Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ragnar Relay: Driver Recap

I'm not really sure where to begin writing this recap because so much happened in such a short period of time. I guess it is best to start at the beginning. As I mentioned last week, I had originally signed up to be a part of a Ragnar team with some of my best running friends both online and IRL. When I made the decision to not run in the relay, the idea of being a driver was proposed. I'm really, really glad I decided to be a driver and hang out with the team. It was a great way to be a part of the experience and partake in the events without feeling left out of the running part. :) Thursday evening the plan was to drive up to Madison to stay in a hotel the night before the big race. First off, we got together at Suzanne's house to take some photos to thank our sponsors for the awesome swag they were able to provide.
Oiselle provided every team member with a Start Line Tee and pair of Distance Shorts.
I had a Start Line Tee of my own so I hopped in for the photo. :)
Sam took this candid shot of me and I absolutely love it. 

After a few more photos, we got on the road. We arrived at our hotel and took some time to decorate the vans before heading to bed.

I didn't really get a good night's sleep because I kept having bizarre dreams about people ransacking our van, missing the start time, etc. But, we were up nice and early with plenty of time to get to the start. The Holiday Inn Express that we stayed at opened up the continental breakfast early for us and the other Ragnar teams, which was greatly appreciated. I was able to fill up on biscuits, bacon, and other real food since I knew there were lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my future. Lol.

At the start, we were able to get some nice photos with the team. Turns out Oiselle tattoos are great for driving, not just running. A few of my teammates sported the tats with me for the weekend festivities!

While checking out the merch tent, a few of my pals pitched in and bought Baby Wilson their first running tee. It is totally adorable and I am so happy and excited to have such great friends. Thanks so much ladies!

Before long, it was time for the race to get underway! Our first runner (Suzanne) was ready to go at the front of the line in time for the start.

And the runners were off and the event had started! Since we were in van 2, we headed to the next big exchange to get everything checked out (safety gear, bibs, etc). We tried to catch a quick cat nap but a marching band started playing so the nap was very short-lived. Next, it was on to watch some of the exchanges. If you were following me on Instagram, I posted photos of most of the exchanges that I saw took place. It was fun to deem myself Van 2 photographer and take some nice running photos of the group.

After we were done with our first set of legs, we headed to grab some grub at the next major exchange. It was the first time we had real food since our breakfast that morning. Needless to say, this pregnant mama was happy for the delicious grub.
The food was provided by the Boy Scouts and it did not disappoint. A cheeseburger, pasta salad, and giant cookie for $5? Yes please! We then sat by the vans and let our food digest before heading to the next major exchange to catch some Zs.

Ragnar Madison to Chicago

The next big exchange was a high school with "designated sleeping areas." There was a room with some mats on the floor where we could lay down and catch some Zs. I didn't sleep very well because I was worried we'd miss the next exchange point. I kept thinking I was going to miss a text message so I woke up every 30 minutes. Plus, I just couldn't get comfortable without my body pillow. I had brought a fleece blanket and travel pillow and I saw others with sleeping bags and full pillows. I was majorly jealous. After our attempt at sleep for a few hours, it was time to head back to the van for the beginning of our night legs. 
Some of the other teams were blaring music at the exchanges and getting pumped up. We, on the other hand, were trying to continue sleeping as best as we could. Our van was out running our legs just as the sun was coming up so it was quite a beautiful picture.

Soon after this photo was taken, I crashed and burned in the car. We had a runner still out there and I just couldn't keep it together any more. If I wasn't pregnant, I probably would have just grabbed a Red Bull and powered through it, but I knew that my body needed rest. My teammates were gracious enough to take over driving while I hopped in the back seat and immediately fell asleep. I got in a few more hours of restful sleep and woke up feeling much better. At this point we had a little bit of time to kill before meeting the next runners so we stopped by the next large exchange and grabbed some delicious pancakes (not pictured). (Can you tell that I was thinking about food a lot on this trip?) We chatted, used the facilities, and cheered on our last runner in Van 1 before heading to the next exchange.

After Van 1's last runner went, it was our time to bring it in! All of the exchanges went off without a hitch, with one exception. At all of the exchanges, they were giving runners a heads up of the next team coming down the road. At one of the exchanges, there was a miscommunication on where one of our runners was located. Kate had asked the volunteer if they had announced #45 yet. She said no, so Kate ran to use the restroom. She was barely inside the restroom when the volunteer started yelling "#45? Where's runner #45?" so, Kate had to hop out of the bathroom and get to the start without her water, which was left in our van. When Kelly (the runner that had just finished) came back and explained what happened, we set out to find Kate and were able to give her the water bottle. Kate was grateful to have had her water and knocked out her last set of miles speedily, as usual. When the baton was last passed to Melanie, it was time to head to the finish line!
Action shot of me driving!
I wore my Road ID bracelet for most of Ragnar.
Thought it couldn't hurt.

The last leg was fairly long (8 miles) which worked out well for us since traffic was AWFUL (as expected). We had Sam set up as our photographer at the finish so now it was time to meet up with Van 1 and wait for Melanie. In true rockstar fashion, Melanie finished up the last leg with her fastest splits of the day. 
Look at this awesome photo of Melanie coming down the stretch...
When I saw her running, I knew my tired and slow butt had to start hobbling/waddling towards the finish. They announced our team name as we were crossing the finish line and it was so much fun!

Our team was done and ahead of schedule (despite there being an added 3.8 miles added onto the course). After taking some photos, passing out medals, and munching on some pizza, it was time to head home. 
But not before taking a Chicago Running Blogger photo

All in all, I had an absolute blast! Our team captain did a great job of coordinating the legs, managing the team, and managing expectations. Our Ragnar veterans on the team (Suzanne and Kate) made sure we were all properly prepared as far as food, clothes, supplies, and everything else.

Despite hearing mixed reviews last year and the slight snafu with the road construction, I thought that the race was well organized (especially considering the overall distance and despite my experience at the finish line last year). There were sleeping accommodations for participants, the longer legs had water stops for the runners, there were plenty of porta-potties along the way (and all of the ones I tried had plenty of toilet paper), the food at the various exchanges wad reasonably priced and delicious, and the overall atmosphere was one of fun and enjoyment.

I enjoyed that we had a 9 person team versus the traditional 12 person team. It made some of the driving logistics a little more confusing, but I felt that I got the hang of it pretty quickly. It made the event fun and challenging, yet achievable. I would absolutely LOVE to do this race as a running participant. I'm so happy that I decided to participate as a driver and help out my friends and teammates. It is an experience I wouldn't trade for the world! :)

If you haven't participated in a Ragnar event and get the chance to do so, I highly recommend it!

On a 9 person team (when you paid the 12 person price), even drivers get shirts and medals. :)


  1. I loved following along with you guys! It looks like such a blast, and Ragnar is definitely on my running bucket list. Was the driving confusing? I would think it might be. I am so curious as to how it all works!

  2. I'm glad! With the separate vans, we were following each other, estimating times for the next runners. Lol! (aka Amanda just posted that she's about to start running. Her leg is x miles long and if we estimate an x pace, she should be at the next exchange at x time.)

    The driving wasn't really confusing, once you figured it out. For example, exchange 1 was at the end of leg 1... so when we had a runner that was running leg 31, we had to get her to exchange 30. I like to think that I'm fairly good with directions and such so we never got lost, the water and Gatorade stayed nice and cold in the cooler, and we were able to help our runners when necessary.

  3. Heather BarnsteinJune 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    You look so cute!

    And that looks like so much fun - definitely something for the bucket list some day!

  4. Thanks for being a driver Kelly!! I had a great time too!

  5. Thanks! And yes, I highly recommend this race!

  6. You and the baby Wilson bump look adorable! Glad you all had a wonderful time! I can't imagine all the logistics that goes into an event like that.

  7. It's so great that you still got to experience the event! I know the guys who drove for us in 2011 (one was my husband) had enough fun that they want to do it again! Ragnar can be fun for all, for sure.

  8. Thanks! We were lucky to have some experienced veterans that helped things run smoothly in both vans. :)

  9. Yes, it was a blast! I really hope I get the chance to do this next year!

  10. Seems like you had a blast!!!! I love the shirt for the baby.

  11. Thanks! I had so much fun and I love that Baby already has a running shirt waiting for when they arrive. :)

  12. Oh, was Ragnar this weekend? ;-) It was fun following you all around all weekend! Especially seeing everything from your vantage point as driver. You were the ultimate spectator! I think it's cool that you drove so you could still hang out with your team. And not have any of that pesky running getting in the way, ha!

    I definitely would have crashed in the back of the van at some point too, it sounds exhausting (though obviously fun)!

  13. Heather BarnsteinJune 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Also, strongly empathize with the thinking-of-food a lot. I've been told 20-28 weeks are huge growth spurts and man, I am definitely both hungrier and food obsessive lately :)

  14. Haha I'm glad you had fun following along. I did enjoy not having to worry about that pesky running part. (When the rest of the team got Panera on the way up, I got Chipotle.)

    It was exhausting but very fun. I would totally do it again!

  15. I love seeing all the recaps from you ladies! amazing job! Baby wilson is getting so many experiences! I so want to do this next year!

  16. Some of my best runs have been following a big taco dinner, so Chipotle may not be the worst strategy. Or maybe it is. But that's a nice perk!

  17. Yay! Good job, driver! I was going to ask if you got a medal! The medals are so cool! And the shirt is really cute this year :) Can't wait to see Nugget in the Ragnar tee!

    I am impressed you went THAT long without crashing in the van. I was reading this report... waiting for it. Hee hee. Being up for that long, no matter what you are doing, is super tiring... especially if you are pregnant!

    I am happy you guys all had a good time and all the logistics worked out minus the water bottle issue :)

  18. Working at the finish line last year, I knew that drivers could get medals. :) I told the hubs that even when the baby is first born, we'll have to squeeze him/her into the Ragnar tee for a photo. :)

    Thanks! It really was a great team. All the ladies ran amazingly well. We cheered each other on as best as we could. I don't know how things could have gone smoother.

  19. I'm so glad you were still able to be part of the American Sweathearts!!!!! I had so much fun, although I might need another month or so before I can wrap my mind around someday doing another one. (I'm sure I will though.)

  20. I often eat Chipotle for lunch at work and then run a few hours later in the evening. I always go with a burrito bowl.

  21. Oh you know you want to! I'll have to tell the hubs to save the date of the 2014 event on his calendar bc I want to goooooo. :)

  22. Please unsubscribe me

  23. I think this sounds so complicated and stressful, but also really fun. I did one short relay a while back and really enjoyed the whole team aspect of it. Running is often such a solitary sport so it's nice to have that camaraderie every once in a while. :)

  24. I agree! Our team had a ton of fun and the camaraderie was definitely a nice touch.