Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ragnar Chicago 2014

Where does one start with an event like Ragnar?  It is more adventure than it is race.  Back sometime in the winter I was talked into joining the WRTE by fellow Wurst Running Club Ever members.  I previously had been against ever running Ragnar since the associated costs can be quite high once everything is factored in.  I'm glad I changed my mind though since I had so much fun.

I was part of Van 2 so we didn't have to start running until around 4:30PM on Friday.  We met up at Mo's dad's place on Friday morning to give us plenty of time to drive up, grab lunch, and take care of pre-race activities like the safety briefing, shopping, and decorating the van.  We even had time for some team building with Cards Against Humanity.

I took a lot of pictures at the start, but then became horrible at continuing to take pictures through the rest of the event.  I blame Ragnar Brain.

In case you haven't noticed, I shared a van with 6 girls.  This became an ongoing joke throughout the weekend as I became #andEric or Lone Sausage.  We did actually meet another van that was all girls #andErik.  Soon Van 1 showed up and we hung out for a bit before heading up to the exchange point for our first hand off.  We then got back to the van and headed to the next exchange.  I was runner 8 so I was up next.  I simultaneously navigated and prepared for my run.

Leg 1 -
My first leg was a short one so I didn't really feel many nerves yet.  I knew it would be a quick 2.9 mile jaunt and I'd be done before I knew it.  Mo came in and slapped the bracelet on me and off I went.  I might have been a little too excited since I looked at my watch about 1/4 of a mile in and saw I was running a 6:45 pace.  I slowed down a bit so I wouldn't burn up all my energy with 2 more legs to run.  It was also still pretty warm out.  The latter half of my leg turned into a series of hills culminating into 100 feet of elevation gain.  I also started passing runners, getting kills in Ragnar lingo.  Before the event we were told these were rare so I was pretty excited.  I wound up with 9 kills on this short leg.  I soon wound up at a vineyard where I passed the slap bracelet off to Zoe.  I was given a special Ragnar wine stopper since this was the prize leg of the race.

I had plenty of time until the next leg so I chilled in the van and cheered on my fellow teammates.  We finally finished up our legs and passed the bracelet back to Van 1.  We went to get some Noodles and Co to find that it was closed.  We wound up with McDonalds instead.  Between this and the meat lovers pizza I had at lunch earlier I definitely made some bad food choices.  We drove to the next exchange point to wait for Van 1 and get some rest.  I couldn't sleep so I read some Harry Potter on my kindle before trying to at least shut my eyes for a little bit.

Leg 2 -
My second leg was in the middle of the night.  Things had cooled considerably and I could see my breath as I ran.  I wore a headlamp for the first time ever and it created an eerie effect with my breath floating up.  I struggled a little bit at first to get loose on the run, but once I did I started flying since the weather was perfect.  This leg was supposed to be 5.1 miles and was run down the shoulder of several roads.  I was shocked to see the 1 mile to go sign when my GPS showed 3.8 miles.  The leg wound up being short at 4.85 miles.  This was a little sad since I was having so much fun running at night and wished this was my longest leg.

We finished our leg 2s around 5:45 on Lake Michigan.  By this time my stomach was turning into knots from bad food choices and lack of sleep.  I used the facilities at Panera (Yay flush toilet!) and then slowly ate a bagel to get something into my system to get me through my final leg.  We made our way to North Chicago High School for the last major exchange.  We had quite a bit of time until Van 1 was to arrive so we camped out under a tree to get some rest.  I finally got about an hour of restless sleep, but it was enough to help settle the stomach enough so I could run.

Leg 3 -
My third leg started a bit after noon.  It was a 5.3 mile run on trails with no shade and lots of sun.  I quickly realized that this was going to be a tough one.  My legs were pretty tired by this point and I was feeling the effects of being a little bit dehydrated.  I slowed way down compared to the first 2 legs, but was only a little bit slower than my estimated pace.  I ran the first 2 legs way ahead of pace.  It soon became evident that I wasn't the only one struggling on this leg.  I wound up passing 15 other runners, many of whom had started to walk.  I was too stubborn to start walking, but did slow down.  All I wanted when I finished was to get back in the van and sit in front of the AC.

The rest of my team mates faced similar struggles with the heat and we all slowed down.  We had moved way ahead of predicted pace as a team for the first 2 legs so this wasn't a big deal.  We told Lindsay, our final runner, to take her time with her last leg.  Even though it was 9.6 miles, we needed enough time to drive into Chicago, park the van, and take a shuttle to the finish line.  We made it with about 15 minutes to spare.  As Lindsay came in towards the finish we tried to signal her to slow down so we could run across as a team, but she didn't seem to understand and so we scrambled to keep up with her across the finish.  We took some pictures and I found Jennifer volunteering at a tent near the finish line.  Soon the team scattered to get beer and pizza or head home.

I couldn't bring myself to go into the beer tent to get my free drink.  I was beat up physically and mentally after having run more than I slept over 2 days.  We grabbed the pizza and found a table to relax at.  After a bit we all realized we were done so we headed back to the van to pack up and clean it off before parting ways.

I really enjoyed myself running Ragnar.  Some of my team mates are now trying to push me to run the Keys in February, which I think I would love to do if I can somehow figure out how to make it work considering I'm going to make my wallet scream with my expenses for NYC Marathon, RnR Vegas Half, and Dopey Challenge at Disney.  Even though I was in a van with 6 girls it never really seemed all the awkward.  We got along pretty well and developed a ton of inside jokes that I'm sure will be repeated for years.  I think we even came up with a van name for next year - #MeatSweets #AndEric

My van mates and I
From Left:


  1. I felt the same way about doing Ragnar (well, cost along with thinking I couldn't possibly run that much on no sleep), and really have no idea what made me sign up. Mo the bad influence, perhaps? Also, I wonder how many beer tickets go unused because everyone is so wiped out.

    Ragnar FL Keys is probably out for me because I'm not really supposed to take time off of work between Jan-April, but you should do it so I can follow the hopefully-more-awkward #meatsweets #andEric adventures :)

    1. Well, good news then, I have also agreed to captain a Ragnar Cape Cod team next May. WRCE goes east?

    2. Hmm.... maybe? :) One of my co-workers did that one with a team of strangers this year and said it was pretty fun.

    3. Ragnar Vegas looks fun, but then I'd have to stay there for a week to do RnR... like that's a bad thing haha. Alas probably not this year since I can't take all of Nov. off between NYC and RnR and Thanksgiving.

  2. This was seriously one of the most fun Ragnars ever, and it was all due to you guys! I had so much fun. When you're talking about #meatsweets a week later, you know that we did something right.

    And FLK? Yes. It's fun. You can even negotiate for a gator leg.

    1. Anytime you're talking about #meatsweets you've done something right.

    2. Oh the #meatsweets and now that @LoneSausage is a thing, this can only get better.