Friday, June 21, 2013

Ragnar Relay Niagara

Last weekend I ran Ragnar Niagara Ontario.  My 2nd Ragnar.  It ran from Cobourg, which is east of Toronto, through Toronto at night & then through Niagara on the Lake and finishing right at Niagara Falls. It was an incredible course!  Now, being Canadian, I have to say I jumped at the chance to run the first International Ragnar and maybe I'm a little biased because Toronto is a place I absolutely LOVE to run in but I have to say that it was well organized, had a beautiful route & quite frankly, the best finish line venue ever!

Tutu's & Running shoes...what more could a girl ask for?
Thursday morning I met my van mates & headed north. We made good time to the border at Niagara Falls & made the smart choice to take the 407 toll road to bypass most of Toronto. Cobourg is a little further than I thought (duh, it's 200 miles from Niagara) & we had to merge back on the 401 at Markham & got reminded why we don't live in a big city. Horrific traffic. We did finally make it to Cobourg around 6:45pm and went straight to The Mill restaurant where we had reservations. We had a great team meal in the pub. They had a great singer belting out all the old rock & roll classics. He became our new best friend after he came over to find out what we were celebrating.
In fact, the whole place gave us a standing-O and wished us luck when we left! We were definitely pumped for our adventure!
This is it in a nutshell ;-D

We checked in to our hotel. Pretty much it was filled with Ragnar vans. It was cool looking at the lisence plates to see where they had come from: Minnesota, Ohio, Florida, Texas...and of course, lots of NY & Ontario!!! Wow! We had a quick van meeting to go over logistics. This was probably the best thing we did. We had a spreadsheet that listed driver, navigator, photographer & runners' assistant for each leg. The runners' assistant was in charge of finding out how often (if at all) the runner wanted us to stop for hydration/fuel & what they wanted waiting for them at the finish line. This moment of organisation helped us make sure that the runner on deck was resting and free of responsibility & we didn't have to think about what we had to do at each exchange.

Personally, I slept pretty well. I didn't feel any stress as this is definitely not a 'race' for me.  Sure, I want to run the best I can, but enjoying the whole experience, getting to know new people & challenging my body to run again and again tired and sleep deprived while still having a smile on my face is more important than the time.

Runner 6's...he would catch me 2 out of 3 legs!
We had an 8AM start time so we were up around 6, showered, filled our cooler with ice and off we went. The start was only a couple miles from the hotel and we found it easily....(unlike our fiasco at Cape Cod last year!). We arrived in the parking lot just before 7 and the coolest thing happened! I saw someone I know! It turned out that there were 3 teams from our small town! I knew there was one other but I had no idea there was a third...and I knew 3 people on that team! We checked in & went through our safety briefing. Then it was just time to wait for our start time.  My friend's team started at 7:30 so we cheered them on as they began their journey.
As we were waiting, I guess our tutu's attracted attention so we were photographed by the official Ragnar photographer and I was interviewed by a local tv station!
Soon it was 8, we had our team introduction and Runner 1 was off!  Her leg was short & she is fast, so we had to take off right away to get to the next exchange.  Runner 2 was ready and waiting & they handed off easily.  Runner 2 has had some knee problems and we were worried about her.  She was ok when we passed her a couple miles in but as she rounded the corner to the exchange point we knew something was wrong.  She was hurt.  We sent off the next runner and got Runner 2 some ice and ibuprofen and reassured her that we had the rest of her legs.  She wasn't having any of that though and said 'we'll see'.  Turns out she is one tough cookie.  Felt ok to run her 2nd leg and did ok.  She was probably the only one out there who's van kept stalking her and shouting "slow down!". Lol!

Finally, it was my turn to run! I was pumped! It was noon and I had been waiting a long time. 6.1 miles...& Lost in Pace Runner 6 was at the exchange too. Soon Runner 5 came into view, handed off and I was off running through the streets of Clarington on my way to Bowmanville. The sun was blazing down and it was a hot run! My team met me on the road with water around half way.  It was around here that D caught me and passed me. Ugg.  He is SPEEDY! I took comfort in his team started 30 minutes before mine.  It turned out to be a hillier course than I thought it was going to be but I got through it and sailed into the exchange just under an hour.  59:55 to be exact.  9:58 pace. I was happy. I handed off to Van 2's Runner 7, cooled down, and hit the merchandise tent....gotta get some shopping in ;-D.  Found a nice hoodie in case you care.

Now it was our van's down time.  We did not book a midway hotel so we drove to the next major exchange in Pickering, which turned out to be a nice church parking lot with lots of grass and shady trees.  They were giving out Starbucks ice tea and granola here, which we had a LOT of as it was super yummy!  We claimed a shady spot under a tree, threw down our blankets and sleeping bags and tried to rest.  It was surprisingly comfortable and I was able to get almost a couple hours sleep.  We spent the rest of the time tagging vans with our team logo magnets....a little game everyone plays over the course of the race.  Soon it was time to get going again.  We started again around 6pm. My teammates are speedy little devils and we were killing the course.  Which was good because, I don't do speedy.  Nighttime hours were 8pm-7am and we were able to get 3 runners on the course before we had to start wearing our safety gear.  My night run was the one I was looking forward to.  It was 9.2 miles from the Toronto Port Authority through the heart of downtown Toronto along the lakeshore to Etobicoke.  I run sections of this whenever I am in Toronto and LOVE it! The only bummer of this leg was that my SIL was supposed to come out and run part of it with me and unfortunately got stuck at home waiting for some other family to arrive. Nuts! Things happen and I understood.  I still got an amazing run! I stopped for one picture as I was going over one of the Port Authority bridges because it was an amazing sight seeing the sunset over the city! The weather was perfect too. I didn't need long sleeves at all.

I was so happy when I finished! I really didn't enjoy my night run at all in Cape Cod.  I had worn the wrong shoes and I was in pain. This was SO different! I felt nothing but joy & freedom through this leg! I LOVED it! (though I will say there were a couple sketchy areas we ran through at the beginning and I was glad when I spied another runner's blinky light that I could latch on to for a while). That's the thing about's a race but you are alone almost the whole time.  Most of the time, people you pass wonder what is going on...Mummy, why is that lady running in a tutu? And just so you know, my kill count was a big fat zero until this leg....but I passed ("killed") 3 runners this leg! Go me! I came in @ 1:33:43 with my hands in the air and big smile on my face, handed off to Runner 7 and begged for real food! I was starving! We hadn't had a real meal in over 24 hours.  Luckily my vanmates were planning ahead and had already found a pizza place that was nearby and still open at 11:30 at night.  If you are ever in Toronto...FBI Pizza is the best pizza ever. Plus they had a real bathroom, which was a little slice of heaven right there ;-D

Unfortunately, Van 2's mileage was really low this break.  Only 25 miles. So by the time we got out of the pizza place it was 12:30 and we needed to get to the next exchange so we could sleep.  I decided to drive because Runner 1 really needed to rest as she had almost 9 miles to do on her final leg. Unfortunately, we got caught in an awful traffic jam on the highway and didn't get into the exchange until almost 1:30am.   We had about an hour of sleep and then Runner 1 had to get up and get ready.  That was tough.  But she killed the course and we were off to a great start.  Runner 2 was stubborn again and refused to be subbed as it was a short 3 mile leg. She was taking a while so one of us ran out from the exchange to bring her in.  She was hurting but did it.  The sun was starting to rise as Runner 3 took off.  It was absolutely beautiful! The great thing about leg 3 is that every time someone finishes it is a little celebration. Everyone was tired, but we all had happy smiles on our faces.

Lucky for me, my 3rd leg started after 7am so I didn't have to wear my safety gear again.  Yay! My last leg was 5.4 miles.  I knew I could run 5 miles any day of the week. The question was more what pace would hit.  My legs were really tight by this time. The first mile I'm sure I looked ridiculous with the shortened gait of the tight-hamstringed! Luckily, by about a mile or so in I started to loosen up and was running more comfortably.  I just decided to take it slow and steady and enjoy this last leg.  I even passed one runner! I came in to the finish strong and passed off to Van 2's Runner 7 again! I was finished! Our van was DONE!!!  We had a little celebration in the parking lot and with the thought of hot showers foremost in our minds, set off for the finish line to see if we could check in to our hotel early.  We picked the best hotel to stay in as the finish line was directly across the street! Woohoo! It took a little talking, as the clerk at the Sheraton initially kept telling us that check in time was 4pm....are you kidding me?????  No way that was flying for 6 smelly, tired women.  But getting mad doesn't usually help, so we killed her with kindness and she finally got us in to one room so we could all shower.  We were SO thankful! On our way back out to the van to get our bags, a runner from another van accosted us demanding to know what kind of room we had booked because their 'superior falls view' room wasn't ready and they couldn't get in.  My response: One with a shower.  Really? Who cares about the view after a race like this?????  We laughed all the way to the shower.  Which was quite possibly the best shower I've ever had.

Showered and fresh and back in our team uniforms we headed across the street to cash in our free finish line beer tokens & wait for our teammates to arrive. We crossed the line right in front of the falls in 29 hours, 51 minutes....a pretty respectable time! 

All in all, a fantastic time! I kind of had in the back of my head that this might be my last road Ragnar, but now I'm not so is just SO darn fun!

Corning Girls Gone Ragnar are done...this time ;)


Kate Geisen said...

Looks like a blast...and I LOVE those socks!

Ivayla Wadsworth said...

Awesome! I would love to do a Ragnar one of these days! I love the outfits especially the socks!

TriMOEngr said...

What a great adventure! I've never done any kind of relay, but this sounds like such fun. I would just worry about slowing my team down.

Losing 100 pounds and ... said...

Looks like SO much fun!!!

Your outfits are so cute!

Jamie said...

Aww relays <3 I'm so jealous that you did this one and Cape Cod. I can't wait for our relay in August!