On Friday evening I found myself questioning my sanity. I was driving a 12 passenger van through the desert of northern AZ. Sitting to my right and behind me were 5 other guys, I’m assuming, in the same state of mind. We were in the second of two vans from our team, partaking in the Ragnar Del Sol Relay. The event started as early as 10AM that morning, and consisted of 200 teams of 12 runners each (assuming you could field a full team and weren’t an “ultra” team of 6). Since we were on paper as one of the faster teams our first van would start at 4PM, the idea being that all teams finish around the same time. Each runner would complete 3 legs, totaling anywhere from 12 to 21 miles. The team was made up of various local Flagstaff runners, including two of my teammates from Run Flagstaff (Rob and Jared), and fellow Run SMART Project coach, Mike Smith.
We received the first exchange at a steakhouse/bar in Kirkland. The sun was setting and you could just barely make out Jared as he came rolling down the road with no-one and nothing else in sight. We had taken an early lead, but with over 170 miles left to go anything could happen.
A few exchanges later I had my first leg. I found myself running 6.7 miles on a highway with very little traffic. The road wound through the mountains and I could barely make out the cattle guards hidden in the asphalt (one every mile or so). It wasn’t a particularly fast leg with the 290 ft. of climbing (nothing compared to the 860 ft. that Rob had completed just a few legs before), but I had one down and it was time to hand off to Mike. Mike’s first leg was on a dirt road and he was catching the teams that had started a couple hours before. The positive was that he had some company, the negative was that now there were vans on the course and they kicked up quite a bit of dust. Mike finished his leg looking strong, crawled into the back bench seat of the van and passed out for what must have been hours.
After a few hours of downtime, we were ready to run our second leg. It was my shortest one (4.9 miles), but that didn’t help me shake the stiffness from my limbs. It was around 1AM and there was a cool breeze in the air. We had caught many of the earlier teams by this point and I could see the red blinking lights attached to the runners shorts for at least a mile from where we stood. We saw many friends from other teams and it was a great time to catch up see how everyone was doing. In a few moments I was off feeling strong and smooth on a nice gradual down hill. I saw Mike, ready for the hand-off, before I knew it. He took off for his next 8 mile stretch.
Our next van exchange was at a school somewhere outside of Mesa. It was a good place to rest and eat a bit of food before the finial stretch. I threw a sleeping bag behind the van and slept for over an hour. I woke up with no clue where I was. The sun was up now, and it didn’t take long to realize that I had an 8 mile leg left in front of me. I waited for the finial exchange on the sidewalk that would lead me to the freeway within a mile. I spent 7 miles on the freeway, running against traffic. It was 80 degrees by this point and my pasty skin, that had spent the Flagstaff winter covered in layers of cool-max, was now mostly bare and being cooked in the desert sun. I also had to hurdle some havalina road kill around mile 4. By this time we had caught and passed all but two teams. Both teams had started at 10AM, so we knew that we were in first by quite a bit. But, that didn’t stop Mike from hammering his finial 3 mile leg.
The last couple of guys on the team finished strong and we ended up winning Ragnar Del Sol by a little over 2 hours. The vans were filled with Cliff Bar wrappers, empty GU packets, sweaty cloths, and shoes. We stopped by the beer tent, hopped in the vans, hit a Mexican restaurant for some quick food and drove back to Flagstaff. I’m still catching up on sleep, but it was a blast.