Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ragnar Chicago: We Ran. We Ate. We Wore Panties.

We were awake for more than 40 hours.  I may have set a new world record for number of times a human pooped in a porta-potty over the course of two days.  (My teammates even kept track for me.  That's love (or something)).

It's so hard to sit down and write this recap.  Ragnar isn't indescribable, but it's close.  

In a word, it was intense.

The adventure started at 6am on Friday morning.  Kimba and Amy Z drove to my house, and we picked up Jen, and headed to Madison to meet the rest of our team, The Panty Raiders.

The excitement mounted as we decked out our vans:  strings of frilly underoos (dubbed "funderpants" by our van), pirate flags, sweet signs, and our aptly named parrot mascot.

Panties flapping in the breeze... sounds poetic, but pretty noisy on the highway...

Our parrot, "Something Inappropriate"

Making the magic happen.

Before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line, and as lucky runner #1, I had the honor of starting us off.

Me, Rachel, Linda (aka Goddess of Team Spirit) headed to the start.

Sending me off with a high-five (photo credit Amy Zem.)
My first leg was 4.4 miles, and I expected to run 8:15 miles or so and save my strength for my next legs.  It was 90 degrees and my body had another thing planned for me:  9:00 minute miles and pleading for death the whole time.  I ran for awhile with another girl, and I swear every minute or so one of us would go "Oh my god..."  or moan, or whimper.  It was pathetic, and horrible.  Single hardest run of my life.    But, I made it, ran right into my sweet Falon at the exchange, and sent her off with an awkward, inadvertent full-contact handoff.

The rest of my girls braved their legs in the beating sun and scorching heat, and soon we were ready to rest while Van 2 took over sometime in the early evening on Friday.   We headed to a restaurant, and then to exchange 12 to wait for our next turn.  Most of us set up camp on the grass and tried (mostly) unsuccessfully to catch some Zs, although I was able to doze off for 30 or 45 minutes.

When I woke up, it was dark, and considerably colder.  And quieter.  When we had parked at the exchange there were hundreds and hundreds of vans, but a few hours later, there were only a few dozen.  No one really thought much of it, but it was a sign of things to come.  (insert dramatic foreshadowing music...)

Soon we saw Jamie's headlamp coming towards us, and I was off.  The first half mile was through a park, and there were three or volunteers telling me where to go.  It was hard to see, but I followed the glowsticks of the volunteers towards the opening of the trail.

It was crazy.  You couldn't even see the trees on either side of the trailhead - it just looked like a big, black hole.  As I ran up to the volunteer I said, "Oh my god, that looks terrifying!" and he said, "Yup!".  Awesome.

It was just before midnight, and the moon hadn't yet risen above the trees, so it was inky black.  Black black.  I cannot even tell you how f*cking dark this god forsaken trail was.

I ran like someone was freaking chasing me.  It was just under five miles, and I ran 7:40 miles the whole way, just 20 seconds per mile off my 5k PR pace.  I hauled ass.  I sang pirate songs to myself.  Out loud.   I forced myself to smile.  I was pretty sure I was going to die.

My moments of panic were interspersed with this feeling of awe with what I was doing, and it was amazing.   This was one of my favorite times during Ragnar, but man, it was scary.   Oddly enough, I only saw one other person on this leg.  (dum dum dum...)

I ran it in, and handed off to Falon again, and drove while she, Amy, Lisa, and Kim ran their legs.  Soon it was Rachel's turn, and I changed into a fresh outfit and headed back out into the night to accompany her on her three miler.  It was beautiful, and not nearly as scary with another person to talk to.  We talked about our plans for after the leg... eat, change, and catch some SLEEP.  It would be about 6 hours before I would have to run again.

We did not see a single soul the entire time, and we were about to find out why.

We ran into the exchange, ready to hand off to Van #2, and Rachel handed the slap bracelet to Marcia.  She didn't start running, she just stood there.

I heard someone say, "OK guys, they're pulling us from the course.  We're in last place... we started too late."

The words were just spinning in my head.  Why wasn't Marcia running?  We all walked back to the two vans, and I just couldn't understand what was going on.  Were we DQ'd?  We were only half-way through our legs!

Eventually, I learned that our Van #2 was going to triple up on two legs - effectively skipping four legs and handing it back of to runner 1 of Van #1.  Me.  Apparently, due to the heat and length of the legs, our van pace was much slower than what we had predicted when we signed up.  All other teams our pace had started at 6am, a full 5 hours before us, and the teams that started with us were miles and miles ahead of us.

We headed to the next exchange, and instead of the chatting and laughing which had kept our van going the past 18 hours or so, it was silence.  Confusion.  A little anger.

I started my last leg, tired and achy, and I was upset.  This was not how I thought we would be doing Ragnar - skipping legs and doubling up.

I was pretty pissed off until about a half mile into my final leg.  I came around the corner and was stunned by a glorious sunrise on Lake Michigan.  I found my phone and snapped a picture and texted it to my van.

After that, I enjoyed every step of my last leg.  I was sad to see the "One Mile to Go!" sign, and when I climbed back into the van, I was wishing I had just one more leg to run.

Stay tuned for the beach-front finish line and my final thoughts on the race... I'll give you a hint.  It wasn't all fun, and it wasn't what I expected.


  1. Wow....totally not what I expected!!!!!! I can't wait to hear the end. Great job telling the story :)

  2. Bitch, tell the truth. You ran me down at the end of your first leg.

    I have yet to put any part of it into words. Someday.

  3. Wow! I cannot believe they made you double up and pull ahead! Geesh. You would think with how hot it is, other people would be slowing down too and surely there would be someone else around you!!!

    When I did Ragnar last year my night run was on the streets (and only 2.5 miles because I had long first and third runs). I kind of wanted to experience running on the trail in the pitch black!

  4. Dude. THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE! My team calls me "Sarge" because I'm so anal about their pace times. I make everyone run a team 10K that's hellacious (in the heat and up a killer hill), and I time them all because I don't want to get held, or pulled! Noooo!!!! Sorry that ended up being such a bummer. I'm excited to read the rest. I leave my house tomorrow at 7PM to head to the city where the start is- CANNOT WAIT. One day (maybe in Heaven) you should come run Wasatch Back with me- it's the best race in the world :).

  5. Whoa. I'm so scared of running in the dark. You made me even more terrified.

    That's crazy they had you skip legs...I didn't know they would do that!!!

  6. Wow, sounds like an absolutely crazy time!


Hearing from you makes me happy! :)

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