We did it!! 200 miles, over 30 hours, 2 vans, 12 ladies.
Our goal was only to have fun and there were walks, but we still came in 18th out 92 finishing teams!
Just in time for my 37th birthday my knee seems to have recovered and I set out to remind myself I could indeed still enjoy a sleepless night surrounded by girlfriends…I just did it in a sweaty van instead of Vegas!
When pondering this team, I wasn’t thinking about how we could crush the competition. I was thinking about who would be a ridiculous amount of fun and enjoy running in some cool new places. Thus was born Just Here for The Food: Lisa, Tara, Danielle, Charlie, Aimee, Heather B, Heather R, Sarah, Ellen, Gretchen.
Here are some other good reads if you are prepping for a relay race:
Ragnar Relay Review
I’ve gotten so many comments that many of you want to do a relay, but you’re nervous. Since I also got this from a number of teammates prior to the race I hope this helps alleviate the nerves and gets you signed up!!
You SHOULD expect it to be an adventure and be ready to problem solve!
I’ve done three previous relay races and this one was bananas.
Not because of Ragnar, but because of a comedy of errors that made this a relay that will not soon be forgotten. I can’t possibly skip over these things because they did have such a huge impact, but I also want to give you a REALLY good review of how a Ragnar normally works!
Most teams are comprised of 12 runners, which means 6 runners in each van. You’re divided based on the legs of the course you’ll be running, which must be run in the same order throughout the race with each runner going 3 times.
Step 1: Organize your van
You need a lot of stuff to run for 30 hours, sleep, clean yourself, eat and navigate…with 6 women. Spending a little time organizing things like sleep bags, how to access your gear and food is worth it on the road.
Step 2: Decorate your van
Not only will it make you easier to spot, but you’ll find it’s a lot of fun as you start interacting with other teams. You begin to recognize who is at an exchange point and you will most certainly find yourself laughing.
I showed you a van above, so I had to make sure our shirts get some love!
Step 3: Keep van clean
Hang a trashbag around a seat and ensure everything goes in it or out in a trashcan you pass. Spray a little Febreeze to keep things fresh and remember you might have to sleep in here at some point.
No matter how much you try there will be stuff every where as people need to get in and out of sweaty clothes or clean up or roll after a run. Luckily Good Wipes provided by Danielle were a LIFE SAVER and kept us all smelling pretty good and are now on my must list for a relay van.
Step 4: Throughout all of this laugh, sweat, enjoy the randomness of what you’re doing.
When else might you find yourself running through the wild’s of Colorado at 1 AM, while feeling totally safe due to the Ragnar folks and your teammates. It’s weird and random, embrace it.
***Bonus step: pick seriously awesome people to do the race with you. This doesn’t mean you need all your best friends to join, in fact I’ve found that teams who know each other on a lesser level often do well because they don’t snipe when tired.
Our vans were filled with kick ass women, clearly.
AND YOU NEED A GOOD CAPTAIN!
I’m not sure if I was a good captain or not, but I sure felt like I spent a boatload of time organizing things from sharing start line hotel rooms to what each van needed, who paid, who was flying in and would need things like a sleeping bag.
Checkout my tips for a legendary relay for even more ideas!
It should have been that simple, but our start to the race was a comedy of mishaps. And in reality, this is part of doing a Ragnar. Mishaps. Adventure. Laughing through it.
After arriving at the start to check-in on Thursday night, we discovered that Van 2 no longer started. A mechanic confirmed it was a major issue and not just a battery.
At this point every friggin van in the state is rented out to other Ragnar teams!!! Hertz was horrendous with customer service, but Sarah kept on pushing well in to the night.
- Going in to race morning we had 1 working van.
- Hertz towed the broken van, but then fought us on providing a replacement!
- Hertz tow truck bringing the replacement van, broke down!
- Second driver finally got us van 2 after our group had already started…BONKERS
While all of that was indeed stressful, I feel like the team rolled with it and we did the best we could because really…not having a van at all would have been way worse!
**PS – You will absolutely find later that you can’t adequately convey the confusion, sleep deprivation, tears of laughter from slap happy jokes, ability to sleep on a floor with no blanket, to those that have not been in a van with you for 30 hours.
That’s ok, you’re now bonded for life with those sweaty runners and your crazy adventure.
Now I want to talk more about this specific Ragnar since they have a number of them and share my legs of the race!!
Starting in Copper Mountain and going to Aspen the course is gorgeous! While a great deal of it is along a path that runs near I-70, I wouldn’t say I noticed the traffic all that much while running, mostly because I was looking at the mountains or wild flowers.
- You are running at altitude, don’t underestimate how hard that is
- We had a number of wildlife reports (bears and mountain lion), but no actual issues
- Nights might be cool, but aren’t cold this time of year
- Daytime highs can be VERY hot, which we underestimated (your so close to the sun!)
- The last leg is actual trail, which was unexpected and made it 10x’s harder
- Because of the location of the path it’s hard to cheer on your runner while they are running
- Lots of very excited cheering at each exchange point, where they do a good job of letting you know your runner is coming so you can be ready
- A few iffy driving directions and a number of legs where we ran farther than listed
I was runner 8 and enjoyed a total of 17 miles, which lets be honest was by far the most mileage I’ve done since surgery. I was certainly nervous going in, but realized I’d also be asking others to stretch their comfort zones so I could too!
Leg 8 – 9.7 miles with 2100 feet of descent
Oh my quad! First van 1 had to take me to my start point because we didn’t yet have a van, which was mostly adding to everyone’s nerves and YET the group was fantastic about taking it all in stride.
This run was literally breathtaking at the highest point of the race and because the views were just outstanding.
Leg 20 – 4.7 miles at 3AM
The night runs I always find really interesting because when else do I get a chance to run under a sky filled with stars I can so clearly see. However, right as I started the organizers noted a mountain lion had been in the area. HAAAAAAA.
I pretty much tried to be alert, but not worry about it. Until I hit about mile 4 and an animal of some sort was clearly moving alongside me in the bushes. At which point I started singing out loud…clearly enough to scare anyone.
Night runs can be scary, but only if you let your mind run away with you or haven’t ever really run in the dark much. Mostly you need to embrace doing something new and stretching your boundaries. Tara wasn’t so sure about her second leg and then it ended up right as the sun was coming up and she said it was phenomenal.
Leg 32 – 2.6 miles at 11:30 AM
When you think mountains, you think cool weather…nope we literally felt like we were on the face of the sun. For no explainable reason, I ran my fastest mile since surgery, but would have dropped like a fly had my leg been uphill or much longer.
Unfortunately a few other runners weren’t so lucky. They had 9+ mile runs at 8,000 feet, uphill in the hot, hot sun. It was absolutely a test in mental fortitude.
How it Works?
Each runner must hand off a slap bracelet at a transition point, which is all clearly laid out in the new Ragnar app. This is where you get a chance to cheer on your teammates and see the other van as you switch off.
This particular Ragnar had some awesome exchange points! The main van switches were often at Rec Centers which mean a place to clean up or a floor to sleep on, which is not always the case. I’ve definitely slept in a church pew and never gotten near a shower in other relays.
Every single runner will end up running at night, which can be scary for those not used to. I try to just remember it’s a crazy very short adventure and even though I can’t see another runner I know there are a lot of people out there with me.
All night runners are required to wear a safety vest, headlamp and a blinky light. It’s super fun when you see a blinky light in the distance and it gives you a boost to try and catch it.
Unlike you’re normal finish line, this time you get to cross as a crew and to be honest the clock means very little. Unless of course you’re going out as a competitive team. After that there are a few sponsors, but at this one no actual free food and after 2 days of van food we wanted something that did not look like a bar or cracker even though they were delicious.
Let’s talk about stocking the van because with a name like Just Here For the Food we did things a little different than a lot of vans. Instead of a big orange bucket of cheese balls, we found ourselves with coolers of healthier (mostly) treats.
The thing is most of us have now learned that better choices keep us feeling better for the next run and with our lack of sleep…that doesn’t mean there wasn’t chocolate or sugar involved.
- Vega Ready to Drink Protein Shakes (all of which were demolished as a perfect post run drink)
- The Perfect Bar
- Love Grown Granola
- Once Again Almond Butter packets (my new race day must have)
- Sweet potato breakfast cookies (courtesy of Lisa!)
- Fruit, dried pineapple (so good for stomach)
- Liquid IV electrolytes
- Dark chocolate
- Annie’s bunny grahams
- Baby carrots
Once we finished the race it was time for a celebration. First because we finished and second because it’s my birthday!!!
Luckily Charlie of The Runner Beans had the brilliant idea to head down to Garden of the Gods Club in Colorado Springs. It’s so much more than a hotel with the pool that faces the magnificent red rocks, daily fitness classes, a great gym, the salt room therapy, the massage I had which was one of the best ever and so many other wellness services.After an afternoon of relaxation, we settled in for a dinner watching the sunset beyond the Garden of The Gods and I was soooo thrilled with my fabulous salmon dinner, which we of course followed up with 2 chocolate desserts to split celebrating my birthday!It really is important after any big race to take a moment to celebrate the high’s, think through the low’s and give your body some love!
Have more relay questions or an epic story of your own, I’d love to hear!
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