My first race of 2013 was my first-ever overnight relay, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to do it. It was 27*F the day we left Annapolis and headed to Miami!
Ragnar Florida Keys is a 12-person, 197-mile journey from Miami to Key West. The teams split into two vans which follow their runner to exchange points along the course. Once all runners in Van 1 were done, they’re “off duty’” until all of Van 2′s runners have run. And repeat — each runner has three legs of varying distance.
Thanks to the Florida heat (warmer than usual, from what we’ve heard), and an injury (he was able to finish all his legs, though), we were a bit slower than expected and finished in just over 36 hours.
After my first leg (I was runner #12!), we drove to the Key Largo area for our first break. We stopped at CVS for some supplies (I picked up bottled water and baby wipes), and then we had a gourmet dinner at Waffle House. Um, not much around there that was suitable for a van full of sweaty runners!
We were able to wait out the rest of our break at a high school that was open for the off-duty teams. We could shower (for $3), and sleep on the gym floor. Though I didn’t get much sleep … after two hours of on-and-off dozing, my phone (which was also my alarm and way to communicate with my team) died. It was charging (I placed my sleeping bag by an outlet), so it wasn’t the battery. Turns out it was dead-dead (and currently sent away for repair ). I was worried about finding my team when it was time to go again, so I hung out in a common area reading for a little while, and then headed back to the van. Two of my teammates were sleeping there since the gym wasn’t working for them, and I joined them.
We ended up getting a much later start than we thought (that’s where the injury came into play, with our teammate having to mostly walk an almost 12-mile unsupported leg). Our runner started around 3am.
Despite the heat and little-to-no sleep, she had a great 10-miler, and the rest of our runners did well, too.
My second leg (6.9 miles) was initially estimated (by Ragnar’s calculations, based on each of our planned paces) to start around 4:30am, but actually ended up at 8:30 am. I was glad to not be in the dark — much of the run was on a trail that would have been creepy — but it was really hot. I was surprised I hadn’t lost that much speed from my first leg. My team met me at the halfway point. I took some Gatorade, and kept plugging along.
It briefly started raining, and I was excited. I could have used a good cool-down! But, it was just sprinkles, and didn’t last long. (A couple miles down the road, everything was drenched. Looks like I missed out on a good downpour!)
Since I was the last runner, we had another break, so we found a place for brunch. It was a casual pizza place (though they weren’t serving lunch yet), and they had outdoor seating which seemed more appropriate. After we ate, I “showered” in the restroom with my baby wipes and changed into a clean/dry outfit. Not perfect, but not bad, either.
We had another school to wait at for the next exchange with Van 1 — who would be finished when they met us! We had some time, though, so most of us tried to nap in the van. It’s amazing what a good cat nap can do. I was still feeling pretty good!
Our runners continued to do well, though it was hot and sunny again. By the time I started my last leg — heading to the finish in Key West! — it was after sunset. I got lucky — it was still humid, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if we were faster and finished mid-afternoon as estimated!
My last leg wasn’t as scenic since it was dark — most of the time I was running along the water. But it was exciting to be completing such an interesting journey! Once I got close to the finish there were lots of turns, but finally I was at the last corner.
I almost didn’t see my teammates since there were some bright lights at the finish line (and one of them was wearing a pirate hat so I didn’t immediately recognize him!). I got a burst of energy and sprinted to the finish, with my team right behind me.
We hung out long enough for our free beer at the end, but we were beat! Our first night in Key West was an early night — shower + dinner + bed. But fortunately we had a few vacation days to enjoy it!
I had a great time running the relay. While it was more of an adventure than a race, I felt more pressure than I do racing solo, since I was running for my team! But it kept me motivated to push through the heat and humidity.
It was exhausting, but a lot of fun. I’d do it again!