Ragnar DC, Part 4: Fighting Dehydration, Finishing Strong, and the Epilogue

Site of the Ragnar DC finish line.

11:00am on Saturday, September 22

I wasn’t doing very well. The rest of my team was more or less relaxed–albeit exhausted, though relaxed–but I was locked in a struggle to keep my muscles from spontaneously cramping. My final leg had felt like the last few miles of my Spring Thaw run from February.

Van 1 opted to drive straight to the finish line and meet Van 2 there, rather than risk getting stuck in city traffic trying to support our awesome but undoubtedly-hurting runners. On the way, I was downing as much water and as many Clif bars as I could manage, but my legs were a disaster. Upon parking the van, a cramp developed in muscles I didn’t even know I had, and I was somewhat frightened when I discovered I couldn’t find a way to stretch them out.

So we took the logical course of action: let’s walk to the finish line!

While some might chide this obviously-flawed course of action, miraculously it worked: the cramp in my leg eased, and my gait evened out. As long as I kept moving (and drinking).

It’s a party and we’re definitely invited!

We [slowly] made our way down to the docks, where the party was already in full-swing and teams were finishing every few minutes. There were tents playing music, selling Ragnar regalia, and handing out free bananas and water bottles. We also accidentally stumbled upon the motherlode: a large tent with dozens of huge tables, set up specifically for Ragnar teams to sit down, cash in their free beer ticket (!!!), and enjoy 1 free pizza per van.

Van 1 didn’t need any encouraging; we took our pizza and immediately chowed down, saving our beer tickets for when Van 2 arrived and we could toast everyone.

Here we relaxed until receiving a message a little after 2pm that The Lady had begun her leg. It was finally happening: the last of 36 legs was underway, and the finish line was the next stop!

Van 2 arrived, and made their way to the finish line. We stood ready to greet The Lady and finish together as a team. Soon enough, she appeared from around another tent, and we swarmed her amongst cheering, clapping, and incredibly high spirits.

The feeling of finishing hand in hand after nearly 30 hours of straight competition is unparalleled. The announcer waved us in–“Here comes team Four Score and Seven Miles Ago!”–and we crossed the finish line just a touch under 31 hours from when we started.

Ragnarians, we now were!

Team Four Score and Seven Miles Ago!

We hung out for a little while after, letting Van 2 recuperate as we toasted everyone with our free beers (Devin: “This is the whole reason I signed up for Ragnar–one glass of free beer at the end!“). Eventually we all made our way back to the vans, where we headed to a hotel graciously reserved by one of our teammates using her travel points to get us rooms for free.

After showering (there is literally no better feeling than a shower after running 197 miles, holy shit), Tim, Devin, and I made a beer run while another teammate ordered no fewer than 5 pizzas. The evening was incredible: our entire team crammed into one hotel room (though these were super swank suites, so they had a decent amount of space) eating pizza, drinking beer, and chatting about everything.

It was like everyone had been friends for years: some watched the college games that were on TV, others recalled the events of the race, others discussed their lives beyond Ragnar. Not a single moment of silence permeated the din of discourse.

Amazing. That’s the only way I can describe it.

I slept incredibly well that night.

Sunday, September 23

We rose early (or, least, earlier than our bodies wanted to) in order to meet a high school friend of mine, Emmarie, and her family for breakfast. It was a lovely event: I hadn’t seen her since I graduated back in 2003, though we spoke occasionally over instant messenger and social networks. The team and I enjoyed a healthy breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, bacon, french toast, and bacon.

Breakfast was the last time we were all together. Several of our out-of-town teammates opted to leave from D.C., while the rest of us drove the vans back to Pittsburgh.

Last team pictures before parting ways!

The drive back was uneventful. We arrived at The Lady’s apartment, cleaned out the vans as best (and as quickly) as we could, then dropped them off at the airport. Thus ended Ragnar DC 2012.


In the days immediately following, I was in full-on recovery and catch-up mode; everything was pretty out of whack. Needless to say, the idea of ever doing Ragnar again wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.

But that Friday morning (Sept 28), while working out with two of my former Ragnar teammates, Matt and Devin, we observed a sudden shift:

We realized we’d love to do it again.

I don’t pretend to know when or even which one; it’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor to organize a Ragnar team. Even if I wasn’t a team captain and instead relied entirely on the organizational skills and efforts of others, the investment in pulling off such an event isn’t trivial. One idea we were passing around is looking into some sort of corporate sponsorship to help defray the cost; I would absolutely love to sport Google’s logo on our vans. I’d even attach a GPS device of theirs to my own to help them map the trails of the US countryside!

A lot of things had to go right for this experience to be as incredible as it was. Tim and Alys provided a lot of valuable insight using previous D.C. experience in terms of pitfalls to avoid (their previous experience was not so pleasant; in fact, they were very reticent to join our team at first). Their biggest concern was team chemistry, which in our case obviously worked out beautifully: every single one of my teammates I proudly call a friend of mine.

All the logistics had to pan out: food, van rentals, drivers, runner assignments, and hotel reservations. And once the race began, there were any number of things that could have gone wrong: somebody getting injured, a van breaking down, a runner getting lost, or a van being late to an exchange.

It all worked. Even with the few hiccups we ran into, it still worked. “Everything is fine, nothing is fucked” then gave way to:

I do believe it’s time for another adventure.” Someday 🙂

Bigger tires?



About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
This entry was posted in Race Review, Ragnar DC 2012, Real Life, Running, The Lady, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Ragnar DC, Part 4: Fighting Dehydration, Finishing Strong, and the Epilogue

  1. I SERIOUSLY just got chills reading the end of your post. I’m still sad it’s over. I’m still thinking it’s crazy I opted to participate in such a crazy time, but I love having new friends. Yay friends! Wonderful ending to a wonderful race. 🙂

  2. Therese says:

    Captaining my first Ragnar this October. Would love to know what Tim and Alys came across as pitfalls!

    • magsol says:

      Good luck in October! I loved my captain-ing experience 🙂

      The primary issue they had was they allowed the team to assemble itself, for the most part. Consequently, they knew only about half their team personally; the other half they’d never met before, and came with very large egos. Dealing with big egos in close quarters for 36 hours can be exhausting, to put it mildly.

      We had the opposite experience. I knew 9 of the 12 team members personally, and the other three were a significant other of one of the 9 I knew, and the best friends of two of the 9, so I had faith they’d be awesome additions (and they were).

      I’d like to say their situation was a fluke, because for the most part, I’ve found runners to be incredibly chill and low-key individuals who just enjoy the sport. But knowing the majority of the team personally, I think, was still a huge advantage; that way I knew we were all out just to have fun, NOT to finish in a particular time at all costs (which is what happened with Tim and Alys).

      I hope that helps!

      • Therese says:

        It does. Thanks! I’m in the same boat you were in. I got 11 people I know and the 12th is someone several of the other ones know. We are also in it to have fun and have no illusions about competing on a serious level. A handful of us are turning or will turn 50 this year so we’re just excited to be participating and looking forward to bragging about having done it! 🙂

    • magsol says:

      That sounds like a rock star team to me! It’s an incredible experience that is more than a little stressful from a logistical standpoint, but if you avoid my biggest captain-ing mistake–I didn’t delegate at all, so that wore me down quite a bit…oops–I think you have an amazing Ragnar event ahead of you 🙂 Good luck!!!

      • Therese says:

        Hmm…delegating…I did get someone to get the vans. Someone else looked into hotels but in the end, I got them. I ordered the vests but that was easy. I’m going to drag a couple of my teammates to Costco when we get closer. Is there more I’m not thinking of?

    • magsol says:

      Ah yes, that stuff I did get a lot of help with. I meant race-day delegation: a navigator helping out the van driver (and keep them awake in the wee hours), someone to coordinate with the other van when your van is on break, someone keeping track of everyone’s splits (if you’re even interested in that; we were curious how closely we’d keep up with Ragnar’s predictions our overall time [spoiler alert not so much after leg 3 bwahaha]), etc.

      The upshot is basically to make sure you have some time to completely relax in between your splits 🙂

      • Therese says:

        I’ve read so many people’s blogs about ragnar DC…I can’t keep track. Did you have a designated driver or did your runners swap off. If your runners swapped off, do you have any suggestions about how to rotate through them. You obviously wouldn’t want to drive right before or after your leg but if you space it too much, there’s less rest in between. Thoughts on that.

        Aslo, did you mean that you ended up doing all those things….navigator, corrdinating with the other van and keeping track of splits?

    • magsol says:

      (sorry for always replying to your original comment; my threads only go 3 deep)

      To your second question, yes: if I wasn’t running, I was doing all of those things in my van, so I never really gave myself a break. My team was extremely competent; anyone in my van would have been happy to take over for a bit and let me rest, so I don’t know why I didn’t ask someone for help on that. Chalk it up to inexperience, I suppose.

      As for the dedicated van drivers: our van had a dedicated driver. The other van, however, did not. They rotated between runners. Because we had to pay insurance on the van rentals, we could only afford to select 2 runners from the other van who could switch off. We chose the drivers as effectively as we could, balancing experience and willingness to drive a van with how far apart they were in the running order (so you don’t have the two drivers immediately switching places at an exchange).

      The issue of drivers is a tough one. Most teams tend to go with the 12-person team and the runners just have to get it done. We got lucky and had 13, one of them being a dedicated driver. Ideally we’d have had two dedicated drivers, one per van, and then all 12 runners could rest in between their legs, but that’s hard to set up. We bought the drivers extra beer at the end 🙂

      • Therese says:

        are you saying that as you add drivers, insurance goes up? My guy who got the vans didn’t share that with us…also, he’s under the impression that all who want to drive have to be at the van pickup…which I need to verify. I, personally, want all my van mates to drive so we can spread that out. I cannot imagine having to do this race AND be a primary driver and i wouldn’t want that for any of our folks! Nor are any of them expecting it!!! yikes! So glad you shared those “during the race” jobs with me. Will definitely need to bring that up with everyone.

        We just realize we have adjusting to do. I used the spreadsheet to get everyone in there and found that they had it taking us 37+ hours! Turns out that when we were initially inputting our personal pace, I asked someone from Ragnar if we should adjust based on the difficulty of our individual legs. I was told we should. Then…I see on the spreadsheet that they are already adjusted for. So, now need to get everyone to input their “normal” 10k pace so we can have a better idea of when each of our legs will fall AND how long it really should take us (I get the part about that last leg and will keep it in mind!)

        btw, do you think your leg 5 person would mind me picking his brain (I think it was a he) – via email exchange? I would love info specifically about leg 17 which, for me will be in the middle of the night (or maybe w/ the adjustment closer to 10 or 11 pm…either way, plenty dark. It’s the longest run in the darkness and I’m pretty nervous about that. It’s also a “hard” leg. Go figure!

    • magsol says:

      It’s important to note that we rented our vans through the local Thrifty rental in downtown Pittsburgh, then drove them from there to Frostburg, MD. We didn’t rent through Ragnar (we would’ve had to drive our cars to Frostburg, get the vans, then drive back to Frostburg after Ragnar to get the cars again; we knew we’d just want to go straight home), so I don’t know if Ragnar adds additional fees for each additional driver. The “traditional” rental companies definitely tack on insurance fees for each additional driver, or at least Thrifty and Enterprise do.

      As such, when we picked up the vans, the drivers did have to be there. Again, if you’re getting your vans through Ragnar, I don’t know what the process there is. If your entire team could drive, that would be *awesome*. I’d suggest getting in touch with the contact person to find that out.

      The spreadsheet definitely did a very good job of predicting legs 1 and 2. Not so much on leg 3! 😛 We ultimately finished a full hour over what was predicted for us; the entirety of that extra hour was accumulated during all the leg 3 runs. Fatigue is pretty rough!

      I’m sure Dan would LOVE to have his brain picked! Shoot me an email (the part before “wordpress.com” in the URL, at gmail) and I’ll put you in touch with him.

    • magsol says:

      Alternatively, you might be able to get his attention on his blog: dansibbernsen.wordpress.com

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