Monday, August 6, 2012

Ragnar Relay Chicago 2012 - Panty Raiders Edition

Well, I am almost two months behind in posting my Ragnar Relay report.  Yikes!  As you can imagine, a lot happens over 200 miles.  It took some time to reflect … and to make the time to write this (un-edited, filled with lots of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes) post.

During the first week of June, I participated in Ragnar Relay Chicago.  Our team of twelve fabulous runners from the Midwest (many of us bloggers) ventured from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois over two days and 200 miles or running, driving, eating, sweating, waiting, rushing, port-o-potties, hydrating … and NO sleeping.  We had lots of Amy's and lots of Kim's.  I had met everyone in my van before, except for Amy G and Marcia.  I had also met Falon, Km and Rachel in Van 1.

We met on Friday morning at Olin Turville park to decorate our vans.  The team was dividing into two groups of six.  My group (Van 2) ventured in the Marathon Mommy Minivan.  We decided to go with a Pirate/Panty theme and named ourselves the Panty Raiders.  Our vans were decked out with pirate themed goodies and of course panties … our vans were too.

Kim M (HERE), Marcia (HERE), Rachel (HERE),
Falon (
HERE), Lisa, Kim N, Amy Zyn (HERE),
Linda (HERE), Amy G (HERE), Jen (HERE),
Jamie (me) and Amy Zem (

My teammates and I in Van 2 (above)

Van 1 and our fabulous captains (above; most organized ladies I've ever met!)

I believe that our start time was 11:00 am on Friday morning.  Teams were slotted according to the predicted paces that we submitted early on.  There were about 400 teams that participated.

Van 1 went to their safety meeting and would be heading from Madison and meeting us in Lake Mills, for the first “major exchange” were Van 2’s first runner would head out.  After we saw Kim off as the first runner from our team, we drove down the Interstate to Lake Mills.  We grabbed some Jimmy John’s sandwiches and coffee and picnicked in a park in Lake Mills.  We also stopped at the grocery store for jugs of water, where we spent some good times in the storage room, while waiting for the restroom.  We checked in at the major exchange, did Van 2’s safety check-in and sat around some more and munched on candy and drank water.  The port-o-potties were disgusting mid-afternoon.  Marcia was our first runner and we weren’t quite sure what to expect at the exchanges, so we observed the other teams.  Seemed easy enough.   I ran as runner 12 of the group, so I was the last to run.  That made for a long day of waiting around. 

It was super hot and runners were having a really tough time out on the wide open course on the Glacial Drumlin and country roads.  There was no relief and barely any water out on the course.  We saw Rachel come in (just before 6pm) and Marcia headed out from our team.  We ventured back to the van and drop to our first meeting point, then headed to each exchange as the sun set and we “got in a groove”.  At dusk, we each needed to wear reflective vests (whether running or spectating).  Runners also had to wear headlamps and tail lights.  We were running on a gravel trail across the state and there was nothing lighting our way.   I volunteered to do most of the driving and Amy Zem navigated from the race bible and race maps.  We also had a GPS on hand, which came handy when we decided to go on interstate or off-route.  At each rest stop, we used the port-o-potties and would communicate with the other van often and give them updates.  I carried a bag with me that held the race bible, phone, bottles of water, sunscreen, bugspray (something we used in a desperate moment in the woods, and many other teams didn’t think of), hand sanitzer.  I really wish I had brought a lanyard or wristlet for my car keys.  Every time we got out of the van I would yell “keys” and they would all respond with “keys” and a snicker … just to make sure we didn’t lose them or lock them in the van.  I was constantly checking for them in my bag, in a panic.

I finally ran around 10:30 pm in Dousman, where I once had participated in a duathon.  I ran 6.8 miles (HERE) from Dousman to Wales.  It was pitch black.  I saw critters.  I heard critters.  I saw nothing but darkness and what my headlamp lit up in front of me.  I heard one team cheering on runners along the way.  And only saw four other runners over 7ish miles … all which passed me in an instance.  I felt slow.  I felt alone.  But, I was happy to finally be running.  It was kind of creepy out there all alone.  I arrived at the next major exchange where I was passing on to Kim, to begin Van 1’s second leg of the race.  The team was great at encouraging me when I arrived.  What fun.

We got back to the van and drove ahead on interstate, to the next major exchange in Franklin.  I believe we were at the high school.  There were tons of vans around.  They offered warm food and cold beverages for purchase inside.  They also offered free smores outside … even PB smores … yum!  We took advantage of that over the fire and then headed inside for spaghetti.  We ate dinner around midnight and used the restrooms and changed into our clothes for leg #2.  Some of us had already changed after our runs.  They also offered quiet and cool sleeping in the gym on wrestling mats.  We decided it was too much work and headed to the van.

We headed back to the van to get some rest … or so we thought.  We seemed to have assigned spots, since everyone felt quite comfy in our familiar seating arrangement … me in the driving seat; Amy Zyn in the passenger seat; Marcia and Amy G in the second  row and Linda and Jen in the back.  We reclined our seats, snuggled up with our travel size pillows and closed our eyes.  Our Panty Raiders sign was lit up for all to see.  Many teams commented on it as they walked by, not knowing our windows were cracked.  We heard people leaving over the next 60-90 minutes of “quiet time”.  Van after van started their vehicle and were off to the next exchange point.  At one point, I said outloud, “I wish I could sleep”.  Thinking I was talking to myself, others responded with, “me too”.  A few had dozed off slightly, but the rest of us were still wide awake … at 2am, 3am in the morning.  Grrrr.  We opened our eyes and saw very few vans around us.  At one point the parking lot was filled and runners were sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground.  Now there was virtually no one.  Few runners were coming into the exchange point.  And volunteers were taking down everything inside of the school.  Hmmmm???!!  We grabbed a volunteer, who happened to be the race organizer’s father.  We knew something was wrong.  We asked another volunteer to look at the check in sheet, where the marked off teams at the exchange.  Of 400 teams, there were less than ten left out on the course.  Andria’s dad got her on the phone and she suggested we were placed in the wrong start time on Friday morning. (even though we submitted accurate 10K pace times, as requested).  We should have started much earlier.  The fast folks started later and were passing us, leaving us alone. 

Van 1 got there to see their runners in, and we explained the situation. If we were to pair up, they would have no time to eat, rest or relax. We decided to have our van triple up. We were going to skip the next three legs and Linda, Amy Zem and I were going to run leg # 23 in Racine and Marcia, Jen and Amy G were going to run leg #24. There, they would finish at the next major exchange and Van #1 would need to run again already. Tough to swallow, but we would all still be running our mileage, many of us more than we had planned. We just wouldn’t be running each leg along the way.

We drove ahead to leg number 23 in Racine (HERE). Amy Zem, Linda and I had 7.1 miles planned for us around 4 am. We showed up and were surrounded by tons of runners and chaos in the darkness. Much better. We were off on the country roads. The sun was rising as we ran near Lake Michigan. This was my favorite leg, because we were running it together. I kept looking at Amy’s cute bottom in her ruffle panties. I was getting delirious from the lack of sleep and kept commenting on her hinder. We were also cussing and throwing out profanities along the way. It’s amazing what 24 hrs in a van and no sleep will do to a gal.

We exchanged to our teammates in Racine and the drove up to the next major exchange.  This is the same area where I ran the Color Run the month prior.  So, again, I knew the area.  We donated money at a stand to get some quick breakfast goodies and then grabbed our teammates after their run. We then drove around, looking for a Starbuck’s.  We filled up on caffeine, yogurt parfaits and changed in the restroom there and freshened up.  We also had strangers asking us a lot of questions about our outfits and our van and about the race.  These two locals really were intrigued ... they even took pictures! (above)
We stopped at a grocery store to fill up on sports drinks, water and then a gas station for fuel and this super-size Diet Mountain Dew … HEAVEN!!!

We let the GPS drive us to our next destination, where we crossed the Illinois border. It was hot and we were getting tired. We layed out under a shade tree at the next major exchange. I felt like our team did a lot of waiting around, but we made the best of it. Mid-afternoon our first runner, Marcia, was off again.

We got a bit turned around at the next couple of exchange points, but made it. Jen thought she left some personal items in a port-o-potty, so there was a bit of panic. At one point, Jen received a phone call that someone close to her was in the hospital and she would need to head north. Luckily, we were close to a train station. Linda and her family back home in Madison were able to figure out the train schedule. Linda sat with Jen at the train station for a few hours while the rest of us finished our journey. After going through all of our options (Van 1 was already done), we decided it was best to skip Jen and Linda’s legs, as well as Amy’s. My leg was the longest and not supported well in downtown Chicago. So, Amy Zem was going to run it with me. My buddy, Amy Zem and me, navigating together through downtown Chicago. The van temp read mid-90’s. It was HOT!

We drove ahead to leg 36 (HERE). Amy and I were going to run 8.2 mi through downtown Chicago, along the lakeshore. Immediately, the signs weren’t well marked and we ran some loops, trying to figure out where were actually going. If you were going straight, there was nothing saying that you were going in the right direction. Only when you turned. So, it was kind of scary, since there were very few runners. You looked just like another pedestrian, but wearing a race bib. We ran on the city sidewalks. Traffic and traffic lights did not stop for you. There were not police officers or volunteers assisting you. Luckily, we hit a lot of “walk” signs and could keep keeping. We stopped for water twice at fountains to fill up our handheld water bottles. Otherwise, we ran slowly. I paced myself in the heat and never walked. I almost cried. We could see the finish line way around the beach. We just didn’t know how to get there. There were tons of locals, vendor carts and tourists everywhere at the beach. We were lost most of the time. We’d ask people if they’d seen other runners, but these people didn’t speak English. No help there. Finally we found our way and approached the big orange finish line arch. We saw Amy G and Marcia waiting for us. We were ready to finish this thing. But, then they told us that Van 1 wasn’t there. They were stuck in traffic. Amy and I were dead tired and out of water. We just wanted to finish. We sat under a shade tree. Amy G had some cash on her and bought us a snow cone to share. We bit off pieces of it as we sat and waited and texted family members. We couldn’t believe we had ran the whole way … the heat … dead tired … limit race support. Awesome. We waited about a half hour and Van 1 strolled in and we all trotted together across the finish line. I didn’t feel epic like I thought it would. No one seemed too excited. The kept advertising this finish line party and there wasn’t really anything there. After two days of exhaustion and chaos, we were greeted with free pizza, ice water and possibly some sports drink on the beach.

When we arrived at the beach I couldn’t stop coughing. So much that I started gagging. I couldn’t figure out was wrong. I started panicking. Worried about heat exhaustion. Gagged some more. Cried. Was scared. My teammates took me over to the medical tent. They didn’t have ice packs, water or much of anything on hand. My teammates used a t-shirt and got it drenched in ice water and threw it around my neck. The medic laid me down on a cot and had me rest. He asked if I had slept at all. “NO”. Had I ate a meal “NO”. Did you walk during your runs, to beat-the-heat? “NO”. DUH! I was just purely exhausted.

I loved the camaraderie of having teammates, the excitement at the exchanges and the idea of a relay.  But, there seemed to just be too many situations that were out of our control with this Ragnar experience.  I didn’t feel like we personally ran a lot or often enough to make this really feel like a running event.  The lack of sleep was the true test for me.  I felt like we waited around a lot and spent most of our time waiting at the exchanges.  I would do a relay again, but something else.  I don’t necessarily think the ultra-relays are for me either.  I’d like to something shorter … perhaps a 50 or 100 mile relay.  I am glad I had this experience and that I had the opportunity to share it with these other eleven women (many of them mothers).  Another regret is that we didn’t get to spend much time with Van #1 and get to know those women. 

I would like to thank all of our generous sponsors for donating items to the Panty Raiders:

Magnets on the Cheap (HERE) - They have awesome magnet signs for cheap!  They supplied each van with two custom Panty Raiders magnet signs for our pirate ships (aka mini vans).  These really helped the two vans look and feel like one team.  And, everyone knew who we were ... as did all the gawkers on the interstate!!  I'm still displaying one in my home gym.

Chrissy’s Knee High Socks (HERE) - Awesome knee high socks for exercise and casual wear.  We rocked the socks the entire journey for running and lounging.  They made us custom socks just four our team. We stood out (even more than usual!) and the bright colors were tons of fun.  They also kept our legs warm during dark and cooler evenings.

Polar Water Bottles (HERE) - Made sure we stayed hydrated in between our runs.  We kept filling up our water bottles with water at the rest stops and energy drinks from our coolers.  These awesome HUGE bottles kept our drinks cold and kept us hydrated.  My kids are now also enjoying these bottles at their sports event.

My Race Ragz (HERE) - We received fun, fitted technical shirts with our Panty Raiders logo.  These were super comfortable, soft and the fit rocked!  Hugged my mama curves just right.  The screen printing was flawless, too.

Bondi Band (HERE) - As always, Bondi Band did not disappoint.  We recieved colorful skull Bondi Bands and custom hot pink Panty Raiders Bondi Bands.  They kept our whispies back, and kept the sweat out of our eyes on this hot journey.  I'm still wearing these.

Blue Steel Sports Anti-Chaf Cream (HERE) - Kept our rubbing areas chaf-free over each of our legs.    Kept our feet blister-free!  I've used up the rest of my packets over some of my longer runs this summer.  Love this stuff and love the smell.

Given Arm Pockets (HERE) - These worked great to store gels, cell phones and loose change.  I'm still using these versatile arm pockets on my long runs.

Gu Energy Gels (HERE) - These energy gels kept us from getting tired or sluggish -- even after NO SLEEP!  The gels were a great boost to our energy at all times of the day -- running or not.  Some of us were given the opportunity to try some new flavors that we haven't tried as well -- yum!  I've enjoyed using these on my long runs as well.

Running Chics (HERE) - We used their awesome tote bags to store all of our goodies over 200 miles.  Those bags got lugged into so many port-o-potties, exchange points and coffee shop bathrooms to count!  These were a great place to toss all of our essentials.  I enjoy using mine when I'm on the go with the kids these days, too.

Body Glide (HERE) - The Body Glide for her kept our body nice a smooth and didn't have to experience any weird chafing or rubbing, as our bodies sweat in the heat.


  1. What a fun experience! It looks like all of you guys had a great time.

  2. Glad you had fun sounds like a wonderful experience.