Words: Rick Diaz
First, some context: Ragnar is a 200ish mile relay race to be covered by 12 runners in "leap frog" fashion exchanges- In this case, from Madison, Wisconsin to my beloved Chi-City. Each runner has three turns to run over the course of a day and a half in which you are essentially eating, living, and sleeping in one of two vans. Got It?! If you didn't know, now you know!
#ragnarchi 2015 began basically began for me when the 2014 edition concluded- It's how my mind works. I had such a great time that I couldn't wait to do it again and share it with as many crew-mates as possible. I immediately knew that I wanted to "quarterback" this event, so I elicited the help of my former van-mates and Ragnar veterans Robert Perez, Lily "Who the hell is Poppins?" Tong, and Emily Needham.
#crewlove: Things ended up coming together nicely. I mean, there's always hiccups though! People get hurt, unexpected last-minute changes to a schedule and work conflicts occur- In other words, sh$t happens- But we came together, planned it out to the best of our capabilities and pulled it off! It's amazing to me how personalities naturally emerge and things fall into place.
#shitjustgotreal: Let's fast-forward to race weekend. Thursday was our travel day- We met at Dunlays On The Square. (if it ain't broke, right?) after loading the vans, and driving three hours, we checked into our hotels for the night. Fortunately for us, we usually get late race times based on the fact that we have some of the faster teams in the field (yes, that's me blowing our own horn, but it's true!) This also gives us the opportunity to enjoy some of the nightlife that Madison has to offer, and boy, do we take advantage!
#dontbelievemejustwatch: Come Friday morning, it was time to get serious. The backdrop to this version of Ragnar is that our two teams are racing each other with the knowledge that team "Three Run Two" is expected to eventually pass team "3RUN2" on the course and how extra special that "kill" will be for whoever is lucky enough to get it. It's a chilly and wet morning, but as always, we're ready to race.
#dontforgettobreathe: My team, "3RUN2" has an hour head start on team, "Three Run Two"- Our 3-time Ragnar vet, Big Rob Perez is our lead-off runner and shoots out of the gate. My van-mates and I head over to the first exchange to greet him, but he doesn't show. Time is of the essence and he's nowhere to be found. Eventually, we find out that he's lost- It happens, but our advantage is promptly lost. A 6 mile run for him turns into 12, but eventually, we get back on track.
#catchmeifyoucan: A second story develops. We now have to make up about an hour of lost time and both teams are now neck and neck. The "kill" that we were anticipating occurring somewhere in the middle of the face now may happen right away. But instead of beating each other up over it, we rally with the understanding that everyone is going to have to run faster than they had originally planned!
#allblackeverything: ..And everybody did just that. This is how we make an individual action into a team sport. Runners from the two vans chip away seconds off of their pace and cut minutes off of the lost hour. It became our motivation and focus. Well, that and not to be caught by team "Three Run Two," but as an added bonus, both teams get to spend more time with each other during the actual race.
#werunragnar: Now the unique and grueling thing about Ragnar is that it's non-stop. Day turns into night. Your home is a van, specifically a tiny space within said van. Real meals become Quest bars and fruit. If you're lucky, a hard-boiled egg or two and a good night's sleep turn into power naps. Oh, and you gotta run- After all, that's the reason why we're all here!
#nodaysoff: It's now Saturday morning and we've been at it for over 18 hours with racing still to be done. Team "Three Run Two" has long passed us (as anticipated), and are crushing the competition. For us, we're still trying to shave time off of that lost hour. With none of our luster lost and sleep deprivation setting in, we set out to tackle the task at hand. After all, there's work to be done.
#nevernotrunning: We hit our third and final leg hard, generally the most difficult because of all the accumulated conditioned previously mentioned. Every time a runner finishes their part, we awe at the performance being put in! We know it's going to be close in making up for the initial mistake. All we can do at this point is head over to the finish line at Montrose Beach and wait for our final runner.
#usversusthepavement: When our anchor runners, Marcos "Mikey" Velazquez crosses the finish line at the 29:12:40 mark- More than 40 minutes ahead of schedule, there is a sense of accomplishment that's difficult to describe. We pulled together as a unit to get this done. We could've let that opening mishap ruin the experience, but instead we rallied around it!
#iwishicouldgiveyouthisfeeling: And that's it- Our Ragnar 2015 weekend experience. The results were great, (I guess I should point out that team "Three Run Two" finished in 27:08:42), the PR's were better and there were many of them be applauded, but the friendships forged were the best part of all of this..and the reason why we lace them up.
And now the countdown to #RagnarChi 2016 begins..