Last week Digital Running led their 14th Ragnar Relay. This was a 195 mile race from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. We had 12 runners on our team + me as staff = 13, in 2 vans, and finished in roughly 31.5 hours. Here’s the scoop:
Because this was my 14th Ragnar, I kind of have packing down to an art, even for different temps. The packing for this race was a little different because we had a few days of vacation both before and after the race to pack for. Luckily, I was able to leave an extra suitcase at my cousin’s condo in Chicago, because there really isn’t room for a full sized suitcase in a 12-passenger van with 6-7 people living out of it.
On Thursday we went to Midway airport in Chicago to pick up the 2 vans, which were reserved months ago and confirmed 2 days in advance. They only had one. They dicked us around, and called other locations, and we called other rental companies, and eventually they found us another 12-passenger van at O’Hare. So the team climbed into van 1 and we all drove to O’Hare to get van 2. There were lots of references to the Seinfeld episode about not fulfilling a reservation. Stupid BUDGET car rental and their stupid giving away of vans after a phone confirmation 2 days before pickup!! (and, yes, the video clip below is worth the 32 seconds of giggles.)
Anyway, we made it to O’Hare through the horrible Chicago traffic and only lost about 45 mins. Then we checked into the hotel, found out who our roommates were, and got ready for our pre-race team dinner. My husband and I were obviously sharing a bed, but in the other bed in our room was someone on the team we had never met before. We’ll call her Shirley. Shirley entered the room with a threesome joke. Literally, as she was putting in the electronic key to open the door, she was making a threesome joke to total strangers, and then proceeded to tell us about her upstairs neighbors who hit on her, and are now awkward to see in the hall. And she demonstrated how the guy massaged her neck on my neck. Now, I am pretty open and easy going, so although this could have been a red flag, it wasn’t.
We washed up a bit, I put on a cuter top, and we went to dinner at an Irish pub that was close to the hotel, and had a big-box store nearby so that after dinner we could pick up van necessities.
photo from http://www.janeausten.co.uk
At dinner I was introduced to Scotch Eggs for the first time. A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or fried. I was surprised that anyone about to run a relay would want to eat this, but to each their own… I ordered cottage pie, a wanna-be-Irish meal similar to Shepherds pie but made with chicken in place of ground beef.
At the big box store I got a dark chocolate bar for the van – they had my favorite brand, Endangered Species! We also got granola bars and bananas and a fuji apple. We stocked up the van coolers with bottled water, and would fill them with ice the next morning from the hotel ice machine.
Then we went to bed. Brian showered while our roommate Shirley slept immediately and I watched a few minutes of college track and field finals (on mute) before falling asleep myself. I left the TV on as a nightlight for Brian, and he came to bed at around 11:00PM. Later he said he didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning all night. I remember waking around 3am because I thought a light went on, but it was Shirley texting, and I fell back asleep. Our alarm went off at 5am.
Team “How Now Spotted Cow” shirts
Brian hopped out of bed and started filling the coolers with ice down the hall at the ice machine. I did my bathroom stuff and got dressed, and went down to the lobby continental breakfast to find teammates to hand out our matching team shirts and headbands. I had a little bit of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins on top, and took 2 hard boiled eggs for later. Little by little the team trickled into the lobby, the shirts were all handed out, and we left.
I was in van 2. We had a great group of people. There was me and Brian, 2 runners we’ve had on our team before – Terie, a former smoker who got healthy and lost weight 3 years ago and runs like a machine, and Justin (whose wife was volunteering at the finish line) – and 3 new friends: Whitney who was upbeat and youthful, Bob who knew a fun fact about every city anyone mentioned, and Denise who kept her head about her well and kept our eye on the prize. We jived and blended well.
We met up with van 1 at the start for a team photo. Shirley said, “Why do I need pictures with you, I’ll never see you again after tomorrow.” (red flag #2) As usual, I found the DJ and gave him some prizes to hand out on behalf of Digital Running. Unfortunately, we were there before the 8am city allowance of music, so the start line was rather quite. Runner 1 started at 7:30am in Madison, WI.
We took some more photos with Van 1 and with another team also dressed in a cow theme (below) and van 1 headed off to the course while we headed off to breakfast.
Veggie Skillet with swiss cheese
After a yummy veggie skillet surrounded by neighboring plates of french toast (because everyone but me thought they should carb load, remember I wasn’t running, and I don’t carb load with white bread anyway), we went out to the parking lot to decorate our van. It’s always fun to write each other names, cute sayings, and blast our team out there using window markers on the van. We tally up “roadkill” – other runners we’ve passed – and everyone can check off their 3 legs of the race as they run them.
Whitney labels the cow on our van “Udderly Amoosing”
At exchange 6 we met up with the other van. Their 6th runner handed off the baton to our first runner. Our first runner was runner #7 for the team. Runner 6 was Shirley, our roommate. She had a HOT 10 miles. I’m sure it was brutal. I could not have done it. But she came in strong, handed the baton to Terie, and I took a few photos. As I put my camera away I saw her yelling at Brian. Brian walked away, and she came to me, grabbed my arm and said, “I need to talk to you.” We walked about 20 feet away from the crowd and I suggested we find some shade, since she just had a long, hard, hot run. “Did something happen?” I asked, thinking maybe she fell on the course or had an encounter with another runner… but no… Here is where the drama starts…
“Did you and Brian have sex in our room last night?” Shirley asked me.
What?!?!? In a hotel room, while away on business (for me, this is business…) with a total stranger in the bed next to us, who was up texting at 3am??? UM NO!!!
But she said she knew I “wouldn’t admit it”, and had apparently discussed this with all of van 1 already, who had been texting our van 2 – and everyone was gossiping about this but me and Brian!
So then I had a decision to make: Do I let her continue to lie about me, bring down the morale of the van, and run the race she paid for; or do I ask her to leave the team, 200 miles from home while hot and sweaty from a ten mile run? The decision was almost hers, when she said, “I have friends who live near by and I might just have them come pick me up because I am so uncomfortable right now.”
I decided to gather my pride and let her keep it between her and her van mates. In the meantime, we had to get to the next exchange because we had a runner from our van on the course! Great timing Shirley, you couldn’t have gone paranoid cuckoobird while we were still in a quite hotel room at 5:30am?
So I talked to her van mates, said she was making some things up and might need some time (they had about 5 hours to kill after all since our van was the course) and went to find my van. I wasn’t angry, but I was a bit flabbergasted and mentally thrown off course.
And then drama #2 hit. The other van texted us that there was just an announcement made at exchange six for all Runner #7’s. A bridge was out, the course was altered, 3.8 miles was added, and Terie who was ALREADY ON COURSE would now be running over 11 miles. Plus, she was running on a trail, so we couldn’t just pull over and tell her, and her cell phone was in the van, so we couldn’t text her.
Instead, we drove to the end of her leg, and went backwards through the last few miles of her leg looking for her. Meanwhile Justin texted Ragnar for permission to put another runner on the course for the final 3.5 miles. This would keep Terie’s leg to under 8 miles, and our next runner – Denise – only had a 2.8 mile leg, so it would bump her up closer to 6 miles. Ragnar OK’ed the runner switcheroo via text. We found Terie. We gave her water. She said she wanted to “finish what I started”, so Denise stayed in the van while Terie unexpectedly ran 11 miles during the hottest part of the day.
Luckily, it wasn’t 105 degrees like Ragnar Chicago last year, it was more like 84 degrees.
There is always one point during a Ragnar when someone becomes the team hero. This was that moment. Terie would be that runner. I smiled to myself. Then I texted the other van with an update, and asked how morale was over there. I heard back “good”. So I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. If I kept denying Shirley’s accusations, I might look MORE guilty. If I shut up and let her prove herself to be a drama queen, people would side against her.
That’s pretty much what happened. She added plenty of fuel to the fire when she turned out to be a total nutso – arguing over what people should write on the side of the van, slamming the race guide down and yelling that everyone better be there to support her at the end of each of her legs, and insisting she’d be an awesome navigator, but refusing to hold the GPS or give directions. I figured I didn’t need to worry about anyone believing her lies, but I felt bad for her vanmates who had to placate her.
Like I said, this was Digital Running’s 14th Ragnar. We build teams of mostly strangers who meet online. People always ask if it ever has worked out poorly, and we have never had a good story to tell. Until now. Total nutso Shirley. I hope she isn’t reading this and won’t eat my children in her made-from-candy house Shirley. Luckily, she asked to switch with runner #5, so she could stay in the van whenever our van was around, so I never saw her again.
The rest of the race pretty much went as planned. We ran, we ate, we slept from 4:45am-7:00am in a tent by a school football field. We took funny photos, tried not to fart in the van, and brushed our teeth with bottled water outdoors. And we all ate peanut butter, I’m pretty sure.
Van 1 lost some time in the middle of the night, and Terie had an extra 3.8 miles as noted above, so our 30 hour finish ETA became 31.5 hours. Shirley skipped the finish line and cabbed home, so we gave her medal to Justin’s wife Heather, who was volunteering at the finish line and also runs Ragnars.
It was fun seeing teams we were tweeting with on the course! (below)
Mustache and Ride
Don’t stop till you get enough
That night, the hotel room had JUST us with our kids, and another room with Justin, Heather and Whitney. We all went out for deep dish pizza and fell asleep by 10:30pm. At 9am, we walked around Chicago a bit for breakfast and packed up.
New friends, old friends, new stories to tell, and more photos for the albums. Ragnar #14 is in the books!
And in 2 weeks, we’ll be off to Ragnar Wasatch Back, the first-ever Ragnar celebrating its 10th anniversary with LOTS of hills and fresh mountain air. A HUGE After Party is expected! This was my first of 5 Ragnars this summer. Maybe I’ll have more stories to share next month! If you are ever interested in joining one of our teams, click here.