It’s Monday after the Ragnar Michigan relay, and the #ragnover is real! I’m reflecting on an epic racing weekend, and am feeling especially grateful that it all worked out so smoothly, as our team had an unusual way of coming together.
Most of you know I’m originally from Michigan, and have a fondness for both Ragnar Races and Northern Michigan. (Read about my previous Ragnars Ragnar Del Sol 2015, Ragnar Trail McDowell 2015, Ragnar Del Sol 2016). When it was announced this spring that there would be a race from Muskegon MI to Traverse City, MI (my happy place), I just about fell over. I immediately posted on twitter about it with giddy excitement. Some of my Midwest twitter friends were interested right off the bat. I had also been talking to my friend Jenn Voss, who is originally from MI but lives in IL about doing a Ragnar together for over a year. She was interested too!
Ok, now what? That’s nowhere near what we need for a team. The easiest thing to do would have been to just try to join an existing team, but I never seem to take the easy way! So I posted on a few facebook pages (Michigan Running Club and Ragnar Michigan ) about having openings, and suddenly I was a team captain! Say what? I live in Arizona, how is this going to work?
It was all luck, fate and magic after that. I found a group of dedicated, organized runners who once they committed, were in it until the end. It takes a village, though. Shoutouts go out to several members who pitched in to organize team calls, get magnets, headbands, a place for us to stay the night before, arranged for us to get our volunteer commitment reduced, and an app for us to all stay in communication. All in all, we got runners from 4 states (MI, IL, WI and AZ) - some friends, some strangers, to work together as a team. Awesome! Our team name was “UnRelay-Ted”. 11 ladies and one brave gent.
I flew in Thursday night and got picked up by one of my teammates Toby. We drove to Muskegon where the race started and were sharing a rental house on the lake the night before. Toby and I were the first to arrive. It was totally like being in an episode of the Real World on MTV where 7 strangers share a house, and arrive at different times and you’re wondering what they are going to be like. Crazy! We had been communicating for months over email, facebook and group calls so I felt a little like I knew some of them already.
Our official start time was 6:30 am. We started at Pere Marquette State Park which was right on the beach at Lake Michigan – but it was raining, really windy and pitch dark so we couldn’t see a thing of the great scenery around us. Such a shame!
I have been dealing with a torn meniscus going into this race, and was extremely worried about how this was all going to go down. I prepared my teammates for the walking I would inevitably have to do. I took the last 6 weeks off from running to give it a chance to improve and am scheduled to have surgery on 10/14. I got cleared to walk the race from my doctor.
When it was finally my turn to run ( I was runner #6), I was nervous. It was still raining, but thankfully not windy at the time. It was only 3.2 miles. I had decided I would just try to run a bit and see how it felt. It actually felt great, I really missed running. I was slow and cautious, and kept waiting for something bad to happen. I took some walk breaks to take pictures. We were in the cute town of Montague, running around a lake. Nice!
Things were vibing pretty well in Van 1, everyone was pretty much on pace except for one of our runners with a calf issue had to walk during leg 1. We made the transition to van 2 and headed off in search of lunch. Found a golf course that was closing for the season and was running out of food. They managed to scrape together enough to make us two pizzas. We had another long wait until it was our turn to run again, so we got our tats on and just chilled out with the other teams.
My second leg was around 930 pm and was 4.3 miles. However, it was raining pretty hard and I ended up on a very lonely dark wooded road by myself. I was pretty sure I was going the right way, but my mind started playing tricks with me, and I was praying no wildlife was out and about and hungry…My knee still felt amazingly good so I just ran with it (literally). We handed off to van 2 and drove 40 miles to the next big exchange. We slept (not really) in the van for about 3 hours. Talk about uncomfortable! And everyone had wet shoes and clothes so you can imagine how it was starting to smell in the van. Gross. I was able to get cleaned up and was trying to mentally prepare for round 3 which was around 930 am.
This leg was 8.8 miles. My teammate Toby and I had already agreed that it was too many miles for my gimpy knee. We agreed to trade out at 4 miles. So I started out the hilly route and wouldn’t you know it? That familiar ache came back. Within ¾ mile it was uncomfortable enough that I couldn’t run and just accepted I would walk the rest. There was a ridiculously large hill, I guess I wouldn’t have been running up it anyway! Toby took over and he still had 5 miles of hilly terrain ahead of him. Bless him for helping me out! Poor guy had already ran like 16 miles.
With that, we were done! We just had to head to the finish line and wait for van 2 to finish. We had a little time to shower and nap in between. Finish line festivities didn’t disappoint, it was at the lakefront, the beer garden had local North Peak brews, and we all got to relax a bit together.
I loved the scenery during this race, we went through some adorable lakeside towns that I had never seen before. State parks I’ve never seen before. The trees weren’t as colorful as I had hoped, but no biggie. The race was really well organized, especially for an inaugural event. I wish I had been able to get to know the people in van 2 better, that’s the one bummer about being split up. I’m thankful for so much here – good teamwork, beautiful scenery, my knee for holding out as long as it did, and the Ragnar spirit that keeps us all going! Can’t wait to do it again next year!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!