1 year of preparation, 2 vans, 2 days, 12 runners, and 200 miles. Our first Ragnar Relay race as team Keepin’ It Beatin’, Wasatch back is officially in the history books. Preparing for this race had a feeling unlike any I had ever done, for me this race had a deeper and greater meaning. Running a Ragnar is a physical experience that is unlike any other and it pushes you to your limits to a place you never thought manageable, and yet somehow you find the strength to cross the finish line.
Jam packed in a Dodge Durango 8 of our 12 runners traveled from southern Nevada to Logan Utah. There we met up with the other half of our team the night before the race. Tired, ready to eat, and feeling a little too cramped from the ride, we unload what we need to and check into the hotel. We split into groups, van 1, van 2, boys and girls, we each take our card keys and get ready for the race with a good night’s sleep.
8:40 a.m. and runner 1 along with all the runners in van 1, is at the starting line waiting for our team to be announced and the countdown to start our 200 mile foot race to Park City, Utah.
8:45 and the game is afoot!
2:30 p.m. and I check in van 2. For most of us this is our first Ragnar. This is my second and Jake is our veteran, with more than 5. Heather, Cyndi, Jaeger and Bret are running for the first time. But we are ready and waiting for runner 6 to come into the exchange chute. The anticipation is high and the feeling around the park is electric. Here at major exchange 6 you get to see for the first time who you are running with. Some runners will pass you like you’re standing still and others you will pass with a little joy that you’re actually faster than someone else. You see people dressed in all sorts of amusing costumes, hula skirts and bras, the ever popular tutu, the occasional speedo, super heroes, Cilfbar-barians, comic book characters, familiar movie characters and yes, men in dresses. Ragnar takes all types... and that is all part of the fun. All these runners have a great spirit and attitude and we are all there living through a crazy grueling experience, that yes, we paid to do!
Some of these runners become your friends on the journey because you see them at every exchange and some chat with you as you pace together on your run. The talks with these runners add to the great experience and camaraderie of your journey. It was always a great thing when people would ask us about our team, because today, our team Keepin It Beatin is running for Brady and the thousands of women that suffer with heart disease. We would tell them heart disease is women’s number one killer and they were astonished about that fact. The looks on their faces was always shock. Then we would ask them to join us by painting their thumbs red in recognition of heart disease and we never got turned down. Every team we asked and every person we petitioned was so happy to join in and paint their thumbs. Men and women happily held out their thumbs ready for a quick layer of red finger nail polish and then a big smile for the camera phone. It was humbling to witness.
8:00 p.m. The race continues on. We pass the slap bracelet (the long distance relay baton) back to van one. We are finished with our first leg and we get some good eats. We were lucky and found an Outback Steak house, Yum-o! A good rest and a good meal is much needed as we each still have 2 legs to go and the night run always seems to be the absolute hardest.
1:15 a.m. and we are at the next exchange waiting for van 1 and their last runner to cross into the chute. As we wait we ‘sleep’ a little and get to use a running toilet instead of the glorious port-a-potty that is called the Honey Bucket. Nothing about these portable bathrooms reminds me of honey but the irony is not lost. As we enjoy the flushing toilets, free hot chocolate and a quick rest we notice a sign that reminds us that we are in the wilderness, “mountain lions have been seen in the area”. That’s always a big confidence booster as you are about to go running in the dark, in the mountains basically alone. Yikes! Thankfully all our runners came into their exchanges with all their limbs intact, a little cold with 30 degree temperatures, but fully assembled. Disaster obverted!
As the sun rises we are finishing up our last legs of our second run and you start to feel exhausted beyond measure. You’re grumpy, you’re tired, you stink and you are ready for some serious sleep. You are officially running on empty. But for our team, this is when it gets interesting. Van 1 got lost in the night and they went to the wrong exchange. They were able to find themselves a place to sleep that they thought was the place they should have met with us but it wasn’t the major exchange. Oh the joys of getting lost, it happens all the time. Meanwhile our last runner is coming in and ready to hand off the slap bracelet but there was no one to hand it to. Jaeger was encouraged to keep on running as he came into the chute. He just ran 6.8 miles, but like the amazing 13 year old kid he is, he took the challenge and started to run the next leg that was 5 miles long. After 1.5 miles we switched runners and after another 1.5 miles van 1 finally caught up to us and we were able to switch vans. With all of van 2 runners back in the van and the exchange successfully done we continue onto Heber, where we are able to get a “shower” and a tiny rest in a bed before our final leg.
1:45 p.m. and we are barely making it to the last exchange to get Cyndi out for her last leg. This is it we are finally almost done. The envy of van one is settling in for us as we know they are done and we still have “miles to go before we sleep”. Tired hungry and still in need of a real shower, where we can wash all the stink off, we look for that last bit of energy to run the hardest legs of our race. There is something that happens as you realize you have just accomplished this huge feet of awesomeness. You have done something that most people call you crazy for doing, including yourself and you actually didn’t die! Emotions take over and you get excited, you cry, you rejoice, and you feel invincible, because you have accomplished the impossible. You are now part of an elite group of runners and it makes it all the more sweet because this time around you didn’t do it just for yourself you did it for women everywhere and even more so, you did it for Brady.
6:30 pm and I start my last leg. 10 miles down hill and I am ready. I’m gonna kill this thing and not let it kill me, at least I’m going to refrain from falling down the hill, well really more like a huge mountain. That's my only goal here, stay on my feet and don't roll down the mountian. On the way down I get the ever exciting message that Brady is at the finish line and is patiently awaiting our arrival. I couldn’t be happier that she was able to make it because she just had surgery only a few days before the race and traveling is a big deal that takes a great deal of energy. But as I’m coming into the chute I can see her. My heart is so happy. Brady, Phil and Bradach are laughing and talking with the rest of the team. They are clad in our team shirts and looking like they fit right in, minus the wheel chair and oxygen, but hey it goes with the territory. It was a sight to see and my absolute favorite moment.
3.2 miles to go! I pass the slap bracelet and our last runner is off. We are minutes away from our final destination. We wait patiently for our team number to be called out and our last runner to bring us in. “There’s Jaeger”! someone shouts. Then we hear the volunteer call “team 939”. Here we go! The last few feet as a whole team plus our 3 honorary teammates! Our team runs across the finish line and we are announced “Keepin It beatin, running for women’s heart disease” as we run under the huge orange Ragnar arch. It was the perfect ending to a great and difficult race. We are handed our medals then head over to the Ragnar wall. Our picture is taken and it is done. 36 hours, 6 cities, 2 vans, 12 runners, countless honey buckets, 100 bottles of water, no sleep, 40 red thumbs, 198 official miles,1 cause, for 1 woman, Brady.