notice two very important people missing from this photo…..
See, the thing is we sort of took a quick detour to grab a coffee… I mean we hadn’t slept in two days… and we hadn’t had Starbucks in two days… I guess our teammate ran faster than we expected because when we made it back from our coffee detour, we realized our team had already crossed the finish line… without us. At least we got coffee, right?
Now, I know you’re dying to ask… Was it worth it? Would I do it again? Would I do anything different? Yes, Yes, and Yes!
As much as I complained in the weee hours of the night that I wanted to sleep sooo bad, I still had fun. As much as the Florida heat made me feel like I would fall over while running, I still had fun. As much as I missed showering after running in 85 degree weather and then getting into a van with 6 other people while being covered in sweat, I still had fun. It was worth every painstaking step that my little legs could handle those last 2.7 miles. It was worth the little amount of sleep I got so that I could cheer on my teammates since I knew they were cheering on me too. It was worth being in a van with 6 strangers who soon became friends. It was most definitely worth it and I would without a doubt do it again!
Things I would probably do differently next time: bring extra clothes, bring a sleeping bag, pillow, and air mattress, bring my ipod, and don’t take a coffee break until after I cross the finish line with my team.
This race was amusing. It was amusing to see all of the van decorations and costumes of other teams. It was amusing running around in the dark with our teammates as we tried to cheer on our team. It was amusing to see how I managed to run in the blazing hot sun like I did. It was amusing seeing Jenna cranky after getting no sleep. It was amusing that I managed to run 8.1 miles on very little sleep. It was amusing meeting 10 other new friends and hearing all of their stories. The entire two days was amusing and fun.
If you get the chance, do a Ragnar Race- it will be a challenging, life changing, amusing experience. And if you don’t have 11 other friends to do it with, sign up with one through Digital Running Club, I promise you’ll enjoy it!