Home » Running » What Happens in {Ragnar} Vegas…

What Happens in {Ragnar} Vegas…

Gets told on the blog.

{I know, I know…so creative lame}

First and foremost — thank you all so much for your tweets and comments on my Dad’s post. I can’t even express to you how touched I am by all the positive responses we got to it. The story is near and dear to my heart — I still can’t read it without crying — and so it means the world that many of you were also touched and/or could relate. My father cherished every single one of those comments. I know you all made his day. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

As you all know, I spent last weekend running through Vegas with 5 other awesome ladies as a part of the Ultra team with the most creative name – Undecided2. (Race highlights — i.e. short and sweet version — found here.)

Luckily our running skills are much better than our team naming skills. We completed the 197.7 miles in 25 hours, 58 minutes, and 7 seconds which is an average pace of 7:53 per mile. This was good enough for 10th overall, and (more importantly!) 1st place for all-women’s teams AND all Ultra teams (meaning vs. those teams that had men on it as well as women). Clearly pretty psyched about that!

I was the “lucky” runner who got to anchor the team in for my first Ultra and first overall relay win. Which made all those hours (and hours and hours) of waiting around to run worth it.

Obviously everyone’s experience was a little different, so if you want to hear about their races, I highly suggest checking out the recaps written by my speedy teammates:

Runner 1 — Emily

Runner 2 — Margot

Runner 3 — SR

Runner 4 — Sarah OUaL

Runner 5 — Kristina (who sadly does not have a blog. But we can all pressure her into doing a guest post. Her first ever relay was this Ultra. Pretty impressive stuff.)

Runner 6 — ME

There are a couple different ways you can divide up the legs in an ultra relay. We opted to combine two relay legs into one longer one, which meant that every one of us would run through the first transition and hand off at the second. I highly recommend this strategy, because it gives everyone else more downtime (i.e. rest, recovery, snack-eating time) between legs. Plus, it feels pretty awesome to go through a transition point shouting: “Running through! I’m an Ultra!”

The Start

I clearly did not read the course description on Ragnar’s website. Because I was a little shocked to find our van headed up a mountain on the way to the start on Friday afternoon…and completely unprepared for the snow that we found at the top (I suppose the Mt Charleston ski resort should have given it away…)

Ragnar Vegas_start

After experiencing the festive start at Hood to Coast a few months ago, Ragnar’s start was a little very anti-climactic. At 1:30, we had one of the later starting times (teams had been starting since 5:30 that morning!) and it was pretty obvious that most people were out running on the course already. About 5 seconds before we were scheduled to take off, Emily lined up with one other team. There was a quick “go!” and off she went!

Ragnar Vegas_starting lineWe clearly fail in the “give your runner a great send-off category.” Luckily Emily is excited enough to make up for it.  {via Emily}

Emily took off down the mountain (literally!) and I settled in for a long wait.

IMG 7285I think we spent most of Ragnar LV being cold. Can you see SR’s hair blowing in the wind?  {via Emily}

Leg 1: 6.9 miles  – 7:49 pm

I won’t mince words here. My first leg sucked. Not because it was especially long or difficult. It had a slight uphill grade, but at just under 7 miles it was one of our team’s shortest runs.

No — it sucked because I ran down busy roads in Las Vegas on a Friday night. Do you know how many cars were also traveling along those roads at the same time?

Ragnar_firstleg_startPhoto via Emily awesome snuggie courtesy of SR

The hours of sitting around waiting in the van had translated into a ton of extra energy, so when Kristina handed me the super fancy snap bracelet, I took off. Despite the awful headwind, I clocked my first mile in 6:24 and was excited by the fact that my legs (if not completely fresh) still had speed in them.

headlamp testTesting out the headlamp {via Emily}

My excitement didn’t last very long, however. I hit my first stoplight a little over a mile into the run, and proceeded to spend the remainder of my leg cursing Vegas traffic. It seemed like every time I picked up speed, I’d be faced with another huge, 4-way intersection with two lanes of traffic traveling in every direction. I got lucky enough to hit the timers right on a couple of them, but most times I had to stop and wait for what seemed like hours (clearly not dramatic at all). I had heard a rumor that they were disqualifying teams that weren’t obeying traffic rules, but I wouldn’t have been able to sprint across those wide streets while avoiding cars anyway (although there were a couple times I went before I technically got the “walk” signal…shhhh). I knew that my time really didn’t matter (we were going for the overall win and I realized that everyone was dealing with the lights, not just me), but there is nothing more frustrating than standing at a stoplight and watching your average pace drop from sub-7 to 11 minutes as the seconds tick away.

IMG 7329Ready to run…or dance {via Emily}

I kept trying not to let this get to me and enjoy the run, but it was nearly impossible. I was so happy that the leg was short, and vowed to bring it on the next one.

I forgot to actually re-start my watch before the next leg, so I don’t know what my overall pace was. From my rough calculations, I clocked the 6.3 miles (Garmin measured short) in just over 47 minutes, or about 7:30/mile.

Leg 2: 13.3 miles ~ 4:30 am

IMG 7315Passing the time with a porta-potty photo shoot…what else? {via Emily}

After scarfing down half a sub around 9:30 pm and laying my head down for a quick 30 minute nap, it was time to gear up for Leg #2. It was still dark, the wind was still blowing strong, and it was COLD. Colder than I’ve ever experienced in a relay. I’m not going to lie – watching the other runners come in, bent over from the wind and bundled up from the cold was a little intimidating. But despite all that, I was looking forward to this leg. Over 13 miles with a net downhill (the last 8+ miles were down the same long hill that Sarah OUaL had worked hard to run up a couple hours earlier…thanks for doing all the hard work Sar!) sounded like the makings of an awesome run.

Kristina came into the transition fast…so fast, that I was still wearing my sweats, SR’s snuggie, a beanie over my running cap, and didn’t have any of my lights on. Winner of the most prepared runner before their leg does not go to me.

I was a little flustered, but managed to somehow get my pants off without falling on the ground or losing too much time. I realized about a quarter of a mile in that I had forgotten to turn my headlamp on, but after that I was able to settle in to a steady pace. Right away, I noticed that there were way more teams around on this leg than my last one. We had started so far behind everyone, that I had only seen 3 other runners on my first run earlier that evening. But now there were people everywhere! Having a long run ahead of me and nothing better to do, I decided to play a game and keep track of every runner I passed (known in relay-speak as “roadkill”).

The first 4.4 miles were pretty uneventful. I was running slightly uphill, but the wind seemed to have died down a little. The air was cold, but in an invigorating sort of way. I tried not to look at my watch too much, knowing that my legs weren’t really moving as fast as I wanted them to. Instead I just focused straight ahead on the blinking light in front of me, counting them off one at a time. When I had passed over 25 people on the first section alone, I made it my goal to get to 50 before the end of the run.

Going through that first exchange felt awesome. I said a quick hello to the team, then settled into 8.9 downhill miles. I could feel my pace picking up slightly (though not a ton…my legs just didn’t have speed in them) and tried to relax down the hill. As I ran, the sky started lightening up all around me. First I noticed the stars starting to disappear, then the sky changed from black to dark purple. I could see the violet outlines of the mountains in the distance…and the bright lights of Vegas before me. Most of the run was just a straight shot down 804 (S Las Vegas BLVD) which had been closed off to other vehicles. Watching the lights of the city grow closer as the sun started peeking out over the horizon was one of the coolest experiences. The lighter the world got, the lighter I felt. I stopped thinking of the run in terms of distance, and just focused on watching the sun rise, listening for the beeps on my Garmin and counting off runners as I went.

{Side note: my favorite of these was number 46 — who should have been 40. I came up behind a young kid who clearly didn’t like the thought of being passed by a girl so early into his run. No sooner had I passed him with a “good job!” did he come sprinting back around me, not saying a word. I settled in behind with the knowledge that I still had around 7 miles to chase him down. Poor kid didn’t stand a chance. 6 people later, I passed him for the second (and final) time. Thanks for the motivation, buddy.}

ragnar_leg 2 finishPassing off to Emily – and yes, 36 degrees might be cold, but it’s still running shorts weather {via SR}

13.3 miles later, the world was bright again and I had made it to the exchange having passed 67 people. An all-time relay record.

Garmin stats for legs 1 & 2: 19.34 miles in 2:22:08 (7:21 pace)

Ragnar_leg2 doneSuper flattering “I’m so happy! I love running!!!” shot {via SR}

Leg 3: 8.5 miles – 2:31 pm

At this point, sleep was out of the question. The sun was up and we were running our final legs. Despite the strong wind and a course that was tougher than we had expected (maybe next time we’ll actually study those elevation charts), everyone was running really well. We knew we still had a chance to run a decent time, which only fueled the excitement.

Ragnar_pro compression.jpgModeling our Pro Compression {via Sarah OUaL}

But I still had a long time to wait before my third and final leg. I think this is the absolute toughest part about being Runner 6 (or Runners 11/12 on a typical relay team). You watch your teammates running their final legs, and can’t help but feel a little jealous of the relief and excitement that washes over them when they finish. …all while trying to keep yourself pumped up to run in another 7 – 8 hours.

Luckily (for the sake of my teammates’ safety) we were able to scrounge up some Starbucks coffee and breakfast wraps that gave me a little more pep. The day was getting warmer, the wind (seemed) to be dying down, and the runs were becoming more and more scenic.

Ragnar Vegas_mountain exchange

 

Ragnar Vegas_exchange bike pathOUaL coming over the mountain while SR models her hot orange sweats (new fashion trend?)

The last three runners got to spend the major portion of their runs on a bike path. Which meant no dealing with cars or intersections (positive side) but also meant long climbs through the mountains.

IMG 7414{via Emily}

As the day went on and we got closer to my final run, the sun seemed to disappear and the wind picked up again (seriously — what is with all this wind and my races these days??).

Ragnar_pre leg 3.jpgGetting ready for leg 3. The few precious hours of warmth – officially over {via Sarah OUaL}

Finally, as the clouds seemed to get thicker and the wind got stronger, it was my turn to run again. My legs were heavy but I felt so excited knowing I’d get to bring the team home.

Ragnar Vegas_final handoff.JPGThe final hand-off! {via Emily}

Ragnar Vegas_LB final leg.jpgReady to fly home… {via Sarah OUaL}

….straight up a hill

Ragnar Vegas_final leg start{via Emily}

It was around this time that Ragnar’s leg rating system finally sunk in. Apparently, the difficulty of a leg has nothing to do with factors that can make a run feel hard – like huge climbs – and everything to do with the distance. The first section of this run was only 3.3 miles, so of course it was rated easy….despite the fact that we were running into the wind, on a trail up a mountain. Any route that has switchbacks does not count as easy in my book.

Even though the leg was short, so many people were walking. I felt like my pace had slowed to a crawl. This wasn’t exactly the dramatic, speedy finish I had envisioned. But in the middle of a particularly challenging climb, I raised my eyes from the path and truly looked around at my surroundings. What I saw nearly took my breath away. Miles and miles of desert bordered by mountains. I could see Lake Mead in the distance, and could watch other runners climbing ahead and behind me every time we went around the corner. It was incredible. And that’s when I realized — when else am I going to have an opportunity to run up a mountain in the middle of the desert? No matter how fast or slow I was running, I was determined to soak in every last step of that run.

I went through the first transition around 4 miles, was handed a lei and some water, and got pumped up for the final stretch.

IMG 7463In case you’re wondering, it gets really uncomfortable to run wearing a lei when the wind is blowing you (and it!) backwards {via Emily}

The climb up the mountain seemed to last forever. But finally…we turned off the path and down a hill. I felt like I had been given a second wind. As excited as I was to see the finish, I also didn’t want the run (and the relay) to be over. Besides my crappy first leg, my runs had been awesome. My legs had held up way better than expected. I was on top of the world.

Suddenly I was running by a parking lot, just in time to see my team jump out of a van. There was a moment of confusion — they thought they had arrived in plenty of time and I thought I still had about two miles to run. I shouted hello and just kept on running….down a hill, around the corner, and straight across the Ragnar Las Vegas Finish Line.

Alone.

Ragnar Las Vegas Finish LineI’m the tiny green and pink dot on the left {via SR}

A better teammate would have waited for her team to arrive before the big finish, but not me. I’m just a little too competitive for that…

Fortunately, I was on a team of super competitive runners who didn’t seem to mind that I crossed the line without them.

Ragnar Vegas_undecided2 finishTotally staged but still awesome finish line photo

I know that Garmins are never 100% accurate, and I usually just go with the official course distance. But this leg was more than just a little off — it had to be short (otherwise I ran 8.5 miles…mostly uphill…at a 6:34 pace. Super star LB).

Garmin stats: 7.17 miles in 55:49 (7:47 pace).

Total miles: 28.7 miles official (27.2 miles based on a short last leg)

Short or not, I’m pretty sure my time translates to a new marathon PR (my total running time was 3:17:58)…if only running worked that way!

Final Thoughts

This is already ridiculously long, so if you’ve made it this far – you deserve my Ragnar Las Vegas medal! Overall, I loved this relay. The course was tough, but more scenic than I was expecting. The organization was great — well, besides the fact that it took almost 2 days to post the results (why so long, Ragnar??). I might eventually do a post on Ragnar vs. other relays, since I’ve done a good number of them by this point, but that’s for another day.

Mostly — I’m just so incredibly thankful that I had this opportunity. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to run with. And we couldn’t have had better sponsors. I ran every leg of the race in my Pro Compression socks (a first) and used the Compex e-stim machine between my second and third legs. I honestly believe that these two things led to way less soreness than usual. Despite having run a marathon the week before and running more miles than during Hood to Coast, I felt way better in the days that followed. Yes, I can tell that my legs are still tired, but I was pretty much knocked out after HTC. I’m so thankful we had such great companies keeping us running all weekend.

Team photo_Ragnar finish

Now if only I could run an Ultra Relay every month…

 

18 Responses to What Happens in {Ragnar} Vegas…

  1. I’m very impressed that you managed to get everything in one post! It sounds amazing, even the grim bits. Congrats on the win as well – you girls are ridiculously speedy!! And I bet that lei was very uncomfortable – what an odd thing to give you!! Oh well. Awesome lei-dy! (Geddit??)

    Sorry :)
    Cathryn´s last post ..Dons Battalion Veterans’ Day 4 Miler!

    • haha love it :)

      In their defense, I think the volunteers thought I was done and were trying to make the “finish” exciting. But since we were running through the transitions, I just took the lei and kept on running.

  2. Wow Lauren. You love the relay! Thank you for the great recap. I felt every step you took because you write so well. I am impressed, but not surprised, at how great you and your team did. Congratulations on the win! I also love how you pick off runners one by one.
    See you soon! love, Dad

  3. Loved your recap and loved that you were on our team! Can’t wait for the next one with you.

  4. Hey! Such a GREAT read.
    I’ve loved reading everyone’s versions and take of the events. It sounds like such a hard, but great adventure with the girls.

    Huge congrats!
    TorontoRunner´s last post ..9 + 4.1 = 13.1

  5. Wow, that sounds amazing. Congrats on the win. I love reading these recaps – gets me excited for racing my first Ragnar next year.
    Runshorts´s last post ..Thanks that was fun

  6. Great job to you and the team! I am inspired by how many people you passed.

    The Kidless Kronicles
    Nicole@TheKidlessKronicles´s last post ..Wednesday: Missing the Mark

  7. 65? SIXTY-FIVE?! Holy sh*t!!! That is amazing. Also, you are adorable.

    And now I REALLY want to do an ultra relay. Let me know if you need an East Coast addition to any teams this spring/summer!
    Corey´s last post ..Embracing the Hills

  8. Love, love, love! I agree that being the last (or second to last) runner in a relay is tough. In both of my multiple leg relays I was either last or second to last, I can handle it but I think I would prefer going a little earlier than that.

    I loved every part of this recap! I can’t wait to run our relay together in June, it is going to be so much fun!

    P.S. I have that green tank top too :)
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..ShowerPill Review

  9. This recap is why you are one of my favorite running bloggers! I really need to run a relay. Awesome job kicking ass and staying positive. I can’t believe you picked off 67 people! Nice work :)
    Michelle´s last post ..Four Score and Seven Years Ago… {Lincoln Movie Review}

  10. YAY for a new marathon PR =) HAHAHA

    I seriously love how many runners you passed on your 2nd leg – that must have been so much fun and motivating!

    If you are ever looking for another ultra relay runner, let me know! I’d love to do one =)
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama´s last post ..Remembering How to Run Uncomfortably

  11. That is seriously an ungodly number of roadkills! Wowza!

    What was that word I used? “Luminous”, I think. Yep, that’s you. Your excitement and happiness literally radiates from your being. That photo you deem “flattering” I’m guessing with sarcasm, is, indeed, flattering. Your smile must have illuminated the entire Nevada landscape. That’s why you forgot to turn on your headlamp ;-)
    XLMIC´s last post ..What a week it’s been…

  12. CONGRATS!! loved the recap-and no 3:18- yay!! the neon green makes you look incredibly tan. :) still need to do a ragnar. or any other relay at this point. i may not be speedy enough, but ditto to Corey! always up for a fun trip!
    elizabeth´s last post ..Huntsville 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

  13. You all inspired some of us PNW runners to do an ultra this summer…we already have our team together! Sounds so fun, congrats on such great stats!
    Robyn´s last post ..Resolutions Revisited

  14. [...] Lauren doing a happy/cold dance as K comes in for the handoff (cred [...]

  15. [...] my self-inflicted mental crapshoot 10.9 miler, K and LB flew through their speedy legs to close out Round One for Team [...]

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