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The Loop

So. I ran a Ragnar.




Mrs. Dave is in a facebook group that I am not. Couple of weeks ago she saw a post about a Ragnar team that had a runner drop out at the last minute and did anyone know someone who might want to go.

Ragnars have always looked fun to me, but outside of the Loopsters I don't really have any running friends. Maybe I should get out more. It's never really fit into my marathon plans, so I don't know that I'd have done one anyway. Although, being uber-susceptible to peer pressure, if someone had asked before I likely would have said, "Take my money," and joined whether it was a good idea or not.

I'd had a good couple of weeks of running while we were visiting the new grandson, but still hadn't made any definite fall race plans, so it seemed like I'd be able to do three legs of a Ragnar with no problem. Thought about it for a couple of days, then told her to pass my interest back to the team captain, if he was still looking. He messaged me the next day and said I was on the team. This was Sunday evening.

The day after that I went out in 81o and 90% humidity and rode the struggle bus for 4 miles before Gallowaying another 2 miles home. Tuesday was roughly the same conditions and roughly the same result. Had me questioning most of my life choices at that point. But by then I'd Venmo'ed Russell the money, so I was committed. So many times in my life I should have been committed, so why change?

Wednesday I felt fairly crappy still after the two rotten days of running so I just rested and packed (and mowed the lawn). Ragnar does publish a thorough list of things you need for their events, and that alleviated a fair amount of stress getting ready. I only needed to buy a reflective vest and a tail light, and borrow an air mattress.

Apparently Russell has been organizing two teams from church to run the Michigan Road Ragnar for all six years it's been held (minus last year, of course). They rent four vans to avoiding overcrowding in transportation, stay in hotels both the night before and the night of the relay so there's no sleeping on the ground or crashing in the vans. Costs a little more, but after seeing other teams doing it dirty and getting rained on and/or frozen, everyone considers it worth it.

Ragnar Road Michigan runs 190-ish miles from Muskegon to Traverse City, much of it along the shore of Lake Michigan. Beautiful scenery and cooling lake breezes.


We all met at a Park and Ride in Ann Arbor, then drove in the vans to Whitehall, a little place just north of Muskegon, for the night. Turns out that I already knew several of the runners from various church functions over the years, so I wasn't the loner I expected to be.

I called age privilege, which scored me one of the two beds in the room. Then after dinner it was straight to sleep, with a long 30 hours coming up the next morning.

I was runner #3, which gave me legs 3, 15, and 27.

Our first leg was Ethan, a freakishly tall guy who's prepping for the Baltimore Marathon this year. It's pretty dark at 7:00 AM

DSC_0576.thumb.JPG.4724969a4c5ed2270cba385fd9675711.JPGHaven't mentioned the weather yet. It was perfect for Van#1. At start time it was around 50o with almost no wind. Ethan cruised through the first leg and handed off to Alex in second place. Not that place had anything to do with anything. Maybe it's normal or maybe this was just because they were short handed because Covid, but we were only allowed to over achieve our expected times by an hour at four designated exchanges. If we came in too fast, they'd hold our team up for two hours to put us back on schedule. We spent most of the day trying to go slow enough to avoid the hold.

That was fine as far as I was concerned. I'd originally submitted a 10K pace of 7:30 per mile since I'd run a few miles at the end of my workouts near that. Approaching the whole thing as a race that seemed the way to go. After the two crappy runs at the beginning of the week, I'd re-submitted at 8:00 per mile and hoped I'd be able to be in the neighborhood and not embarrass myself.

My first leg was 4.1 miles. I was warming up when I heard someone start yelling my name. Oops. So I raced across the parking lot and met Alex just in time to get the bracelet. And of course I'd forgotten to get my watch going early and since I was still thinking, "race," I couldn't very well wait for the satellites to find us. It took almost a quarter miles before it did. But I was finally running and not feeling terrible and while there were only a couple of runners in front of me, I thought I might be able to reel them in, and hoped I wouldn't get passed myself.


Mile 1 (from the time I got a satellite lock) was just under 8:00. Felt like I could go 4 miles that fast but not faster. Also made me worry that it wasn't going to be doable for my other two legs - but I'll get to that in a minute. Mile 2 was 7:53, and I'd passed two people and saw another kind of far out there so didn't know if I could catch him/her. With that decision left for later I just tried to keep from dying. Mile 3 was 7:57. Not bad. Since I'd started measuring late I knew the last mile was going to be short, but I also saw that I was gaining on that other runner -  some of the time. She (by this point I could tell it was a woman) wasn't holding a steady pace. Sometimes I'd make visible progress closing the gap and at other times not. There wasn't much left in the tank, but I pressed as much as I dared. Got within 10 or so yards and she put on another surge, and I thought I'd lose her. Then she backed off again and I passed. Not exactly with authority, but at least steadily. She must have lost it right after because she finished a good 50 yards back. Mile 4 (.89 to be accurate) was 6:49, or 7:40 pace. So there was a little bit - not a ton - in the tank for that last mile. I was beat, though. Final time 30:39 for 3.89 miles/7:53 avg pace.

While that first leg was almost exactly what I'd submitted, there was also no way in hell I would be able to run 8 minute pace for legs 2 or 3, both of which were 6.7 miles and both of which had much more elevation than those first 4 miles.

The good news was that there was time for lunch and some rest before my second leg. We ate at a small diner out in the middle of nowhere. Not middle of Wyoming or Montana nowhere, but pretty nowhere for Michigan. The food was good but I regret having the pulled pork sandwich, because it stayed with me for far too long, including throughout the second leg.

I also regretted A. not resting more, and B. not warming up, before my second leg. We were almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there was no rush to get going, but instead of jogging lightly and making sure I was loose to start going, I stood around and wondered several times if I ought to go use the POPs one more time before I ran again, then took off right behind another running, foolishly expecting that I'd pass her right away for another "kill." BTW, I've decided I don't like the dark imagery of "killing" other runners in these things. There should be something more friendly. At any rate, after just a few steps I was sucking wind and my right IT Band was not happy, so there was no killing to be had. I was lucky to keep from falling way behind. Since we were ahead of plan, I had selflessly agreed to run this leg at 9:00 pace. Good thing, since I knew immediately that I wouldn't be going much faster.


And of course less than a mile in I heard from Abby. The instructions were VERY clear about relieving ourselves along the course. I had zero confidence in making it 5-1/2 more miles. Panic rose. I may have prayed. I rounded a wide bend in the road and saw a park and baseball field on the other side of the road - AND A POP!!! Disaster averted. I had passed a couple of slower runners in that first mile and two of them went by while I was engaged. Didn't care.

Back on the road, I saw that the first mile (including 80 feet of climb in the last quarter) had been 9:08, just like I planned. The next two were a little fast. 8:32 and 8:35, although they felt slower. The ITB wasn't getting any worse, and that was helpful. This was the prettiest section that I ran on, between two little beach towns. No view of the lake, but the road was quiet and winding and tree-lined. Really nice and peaceful. Mile 4 had some rolling hills. 9:28, so I was tracking pretty close to the 9:00 pace I was looking for, and if I'm being honest was about as good as I was going to get. Passed a few other runners. Mile 5 was 8:52 and Mile 6 was 9:03. Finished the last .7 in 6:20 (8:59 pace). Total 59:58/8:57mm. Just like I'd promised.

This is where I give mad props to Russell for planning the hotel for the night. Monster storms rolled in about 10:00 PM and lasted through the night. We felt sorry for the two Van 2's because they had to run through all of it. We were warm and dry and quiet on soft mattresses. Really glad I was in Van 1. I showered, skipped dinner (still had that pulled pork in my system) and crashed hard. 2:00 AM was awfully early, but I did get almost 4 hours of sleep, despite my ITB hurting like the dickens. How would I be able to run at all tomorrow, let alone another 6.7?

We woke up to no power in the hotel as a big section of town was knocked off the grid by the storm, but at least it had mostly stopped by the time we started our third legs running at 4:00 AM. My run was at about 5:00 and still pitch dark. The ITB had settled to a minor irritant, so I was happy about that.

Oh yeah, this 6.7 miles started flat, then climbed 300 feet in less than half a mile. We were still flirting with a timing hold, so slow was better than fast, thank goodness. There was no giddyup in these old legs by then. 9:34 for the first mile, then 10:15 as I started the hill.


I walked up 2/3 of it. And I'd do it again. There was nothing to see since it was so dark, but I'm sure it was pretty. Actually walked most of the way with Josh, a young guy who I remembered passing in Leg #2 the day before. But my running pace was better than his, so he dropped off when we reached the top. The ride down was just steep enough to not be fun. 12:40 for mile 3. There was a Ragnar sign at Mile that said, "Soak in the view." I can only guess what sick bastard decided to put that there when this leg was being done at 5:30 in the morning and sunrise still two hours away.

8:54 across the top and then 8:17 coming down the north side. I saw a couple of flashing tail lights ahead in the distance, but there was no way I was catching anyone else that morning. 9:06 and then 5:13 (8:45mm) for the last .7. Total for Leg 3 - 1:03:58/9:42 avg.

Just like that, I was done. My body was grateful, but I think my mind wanted another run. After we got into the van to go to the next exchange point, I crashed on the seat and don't remember anything until the two exchanges after that. Body won.

I think I saw another handoff, but I can't be sure. We passed off to Van #2 and went to find breakfast. Eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes. I was hungry. Then, to Traverse City to meet the rest of our team and Van #1 from the other team, and wait for the Van #2's to finish.

Not a bad weekend.

The crew from Van#1


Saints on the Run, Team #1


A team called the "Barbies" left these girls on several of the other teams' vans. Naked. I thought that wasn't appropriate for a church related van, so I dug into my supplies and gave her an outfit to be proud of.


Ragnar bucket list item checked off. Does this replace the Hood to Coast I've been wanting to do since forever? Maybe. Of course if I get invited to fill out a HTC team I'll probably go, but I'll have to think about the expense, etc. before I try to lead another effort to get into that lottery again.

As for now, I had one so-so run yesterday - felt super heavy and slow and awkward - and the ITB was killing last night and this morning. Got it to settle down with the roller and some heat but the rest of the day my lower right back has been killing. No run today. We'll see about tomorrow tomorrow. Not very encouraging about a marathon still this year, but I'm nothing if not an optimist.

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Glad you decided to join a Ragnar group, and check it off your bucket list.   If you ever want to meet up for a run let me know.  Now retired my schedule is pretty flexible.

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