Ragnar Madison-Chicago 2012: pt. 2

Ragnar Madison-Chicago 2012: pt. 2

I was surprised about many things in my Ragnar experience, but one thing in particular that surprised me a lot was how quickly time passed by.  Initially I thought we’d have tons and tons of time to waste when no one in my van (van two) was running, but we didn’t; it probably had something to do with the fact that we had some fast runners on our team.

Before we knew it, Otis came in on his first leg, and Brian was off.  Once Brian got the “baton,” we all rushed into our van to figure out where the heck we were going to meet him and drop off our second runner, Randy.

Here’s a great video of Brian passing off the baton to Randy.  Notice the puke; hey, it was hot, and in Brian’s words, if you haven’t puked, you haven’t tried hard enough.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGNr6_4Rvf4&feature=plcp

Brian admiring another van's artistry after his first leg of Ragnar. Gotta love all the badger references (when in WI, right??)

Once Brian completed his run, and we got the nice pic above, we all ran back into the van to go off to pick-up Randy and drop-off Jamie.  By this time, it was early afternoon on Friday, and it was pretty warm outside, probably upper 70s/low 80s.  We got to the exchange area, basically made our own parking space, saw a car that had gone off the side of the road and was basically hanging out in a ditch right by the exchange (weird), and waited for Randy to come flying in.  (And sidenote, while we were hanging out, I ran into an old teammate, Cemack, from Team in Training.  Nice chance encounter!)

Video of Randy and Jamie’s first exchange: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eevxQHqQ79Q&feature=plcp.  Please ignore the hooting and hollering from the peanut gallery (me).

Once Jamie was off in her ninja runner (all black) getup, we then proceeded along to what was a parking area right off a major park/trail system in that part of Wisconsin.  It was still super warm (and seemingly, only getting warmer), which was making me not look forward to my first leg that was imminent.  Leapfrogging our runners was actually kinda fun, and once we got to each exchange zone destination, we hung out, got outta the ‘burban, and just waited… and tried to stay in the shade.

Here’s Jamie exchanging with Lindsay after a pretty rough first leg wherein Jamie sympathy-puked after seeing another runner heave:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd86C15_r14&feature=plcp.  Fortunately, Jamie said that much of her first leg was under the tree canopy, so she had a bit of shade that Randy and Brian didn’t get much of in their first legs.

Soon enough, Lindsay was off on her first leg, which was run primarily through the same trail system that Jamie had run.  Jamie then handed off to me for my first leg, so there’s no video or photo for that… hard to capture all that stuff and run simultaneously 🙂

My first leg was an experience.  By the time I started to run, it was about 5/5:30, very sunny and warm (80s?), and unlike Jamie’s run, much of my first leg was through the sun… and even though I was running through the same trail system as Jamie and Lindsay, for a lot of it, it seemed like I was running through a field.  I’d look to my left and see what looked like corn (or some sort of farmland), and then I’d look to my right and see… the same.  I was running east the entire time, so not only was I literally going only straight in front of me with no turns, but the scenery seemed to be the same on both sides of me.  It was a bit of a mindfuck.  I wasn’t listening to any music, as I usually don’t, so I distracted myself by counting how many people I passed and by just having random conversations with myself (about what, I couldn’t tell you…).  I was also fascinated by a guy I passed who was wearing the same type of non-shoes that the Tarahumara wear in Mexico (from Born to Run), so I pondered that for a while, too… lots to think about in only 5.8 miles (or so).

Apparently, I also managed to forget what Marc looked like, because when it came time to hand-off the baton to him, I didn’t recognize him at all and nearly ran him over… only after I dropped our baton (a big no-no in the track world!).  I blame it on him putting on a baseball cap and changing his shirt 🙂  Here’s a video that captures all of it, including him making fun of me for being an idiot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsTLr2GEqnI&feature=plcp.  You’ll be happy to know that after this exchange, I made it a point to ask him what he was going to be wearing so I could easily find him… and I started yelling his name when I was approaching the exchange 🙂

Marc was off for his first leg, so we hauled over to the next exchange zone, where we’d also be meeting up with the folks from van one, who would begin their evening-late night second legs.  This exchange zone was at some sort of community fields/baseball grounds area, and unfortunately, I had just approached the exchange area about 20 seconds before Marc appeared and handed off our baton to our first runner, so again, I didn’t get a vid or a pic… bad Erin.

Once Marc returned, we had a decent amount of time to kill, so we elected to go out for dinner while Van One was running.  Dinner and the chianti was nice after we all were out in the super hot weather earlier, and after we managed to drive away with our back door open, allowing all our belongings to come flying outta our car (and after a restaurant employee saw us and probably felt sorry for our idiocy, haha), we got our acts together and went to the next major exchange, where Otis would be handing off to Brian again, making all of us in Van Two start our second legs.

Ragnar is really adamant about safety, which makes a lot of sense, considering that you have a couple thousand runners running through trails, paths, and city and country roads at all hours of the day and night, with folks running or walking anywhere from a 6- to a 16-minute pace, so once nighttime began, we all had to run with a tail light, a headlamp, and a safety/reflective vest on (in addition to our race bibs)… and as I mentioned earlier, if you had to cross a street, it was mandatory to use the orange crossing-guard-style flags to make yourself be seen.

Here’s Otis and Brian at exchange two.  Notice how lit-up all the runners are.  Anything for safety, right?  And by then, it was probably only around 10:30 or so at night… but pretty much pitch black out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=zQRkXmIzLes

And so we began leapfrogging again… once Brian was off, returned, and handed off to Randy (which I didn’t catch on vid… sorry!), we went to where Randy would hand off to Jamie, which was in front of a church on a somewhat-busy intersection in a town near Racine, WI.  Randy all but snuck up on Jamie and the rest of our team, since we were all waiting for him to appear, watched for him, and suddenly BOOM!  he was there.  No idea how all of us missed him, but alas.  Here’s a vid of their exchange, or at least the tail end of it, as Jamie starts to run: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWNIk2Da3O0&feature=plcp

While we were waiting for Randy to come in, Brian made friends with a volunteer, whom he personally thanked for standing in the road to keep all the Ragnar runners in line.

Brian made a friend with a volunteer during one of our night exchanges

She was a sweet lady who was as decked-out in reflective garb as were the runners, as the picture below illuminates (bad pun… sorry… had to).

...and they liked to show off how visible they were, thanks to some awesome reflective gear

It was beginning to get kinda late, so the picture-taking slowed down a bit, but I tried to make up for it in vids.  Here’s one of Jamie exchanging to Lindsay, followed by an interview at 12:30 with most of our Van Two runners… or at least everyone who was awake, anyway.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-0crtV-eQU&feature=plcp & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ5Cr7BNm2M&feature=plcp.

After Lindsay’s second leg, I began my longest run of the relay, which was just over 7 miles, but around 1 or 1:30 a.m.  I had never run with a headlight before, but I took John’s advice (John, who was nice enough to lend me his relay gear), and I wore a hat to help minimize the sweat/ick factor and to help keep things in place.  Remarkably–or not, considering–even though I had run about six hours earlier, and even though this leg was almost two miles longer, I felt awesome the entire time.  I was running on country roads and some residential areas in Racine, but it was pretty well-lit for the most part, and the cooler temps (low 70s/high 60s) were a very welcomed change from the heat and humidity I had earlier in the evening.  There were very few runners in front of me at this point, so I was a bit nervous that I’d go the wrong way, make a bad turn, or the like, so I carried a map with a turn-by-turn directions set in my pocket as a CYA measure… and fortunately, I’m happy to say that I didn’t get lost 🙂  Running in the middle of the night, on no sleep at that point, and after just running almost 6 miles about 6 hours earlier in hot weather was by far my favorite leg of my relay experience.  Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it was also my fastest, since I think my splits averaged out to around a 7:13 or 7:15 (compared to the 7:30s I did for legs one and four).  Granted, I don’t think I’m going to take up 1am running here in the city for all the obvious reasons, but it was definitely something that sets apart the Ragnar relay experience from all the other runs and races I’ve done in the past.

Once I handed off the baton to Marc–whom I was able to find this time around!–I hung out for a little bit, caught my breath, and soon began an impromptu leg #3 with Lindsay, who was nice enough to take one for the team to cover for us since we were all down a runner once Marc finished his second leg.  The leg that Lindsay and I ran was relaxed and leisurely, since we had both completed our second legs not that long ago, and I tried to keep her company as we passed through the miles–most of which were on city streets but the last portion was on an almost-freakishly-dark trail.

Once we handed off to Van One again, we were done for the morning and were off to Jamie’s house in the north shore, not far from where we’d begin our final legs.  During some of our downtime, Jamie realized that we’d be relatively close to her house, so she offered to host us for a few hours, giving us all the chance to shower and crash on her couches if we wanted…which, of course, we did 🙂  It was the best few-hour-long detour that a suburban full of stinky, salty, sweaty, and sleep-deprived relay runners could have asked for 🙂


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