Time for a quick summary of my 40+ miles at the 2012 Ragnar Relay Florida Keys. I was Runner #2 on the “Where’s the Damn Van?” six-person ultra team, where the goal was to run the almost 200 miles from Miami to Key West in the quickest time possible. We chose to run 3 back-to-back legs each. Here’s how mine panned out:
Leg 3 – 3.1 miles easy: pretty much a straight shot west along 56th Street to the exchange point at Tropical Park.
Leg 4 – 5.2 miles moderate: after leaving Tropical Park it was just a few miles north on 82nd, followed by just over 3 miles west on 24th Street to Tamiami Park.
Pace was good on my opening double-header. Probably started a little quick in the early miles, but soon managed to settle in to a nice groove. Think I passed the Walmart where we loaded up on groceries the night before the race, but to be honest I was more concerned with dodging traffic on the many street crossings. Nice to get the first legs out of the way and start thinking about the 20 mile night leg through the Everglades.
8:32 miles / 53:00 minutes / 6:20/mile pace
Leg 15 – 8.2 miles very hard: have to be honest, I was kind of nervous about this leg – just over 8 miles on the Southern Glades Canal Trail, with not only rocky/uneven footing to contend with, but a real threat of alligators in the canal to the right of the trail. So much so, that Joe M and I both had to sign an additional safety waiver for his Leg 14 and my Leg 15.
Leg 16 – 11.8 miles very hard: not so worried about this one, but at almost 12 miles long I figured it could be more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
Leg 15 started off in a bit of a hurry, with the van *just* making it to the exchange point before Runner #1 arrived for the handoff. I literally hopped out of the van with seconds to spare as Joe slapped on the bracelet to send me on my way. With 20 miles ahead of me I decided a quick stop at the exchange point port-a-john would be a good idea – better to waste 30 seconds now, than have to stop on the trail or the road to Key Largo.
The Ragnar advice to “use extra caution with footing and be aware of the change in terrain” was spot on. The trail would have been challenging enough during the day, but in the 10:45pm darkness it was even more treacherous. Thankfully my L.L.Bean Trailblazer headlamp lit up the road ahead of me, and I was able to maintain 6:30/mile pace for pretty much the whole of the 8.2 mile leg. It was kind of eery, but cool, running along the trail with vans kicking up rocks and dust and the thought of gators lurking on the edge of the canal. Thankfully chasing down the numerous red flashing lights of the runners ahead kept me occupied and I rolled into exchange 16 with not one single wildlife sighting.
Exchange 16 was pretty noisy and bright with vehicle headlights. I vaguely remember picking up a handheld bottle of fluids from the team before making my way to Route 1 and the Overseas Highway. This 11.8 mile leg is pretty much a blur to be honest. I must have slipped into auto-pilot mode and just kept ticking off the miles as I made my way to Key Largo. In hindsight, I probably expended too much energy on the canal trail, but somehow I still managed to maintain 6:40-6:50s for the remainder of the leg. Seeing the “1 Mile To Go” was a huge boost, and the feeling it would soon be time to refuel and change into some dry clothes was a great one. Just after the handoff to Thomas, van driver John pounced with his trusty video camera and I guess I forgot to stop the Garmin. Ah, well. Can’t wait to see what he captured on film, as I think I was quite delirious at this stage in the game.
20:00 miles / 2:15:00 minutes / 6:45/mile pace
Leg 27 – 9.3 miles very hard: pretty much a straight shot west on the Overseas Highway with partial no-van support.
Leg 28 – 4.1 miles moderate: more westerly running, hopping over Big Pine Key to Summerland Key on US-1.
I was really expecting my legs to feel trashed after the previous 28+ miles, but somehow they responded well and I was able to get into a decent groove right away. Actually, the trickiest part of the 9.3 mile leg was unpinning the bib from my singlet (whilst running) and re-pinning it on my shorts. With crazy heat to contend with I’m not sure why I went with the singlet, and despite moleskinning up, the dreaded nip-chafing began in the first couple of miles. The only option was strip off and dump it, along with my glasses and handheld, at the next exchange point. Sorry, Joe!
Thomas was a lifesaver with a couple of much-needed water bottle handoffs on my final leg. Timing was impeccable, and the instant relief of pouring water over my head was amazing. My Garmin finally died with about 1.5 miles to go, making it probably the longest run in to an exchange point of the whole race. I think the leg turned out a little long, but in the big picture it doesn’t matter one little bit.
13:5 miles / 1:30:00 minutes / 6:40/mile pace
I think I’m correct in saying that the Where’s the Damn Van? finish time was 27 Hours, 1 minute & 50 seconds – 8th place among the Men’s Ultra Teams, and 31st place overall out of more than 500 entries. Not a bad result at all!
Special thanks to van driver John for getting us where we needed to be with no hassles whatsoever – great guy with a great attitude and wicked multi-tasking skills. Congrats also to my wife Ally for a great Ragnar Relay debut and to the other Damn Van team members Thomas N, Sean B, Jenny J and Joe M.
Final shout-out goes to Zensah for keeping the team calves compressed and ready-to-run with their wonderful leg sleeves, L.L.Bean for lighting the way at night with their excellent Trailblazer headlamps, and Mission Athletecare for protecting our skin from the brutal, but beautiful, Florida sun.