At the start line
I did the Ragnar Relay last year and hadn’t considered doing it this year. However, when Anna asked me to take her place on team The Village People, I happily said yes. My team was a normal, 12-person (that is, not an ultra, 6-person) team, which meant that instead of running 5 or 6 legs, I ran only 3. And instead of having to be in one van with 5 other people the whole time, I could choose to stay in our first vehicle or move into the second vehicle. So there were definitely some benefits!
In the van ready to go
We met early on Friday morning and drove to Chattanooga, where the race started. After we registered, our first runner (Maria) started at 8:30am, we got into our vans, and Van 1 headed to Exchange 1. (One runner goes from Start to Exchange 1, another runs from Exchange 1 to Exchange 2, the next goes from Exchange 2 to Exchange 3, and so on until the finish, which is at the end of the thirty-sixth leg. The runners in Van 1 run the first 6 legs, the runners in Van 2 run the next 6, and so on until the end, when everyone can run across the finish line together.) My first leg was Leg 3, a 5.6-mile run that was mostly all downhill and that I started at 10:46am—it was a great way to start! Zac, our second runner, had done all the hard work, and I got the reward. It was beautiful (albeit a little chilly), it was fast, and it was fun.
The Van 2 crew
After my run, I stayed in Van 1 until Sarah D, Ashley, and Casey all finished their first legs and we arrived at Exchange 6. There, we met up with our other van and I switched vans to stay with the action. Bryan, Jon, Amanda, Heather, Sarah S, and Andrea all ran their legs well (one leg was a tough trek up Monteagle!), and we met Van 1 again at Exchange 12. We continued running in the same order, so I had Leg 15 next, which was a 6.75-mile rolling-to-hilly run in the dark that I started at 8:17pm. I had run into the guys from my team last year before I began my 1st run, so I’d been looking for them at other exchanges—we seemed to have runners around the same abilities, and we were often at exchanges at the same time. Before I began Leg 15, Brad was there waiting for his turn so that he could run Leg 15 as well. I was happy to know that a friend was coming up behind me (who’d catch me) and that I’d have someone to run the night run with. It was such a blessing to have company for nearly 3 miles, and that made the run go by pretty fast. Then it was back in the van while our other 3 runners finished their legs and we cheered them on.
We arrived at Exchange 18 around 11:15pm, and I again decided to switch vans and see if I could get a little sleep in the back of the 15-passenger van (that had only 6 of us in it). I slept about 40 minutes, but I laid down for a long time just trying to relax and sleep if I could. We arrived at Exchange 24 around 3am, and I moved to the other van. All that moving around was not bad at all. I’d managed to fit everything into a backpack and a cooler, and I took only my cooler with me when I moved back and forth. I figured that if I had food and my phone with me, I’d be OK regardless of where I was. Plus I enjoyed being with the runners and in the “awake” vehicle.
We were nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule when I started Leg 27, my final run; it was still (and going to remain) dark but also was slightly warmer than I’d expected. This run was for me definitely the hardest of the three mainly because of the hard work leading up to this point and the lack of sleep. I began the 6-mile run at 4:22am, and it was a similar rolling-to-hilly road as the earlier leg. It was also one I’d run last year and a road that I recognized (even though it was dark)—we were nearing Franklin! I definitely took this run a little slower than the first two, just enjoying being outside, running, having fun. It was dark and everyone looked alike, so although they’d been planning to support me halfway through, my teammates never saw me and were waiting at the finish of that leg. Thankfully, everyone out there is so supportive of everyone else—when you’re running at 4am, there’s a camaraderie among everyone.
Our van’s last leg ended at Exchange 30 in Franklin. Healthways was such a welcome, familiar sight! At this point, I didn’t switch vans but rather got my car and went home, where I fell asleep and missed my team’s finish and all the finish-line celebrations. We finished in 29:12:02, about 30 minutes faster than our projected finish time, and team #93 of 211 finishing teams.
The finish line (Thanks to Heather for the pics)
Here are some random notes; they don’t all need their own paragraph, but I want to remember them.
- This year, I took much less gear than last year (a good idea, since we had twice as many people) and did not prepare quite as well for the weather (I’d planned for warmer).
- I thought it was going to be warmer than it was and was happy I’d remembered hand warmers.
- The scenery was beautiful—this is the perfect time to be outside in Tennessee!
- I am happy with how I ran, even though each leg was slower than the one before—I think I was just enjoying it more and taking it all in. Plus I started out so fast that I’d have felt good about anything after that!
- We had an earlier start time than last year and that was so nice! There were tons of people around on the road and at every exchange.
- Running at night when you can see people in front of you is SO MUCH BETTER than running when no one is around.
- Being a part of a 12-person team is quite a bit less intense than being a part of a 6-person team; each has their benefits, and I’d probably do either one again.
- I didn’t see any big wild animals in the middle of the night; the only oddities of note are a train at Cox and McDaniel in Arrington (which didn’t hold up Sarah D) and an incoming helicopter at the hospital in Sewanee (which didn’t hold up Sarah S).
- Because I kept switching vans, I never really spent any time at the major exchanges, so I’m not sure what they were like or what there was to do.
Here are the stats from my three runs:
- Leg 3: 10:46am Friday; 40:41, 5.6 miles, 7:14 pace, 144 HR (182 max), 954’ ascent, 2054’ descent
- Leg 15: 8:17pm Friday; 56:41, 6.75 miles, 8:24 pace, 184 HR (192 max), 612’ ascent, 560’ descent
- Leg 27: 4:22am Saturday; 54:31, 6.0 miles, 9:06 pace, 171 HR (187 max), 507’ ascent, 488’ descent
- Totals: 2:31:52, 18.35 miles, 8:16 pace, 2073’ ascent, 3102’ descent