Friday, September 28, 2012

Ragnar Relay DC Recap

How do you sum up a 30 hour race? With a ridiculously long post!

There are few times in my life when I think I've actually not slept multiple days in a row. I got some sleep at Ragnar PA last year, but this year's DC race takes the cake for least sleep ever.

Thursday morning we were up at 5 am to take the dogs to the boarders and head to work. Fast forward to Thursday evening. The van has been rented, the bags are packed, three teammates have been picked up and we are on the road at 9 pm headed to Rocky Gap State Park in Cumberland, MD.

Now being in van #2 we totally could have slept at home Thursday night, woke up at a decent hour, and headed right for exchange 6 on Friday morning, but as captain I wanted to be at the start line. Also, we had one person with us in van #1, so they kind of needed to be at the start line too.

As would be the theme of the next two days, I felt compeled to stay awake in the passenger seat while Mike drove. We pulled into the campsite at 1 am, popped open the tent, and attempted to sleep six hours or so. Unfortunately it was freezing cold, and Mike and I were awkwardly trying to share one sleeping bag. No deal.

*Sleep count: ~3 hours

Foggy morning start line

The team
At 8 am we met our fellow teammates at the start line, conveniently in the same park we camped in, decorated vans, cheered our first runner on, and then it was time to go!

Pay attention to our parrot..
Pirates of the Caravan! Argh!
Start line
Would totally come back to this park to camp again...if it wasn't a 4 hour drive
What remained of our parrot friend after not more than five minutes of driving on the highway :(
We had a few hours to kill before our van was up, so we got breakfast, hit up a Walmart for supplies, and eventually made our way to exchange 6. Around 2:30 pm our first van #2 runner finally got going.

Van #1 hands off to van #2

Using the flags like a pro

Leg #1: 9.4 miles, Very Hard, 445 ft gain

Finally around 6:30 pm it came my turn to run and I was amped up and ready to go. Our team had been amazingly keeping pace with our orginally projected goal time, so I felt a lot of pressure to be speedy. On our leg breakdown I was listed as finishing this 9.4 miles in 1 hour 22 minutes. Umm, way faster than I've been running lately.

Waiting to run and foam rolling
Runner #10 handed off the slap bracelet I took off. Fortunately the weather was quite pleasant by that time of day; cool and just a bit humid. My entire leg was on the Western Rail Trail and the C&O Canal, which meant I wouldn't be seeing my van again until the exchange.

Within 3 minutes of running the girl behind me told me that my LED wasn't on. Turns out the batteries had died. Awesome. Not even a mile into my first leg and I'm already breaking rules. After a mile I made it to the Western Rail Trail. I had been really excited for this leg because it sounded beautiful. Turns out its a paved bike path, not a trail, and its on the side of the highway with a thin/sometimes-not-even-there tree line. I just love hearing and seeing tractor trailers driving by on my run.

There were mile markers on the bike path and I realized I was actually running an 8:30 pace, right on target. It felt challenging, but comfortable. Around mile 6.5 the route switched onto the C&O Canal. It was really pretty and the highway disappeared and gave way to the canal. Unfortunately I couldn't enjoy it too much because the sun also set at this time. The trail felt good under my feet, but I was terrified on tripping. Luckily there were two runners ahead of me and I tried to use them as a guide.

Finally the C&O ended and I saw the "One Mile to Go" sign. I was immediately disappointed because according to my watch I was more than a few minutes behind goal time even though I had appeared to be keeping pace. Luckily (or frustratingly), I did not have one mile to go, but much less. They probably just threw that sign there because it was on a corner and more convenient then treking down the C&O.

Leg #1 final time: 1:21:31. Right on schedule!

Our first van rotation finished up by 9 pm. We decided to head right for the next big exchange to see if we could get some shut eye. One of the major contributers to my lack of sleep was the fact that for each rotation Van #1 consistantly ran about 30 miles total, and our van was running about 40 miles total. Hence, they were out running for much less time than us, meaning we had less time to sleep. I tried to curl into the sleeping bag around 11 pm and sleep for two hours. Again, cold, uncomfortable, and pretty unsuccessful.

*Sleep count: ~4 hours

Leg #2: 9.1 miles, Very Hard, 978 ft gain
Leg #3: 9.6 miles, Very Hard, 542 ft gain

At 1 am it was our van's turn again. At 5 am, coincidentally when I would normally be running on a Saturday, my leg was up. Sally and I decided to pace each other like we did last year in PA. The benefits of this are threefold: 1) Rack up more miles (good for JFK training), 2) Don't have to run in the dark alone, 3) Time/miles fly by when you're chatting.
Waiting to go
The first leg of our double was through Sugar Loaf Mountain. It ended up being on a fine gravel trail. The road was super thin and the vans had to drive by us so that we often ended up walking (out of fear of twisting an ankle) through the ditch on the side of the road in order not to get hit. It was frustrating because we ended up taking much longer than I would have liked.

Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we reached the next exchange. I chugged some Gatorade, ate two Fig Newtons, and headed out with Sally again. By this time the sun was coming up and we had rolling hills and beautiful views. Sally started experiencing some terrible GI issues so at mile 4.5 of this leg she hopped into our van. I was more than happy to continue on and finish up on my own. I really tried to push the pace at this point. That worked for about 2 miles and then my legs remembered that they had already run 15 miles this morning plus 10 last night and they were not having it.
OMG pain

Leg #2 and Leg #3 final time: Eternity

We had another few hours to kill, but now that the sun was up I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep. We headed to the next big exchange, which was right outside of DC. My mom came to meet us and we had bagels. It was great to see her and she kept my mind busy until it was time for us to go again around 1 pm.

Leg #4: 3.7 miles, Easy, 82 ft gain

You know what feels good? Seeing a "One Mile to Go" sign after 2 something miles instead of 8 something miles (as I did for my first three legs). I was blowing kisses at it.
Off I go
First thoughts as I took off on my last leg: OMG my quads are killing me! Exhaustion and soreness were setting in. I don't have any idea how I kept going. Somehow I bested a 10 minute mile.

Leg #4 final time: 35:43

Final Ragnar mileage: 31.8

Our team finally finished around 5:30 pm, two hours after projected finish time. Oh well. I'm never in these relays to race anyway. They are all about fun!

Mike, myself, Sally, and our other Philly runner Chris left right away to head home. I felt bad not to hang out with the rest of the team, but I was running on 4 hours of sleep over 60 hours. If I didn't get home soon I thought I might lose it. We stopped for a quick dinner and got on the road. I offered to drive, which was good because Mike started slurring actual nonsense and drifting in and out of sleep. I actually had to stop for some candy and a 5 hour energy drink because I thought I was going to fall asleep at the wheel. We finally dropped everyone off and crawled into bed around 1 am. I don't think I've ever fallen asleep so fast in my life!


  1. Congrats on the finish. I ran Sugar Loaf Mtn leg two years ago and passed 5 people going up and kept the lead on them til the leg finish. Good leg for me, but I wasn't adding another leg on one end of that either.

    My team of 10 completed the 2nd Annual Colonial200 (206.8 miles actually) this past weekend in just under 30 hours. Just like Ragnar DC but less hills, much fewer people at exchanges (25 teams total) and more running on the side of a 55 MPH highway in the dark with no shoulder. Good times!!!

    1. Congrats on finishing the Colonial 200! That run on the highway sounds scary though!


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