Wow. I’m not even sure where to begin.
What can you say about an incredible 200 mile Ragnar Relay Race that starts in Miami and ends in Key West with this…
Ok, I have a couple.
I’m not even sure I can do justice and convey all the emotions in this experience, but I’m going to try.
Let’s back up.
This story really begins on Friday morning, 200 miles away at Zoo Miami, where our first exchange for our first legs of the Ragnar Relay began.
In case you missed it, here’s the short breakdown I gave of how the Ragnar Relay race works. Basically it’s an overnight 12 person, 200 mile relay race that starts at point A (Miami!) and runs to point B (Key West!). This was my first overnight relay race and I really have nothing but great things to say about how well organized both the Ragnar Relay organization and my team (We Ran With Your Mom Last Night) were leading up to the event and throughout the weekend. I couldn’t have planned a better experience if I tried!
Anyways, back to Miami.
Our team was split into two vans with the first 6 runners of our team in van 1 and the last 6 runners in van 2. Derek and I were the 10th and 12th runners of the group, so we were placed in van 2. The first van of our team stayed in Miami on Thursday night and left the starting line at 9:00am that morning. They had 30.9 miles to complete and were predicted to arrive at Zoo Miami for the 6th exchange at 1:20-ish.
We left the Tampa area bright and early Friday morning and arrived in Miami around 11:00. I had some yogurt and cereal on the road, as well as a large cup of iced coffee. Upon arrival we checked in with the race officials, collected our safety gear, bids, and race goodies and listened to a 15 minute safety presentation on the rules of the road.
Ragnar Relay is a self-policing race. If one team spies another team violating the rules, they’re duty would be to text a safety hotline with the team and violation.
The main safety points:
- Use reflective flags when crossing any roads along the course
- Wear reflective gear between 4:30pm and 7:30am
- No alcohol on the course
Luckily we never had to turn anyone in and we never got any word that we violated any rules. We were model citizens all weekend. Pinky swear.
The goodie bag was pretty impressive. It was full of extra tissue paper, coozies, Clif shot blocks, trash bags, temporary tattoos, and other random items that actually came in handy over the weekend. It was our emergency go-to pack the entire race.
There was also a box of free donuts for all vans. This was my first realization that this wasn’t going to be the best weekend for healthy eats. A Krispy Kreme donut, blue corn chips, carrots, hummus, and trail mix is the lunch of running champions, right?
My whole weekend of eats was all over the place. I tried to document all I could, but just note that there were random handfuls of trail mix, mini Clif bars, oatmeal cookies, and other nibbles that went undocumented for the blog. Ragnar = a LOT of snacking.
Part of the fun with Ragnar Races is decorating the vans. Some vans were crazy and over-the-top (blinking lights, blow-up dolls/octopuses/monkeys/sharks, etc), but we kept it simple with classic window paint and slight sexually explicit phrases. You know, just keeping it real.
Van 2 of team ‘We Ran With Your Mom Last Night’, ready for action!
Derek, Me, Dana, Kerri, Jennifer, Nate
Did you say time to run? I thought you said time to dance!
Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle
Ok, now we’re ready to run!
Jennifer was up first!
Jim finished his first leg for van 1 and Jennifer was off in a flash.
We collected some supplies from van 1
And caught up with Jennifer at mile 2.5 of her 5 mile leg to deliver some supplies.
The sun was out and temps were rising. We passed her an ice cold water and told her we’d see her again in a couple of miles.
Nate was on deck next.
Runner 8, ready to go!
Nate’s first leg was just over 3 miles. He requested no van support, so we navigated to the next exchange and Kerri prepped for her leg of the race.
Runner 9 – GO!
Way to go Nate! He was definitely the speed demon of our group.
Safety first when crossing the road!
Ragnar requires that when any runner is crossing any road on the course they have reflective flags with them. I looked forward to van support stops that required road crossing because, well, flags are fun.
2 miles down, 2 more to go!
With Kerri kicking butt, Derek was next.
His exchange was a little tricky. Only runners were allowed at the exchange point and the van and other team members were instructed to stay across the street and wait until runner #9 returned.
This was about as close as we got to knowing the exchange was being made.
Oh! Before I forget, I plan to do a complete review of the Ragnar Race as a whole, but I thought they did a fab job with porta potties. They may have not always contained toilet paper, but the porta potties were at every single exchange. With 36 exchanges spread over 200 miles, I’d say that’s pretty darn impressive!
Ok, back to the race!
Dana, a Ragnar veteran many times over, was on deck as our 11th runner.
For someone who only ran 3 miles at a time, once a week in the month or so lead up to the this race, Derek held his own for all of his legs. Hell, he rocked it! Consistent sub-10min/mi the whole time. Go babe!
With his first leg done, Dana was off and running!
That meant I was up next!
Ragnar rules state that any runners running between 4:30pm and 7:30am must wear a reflective vest, head lamp, and blinking light on their rear for their entire leg. Any other team members standing outside of the van along the course between those hours are also required to wear vest for safety reasons.
Runner 12 – ready for action!
The exchange was easy. Dana came in with the snap bracelet (Ragnar’s version of a baton) already straight and ready to go.
A quick snap of the bracelet, a start of my Garmin, and I was off.
My first leg was 8.9 miles of gravel roads, paved side walks, and palm tree farms in what felt like the middle of no where. It was the longest of the first legs for van 2, but I think it was also the most quiet with no major roads or crosswalks to deal with.
Ragnar Relays aren’t serious races (at least they’re not for my team :)), but when you’re out there running, you can’t help but become a little competitive. When I learned the term ‘roadkill’ referenced how many other runners a runner passes on their legs (some teams kept tallies on their vans), I thought it would be fun to keep track on my own legs. There were about 500 teams out on the course but, since they were all spread out, it was unpredictable how many you would see at any give point.
Not even a half mile into my leg I passed a runner. 1 Roadkill. Shortly after that a fast runner passed me. -1 Roadkill. I passed another, another passed me and I think I ended up with a net of zero in total. Eh. So much for that.
Anyways, I requested support with water at mile 4, but at mile 2, I was wishing I would have asked for it a bit sooner. The water bottle I meant to bring with me for the first part of my leg was forgotten in the van and the big swarms of gnats I was running through really wasn’t helping.
Nate was my super hero and handed me a water bottle just when I needed him. He told me I was almost halfway and I had this. Nate definitely won for the van’s best cheerleader of the day. Serious. Rockstar.
I thought the next time I would see my team would be at the next exchange, but they surprised me at mile 6.
The run was beautiful. The sun was setting, weather was cooling down, and I was running a part of Miami I didn’t even know existed. Beautiful. But even with all that, it still felt great to be surprised with a little cheering support from teammates.
See you at the finish, my friends.
Something I didn’t even realize until the final minutes leading up to my legs, was just how my 8.9 miles would end. Just as the sun was setting and the sky was filled with beautiful hues of purple and pink, I entered the Miami Speedway for a final lap of the track before I handed off my bracelet.
I was warned the one lap of the track was long (1.75 mile-ish) and tedious after running right past the exchange point, but I loved it. When else am I going to be given an experience like this? I entered the speedway and just tried not to think about how long the track was and instead focused on how cool the experience was. I imagined the stands filled with fans. I imagined how much faster the race on this track was with cars than the pace I was running. And, I imagined my team waiting at the end. I sort of lost myself in the moment and just had fun.
And just like that, I finished my lap around the speedway, handed the Ragnar snap bracelet off to the first runner of van 1, and I was done with leg 1.
- Total distance: 8.9 miles
- Time: 1:16:40
- Pace: 8:40
I did a quick change in the van and our team headed straight to Chilis for real food (you can only take so many road snacks).
We had about 6 hours to eat, sleep, and make it to the next major exchange point to wait for van 1. Derek and I were exhausted and crashed in the back of the van to try and get as much sleep as we could.
Little did I know that while I was running earlier, he was quietly planning his own surprise ending at the finish line.
To be continued….