Another Ragnar Relay Race: Why I’m officially hooked…


What is Ragnar Relay?

As I’ve written before, best place to learn more about the race is by looking through their official website  The overall idea is that twelve people make up a relay team to split up a distance run that amounts to a day’s worth or more of running mileage.  Ultra-teams also exist where six individuals make up the team and so the mileage split is significantly higher and therefore more challenging.

My Recent Ragnar

This past weekend I participated in the Key West Ragnar Relay race that started on Virginia Key just across from Miami and Key Biscayne–the finish being just down the road from the southernmost point of the U.S.A. on Key West.  The nearly 197 miles distance was split by our twelve “Prankstars” from various backgrounds of life but our common thread being we enjoy the physical challenge presented by this race.

Crazy is as Crazy Does

A friend of mine bid me good luck with a quote from the Tom Hanks film “Forrest Gump” where the common cheer to the Hanks’ character was “Run Forrest Run!”  When I first participated in this race series last year I thought I’d never subject myself to such torture again: truly, spending 24+ hours in a van with 5 other people while trying to endure long mileage runs with urban/rural difficulties, navigation of self and van, trying to stay hydrated/well-fueled and finding some rare rest.  Let’s not even delve into the fact that all modesty is thrown to the wayside especially when it comes to matters of the toilet relief situation that arises and in some cases spirals out of control as the hours and mileage increase.

Teamwork Manifest and Respect Abounding

The difference of my Ragnar experience between this year and last was that in 2013 I was with my former college teammates and this year I didn’t know anyone (except that a couple had been in the ‘other’ van last year).  I can’t say that one way was better than the other, however, I will admit that I actually got to know my entire team better this time around because I didn’t just cling to my own clique as I had unknowingly done last year.  Within hours of meeting each other, my van had gotten down what each other’s basic stats were in life and we were immediately bonded over the fact that we had already agreed to take on our respective relay legs and mantels in this race.

Stress Exposes the Best and the Rest

A major part of the Ragnar experience to me was definitely the way all of our personalities rocked and rolled during the heat of the competition.  We would enjoy comedic relief dialogue with each other about ourselves as well as what we witnessed on our journey together.  Then there were the moments we had stress reigning down as we tried to navigate to our next switch points or assist a teammate currently running–overall I was impressed that everyone strived for the good of all.  Whenever any of us had a weak moment, the others automatically stepped up to help and even overlook any slights if there some as a result.

Escape without Wasting Away

The thought did cross my mind that I should have considered a two-night solo stay at a beachside hotel in lieu of participating in a competition like this where I had to arrange for childcare and other things to get away for a weekend.  But being part of my team this past weekend not only afforded me the opportunity of new friendships, it was a gift of accomplishing something with others that we all offered our best toward.  In the end we would find out as we traveled back home that our Prankstars had won the race in our division class!

Ragnar Again Someday? Can’t Say Nay

If you’re a distance runner and haven’t tried a Ragnar Relay race yet I would strongly encourage you to consider it.  Many teams also get together and raise funds for a charity cause–this adds to the inspiration factor to endure the strenuous exercise warranted in these races.  As an individual, the relay legs you run can serve as a personal spiritual vetting or a fun way to tackle physical limits not attained in your career thus far.  For myself I have gained a greater respect for this series and am honored to have had the teammates thus far and look forward to the possibilities of future Ragnar Relay events.

Go Prankstars 2014!





Reflection: Gator Teammates Always


Gator Reflection

This past week I had the honor of attending  the 2012 University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame Induction ceremony and banquet in Gainesville, Florida.  I was in my Alma Mater town for a mere 5 hours and yet the experience was so impressive that I wanted to share in a short post with my fellow Gators and even non-Gator others as what I experienced can be parallelled in other people/circumstances.

When I reflect on my collegiate years it was a mini-career in academics and athletics that provided me a framework to work off of as I barrelled through the rest of my twenties and onward in life.  Moreover, the friendships and colleagues I accumulated in those years also influenced my social trajectory.

Being back on campus this past Friday, I was immediately slammed with the shadow of the life that was when I was there as it was paled by the stark reality of the present moment.  I remembered the spring alumni weekend as it was when I was a student-athlete there and was seeing folks dressed in black tie formal entering the Ben Hill Griffith football stadium for some event (Hall of Fame banquet) that on this particular evening I was attending in my long dress with baby in tow.

Meeting up with my lady Gator teammates was a refreshing familiarity that made it seem as if no time had passed by except for the funny details like marriages, children, careers, break-ups and the countless other things we’ve respectively thrived in and endured in the decade or more since we all went our separate ways.

Upon entering the Touchdown Terrace in the football stadium, a surreal buzz came on while greeting my former coach and teammates and seeing so many faces I recognized from those Gator days and now here we were all dressed and grown-up!  I came for my Gator sister track and cross-country teammate Hazel Clark Riley as she was being inducted into our Hall of Fame.  It was an added treat to witness other Gator greats like Alex Brown, Udonis Haslem, Jeff Morrison,  Stephanie Nickitas and Abby Wambach also get inducted–these were fellow student-athletes whom I crossed paths with during the same years at UF by way of our weight room, Gator dining, sharing the same athletic facilities and split moments like exchanging words of congrats in the hallways where we all passed through during our time together.

Everyone’s acceptance speech had a similar thread of common truth–we all had gone on after our Gator days to compete in our sports professionally or to other professions like corporate work, military, government, education, raising families, coaching et cetera but our hearts had always stayed true to what we forged in our collegiate days.  Certainly there is an obvious Gator alumni pride but for many of us there is also brother/sisterhood that we still foster and cherish no matter where our respective lives take us.

Hazel’s acceptance speech hit the tone right on: part of us is ready to suit up again in our Gator uniform and jump back into the race/game and at the same time we are grateful as we continue to grow and navigate our newest adventures in life to embrace what those years together gave us.  We’ll always be teammates from that time together and whether or not we stay in touch I feel that we are able to pick up from where we left off.

Perhaps I’m a little over-optimistic in this topic but I can’t deny that I was so overwhelmed with joy to see Gator teammates that evening and even to link up over the social media tools to celebrate a Gator sister.  Life in general can be like this for us when we bond with others over a common goal and regardless of our differences achieve greatness and endure failures as well.  For instance, our track and cross-country team during the late 1990s and early aughts saw some amazing victories and some painful disappointments—but it made our time together solid and real which we will always have as a memory and a foundation for future rendezvous.

In closing of this personal reflection I’d like to post a poem I wrote as a fledgling college sophomore during one of our UF cross-country seasons.  Congratulations again to Hazel (Peachy) Clark Riley and our other Gators for their 2012 induction into UF Athletic Hall of Fame!

Ramona V. Saridakis Bean

“Workout”    10.1.1997

Heat is beating down on me,

through my sweat I can hardly see.

Blood is rushing in my legs,

heart is pumping way too quick.

My muscles are screaming for relief,

have to stand more of this heat?

The air is thickened with fatigue-

I look at my teammates and believe

they are tired, just like me

in this humid, hilly feat.

Coach gives the signal…

…and we’re off!

One more repeat…

…this is rough!

Once we’ve finished

we soak up water

like the driest desert sand

and congratulate each other

with a clasp of the hand.

The workout is finished,

there’s no more to run.

Yes, no more to run

’till tomorrow’s one.


Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"