As I mentioned in my previous post, I was very fortunate to be a member of a men's Masters team that was sponsored by Revel Sports/Marshfield Clinic that won the 2011 Ragnar/Great River Relay this past weekend. This same team, with the exception of two runners won the event in 2010 as well. Last year after we won there was talk of doing it again but those discussions really never surfaced until late this spring. Some guys were skeptical of doing it again because of the experience being so great in 2010, how could we possibly top that? With the crew we assembled we made that possible and had one hell of a time!
The picture above shows the six members of the starting van. We departed from Winona at 4:00 pm on Friday. For such a huge event, 300+ teams of 12 members, the start is very anti-climactic. The 4 pm slot had just 8 teams start. It felt like a club practice. We managed to get out and run in third place for most of the first round of running and had a decent battle already brewing. When we handed off to the second van of six runners it was getting dark and we had to put on the required reflective gear for the rest of the night and until the clock ticked past 0700!
For me going through the challenges of the race segments pays off when you hand off to the next runner and then see how the 11 other team members are putting out their 100% effort. In times of doubt all you have to do is think of the others hurting and to just keep pushing on the best you can. We all are hurting and as the night progresses EVERYONE is tired. You just have to dig a little deeper to find that extra piece that maybe the other teams are not quite able to focus on. All 11 of us did that and it resulted in another year with a super victory.
Briefly, I was runner number 5. I had segments of 8, 6.2, and 7 miles for my three legs. The 8 miler was .2 short and I appreciated every step of it! The 6.2 mile segment was in the farm lands just off the river valley's so it incorporated a lot of bluff climbing on gravel roads. I had about 1.5 miles of gradual warm up then I had 4.5 miles of uphill grind. The grade was more than the challenge I wanted at 0130 but I had to keep pressing on and get to the exchange zone to pass the hurt to my team member Mark. All in all, I finished that segment a bit disappointed but managed a 6:04 average pace for those climbs. My last segment was another hilly 7 miler that started in the corn/farm lands just outside of Woodbury and finished in the suburbia mecca of east Woodbury. Those rolling hills were enough to make scream, but I remember the look on my friend Steve's face as he ran the exact segment in 2010, and I just couldn't give up as he put in 110% that year and I didn't want to let my guys down. I still felt like I did, and part of it was injury, and the other part was not fueled up enough, but I managed to get it done and remain to average 6:03 miles for the last dirty bugger.
Once our van completed our last bit of running we handed off and grabbed a quick breakfast as Denny's and made contact with our team members in Van 2 only to find out they ate up the 9+ minutes we were behind all night long and actually were in the lead. As we made our way to the river paths of Minneapolis we found our runners in the lead and looking great. As our last runner took off for the final leg and the push to the finish he had a 5+ minute lead and gave it his all. With a lot of encouragement and a stellar running performance we managed to get the win with a 3 minute cushion.
The excitement was unbelievable. We had repeated the win and we now could celebrate. With a bit of help from some new friends we managed to make "a few" beers disappear and had eventually made our way to the motel for a little hot tub and dinner.
Thank you guys again for such a wonderful experience. I said this last year and I will say it again. I don't think we can top that performance but I am willing to try in 2012! Thanks much!!
Total for Ragnar: 195 miles 19:59:52 average pace: 6:10 per mile
44:36 7.8 miles
Saturday: 37:05 6.2 miles
42:05 7 miles
Sunday: 0 miles rest
Weeks Total: 43 miles
Years Total: 1500.9 miles