The Ragnar Relay

Here is the long version of what occurred during my adventure of representing the Chances for Children Charity in the Ragnar Del Sol Relay Series. So, it is my recommendation to get comfortable, sit back and come along with me on my journey.

The Alarm went off at 5 am. I tried to keep to my usual routine of getting ready for a typical day, even though this was a day that was anything but ordinary. Our first vehicle of 6 runners was to meet at Bass Pro Shop in Mesa, near where the finish line at 7:30 am and drive to the start. So I decided to leave around 6:00 am. With the van all packed with Gatorade, towels, flashlights, reflective vests, I thought to myself, “Am I missing anything for the race?” Oh, yea my toothbrush. This was the first time I had to take a toothbrush to a race. Even an Ironman race would finish long before we would come across the finish line. So, off I went to pick up the rest of the crew. At 7:30 AM we were all loaded up and ready. We had a full tank of gas, luggage, videos, ice chest, water jug, junk food, etc. We started driving for about 90 minutes to the start of the race in Wickenburg, AZ. We got checked in, got our running shirts (they are awesome long sleeve blue shirts), goody bags, and race numbers. We are team 150. There were 151 total teams entered, and we entered our team on the last day to enter a team in the race.

Let me explain to you about the race before we get started on the run. The race is a total of 181 miles from start to finish. Based upon your teams (12 members in our case) projected time per mile to complete the race they place you in a start group. The slowest teams started at 9am, we were set to go at 10:00am, with an average of 10:00 minute per mile speed. The fastest teams left at 6:00pm (8 hours after us, freaks). At different transitions, if you arrived too early you would be penalized time, but with starting an hour after the slowest teams, we did not have to worry about that at transitions 6 and 12, but it was possible that we would have to slow down at transition 18 because that is where it is statistically for the faster teams to really catch up and pass the slower teams. From that point on, it would be impossible for our team to be too early. Van 1 (my van) carried runners 1 through 6 and Van 2 carried runners 7 through 12. Runner 1 would run segments 1, 13, 25; runner 2 would run segments 2, 14, and 26, and so on all the way to the end.

At 10 am, Stan (our first runner) started and was out the gate with a great pace, the other five of us piled in the van and headed out to find a location a couple of miles up the road to pull over and wait for him to cheer him on. We tried to do this every couple of miles. After 5.2 miles he came into the first transition area and passed the armband off to Beth (our second runner).

She is lightning fast, and flew past several other runners on her 7.2 miles of running up and down (total elevation loss/Gain of 267 feet and Loss of 317 feet) she finally made it to the second transition.

Jeff took Leg 3 where he also passed a couple of individuals and made his 5.9 miles (-167/+215 Loss/Gain) segment look like a walk in the park down Highway 74. We pulled into Exchange 3 and waited for him to come down the road.

It was now my turn to show the team what I am made of Yea right. Jeff handed off the armband to me and I was off for my lovely 5.6 mile (-239/+135) run at 12:03 PM. I was figuring that this would take me the better part of an hour. It turned out to be a great sunny afternoon around the low 80’s with just a hint of white clouds in the air and all the beautiful cacti (that is plural for cactus) all around. I never ran along a highway before, so I did not have any idea to expect. First word of wisdom, never litter, you don’t know who might be running on the side of the road. The only bad part of this run is that my feet got numb because I had my shoes tied too tight. Oops. The cars were passing by and I would wave back to them. I was really fun to run on such a beautiful day. I came across the transition in 54:33 minutes. I did get my heart rate up to 193, but my average was only 155, it must have been one of those hills. I was so glad to be done with my first segment of the race, I tried to use a shot block, and it did not seem to help me on this run. I handed off the arm band to Gary who had a 5.8 mile (-365/+217) run.

He seemed to do quite well, as we made the two stops to cheer him on and then made it to the fifth exchange where we would watch him come in. His final 2.5 miles were down hill and when he came across the exchange, he was foaming at the mouth and totally spent. The spring weather had caught up to him and he still did one hell of a run. After several minutes of resting and bathroom, etc. we were able to get on with our adventure.

John had now taken the armband and was headed for a brutal hilly run of 4.7 miles (-603/+554). John claims to be a casual runner, but he runs like a wild man. He never slows down, never drank any fluids, and was a great asset to the team. His leg of the race ended at the Lake Pleasant Regional Park where we met up with the rest of the Team (Van 2). When John came through the shoot at the transition, runner number 7 from van 2 took off and van 1 now had some well deserved rest before meeting up with van 2 around 9:00 PM. I do not have much to discuss about van 2, I was not there, but I want to say to all the individuals of van 2 (Mark, Rebecca, James, Vicky, Diana, and Margaret) thank you for participating in the race with me and making this experience ever so memorable.

Van 1 left the park and headed into Scottsdale, where we had reserved a hotel room. We checked in and took turns showering and getting a clean pair of running clothes on. Thank you for showering, I really appreciated it. We then headed out to get some dinner in us. We ended up at PF Chang on Scottsdale Rd in North Scottsdale. I got to use my gift card from the Rock and Roll marathon. I had Cashew chicken and that was just what the doctor ordered. How ever several hours later a couple of nameless individuals indicated that Chinese food was probably not the best suggestion for them during a race. I will take note of that for next year. We went back to the hotel and rested and watched some ESPN, remember we are in a race. Stan decided to leave a present for van 2 when they got to the room while we were running. He TP’d the room for them. We thought about short sheeting the beds, but we did not do it. Oh yea, Jeff’s mom flew in from Seattle to see him and drove up to our hotel to see him for a couple of minutes before heading to his place. It was a pleasure to meet Jeff’s mom, she is a nice lady. I got a call from Mark that Van 2 had completed the 10th leg of the race and had two more to go. So we headed out to the 12th transition. When we got to the transition at a junior high school, there were people who were sleeping in the parking lot in sleeping bags and the gym was also open to sleep in there also for $5.00 and they let you use a mat to sleep on. There was even a couple of girl scouts there selling their cookies. Who can resist those little cookies?

Shortly after arriving, van 2 drove in and their runner was just down the street and making good time. When they handed the armband to Stan, there were only a hand full of teams in front of us. I do not recall the exact time, but I am guessing it was around 8 PM. Stan took off for his 7.2 miles (-116/+537) with John on the bike following him, and the rest of us got in the van and headed down the road, we pulled into an area across the road from the Boulders Resort in Cave Creek, AZ. They were doing some great time considering it was dark out and few if any street lights. Shortly after they started, Stan’s light fell and hit the ground and broke, so he took the light off the bike and continued running.

We loaded the bike on the back of the van and started to leap frog with the runner which seemed to work very well. We would drive ahead of the runner until they were a ways behind us, but we could still see their light, and wait for them to pass us. We continued to do this until they were about 2 miles from the exchange and then we needed to get the next runner there so they could be prepped to run.

Stan then handed the armband off to Beth and she took off for a 6.8 mile (-561/+0) down Pima Road and turned left at Lone Mountain Rd. Both roads were pretty level but a constant downhill slope, so we were able to keep her in sight all the time. She made it to the transition 14 and Jeff was on his way to conquer his 6.9 mile (-254/216) segment.

While he was running we needed to fill the van up with gas. We did get him his water and 'GU' at mile 4 of his leg. We then made it along to Exchange 15 and I am now up.

Jeff handed off the armband to me at 11:42 PM, I headed off into the dark residential neighborhood for my 6.0 mile (-259/214). One of the first things I did was to shut off the music and take off the headset to enjoy the quiet night. I had to make it through a maze of dirt streets and almost twisted my ankles several times, so I slowed down some to compensate for that until I got into some solid ground. I looked at my watch just as it turned 12:00am. I am running straight through two months? That almost sounds odd. Anyways, back to the race, the van took a wrong turn and they finally found me, and leapfrogged for the remainder of the run. I did have them hold my water bottle till I got 3 miles into the run which freed up my hands. It was a nice change to not run with the water. They then headed to the next transition while I finished the last three miles. There I was, running solo again and it was great, I even took the opportunity to run down the middle of Hayden Rd on the yellow lines. I think I went about 15 minutes without seeing any signs of life. What a total thrill. I ended up getting to transition 16 in 62 minutes for an average pace of 10:20. We called the Van 2 and told them that we were on schedule to get to transition 18 at or before 2:15 AM.

This is the time that we could not arrive before without getting penalized for getting there too early. I was really feeling good about the run. I handed the armband off to Gary and he had a nice 4.4 mile (-146/+277) run and it had some street lights and sidewalks. He seemed to have recovered from his earlier run and made it seem like a walk in the park. He got to transition 17 and handed it off to our hard core runner John.

He took off up Pima road and turn onto Happy Valley RD. We got into the van and after getting situated, we drove up Pima and looked for him, we then turned onto Happy Valley and drove up a mile and no sign of him. We discussed the possibility of him missing the turn. We turned around and headed up Pima and found him a mile up the road, we pulled over in front of him and he passed us. We had to yell at him to stop. We had him get into the van and drove him back to the intersection where he missed the turn. The sign to turn was in the middle of a bunch of construction signs. We then headed to transition 18 which was in the parking lot of Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant. We set up Gary about 200 yards down the road from the transition, to stop John so he would not enter the shoot before 2:15am.

We were the third team to leave transition 17 and john passed one of teams ahead of us with ease early on. The team in front of us went through the shoot before the allocated time and had to wait there till 4 AM. I asked the official what time she had and she indicated she had 2:14, so I sent a runner down to let them know to come on in. We crossed the shoot at 2:15:10 and were now in first physical place. Remember that some teams left 8 hours after us and were probably eating up our times like cheerios. We liked looking at it as we were in physical first place.

Van 2 got some rest and food in them and was ready to make it happen. Van 1 drove back to the hotel and showered and laid down for a quick rest. Van 2 did not pull any pranks on us, they were really nice. I called Van 2 and told them to call us when they finished their fourth segment. We got the dreaded call about 4:30 am. We packed up and headed up to Fountain Hills Middle School. When they finished their segments our team was still in FIRST PLACE. Stan took off running and a team of Air Force personnel from Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. They had on the side of their van “Either you are in first or you are last” We will make them eat those words (they started at 1PM, 3 hours after us) I figured if we could keep up with them, we were doing well. Stan ran on his last leg of the race and got to run around the famous lake and fountain in Fountain Hills. If you are not familiar with the fountain, check Guinness book of world records for the largest fountain. The Air Force team was able to pass Stan with only one mile left in his leg. Once Stan handed off the armband to Beth for her 6.4 mile (-268/+271) run, the sun was starting to come up so there was now no need for lights or reflective vests.

Beth took off after the lead and her leg was down hill for just about all 268 feet elevation and then back up the rest of the way. She flew down Beeline highway after the other team. As we watched her from across the highway we all commented on what wonderful running form she has. With just about a half mile to go on her leg, as she turned off the highway she passed the Air Force team member, (right in front of his entire team). She got to the exchange and Jeff then had to complete his 5.5 mile (-358/+559) very hard run along dirt roads. On one of the hills that he was running up we were passing him in the van and we had to spin the tires just to get up the steep grade. Jeff never faltered or stopped to walk the entire time. We then pulled up to exchange 26 and my turn to run.

As I put the van in park behind the SUV, I looked at the custom plate and it was like????MO…. Could that be Mo’s SUV…? I then look up and there she is smiling at me. I could not help myself but to get out and give her a big hug. It was so exciting to see someone that I know at this point in the race. We talked for just a moment and Jeff came up over the hill and handed off the armband to me. That is the last I saw of Mo for the rest of the race. Thank you, Mo for volunteering for the race and giving me some words of encouragement. I was off for my 4.3 mile (-123/+401) run, I am physically in first place, what a rush it is knowing that there is no one in front of you and 150 people chasing after you. I will never forget that moment. I got down boot hill and turned up Beeline Highway. I decided to give it everything I had for the next 4 miles. I wanted to continue at a good pace of about 10 minute miles, with the incline that I have never run before, I was set.

After about 5 minutes of running up the incline, something blew past me with orange shoes, two long legs, and one skinny body. At first you would think to try to keep up with someone that just past you, but I did not skip a beat and even think about that, I knew better. About 2 minutes later my teammates came by and told me to ignore that person, and my response was 'WHAT PERSON????' I finally made it up the hill after a total of 39 minutes since I left the exchange. There were three sheriff officers that stopped all the traffic on the highway for me to cross without even slowing down. Thank you, Mister Officer for doing stopping traffic for me. I then had about a half mile of running down Bush highway towards Saguaro Lake.

The road was under construction and I ended up running in the road with traffic coming towards me. It sounds worse than it was, with all the construction workers and police the traffic was not going very fast. I then got about 500 yards from the exchange and saw the volunteers that radio ahead the number on the individual coming in to the exchange so the team can be ready for the hand off. I will say that the last half mile was average paces of 8:37 with the last 100 yards being a sub 8 minute pace. I wanted to end on a strong note and I did. My 4.3 miles took 44:31 with all the elevation change. I then handed the arm band to Gary who was off for his final 4.9 mile (-491/+87) almost five miles of down hill.

He did survive, but his quads were to say the least a little tender when he finally passed the arm band off to John for his last 2 miles (-150/+0) which was a cake walk for him. Once he took off we had to make a mad dash to the transition 30 to watch the handoff to the Van 2. He must have flew down that hill, we barely got there to see him hand it off. Once runner 7 from the other van was off and running we took a couple of pictures and headed back to the finish line to wait for them to get there. We got back to Bass Pro Shop and decided to get some breakfast. We went to Denny’s and then went to the finish line.

We got there about 11:45am and that team that had blown by me earlier in the morning on the highway was already finished. They finished in like 18 hours or something (freaks). They did have free massages and I was the second in line for one, I told the lady that we were going to kidnap her for our personal masseuse for the race next year. We called the Van 2 and found out that they were about 10 minutes out and wanted one of us to run and find John who was running the last leg and run in with him for moral support.

So two of us ran and found him with just about .3 miles to go and he looked very warn out and glad to see Gary and I. We then coached him to the finish line, gave him encouraging words and he picked up his pace to where I could barely keep up with him. We got to about 100 yards from the finish line and the rest of the team joined us in running across the finish line as one big group. We got a group picture with most of the team there, got our metals and had a few laughs. We ended up being the sixth team to cross the finish line and it only took us 27 hours and 11 minutes. In the end we ended up being the 15th place overall for the open male division and 80th overall. But to twelve of us, we were champions.

I want to thank all my team mates for making this experience of my life possible, you all did awesome. Most of all I want to thank the Ragnar Relay Series and Chances For Children charity for allowing me to run on your team.


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