The main reason I used to avoid Ragnar races is now the reason why I’m addicted.
Being with strangers, fear of the unknown, and not wanting to get out of your comfort zone is now a good thing.
A few months ago, I put my name on a few different Ragnar race pages as an interested runner looking for a team. One week before Ragnar Great River, someone replied to my message and asked if I was still looking for a team. I just assumed she was talking about Ragnar Michigan and started typing back “nope, I’m all set”, and then it dawned on me that she was talking about Minnesota! I dropped everything and had to google when this race actually was. She had a FREE spot on a team that she was just going to hand over! How do I turn that down???!!!
Once it was cleared with the boss and hubby, I set out to find a great airfare deal. By the next morning, the price had jumped up $200. After much deliberation and searching, I got my original low price and flew all the way to La Crosse, Wisconsin, just 30 minutes from the start. I worked the afternoon from a cool coffee shop downtown and then had a delicious dinner before ubering over to Winona. At the end of dinner, it started raining cats and dogs.
My friend Jenn was in town with her team and met me for drinks while I waited for the rest of my vanmates to arrive from Minneapolis. Luckily the rain finally stopped before we left.
When the team arrived, they were so easy going, efficient and organized. They have done the race together for years, except there was 2 new girls this time. They put their stuff down and were in bed 10 minutes later. I was in van 1. Our team started at 5am from Winona.
Van 1 lineup:
Runner 1 - Kristina
Runner 2 – Brandy
Runner 3 – Tim (Shanny)
Runner 4- Amy
Runner 5 – Ruth
Runner 6 - ME
Our first legs were all very long, most of us had over 7 miles. So even though we had a 5am start, I didn’t run until noon and it was HOT. My leg was 7.6 miles. And a never ending hill.
After handing off to van 2, we drove to Pepin, WI and had lunch an outdoor café. Fabulous. It was VERY hard to resist having some local fried cheese curds from the cheese curd capital of nearby Ellsworth (and in hindsight, maybe I should have just given in!).
We chilled out at a campground while we waited for our turn. There was one charger in the van and our rides in the van were so short that our phones like never charged. It was a personal van, not a rental van, so it didn't charge when the engine was off, unfortunately. We were all hovering around 20% for the weekend, which makes me mental. I found an outlet there and managed to get up to 40%.
I am completely fascinated by water. I loved that we were near the river most of the way, and how it divided the two states. I did not know it was so hilly in southeastern Minnesota/western Wisconsin. Oh, and it seems like trains were going by like once an hour. No matter where we were. Lots of bluffs like this…and bugs!
My night leg was only 3.6 miles, yay! It was mainly country roads, but I pretty much always had someone in sight, which was great. The temps were in the low 60's and it felt great. I finished sometime before 2am and we drove off to Stillwater, MN to sleep. Two of us slept in the van and the other 4 either slept in the gym or outside. It felt great to stretch out and get some sleep. I slept terrible on the hotel floor the night before.
We started seeing teams skip legs or double up and were wondering if we should be doing that. We were running behind schedule, and I had an 8 pm flight home (8pm is when the finish line closes). We had a race official come up to us at exchange 28 and ask if we thought we would make it and she offered us the chance to do the same, basically to get van 2 started right away while we were still running our last few legs in van 1. We decided to go for it, and I’m so glad we did. I really wanted to cross the finish line together and celebrate as a team if possible before I had to leave.
These were some of the views at Exchange 28 at Afton State Park. Really pretty. When Ruth took off running, and we saw her as we drove away, she looked amazing in a sea of gold flower fields around her. Where was the official race photographer when you need them?
I headed out on my last leg, a 4 miler. Once again it was hot but it was hazy so it didn’t feel quite so bad. I found some good energy on this leg and had my best pace of the 3 legs. Gotta love ending on a high note! We grabbed some burgers and then headed straight for the finish. No time to shower in between. We had time for a beer or so while we waited for van 2 to finish. The finish area down by the river at University of Minnesota was beautiful. I’d love to see it in fall colors. Our team name was the "Knight Owls", because the captain's last name is Knight.
I earned my bonus medal, the fanatic. I love it!
In the end, I was happy to meet this new group of people and see this course. They were sweet enough to drop me off at the airport – I looked like a total freakshow at the airport with my Ragnar tat, sparkle skirt and compression socks! I mean what is considered "normal" at a Ragnar relay is not normal at an airport LOL. I made it to my gate an hour before flight and was stoked.
Special shoutout to Lori, whose spot I took - she really went out of her way to make it as easy for me as possible. And I appreciated how welcoming and friendly everyone was. I will say that I've never been with a group of ladies who was so uninterested in taking photos. Not of the scenery, not of each other, nothing. Our team had a really wide age range from 20's to 60's? Great dynamic, though. Hope to run with you all sometime again in the future!
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Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!