This past spring when my close friend (and multiple Ragnar teammate) suggested running Ragnar PA, I was all over it. When she suggested running it as an Ultra team, I was, umm, a little nervous. But I decided I was all in and signed up for a bunch of half marathons as training runs. I had grand plans of high mileage weeks and 6 training runs in 36 hours.
But then I wore the wrong pair of shoes for approximately 8 hours of standing. And then I ran several races, despite a nagging soreness. And, boom! I was sidelined at the beginning of May. I’ve been injured before, but I’ve always managed to get back running within a week or two. Instead, I barely ran in the month of May. I did manage a pain free 5K at the beginning of June, but my post race heel/ankle pain and my soreness every morning continued to plague me. So, I basically did not train from May 5 until I hit the start line of Ragnar PA on June 15. As you might imagine, I was a little afraid I might not be able to run all my miles, but I packed up my 6! running outfits and headed north.
Short story: I not only ran all my miles, I averaged an 11:04 pace over the 30.8 miles I ran.
Long story (grab a beer or coffee or libation of choice…)
Run #1: As runner number 4 and number 10, I didn’t have my first run until just before 8am. It was a moderate leg of only 4.6 miles.
I started off nice and slow, along the side of a busy road. I had to walk 4 times – for a horse and buggy, two tractors, and a guy on a bicycle who had no interest in sharing the shoulder. Perhaps the scariest moment was debating jumping over the guardrail at a creek when I was crossing a bridge as a semi came barreling down the road. Luckily, I made it to the exchange in one piece where I iced my heel, used the Stick from my glute to my ankle, rubbed on a few special salves that a friend gave me, and immediately switched to Oofos.
Run #2: My second run commenced at noon. It was hot and fairly long at 6 miles.
It was also hella hilly – I’m pretty sure the two middle miles were straight up hill! I was super appreciative of the support from another Ragnar DC ambassador’s team as I ran as much of the route as I could.
Thankfully the hilliest part was also the shadiest part, but I was incredibly happy to finally reach the finish! Once again, I iced, rolled, massaged, and put on my Oofos. My ankle was sore, but it didn’t hurt when I ran. I knew my next two runs were shorter and easier, so I planned to run one more time and then take some advil, knowing I’d only have two miles to run while it was in my system.
At this point, we made one of our few stops at a Wawa. I was able to change my clothes and wash my face – with water instead of a wipe. Woohoo! In retrospect, I should have also brushed my teeth as there were very few exchanges with running water at this particular Ragnar. I grabbed a large sub and then spent some time trying to brush my hair. I’m pretty sure I left enough hair for an entire bird’s nest in the Wawa parking lot. For the remainder of the race, I wore my hair in a bun LOL.
Run #3: This was my favorite run of the event. I started off on a flat path through the woods. The soft surface was kind to my ankle and it was a bit cool and shady.
I was a bit sad when that part ended and I was once again running on the side of a busy road. For the most part, the run was uneventful (which was good since we originally went to the wrong exchange, so the start of the run was a bit harried.) For some reason, we struggled with remembering which exchange to go to – and this was even before we were sleep deprived… After my run, I confess I just took some advil and changed my clothes.
Run #4: This was my only night time run. I had expected that two runs would fall in the dark, but somehow that was not the case.
To be honest, this was the scariest night time run I’ve ever done at a Ragnar. Even though I was running down the side of a fairly busy road, I felt extremely isolated. There were no other runners around and I only saw a few cars. At one point, I got completely freaked out when I ran past a business where they sell prefab sheds. It felt like anyone could be hiding there, so I ended up running down the middle of the road for a bit. I was not at all sad that it was only 2.3 miles! (The two following runners were also women and both found their night legs scary. In retrospect, we should have combined the legs so that no one ran alone.)
Run #5: The leg before this one was a long and hilly one, so I actually had a short time to eat and then doze for an hour. I was too lazy to change my clothes after my previous leg, but I did do a quick skirt change because it was an 8 mile run and I wanted no leg chafing. (I already had wicked underarm chafing from a rough spot on my previous tank top.)
It was 8am, I had about 16 miles behind me, and the weather was cool enough for arm sleeves. Unfortunately, a large part of this leg was a rocky dirt road, so I had to pay attention to every single footstep. Mid-way through was a downhill so steep that I almost had to walk it. Thanks to the aforementioned footing, I could not just let loose and let gravity take over. All in all though, it was a decent run that was entirely pain free and I finished with only 6.5 miles left to run!
Run #6: By this point in the race, we were all dragging and one of our runners was out, due to injury. I run with a particularly badass group, so there may have been an argument over who got to pick up those extra miles. (Needless to say, I was not offering to run them LOL.) I headed out once again into the noontime heat on a side of a road with no shade. In order to finish on time, we ended up leapfrogging two runners (aka two ran at the same time on different legs), so the van had to go back to pick up a runner while I was running. This run quickly became “run when you can, walk when you have to” as I struggled with the heat, tired legs, and an exhausted body. There were a couple of vans supporting all runners and I happily refilled my water bottle mid-way through the leg. As I neared the end, I was again hit by relentless uphills, but I finally saw my van ahead (it was a “choose your own exchange” leg) and was thrilled to call my first Ultra Ragnar DONE!
While our last two badass runners finished their legs, I focused on rehydrating and getting some food in my system. I think over the course of the 36 hours I ate two pop tarts, a 10″ sub, a pickle, and most of a bag of a dried fruit and nut trail mix in addition to 3 large bottles of Gatorade. Once again, Gatorade saved me when my body decided it was no longer interested in food, but still needed calories.
All in all, running an ultra Ragnar with Team Shenanigans in the Van, Again was an excellent experience! There were a few glitches (some created by our team, some by Ragnar), some of the legs felt too dangerous, and most of us didn’t really comprehend how little downtime there would be, but overall, running with 6 runners instead of 12 is pretty awesome. And yes, I do plan to do another Ragnar as an ultra team again. In fact, I may never choose a 12 person team again.