September 28, 2008

180 Miles of Ragnar Running

The Ragnar Relay. Three words which will signify torture, sleeplessness, and delight for me for the rest of my life. I ran the race on a team of 12 people, and we did a great job. Our van (#2) got started on Friday afternoon, and the first van (see Melanie's description of the race) had set a great pace in its first legs. After two of my van-mates had run, it was my turn.My first leg was 8.7 miles. Fairly flat, but with a couple short, steep, brutal hills. There had been some strong rain before my leg, but I only got a little drizzle, which was perfect. And the cloud cover kept temperatures down for almost the entire race. I was feeling pretty tired, but we cheered on our runners and eventually made it to the trade-off with the other van fairly late at night.

Once the other van was off running, we drove to the next spot we'd resume running, voraciously chomped some spaghetti dinners, and tried to sleep with all 6 of us in the van. We didn't get a whole lot of sleep (maybe 1-1.5 hours) in our packed quarters, but we didn't have much choice with the rain coming down outside.Van #1 arrived, and we took over while they went to eat and rest. My second leg was 3.2 miles, all downhill, in the wee hours of the morning. I was feeling surprisingly spry and decided to bust out some speed. Turns out running downhill is kinda rough on the joints (though I didn't feel it until the next day) and excellent for running very fast. Even with an almost wrong turn, I was close to a PR for a 5K, as I went under 20 minutes. It felt good to run so late/early and I enjoyed the moonlight and just seeing the headlamp's light illuminating the road just ahead of me as I listened to my breathing and stalked the next runner ahead of me :)

By the time we finished our second legs, my van-mates and I were pretty much tuckered out. We handed off to Van #1 for their final legs, and we drove straight to the last van hand off so we could rest briefly. Fortunately, we got about 2-2.5 hours of sleep this time, and since we went to bed in the dark and woke up to the sunlight, it felt like we'd gotten more shuteye.

My last leg was 4.4 miles, mostly flat. Though I felt like my legs were heavy and I wasn't moving very fast, I was surprised to see the 1 mile left marker earlier than expected. Turns out I was actually running just under 8 min miles, while I thought I was probably doing 9 min miles. A pleasant surprise and I was stoked to finish my leg strong and be done running!

Three more runners, and we were in Crystal City for the finish line. Van #1 had showered, napped, and eaten. I was quite jealous in my smelly, tired, hungry state. When Chris rounded the last corner, we joined him in running across the line. Each of us received a well-earned medal, then we took some team pictures, chatted for a while, and ate anything we could get our hands on. Several friends came to meet us at the finish as well, which was greatly appreciated.

It's hard to describe, and people don't believe us, but though it was a challenging and at times torturous adventure, I would do the Ragnar Relay (or one of its sister relays) again in a heartbeat. Keep on running!

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