In 2015, we ran and completed our first Ragnar Relay. It felt like an amazing accomplishment and rightfully so: 200 miles of running over the course of a 31 hours was, and still is amazing to me. Not knowing how good we’d be and despite varying distances over the following years, that is still our fastest team.
Going forward, we raised $2,250 that first year and felt like we could do better and we felt the same way about our running. With a year of experience under our belt, we just felt that we would be more comfortable and consequently, be a better running team overall. We had a few people who were eager to get back out there, hit the course, and take a little revenge on it and show it we were tougher than it was.
The funny thing about that type of attitude, which is a great way to be, especially when you get a second chance at something, is that the second time around, it’s never exactly the same and 2016’s race, was no where near the same.
That couldn’t have rung more true with Ragnar Relay 2016. Approximately half of the team was new but with the guys we had, we really expected it to be a faster team than that first year. Everything on paper always looks better but in reality, we were set.
Between the Schortgen and Koehlke boys, Nerk going all out, and Chris Ravenscroft, we had some top end speed that was greater, overall, than what we had in ’15 but heat can make a huge difference in how well those best laid plans play out.
The morning was perfect. It was low 60’s, partly sunny, with a cool breeze. It really was extremely nice. That only lasted so long though. By the time we got through 4 runners, you could just tell that things were heating up. I was fortunate to be in Van 1 and by the time it was really starting to warm up, we were almost done. Cherri got the brunt of the heat when it hit.
She took off for a 5 mile run and it looked nice but you could just feel someone turning a knob as the sun bore down on us. Unfortunately for her, the leg of the race she was running was virtually completely 100% exposed. She had zero shade anywhere. The one thing we were took a massive step forward in ’16 was our support stops. Anywhere we could stop to help each other, we did. Whether that was to provide a drink or cheer someone on, we took that time in a completely 100% better way than we did in 2015, at all.
The picture in the lower right was Cherri’s run, as mentioned above and you can just tell it’s hot and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It was on a blacktop road in the middle of the country and you just baked. She handed off to Ryan, who looked confident in his top middle picture but his 9.9 miles of 85+ degree heat was largely unaided. There was no way for us to get to him. The one saving grace for him during that run was that there were water stations along the route.
Poor Van 2 though…from beginning to end, they got it bad. The only reprieve they really had was their 2nd runs of the day was at night. That wasn’t before casualties hit.
One guy went out and practically got heat stroke on his first run and quit completely after his first 4 miler. That left us wondering how we were going to handle the rest of the race as he had 2 more runs. It wouldn’t belong and things would figure themselves out for us.
When Van 1 took the baton, I ran nearly 5 miles at a 9:30 pace for my first run. It was cookin’ and I was determined to get through it as quickly as I could without hurting myself. The rest of the van did as well. Ryan was about to run when the radar looked like a hurricane was about to hit Milwaukee although there was hardly any wind and not a drop of rain in sight. Unbeknownst to us or Ragnar, it was heat lightning but out of safety, the race held us for 2 runs. Ryan missed one and Greg missed one. That fit perfectly as those were 2 of our fastest and we’d fit those slots in for Ben’s last 2 runs.
In all, we finished, minus Ryan as he hopped in and ran with Van 2. Those of us in Van 1 felt bad as we were at Buffalo Wild Wings drinking beer without him but wow. It tasted soooo good.
At the finish line, it wasn’t at the lakeshore and at a Chicago City park which was face of the sun hot. It just held in all of that city heat and we just sat there, waiting, and baking. Prior to the hold, we were well ahead of pace but after, we fell behind. We lost 2 legs, counting them as 60 minute runs a piece when in reality, Van 2 was fast enough to run 4 legs in that period. Such is life though.
What mattered most was that we overcame it all. It was an incredible effort and despite the adversity, we persevered. That’s what Ragnar is about though. It’s about coming together as a team and getting through it.
While I would never wish that heat on anyone, I am going to miss the push and effort that it takes to pull that off this year. 2021 better watch out because Ragnar Trail Michigan, we’re coming for you!