This is Part One of a Two-Part Series, as there is just so much to tell!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a 200(ish) mile Ragnar race along the coast of Florida. If you’ve never heard of a Ragnar race, they are a series of road relay races that typically include teams of 12 runners (or six runners for ultra teams) that tag-team it across approximately 200 miles from Point A to Point B. Most of these races are held in the U.S., but there also is one in Canada, and there recently has been a race added in the U.K. Depending on the team’s pace, these races take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours to complete. There also is a trail relay series, where teams of eight runners (or four runners for ultra teams) run relay-style on three different single-track loops that start and finish at Ragnar Village.
I was invited to participate in a road relay by a friend from work, and since almost none of my friends are runners, I thought I should accept her invitation, since I might not have the opportunity again. These races are very popular, so much so that there is a lottery system. We were fortunate enough to secure a spot in the Ragnar South Beach relay. Our intent was to have an all-female team, but since we were only able to fill eight of our 12 spots, the team was opened up and we wound up with an 11-member team consisting of nine female and two male runners. The teams are split into two vans (cleverly labeled ‘Van 1′ and ‘Van 2‘), so it is more like two teams within a team. There are 36 legs to the relay, so in a full team of 12 runners, each runner runs three times. Van 1 takes the first six legs, Van 2 takes the 2nd six legs, and so on until all 36 legs are complete. Since we were a team of 11 runners, Van 1 consisted of five runners sharing each set of six legs, and Van 2 (my van) consisted of six runners sharing each set of six legs. It seems very confusing (at least to me), but it’s actually very simple and organized when you look at it on paper! This is what our legs looked like (at least during the planning stages):
Basically, each team negotiates which runner will take which leg. Since I was coming off of two marathons the month before (and also because I am a slower runner), I didn’t want a leg with tons of miles. I wound up with Leg 10, which suited me just fine; not the shortest leg, but nowhere near the longest. Lots of planning goes into these races, and a huge hats-off to our Team Captain, Angela (my work friend), who did an amazing job of organizing our race. Most of our team traveled to Florida from out of town, so there were schedules to coordinate, rides to arrange, and hotels to book. Another big part of organizing the race included deciding on who would bring what to avoid duplication, and making sure at the very least that all safety rules were adhered to.
Next, it was time to plan some fun! Angela flew in to Orlando on Thursday, where she met up with Alissa, Rosie, and Erin, who all spent the day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. What fun! I flew from Chicago to Orlando the afternoon before the race. Coincidentally, one of our other team members was on my flight, so we arranged to meet at the airport. Aimee and I had never met in person, but I clearly identified her as the person boarding the plane with all of her Ragnar gear! The plan was for Angela and her friends to pick us up at the Orlando airport, and then we would head to Melbourne Beach (about an hour away) for team check-in and packet pickup. However, someone else had other plans. I deplaned in Orlando and waited for Aimee. Neither of us checked bags (thank goodness), so we headed down the escalator to text Angela and let her know we had arrived. All of the sudden we heard some commotion, and people where running down the escalators toward us yelling, “get out, get out, something is happening!” We had no idea what, but we weren’t about to stick around to find out. Aimee and I just started moving with just two goals: getting out of there and sticking together. Talk about making friends quickly! We hustled our way across the street along with hundreds of panicked people. Aimee and I actually were pretty calm, but like everyone else, we had no idea what was going on.
There was first a rumor that shots were fired, then that a federal agent shot himself in the foot but that no one was in imminent danger. Aimee turned to social media and found this:
Still leery, we stayed in place for a bit, and then decided to get the heck out of there before any further mayhem would ensue. We grabbed a taxi and headed toward where our friends were staying. Eventually, we saw this Tweet:
This of course backed everything up at the airport, and we were lucky to land and get out when we did. One of our teammates’ flight was diverted and by the time she made it to Orlando it was a big mess because everyone had to be re-screened, and people needed to locate the items they left behind during the evacuation. Thankfully it was a ‘minor’ incident and no one was hurt.
Aimee and I met up with Angela and the gang, and then we were on our way to Melbourne Beach for packet pickup. Time was tight as we barreled along, arriving just one minute before the venue was supposed to close. There were still plenty of people around, so we checked in as Van 1 since they would not make it in time. We quickly scoped out the swag for purchase, bought a few things, and then were on our way.
Until that night, I was apparently the last person on earth (or at least the last person in Van 2) to have never eaten at Cracker Barrel. Oh, the sheltered life I have lived! After our wild party at Cracker Barrel, we headed to the hotel where we met up with our Van 1 teammates. We gave them their bibs and some other supplies, and then everyone hit the hay since we had such an early morning and a long adventure ahead of us. I’ll end here just as our day did, and will recap this crazy race in my next post.
Have you ever run a Ragnar race? Have you done more than one? Which one was your favorite? Am I the only one who’s never eaten at Cracker Barrel???