Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Oops…I did it again and ran a Ragnar

Del Sol Ragnar - 202 miles from Wickenburg to Tempe

If you live in the Phoenix area and were out on the roads this weekend, you may have noticed a couple hundred decorated white vans either driving down the road or parked in long lines in the middle of the desert. These vans were part of the Del Sol Ragnar – and I was in one of them.

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I did my first Ragnar this past fall as my 2012 bucket list item (read about my Vegas Ragnar).

You would think running one 202 mile relay across the desert would be enough for someone to do in their lifetime, but apparently not for this crazy adventurous girl becauase I did it again. And you know what? I’ll probably do a third one eventually because the people you meet are just so fun – AND next time I want to wear a crazy outfit. Yes, I’m expanding my wild side.

JoDee in her costume
“What I love about Ragnars is that you don’t have to be an elite runner to do them,” said Brynn Tinker Campbell. “You just have to do them.”

I met Brynn during my Vegas Ragnar. She’s this down-to-earth teacher/cattle rancher from Wyoming who’s just as crazy as I am. Okay…maybe more crazy as this was her sixth Ragnar and she’s signed up for the Utah one in June. She drove hours and hours from Wyoming to Phoenix to run on our Pink Flamingo team.

“You do one and then you end up doing another one,” said Brynn, who like me didn’t know anyone else on the Pink Flamingo team. “You start off as strangers, but by the end, you are family.”

And she’s not the only crazy one. Our entire van was filled with amazing people. We had JoDee Braaten, our fearless leader, who ran all her legs wearing a pink flamingo outfit – complete with feathers, two Stephanies, Missy, Brynn and me.

Pink Flamingo van- our mobile hotel for the next 33 hours

“The first year I was only going to wear the costume at the exchanges – and not the actually running part. Then I wore it for my first leg. Then the second leg and then I figured I might as well wear it for the third,” said JoDee.

This was the third year she was wearing the costume. She says after this year, she’s going to retire it. It was beginning to molt, plus she hadn't washed it -- so it had three Ragnars worth of sweat on it.

Then there was Stephanie Maxwell, a mother of 2 who ran an ironman in the fall and was planning on running the Phoenix Marathon the following weekend. While most marathoners would probably be treating their bodies with kindness the week before a big race, Stephanie was going to push hers to the limit.

“I wasn't planning on doing the Ragnar because of the marathon, and then I looked at my legs and I had 13 miles the first day, then 4 miles and then 3. I would have been running that for training anyway,” Stephanie said.  
Me hugging a guy in bear coat

See? These women are just as crazy as me which goes to show you are never alone in your quests. And when you do find these kindred spirits, it’s like you’ve found this strange supportive family – well in this case we were a sweaty, smelly and tired family as we took turns running the 200 mile race all night long.

But that makes the connection special because surviving the struggle is part of the Ragnar experience. It’s not easy. It hurts.

“I love coming out and seeing first-timers and people who are giving it their all,” Brynn said. “Sure there are some athletes who are good runners, but the ones I love are the people you know don’t do this everyday. You know the ones who really have to push themselves to get it done.”

These non-athletes are the real “super stars” of the race. You can’t help to cheer them on and when they reach their goal, you feel like you’ve watched something special.
The line to the potties

For example, there was this one guy who running on the 13.5 mile leg, which was the longest leg of the Del Sol course. We noticed him struggling already at mile 6 when we drove to the exchange to meet our runner, and when he neared the finished line, he was suffering. I mean really suffering. Suffering so much that he could barely run.

Still he was giving it everything he had.

The whole crowd had to cheer as he crossed the finished line. It was just so inspiring – but worthwhile.

No one ever said reaching your dreams would be easy, but when you do reach them, it’s magical.


1) The people - You meet people of all ages, fitness levels and sizes.
Being part of the scenery - priceless

2) Running at 3 a.m. when it's so dark all you can see is the light from your headlamp and your breath in the cold night air.

3) The challenge - It's hard. Really hard to run that long on that little sleep.

4) Being part of the scenery (not watching it from a window)

5) The atmosphere - Think of it as a healthy Burning Man because we really are a mobile village where everyone lets go of reality just for the weekend.