Ragnar Relay – Part II: The Hard Work

Earlier today, I posted about my awesome Ragnar Relay team, Moms Ragnar This Town, and meeting some fabulous Oiselle Team ladies during the race this weekend. That was the fun part of Ragnar.

This afternoon, I’m going to post a bit about my runs, which were the not-so-fun part of Ragnar. In short, the running was extremely challenging for me. In fact, in terms of difficulty, this was the toughest course I have ever raced. Hands down. Not only was the terrain unrelenting, but it was also unseasonably hot – with temperatures just below 90 during the day and in the 60s through the night.

As I mentioned in Ragnar Relay – Part I, each runner on my 12-person team ran three legs of what was supposed to be a 199 mile course. I was runner number 8 on Moms Ragnar This Town, which meant that I should have run just over 20 miles over the course of Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me), due to the government shutdown, parts of the course had to be altered (national parks are closed during the shutdown and parts of the planned course ran through national parks), so I ended up running about 16 miles, instead of 20, and the total course was about 20 miles shorter than planned. So, I ended up running legs 8, 20, and 31 (instead of 32).

Leg 8 – 6.8 miles – departing Little Orleans, MD – Friday 10/4 at 2:30 p.m.

Sarah came into exchange 7 at around 2:30 on Friday after a very difficult leg 7. She is amazing and totally rocked leg 7! She gave me our team bracelet, and off I went on leg 8 wearing my Oiselle Team singlet (for the first time ever!) and Long Roga Shorts.

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The elevation profile for leg 8 tells you everything you need to know about this run. Total elevation gain: 1066 feet.

Leg 8

Oh, the elevation profile and the fact that it was brutally hot (high 80s) and sunny, with little shade. Even Ragnar refers to leg 8 as the second most difficult leg on the entire course. In short, I struggled.

I ran the first 2 miles, but then decided I was probably going just as fast walking because the hill was so steep. So, I started to run-walk from telephone pole to telephone pole with a runner from another team. She was very friendly and I certainly appreciated the company. This leg of the race was not van supported, but her team didn’t follow those rules. I normally hate rule breakers, but in this case I was actually sort of glad they weren’t following instructions because that meant they cheered for both of us to get up that hill. They even asked if I wanted water at one point, which was great. I love them, whoever they are!

Once I hit the peak of what must be known as Maryland’s Everest, I drank some water and then poured some on my head in an effort to cool down (there was an unmanned water station at the top of the hill – one of the few on the entire 199 mile course). I looked at my Garmin and saw that I was at about a 14 minute per mile pace at that point, so I knew I was going to have to pick it up on the downhill despite the fact that prolonged downhill running hurts like hell, frankly.

By the end of my leg, my legs were shot. I was SO hot and my legs were SO sore. I was just glad to be done. My team was so supportive and proud of me at the finish. It was awesome. I love them!

Leg Stats: 01:17:08/6.81 miles/average pace 11:19.

Leg 20 – 6.9 miles – departing Middletown, MD – Saturday, 10/5 at 1:07 a.m.

After a quick meal, shower, and maybe 30 minutes of sleep on the floor of a local high school, we had to get going for our second legs. These were at night and it was still warm but certainly cooler than it had been during the day. So, I decided to wear my Oiselle Arm Warmers along with my Stellar Stripe Tank and Lesley Knickers. I also wore the reflective vest and headlamp mandated by Ragnar for safety reasons, since you are running on roads that are open to traffic through the night.

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This leg was not nearly as steep as leg 8, but still very challenging (classified as “hard” by Ragnar). Despite the lack of the sleep and the hills, I was actually moving along at a great pace for me with several miles at below 10 minute mile pace – 9:39, 9:42, 9:50.

Leg 20

Then, at what should have been the easiest part of the run – the descent – totally out of nowhere, I got an awful side cramp. I never get side stitches running and this was a side stitch on steroids. It hurt so bad I could not even run. I can’t even describe it. I felt like I couldn’t even breath. I tried to stretch it out. I tried to massage it. I tried stretching my arm over my head. Nothing worked. As soon as I would start running again, it would just hurt like hell. I was in pain, but even more so disappointed because I knew this was just going to destroy my time. And it did. After I crossed the finish I couldn’t even talk to my team. And, if you know me, you know that I can always talk. I had to fight back tears. It was not good. But, my team was there for me again and I was so very thankful for their support. I laid out a yoga mat in the parking lot and spent several minutes just stretching. Ultimately, the pain subsided, although my side is still sore today. Looking back on it, I think my very large, rushed dinner, just a few hours earlier hadn’t digested – maybe because of dehydration. In any case, leg number 2 = done!

Leg Stats: 01:15:27/6.96 miles/average pace 10:50.

Leg 31/32 – departing Chevy Chase, MD – Saturday 10/5 at 11:00 a.m.

As I mentioned, because of the shutdown, leg 32 was canceled, so Ragnar let us run with leg 31 instead. It was hot, but only two miles. And frankly, by now, we all just wanted to be done. I was stoked to run with Sarah! And, probably equally stoked that we had to stop at a bunch of crosswalks and long lights during this run because she is super speedy!!

My stomach still was not right, and towards the very end of this leg, I thought I may throw-up. I told Sarah to run ahead, but she very awesomely (yes, I just made up a word) held back so we could finish our race together. As we approached the exchange, I could hear the girls cheering. It was awesome! And, I was done!

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Run Stats: 21:33/2.01 miles/average pace 10:41 (didn’t stop my Garmin for any of the crosswalks or long lights).

So, all-in-all not my best running experience, but an experience to be sure.

On the bright side, this should give me confidence going forward that I can conquer any hill I face. I just may conquer it slowly.

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