Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Race Report: Ragnar Relay - Great River (Part 1)

For the second year in a row, the Salty Nuts ran Ragnar Relay - Great River.  We had five veterans (myself, along with Jack from Van 2, and team captain Mark, Ralph and Tom from Van 1) returning and seven newbies.  Those of you who noticed my frantic post last Tuesday know that our team had a major complication just days before the race: future hubs was unable to get time off from work to run the relay!  I posted a notification here and on my Facebook page, but I had no takers (er rather, those who were available to run the race).  Fortunately, I turned to my old college friend Mark B., who I ran into at the Red, White and Boom! half-marathon, and he was available to run the race.  Problem solved!  But after I announced to the team that we had a replacement for my fiance, our van captain told me that another one of our team members was injured.  So, I scoured through my list of running friends on Facebook to determine who was already running Ragnar and who wasn't.  I came across Jim, a fellow Team Ortho volunteer, and asked him if he'd be willing to fill in for our injured runner.  Jim had already been asked twice to be a substitute on other friends' Ragnar teams, but for some reason, he picked mine.  Our team was so fortunate that he did.  We finally had a full team!

Late Friday morning (August 19), I picked up Mark B. and Jim and we headed over to Jack's condo in St. Paul, where we would meet up with the rest of our team and pack up the van.  For some reason, it seemed like we had less room in the van this year than last year, but maybe it was my imagination.  By 11:30, we were on the road, but we snapped a quick van photo before we left.

L to R: Dain, Jilena, Mark B., Jim, me and Jack
Van 1 of the Salty Nuts had started at 9:00 a.m. in Winona, so they were well underway by the time we headed towards Wisconsin.  The rest of our team had fun getting to know the two replacements on our drive, and we also checked in with Van 1 via cell phone to see how they were faring.

Once we crossed the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, we started seeing evidence that a Ragnar Relay was in progress:

Van 2 of "Ricky's Dirty Dozen"

Passing by Exchange 7

The sign says it all!

Leg #7 runners pounding out the miles
Finally, Exchange 6 was in sight!  This is where Van 1 would hand off the slap-bracelet baton to the first runner in our van (me!) and everyone in our van would run their first leg of the relay.

Exchange 6 in Modena, WI was a like a small city!
Our van went through the mandatory safety training and also picked up our bib numbers and road crossing flags and waited for Van 1 to show up.  I changed into a tank and shorts because it was hot and humid.  Yuck!

Van 1 eventually found us while their sixth runner was running, and dropped off Mark L., our team captain, who had a bunch of goodies for us.  We all got our race shirts and van bag loaded with Clif bars, Gu gels, temporary tattoos, car decals, and even a Ragnar cowbell!  Once the van called Mark back to tell him where Gregg (runner #6) was located, I headed to the exchange chute to wait for him to show up.

For the second year in a row, I chose to be runner #7.  No one wanted to tackle the nasty hill during the first leg except me.  My total mileage increased this year from 13.2 miles to 17, but I figured if I ran smart, I would be okay.  I was even looking forward to tacking that hill again.  Me and the hill had some unfinished business! :)

Gregg made his way to exchange #6 about 3:00 p.m. and passed off the slap bracelet baton to me.  I was off and running!

Jack, our van captain and main driver, keeps on the lookout for me

Jilena is excited, but Mark has no idea what he's getting himself into!

I'm keeping up a nice pace so far.

I'm feeling good at this point, but the heat and humidity would take its toll.
Like always, the first mile felt easy.  The Red Dragon clocked an average pace of 8:18 for the first mile.

By the second mile, I had already taken a couple walk breaks due to the heat and humidity.  It felt even hotter than last year, and last year was HOT!  Fortunately, my van had a fresh bottle of water waiting for me.

Heading towards Dain and a fresh bottle of water

Mmmmm... so refreshing!

Continuing on my way!
Mile 2 - 9:33

The last part of the third mile contained the dreaded hill: an incline of 400+ feet over the course of less than a mile.  I remembered it from last year, but that knowledge only made running the hill easier with the fact that I knew I had conquered it before.  I did slow to a walk three or four times while making my way up the hill, but I kept trucking up it all the same.

Mile 3 - 11:20

Another team's van passed me as I was making my way up the hill, and the driver shouted to me, "You make running up that hill look so easy!"  That comment definitely motivated me to run my best!

Once I crested the hill, it was all downhill from there.  Scaling the hill, along with the hot weather, had left me worse for the wear, but my pace quickened some.  I still took walk breaks here and there.  I needed to!

Mile 4 - 9:27
Mile 5 - 9:22

Finally, I could see the exchange chute!  I couldn't wait to be done running and pass off the slap-bracelet baton to Jim.

Almost there!  Mark B. cheers me on from the sidelines.

The hand-off to Jim
Mile 6 - 9:27

I was so glad to be done running!  I ate some pretzels and grapes and drank some Gatorade while I cooled down.  We continued driving along the course to check on Jim, as he ran over seven miles during his first leg.

Lookin' good, Jim!

Jim still looks good even after cresting the first hill of his first leg
The rest of this "Part 1" post will consist of photos.  Enjoy!

Jim had to walk up part of the second hill.  It was too tiring!

Team "Ragnar 911" was back again for the second year in a row!

We leap-frogged Team "Shuffle Zombie Shuffle" throughout the course of the relay.

Jim hands off to Jack

Of course Jack is feeling good... he is only running 2.9 miles!

Jack heads towards the exchange point

Jack hands off to Mark

Mark added a much needed jolt of speed to our team.

Mark clocked an average 7:27/mile pace during his first leg of the relay!

Team "Ernst-Young Tax Titans"

I wonder if anyone from this van dressed like William Shatner...

Mark heads towards the exchange, where Jilena is waiting

A few members from Ragnar 911 "rough up" a fellow Ragnar participant

A couple members from Team "Off Like a Prom Dress"

Residents who lived along the Ragnar course had the best seat in the house!

Jilena is about to hand off to Dain

Dain said he pushed himself during his first leg.  The cooling temps definitely helped!

I liked this lady's costume

We had some pretty scenery along the course

Dain is still looking strong!

Uncle Rico's van makes an appearance at Exchange 12

Four of the members of Van 1: Ralph, Gregg, Josh and Mark (team captain)

Team "Running Wild"

I loved seeing all the clever van decorations the teams created!

Again... Team "Running Wild"
At Exchange 12 in Stockholm, WI, Dain handed off to Chris from Van 1, meaning that our van had a few hours of break time.  It was time for supper and, hopefully, a couple hours of rest before we started running again.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my 2011 Ragnar Relay experience!


  1. Wow -that looks like an amazing time!!!! I had no idea vans were decorated and people wore costumes (those prom dresses- wow -that's really impressive!). I guess I'm out of the loop on these sort of things. I cannot wait to get parts 2 and 3 - I'm really interested - it looks so amazing!

  2. A lot of great pics to imagine how beautiful can be to run that race. You are a fantastic team. I like the idea to take pictures from the car. Unfortunately here there are not relay races. Waiting for the 2 and 3 part.

  3. Awesome Part 1 to Ragnar, Richelle! What a major stressor to have to find not 1, but 2 runners, for your team on such short notice. Congrats on being runner #7 and living to tell the story. I remember the endless hills (aka mini-mountains) for runner #7 - girl, you are a rockstar!

  4. This sounds so thoroughly exhausting but FUN!

  5. Oh my!! I am loving all the funny costumes! Sounds like such a fun race. I LOVE relays! There are just so much fun!!!