Driver Report: Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to bow out as runner #1 on the Wurst Ragnar Team Ever, and instead be the designated driver of Van #2. Luckily they did find someone else to run in my spot! And instead of leaving for the hotel on Thursday evening with Van 1, on Friday morning, I met up with the runners in Van 2 (aka The Meat Wagon, which also became my nickname given my initals) for the drive to Lake Mills, WI.


Eric, me, Lindsay, Jessica, Anne, Orton Pants, Mo, Zoe. Pics from Eric. 

We stopped for lunch “in town” and then headed to exchange 6. The team checked in, we listened to the safety briefing then headed back to the van to decorate.


Wall decals from Cafe Press worked pretty well!


The Ladies of Van 2 … and Eric. 

And then relaxed until Van #1 and runner #6 arrived. We had a spreadsheet with everyone’s distance, pace, expected duration and expected finish time of day to take some of the guesswork out of timing. It worked well as long as I read it correctly. (It also helps to text “one mile to go” to your van if you’re a runner, or text the fellow van with your ETA when you’re getting close to a major exchange. <– Foreshadowing.)


Hanging with Van 1

Our van took off as expected around 4:30pm and it was our turn to navigte through rural Wisconsin. Our routine was that whoever was running next would navigate me to the next exchange. It worked out well! The directions in the RagMag were mostly accurate, but when in doubt, we had Google Maps.


Waiting for Eric to finish his first leg, which ended at a winery. 

We got through our first “shift” with no issues and tried to find dinner. It was after 10pm so we ended up at McDonald’s. I worried this might backfire for the runners, but we had very limited options and wanted to get to the next major exchange ASAP to get as much sleep as possible. The nice thing about driving and not running, in addition to not packing as much, is not worrying about when and what you eat.


We certainly enjoyed Mo’s Nice Balls, Anne especially. 

Once we got to exchange 18, I set my alarm and tried to get some sleep in the van while we waited for Van 1 to get through their legs. I was jolted awake by a text message from Erin telling me that runner #6 would be there in about 45 minutes. What? I thought I had another hour and a half. Then I reviewed the timesheet and realized I read it wrong. Damnit! There went naptime. Good thing she texted me. We scrambled to get ready, and luckily only lost a couple minutes at the exchange before Mo was off again. It was 1:45am and my next chance for sleep wasn’t until this shift was over around 6:30am.

As usual for Ragnar, everyone blazed through their nighttime legs and we ended up finishing around 6am. (Van 1 got us 10 minutes ahead of schedule and Van 2 got us another 20 ahead.) We got to see the end of a lovely sunrise over Lake Michigan in Racine.


After handing back to Van 1, we headed out to find breakfast (thank you, Panera, for opening at 6am), gas and ice, and headed to exchange 30. This time we had a longer “off” time before we expected Van 1 to finish, so we napped. I slept for a glorious 1.5 hours in the shade of a tree on the lawn of North Chicago High School (add that to the list of Weird Things Only Accpetable to Both Runners and Drunks.) 

I think our van started running again around 11:30am. It was sunny and warm but we were getting closer to Chicago.


Everyone was killing it.


Ragnar is a great opportunity for people watching. It’s also a place where our excessive amount of sausage jokes seemed totally appropriate.


Anne’s last leg ended at an exchange with a lovely view, so we took this picture without her. Sorry, Anne.


Handing off for the last leg!

This year, Ragnar ended just south of Belmont, instead of it’s usual spot on Montrose Beach. We still parked at Montrose, but had to take a shuttle to the finish. Even though the last runner’s leg was longer, and we had more time to get to the finish, it was Saturday afternoon in Chicago, and we worried we’d get stuck in traffic and not make it in time. However, traffic wasn’t as bad as I dreaded, and we made it to the finish about 15 minutes ahead of Lindsay, and the entire team was able to cross the finish together!


Wurst Ragnar Team Ever! Photo from Anne. If you can’t tell, Van 1 was Erin and all guys, Van 2 was Eric and all ladies. 

We finished a little bit ahead of schedule around 4:30pm. The total team time was 29:31.

Even though I wasn’t able to run Ragnar with my team, I had a lot of fun participating as driver. I kind of felt like the van mom – chaperoping everyone around – I even counted everyone everytime we got back into the van to make no runner was left behind. I got very little sleep and didn’t shower. I kept herding us back into the van so we could get to our next destintion. This is what motherhood is like, yes?

When we finished, I was a little sad that I wasn’t officially on the team as a runner. But, I was proud of the great performance from the team and by being there, hopefully my vanmates got a little bit more sleep and had a little bit less to worry about. Plus, you know, I still had a great time.

And then I got home, showered, and slept for 13 hours. And had kind of a Ragnar hangover on Sunday.

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10 Comments on “Driver Report: Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago”

  1. You guys did get some great shots while I was running. No worries, looks like I can just photoshop myself (and/or Bigfoot) into that nice team picture 🙂

    Also, thank you so so much again for being the Wurst Driver Ever!!!! I had offered to do the bulk of our driving, and although I didn’t really sleep much when we were driving around, I still appreciated not having to worry about that.

  2. YAY!!! Sounds like the weekend was a blast, despite all the sleep deprivation and craziness. Fabulous pictures (especially the ones of the flag-patterned clothing, wow)! In the meantime, I hope your emo knee is healing up quickly.

  3. I haven’t run Ragnar (yet) but I can attest that yes, that is exactly like motherhood. Just when you think you get a rest, you get to deal with tired/hungry/cranky/smelly people and shuttle them around.

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