Ragnar Relay 2012 Season Opener

By Skip

What a way to start 2012….. a 199 mile run from Miami to Key West and an adventure with 11 other runners that will provide me with memories to last a lifetime.

For those of you who have no idea what it is, this event was a 199 mile running event that pushed me and 11 other runners as far south as you can go in the continental U.S. Starting in Miami and finishing in Key West.  This relay offers runners a unique opportunity to run, near the ocean side, and across the southern end of the state of Florida. Along the way we ran across multiple bridges including the Seven Mile Bridge hopping from Key to Key, passing through popular destinations such as Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon Key and Big Pine Key. The race wrapped up in the tropics of the southern most city in the continental U.S.A., Key West.

Now that you have somewhat of an understanding of what the race was about, let me share with you my experiences as they happened.

Things started on Thursday night as I was picked up in Ft. Lauderdale by some team members on another one of our “Purple People” teams.  They were kind enough to deliver me to Miami where all the team members were meeting for dinner and staying in a hotel so we could get an early start the next day.  Keep in mind, this was the first time most of us were meeting each other.

Dinner took a while but it also gave us time to get to know each other and allow others to even paint their teeth and lips purple (ahem.. you know who you are.)  I met up with my other 11 running teammates in addition to our drivers.  As a 12 person relay, we were split into 2 vans of 6 runners each and we kind of played “hop scotch” throughout the race.  So the other 5 runners in my van were with me the entire time and occasionally we would meet up with the other van to pass the  baton on to them.

Ragnar Starting Line in Key Biscayne

We went to bed very late and had to get up and leave for the race site at a ridiculous hour of 3:15am or something like that.  Half asleep (luckily not the driver) we found our way to Key Biscayne and went through our mandatory safety meeting.  Once there, we made some souvenir purchases and got ready to send runner number 1 on his way.  Seeing the start of this race was pretty cool.  All you could see in the darkness was the bouncing of the safety head lights that each runner had to wear.  Once our runner had taken off we all piled into the van and headed for our first exchange where we would swap runners for this relay event.

Things continued very smoothly and then we got to runner number 3, which was me!  I was nervous and excited all at the same time.  I have never experienced such a team effort before.  It was also odd to not be competing or racing against another team… this was all about the experience and the accomplishment as a group.  However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t push myself hard, right?

My First Running Leg

First first leg was a short 3 miles long.  So nothing more than a 5K distance for me…. my favorite distance!  As I started off there were quite a few twists and turns in the course as I ran through the streets of Miami.  Not always sure I was on the right path was a little unnerving at times.  I kept passing people (called “road kills”) at my pace but a guy pulled up next to me and we finished off the run together pushing each other at a pretty good clip of about 6’30” with a final time of 18:57.  A nice little way to start but I began thinking to myself… was this too much too fast?  I have 2 days of running to do… hopefully I didn’t expend too much of myself on this leg.

Updating my "Status"

There was quite a long break between this leg (finished at about 7:30am) and my next leg.  Remember, all the runners in our van have to run and then we hand it off to van number 2 to let all of their runners run.  Confused?  Hopefully not!

At the first “major exchange point” which is where van 1 passes off to van 2, there is always a pretty big gathering.  This is where all the members meet up and there are only a few of them during the entire relay.  This first one was at the Miami Zoo.  It was pretty exciting to see everybody there and the level of  electricity all around us.  This was also an indicator that we could take a break, get some food and some well needed rest if we wanted to.

For me, there was too much excitement so there was no way I would be able to sleep!  We headed out and found a little breakfast place where we got some coffee.  I was very careful what I ate over the two day period as I didn’t want any stomach issues to arise….. especially when you are out in the middle of nowhere!

After some much needed R&R, we headed to the location of major exchange number 2, the Homestead Speedway.  Once we located that and we knew where we were (Florida City, actually) we grabbed a little lunch at Longhorn Steakhouse for a little carb and protein loading.  I had a very sensible lunch with some chilli and a sweet potato and little house salad.  Once the food had settled a little bit we headed back to the racetrack to await for runner number 12 in our group to hand off back to us and runner number 1 in our van.

My Second Running Leg

My next run occurred at 6:15pm and it was along a canal in the Florida Everglades… that’s right just me, some other runners and a bunch of hungry alligators and snakes.  This stretch of running was a little bit longer, just over 8 miles.  The run was a VERY tough run on a VERY uneven road and I could have easily twisted my ankle at any point in time.  In addition, in January, it gets dark around 5:45pm or so in South Florida so it was headlamps and safety vests the entire time.  Once again, I had many, many “road kills” and finished this stretch off in almost 1 hour exactly holding a 7’29” pace.  It was a very challenging run but probably the most rewarding run as well.

Once our van had finished with our running legs, we handed off the baton at the next major exchange and proceeded to drive down to the NEXT major exchange where we would start back up running again.  We also figured we could probably find some food around there as well.  This was not meant to be!  It seems that by the time we arrived in that area, nothing was open and there really wasn’t that much around.  Then again, I think we were really too tired to make the effort to explore the area any further.  I ended up eating some of the nutrition bars that I had brought with me along with some trail mix and beef jerky…. mmmmmmmm.

It was then time to try to get some rest so I pulled out my sleeping bag and laid down on the lawn to get about 3 hours of shuteye.  I had my cell phone next to me the entire time with the alarm set and I was paranoid I would not hear it so I didn’t really get that much rest.  It was also quite chilly (in the 50’s) and very humid.  There was a ton of condensation on the grass which really didn’t help much when it came to comfort level.  Then again, I am running a 199 mile running relay…. who expects comfort?

Getting up in the morning was tough but we all gathered together in the van again after van number 2 arrived and handed things back off to the six of us.  It was very enlightening and disappointing at the same time to think that I only had one more run left.

My Last Running Leg

My last run was a beautiful run!  I thought I had originally planned it for the Seven Mile Bridge stretch but somehow I miscalculated when I chose which running stretches I wanted to do and ended up doing a 9.5 mile stretch right AFTER the Seven Mile Bridge.  It was about 9:45am when I started out and it began to get quite warm.  Now, I live in south Florida and know how hot it can get and I always hydrate… I even brought along my Fuel Belt with me in case I needed it.  For some reason, I didn’t think I needed it for this run.

I ended up running a 7’36” pace for an hour and 10 minutes and nearly collapsed at one point because it was so hot.  Luckily my team members in the van saw me struggling and met me along with way with a bottle of cold water which most of it went over my head just so I could cool off.

Many of the people I passed were really, really struggling and I felt sorry for them.  There were quite a few runners from the Midwest and they had no idea of the heat and humidity here in Florida and how hard it can get while running.  As I ran past these runners I gave them each words of encouragement and told them to keep running along as they were almost finished.  There was only one person that passed me and that happened after the first 3 miles or so.   At about mile number 7 or 8 I started to catch up to that runner.  As I pulled alongside of him I encouraged him to stay strong and push hard to the end.  Unfortunately he could not hang with me at my pace and he dropped back behind.  As I approached the hand-off point I kicked it up another level and finished very, very strong.  That was it… my last running stretch.

Now it became a waiting period for the rest of our runners to finish and hand-off to van number 2 so they could run us the rest of the way to Key West.  My wife met up with me at the final major exchange and proceeded to follow our van to Key West.  Since the other 6 runners in van 2 had to run we had some time to check into the hotel and take a shower before heading to the finish line.

Once at the finish line (actually about 100 yards back from it) we waited for our last runner to come into view and then all 12 of us joined as a team and crossed the finish line together at about 5:30pm on Saturday.  That was an amazing feeling and such a great sense of accomplishment!

We spent the rest of the night eating and partaking in Key West activities.  Most of us were pretty tired from the lack of sleep (oh, and running) so it was not really a late night for any of us.  Some had to get up very early the next morning and head back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to catch their plane back to the Midwest.  Luckily I had my Wife with me and we were able to enjoy the next day and leisurely drive back home.

There were 12 of us on the team but when you are stuck in van with 5 other runners for 36 hours or so, you tend to bond…. and bond we did!  I now have some great new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.  When you are in a confined situation like that, it is rare to get all the personalities to match up so well.  This weekend could have been a weekend from hell if I was stuck with a bunch of people I didn’t get a long with.  Luckily, this was not the case and I ended up with some of the finest individuals I have ever known… Midwest blood maybe?  This is an experience I will never forget and I look forward to another amazing adventure with my five other teammates someday.

A very special shout out all of my teammates but especially my friends in Van #1:

  • Runner 1: Tom Pavlowski
  • Runner 2: Angela Doering-Anderson
  • Runner 4: Scott Delk
  • Runner 5: Nidia Ross
  • Runner 6: Marc Sing
  • Our Driver: David Anderson

Happy trails my friends and see you next year!

 

The Purple Streaking Freaks

 

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Filed in: Race, Running • Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Comments


Great job capturing the spirit of the event! I was fortunate enough to run the 7-mile-bridge leg, which was unforgettable – It was a non-support leg (for non-Ragnarians, this means your teammates in your van can’t stop, provide you with water or other help along the leg).

It was noon and sunny so I carried 28 ounces of water and some gu with me, but about half-way through I ran into a kid who was really struggling and out of water, so I wound up giving him all of my gu and half of my water .

I love an event where you don’t even think twice about helping out others on the course!


Thanks Susan… I look forward to running with you at Ragnar Chicago!

 

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5/18/14, Green Bay, WI
 
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TBA, Pontevedra, Spain
 
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September, 2014
 
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About

So if you have read any of the blog thus far you know a little bit about me… I can not be told what to do and I push myself about as far as I can be pushed!

But how did I get here and why? Well, that is what this page is about.

I was never really the athletic type. Sure, I played tennis in high school (and quite well, mind you) but running CERTAINLY was never my thing!

The start of 2009 was big for me as I came to the realization that I had put on too much weight over the past 10 years (read more...)