Ragnar Relay Florida Keys

Thursday night, and my race team/crew, arrived entirely too quickly! I got back from my African adventure on Saturday night, and spent pretty much all of my time working and prepping for Ragnar.

A few minor flight delays and one nearly-lost bag later, we were at the rental car counter. For some reason, it took forever for Budget to get us our vans! We finally got them, and caravaned back to my house. We somehow stuffed all 14 people and one REALLY excited dog into the main room and did introductions. I briefed the teams on the plans for the weekend, and we split up and found places to sleep.

Friday morning, we got up early, loaded Van 1, and headed to the start!

We were team Ludicrous Speed, and we all had Spaceballs character names on our shirts.

Everything went pretty smoothly. It seemed to be a well-organized event! At 9AM, Natalie was off – with the company of about 25 people assigned the same start time. We rushed to the first exchange, because Nat’s a speedy one. She ended up running 7:07 miles for her three mile leg!

Natalie handed off to Kari, and we headed to the next exchange. While we were waiting, Natalie got out to loosen up. She’s been fighting IT band issues. She brought along her foam roller, and we suggested the perfect place to start her exercise video.

Kari came over the Rickenbacker Causeway, and through some streets in Miami. She came into the chute, and handed the slap bracelet (our “baton”) off to me!

Run #1: 4.8 miles through Coral Gables. 45:30.  I was running along, and after the first curve in the course, I realized I just hashed there! It was along part of the trail from our annual Ho Ho Ho Hash that I participated in right before I left for Kilimanjaro! I reminisced about how a bunch of kids from the UM track team showed up, and I ran harder and faster than I ever had at a hash! My run plan for my 3 runs (4.8 miles, 8.2 miles, 2.6 miles) was to run steady for the first one, steady and LONG for the second one, and fast for the last one. I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up, so I didn’t want to push to hard and end up really negatively impacting my last leg. After my run went through the downtown-ish area of Coral Gables, it turned through residential streets. There were huge, beautiful Banyan trees everywhere! I finished by running through a park, and handing off the slap bracelet to Erin.

Erin flew through her first leg. We were at her exchange and ran into a hasher who lived nearby and decided to come check out the course! She handed off to Patrick, and we were off to the next exchange.

We sat in the grass and picnicked in the shade of the van while waiting for Patrick to come in. He ran a little faster than expected, so we all bolted to the exchange. He handed off to Kate, and we were back in the van again, headed to the first big exchange. Kate came in pretty quick. The exchange was on a track, which was pretty cool. We were excited to hand the slap bracelet off to Van 2, and get some rest!

We drove from exchange 6 to exchange 12 where Van 2 would be finishing their first legs. Exchange 12 was at Homestead Speedway, where my dad was volunteering! For some reason, the head volunteer thought it was a good idea to give him a megaphone. Of course, he sang some STP songs that start with Scott Wieland singing into a megaphone… and we reenacted the Spaceballs scene where they are literally combing the desert.

We rested (some of us even slept!), ate, had s’mores, pooped, relaxed, and generally prepared for the start of our night legs. We also found out that a runner in Van 2 hurt himself on his first run. As El Capitan, I offered to pick up the leg. Out of the runners in Van 1, it seemed like the most logical choice. I’d rank myself #4 out of the six of us, but the 3 runners above me already had mileage totals of 21.9, 20.7 and 16 miles. I had 15.6. the other two had 15.4 and 14.8. Also, no one else was exactly jumping at the chance. Kate, with 16 miles, could have handled it, but my last schedule run was 2.6 and hers was 4.1. Ouch.

Matt came flying into the track earlier than expected, and handed off to Natalie. Natalie took off, and we stopped just past her halfway point to offer water, Gu, and a long sleeved shirt. She took the water, and we headed to the next exchange. The sun set while she was running, and it was gorgeous!

Natalie handed off to Kari for our first official dark leg. Kari had to head through a farm, down a road, and onto the access trail for water management that we’d both be running on. It was dark – and we had to sign an extra gator waiver! On our way down the busted up trail, we passed some port-a-potties. Turns out, they were dropped off 2 miles north of the exchange. Guess who had to pee in the bushes before her run? Me!

Run #2: 8.2 miles on a water management trail through the Everglades. 1:30:00 (ish). Kari ran in screaming “BARF!!!” (my Spaceballs character) and I was smiling when I started running. I don’t usually run with music anymore, but I borrowed Natalie’s iPod for this one. Her playlists are fun and random, and I figured the distraction would be nice on a potentially monotonous, Everglades filled, alligator infested 8.2 miler. So, before the run, I told Patrick that this would be my longest run EVER. So, my goal was to keep going! I actually never had the urge to stop and walk. I felt good! I didn’t know at the time, but I was only doing 11:00 min/miles. Between the darkness, the uneven trail surface, and the general desire to conserve energy, I guess that is to be expected. The stars were pretty! I passed a few people. Plenty of people passed me. Runners were friendly. Music was good. No wildlife was seen… I saw the “One Mile To Go” sign – the only makers present on course, and attempted to kick it for the last mile. I got to transition, handed off to Erin, and jumped in the van. I still felt good!

Erin had an 11.7 mile run – the longest single leg in the entire race. We headed to her exchange and relaxed in the van for a while. We got out to greet her at the exchange, and as were standing around – still not expecting her for a few minutes – she comes screaming into the exchange, yelling “Major Asshole!!!” (Patrick’s spaceball name). We start yelling at here that we’re all right here, but she thought we were cheering and kept going. Patrick had to quick strip his jacket and sprint to catch her! She beat her best half marathon pace on the run!

Patrick was off on his long run, and we were off with a very happy Erin to go meet him. We should have stopped once to offer water, but he said he’d be fine. He ended up getting dry mouth and walking a bit. He persevered, and still made it to the exchange with a pretty respectable time! He handed off to Kate, and we headed to the next big exchange to meet up with Van 2.

While waiting for Kate, we wandered around, considered getting some food, decided against it, and went to the exchange to cheer. Kate came in, handed off to Jess, and we headed off to the exchange where I’d be picking up Bill’s leg for him.

I probably got about 3 hours of sleep. It felt good! I got out of the van in the dark! My mom handed the slap bracelet, and I was off!

Run #3: 4.2 miles along US 1 from north of Duck Key to Marathon. 41:00 (ish). It was dark when I started. I had my headlamp on and was having flashback of Kilimanjaro. All I could think about was how staring at that circle of light could get really old really quickly. But, I felt MUCH better physically that I did on the mountain. Luckily, shortly after I started, the sun peaked up over the Atlantic! Now, this leg was the longest leg of the three legs that the person doing the shortest total distance ran (read that twice. I swear it makes sense.). So, I felt like SUPERMAN. I passed tons of people, the sun was coming up over the water, and after this leg, I only had 2.6 more miles to run! I came into the exchange, handed off to Matt, and my mom snagged this winning picture of me:

I joined Van 2 for Matt’s leg, while Van 1 was at the big exchange prepping for their final legs. We stopped about halfway through Matt’s 8.5 miler to offer water. While parked, a dude got out of his car with a bottle of wine and tried to climb a palm tree. Keep in mind that the sun had just come up! He wasn’t in the race, but chatted with us for a bit.

Anyway, after we gave Matt water, we headed to the exchange. I found Van 1, and everyone was excited to finish up! Natalie still had a 9.6 mile leg that included the 7 mile bridge! We couldn’t stop anywhere to support her, so they had water stations along the way. We headed to the next stop to wait, and check out the scenery:

Here’s the bridge from the south end:

Natalie made it – her knee survived – and Kari was off running! She was very happy to be finished. We headed to the Van to get to the next exchange. Mid-run, Kari started getting dizzy from not eating. She stopped at another van who was supporting a runner and they gave her food and water and sent her on her way! People were really supportive of others in this race. It was really nice. Meanwhile, Natalie and I worked on the next segment of her workout video:

Kari made it to the exchange, and I was off!

Run #4: 2.6 toasty miles along US1 onto Big Pine Key. 24:00 (ish). I decided to just RUN. I was excited to have such a relatively short run! I passed a few people, a few people passed me – one guy passed me twice! The One Mile To Go sign showed up so quickly! It was still before noon, but quickly getting warm. I pushed myself to a solid finish.

I handed off to Erin, and we passed her then stopped at the next gas station to buy some beer 🙂 We got out, drove past her again, and set up to offer her water and beer. She came in, took a big gulp of both, and kept on trucking. We were then off to the next exchange to get Patrick in place to start running.

We were ready for Erin at this exchange! She handed off to Patrick, and we hopped in the van. While awaiting Patrick’s arrival, Kate decided to turn her pants into capris using the extra safety pins we grabbed at the start:

Patrick ran sub 10 minute miles! He handed off to his sister, and we headed to the last big exchange!

We met up with Van 2. Bill was going to run/walk his leg to the best of his ability. Elliot, who was also nursing some knee issues, seemed in good spirits and ready to run.

Kate arrived, and Van 1 was done!

First, we stopped at a sea wall along the way. We grabbed beers and just stood thigh-deep in the water letting the cold water ease some soreness. It felt GREAT.

We headed to Key West, checked in to the hotel, and went off to the finish line to meet Van 2!

Total time: 31:53:31

Average Mile/Minute pace: 10:02 (including walking time due to injuries – so not bad!)

Place: 100/141 in our division, 207/291 overall.

Most important part? We had a BLAST. The after-party in Key West (though most of us didn’t last past 10pm!) was awesome. We didn’t kill each other. We didn’t get grumpy. We loved it.

And, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the wonderful people at Sports Alpaca. we didn’t have stinky socks at the end! They generously provided our runners with two pairs of socks each. We did a smell test at the end – and have video to prove it – but I haven’t uploaded that yet. The socks are at Bass Pro Shops, branded as RedHead.

Way to go, team Ludicrous Speed!

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