Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ragnar Relay, Florida Keys!

This past weekend, 11 of my running buddies and myself ran from Miami to Key West. 196 miles, 12 running friends and 2 vans (6 runners in each van). It was a pretty epic event that Brad and I have been looking forward to since March 2014 when we signed up (11 months in advance)! I will admit that I've had my eye on Ragnar much longer than that but first, I had to find a cool captain to recruit us to their team ;)

We had massive amounts of communication before race weekend about our team theme (we were the peace-making, hippie runners), packing lists and familiarizing all us rookies on how the weekend would flow. I didn't realize all of the planning that went into an event like this! On Thursday morning, we met up with our team in Brandon, loaded up our 2 vans and headed south toward Miami. After a few pit stops along the way, we finally made it to Hialeah around 5pm where we checked into our hotel and started decorating our vans! Brad and I were in van 2.
Peace, Love (Ragnar), Run
Then, we headed to a local Cuban restaurant for dinner where we carbo-loaded on rice and ate amazing traditional meals.

For those of you who don't know, I was born and raised in Miami (12 years) and both of my parents are of Colombian descent. All variations of hispanic food was a staple of my childhood and my grandmother owned a food truck in the 90s which I'm pretty sure had white rice and black beans accompany every meal. Nowadays, I don't eat enough hispanic food and my husband says I don't cook nearly enough hispanic meals.

On Friday morning, we started bright and early. We checked-out of our hotel and headed to the start line around 8am. Van 1 was slated to begin running at 10:30am and they took off like lightning!

BRA Hippies
By 9am I was already starving so you could imagine the surprise when I asked our van 2 captain to stop for some real food once we saw van 1 take off. This line "I am hungry" was repeated many times again and again throughout the remaining 27 hours til completion. Although we had coolers packed with water, gatorade, fruit, snacks and even uncrustables (those yummy little pb&j sandwiches they sell in the freezer section), those were not nearly hearty-enough to keep my stomach from rumbling every 3-4 hours. So, off to Publix we went! I downed a Publix chicken tender sub (ohemgee YUM!), some chicken potato salad and a baked potato soup. I was stuffed and ready for my running to begin!

We arrived at exchange 6 (where van 1's last runner would hand off to van 2) and we promptly started our van 2 journey around 1:30pm. Brad was runner #9 and I was runner #10, so he would hand me off a little "slap bracelet" everytime it was my turn to run. His first leg was 4.2 miles at 8:30 pace - he took it like a champ. On the other hand, my first leg was 7 miles (around 4:30pm). It was BRUTALLY hot and my path had no shade. It was no joke that I came back with a nice, black suntan after my run (even though I poured gobbles of sunblock on my arms and legs). Luckily, I packed my hydration belt and ran with two little bottles of water & gatorade to get me through. I struggled with the heat but finished with a 9:50 pace (only 20 seconds slower than my projected time). Although, you can't really tell the pain I endured in this photo we took at exchange 11 waiting for another one of our team members...
We are having SO MUCH fun! :)
Around 6:30pm, van 2 (my van) officially finished running our first leg. 1 leg down, 2 to go! We headed to grab some dinner (per my request for more real food - but I'm pretty sure others were hungry too) and we had pizza and pasta dishes. Then, we all jumped back in the van and headed south to the next major exchange where we were slated to begin running again around 1:15am. Let me remind you that if we were not running, there were only a few other things we could be doing:

  1. Eating snacks or hydrating in the van
  2. Sleeping in the van
  3. "Bathing" after our run with baby wipes, while in the van
  4. Changing into our next run outfit after our "bath", while in the van
  5. Using a porta-potty at any of the exchange points (luckily, not in the van)
Most of you know I'm a pretty good eater and pretty good sleeper. So, my motto was basically "Eat, Sleep, Run" for 27 hours

Brad had a pretty tough leg #2, 10.7 miles with minimal support to begin at 3am. He also packed his hydration belt and we were only allowed to "check-in" with him around mile 3. Essentially, there was no place for our van to stop between his mile 3-10.7 to make sure he was surviving; but he took the run like a hero and averaged 9:31/mile. I was so tired (even though I did all of that sleeping in the van), if they would have given me his leg I think I would have cried :D

My leg #2 was even better than my leg #1! It was a pretty nice 4.4 miles on a flat bridge where I passed lots of people. I took my hydration belt again just in case and I finished with an 8:57 pace. I was very happy with my run. It was so dark outside that it wasn't log before I jumped back in the van and fell asleep (I know, I was a sucky team-player for all of the sleeping I did).

Van 2 finished their leg #2 around 7am. So started driving south again and headed to breakfast! (are you beginning to see a trend here? eat, sleep, run, eat, sleep, run). We ate some pretty yummy school cafeteria pancakes, sausages and chocolate milk. Meanwhile, we ran into the team Masters of Our Domain (i.e. the "older" group from BRA) and we tagged their van with a little membership....

AARP anyone?
Then, van 2 started our last leg (#3) around 10:30am.

Brad's leg #3 was only 2.7 miles. He started running around 11:30am and we were both so lucky that the clouds came out for both of our runs. He averaged around 8:10 pace and did his last "hand off" to me where I ran 1.8mi at 8:35 pace.

I hope that no official Ragnar judgers read my little-ole blog because I am about to make a confession. I am pretty sure that in my last leg, I was supposed to make a right turn to achieve an extra 0.2 miles for my leg (which I failed to do because I followed the person who was trying to pass me - who also failed to run the extra 0.2 miles).

I thought it was a little weird when I saw a random girl jump on the course from a side-street, but I was trying so hard to focus on not letting so many people pass me (I was getting passed left and right) that I forgot to take a right turn. Oops! I was able to pass a girl who looked like she was giving-up in the last quarter mile. I sprinted as quickly as I could to achieve that last "kill" (i.e. you achieve a "kill" when you pass a runner in your leg).

All of the runners in our van 2 were amazingly supportive, ready to give each other super cold water, gatorade and orange slices and every opportunity. I couldn't have asked for better van 2 teammates! We finally finished the race around 1pm with a total tile of 27 hours and 11 minutes. The "old guys" beat us by about 40 minutes. But nonetheless, we had an amazing race where we finished on the beach! (P.S. that last 0.1 mile to the finish line, running in the beach sand was awful - my legs were dying for an entire minute).

After the race, we did some shopping in the Ragnar store where Kristen and I bought some race apparel. A few of us went to dinner and walked around Duval street but we didn't stay out late (I was seriously falling asleep on the way to dinner). The next morning, we did make it out in the keys and got a "van 2 + Jane" group photo :)

I hope that every runner gets a chance to run a Ragnar race. It was an amazing experience that I would totally do over and over again (eat, sleep, run, eat, sleep, run)! If you do, remember to take the Monday-after-the-race OFF from work so that you can lounge in your PJs and recover from the weekend!