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2014 Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago Race Recap

I officially finished my first Ragnar Relay! Eleven teammates and I ran nearly 200 miles from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL this weekend. We had 2 vans, each with 6 runners. I was in Van 1 and ran as Runner 2. Many teams decorated their vans, but we were borrowing one and did not want to take it for a carwash after (haha).  Each of us ran 3 legs. My first two legs were both 4.5 miles and my last one was 6.2 miles (15.2 miles total). My fellow teammates had shorter or longer distances, depending on what they requested. My race began with an Amtrak ride from Chicago to Milwaukee.

20140608-200702-72422665.jpgDoes anyone else LOVE train rides?

My teammate, Cat, picked me up from the train station in Milwaukee. We drove over to Sara’s and then picked up two other teammates, Chris and Mike, and drove to Madison.  Once we arrived in Madison, our first order of business was food. I had a Crop Circle Wheat beer and a grilled cheese with soup at the Great Dane Pub. Yay for carbs!


20140608-200704-72424412.jpgWe slept over at Mike’s sister’s house. I probably slept for 5 hours, if that. We were awake by 5am and out the door by 5:30am.  The drawback of being in Van 1 is that we had to be awake way earlier than Van 2.  Despite this, it was still so exciting to be there for the start of our team’s 2-day-long journey!


Van 1: Sara, Cat, Steve, Me, Mike, and Chris

We collected our swag bag/bib numbers and went through a brief safety training before waiting at the starting line. Sara was our first runner, with 5.9 miles. We wished Sara good luck, got in our van, and drove to a part of the course where we could see her and cheer her on.  This became our routine for the entire race.  I absolutely loved supporting my teammates 🙂

I was Runner 2, so Sara’s portion of the race was a blur to me. I was pretty nervous due to feeling sleepy and being such a Ragnar newbie.  I had no idea how to fuel or pace myself for a race that lasted almost two full days. My first leg of the race was 4.5 miles. I ran through a residential area of Madison and wound up at a forest preserve.  I passed two runners and one runner, who was dressed as a cow, passed me.  Getting passed is a big deal at Ragnar; each person you pass is considered a “kill” and every time you get passed by a runner, it’s called a “death.” I kept track of this in my phone because I’m a little bit too competitive. The cow turned out to be a young guy – probably a cross country runner (I hope so because he was really fast, haha). We talked at one of the exchanges and he was really nice.

Leg 1 Summary

  • Distance: 4.64 miles
  • Time: 43:15
  • Pace: 9:18

After I ran, Mike did a short 2.7 mile run (he was really happy about that, haha). I finally relaxed and enjoyed my time cheering all of my teammates.  I had never met Mike and Steve until Ragnar. Cat was at Sara’s wedding last weekend, which was the only time I met her. Chris has been at some of the same parties as I attended, but we never really talked. It was exciting to get to know some new people in such a unique way! Most of the scenery in Wisconsin looked like this:

20140608-200705-72425269.jpgCity people get really excited about farms

After we were all done running, we headed over to Steve’s house.  He has a house in Waukesha, WI. This was perfect because our second leg of the race started there! We ate some Culver’s, took showers and 3-hour-long naps, and were woken suddenly by a text that Van 2 was almost done running. It was time for our second legs!

20140608-200706-72426951.jpgUsing the cowbell Ragnar gave us for Sara made my day.

Sara handed me the baton (it was actually a slap bracelet!) and Cat got a picture of it. Apparently I held up my arm ridiculously high for this… Still an awesome picture 😀


I put the most effort into my second leg.  It was 4.5 miles, which is not too long, but other runners kept passing me.  I picked up the pace a little bit, but still got passed by multiple people. Frustrating! Despite this, I felt pretty good. The nap and Culver’s served me well.


Am I a heel striker?

Leg 2 Summary

  • Distance: 4.68
  • Time: 42:59
  • Pace: 9:10

I felt exhausted after my second leg, but was still excited to cheer for my teemmates.  It got dark after my leg; I was grateful to be the last runner to enjoy daylight. When we were all finished, our team drove to Racine, WI.  Our final leg began there and a teammate in Van 2 offered us her apartment for the night. She also left a lasagna in her fridge for us to heat up! Best. Teammate. Ever.

At this point, I was completely out of it.  All I wanted was sleep. The thought of running 6.2 miles in a few hours disgusted me. I was mentally DONE.

A few hours of sleep and the contagious enthusiasm of Van 1 kept me going.  We sent Sara off to run 5 miles and drove around to find her on the course. I mentally prepared myself to run my longest leg of the race (6.2 miles) in the middle of the night. At 4am, Sara handed off the slap bracelet to me.

If my second leg was my hardest due to the physical exertion, then my third leg was my hardest due to how dark and lonely it was.  I actually wished for someone to pass me because I was all by myself on a pitch black trail (it was 4am). The first 4ish miles were scary and lonely, but the sun started to rise as I ran out of the forest preserve.  My van drove by and Sara yelled “run for coffee!” while holding up a cup of coffee she picked up for me. I was so happy to see caffeine 🙂

I finished on the lake shore in Kenosha, WI. The creepy, pitch black forest preserve running was completely worth the last 1.5 miles of my final leg.

20140608-200708-72428032.jpgThis sunrise was the perfect end to my Ragnar Relay legs.

My stomach hurt after I was done running and didn’t feel better until the next day. Fueling for this kind of race was tough; I am positive that I didn’t eat enough. Not eating enough always makes me feel naseous.

Leg 3 Summary

  • Distance: 6.48
  • Time: 1:05:55
  • Pace: 10:10

We all finished running in Waukegan, IL and headed to Chicago to shower/sleep at Andy’s place (thanks, Andy!).

My favorite part of the race was running across the finish line with my entire team. I honestly spent most of the second day at Ragnar obsessing over how sleepy I was. Watching our final runner come in and then joining her for the finish put tears in my eyes. I did not even know some of my Van 2 teammates names, but I liked them already because we finished a 200 mile race together 🙂


Team “Whatever Skirts…” is the best Ragnar team EVER!

Now that I’m done, I am not sure of whether or not I would run a Ragnar again.  On our last day of the race, I thought “never again.” I was EXHAUSTED. Now, however, I am itching for another Ragnar Relay. There is nothing like spending 2 days in a van with awesome people who are all working towards the same (fun!) goal of running 200 miles.

Have you ever run a relay race?