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We were all packed, and ready to head out and meet the team. Not meet UP with the team; actually MEET the team.That’s right–we had never met a single soul on the team before we went to our captain, Tim’s place the night before the race. We had been Facebook friends with Tim for months, though, and interacted with a few of the team members on the multi-sport group Tim has set up on FB. So this was a new adventure in every way. Here’s the team before we took off for Madison:

Front row, L-R: Quinn, Derik, Dan, Marty. Back row: Ramen, Melissa, David, Me, Katie, George, Lisa, Tim.
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Dan is hilarious. Also a sport, for volunteering to drive for Van 1.

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We spent some time decorating the vans. Here’s the cast of characters for Van 2:

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Tim was not only captaining the team and running the anchor legs, but also volunteering at the start line, driving Van 2, and excelling at not smelling. True story. We’re not sure he’s human.

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In a race like Ragnar, where it’s hard to tell how you’re actually doing as a team, some people keep track of their “roadkill”–the people they pass on each leg–and put it on the side of the van. Some folks find it distasteful, but I think it’s all in good fun. And that’s coming from someone who WAS the roadkill for most of the runners on my legs.

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Let’s go!

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I found this on the way to Madison. Gross, just gross. And yes, I painted my nails yellow just for Ragnar. Don’t they look fast that way? ๐Ÿ™‚

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We stayed overnight Thursday night at a hotel in Madison. Tim was getting up at 4 to volunteer at the start line, and it was nice to have some time together and to get some good rest before the race. The logistics of 4 women in the same room and showering meant that we probably got far less sleep than a lot of the guys–I was up at 6 AM and didn’t start running until 5PM! Oh well, it felt nice and relaxed and for someone who doesn’t do ‘nice and relaxed’ well, it was great to have the downtime, even if it was waking downtime.

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The start line. A relay will stagger start times over the course of several hours, so it’s hard to get a feel for how big the race actually is. This race had 422 teams, though, of 6-12 runners each–and mostly 12. That’s a lot of people. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this race went off flawlessly, logistics-wise, even with a substantial rise in the number of times from the previous year. We never encountered a problem, through 36 exchanges. Respect, Ragnar. Respect.

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The start line felt festival-ish. Kind of like Bonnaroo, only with runners instead of drunk college kids. They even have a merch tent. And yes, we bought things.

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I love this truck.

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10 AM came and it was time for team Better Off in the Long Run to start. You can see Derik on the far right in the red shirt and black visor. He took off and the rest of Van 1 headed to the first exchange.


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Van 2 had some time to kill. We made sure the electric was functioning. Then we went to have second breakfast. Scone. Coffee. Yes, please.

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After fueling, we headed to the first Major Exchange, #6, where Van 1 would hand off to us. These big exchanges are where a lot of the fun happens. A lot of vendors have tents set up, there are sleeping areas at night, and DJ’s playing music. It’s fun.

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The Running Waldos all ran in red and white stripes, and decorated their van accordingly. Note to self: crepe ribbon does not stand up well to road travel.

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We had time to kill. Time for another tat.

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It was hot. I mean, HOT. The 2011 race had been cold and rainy, from what I hear. Wisconsin was making up for it thisย  year. At last, around 3, Ramen came screaming in from a HARD 10-mile leg. He handed off the slap bracelet to Lisa and just like that, Van 2 was racing.

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Lisa handed off to David.

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See the GoPro on his head? It makes my neck hurt just looking at it. But he got GREAT stuff for the video.

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I was runner 9, so David handed off to me. I had an 8.2 mile route, and I have to say, I was a little nervous. I tend to wilt in the heat. But I was well-hydrated and pretty sure of my Atlanta-heat-training. But, as so often happens, I was thwarted by what went on in my head, and that affected my body.

Just prior to my start, we were talking about road kill and competitiveness. I’m not competitive when I run–I am my own greatest motivator and, in turn, worst enemy. Just in casual conversation, I was getting incredible racing tips from Katie and Tim, but they were tips I needed to save for different races, when I could implement them in a more familiar situation. Instead, I got all motivated and I set a bullseye on the woman who took off right before me. So stupid. She looked like someone I could take-but doesn’t any veteran racer know that you just CANNOT tell from first glance who will be faster or slower than you? I should’ve just focused on my goals for the leg and let her go. Instead, I went out scorching fast for me–and in the scorching heat, things started to go very wrong. First, I got goosebumps. The max temp that day was 93. Goosebumps, for me, in those kinds of temps, can either mean that I’m having a heat exertion issue, or a blood sugar issue. I’ll go with blood sugar on this day, as my inner dialogue starts to get incredibly stupid when that happens. Ergo, the conversation I began to have with myself:

“My sugar is going low. I need some Gatorade.”

“But you only have 8 ounces of Gatorade. The rest is Nuun–no sugar. What if your blood sugar drops later?”

“But I need it now, I should drink it now.”

“No, no, you definitely need to save it. You know, in case you need it. Later.”

“Oh, right. I’ll tough it out. Just in case I need it… later.”

Right. So my sugar was low and I was worrying about what happened if my sugar went low, later. Again, it makes me stupid. I went for the Nuun and nursed a little bit of Gatorade, and remembered that the van was going to be there to support me just before we went off the road and onto a trail at mile 4. I spotted the van about a 1/2 mile away, and was struggling mightily. But I didn’t want to struggle in front of all these people I didn’t know! So I faked being strong for another 1/2 mile. I have to say, van support is the coolest thing. They ALL got out of the van to come say hi. David had the GoPro, and Tim handed me water. “It’s not pretty, ” I rasped at Tim, and kept going. Then I had to KEEP LOOKING STRONG as I went up a sizeable hill while they loaded back up and drove past me. As soon as they passed, I thought, I need to call David and ask them to come back. With Gatorade. I need sugar. But then, we turned onto the trail and I didn’t want to risk the time. But I was just… done. I was still thinking wacky. I was hot. At this point the conversation in my head went something like this:

“What was I thinking? Why am I doing this? Oh look, pretty Wisconsin farmland. Anyway, how am I going to survive this race? I’m not even a real runner. Hey, I see birdies! Seriously, I’m not a runner at all! Who am I kidding? I hope none of the trees on this trail fall on me.” The trail became a lot of run/walk action. I can’t even stand to look at my Garmin from this run because of miles 5, 6, and 7. I WAS the roadkill for every runner 9 around.

(ASIDE: Male Ragnarians, it is never appropriate to say things like “lookin’ strong, mama” or “good job, boo” when passing a female runner. Just trust me. I know because IT HAPPENED TO ME. Don’t do it.)

But back to our story. I ran. Slowly. I walked some. I ran again. Finally, at about mile 6.5, yet another runner came whomp-whomp-whomping up beside me. “Did you go to Boyle County or Danville High School?” he said. “Um, Danville. Boyle County. Wait, both. But I graduated from Danville. WAIT WHY DO YOU KNOW WHERE I’M FROM?” I wracked my brain to think about what I was wearing that would give it away. He told me he had overheard me hollering at a guy in the parking lot at Exchange 8 about his UK shirt and saying I was from Danville. Ah. Anyway, this guy pretty much saved me the last 1.7 miles. He is from Central Kentucky, and we chatted the whole rest of the way. He must have known I was struggling, and his good, kindhearted and, as I found out, Mormon soul, paced me into the next exchange at a not-entirely-disrespectable clip. He could’ve completely smoked me, too, I’m sure. But instead… I don’t know. It was just so nice. So the way awesome way the running community can be. As we neared the exchange, he even told me to go in front of him. I refused but he insisted, which is why you see me below, about 2.5 feet in front of him, handing off the slap bracelet. Thank you, Man originally from Woodford County who now lives in Wheaton, IL. You helped me out, a lot.

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Alright. So with that ordeal over, I handed off to George, who handed off to Katie. Nightime safety hours approached and we donned our vests, headlamps, and blinky red lights. Katie later said something strange had happened to her knee part of the way through her leg, but finished strong and handed off to Tim. They are both speed ninjas, so it was hard to get them on camera.

Tim is… fast. Like, AG wins in both his half-marathons this year. He’s a strong runner. He blazed to Exchange 12 (another big exchange with lots of stuff, people, and food going on) right on time. Here’s an interesting thing that happened that we hadn’t thought of. For Ragnar, a race worker stands about .1 mile from the exchange and reads your bib number into a walkie-talkie. The receiver of the message calls out the number so the next team member is ready to go. But bibs sometimes get messed up, or it’s dark, or whatever. At this exchange, we were expecting Tim anytime. The worker at the exchange called ‘224.’ David said “I bet that’s Tim. They read the bib wrong.” And so it was. But since Dave had said that, Derik was ready and we lost no time. My tip: During your leg, when you see the walkie-talkie, yell out your bib number to help them out.

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Here goes Derik… setting out on the first of Van 1’s second legs. Does that make sense?

Coming up: We will play “Alien, Homeless, or Ragnarian?,” discover the most delicious twist on the S’more since Nutella, and answer the question “Will Lindsay get the Sunrise Leg in this race?” All that, and more, in tomorrow’s post.

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