When I put the call out for guest posts while I’m away running Ragnar Los Vegas, I secretly really wanted Ann to post, so when she offered, I jumped on the chance!
Ann and I met (in a round about way) through blogging and bonded over running, so it’s so special to me that she’s writing on my blog, about running.
Ann can also confirm that I’ve said (on multiple occasions) that I would not run a Ragnar. And yet, here I am, running a freaking ultra Ragnar. Eating my words indeed.
With just 24 hours to go before I start my Ragnar journey, this seems like the perfect time for this post!
Now that I’ve blabbed on – I’ll let Ann take it away.
Hi! I’m Ann. Ange has mentioned me a few times around these parts, and every once in a while (see: one post in the last six months) I write too. Over here.
As a runner and Ragnarian myself (Chicago in both 2012 and 2014—both 12-man teams, because I’m not THAT much of a masochist), when Ange mentioned needing people to guest post for her, I figured hey, why not. I haven’t stretched my writing muscles in a while, and it’s always enjoyable to help a friend.
Throughout the months and weeks leading up to this race, Ange and I have had MANY conversations about all things running and Ragnar. Being able to wax poetic about my favorite of all races has been a phenomenal reminder of just WHY Ragnar is my favorite race.
Since Ange and her team are running what is for all intents and purposes 18 legs, here are my 18 Reasons that I love Ragnar.
1. Van decorations and runner costumes
I will say that both Ragnar teams I’ve been on has not ever pulled out the stops when it comes to decorations or costumes. Mainly because I don’t think any of us really enjoy running in costumes, but also because, well, lazy. However, getting to gawk at some of the other teams is incredible. One year an ultra team ran in tutus and Troll doll wigs. One van once was the Dumb and Dumber dog van. It’s always a reason for an extra smile when you see such creativity surrounding you.
2. Other runners
The thing about the other runners is that they KNOW. They know how hard this race can be, and they’re unwavering in their support for you because they know you’d do the same for them. In 2012, the weather was brutal. Temperatures hit 80F/27C by 10am, and we weren’t starting until 1030.
My first leg was a Very Hard leg starting around 530pm, and temperatures had soared to over 90F/32C during the day. On the first half of my leg, my team was able to stop and give me Gatorade. I’m not a huge fan of running with things in my hands, so I gave the bottle back to them (absolutely my mistake). By the time I got to the mid-way point, I was hurting. Right at a turn-off onto a non-van supported trail chunk of the leg, a couple runners were waiting for their teammate. Seeing me coming, they immediately grabbed a bottle of water from their cooler and handed it to me. I quite honestly would not have finished that leg standing if it hadn’t been for those other runners and their generosity.
This is how Ragnarians are.
More than just the comments “you can do it, keep pushing” from others around you, if someone is struggling someone will be there to help, even if they aren’t your teammate. The camaraderie and support is overwhelming and incredibly humbling.
3. The scenery
While I may not have even run the most gorgeous Ragnar, no matter what, there will be some breathtaking views. Whether it’s how mesmerizing a huge field of waving corn looks when you’re overlooking a valley or whether it’s how the sun peaks out over Lake Michigan, you’re guaranteed to mentally pause and just say, “Wow.”
4. Shot blocks and Clif’s bars
Aka life blood. There’s not much in the way of “real food” on Ragnar, given how finicky runners and their tummies can be, so finding something to give you a boost of glycogen or even something that just tastes damn good (white chocolate macadamia nut Clif’s bars are my JAM) is always good.
5. The swag
Ragnar is top notch with their medals. I am a self-proclaimed bling junkie, and I’ve never been disappointed. They’re heavy. They’re cool looking. They’re a bottle opener.
6. The night run
One of the things that I hear most often from runners is how much they love the race atmosphere. Hundreds and thousands of people all in one place, adrenaline pumping, music blasting. It’s infectious. One thing, though, that I love about running is that at its core it’s a solitary sport. There is no us. There is no them (unless you’re trying to win, which I most definitely am not).
There is just you.
You and your shoes and the road.
The night run (both times my second leg) is where this is felt most profoundly. There is something freeing about cruising through the cooler air, moon shining super brightly above. It’s the time where you’re free to just….run. Sometimes you’re alone, sometimes there’s someone just ahead, but the night leg is where running is its most bare, and that to me makes it the most beautiful leg.
7. The finish line
I don’t even mean this in that “hey, it’s nice to be done,” which yes, it is, but in that Ragnar has a killer finish line. This is where hundreds of teams are all out to support their final runner. Where all the sleeplessness and exhaustion and sweat and in some cases tears are culminating. The best part, though, is running through the finish line. This is not a “cheer until your runner is done” finish line. When the last runner gets about 100 meters out, the rest of the team jumps in with them. It is a team race. You finish as a team. There is not much better than that. Well, except for maybe the pizza you get immediately after getting your medal. That’s pretty stellar.
8. Major exchanges
It’s a giant party! Complete with actually getting to hang out with the other van (or in our case this year, MEET them). There is food and music and vendors and samples. Top notch.
9. Tan lines
I know this is odd, but hear me out. It is common among runners to lament how difficult tan lines are to get rid of (despite my best efforts, that racer back line on my back will always be there). At Ragnar, not only are you able to jack up current tan lines by wearing three different running outfits, but they give you temporary logo tattoos, and if you’re like me, you’ll have a reminder on the back of your leg from the best race ever, where you happened to forget the sunscreen…..two weeks before you’re in your sister’s wedding. Oops.
10. Support from home
Ragnar is crazy. It really is. Both times it would have been incredibly difficult to take off for a weekend of a lot of miles without a husband at home sending encouraging texts, telling me he was proud of me, and surprising me both times with a bouquet at home. Feeling like even though I might be a crazy person yet he loved me anyway was what kept me going in some of those excruciating final leg miles.
11. The feels
All of them. Joy, exhaustion, pride, hope, fear and everything in between. This race will bring out the full range. It is remarkable.
12. The memories
This is a race that is truly unforgettable. I talk about Ragnar no fewer than three times a week, just because there’s always something that will spur a memory. A smell, a muscle twinge, a funny story. Every time it never fails to make me smile.
13. Post-Ragnar sleep
YOU go run 20 miles on an hour and a half of sleep in the last two days and tell me you wouldn’t love finally crawling into bed.
14. Post-Ragnar meals
Remember earlier when I mentioned that there was no “real” food on Ragnar? I mean it. In 2012 we got a pancake breakfast after leg 2. This year we had Wendy’s before leg 2. And we were the lucky ones. Being able to sit down and not have to worry about getting to your next exchange WHILE shoving an obscene amount of food into your gullet is as close to Nirvana as I think I’ll ever get.
15. Post-Ragnar showers
I’m going to tell it to you straight. The first shower after Ragnar is the best shower that I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve completed a Tough Mudder. I feel like that’s saying something.
16. Your team
Here’s where things get a little sappy. For those 30+ hours, your team is your family. More specifically, your van is your everything. Those five people with whom you are sharing sleepless nights and sweat-filled air, poop stories and debates on whether to try and nap or stay up until your leg, are going to be your best friends, even if it is just for the duration of the race. You get to know these people, many of whom you may never have met, and you share this remarkable experience together. You learn from each other and share with each other. They’re who will jump out of the van to run with you when you’re hurting, even if they’re in pain themselves, and who will send you supportive text messages when they know that you’re struggling to finish a leg. This is one of the things I love so much about Ragnar. You’re running on your own, but you’re helping a team. You’re running for them just as much as you’re running for you. The beautiful part is that so are they.
17. Your own strength
Ragnar is hard. Running on no sleep is hard. Running on no sleep in hot weather on a hilly course is hard. And you know what? You finish anyway. You push through mentally, you will your legs to go a little farther, and just a little farther than that, and you give Ragnar everything it asks for and more. You finish strong because you are strong. And often it is very nice to be reminded that you are strong.
18. What you learn
I love Ragnar because every time you run, you learn something new. Sometimes you learn that you have to let go of your “let’s plan EVERYTHING” mentality because things don’t always go the way you expect them to. Sometimes you learn that you really ARE capable of getting in and out of an absolutely disgusting port-a-potty without vomiting. Sometimes you learn that it’s worth it to strip naked in the back seat of a Suburban in order to change if your clothes are wet to the point of making the cold painful. Sometimes you learn and relearn just how crazy and just how incredible this whole running thing is.
I know Ange is going to crush her Ragnar. I can’t wait to find out what she’s learned this time around.
Can you guys see why I love this gal?!
PS – it was her birthday yesterday, so don’t be afraid to give her a little extra love.
As a house keeping note: if you’d like to follow along (since there isn’t a live track system) here’s how you can do it.
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