Monday, August 20, 2012

Ragnar Great River-the Recap

I've been away awhile.  So many things going on, so little sleep, so little downtime to use for blogging.

In brief, I've been trying to Crossfit 3 times a week and run 3 times a week.  Mostly I've been successful, but not always! 

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to join a team for Ragnar Great River from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN.  That's kind of misleading since most of the race is run in Wisconsin, but it's a part of the state I've never seen, and it was exciting to explore it on foot.

This was another team of near-total strangers for me. 
They look pretty harmless.

I got pulled onto this team pretty much the way I got pulled onto the last one.  I sort of knew someone on the interwebs and Ragnar came up, and I said "Sure!".  Sounds kind of iffy, I know, but it's worked out so far.  This team was The Streaking Freaks of Team NPCO which runs to support Chiropractic treatment for those that don't have access.  Two of our team members were chiropractors.  The team arrived every which way.  One van from Chicago, one van from Green Bay, an airplane, some cars, a name it.  I was in charge of renting the van from GB.  It was a beast.

It was huge. I feel as though it should have had a name.

I was the primary driver of the van, and mostly it was fine, except when it was terrifying.  More on that later.

My teammates were an interesting mix.  Two chiropractors, a nurse practitioner, two computer executives, a nurse instructor, a mechanic, and various other professions-including a professional runner.  Really. 

He is a serious running badass.  2016 Olympic hopeful, laying down 6 minute miles barefoot.
Richard Peters.  Remember him.

Personally, I prefered this race to Chicago.  It's hard to compare the teams, since the make-up was so different.  Girl fun is just different than mixed group fun.  I had a great time at Chicago, but I was underwhelmed by the course.  Great River was different.  It was a continual "wow".  A new vista around every bend.

Started right on the Mississippi.  1st leg crossed the bridge to WI.

A turnout on leg one.
Exchange 1

The weather was ideal.  Less than 50 at the start, but never dropped below 45 overnight.  Never got above 72 during the day, and a light cool breeze the whole time.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.

The major exchanges and sleeping areas during Chicago left much to be desired as well.  Disorganized parking, no light, nothing to see.

Sleeping area at Exchange 12.  They're making smores, too.

Out on the breakwater. Exchange 12.

This event was cool for a lot of reasons, but maybe the coolest was that everyone had a stellar performance.  Everyone.  AnnMarie (self-dubbed "team turtle") bested herself on each leg.  Dan D, who said he hadn't run in a couple of months and would probably run 10s, laid down 8:15-8:30 miles consistently.  His lovely girlfriend, Andrea, was burning up the pavement with 7s the whole time.  Brett, who was signed up for a half Ironman the day after Ragnar consistently posted fast times.  Even I did great, with sub-10s on more than one occaision.  I had a hill leg (leg 3) that slowed my pace to 11s, but even that was faster than I expected to go on that terrain.  Van 2 just flew down the course.  They were amazing. 

Logistically, this race was near perfect (getting there for many of the team members was less than perfect, but that's another whole post).  We found everything, we never lost anyone, no one was left hanging at exchanges, and no one got sick or injured.  Win.  I was full of equipment fail, however.
This dirty whore headlamp hid from me the whole trip.  I found it after we were done.

I ended up wearing Brett's headlamp because mine disappeared.  My Garmin?  That miserable piece of crap died moments before my 1st leg started and never recovered.  I had to wear Brett's Garmin the whole time.  I borrowed Dan's safety vest, because my blinky light was being stupid and I couldn't attatch it properly to my own.

Thank heaven for the kindness of strangers :)

Here's how I looked after each leg (like an idiot, mostly).

Leg 1.  Uphill at the end, but I made it in projected time.
To quote Falon "Fuck that leg in the face"

I liked the idea of taking shots after each leg.  It's a fun photo collage of the team's progress (and your own) through the course.  I'd do that again.

The 15 passenger van was much easier to pack.  We took out the back row and had tons of space for stuff.  Most of my team slept in the van on the benches and front seats during the night.  I opted for a sleeping bag on a football field.  I was plenty comfortable.

After we finished out third stint, we waited at the finish for Marc (team Captain) to roll in.  We got to run to the finish as a group, and had our picture taken.

Several of us got double medals. They clanked a lot.  I thought they sounded awesome.

The finish area was nicer for Great River than Chicago as well.  No burning lava hot sand, plenty of pizza and beer, and nice soft grass to rest on...along with tables and chairs and umbrellas.  There was also an actual medical professional at the medical tent.  It is on the UM campus, but class isn't in session yet, so there were no crowds.

Now.  The van incident.

After the race, some of us decided to go to the Mall of America.  (Marc needed socks, so MoA was the natural choice...).  This entailed dropping Brett off at the airport on the way.  Ok, easy peasy, right?  Wrong.  That involved removing my van from the parking structure.  The narrow aisled, low ceilinged parking structure.  I was so anxiety ridden that I was ducking to make the van smaller so we wouldn't hit the roof.  (It made sense in my head).  The outgoing trip was fine.  Airport? Fine.  Drive to Mall? Fine.  Then we had to park that monster again.  Another harrowing parking experience and we were in the mall.  Mark got his socks and we hit the Rainforest Cafe for some chow.

Paul and Rik.  They're not together.

These two harrassed the seating host so much I thought we were going to get kicked out.  I laughed so hard I thought I was going to die. 

After dinner, we left that crazy hell-hole.  Unfortunately, that meant I had to drive the monster van back to the hotel.  We got turned around and I ended up driving through downtown Minneapolis in that thing.  I was white knuckle terrified, especially after I almost killed bicycle Santa (his fault-he totally cut me off, the SOB).  By the time I was back in the parking garage I was a mess.  But now the assholes in the backseat were all making fun of me, Marc was talking in his Yoda voice, and I just wanted a motherfucking Xanax.  I was laughing so hard I was crying, and barely made it into a parking spot.  I really felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack!  The promise of beer was the only thing that got me through.

Marc made good.  That flight is mine.  Note Rik's drink.  Appletini on the rocks "in a butch glass".

A few drinks and more laughs with these guys almost made up for the years of my life I shaved off making that drive. 

Oh, I almost forgot!  The hardware.

It was really sad saying good-bye to everyone, but I had a great time.  I hope I get to run with team NPCO again in the future, because this was a riot.  Or who knows...maybe I'll join another team of total strangers. 

Ragnar.  Do it.  You won't regret it.