Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ragnar Del Sol 2011, Part I

For anyone to say that Ragnar is not an endurance event is off their rocker. It's just a different kind of endurance event - one based on sleep deprivation and the ability to "endure" 6 other people packed into a van for 36 hours. I personally had an incredible time with my adopted family of runners (thanks to Travis for introducing me!) and enjoyed not only the experience but also their company.

The alarm went off on Friday at 3:30 am and already I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. After a couple other pick-ups, our van of 6 was making their way up to Wickenburg, AZ to start our Ragnar adventure. We reached the starting line with about 1.5 hours to spare and took our time getting our safety flags, mandatory safety briefing and swag from all the Ragnar tents. More importantly, decorating the van as well!!

Legs 1-6
You might think that a relay is a lot of waiting around...while there is waiting, it's not as much time as you'd think. By the time you get everyone filed back into the van, make a few stop on the road to cheer on the runner and get to the next exchange, an hour has easily gone by. These first couple legs were filled with adrenaline and excitement without a doubt. Though it had been an early morning, everyone still had tons of energy and would exit the van at every chance to cheer on the current runner.

April and Mitch had crushed some of the early hills and it was my job to run in a straight line for 6.5 miles. As a first leg, it really couldn't have been any easier. It was about 10 in the morning so the sun was out and a cool breeze made the experience really enjoyable. That's a 7:40 pace by the way - rocked it.

In general, the remaining legs proved to be a piece of cake for the rest of the team. We got done with our first 6 legs around 2 pm (I think). Most of us had been up now for 12+ hours so the newness and fatigue was starting to settle in. After making the exchange with Van #2, we made our way to the high school where there showers and a place to lay out in the grass and grab some freebies provided by the supporting vendors.

Major Exchange #1
We laid out in the grass trying to take a nap knowing that our next set of legs would start around 8:30 pm and take us into the early hours of Saturday morning. Alas, with so many people coming and going it was nearly impossible to block everything out and get any quality sleep. I might have dozed off for 15 minutes but clearly, it was going to be a long night.

I made my way to the high-school looking forward to a nice shower, clean clothes and a chance to brush my teeth. Let's just say I got 2 out of 3. The 'shower' was nothing more than a urinating shower head with a dribble of cold water. In my most He-Man fashion, I threw a couple hand-cups of cold water on myself to wash away the accumulated salt crusties but did not want to endure anything more than I had to. With some fresh clothes and a good oral cleaning, I headed back to the van awaiting to leave for our second set of legs.

Legs 13-18
Night had settled in as we began our next set of legs under the cool night sky. Head lamps, reflective vests and blinking red lights dotted the landscape as hundreds of white 12-person vans descended on the sleepy town of Surprise. The first couple legs would take us through well-lit neighborhoods and planned communities giving us a feeling of safety and security. It wasn't until my leg that we started to hit the outskirts of town and made our way out of the populated world (at least, as much as you could see in the dark).

My leg was particularly challenging. It was the first leg that had an area of non-support. This meant there was no way our team could stop to cheer or provide supplies. The area of non-support was essentially a trail that ran beside the interstate and turned into a wash. As if running on trails, boulders and uneven surfaces isn't hard enough when it's light - turning off the lights (save for a headlamp) makes it an entirely new (and dangerous) experience. I came out unscathed but slightly pissed, determined to make up some of that time.

Now entirely charged up, I powered my way up the 2 smaller hills that lay in front of me. I almost beat the support van up the first one :) The final few miles of my leg felt like the middle of nowhere. Running on a 6 inch asphalt shoulder, I was faced with the darkness and danger of random cars and trucks passing me at 50 mph. This leg was uneventful with the exception of the trail running and hills and I still managed to work out an 8:09 pace. I'll take it.

The remaining legs for the team were uneventful save for some increased elevation and areas of non-support. You might think that there would be times to catch a power nap or sit in the van with the lights off, but you'd be wrong. Your team is always coming and going, looking for supplies, changing clothes or seeking warm blankets. No peace for the weary. Especially Mitch, who clearly was not feeling well (more on him later).

We finished up our second set of legs about 1:30 am near Anthem and handed off to Van #2 to run through the night. Our Van #1 was headed to Heidi's house to try and get a shower, food and sleep. Who would know that 2 out of 3 would have to do?

More on Heidi's house and the final legs coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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