Tales From the Back of the Pack

Tales From the Back of the Pack

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


188 miles, 36 legs, 12 runners, 2 vans, 1 crazy race. Or something like that. The Ragnar Relay is now over and I'm left with great memories, sore hamstrings and the residual effects of sleep deprivation.

We're gonna have some fun, now!

Our Van consisted of BD, BigBro, my sister in law, my cousin Myra, a guy Steve whom I had never met and me. In the other Van was cousin Dennyse, and her 5 recruits.

BD, BigBro, my sister in law and I, all drove together to Vegas on Thursday, arriving around 4pm. After checking into my brother's timeshare, we went out for a sushi dinner and waited for the rest of our team to arrive. Once we were all here, we went over final race details and settled in for a (at least for me) fitful night's sleep.

We'd reserved a 1 bedroom condo (sleeps 4) and a 2 bedroom condo (sleeps 6). In addition there were 3 air mattresses, so bodies all over the place! The 6 people in Van 1 left at 7am Friday morning for a 9:30am start time. This race would take us from Lake Mead to Las Vegas. With a lot of out and back in between.

Van 2 slept in for a few more hours before getting ready to go. In true Ragnar form, before Van 2 took off we decorated our van, and tried to come up with clever, snarky, slogans for our van that tied in with our team name Original Sinners. Sexual innuendo is practically a requisite at Ragnar but our PG group couldn't think of anything.

That left window was supposed to say Stop Playing with Your Balls and Run but it got lost in translation. The other window says We Upped our Standards so UP YOURS

Cousin Myra was given the job to come up with van slogans. She came through!
The yellow caution artwork in our van sign may be lost on some that don't live in border states. It is a caution sign we see on freeways in So Cal, near the Tijuana border, warning drivers to be aware of illegal aliens ("undocumented" for the PC) who may be running across the freeway fleeing from Border Patrol. It depicts what is obviously a dad holding hands with a mom who is holding hands with her daughter who is holding her doll's hand and they are running full speed, daughter's pigtails flailing in the wind. I've always been disturbed by this sign, especially when I was a little girl. For our purposes, however, we used it to represent that our van was full of Mexicans, which it was. All of us legal.

These people are going to run 188 miles? You betcha! Or die trying!
We headed over to the first major exchange to meet up with Van 1 (as they finished their 6 legs). Our driver (Deanna in the orange shirt above) somehow got us turned around and we ended up about 20 miles off course and driving over the Hoover Dam.

After this dam detour, which nobody complained about because the Hoover Dam was an amazing sight, the recurring theme in our van was "dam". As in: we drove over the dam bridge, our van was pulled over and searched by dam security (it was/we were!) because they thought we might have a dam bomb (we didn't), the dam tourists waiting for dam tours and taking dam pictures were reading our dam van as we drove by, look at that dam view, etc. There was some dam nervous energy in our van.

Van 1 arrived at the 1st major exchange around 1pm, Runner 6 handed the baton to our Van's Runner 7 and we were off. Our team was initially short 1 person, Steve, who would arrive later, so we had to split his first leg between us. Splitting the legs is technically against the rules, but since our van was in no danger of winning this race, we weren't too worried about disqualification. This race was all about personal accomplishments anyway.

After running 2 miles of Steve's first leg, my official leg started around 4pm. It was a fairly easy 3.2 miles which I enjoyed immensely except for the dry desert heat.

The desert was so hot but also beautiful. It was easier to admire it while I was sitting in the van instead of when I was out running in the 80+ weather. My routes were clearly marked with great signage and I had no problem keeping on course although some of my team mates actually got lost and added mileage to their legs. Bummer! The One Mile To Go sign is the most welcome sign on the Ragnar relay.

A lot of what you do in a Ragnar relay is try to sleep. There is a good chunk of down time as you're waiting for the runners in your van to finsh their legs. We rented a 12 passenger van for the 6 of us (plus driver) and had plenty of room to stretch out which was nice. Since I was no Ragnar virgin I knew to claim my bench early and fully.

After our van completed our first legs we returned to the condo for showers and sleep. When you're tense and worried about missing a text or phone call from Van 1, it's almost impossible to relax. Besides that, Van 1 was FULL of fast 6-7 minute milers. It took them a few hours to finish their legs while it took us twice as long to cover an equal distance. When Van 1 returned to the condo they had plenty of time to swim in the pool and soak in the jacuzzi while waiting for Van 2. When our Van went back to the condo it was a mad rush of showers and grabbing food before having to head back out again.

My second leg started around 1am which sounds totally ridiculous but at Ragnar it's normal. This leg was once again my favorite because I never ever EVER get to run at night under the moon and stars. It's too dangerous to run at night in the city. Having my support van leapfrogging me for my 5.6 mile night run was fabulous. I thought briefly that I might get eaten by a coyote in between the leapfrogging but that didn't happen.

The view from my 3rd row.

Runners run against traffic. When you support your runner you jump out of your van, run across the highway and provide whatever aid is needed. Deanna snapped this picture from the runner's side of the road after providing aid for Myra. I had taken a turn as the van driver.
Our third and final legs started at 11am on Saturday. We finished at approxiamtely 7:30pm. Runner 12, BigBro, got the honor of running to the finish. We left him at his One Mile to Go sign and drove over to the finish line. We parked and ran to the finish line chutes so we could all run under the orange arch together. Van 1 had come over from the condo to join us here and party at the finish line festival. The 12 of us ran through as a team, whooping, blasting air horns, ringing cattle bells all the way through.

Blurry pic from BigBro's lame camera. URGH!
Ragnar swag is pretty sweet. Never been disappointed by the hardware.
Saturday night there were a lot of sweaty runners in the timeshare resort's jacuzzi. On any other day that would have been disgusting but today it was sheer heaven.

Sunday morning we rewarded ourselves with a Vegas buffet breakfast at the Bellagio before driving 4 hours back home to LA.  

This was my second plate!  
Another Ragnar relay is in the books and it was once again a fabulous adventure.

I love this Relay series. Ragnar is a race that accommodates runners of ALL abilities and really the best part about it is that it turns running into a true TEAM sport for just a couple of days. You still have the challenge of trying for your own PR's, but at the same time cheering on team members so they can do their best as well. You've heard that saying "We can't all be runners. Someone has to sit on the curb and clap as we go by." Well, at Ragnar everybody runs and everybody claps.  

I absolutely recommend this race to anyone who runs and knows a few people who run. And if your team needs an 11 minute miler, count me in.


  1. Looks like a blast. I bet the traffic around the Hoover Dam was terrible!

  2. That sounds like a blast! The sign on the border was totally new to me and seems really unreal. I am sure there are things around here that would standout to people from other parts of the country, which I don't give much thought, but that one was kind of shocking. The medal looks pretty sweet!

  3. Ha! Love the border sign too bad they took them all down.

  4. I have seen that border sign before! Looks like you guys had fun.

    Re: your comment on my blog, I remember "Are you my mother?" !! Funny. I see you're a half fanatic-- I was thinking about it since I did 2 halfs in 8 days last month. Are there any benefits to joining? Would you recommend it?