Friday, April 27, 2012

Run All Day, Run All Night

Running with friends is always much more fun than running alone.  Every race involves running with friends, but normally each individual is competing on their own.  The Ragnar Relay gives an opportunity to run with friends, but race as a team.  I ran my first Ragnar in 2011 and had so much fun that when the opportunity arose to be on the team for the 2012 Ragnar del Sol,  held on February 24/25, there was no question about whether to participate or not.
Our Team name was simply “The Workout Group”, or WOG, because all the runners are also part of weekly training group by that name. Many of us were on the team last year, with a couple of newbies.  The night before the race, we got together and decorated our 2 team vans.

I was in Van 1, along with Steve F., Sheryl, Craig, Michelle K., and Monica.  Van 2 team members were Diane, Dari, Pete, Tim, Steve O., and Michelle H.  Our van had the first six legs, so got off to an early start on Friday morning to make the long drive to Wickenburg.  When you spend almost 2 days in a van with friends, you can’t help but have a lot of fun, and we had a good time as soon as we got on our way.
When we arrived at the start, we picked up our race packets.  We decided to show our team spirit by applying tattoos to our legs:

Steve started us off with a quick hilly run.  There are exchange stations where runners slap a wrist bracelet to the next runner on arrival. Here’s Steve making the relay to Michelle at the first exchange:
I had the 3rd leg of the relay.  It was a 7-miler, mostly gradual downhill., and it took me 44:36  I was a bit hot since it was mid-afternoon, but the excitement of finally getting to run kept it fun.  During each leg, the other 5 members drove the van to the next exchange point.  Along the way, they would stop to cheer on the runner and take photos.  Here’s one of me during the first leg:
As the day turned in to night, we kept on running.  Ragnar rules require reflective vests and headlamps during the night, which is smart.  It’s fun to see how various teams try to make their safety gear fashionable, and some of the runners had quite interesting lighting displays. Ragnar also seems to bring out some of the wild side in people; our bunny theme was rather tame compared to some!  Even team naming seems to be competitive, with some of them clearly trying to be the most outlandish.
The Nighttime exchanges were a bit tricky for a couple of reasons.  It’s virtually impossible to identify runners until they are very close, although volunteers do attempt to radio in team numbers a minute or so in advance.  Also, it was much colder so the waiting team members usually didn’t want to stand around for a long time waiting.  Somehow we did manage to make the exchanges on time, including the transfer over to Van 2.  Here’s a picture of Craig handing off the slap bracelet to Monica, in the wee morning hours:
My nighttime run was leg #15, and it included some trail running.  That part was very challenging because it was sandy and rocky terrain, and running it in the dark made for unsure footing.  The leg turned out to be 6.4 miles and it took me 44:48.  After my run, a funny thing happened.  I opened a piece of Dove chocolate, the kind with the little sayings on the inside of the wrapper – and it said, “It is O.K. to go slower”!  It was a lot funnier in the middle of the night, when nobody had slept.
There’s very little sleep, if any, for most of us in Ragnar – but that’s partly what makes it so fun.  Sleep deprivation tends to make people get a bit silly so we had a lot of fun as the event went on.  While waiting for the Van 2 transfer back to Van 1 at exchange 24, I did manage to doze for about an hour, not deep sleep as I was sitting up in the passenger seat, but it helped.  There’s something magical about the sunrise, though, and we all were a bit revived when daylight sprung.  Here is Michelle K. running her final leg, giving us a “kill count”:

One of the Ragnar oddities is the Kill Count.  Whenever you pass another racer, you score a “kill”, and teams track their kills by marking their vans – similar to the old markings made by pilots in WWII on their aircraft.  Since the start times are staggered, there is a tendency for kills to increase as the event goes on, and our team was making kills like mad in the final legs.
My last leg, #27, was a long one – just over 9 miles.  But I was feeling strong and having an incredible time passing other racers.  My time was 57:39 and I made 44 kills!  For the 3 legs combined, I ran 22.5 miles in 2:27:03.
After the final transfer to Van 2, we headed to the finish line and waited.  We had a pizza and relaxed for a while, and when Steve O. came in to the finish on the last leg, we all joined him and crossed the line as a team.  It was so much fun!  The best thing about Ragnar really isn’t the running, it’s the friendships that are made and strengthened by the shared experience.  It’s a weird mixture of complete exhaustion with elation, and it’s difficult to really explain in words.

Team WOG’s total time for the roughly 200 mile course was 25:51:20, which was fast enough to earn us 1st place in the Open Mixed Division!  Each team member received this cool relay baton for the win.
After Ragnar finished on Saturday, I was tired, but I managed to drag myself out of bed early on Sunday morning to run the “Pueblo’s Rodeo Run
 4-miler.  Hosted by my friend Steve Taggert and Tagg Running Events, this race is a fundraiser for the Pueblo High School running team. We had nice weather this year at the start (last year it was freezing).
The course runs along the river path and is fairly flat.  It’s an unusual race distance, longer than a 5k so it’s hard to push quite as hard, but shorter than a 10k so you don’t need to hold back as much.  I finished this year in 24:57, which is a new 4-mile PR for me.  I was 2ndoverall, and won these nice awards:
As you can imagine, by Sunday night I was ready for some real sleep.  And yes, I did take Monday off from running!

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