musings on running, life, and everything in between

Ragnar Chicago Race Recap


Ragnar Chicago finally happened. It was probably the most chaotic and trouble-ridden one of the 3 that I’ve done. Coordinating 24 women, 4 vehicles, and 2 teams is alot. There’s alot of room for things to go wrong. And short of a vehicle breakdown, almost everything that could have gone wrong did. It still ended up being an amazing experience, perhaps more so for all the trouble-shooting we did.

We had a last-minute runner switch out 3 days before the race. There was a family death and the funeral, which was out of town, was the Friday of the race. We did some last-minute scrambling and were actually able to find TWO women who were able to do it (the upsides of being part of a 180+ women’s running group). We ended up going with a woman, Amy, who was the first to be able to coordinate abandoning her family for a few days. She ended up being awesome (which was fortunate since none of us had ever run with her before, ha).

The other team captain, Swati, was trying to negotiate a lower rate for our vans leading up to the pick up. The company was trying to pull some nonsense about making us pay for extra days because they weren’t open on Saturday after 12, and we would have to pay for Sunday and Monday. She got us a slightly lower rate, but I got a bad feeling when they called her Wednesday night and offered her the use of some Suburban’s for $10 less in lieu of the 15-passenger vans. Uh, no. A few hours before we were supposed to pick up the vans, Swati posted on our group page to NOT pick up the vans. The companies were pulling some ridiculousness that 3 of the 4 vans were being recalled by Chevy, so they weren’t available. Swati called Chevy, who refuted any recall of 15-passenger vans. Alot of yelling, negotiating, and threatening, Swati was able to get us 3 Suburbans and 1 15-passenger van for a super-deep discount.

I have to say, that the Suburbans didn’t seem to drive much easier than the vans. They are big! I did miss the leg room, and we definitely would have packed lighter if we had know. Still, it wasn’t as horrible as I was afraid it would be. In fact, I noticed this year that there seemed to a great more SUV’s and less vans. Not sure if there was some sort of weird van shortage or if everyone was trying to save money. Anyhow, I think we looked pretty tough with our giant cars and tinted windows. In fact, we didn’t get very many magnet tags in our car (one tradition of Ragnar is teams “tagging” other teams with team magnets), which was black. We think we looked intimidating. Ha.

My favorite team magnet from the whole race.


Other than ours of course (designed by Andrea, who was runner 1 on Team 2–she was also on my team/van last year).


A goofy picture of my team posing in front of “van” 1.

Both teams. All 24 women at Patty’s house (she’s the one towards the center right with short hair, glasses, and an Illinois shirt). She’s such a super-gracious host, and her husband Bob helped us negotiate van stuff as well. They are ridiculously cute and kind. 

So quick summary for those who haven’t done Ragnar before. There are usually 12 runners (although you can also do an “ultra” version with 6 runners) in 2 vehicles. One van is the “active” van meaning it’s leapfrogging runners from one position to the next. Between runners 6 and 7, there is a “van exchange” where the two vans will be and the formerly “inactive” van swaps off. The first van then jumps to the next van exchange, eats, rests, whatever. That means, van 1 for my team started at 7:45 am, but van 2 wouldn’t start until almost 1 pm.

Here’s runner 1 (Andrea) from Team 2. You can’t tell, but it was pouring during the start. Van 1 for both teams got dumped on. Our team was delayed by a few minutes getting started because it was raining so hard.

11406947_10106251872309650_6666824667263102584_nOne of the lovely parts of running this relay is how many trails in Wisconsin you get to see. In my opinion, those are much nicer than the semi-monotony of the country roads.  1795567_10205477743136277_3419993561803276919_nThere were sisters on the other team, Laura (left) and Jen (right). My siblings laughed when I suggested we try it together once….


One of the things I love about Ragnar is also its goofiness. Here is van 1 of Team 2 getting loose with some Zumba at the first van exchange.

Swati, who is also a total fashionista, got excited to see someone wearing the same running skirt. A running banana no less. We also saw some folks in care bear outfits and wild animals.

Here’s my van trying to look really excited at our first van exchange.11393135_10200538143533704_2558339456823482890_n

I think that picture was taken right before we realized that our runner 6 got hurt on her first leg at mile 3-4 of her 9.9 mile run (Just to clarify, each runner in a 12-person team runs 3 times over the course of the race. Each “leg” is different distances). One of the other runners in her van had to actually run back (her van had stopped at mile 7 to cheer her on) to where she was in the trail and finish her leg. That injury totally threw us for a loop as she had one of the most distance-heavy runner positions. Kirstin finished her first leg, picking up about 6 miles. Emily, in her van, finished her middle leg, which was fortunately shorter. I picked up her final leg, which was about 6.5 miles. There was alot of back and forth about who should pick up which leg. Emily had the greatest mileage runner position, but was also one of our strongest runners. Jen K would have been game for just running back-to-back (the hurt runner was runner 6 and Jen was runner 7), but her hamstring was starting to really bother her. As the other strongest runner (and being runner 12, the “furthest” in positioning from runner 6, i.e., the most rest time), I decided I should make it up. So all in all, I ended up running just short of a marathon, about 24 miles.

Kelly, who left a 4 month old at home, was awesome. She pumped like a champ. On a side note, there was alot of talk about body parts, body fluids, and body functioning–mostly flatulence and bowel movements. I think this awesome photo is of her finishing a run that was a mile longer than she’d anticipated. There was a weird runner exchange where you could pick your runner up anywhere along a mile stretch of road. We picked up Michelle, the runner before Kelly, earlier, so Kelly ran a mile longer…She was really excited about that.


Amy was our last-minute runner add and she ran anchor, Runner 12, for Team 2. She rocked it. Look how strong she is!


My van was ridiculous and stopped at one point mid-way through a run to cheer me on. Michelle N thought it would be funny to pretend to spank me. Not photographed was Michelle R doing cartwheels (yup, there were two Michelle’s and two Jen’s in my van).


One of weird parts about running towards the front of the whole race experience is that you do run some stretches alone (Patty and Laura from Team 2). It can be peaceful, or sometimes creepy. HA.



Jen was having some hamstring issues, so here she was stretching it out. Also not pictured was me at one exchange straddling her to massage out her butt. Yup, that’s how we do it. I love her Rainbow Dash (My Little Pony) socks.

One awesome aspect of running with two teams was seeing so many familiar faces at multiple exchanges. For awhile, we were running the same times/legs as Team 2. Here we are at one of the major van exchanges where they were supposed to be sleeping (at a high school).


Jen K and Jen V, runner position soulmates. They were both Runner 7 on the two teams.


Yes, I am wearing lipstick like a weirdo during my night run because I forgot my chapstick.11058405_10152954290527532_9140711738925522412_nNight runs can be a nice break from the heat of the day. It also makes you run faster because it’s creepy! Still, folks try to get into the spirit of it with glow sticks and such.     11401579_10155717222670385_1463886230025582013_n

While van 1 got to sleep indoors, van 2 got to sleep outside in a tent on the beach. That was actually pretty cool, and although the tents were pitched right by the exchange so we heard cheering and team numbers being called out all night (by “all night,” I mean the 2 hours we had to sleep), I actually got more sleep this year than I did last year on the floor of a YMCA. I still felt pretty nauseous and gross waking up the next morning.

Another fun aspect of Ragnar is marking the “kills” you have during your run. A kill is when you pass another runner during your leg. Here, Swati is totally getting in a last kill before the hand-off.


These next 3 shots are from the final hand-off. Michelle R is totally channeling that chick from SNL here.


I love how this shot looks like a super-exaggerated picture of “run faster.”


Here’s the actual hand-off. You like my ridiculous rainbow compression tights? 11391723_10152957383082532_2827115666582839253_nHere’s the rest of my van at that exchange in their “ladies from the 80’s costumes.”


Jen K, Jen H, Michelle N, Michelle R, Kelly

One of the “fun” aspects of being Van 1 is that you’re done earlier, so you can clean up your van, get breakfast, and chill out while waiting for the other van to finish.


Erik met me at the finish with the kids.

11392951_10153044720843931_3534614991186193107_nMy van re-enacting our photo from Exchange 1.

11427168_10153159453697949_1735339597627966812_n My whole team at the finish. Emily, far left, actually wore a full leotard. Awesome.11401157_10153159453022949_8547621591039376315_n

This is a picture of me eating the ridiculously small portion of pasta salad that was the post-race food at the finish. Why am I “drinking” it? Because there were no forks. Last year they gave each van a full pizza. This year, sample-sized pasta salads with no forks, um yeah…I was so hungry, I “drank” it anyway.


Most of the team enjoying their post-race beverages.


One neat feature of the race this year was that all 12 of the medals (on the backs, so you had to look) fit together like a puzzle to make a message. That was neat.


After all that adrenaline and lack of sleep, you can’t help but conk out on the ride home. The 80s garb just makes this picture that much better.11429932_10152922674393837_4466441985154112234_n

And finally, hours after I got home, I got this text from Ragnar. Ugh, that is the final bullet we dodged.

10689708_10152922706118837_6975335543604256852_nRagnar Chicago 2015 is in the books, and running with such amazing, powerful, joyous women was a blessing. That is what brings me back over and over. I have to say, though, that I am not sure I’ll run Chicago again next year (although I will run a Ragnar). There were a number of things that happened this year that were frustrating–1) the shirts were cotton (for all that money and a record number of teams registering, cotton shirts, really?), 2) pasta salad (really? no forks even? at least a slice of pizza?!), 3) the mapping/directions on route this year were sparse. I got off route on my last leg. The last leg is running through Northwestern and Loyola’s campus and then on the lakefront path to Montrose Beach. If you’ve ever run that part of the path, you know there are a couple options as there are some parallel paths. I was actually on the wrong path when I got re-routed by another Ragnar runner who saw me and redirected me. I heard another runner ran 4 miles out of her way because she missed the turn and was crying at the finish. Jen H also got lost on her leg (as well as another team’s runner we overheard) and had to run an extra 1.5 miles. 4) there was no van coordination this year which made it a bit frustrating and more expensive.

I think I’m ready to try Ragnar somewhere else, but there was already alot of talk about “next year,” so we’ll see.

Also…preliminary results are out…AND we are currently first in our division. We’ll see if that’s what it all shakes out to be…so stay tuned!

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

3 thoughts on “Ragnar Chicago Race Recap

  1. Great recap! Sounds like you had a blast, glad you finished before they called the race!


  2. Pingback: Ragnar again: Ragnar Relay Great Rivers Race Recap | RunNerdier

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