Over the last 4 years, I’ve run a lot of races. Running has become an outlet, hobby and a passion of mine. Although I’ve run a few full marathons and many halves, I’ve never run a long team relay. My sister decided to put a team together for the Wasatch Back Ragnar last fall and I was excited to be a part of it. I ran it this last weekend, and it was definitely the most challenging race I’ve ever done, merely for lack of sleep and running a long distance, sitting and then doing it all over again. Our team name was mind over miles. Both of the vans were decorated and we had fun team shirts made.
This particular Ragnar race starts in Logan, UT and finishes in Park City, UT. It is 197 miles. There were 12 of us divided among 2 vans. I was in a van with my younger brother and some friends. We were van 1 and our start time was 5 am. The stagger teams depending on total time it will take to finish. We had runners of all paces so we were an earlier start time. My brother was runner 1 and started us off with a bang. After your first runner takes off, you meet at the exchange point. Many of the legs you can cheer them along and even offer support. As we got going, the rain came on. It rained on all of us.
I was runner 6. My first leg was basically down the back of a mountain. Since it had been raining, the mud was almost unbearable. I was slipping and sliding and it was incredibly steep as you can see from the elevation map below.
It was also a dirt type path so there were a ton of rocks. I was not only running but hopping around trying to avoid huge rocks so I didn’t roll my ankle. About 3 miles into this leg, I had this view and it was totally worth it. That first leg was 6.9 miles and I ran at about a 10:15 pace. Normally downhill runs go much faster for me but when you are sticking in the mud and jumping around to avoid rocks it definitely goes slower.
My next leg was definitely the most challenging. It was 8.2 miles, but around 8.4 miles according to my Garmin. I didn’t start this leg until 10 pm. I was tired. I’d only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before and had a pretty bad headache. Since I was running at night, I was required to wear a headlamp and vest. If you’ve ever ran at night with a head lamp, it tends to make you a little bit dizzy. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom at about a mile in so that was in the back of my mind the entire time. The entire 8.2 mile run was a climb with little reprieve. As I was rounding the corner for the last .5 miles, the hill seemed to get even steeper. There were points that I walked because it was simply faster to power walk than to try to run. My pace for this was 12:45. Considering lack of sleep, the fact that it was dark and walking up some of the steep parts, that was great.
That night, we got about 3 hours of sleep again before we had to drive to and meet at the next exchange. My last leg was a flat 2 mile run. It was flat, around 70 degrees and perfect. It was around 12:30 in the afternoon but I felt every step. My body was tired from the previous 15 miles. I ran at about a 9:20 pace for the last two miles.
After I finished up, our van was done and we had about 5 hours until the second team finished their legs at the finish line.
Our team came in that evening and it was a huge accomplishment. I’m still catching up on sleep and am still really sore. Also on my team in the other van was my brother – runner 9, sister – runner 12 and my awesome almost 65 year old mom – runner 7.
I have a pair of Skora minimalist shoes that I run in sporadically. I couldn’t find my regular running shoes before I left, so I ran the entire 17 miles in my Skora shoes. If you’ve ever run in a pair of 0 drop shoes, you know that it changes your running form. My calves have been killing me but at least I wasn’t heel striking which I do in my Mizunos. They are just a bit muddy from my downhill mud run. 🙂
I’ll be following up with a “what to pack” when running a relay. I had to learn what to pack the hard way when there was something I needed and didn’t have. Overall it was a crazy experience with no sleep and some of the hardest runs I’ve ever done, but looking back – I think I’d do it all over again.