When you complete a high-intensity race that you have trained months for, you find yourself wanting to talk about it for months. Unfortunately, most people are only willing to listen to a few minutes and you can not really blame them. I have a blog, so I can just put everything up here instead of making my wife suffer through yet another Ragnar story.
Once again, my team of 11 former fraternity brothers committed to run the Michigan Ragnar Relay. In short, it is a 200ish mile relay race from Muskegon, MI to Traverse City, MI that will take about 27-29 hours for us to finish. Each person will run 3-4 legs totaling 13-24 miles each. The guys in my Van will run legs 1-6 before Van 2 runs the next six legs and the vans will continue to rotate until the 36 legs are complete. Last year we were under-prepared, a weird combo of experienced runners and guys who just started running, and had not idea what to expect. Somehow, we ended up finishing 13th out of 240ish teams and 3rd in the Masters Division. This year, people have committed to training and we know what to expect. CLICK THIS to read about last year and learn more about the race.
As I drive to meet my team, I reflect on how much better trained I am. Last year, I was dealing with an injury and recovering from a nasty virus that practically eliminated my training. This year I am more prepared. Well, maybe prepared isn’t the word I am looking for because 45 minutes into my drive to meet my teammates I realize that I left my sleeping bag at home. I make panicked phone calls to the guys who live closer to our rally point. Fortunately, I catch Ryan before he leaves and he throws in an extra sleeping bag for me.
After the team meets up, my van goes to the start line and the Van 2 guys go to kill some time before driving to the exchange point after Leg 6. Last year, we started in the last wave at noon. It took us almost ten hours of lonely running before we started catching teams. This year, we get a 10:30 start and will be around more teams much earlier.
Van 1 is going to run the exact same legs as last year. The only difference is that Ryan changed to Van 2 and Moby joined us. I have known Moby for years and am fine with the swap. He will be fun. Unfortunately, I am wrong and Moby shatters the peace at Exchange #1. Blood is spilled. Sitting in the back of the van, Moby blatantly states the filled donuts are absolutely disgusting and makes gagging noises. I vault over the seats and begin to give Moby the worst beating he has had since college. Fortunately, Mark and Marty are able to drag me off of him before I turn him into a puddle of jelly-filling. I have known Moby for over 20 years and had no idea that I was friends with an Anti-Donite.
Order is finally restored and I get ready to run Leg 5 which is a relatively flat 6.0 miles. Marty tags me in and has set me up for an easy kill. You record a “kill” when you pass a team. Marty reeled a team in and I am able to get my first kill in only about 50M. The first five miles of my run are pretty uneventful. Last year I was so nervous about my health, what Ragnar was going to be like, and my injury that I barely remember this leg. At best, this leg is vaguely familiar. What I do remember learning is that Ragnar is not quite as physically grueling as one would expect. I will get about 7-8 hours of rest before my next leg and with only 3 legs to run, there is not much point in holding back, so I push it.
With about a mile left I have set a pretty fast pace and am paying for it. I have four kills and there is one more in my sight. She has a pretty good lead and keeps glancing back at me. She knows I am hunting and does not want to tell her teammates that she got killed. She is not fading as fast as I had hoped and I really have to push. The last half-mile is just enough uphill to hurt. When reaches it, she give me one last glance, smiles and starts to sprint the hill. My lungs are burning but I finally kill her at the top of the hill with about 50M left and sprint it in just to make sure.
As I tag Moby in, I feel my stomach rolling from that last mile and duck into the bushes to donate my lunch back to the land. Mark quickly snaps the picture below and sends out a group text stating, “It’s like we are back in college!” I hate my friends. After I recover, the woman I was chasing walks by and says, “At least I made you work for that kill.” I reply, “You made me puke for it.” She yells “Yes!” pumps her fist and high-fives me. Runners are weird.
Ultimately, I shaved 33 seconds off of what I ran this leg in last year. It is not a ton, but let’s be honest. Once you turn fortsexty years old, any time you do not get slower is a win.
Van 1 drives to the van exchange point to meet Moby and tag in the Van 2 runners. Most of the exchange points are in parking lots, parks, or overlooks but the Van Exchanges (every 6th leg) are bigger, have music, vendors and a lot more life. Last year when we hit the first van exchange point we were one of the last ten teams to arrive. Nobody was there and the volunteers were breaking everything down. With the earlier start time, there are actually a ton of people there and everyone is having a good time. Marty is mostly excited that we are actually seeing hand-sanitizer in the Porta-Potties. When you start in the last wave and spend hours trying to catch 240 teams of twelve runners, you encounter a lot of Portas that are in dire need of attention. Not the case this year.
Perhaps the biggest difference comes as Moby finishes for Van 1. Last year, the volunteers were tearing things down and it was empty. This year, the DJ calls out, “Team 141’s runner is coming in and this guy is flying!” After Moby finishes, the DJ yells at me, “Hey, what wave did you start in?” When I tell him that we started at 10:30, he gets back on the microphone and announces, “Keep an eye out for these guys! Check their finish tomorrow! They are fast.” Yup…last year was fun but things are going so much better this year. We still have about 170ish miles and probably 22-24 hours of racing left, but it is a good start.
Check back later to read about Van 1’s second set of legs. Teaser.. it involves night running, a potentially major error and 2:00 AM yoga.