I recently finished my second Ragnar race. For my second Ragnar adventure I headed out with some old and new friends to conquer the Adirondacks course, which started in Saratoga and ended in Lake Placid. Known for beautiful scenery, the Adirondacks course lived up to its reputation. However, with beautiful mountain scenery come challenging hills and terrain; I do not believe any of our twelve runners were spared the misfortune of facing serious elevation on at least one of their legs. After completing the 200 ish miles, I had some time to sit in the beer tent and reflect on the past thirty-one hours of madness! What was most apparent to me was how many different and altered emotions you experience during a Ragnar race- your emotions definitely run the spectrum, come in stages and at times can be overwhelming. As I tried to summarize the race, I came up with a condensed version of how you can expect to feel, should you choose to take on the absurdity of a Ragnar!
The Seven Emotions of Ragnar:
Anticipation. The anticipation of the race begins months before you ever step up to the starting line. The organization and coordination required to flawlessly pull off this event is intense. The group emails, team decisions, and team costumes are not for last minute Sallys or those afraid of commitment. It always benefits the team, and makes the process go much more smoothly, if you have an invested and knowledgeable captain. Not only did our captain handle all the details with accuracy, he rocked his toga proudly and made our team (SaraTOGA Party), proud!
Excitement. I was lucky/unlucky – however you choose to look at it, to be the first runner in this race, which meant I got to start the race at the official start line. Wow, nothing like a good dose of pressure first thing in the morning. What I failed to realize was how small the group of runners would be that I was starting with. There were maybe twenty-five to thirty people, so blending into the crowd was not an option. Walking up to the start line, and hearing our team announced definitely gave me a serious adrenaline rush, which would probably explain the speed of my first mile (6:36, definitely a PR!). When you start Ragnar, whether you are the first runner or the last, there is definitely a sense of excitement in the air. You and your teammates are about to crush a 200 mile course, how could you not be EXCITED?!
Amusement. In the time between your first and second legs, during the daylight hours while your snacks are still fresh and the van smells decent, you will experience amusing van antics and have the ability to bond with your teammates. Enjoy it; it’s short lived and will change rapidly!
Pity and Shame. You would think my feelings of pity and shame would have occurred while running my first leg in a toga – not even close! After twenty hours of living in a van, running, driving, running some more and driving lots more you will begin to feel sorry for yourself and for your teammates. When you smell, when you’re starving, but almost too tired to care, feelings of pity and shame will begin to creep in. For me, my most amazingly shameful moment came around 1AM after my second leg and before my third. The shame took place in a middle school locker room, in the form of a prison-style shower. I was desperate to take a warm shower, I mean truly desperate! I had run ten miles and was covered in sweaty salt and I was freezing. I ended up taking a shower in the middle of a room surrounded by naked strangers who were also incredibly desperate to clean up. To make my shameful moment even worse I couldn’t find my towel, so all I had was my sweatshirt to dry off with. Not my proudest moment, but the shamefulness wore off and I was able to crawl into some dry clothes and catch a solid hour and a half of sleep in the backseat of the van.
Courage. Waking up in the back seat of a van, after taking a prison shower, facing five and a half hilly miles, in the freezing cold is not easy. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, do not believe them! The third Ragnar leg is tough, regardless of the distance. It will hurt and your body will want to stop. Facing your third leg requires courage. Find your courage, because the finish line is worth it. It is on your third leg that you will also feel indignation, anger and annoyance at yourself for ever agreeing to sign up for this ridiculous race! You will swear up and down during your third leg that “this is it, the last one, you’re going into retirement!” Oh stop it already; we know you’re full of it!
Pride. When you finish your miles you feel an incredible sense of pride! You stuck with it, you didn’t let your teammates down, you faced running a mountain in the middle of the night and lived to tell the tale. You will also feel pride as you watch each and every one of your teammates finish their final legs. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment, and it’s exactly what makes you forget the indignation you felt right before starting out on your third leg. It’s what keeps you coming back!
Denial. After running through the finish with your teammates, collecting your medal, free food and free beer, you will find yourself sitting in the beer tent reminiscing about your favorite and least favorite parts of the race. It’s during these moments that you convince yourself and your teammates that it really wasn’t THAT bad…I mean thirty-one hours, c’mon it wasn’t as tough as you thought it was going to be, you survived. After your second beer rumblings of the next year emerge, and in the blink of an eye, you’re addicted!
So tell me more experienced Ragnarians, did I leave anything out?