Race Recap: Ragnar TN “Last to Start, First to Finish”

I don’t know that words will even be able to do this recap justice. We had an absolutely amazing trip to TN and the race itself was just icing on the cake!

There is a lot of planning that goes into an event like this and getting a team together. We had to rent vans, get places to stay at the start, along the way and at the finish, and gather 12 people who were crazy enough to want to join in on the adventure.

We assembled a killer team, some of whom we knew really well and some of whom we had only met a few times, and headed to TN with a pretty lofty goal. Simply stated, we wanted to bring home the win. This was my third overnight relay type of event. In 2011 we did Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona and came in 2nd place and in 2014 we did Ragnar Northwest Passage in Washington and came in 4th place. It was time to bring home the gold.

Our team ran the 189.10 miles from Chattanooga to Nashville in 21:12:08. We were the last team to start the race. We passed every other team along the course and not only won the race, but crossed the finish line first!

PRE-RACE

Thursday morning we got our rental van, loaded everyone up and headed to Chattanooga.

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We had two groups that traveled up, one left early (that was my group) and one left after work. We had several hotel rooms in Chattanooga, where we stayed Thursday night before the race. We got to Chatanooga around 6 p.m. or so, settled into our rooms (which were surprisingly nice and very large) and headed to dinner.

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We tried to hit the hay pretty early Thursday night, as this would be our last night of real sleep for close to 48 hours. The van that left after work didn’t exactly have this luxury, but they were all troopers.

Saturday morning a few of us got up and did an easy 20 minute shakeout run before breakfast. Some of us wouldn’t be running until really late that afternoon, so it was nice to stretch our legs out after sitting in the van all day the day before. We did just over 2.5 miles and got an early taste of some of the hills that were awaiting us along the course.

We hit the continental breakfast at our hotel that morning and went over some of the last minute details.

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After a quick shower (also our last real shower for close to 48 hours), we loaded up and headed to the start to check in.

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Teams started as early as 6 a.m. on Friday and we were the last team to start at 1:45 p.m. There were 121 teams total. Each team member submits their most recent 10K time and each team is assigned a different start time based on their estimated finish time, with the goal being that everyone would arrive at the finish line at close to the same time.

We were able to watch the last group that started at noon. There were three teams in this wave. We had almost two hours to wait until it was our turn to start, so we headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks and decorated our vans (and ourselves).

Coconut bras for the boys …

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Or makeshift Beats By Dre for DJ Holley …

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Grass skirts, leis and hair flowers for the girls …

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The whole gang!

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THE RACE

We started at 1:45 p.m. (EST) Friday afternoon. Ashley was our first runner.

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She actually crossed back into the Central Time Zone during her leg, so she finished earlier than she started! Fastest leg ever.

Once the race starts, the team is separated into two vans. Each van has three girls and three guys. Van 1 follows and supports their runners, while Van 2 goes ahead to the next exchange to wait on Van 1 to get there and then you switch, so Van 2 follows and supports their runners, while Van 1 goes ahead to the next exchange.

Daniel was our second runner. He had a very hilly leg, but he ran great! He lost a bet to Ali (our third runner) during March Madness this year and his “punishment” was that he had to run in British flag shorts during the relay. Shortest shorts ever.

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Daniel handed off to Ali (our team Brit). If Ali had lost the bet, he was going to have to run in a Lady Liberty costume. I think we need to come up with another bet, because that would be an awesome sight to see!

Our first few legs were right along the Tennessee River and it was beautiful! The river was so pretty.

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I started on my first leg at close to 3 p.m. Friday afternoon (read: HOT). My first leg was my toughest leg. It was 10.20 miles with close to 1,100 ft. of elevation gain. I don’t particularly enjoy running on hills, so I knew this one was going to be a bit of a struggle mentally.

At this point in the race, we were running completely by ourselves. We hadn’t started to catch any teams yet and so this was essentially a solo run on the side of a fairly busy, hilly highway. I decided to carry my phone just in case I need to call in an SOS and also so I could play some tunes.

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I ended up with a 7:13 average, which I was pretty happy with. Our team “goal” was sub-7 minute pace, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold that for my legs (23 hilly miles doesn’t translate into sub-7). Fortunately we had several runners that easily went way under 7 minute pace on their legs (some even sub-6!) so it all evened out.

I handed off to Jessica. She crushed her first leg (all of them actually) and before we knew it she was handing off to D. Holley (aka DJ Holley, Young Daniel and many more). Their handoff was on a busy road, so instead of passing the bracelet, they did a “virtual” handoff. Jessica did the “Dab” and D. Holley was on his way.

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After Young Daniel’s leg, it was time for Van 2 to do their thing! This meant that Van 1 had a little bit of downtime. We stayed around and cheered on a few of the Van 2 runners and found a nice little field and playground to hang out in for a while.

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You know you are only 1 leg in if you still have enough energy to swing!

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Eventually we decided it was time to head to the next major exchange where we would take back over from Van 2. This is where things got a little bit hairy. We ended up at the wrong location! By the time we realized it, we didn’t have time to get to them in time for our first runner to start. Van 2 stepped up and Becca volunteered to run another leg. She and Ashley basically swapped their remaining legs and everyone still ran 3 legs. It just didn’t go exactly as planned.

That’s one thing with relays … it is inevitable that something will go wrong. You have to be flexible and just roll with it. It’s like life, you can plan and plan and plan some more, but things don’t always go as planned and you have to accept those things and deal with what you’re given.

It was almost like this one (pretty big) mishap set off a chain of mishaps. We got back on “schedule” with our runners and it was Daniel’s turn to run. At this point it was close to 9 p.m. so it was really dark out. About a half of a mile into his second leg, he lost a contact. Now to some of you that might not sound like a big deal, but Daniel has really bad vision (like really, really bad) and this made things very tricky!

He dealt with the hand he was given and he still ended up running 6:22 pace for that leg! He handed off to Ali and the mishaps kept on coming. Ali took off and was on the right course until another team’s van told him that he was running the wrong way. He thought he was right, but he decided to turn since they told him to.

I would’ve done the same thing too. It’s dark out there and you don’t want to be lost! After we didn’t pass him in the van, we realized what happened and thankfully he was running with his phone so we were able to call him and tell him, “Turn around! Turn around!” He was the best sport about it and he stayed in good spirits. He even managed to average 6:50 pace for 9 miles!

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Ali handed off to me. Like I said earlier, I have done these things before and so I knew what to expect for the nighttime leg. I honestly wasn’t even worried about it at all. As it turns out, my leg ran down the darkest, windiest, scariest back country TN road EVER (perhaps I am being a tad dramatic, but you get the point). I was terrified! About a mile into my leg the van passed me and I told them (very emphatically), “DO NOT LEAVE ME!”

They stayed really close to me the rest of the way and I was fine, but I was definitely a little rattled after that. I wasn’t expecting to be scared, so I was a little bit frustrated with myself, thinking that I had “regressed.” Looking back now, I realize that it is okay (and perfectly normal) to be scared, anxious, etc. and as long as I am listening to and recognizing those feelings, I am doing whatever is needed to take care of myself and that is the most important thing! I was thankful to have Daniel there to make sure I was safe.

I ended up averaging 7:19 for that leg, which was slower than I was hoping for, but again, I made it through safe and secure and that’s all that really matters!

I handed off to Jessica. She and Young Daniel finished up Van 1’s second legs and then we were able to head to our mid-way hotel at this point. I highly recommend having somewhere to stop during the race if you ever do one of these things. We were only there for about an hour and a half, but we were able to rinse off and lay down for a few precious minutes of rest. It made a huge difference!

After a little bit of rest, we piled back into the van and headed out to meet Van 2 for our last leg! Woo hoo! We were so ready to run that last leg and be done. I think it was about 3 a.m. or so at this point (time starts to really have no meaning whatsoever). Becca took off and Van 2 headed to the hotel to get some rest.

Before I knew it, it was time for my last leg! The sun wasn’t quite up (I said lots of prayers that it would be), but it was on the rise. Thank you Lord! I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel going on the third leg. I was already 16.30 miles in and I had 6.80 miles to do. The third leg can definitely be all about survival. I started running and much to my surprise, my legs felt really good! We were starting to catch a ton of teams and that got me even more pumped up.

The third leg was my fastest average!

As we each finished up our last leg, our spirits got higher and higher. By the time Jessica ran her last leg, we were having mini-dance parties on the side of the road to cheer for her as she went by!


Our spirits got even higher when we found a Dunkin Donuts along Young Daniel’s last leg. Coffee was all we really needed. We met back up with Van 2 at the last exchange and found out that there were only 3 teams left to catch. Even though they had started 3 or 4 hours in front of us, we still wanted to catch all of those teams and really seal the win.

Van 2 was on fire and they reeled in those last 3 teams over the course of their last legs. Kenny was our last runner and he passed the last team about 1 mile into his last leg! He came blazing into the finish area and we were all planning to run it in with him. He was running so fast that we couldn’t even keep up!

Team Flip Flops in Porta Johns and Other Bad Decisions for the win!

POST RACE

After the race was over it was time to celebrate and REST! We had an awesome house in Nashville that was on the river. There was a pool, hot tub, ping pong table, air hockey table, dart board, kayaks, etc. It was incredible!

We had a great time hanging out at the house after the race and talking about everything that happened along the way! It’s so much fun to get everyone back together after being separated into two vans during the race. We had plenty to talk and laugh about!

There was a swan in the pool at the house and we got a lot of mileage out of that thing! Ride the Swan might have been the most used phase over the course of the entire trip! Ha.

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I went to bed pretty early. It was maybe 5 p.m., but felt like midnight. My internal clock was so off. I did, however, recognize the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion. I slept so well that night!

I woke up refreshed and ready to Sunday morning. A few of us went for a short run to work out some of the soreness Sunday morning and came back to find breakfast waiting for us!

Thanks Momma Becca and Jessica.

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We spent the day exploring Nashville! We had lunch at a really good local barbecue restaurant, Edley’s. Daniel has a few friends from a camp that he worked at in college that live in Nashville. They met up with us and were wonderful tour guides. We felt like locals.

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Until you have experienced an overnight relay, I don’t know if you can truly understand how much fun and what an awesome experience it is. This was the best relay that I have ever been on! Our team was incredible (fast and just in general). There is so much effort that goes into getting the thing planned and that just makes it all the more exciting. Everyone on our team ran their hearts out and ran better than we expected, which was so cool to see. We were truly a team. Friendships were formed, strengthened and tested. Everyone was so supportive of each other and we built a wonderful camaraderie.

I can’t wait until the next one!

Tell me … what is your fondest racing experience? This one is ranking pretty high on my list right now!

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5 thoughts on “Race Recap: Ragnar TN “Last to Start, First to Finish”

  1. Whoa amazing job at winning the race! That’s amazing! I did Ragnar Colorado and it was so much fun but soooo hard. The altitude made it super tough on me since I live at sea level, but I was really surprised that I had so much more energy on the third leg than I thought I would! I am definitely hoping to do one again. You made Ragnar Tennessee sound like such a fun race to run!

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