In 2012 a friend asked me if I wanted to run Ragnar with her and her team. I just think she wanted me to come because I have a 15 passenger van--and a driver. I was a "runner" and so I thought what the heck. I ran it with her and LOVED it! I loved it so much that when the email came that said, "Hurry sign up for 2013 Northwest Passage" I leaned over to my husband and asked him if he wanted to drive again. He said, "Heck yay!" and so we were team 14! That was a great team. Fast, dedicated and I found some new friends.
Of course I drank the Kool-Aid and signed up again for 2014, this time I was team #3! I brought back my core running friends and grabbed a few more for this 2014 "Will Run for Donuts" team. I think they drank the Kool-Aid too! We, yes, all 12 of us (well, minus one since he is a young boy--more on that later--but his mom doesn't want to pull him from school) are signing up for the Napa Valley Ragnar in 2015! Yes, I think we bathed in the Kool-Aid! We've got Ragnar-itis and we've got it bad.
I don't know how to explain what Ragnar is. It really doesn't sound like fun, but it is! Simply put it is 12 runners running 200 or so miles from point A to point B passing a baton (aka slap bracelet) as your teammates take turns running. Some runners run 2.7 miles on a leg and others run almost 9. Each team member takes three legs. My legs this year totaled 19.1 miles (I was runner 8). You do this from Friday morning until Saturday evening. Your team never stop running. Thankfully you are in two vans so the first six runners (in van one) are running while the second six runners (in van two) are resting, eating and getting ready to run their legs. When runners from van two take over, van one eats, sleeps (or tries to) and gets ready for their next set of runs. Yes, sweaty, stinky people are forced to spend about 36 hours hanging out with each other. (Baby wipes and ziplock bags are a must for each van!)
I've run marathons before (26.2 miles) but you pace yourself differently when running 26.2 miles all at once than you do when you are running a five mile run and then a 7 mile run and then a 6 mile run. Not only that, you desperately want to come in under your projected time. There is so much pride in that accomplishment.
This year I blew my time out of the water. I have been tracking my time (thanks to my new Garmin) and noticed that my pace has dropped so I dropped it on the spreadsheet. I dropped my time to it to what I have been averaging on my long runs. I was running a 10:34 pace for the past four months so I thought I would put that down. Somehow I ran 8:50! What? I'm not sure what happened, but I ran like my pants were on fire!
My first leg was a nasty 700 foot gain over a long 5 miles. I averaged a 9:26 pace. WHAT? Where did that come from? I don't run UP HILL under ten. Crazy good that is!
My second leg was at 1:45 in the MORNING! Now that's motivation to run fast if ever there was. It wasn't for the faint of heart. I ran across a trail that was out over Figalgo Bay so I could hear the water lapping agains the shore--scary. Turning up my itunes didn't help because anyone coming up from behind me would scare me even more! So I just ran faster! This leg I did with a 8:46 pace. It was my longest run at 7.75 miles. And I got the girl at the very end for a kill!
My last leg looked really nasty. Once again some nasty hills with no van support. I really like hearing my people cheer me on. Highway 20 through Whidbey Island just won't let vans support you. I hit that hill and did it! I wanted that run so bad that I chased down a few runners. The wind was in my face while on the highway and it was loud. The cars are driving pass you at 50-60 miles an hour. Gives one a moment of thought. As I passed the one mile to go sign, I noticed a white shirt in front of me. My legs were already toast, but I wanted one more kill, so I chased her down and just at the last moment--in front of everyone at the exchange, I KILLED HER! (That just means I passed her, there is no violence in running.) It felt so good!!! Again, my average pace was crazy good! How did that happen? My pace was 8:47!
So now I have created a monster. The five ladies in van one want to stay together as a team and they even want to travel to San Francisco next September to do the Napa Valley Ragnar. (Mom of the six runner, our 14 year old hero, says he needs to stay home and go to school.) My van? They drank so much Kool Aid, they are trying to figure out a way to do it this year! Sorry team, it's full!
Ok, so I'm drowning in the Kool Aid. I've already mapped out the Napa Valley legs (they will all change by September 2015) and I've looked up flights, rental vans, and I'm looking into hotels. I've got Ragnar-itis. I think the only cure is to run another one. (Anyone out there in Ragnar-land who wants to take a chance on a 10 minute pace runner who just wants to come have some fun?)
What makes this so fun? Your legs are gassed. You are so tired (I think I got about two hours of sleep the whole weekend). You don't eat well (hello port-a-potty) and you smell even worse! Not only that you are with five other people who are in the same boat, I mean van.
It's the stuff that happens when you aren't running. The dance party on the side of the road. It's the squirt bottles that someone thanks you for. It's the chocolate covered pretzels. It's the team and friendship building that happens as you tell stories in the van. It's the people that make Ragnar so fun. The people on your team and especially the people in your van. That's why I pick them carefully.
It's the daughter who runs her mom's leg because her mom's ankle is twisted. It's the husband who runs silently by his wife on a very difficult run. It's the wash cloth given to a very hot runner as she busts it up a hill. It's the butt pat from spouse. It's the water dump. It's the catch at the end of the leg. It's the cow bell. It's the tunes. It's a Ragnar!