Exactly one week ago Wild Workouts & Wellness had two teams (24 people) running in the Ragnar Relay race from Madison to Chicago. In case you aren’t familiar with what a Ragnar Relay is, Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. You and 11 other crazy teammates pile into two vans and tag-team running 200(ish) miles, day and night, relay-style. Only one runner hits the road at a time. Each person runs three legs of varying distances and degrees of difficulty. It takes most teams somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-35 consecutive hours to complete this challenge. The Wild teams started at 7:45am on Friday in Madison and finished on Chicago’s lakefront on Saturday afternoon.
We were tuned into the weather report all week and Friday’s forecast of 100% chance of rain was causing a little concern among the team. Preparation is key, so many of us packed two pairs of running shoes and plenty of socks to keep our feet dry and hopefully ward off any blisters. When our first 12 runners arrived at the start in Madison the rain was coming down heavy and there was some trepidation from some teammates, “what did I sign up for?” But there were smiles and nervous laughter as we checked-in, completed our safety briefing and picked up our bib numbers and RagSwag all while huddling under an umbrella. 7:45am came quick and our first runners, Julie & Nicole, were lined up ready to go as the MC announced all the teams starting in this wave, including Ragnar Gone Wild and Ragnar Gone Wild Too! And they were off!
After our first runner takes off, the remaining five need to high-tail it back to the van and come up with a plan of action. We’ve got a lot of running to do, so a big part of the spirit of Ragnar is teamwork and supporting your vanmates. That means we check out each runner’s leg maps and determine a location to meet up with them, offer up water, ring a cowbell, give a high five and put a smile on their face. Sometimes a runner has a long 9.9 miles and needs a little encouragement along the way, it’s our job to make that happen however necessary! After you check-in with your runner you need to hustle to the next exchange where your runner finishes and hands the baton (aka cool slap bracelet) to the next runner…and repeat!
Exchange 6 at Lake Mills High School is where our team vans meet. Van 1 has been running legs 1-6 and now we are going to meet up with the other six members of our team in van 2 who will run legs 7-12, essentially leapfrogging our way to Chicago like this. It was great to meet up with EVERYONE – Van 1 runners were still on the endorphin high from their first legs and van 2 was excited to get started! The rain had stopped after our first two legs and we were drying out…and hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant on our way to our next major exchange. I’m not going to lie, when two vans roll up in the parking lot covered in marker and ‘KILLS’ written on the side – you are going to get some looks. And when 12 sweaty people in running clothes come out of those vans and sit down to eat, people are going to start asking you questions. And some of you might be so tired and RUNgry that you can barely order the ‘real whipped mashed potatoes’ that look so good on the menu. But with food in our belly we head to the next exchange in Wales to try and rest before we start running and do it all over again. It only makes sense that Ragnar’s tagline is “Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat!”
I mentioned kills before. I’m sure many drivers on the interstate thought there were bands of murders traveling by minivan through SE WI/NE IL. Pretty much every team vehicle is decorated and hosts a variety of artwork via car markers, and there is almost always a section labeled kills. The tradition of counting the number of runners you pass while racing is common, in Ragnar-speak, we call those kills or roadkill. It’s not meant to be a put-down but a fun motivator for teams! Chances are if you are being killed or are the killer there’s some words of encouragement exchanged on the pass, usually a “nice job runner,” or “ keep it up runner,” and “almost there runner.” So while counting your kills is fun, the underlying message of Ragnar once again comes back to teamwork, encouragement and support. Steve Hyma & Jason Tomrell were Wild’s King Killers – and Steve was NOT PASSED ONCE while on the course! (Must’ve been all those Run Wild sessions paying off!)
Soon the night legs came. Like I said, this is nonstop, that means we run through the night too! So strap on your reflective safety vests, head lamps, tail lights and whatever fun glow lights you want because this is also about the time your vanmates start getting a little wacky.
If your vanmates exhibit an overexhuberant amount of enthusiasm towards each and every runner and find the need to constantly honk and ring a cowbell out the window while yelling ‘WOOOHOOO’, don’t worry, they just have a case of Ragnaritis. It usually only lasts a few hours before they pass out in exhaustion and look like this:
We made it through the night and with morning came a few more showers, but we were well into the race and no one was going to let a little rain stop them! There were some blisters and a few questionable toe nails but they were small obstacles to this crew. Spirits were up despite the sleep that was lacking. We ran into other runners we had known from Wild and other walks of life and shouted out our encouragement and support for them as well. This was truly a team effort! Unfortunately one team was a runner down due to injury but people stepped up and took on extra miles to make it up and pushed through til the end! Our injured runner didn’t leave the team and she was the best cheerleader/navigator/motivator/van mom a team could ask for. Everyone worked hard to get each other to the finish.
Both teams came into the finish at Montrose Beach in Chicago on Saturday afternoon with sore legs, heavy eyelids and smiles nonetheless. I think I can speak for everyone when I say each van has at least 5 new friends for life and probably knows more about each other’s digestive tracks than necessary. That’s all I’m going to say about that because, well…what happens at Ragnar, stays at Ragnar!
Team Ragnar Gone Wild (and RGW Too!) rocked this bucket list race! I am so proud of each and every one of them. From the training to the finish line they showed dedication, commitment and most importantly TEAMWORK! I am so honored to be the coach, captain and van mom of these two teams, they were the epitome of hard work, teamwork and support. They encouraged and motivated each other, other teams, volunteers and me with an impressive amount of discipline, determination and every single positive attitude.
I was a little anxious bringing 23 people on this journey, I wanted them to enjoy this fun adventure as much as I have in the past and I was feeling the pressure in the days beforehand. Many of our Wild teammates have already tossed their hat in for next year’s Ragnar and some have even suggested a Wild Destination Ragnar race should be in the future… so I’ll call it a success!
Congratulations to all our Wild Ragnarians:
And a big THANK YOU to all of the team volunteers and other Wild members that showed up on the course to cheer us on!