Race Review: Why, Where and What is Ragnar Relays Race Series?

Team photo post-race

RAGNAR RELAYS 2013

Reflections Intro

Although I am still nursing a destroyed body inside and out–I find myself looking forward to the next opportunity to compete in a relay race as I did this past weekend at the Ragnar Relay series race that featured a route from Miami to Key West, Florida.  This was a 197 mile journey that in my case was split up by 12 runners on a team with the support of 2 vans.  Our team’s name was “In It to Win It” and finish 2nd in our sub-masters division with a time of 26:49.

What is Ragnar?

The best way to start reading up on this racing series is to visit their website at http://www.ragnarrelay.com .  My yeoman’s explanation is that this is a pretty well-organized race given its scope and does require that participants run the course at their own risk as roads are not closed for this event.  Along the way there are barricades and some race event folks that are at key intersections or shifts in the course–still, there are the occasional lost runners and I was nearly one of those a couple of times during our event this past weekend.  Teams may consist of 6 or 12 people and they are assigned respective running legs (3-12 miles appx) throughout the course to help share the load of competition.

Where Do We Run?

The Ragnar Relay series has different races throughout the country during the year in beautiful places like Napa Valley, Arizona and of course Florida!  I can speak for the Miami-Key West route:  it was a nice blend of city life both scenic and cultural (whether it was ritzy or ghetto) and rural, farm or swampy canal backwoods.  As my team began at 2:oopm on Friday, January 4 and we finished the next day at 4:49pm, we ran overnight with safety measures like reflective vests, headlamps and back lights.  I thought maybe this was a little extreme–until I found myself running at night in pitch darkness by myself unable to see the next runner in front of me.

Why Do Such a Crazy Thing?

Unless you are a runner, it’s nearly impossible to explain to you how amazing and fun this experience is despite the sleeplessness, the port-a-johns and funky smells from the constant sweat and endless miles.

I personally did 4 legs and was grateful for the chance to participate in this event even with the short notice–I was called a few weeks ago and asked if I would be interested and I immediately said yes to my former University of Florida teammate.  It was awesome to compete again with 3 former teammates from my lady Gator days and it was a bonus to meet other athletes and be instant teammates through this race.

Some people like to find their inner peace through a quiet state of meditation or prayer in a private place.  My personal moment of truth in my spirit was found somewhere during my 3rd leg of 8.8 miles (the 13th leg) that included a portion of the run that couldn’t have van support.  The severe potholes and width of maybe 12 feet in some parts of a gravel path through Florida vegetation made it obvious why I found myself alone running (or sprinting for a prolonged period of time) and searching my mind for distraction from the paralyzing fear that threatened.

I was able to focus on what matters to me in my life and to think about love for others–before I knew it the nearly 9 mile leg was over as my thoughts had transformed to understand that although my body ached with pain and fatigue, I knew my mind could tell my legs otherwise and push forward.

Respect for Ragnar Competitors

It was especially inspiring to be around other teams who had fun names and messages scrawled on their vans: examples included Prom Dates, Boners and No Dudes 12 Boobs.  When I was running through some stretches I would hear vans beeping their support in addition to our team and it was very helpful. I tried to repay the favor when driving our van for others and if we saw a runner in distress we would check if they needed water or Gatorade from our stash.  Even the early morning breakfast at a random IHOP on the road yielded a feeling of fellowship with other teams who were also trying to catch their breath before the next series of legs.

When is the Next One?

Honestly, I’m hooked after competing this past weekend–what a great idea for former cross-country and track teammates from school days, co-workers, running clubs or just a hodge-podge of people like our team “In It to Win It” was comprised of to work together.  This type of event can bring both the best and the worst out of people.  What better analogy of life to work through with others while having fun and accomplishing the simple but amazing feat of completing a nearly 200 mile race!

Happy Trails,

R.V.S.B.

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