Since I first picked up running races as a hobby it has always been a solo adventure, which has been okay for me because I am very independent and really like to not talk or think.  I just run.  However, the 2013 season has been quite different and I have a few people to thank for that.  Mostly I have to give appreciation to my friend Pat Tatro for pulling me along on several different races this year.  Props buddy!

So RAGNAR is a race that most of us have either heard about or at least seen the interesting symbol / logo plastered on a handful of cars around the cities.  It is a relay race that begins in Winona, MN and ends in Minneapolis, MN (~200 miles).  You plan and prepare for this race by establishing a solid race team.  Teams can be any combination of up to twelve runners; if a team choses to just be 6 runners they are dubbed ‘Ultra’.  There can be quite a few details to manage so the team captain has a lot to organize.  A big thanks to Kevin for spear heading these tasks for our 2013 race.


According to the instructions provided by Kevin, we were to meet at Pat’s place at approximately 10:15AM, when I arrived majority of the guys were there and loading up the van with supplies and their running gear.  I had chosen to pack light, really light. Most of the guys had brought more than one change of clothes and many additional additives to comfort along the way.  Pretty smart of them, obviously I didn’t really know what I was in for. I did bring what mattered: running shoes, socks, shirt, shorts, and a headlamp. Soon we lined up in our respective vans  runners 1-6 in the first and 7-12 in the second. I was slated with the 6th race spot in the first van which I was really happy with. My legs were to be 7.6 miles (very Hard), 5.6 miles (Hard) and finally 4.1 miles (moderate); this was great because I was stoked to get the toughest stretch done first, everything was to get easier from then on.

We had a quick ride down to Winona, which was cool because we were able to chat and get a bit more acquainted. We arrived and checked-in and our team went through the safety review with the course instructor.  Soon it was time for us to get started, but before we got underway we got a quick pick of the crew in Van 1.

Van 1 Race Crew at the RAGNAR starting line!

Van 1 Race Crew at the RAGNAR starting line! Left to Right (Jake, Connor, Alex, Pat, Phil and Robby)

Race Start Date/Time: Friday August 16th @ 2PM

We had one of the later race times that day and there were only about five other teams that were going to begin the race at the same time.  Robby started us off and while we were waiting for him we decided to decorate the van and to mark the team name “Dirt McGuerts” and each of our race legs on the sides of the van. When it was all done it looked great!

The cool thing about this race is that the other racers in the van will support you along the way.  You look at your race legs and see where you would like the van to encourage you and give you water.  Since it ended up being quite hot that day (~89F) we often needed water drops. Plus each time you saw your van it was like another push to keep going and to keep a swift pace.  Being there for each other was a cool way to bond, and when it wasn’t your time to race you had time to enjoy the snacks in the van and chat.

Not too much later and it was time for my first leg; it was approximately 5:15PM.  It was a very challenging leg of 7.6 miles which was littered with mentally challenging hills. There were several points during this stretch where I wanted to stop but my pride wouldn’t left me.  So I kept my feet shuffling. I finished Leg 6 with around a 7:30 pace and for the type of hills and heat, I consider that quite the accomplishment. I like that the relay race used essentially the old school 80s/90s slap bracelet style baton.  Pretty cool.

From start to finish I pushed through each of my legs and came out victorious!

From start to finish I pushed through each of my legs and came out victorious!

My next leg was to begin at approximately 2:15AM. This was to be my first night run and it was quite different from running during the day.  By now the temperature from the day had dropped significantly and was quite brisk.  I remember putting my headlamp on and gearing up for the transition.  It was a bit strange running at night and I was always on the lookout for cars (especially for drunk drivers).  I could easily see my breath as I ran, but that didn’t break my focus.  I was looking for other runner’s via their tail lights.  I was able to get 6 ‘Kills’ on this stretch which felt great.  I finished with a brisk pace of closer to 7:00 minute miles. Once this leg was completed our crew drove to Stillwater, MN where we were able to get a little shut-eye and rest our legs.

Rise & Shine its Van 1 time! Starting our last and final leg of the race!

Rise & Shine its Van 1 time! Starting our last and final leg of the race!

By 7AM the next morning van 2 had completed their legs of the race and now it was time for us to complete our last stretch (see picture above).  My last one came at approximately 10:30AM.  It was quite hot out and I remember my leg was a straight path through a local town.  My legs were beginning to fail as I sprinted through the finish line. I had a total of 10 kills on that stretch! Mentally drained and physically tired, I was super excited that I completed the last leg (again close to 7 minute miles). We then took off and headed back to Pats to cleanup and unload the van.  Before we did that we had to admire the van and all the kills we made along the way (~93 teams).

Back at Pat's we counted our Kills and got cleaned up to meet up with Van 2 at the finish line.

Back at Pat’s we counted our Kills and got cleaned up to meet up with Van 2 at the finish line.

Afterwards, we were to meet at the race finish line down by the U of M. When we arrived we had enough time to relax a bit and enjoy conversation before Kevin (the last runner in Van 2) was to arrive. We brought along our official RAGNAR race shirts so that we could run across the finish line together as a team and have our team photo taken.  It was a big accomplishment!  Personally I ran approximately 17.5 miles in total.  I was a bit tired and sore, but I sat down and enjoyed a complimentary couple of pizzas.  Thanking all of the team members for a great experience I soon took off only to later connect with the team on Facebook and share our story.  In all, it was a unique team relay race experience and I had a lot of fun!  Here is our finish line picture!

The Dirt McGuerts arrive victorious!

The Dirt McGuerts arrive victorious!

Late the following week we received word that we placed 9th overall for the race.  Our final time was ~24hrs 30mins.  We were pretty excited to have done so well and though we didn’t crack the 24 hour mark, we cannot complain about our performance.  The average mile pace for our team was 7:32.

Who would have thought at 28 I was going to band with a group of guys and run from Winona MN to Minneapolis MN.  Blessed in life!


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