Thoughts on The Future of Runners Doing Good

The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it.”

Abraham Lincoln
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It’s been awhile since I’ve chimed in. Personally, that’s been a bit on purpose. Since Ragnar Trail Michigan, life has been….full. There’s just been a lot on the plate from fitting in a trip with friends to the start of school for the kiddos and honestly, I’m tired.

I ran a 5K 6-7 weeks ago and it was the first time that I’d run at all since Ragnar Trail and I’ve not since then. I’m a much better fundraiser than a runner. Even more shocking, I set a reasonable goal for the race since at that point, I’d not run in a month, and it beat that goal by 30 seconds so I was pretty happy about that.

Over the last few weeks though, I keep having these thoughts of what’s next for Runners Doing Good. Honestly, I’ve been torn. I have, for a couple of years now, gone from campaign to campaign, with the idea that if I did nothing more, that I’d be ok with that. There’s a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished and I’ll always have that. Part of me though, struggles with that.

We started off as a running group with a goal to raise a little money and now we’re more of a fundraising group that happens to run these crazy events as a way to spur people to support us. We’ve done a lot of good. We’ve raised more than $42,000 for area charitable organizations and individuals and that’s HUGE!

The struggle has been that I’ve had groups either try to take control of the team, fail to show support for our campaigns or even an expression of thanks, and even forget about us completely when there was a change of leadership.

We haven’t taken on a fundraising campaign once for the notoriety, the fame, or a pat on the back for the work done. It’s always been about the cause at hand and I am a firm believer that regardless of how things pan out organizationally, we supported the right things at the right time and I can rest my head at night knowing that.

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So what does the future look like? For me, there’s a couple of things I’d love to do whether it is 2023 or beyond.

First, just as mentioned in the link, if we run RDG back out there, it’ll be as an entity unto itself. If we’re going to have to promote the heck out of it and do all of the legwork to make it successful, we’re going to do this on behalf of ourselves and choose who we want to benefit. This year proved that we could be more independent and having no other organizations’ goals or standards on us, did make it easier.

What could that look like? There are several great charities here in Fort Wayne that I’d love to help support in some manner. Supporting our community is very important to RDG. Whether we’re talking the Mad Anthony’s Childrens Hope House, Gigi’s Playhouse, or the Community Harvest Foodback, we’ll see but the point is that those are great examples of organizations that I would love to support. I can easily see a RDG comprised of folks raising money for one of them.

Additionally, I would like to see see RDG benefit other organizations at the state and national level. One based in Indiana is the Light for Levi Foundation. I’ve followed their story for awhile and to bring something so positive to the world through such a difficult time is inspiring. Click on their link above and learn more.

Another is Brave Like Gabe. Brave Like Gabe was founded by Gabe Grunewald, a kick-ass runner who was diagnosed with a rare cancer and lived her life to the fullest it could possibly be. Several months before she passed, we connected on Instagram through the Runners Doing Good page and corresponded a bit. I hadn’t heard of her but the more I learned, the more I found out how incredible she was. I had this vision of running Ragnar Road Minnesota with a team to benefit BLG. I still think that one could happen. Maybe I can talk Justin Grunewald into doing it. I wonder what the fastest known time for that race is?

I’d love for Runners Doing Good to become a conduit for groups to raise a lot of money for their causes. I don’t necessarily want or need to run all of these races myself but the running community is pretty amazing. People will spend countless dollars to participate in all sorts of events for solo endeavors but when you bring them together in the way that only a relay event does, you have a powerful entity that can do amazing things by pulling in each team member’s network into play.

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Beyond RDG, from a personal standpoint, there are 3 things I’m looking at in 2023:

  1. Run a half marathon or two. This is a goal of mine and The Indy Mini is as good of a race as they come and it’s so close to me that it’d be a mistake not to do it at some point. I’d also like to run the half at the Fort 4 Fitness. I love that race so much and it’s a home game.
  2. Run a Ragnar….for fun. We’ve done so much for charity that I battle through everything that’s involved with the organizing of the event which has been more and more involved but at the detriment of my training. I think it’d be a blast to dedicate myself to one just for fun and in a cool location.
  3. 29029. It’s not exactly running but it seems so epic. The general idea is to bring Everest to you. This group puts on a 36 hour event at a ski resort where you hike 3-5 miles of accumulating elevation till you reach the top. In total, you will hit 29,029 feet of elevation gained during the event, equaling Mt. Everest. It sounds so unique and challenging that the concept of the event that just seems painfully appealing. Of the 3 on listed here, it’s the least likely at this point for 2023. As crazy as it is, it’s nearly $5,000 to participate. Wow. Maybe when Runners Doing Good is a full blown non-profit and we’ve got a huge budget that can happen. haha
  4. Start the book. I think there’s something about this nearly decade long adventure that is worth telling. It’s hard to look back and not be nostalgic. There’s so many great experiences that I’ve been blessed to be a part of as well as some learning experiences that I’m grateful for experiencing too. It’s worth sharing.

Overall, I feel more at peace and happier with what we’ve done than ever before. I struggle with the idea of not doing a Ragnar as a big event so I’m not really sure that this is it. Some of this just needs to be easier to do and more family-centric. There’s a balance there that is necessary and if that can be found, watch out! We might just make the last 8 years look like kids’ play.

Best pic of any Ragnar. Shooting star!

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Pictures from Ragnar Trail Michigan!

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RDG By the Numbers After Ragnar Trail ’22

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7 – 3, 2, & 2 – Number of Ragnar Road Relays run in Chicago and Michigan and Trail Relays in Michigan

10 – Number of Vans rented

33 – Number of different runners that have run on behalf of Runnin’ Not Walken Runners Doing Good since 2015

1,226.2 – Miles run, in total, by Runners Doing Good

5.8 – Fewest total miles run by one runner since 2015

114.86 – Most total miles run by one runner since 2015

9.4 – Percentage of RDG’s total miles that the runner with the most total miles has run

30.66 – Percentage of RDG’s All-Time miles run by the Top 4 Mileage Leaders

36 – Total runners who have participated in a Ragnar Relay event as part of RDG

17 – Runners who have run at least twice with RDG

8 – Runners who have run at least 3 times

188.4 – Mileage of the shortest road course we’ve ran (2017)

128.8 – Mileage of the shortest course we’ve run – Ragnar Trail Michigan (2021)

201.1 – Mileage of the longest course we ran (2018)

31 – Fewest hours on the course for a Road Race (2015)

33.75 – Most hours on the course (2018)

32.50 – Most current course time (Ragnar Michigan ’19)

28 – Hours on the course at Ragnar Trail Michigan ’21

94 – High Temp when we finished in Chicago in 2016, the hottest temperature we’ve competed in.

43 – Low Temp during the night run in Michigan in 2018, the coldest temperature we’ve competed in

42,392 – Dollars raised for Fort Wayne area causes, individuals, and organizations

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2022 Campaign Final Numbers

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Going into this year, there was a ton of uncertainty towards how this campaign would play out. This was our first year, not working directly with a local non-profit and really approaching this solely on our own. It had to be a bit of a proof of concept that we could do this without all of the hoops that we jumped through to make things possible in the past.

That doesn’t mean that we took the easy road here. Some people may have taken their expenses for their event up front but we didn’t do that. We actually took ours last. You can debate the intelligence of that…I certainly did but we accomplished everything we set out to and then some. So here’s what we accomplished in 2022:

In total, our private donations came out to $6556, which would be the 2nd highest fundraising total that we’ve ever achieve.

In support of the Dee Family Adoption we were able to net them $9522 through the use of our fundraising operations, in conjunction with their Life Song matching grants. That’s why our overall fundraising number, will be counted as this number since without our efforts, that level of support wouldn’t have been possible. Call it cheating, but without using those grants, our net out would have been about $5000, which was our goal to begin with.

In all, we cannot thank our supporters enough as even in the last week of the fundraiser, prior to the raise, we received the last $100 needed to cover the costs of our operation. I had had some hope that we could have raised well beyond the remaining operational costs and drive what the Dees received to $10,000, however, when you almost double what your initial goal is, we have no complaints.

Finally, I cannot express enough thanks and gratitude to our donors and the team. It is always a monumental effort to achieve what we have in the past and to do this once again, it is a true blessing.

Here’s to whatever’s next!

Sincerely,

Gabe & Runners Doing Good

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What’s Next?

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In the matter of about a week, we’ll publish our campaign’s final numbers. Not long after that, we’ll update Runners Doing Good’s stats in our Team RDG: By the Numbers series. If you’d like to see what we’ve done in past, please click here.

Beyond that, the question ultimately turns to “What’s Next?” It’s a valid question and 2 weeks post Ragnar Trail Michigan with nearly 8 1/2 months of fundraising and running, some time is necessary. It’s at this point that I always feel a sense of burn out for something that I honestly love doing.

I love fundraising and pointing this little ship towards some level of do-gooding as we hope to make an impact of some type. The running event, while insane in many regards, has truly become the bonus of it all. It’s both a great vehicle to get people’s attention and support as well as well as the reward of going into something, that many would say is crazy, which is an incredible challenge with people that are second to none. Ultimately, it’s about the people, both those impacted and those hitting the trails.

With the toll a Ragnar takes on a person combined with the fundraising campaign that was, by far, the longest of all time, the answer to “What’s Next?” is more difficult than ever to arrive at because I simply don’t know.

After each of these, especially with the level of success we’ve had, there is a certain sense of accomplishment and pride and I definitely have that. I am more than satisfied with the effort we put forth, proud of the team’s efforts for The Dees, and content in this.

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Beyond this, I have a growing family and a loving wife that deserve time. It’s never convenient to step away for 3 days or so and one that has become more common with the kids over the last year or so, having spent so much time with our kids through the pandemic, is that our kids have struggled a bit with the separation. They’re not little by any means, but they’re not big either and part of me doesn’t want to put them in a position where they’re blue for a weekend until we get them. We’ve truly been blessed with grandparents who are so willing to take them so that we can do stuff like this but it is taking a bit for them to get back to a comfort level, even with family, and so that’s a bit of consideration for us for next year.

Ragnar is an amazing experience but combined with a fundraising campaign, especially 8+ months worth, I am sometimes tired by the time I get there, let alone the constant thoughts of how someone’s doing, hoping people are having fun, and just the worry of injury that did manifest itself this year.

I’ve led 7 of these which means both operational, running, and fundraising responsibilities. I would love to run a Ragnar, as twisted as this sounds, just for fun. I’ve been seeing all of these photos and videos online of Trail Tahoe, Northwest Passage, and upcoming races in Minnesota, and I’d love to do this in a different location where all I do is pack my clothes, show up, and run. There’s so many cool people out there that I’ve met online that are Ragnar Ambassadors or Boco Ambassadors who are incredible runners. I’m not sure they’d want an “Average Joe” like me, however, it’d be fun to be a part of that with no responsibilities other than to get there and back, run, and soak it all in.

It’d be awesome to run with my friend Tim from Colorado, whom I’ve never met. Con Justin Grunewald to run a Brave Like Gabe Ragnar team in Minnesota and see how fast it can go despite a slow-ass like myself. Haha. Or just hop in a van or on a trail with some of the most dedicated social media Ragnarians like Emily from Arizona, or Becky and Kyler from Florida.

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I can also see myself stepping away from the format altogether for a year. I’ve never run a 1/2 marathon. I think it’d be awesome to train, on my own time, for something like that. It’s been a long time since I’ve train for and run a particular race…just for fun. The Fort 4 Fitness is celebrating it’s 15th Anniversary on October 1st. That could be pretty neat to do it here in my hometown or travel downstate and run the Indy Mini.

I could even see myself biking. Jenn might kill me for saying this but I’d like to get a road bike. I have a hybrid and I had a client tell me that once you get one, you’ll want to get others. I can see doing a bike ride that, operationally, is smaller in scale, but from a challenge, is bigger. What about riding the length of Indiana? That could be pretty interesting and I know folks that would come along for it and while it’d not be easier, from a simplicity standpoint, doing an event like this could be easier from the logistics and expense of it.

Ragnar will always call me and I’m not sure I could ever just give it up. Maybe a year reprieve could be a refresher, but how much would I miss it?

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There are 2 things that I’ve thought about doing that I am going to explore and that’s the thought that if I ever do a full on fundraiser to benefit someone or something combined with a Ragnar or other large scale event, Runners Doing Good won’t come back without being a non-profit. It might not be easy to gain sponsorship, but if you can get the business community behind you, operationally, it makes everything so much easier and lengthens the depth of the fundraiser because you don’t have any expenses coming out of it.

If it’s possible to get sponsorship again, then the ability to widen the net and spread the word about our efforts in a more effective way is certain something that would need to be done. Again, it wouldn’t necessarily be easier but we’ve been asking friends, family, and acquaintences to support us for a long time. We need to get more of the casual supporter both locally and abroad to get behind us and getting that non-profit status will make it much easier to appeal to private donors and sponsors alike.

Lastly, and maybe most realistically of all goals, I think I’m going to write a book. It won’t be terribly lengthy, I’d imagine. It might be some sort of a How-To combined with the tales and lessons of the trails that I’ve experienced along the way. There are folks that are far more qualified as experts in running and fundraising than I am, by far. There are people who have done more Ragnars in 1 year than I’ve done in total, but I think there are things that I’ve learned along the way that speak to how an epic event like this can be leveraged to make an impact around you and in you. I’ve always been a tad wordy so I might as well use that to my advantage and scratch an itch I’ve had along the way here.

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Finally, the support of Runners Doing Good has been amazing. We easily raised more from private donors than maybe any year yet. Our ability to leverage that through matching grants, helped us push our total higher than we’ve ever been. It’s humbling and exciting, all at once, to see our totals growing and expanding at the rate that it did this year. Yes, those grants made the dollars blossom in a way that was incredible but we wouldn’t have been able to harness that power with our you.

It has always been those family members, coworkers, and connections that have propelled us forward. We’ve had 36 different runners since 2015. We’ve seen everything from downtown Chicago, Lake Michigan’s shoreline – both eastern and western, the neighborhood of Chris Farley’s youth in Madison, Grand Traverse Bay, the suburbs of Milwaukee, and the forests and hills of northern Michigan. It has been a colossal adventure and it was ONLY through the support of YOU who have had our back because of the causes we’ve championed.

Thank you all so much. I look forward to answering “What’s Next?” in the coming months.

Sincerely,

Gabe & Runners Doing Good

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Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Michigan

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Unbelievably, as I sit down to write this, I can’t help but wonder at the fact that Ragnar Trail Michigan was our 7th (!) Ragnar that we’ve participated in. That’s not how this was all supposed to go back in 2015 but here we are and it has truly been a bit of joy each year that we get to do this crazy thing.

Now, for my take on how the event went this year:

This year was a bit different than years passed. We had zero local sponsorship so our expenses were coming out of our fundraiser for The Dee Family Adoption. The better we did, the more they’d get. Part of that effort was keeping expenses down so this year, we put the idea of Ragnar’s “Glamping” option aside from the beginning, especially since my wife and I purchased a little camper the year before and finding out that Ragnar was offering RV or Camper spots at Hanson Hills Rec Area for the race. That move alone saved us nearly $1500. It was pretty amazing from an expense standpoint but from a site standpoint, judge for yourself:

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With the trees around, it made the heat much more bearable than it otherwise would have been. For $30, you could get a RV/Camper site in this little wooded area versus dragging all of your tents into the wide open and fully sun soaked middle part of the village. As one teammate said upon looking at the mass of humanity without shade on Thursday night, “Tomorrow, just call that the skillet. It’s going to be hot.” And hot it would eventually be.

Overall, we had no complaints on our spot. It was quiet and cool, taking in the breeze as it rolled in. I think the “skillet” probably was blocked a good bit by the trees we had in our area. We were fortunate to say the least.

As far as Ragnar went, the HQ area with the exchange tent all looked nice and ready to go when we visited the area. Two disappointing areas were the food trucks and the swag bag. The Food Trucks largely seemed to run out of food fairly quickly or the options weren’t that great. It felt like it was much easier to get a meal last year. Maybe it was our timing.

As far as the swag we got this year at registration, it was pretty limited. I’m not sure if everyone else experienced this the same way but in previous years, we’d get our Ragnar shirts, which were really nice this year, and a bunch of product samples like Gu, Glukos, granola bars, etc. as well as a Captain’s gift.

This year, we got some Kodiak granola bars, some smaller energy bars that were super yummy. Think milk chocolate, peanut butter, granola in a 130 calorie mini bite that was maybe 1.5″ x 1.5.” It wasn’t very big but packed a punch. I liked those but again, the options in the bag were pretty limited compared to last year even.

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Friday morning, I walked out of the camper to see this:

Somehow, Michael was able to rest easy Thursday evening despite high 40’s temps and 1 blanket overnight. Those temps would not return during the remainder of the event. Eventually we got “Sleeping Beauty” up and at it and he was ready to go as a our kick-off runner.

Michael finishing Leg 1
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From there, it was off to the races. Jenn ran leg 2, followed by Kelsey as the heat was beginning to pick up. Jake headed out and crushed his Green Loop. It was hot and he had not interest in spending more time out there than he needed to and that brought the race to me.

Admittedly, my training hadn’t been quite what it should have been. I really struggled with my consistency, both with getting out and just getting work in and then when I’m on a run, maintaining my pace throughout a run. Turns out, the herky-jerky nature of my running turned into a positive during Ragnar Trail because trail running can be that way, especially when you’re an average runner.

The truth is that, for me, when you run out of that tent, I can maintain a pace for a good stretch, but when I hit that first hill, it’s a power hike and this year, I think knowing it was there just felt more helpful because while it was most definitely there, it didn’t feel as nearly as daunting.

I actually passed 3 ladies on the way to and up the hill, collecting my first “kills” of the event. I was feeling very strong through the first half of the run and while the time was slower than what I’ve done on pavement, it was in line with what I was expecting. My walk-run, run-walk style worked really well for taking small to medium sized hills head on but power hiking the larger ones. That and this is one thing about trail running I’ve grown to love….my feet and legs largely don’t hurt on the trails. The footing is a little wonky at times and injury is just an odd landing away but, it’s a more enjoyable experience.

Anyways, through 3 miles, I felt really strong strong. My first mile was my strongest with 200 feet of elevation gain, mainly from the monster to start the run. My second and third miles were pretty much equivalent but felt really good. The climb wasn’t nearly as severe but was a combined 150′ of gain within those two miles. My best mile, once up in the woods was mile 4. It had nearly 100′ of gain with a couple of good stretches of downhill where you could really open it up. I remember hearing some sub 10 minute splits in my ear on those downhills. On a road course, that’d be 2 minutes faster but out there, I’ll take it. Through all of it, the scenery was very pretty. It was warming but overall shaded so it felt decent.

Mile 5 though…woof. That’s where the hairpin turns really came into play and the there were some serious climbs. The elevation chart said there was 145 feet of gain in this section of the course which is saying something because nearly the first quarter of it was downhill. I remember looking up at one hill and not thinking I could make it. It was straight up followed by a quick turn around and descent followed by another hill. It almost broke me.

The pleasant part was that I had spied Jenn’s MapMyRun app, which was the same as mine, and her’s recorded it at under 6 miles so I knew once I was at around 4.75 miles that I had about a mile to go and mine range true as well. It ended up merging with the last of the Red Loop and bombing out of the woods, through an orange Ragnar arch, and up a slight hill.

Maybe I’m nuts but to anyone else there….isn’t me or did the little hill seem harder than it should have been? Last year with the monster sand dune, it felt like you knew it was there and so you geared up for it. This one? It just felt like you survived the woods and you get there and it’s up 10′ and it feels like 100′. It shouldn’t have been that way but a ton of people walked it, yours truly included. In the end, I hit the mark and flew to the finish line feeling great and happy that it was over.

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At that point, I handed off to Kati who took off and was running really strongly from reports we were hearing as she was reporting in from the course. Somewhere around mile 2 though on her Red Loop, she fell. Andrew got a text from her and she said she was fine but that she was going to take it easier for a bit. In the end, she completed it as you can see in the picture below but it was an all-time gutsy performance as she finished 7.7 miles or so on what has been diagnosed, at least for now, as a sprained knee.

Sprained Knee and All!

After she came in and handed off to Andrew, Jenn and I walked over to a tent for Kati to sit down. She was frustrated that the run didn’t go as she wanted and that it took longer because of the fall. Kati was good to go but then decided that she wanted to get it checked. Jenn went with her and the rest of us walked back to camp to get Lindsay ready for her run and the completion of the team’s first round of legs.

No sooner do I get back to camp but Jenn calls me. She was saying that Kati’s knee is a bit swollen and they’re trying to get her some ice. In the background, I hear the medic go, with the swelling and bruising behind your knee, it might be an ACL. My heart absolutely sank for her. Like all of us, she worked really hard to train for this and she did a great job of fundraising too. This year she really put in some great work and to have it go that way, we all felt awful for her. In the end, they told her to ice it, rest it, and see how it felt in a couple of hours since she had all sorts of time before her next run. She did get a good ride back on their ATV though so there was that.

At this point, worry set in at another level. As the captain, I was worried about Kati. She’d already started talking about going out for her Yellow Loop 6 miler at night. It was 3:30 or so at this point and she wouldn’t be needed till 11:30, at least according to our projections, which in fairness, we were running ahead by about a half hour.

I was also worried about our team. How would we cover 6 miles in the dark with another runner? Some of our faster runners were after her spot and tacking on 6 would be really awful for someone.

There was one call that had to be made:

When you’re 4 1/2 hours from home and aren’t sure how you could possibly ask 2 of your teammates to pick up an extra leg of the race, you call a former teammate, who happens to live an hour or so away, if they want to sneak a 6 miler in. It doesn’t hurt that this runner is really good. Fortunately for us, he said yes.

In fact, Chris and Melissa, both 2 time RDG runners, were planning on coming up to see us. I worked that out as a surprise for Jenn but the conversation turned to, “is there any chance you could come up earlier?” Being the awesome people they are, they said yes and were aiming to be in Grayling between 8 and 9-is Friday night.

Kati was feeling well but being that it was going to be dark when she was going to head out, it was just a better call for her to not head out into the woods in the dark and potentially hurt herself. She was going to work to keep her knee loose enough that she could take on her 2.7 mile run the next day during the light.

Now…some may call this cheating and I’ll face that up front. It probably is. By the letter of the rules put in place by Ragnar, we should have made someone on the team do those miles but in the heat that we all experienced, that wasn’t a great option for the whole of the team. Being that we were going to be no one near the front of the pack, my greatest concern was making sure that our team was well taken care of first and if it meant inserting a 9th runner into the race for 1 leg so that we could get through, that was the play to make there and I’m glad we did.

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From here, we were set to march towards the night run. It was still mid-day but knowing that we had the night covered helped ease some minds. I know that with half of the team new and the heat beating down on us, it would be a tremendous help. My worry was that people had heard us talk how good Chris was and that it was a slight against them or that because we were close with Chris and Melissa and that they were a surprise anyways that someone would feel bummed or awkward about him jumping in but, at least that I’m aware of, no one did. I know Kati felt disappointed but I’m just glad that she had that time to rest and avoid a dark and potentially hazardous run for her.

Michael and Jenn got rolling through on his Red Loop and her Green. I was really proud of Jenn because she’s trained so hard and hasn’t felt the gains as much as she’d like but she beat her goal for the Green Loop and came in smiling and you could tell pretty proud.

Kelsey would go out on her Yellow Loop and we started to notice that we were getting a bit ahead of pace. We were probably a solid 30 minutes ahead of pace. I kept saying that it usually slows as these races go along but we were approaching the halfway mark and still exceeding pace which was remarkable.

I stayed back at the camp to start getting loosened up a bit myself when Kelsey went out and Jake came in. When she got back, I was sitting there putting my shoes on and looked up and saw her, gave her a high 5, and asked, how’d it go? It was awesome to hear her go, “I crushed it! I really did. Just absolutely crushed it.”

The Red Loop was her first and she’s a really good runner but just like we experienced in 2021, a trail race is a different animal and I think hitting that Red Loop so early in the race, it was a pretty big smack in the mouth for her. She adjusted and got after the Yellow and you could tell how awesome she felt because of it.

So as Jake was busting hit tail off on the Red Loop as it was starting to get dark, I started finishing getting ready. Chris and Melissa had arrived and everything was calm. I put on my headlamp and Kelsey asked, “How many lumens is your headlamp?” I laughed and said, “I don’t know. I’m concerned it’s WAY too big. I wanted something more than last year but this looks ridiculous.” She laughed and said, “I think it’s all the lumens! Turn it on!” I did and wow, it was bright.

You need to wear a hat but seriously, you can see anything at night with this. We’re keeping it.

It ended up being 90,000 lumens according to my Amazon purchase history! Ha! I’m not going to lie, I walked to the exchange tent feeling a bit sheepish that this was right out of Home Improvement where Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor needs “More Power!” but to my surprise, Jenn noticed a lady standing next to me that had a headlamp that looked relatively large WITH A CORRESPONDING HIP LAMP! She made a comment to her and said lady turned it all on and almost blinded us. I didn’t feel so weird then but I didn’t turn it on till I hit the chute after taking the slap bracelet from Jake.

With that, I turned the lamp on and busted out laughing as I saw EVERYTHING! It was so bright that it was still almost embarrassingly so but when I hit the hill and looked up, I truly appreciated the whole thing being lit up. I made it to the top of the hill just a bit over a half mile in and turned left into the woods. I was flying. I felt so good and considerably more confident than I did last year during the night run. Part of it, I believe, is that this one was the Green Loop which Ragnar said was 3 miles but all of our GPS’ were telling us was about a quarter mile shorter. That’s much better than knowing you’ve got nearly 8 miles in the darkness ahead of you.

So back to the run, I head into the woods, like I said, flying and feeling great. All of a sudden, the woods lights up! It was the lady from the tent. I’m 41 and sometimes my judge of age is way off base. This lady, in the tent, could have been my age but she could have been 50 or younger. I just assumed that she was older than I was but you could tell she was in good shape or at least much better than I was. I think I took off from the tent about a minute ahead of her and scaled the big hill well before her and here she was running me down in the woods.

What was fun, though, was that as I let her pass, I made the pledge to try to keep up with her. I was just trying to keep my eyes on the path so as to not hit a root or anything. I was just trying to plow forward as quickly and easily as I could. She, on the other hand, was so nimble on her feet as she scampered side to side with a bouncy gate to her run but she never slowed down. I hung with her, about 5 – 10 yards behind her for probably 3/4 of a mile, when we hit the bigger and more sustained climb of the run. It had to have been a solid half mile, or more, of a pretty strong uphill. I tried to run it but quit that pretty quickly and powered hiked it as she kept on scampering up the hill, never relenting from her pace. My hat was off to her for how great she was but I was slightly disappointed because it’s always great motivation to keep up with a good runner but secondarily, between the 2 light sources, it was as if the woods was daylight at 10:45 at night.

From there, I knew I was about half way to the finish and I had a goal in mind for the run so once I hit the top, I was pushing it pretty hard, only stopping once or twice for medium sized hills to power hike those and let the team know I was on pace. It was fairly lonely out there on the course from that point forward as I didn’t really see anyone until I got to the area of the run where the red, green, and yellow loops converged.

In the end, I finished the Green Loop in 35 minutes at around 11:05 p.m. that night. To give you an idea of how far ahead we were at that point, I wasn’t even supposed to take the course till 10:50 so with Chris taking off at that point, I knew he was going to push us a good bit ahead of our pace. More on that in a bit.

After my run was complete, it was really good to hang with Andrew for about 15 minutes. I was tired but he’d come to the village to see me in and Chris off. I think he knew that Chris would be relatively fast and was just going to hang out in the area for awhile till it was his turn. We discussed quite a few things as we stood for a bit by the fire and I eventually took a seat.

He’d asked me how warm it was out there. He was trying to figure out if he should take a long sleeve shirt with him. I told him that I warmed up quickly without anything but you could tell the temps were dropping. He decided to take it with him and told me to go get some rest. I agreed and made my way back to camp and get some food. Michael and Jenn had eaten already and saved me some breadsticks and pizza from a foodtruck in the village. I grabbed a lantern in our camper and sat down at a table and had a near mid-night meal that really hit the spot. From there I headed to bed….for a couple of hours.

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Remember how I’d mentioned that we were ahead of pace and knowing that Chris would be hitting the trail that we’d only gain more time? Yea, that became a very real deal. Our original projection for Andrew’s Red Loop was to take off at around 1:15-1:30. Chris took off at 11:00-11:10 for 6 miles and ran it, despite his assertion that he wasn’t as fast because he’s not been running much, in about 55 minutes. That’s nearly 6 miles with about 900′ of elevation gain in under an hour. Andrew took off right around midnight and this is where things started to get interesting.

Lindsay took off for her nearly 3 miler with the expectation to be out for 40 minutes. She’d probably be faster in the daylight but she’d not really ever run in the dark or in a state park setting. Andrew hustled back to get Michael who was fast asleep.

Andrew shook his arm. Nothing. Shook it again. Nothing. A third time along with a “Michael, you gotta get up” which brought a reply of, “For what?” Andrew said, “We’re running buddy! You gotta hit the tent in about 30 minutes.” Michael shook off the cobwebs and came over to the camper to tell Jenn that he was going out. This was 2 a.m.

Jenn started to worry. She wasn’t supposed to hit the trail till 4 a.m. She’d hope to hit the sunrise but if Michael finished quick enough, she might be in the woods for 8 miles of darkness! I woke up during the process and we talked through it. Michael wasn’t expecting anything fast so he was thinking 1:45+ to get through his Yellow Loop because of the darkness. We started, through my tired stupor, doing some math.

I thought that if he went at that pace that she’d only really start about 30 minutes early. It was evident that the night was bringing the pace back to us, even if we were tremendously ahead of it to start. She ended up hitting the course about 4 a.m. which was around 45 minutes early. She was worried but Michael gave her a couple of sweaty hugs and she was off and boy was she rewarded:

She took a couple of pictures as the sun was coming up and as you can see, she filmed a shooting star! She ended up finishing and gushed about how beautiful that run ended up being.

In between all of that, I was able to get back to getting some rest. I think she eventually got me up around 7. I think I got about 5-6 hours of total sleep with the approximate 2 hours I got after my meal and her getting up for her run and then trying to get settled again after she left around 3:30 for her run. Despite the brokenness of the sleep, it was still more restful on a mattress than most road courses we’ve run and I felt pretty good as I got ready for my last run, The Red Loop. The only hiccup I had was that my right groin muscle tightened up during the night. I woke up just not feeling great on it and I worked to stretch it out.

I would hit the trail around 8:30. It wasn’t hot. It was 64 to start but you could feel the warmth coming on as the humidty was in the 85% range. It was going to be a sticky one!

I made it to the top of the hill and came across this totem and being that I hadn’t noticed this with the other loops and it was my last run, I stopped to take a picture. I had someone laugh at me and ask, “aren’t you supposed to be running?” when I showed them some of my pictures but that’s not what this is all about. Ragnar Trail is far more about the journey, at least for us, than the finish. I didn’t get to see the Red Loop last year because it was at night so I was going to enjoy this one.

I even took what might be my favorite picture from a Ragnar ever:

I took a water pack with me because I knew I’d need it but for the first 2-3 miles, I didn’t touch it. I got around 2.5 and knew I’d have to use some and I was ok with that knowing that a water station should be around mile 4. The Red Loop, in all of it’s glory, became a bit of a victory lap. I wasn’t fast but was really trying to enjoy it and along the way, I passed a few folks and was passed myself and each time, I asked some if it was their last loop. Most said it was and we wished each other well as we went on our way. That’s the Ragnar spirit for sure.

One guy though, I felt awful for. He told me that they had someone get hurt and he was looking at a minimum of 1 more after this. They must have been an ultra team. I can’t even imagine being stuck in that position. We’re truly lucky and blessed to have someone like Chris that was so close and willing to help us out.

I kept plugging away and got through a good portion of my water as I neared mile 4. Around that time, I was slowing down. My groin wasn’t feeling very good and if the footing was a bit iffy, I just took it easy. There were two clearings where the forest had been logged and wow, did it get hot there. You had zero shade and my guess is the temp was approaching 80 at that point. I was bombing the downhills when I could and taking the straightaways as best as possible. Uphill, just hurt so I tried my best to power hike those. It was working but I was losing pace against my goal.

I came around a bend and there were 2 ladies that were hiking the whole course. I can’t imagine how hot they had to be because I passed them right before a downhill going into the second clearing. For me, it’d be another half mile or more in the sun. It’d feel like forever but eventually I’d find the trail meandering down and then back up and to the right and I could see where the path would reenter the forest. One more hill with a turn and I’d be back under the shade!

As you can see, it’s pretty barren out there in “the clearing”

Once I got back into the woods, I ran a little while longer and saw the water station! It was great. I poured out the rest of my now lukewarm, and getting hotter, water, and filled it to the brim with ice cold water. I even poured some into my hat. It was both exhilarating and relieving all at once. For the rest of the run, I didn’t drink much but used it to refresh my mouth or give myself a squirt of cold water over the head or down my back. It felt great and with little bursts, I was able to make that water bottle last a long time.

My leg wasn’t getting any better but I was still, overall, enjoying the run. I let the team know when I got to the water station and then again at 6 miles so they were aware. The second half of the run was definitely slower but I truly appreciated it.

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By the time I hit mile 5 and 6, I thought I was toast but there was more downhill involved at this section and even with a leg that didn’t feel great, the one treat of the race was hearing my MapMyRun chime in my ear that I ran a couple of consecutive splits in the 10 minute range which was considerably faster than I’d been going. In fact, my 3 fastest splits were in that last 5K into the finish.

In the end, just like my previous 2 legs, I made it to the straightaway and was able to pass someone on the berm to the left of them. The path, itself, was never easy to run because it was so narrow for my big feet but I was able to run that grassy area pretty well. Jenn met me at the chute and ran in with me. The best part was sitting down on the stool afterwards and getting about 4 sponges-worth of ice water over my head. It felt so relieving from the heat that had built up.

Sweet relief!
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From here in, it felt great to be done. I was thrilled to be able to hand off to Kati for her 2.7. She ran some and walk some which was perfectly fine considering what she had going on with her knee. That was pure determination on her part to do more and not “let us down” which was funny to us. She wasn’t letting us down a bit but I know she worked hard and didn’t want her race to end like that. I don’t blame her for feeling that way.

She’d run it back, hand off to Andrew for his finish, and then Lindsay as well. All runs going as well as possible considering the heat!

Despite the heat, a happy team!

In the end, the race itself, I believe was really well done. Where there some things that felt a bit lacking like the food and swag bags? Yes but is Ragnar largely coming back from a down 18 months? That’s yes, too. My hope is that future years they bulk those options up a bit too.

From a personal standpoint, when I knew I had to fill 3 spots, I was worried. These races, other than for Courtney, aren’t something that you stop doing with us and then commit a year or two later. Usually, I’ve found that when you’re done, you’re done. Somehow, I’m 7 deep in this and despite the potential injury with Kati, this was probably one of the easiest-going, most chill team that we’ve ever had. It just made my life so much easier than many years. Everyone was just so like minded and relaxed that no matter what was thrown at us, we took care of it as it came to us and we moved on.

I can say without a doubt that Year 7 was a major success and that I’d have them all back in a minute if I could. We’ll see what 2023 brings. I think I’ve said for a couple of years now that if this is the last one, I’m ok with it and I feel ok with that this time as well.

Mostly, my heart is filled with gratitude for all of our supporters from family and friends, coworkers and acquaintences, and for all of my runners. Somehow, year after year, it’s been a special ride and this year delivered much the same feeling and for that, I’m a blessed guy.

Pictures from Ragnar Trail Michigan!

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It was such a good time, that before I give a full review of the race, I thought I’d share some of the great pictures that came out of Ragnar Trail Michigan. I hope you enjoy!

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We did it!

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8 runners, 16.25 miles each, plus a fair share of sun and 90 degree heat later, Ragnar Trail Michigan is in the books! Every year brings about challenges and this year certainly did but after 130 miles or running across approximately 30 hours, they’re still smiling!

A full race recap will be coming but for now, thank you to all who have supported this team. It ranks right up there with some of the very best we’ve had. They were all so easy going that no matter what came their way, they just handled it without even blinking. It’s definitely a group that I’ll cherish for a long time.

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Meet the Team #7 – Jake

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In the last of our newbies, I’m proud to introduce you to Jake, Lindsay’s hubby. As I mentioned in her intro, I’ve known the both of them for more than 20 years but with Jake, it goes back much farther than that. I’ve known him since early grade school as he was just a year ahead of me.

We went to grade school and high school together. Jake can partially be blamed for my intro to track. I had just been cut from baseball tryouts and still wanted to be a part of a team. I had talked to him and he said they’d still take kids on the team so I came out and the first week trying to hang with him was hell. He was on the long distance team and they’d been practicing for weeks at that point and I….hadn’t. It was miles upon miles that first week and I just couldn’t do it. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a 2-3 mile run to a course away from school, followed by about 5-6 mile relays with him, and then the 2-3 mile run back. By the time I made it back, I was green. Proudly, I never threw up but my mom was the last car in the parking lot and obviously worried about me. I became a sprinter and long jumper that next week.

I always come back to this but my Junior year, his Senior, we ended up in a study hall together but routinely, we didn’t have any homework to do. Our first semester of it was really laid back. The teacher basically had very few rules and we just hung out that whole hour. It was the last “class” of the day so it was an easy way to finish the day off and get ready for track practice.

The second semester was much different. The teacher demanded silence, no sleeping, and you had to be working. That was a problem for us. Again, we oftentimes had our work done ahead of time so that was going to be a long semester, until he worked out the best last semester of his Senior year and something that I still look back on and laugh about.

Because we were deemed good kids, he sweet talked a teacher, who was known for being pretty tough, into letting him and somehow myself, grade papers occasionally for her. And when I mean occasionally, it was maybe once a week and for that, somehow we were allowed to, unsupervised, hang out in this teacher’s room and watch TV while finishing up any homework, if we had it. We got in trouble one time because we found Saturday Night Live on TV and were laughing too loud at it. Late 90’s SNL was much better than today. I thought we were done for then but we weren’t. We even, as Cubs’ fans, watched the Kerry Wood 20 strikeout game in that study hall. I think we made it to about 12 when the day was over.

Long story short, Jake’s always been someone that I’ve enjoyed being around and a few year’s later when he and Lindsay were getting married, I had the pleasure of being in the wedding. He’s always had a way of including me in things like that and I’ve always felt fortunate.

It’s why when we were looking at the prospect of 3 new runners that I had to ask them. I’ve known that Lindsay’s been a runner for a long time and Jake and I had run the Fort 4 Fitness 4 miler together the first or second year they had it and he’s run half marathon’s more recently.

I just didn’t know if a Ragnar Relay was the type of thing they’d be into but I had to ask so when I saw my shot, I took it. It was after church and I through out this, “Not sure what you think but….” And gave him the speech about it and what we’re looking to do. He didn’t even hesitate and said, “yea that might work.” I got his email and sent them both the info and within a day they were both signed up in the ragnar site as members of Runners Doing Good.

It’ll be great to have both Jake and Lindsay running with us this year. They’re awesome people and I think they’ll fit in perfectly with our team. It’s just hard to believe we’re only a week away….

If you’d like to support Jake, the team, and the Dee Family, please donate through the Facebook page if you’re reading this through that site OR, please visit our GoFundMe page below to give today.

GoFundMe

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They’re Coming Home!

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This will be short but it is with great excitement that we announce that after 25 days in Colombia and countless hours of work to get paperwork and everything right with the adoption and then the necessary visa needs to leave the country, the Dee Family….

IS COMING HOME!!!!

We are so happy for them and with them nothing but safe travels and a restful night in their own beds tonight.

As I’m sure there will still be expenses to cover upon their return, please consider giving either through Facebook or through GoFundMe at the links below:

GoFundMe

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