Race: Ragnar Luckenbach
Runner: Jeff K (the team was Jeff, Chris, David, Ben, Armon, and Zach)
Location: Bastrop to Luckenbach TX. 192 mile relay
Results – 23hrs:45min (6 runner Ultra team) 1st place overall
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
I have never done a Ragnar relay and surprised how fun it was. My nephew Chris, who lives in Houston and his buddy put the team together and they initially recruited me to be the “old guy” on the team. Actually, it turned out that I wasn’t the oldest as Christopher’s dad (My brother in law) got on the team as well. We ended up with a diverse age group ranging from age 24 to 58.
We won the race. The next team was an hour slower.
Our youngest team runner Ben, was 24. He was really fast. He could run the shorter 2-3 mile segments in the 5min pace range, and the remainder in the 6’s It was really exciting to watch.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Definitely could have done without the 90 degree heat. I got the stomach cramps from dehydration after the second leg, and sunburned to top it off.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
Things get generally weird between 2AM and 5 – like you are in a dream state.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
Our team was in the last wave to start at 11:30AM on Friday. I was in position three of the rotation. It was already hot and that took its toll on us because we weren’t doing a good job of pace management. At this point in the race we should have been going slow, but we were trying to catch up to the teams who started earlier and pass them. This ultimately lead to one of our runners dropping in the third segment because he just couldn’t keep any fluids or food down anymore. We then had to figure out how to cover the remaining legs with 5 runners and manage one of the 5 that wasn’t feeling so well. Doing this was like trying to solve an impossible puzzle and almost laughable to watch. No matter what combinations of who was doing what, it just seemed like somebody was going to get stuck with a bunch of extra miles! I ran a double leg in the 4th to cover for the runner who was out. The team was kind enough to let me know this right as I was finishing my leg that I could just “keep on going” and they’d meet me 4 miles down the road at the next checkpoint <ugh>.
Towards the end of the 5th segment it was around 4-5AM and still very dark. There was this weird exchange where they had it decorated like a Santa’s Village complete with reindeer. It even had this LED projection on the trees that looked like twinkling stars. It was very surreal like you were on an acid trip. Later we had a really good laugh about that.
By the start of the last segment, We knew we had passed a lot of runners and thought we were in the front or very close. There was a race announce that there were two legs cancelled in the 6th and we were to just drive to the checkpoint and start running again. This actually worked well because we had another runner who was basically done after the 5th. I had to pick up a longer segment than originally planned and finished it as strong as I could. We would stop the van more than usual to set up a cheering station for our runner with cowbells and stuff like that so it made the last few hours really fun.,
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
We had a couple dedicated drivers (Chris’ and Ben’s wives) this helped immensely as the runners didn’t have to worry about it.
Organization of your stuff is key. The van quickly become a sea of clothes, banana peels, empty GU packs and junk. I used a simple strategy where one compartment of my pack held all electronics and the other clothes. this made it easy to find stuff.
If you can, bring your own iPhone portable battery pack. There will be a lot of competition for plugging it in to the van.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
I found out the hard way that team with some fast dudes and “effective pace management” can be mutually exclusive. During the first part in the heat, I ran the opposite of proper pacing. We all did. Had I done this differently, I know I could have crushed the later segments in the cooler weather and not had any dehydration issues.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
Yes. You would see a lot of wildlife like deer and wild turkeys, and ranches with real Texas longhorn steers. I think the river section with the cypress trees was the nicest, but it was unfortunately at night.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
The question I had before this was … “Is a 50K or 50 miler harder or easier than a relay?” The feeling is quite similar at the end of both. Because of the sleep deprivation, and the fact you get cramped from riding in the van, the last leg is kind of like those final miles in an ultra.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Ragnar is run by a corporation – Reebok I think. It has the feeling of a corporate marathon with a lot of marketing behind it.
Competition – is there a strong field?
It probably varies greatly between race locations. It seemed like in this Ragnar, some teams might have had a couple fast runners and the rest were recreational. Some teams were clearly out there for the fun of it which was awesome. Our team of 6 had two sub 3hr, two low 3hr, and two 4hr marathoners and we won the race. Had we had to race against a team that was comprised of the top 6 Chuckanut finishers, we would have been toast.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Luckily for me, our team captains set it all up. All I had to do was book my own flight
Not all the exchange points in a Ragnar have food and water. You need to bring all your own stuff in the van.
Weather and typical race conditions –
This one was hot, like 90’s during the day. Evenings and early morning were 60-70s.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
The Ragnar handbook lists everything you need to bring. And more.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
Could be, if they want to drive around and follow you
We just got the same finisher medals as everyone else
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
I think Ragnar is a bucket list kind of thing. Someone might be able to convince me to do it again, but it might be a while. I think with the right group you can have a fantastic fun time.