200 Miles of Good Good Times

Great River Ragnar Relay was this weekend, and I ran. It's my fifth year doing this race.  Every year I swear it will be my last and then I'm all "just one more", much like marathons.  For past race reports see 2009, 2010 - the free race entry, 2011 - Ragnar 911's final year, and 2012 - running with fasties.
No one knows what happened to my friends over at Bolder Options.  They are still listed as the race charity of choice but they didn't have race teams or entries this year.  I didn't even think I was going to run this year until about three weeks before hand when a friend from last year's team was still looking for people to join this other team started by this guy from Chicago.  It was a whole scene.  I was thrilled to be on a team, and even more amused when I found out I was the only girl on the team.  I was going to call this post '200 mile sausage fest' but I digress.

Start times: First big difference from past years: we started at 2pm.  No one is at the starting line at 2pm.  I'm used to starting around 8am or 9am.  For those start times, the starting lines are packed.  They send tons of teams off every half hour and it's a mob scene.  By 2pm, no one is there.  Half the volunteers are even packing it in.  Teams from the 1pm departure are gone, teams departing at 3pm haven't shown up yet.  Only four other teams started with us.  We would connect with the other teams at the first few exchange stations but things got pretty lonely for us.  The second round of running in the middle of the night was actually the loneliest.  We'd get to exchanges and be the only ones there with the volunteers.  Up side to this was we knew we'd eventually start catching people, though it came late in the day on Saturday.  Second up side was we'd get to gas stations and restaurants and the lines would all be way way down so we could get service and use the bathrooms with no waiting.

Pace sheet: Our team captain had what I think is the best idea ever for a Ragnar.  He made a sheet of everyone's runs and projected pace times so we'd know if we were on pace for the race.  It was really helpful knowing when to expect people in exchanges.  Then the team decided they wanted to be done way earlier than our projected finish time of 5:47pm.  I highly agree.  So then the challenge was to run faster than our projected pace time.  Hilarious true story, I put my pace time as 10:00/mile for a 10K.  That's not so much an accurate pace as an "I wish that were my pace".  So when I saw this sheet and they're all "can you take time off your pace?" I had two reactions.  My out-loud voice was all "no problem, I got this" and my inside voice was all "what the f!ck have I just done to myself?".

I ran as the 3rd runner, same as last year.  Bonus this year was that I only had to do my legs, and not pick up that stupid night run up the hill.  This was the first year I'd had good enough coverage to use my GPS app, which was fantastic since pacing myself was suddenly so relevant to the experience.  Screen shots are below, and the times on my running app are slightly off. Because of handing off the batons I was starting the running app 20-30 seconds early, and because of finishes and handing off the batons again, I'd stopped the runs late.  All in all, I things went extremely well.

Run 1: 5.3 miles, 87* no shade, slight breeze.  I knew if I was going to be at all slow, it was going to be on this run.  It's 3 miles of corn followed by a brief stint in town and then more corn before getting to a park to hand off to the next runner.  Around mile 2 I started my music, just letting the phone speaker play since I didn't have earbuds.  Around mile 4.5 my friend called me and I had him on speaker and was all "just talk, say anything".  Around mile 5 I almost pooped my pants, walked for a second to get it together, and then ran in to the finish, handed off the baton and ran directly to the port o pot.  I did not poop my pants.  Side note: I was neither the first runner, nor the last on our team to have this issue.  It was a rough day.

Run 2: My night run started at way-too-early-o'clock.  This run is significantly down hill.  My favorite thing in the whole world is to run down hill.  Sadly, this run was also part ways on a deserted back road.  There weren't any teams near us on the course.  I wasn't thrilled about being all alone, and not even the van can follow for part of the run.  I have never wanted down from the top of a hill so badly in my entire life.  My mile splits will bear me out on that.  I knew that if I was going to contribute at all to the team being early, it was going to come on this run.  I killed it, coming in over two minutes, which is a lot of time to pick up on such a short run.  My running app also wanted me to know I'd set a new PR for the 3-mile and 5K splits.

Sleep: I got the most sleep I think I've ever had at any Ragnar.  The two years where the whole team was in one van, sleep was not an option.  Last year I did sleep some at Stillwater Junior High (I hate that exchange) but I was cold and grumpy and nothing could make me happy.  This year, I got back in the van after my run, got out at the next exchange and stretched a bit, ate some food, and then curled up on my bench.  And slept.  I think I got 4 hours of sleep.  Yes, that's a lot.

Run 3: I hate the last run.  This is actually this gorgeous little run on a trail in Afton and it's all separated from the road and the traffic (finally).  It's all safe, no semi trucks running me off the road like last night.  I had a runner who I knew was going to start a minute or two after me and my goal was to keep her behind me the entire time, or at least make her work to pass me.  The beauty and peace of it lulled me into a false state of relaxation before the gauntlet because at the end of this run comes the steepest hill on the planet.  And it's the last thing I do in the entire race so I have to climb it like a mountain goat and be all speedy about it.  Excellent.  I was about to pass out on that hill when my team held up a diet pepsi for me.  I felt like a fat kid running for a doughnut.  I gunned it.  And then nearly passed out.

Team and the finish: We did wind up finishing early, about 30 minutes early I think.  My friend came over to cheer on the team at the end and see the finish line.  He was really curious about the whole experience.  I thought it was super cool that he came out.  Overall, this was a great experience.  It was fun to be with a team of guys, fun to be with super strong runners, fun to feel like I made a contribution to the team finishing faster than expected even as the slowest person on the team.  Maybe I'd do it again...

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