I’ve written the intro to this post 3-4 times and am still hitting a block. How do you honestly introduce an event that is as epic as Ragnar is? After running a bunch of different events from Obstacle Races to this years Winter Death Race, there really is no comparison with the package Ragnar offers up.
For those unfamiliar:
Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. You and 11 of your craziest friends (or 5 of your crazier friends for an ultra team) pile into two vans and tag team running 200(ish) miles, day and night, relay-style. Only one runner hits the road at a time. Each participant runs three times, with each leg ranging between 3-8 miles and varying in difficulty. So, from the elite runner down to the novice jogger, it’s the perfect race for anyone. – from https://www.ragnarrelay.com/ragnar
I’d like to point out one glaring omission from the description above. Absolutely, the distances vary, and anyone can run a Ragnar if they’ve done a 5k or 10k before. BUT… there is one leg that they called the “Wicked Hahd” leg, I’m assuming they added that nickname cause it was a New England located race. That leg is for runner 10 and is 12.8 miles of near half-marathon torture. Add in .3 and you get the half-marathon status, right? Please tell me yes because this would be my first. Haha!
My work takes me all over Cape Cod; all year long. For the past few years I have noticed Ragnar blow through the Cape like a whirlwind. It wasn’t until I started running and racing OCR’s that I was truly focused in on it, and or, wanted to participate in it. After hearing about it last year from teammates I really, REALLY wanted to do it. Being the procrastinator that I am though, by the time teams were put together I had lost out. I held out hope, and I know it sounds bad, but I held out hope that maybe someone would not be able to make it and a spot would open up. Luck has it, someone had a calender conflict and he offered his spot up on the Spahten Men’s Team. I jumped at it, and got in.
I should have known I was over my head when I realized I was running with others that are a lot more “runner fit” than I am, but I accepted the challenge to get my rear end in training. I cranked up my running and was continually hitting my pace goals on training runs. My pace is usually around a 9-minute mile. I can hit under it when feeling good, but I try to stick around that pace. After mentioning this, another teammate said that was about their pace. That made me feel a bit better and I started ramping up my distance as I was replacing the runner who would be runner 10 in the race.
Like mentioned above, runner 10 had the “Wicked Hahd” leg and that was my first time out on the course. I was projected to start some time close to 8pm so I had all my safety gear (reflector vest and blinking butt light) on, my hydration pack full of water (spiked with some Tailwind) and I was ready to go. As Marc came blasting toward me, it was time and I was off.
Immediately I was faced with a slow rise hill. It didn’t seem daunting but it burnt my legs out, and I think I came out of the gate quicker than I wanted to. This hill would mess with my pace for the rest of this leg, and quite possibly, for leg 2. Either way, I pushed on and didn’t want to disappoint the team with a slower pace than I had promised. I finished the leg in 2:13:09 which is slower than I hoped, but when I looked at some of the splits, I not only hit my pace more than a few times, but I kicked it’s rear on two occasions. I am happy with how things ended on this section and I feel accomplished that I finished my first half-marathon distance run.
There was nearly a 6 hour (or more) gap until my next leg. I tried like heck to recover. I rolled out my quads, hamstrings, hips & calves. I stretched like a son of a gun. I packed a bit of nutrition, I don’t think it was totally enough though but I did know we would stop at a restaurant or store at some point. One of the snacks I brought was a serving of Vega Protein & Greens mixed with about a half cup of chia seeds to make a pudding of sorts. I ate that right up and kept hydrating. Even after eating, sitting around in a van did not help. I got pretty stiff and was not looking forward to leg 2.
That said, I actually was kind of looking forward to running leg 2. This part of the race route went by a neighborhood that I lived in until 6th grade. Yeah, so I spent a good amount of my childhood there. I learned how to ride my bike on the side street that split off from the route. As a matter of fact, right where that road intersects is where my Dad let go of my seat as I rode solo for the first time. I ran past other spots where we played hide and seek in cranberry bogs. It was an amazing experience.
It didn’t help my time any. To be honest, at the beginning of this leg there was a good sized downhill section and it really pounded on my knee and I wasn’t able to recover from the pain it caused. I pushed hard and grimaced through most of it. At this point I should have been lining up the kills, instead, I was being led to slaughter. Thanks stupid knee!! LOL
It was another few hours until my final leg, which was less than 2 miles. I forced as much recovery on myself, and even took an ibuprofen to try and dull the pain. I wanted to kill this last leg and finish strong. As I waited for my teammate to come and tag me in, much to my surprise, my wife showed up with my two sons. Seeing them was a huge boost and hearing my wife’s words of encouragement, I pushed hard. I kept this last run on pace and passed of the slap-band one last time to Tim. Tim has a short run, similar to mine, and then Kevin would do the final leg to bring us in to Provincetown. So, we all went in that direction.
As we waited for Kevin, I started to soak in what had just happened. This was so much more than a race, it was a team building event. No, it’s no Go Ruck, but you still had to be a team to start and finish this event. During my time this weekend I heard horror stories of other vans, and even witnessed some situations that were downright wrong. You see, your van is your support team, they are supposed to be there for you. I saw many people at exchanges come running in to pass off the slap-band, but alas, their team was not there. Benefit of the doubt, maybe they were lost. With GPS though, that should not have happened. It filled me with pride knowing that my team had each-others backs.
I looked back at all the people I met that were not part of my team, but were just as supportive. I had seen a crew of folks walking around with these “Vegan Power” shirts and sweatshirts on. I liked the design so I went up and started talking with one of them. I first met Peter Nussbaum, and we snapped a selfie. He asked if I needed anything and told me I should go meet his team and tell them he sent me, he said they’d hook me up with a few vegan snacks too. I was looking forward to that. I met Julie and Scott Henderson and we had a good chat. They also hooked me up with a couple tasty Ugo Bars, which I had not heard of before. I still want a “Vegan Power” shirt… Anyone know anyone??
There were so many other people I talked to along the way. Not one of them had anything negative to say. Ragnar put on an amazing event. The scope is so enormous, it’s monumental to say the least. No matter what swag you walk away with, the memories and camaraderie are worth so much more.
Will I do it again? Hell yes I will! Maybe I will do a trail series one though, my knees are still hating me!!