16.9 Miles of Running and 198 Miles of Fun

It's race season and this weekend was one of my favorite races, the Great River Ragnar Relay.  For the history, check out what happened in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  This year I was on a new team, one of the charity teams for Bolder Options(There's still time to make a donation to support my fundraising goal.) My old team is heading out to do the Vegas course in November and I can't make the trip.  I just couldn't stand not to do a Ragnar.

Through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, we wound up with one completely injured runner and one runner who could only run one of this three legs but did a lot of driving for us.  Five of us ran a fourth leg, including me.

These overnight relay races on super long courses really bring out the crazy.  Andy set up donation jars at his work and people made donations based on whether they wanted him to shave his head or his legs or both.  He made a lot of money with that tactic.  He also wore a hat to prevent sunburn.  Good choice.

I was mostly runner number three this year.  I was always jealous of Ryan who took this leg in the past.  It's an early leg so it's done sooner in the race, and it's the lowest mileage of all the options.  The first of my three runs was a 5 mile "Corn run" on paved country roads.  I was so excited to get going that pacing was a bit of an issue.  I was only passed by a few people.  A couple people who passed me early slowed way down on the course and I passed them right back.  Jerks.  This graph is my speed, not the elevation profile.  I started off too fast but came to my senses and tried to manage pace better for the second half of the run.  The best thing about being runner 3 is running early and then getting a while to wait and cheer on everyone else. 

Even better, the weather was the opposite of last year's 95* bake fest.  It was in the low 70's and gorgeous.  There was quite a headwind, especially for the first few legs, but later on we were happy it was blowing all the bugs away from us.  Below - vans lining up to cheer on our runners.

This was the first time since 2009 I did a Ragnar on a team with two vans.  Our van had time to stop for dinner which was nice.  Mercifully the hamburger did not make a repeat performance, although it was touch and go for a while.  We also had time to stop and look around at the small towns.  Exchange 12 is on Lake Peppin.  Mother nature put on quite a show for us there.

After sunset, it was my turn to run again.  I picked up my extra leg here.  Runner 2 was supposed to run this first leg up this hill, and I was the lucky slacker who was supposed to run back down it.  In years past, this had all been one long leg so I knew it was possible to run that way.  Runner 2 was our guy who did his first leg and then drove so I told him I'd do his leg and mine together.  He gave me some salt tabs which I'd never tried before and some shot blocks (apparently Gu is not the sponsor this year?) and sent me on my way up the hill.  Here's the elevation profiles for both runs.

Now, my team was supposed to meet me in the middle, at the exchange where we would've changed runners.  My team failed miserably.  I got to the top of the hill and they were nowhere around.  The volunteers were all "are you running two legs?" and I explained my team was supposed to meet me with water and nutrition.  The volunteer handed me a water bottle and I kept going.  I was pissed.  It really came out in my running because I took the last three miles at a much faster speed than the first five.  I finished strong and had run off most of my aggravation.  The graph below is my speed, slow and steady for a long time and then boom off I go down the hill.

Shortly after I got done running I changed into clean running gear (finally), put on my sweats over it and crawled in the back of the van and went to bed.  I was so cold that one of the other runners gave me his blanket in addition to my own.  When all six of our runners had gone, we drove to the next big exchange to sleep and wait for our teammates.  This may have been my best Ragnar ever for actual sleep.

Around 5:30am I woke up and began to shovel food in my mouth because I knew I had one more run.  Eating sucked.  I could barely get the peanut butter down.  (Who knew I had a gag reflex?)  My last run was a true 5K that was both more awesome and more awful than I expected.  2.9 miles were on a running/bike trail in a suburb of the cities.  I'd actually run a section of this leg on my third run last year.  I went harder than I expected to be able to.  And then I turned off the trail to where the parking lot and exchange were.  And I saw the hill.  It was a short but brutal hill that took everything I had.  I was going so slow I was afraid I was going backwards.  The hill was that steep, even though you can't tell from the elevation profile. Good thing I did all those hill runs in training.

After my last run, I was so happy to be done.  The last legs are always interesting because once people are done, they sort of lose their minds.  And all the people who still have to run are a little grumpy and impatient.  True.  Andy had fun with his second to last and last runs and really dressed the part.  He did his run and then picked up the last leg of the injured runner.

Once our van was done, we stayed with the other van for a few exchanges to congratulate runners as they finished.  The last ten or eleven legs of the race were very different from the past year's course.  I liked most of the changes they made, particularly that runners were on running trails almost the entire time we were in Minnesota.  We saw this at the last exchange before the finish (which had been the second to last exchange the last three years)

Like last year, the course finished at the River Flats which has a view of downtown similar to this one.  This was taken a few days earlier from a different building on the U of M campus.  After the race we had a beer, cleaned out the vans and headed home, already talking about next year.


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