Posted by: Joe English | February 29, 2008

Live from Ragnar Del Sol — 8:30PM Day 1

Lake Pleasant, Arizona – 8:30PM – Sitting in a darkened parking lot with a few dozen vans, our runner is about an hour out. There is a band playing songs, most of which seem to be about Tequila. Our van still smells good, but that will soon change.

Band
A band plays songs about Tequila in the dark night

The six of us: Chris, John, Rob, Dave, Duane and me are sitting, waiting.

There are 153 teams in the Ragnar Del Sol relay. At the moment, we’re told that we are in 153rd place. We’ve got some work to do tonight.

Now, it’s not as bad as it may seem. In relays, the fastest teams start at the back and work their way forward through the field. Apparently, we started with the five fastest teams and, well, the other four were faster than us. So now we are making our way up on the field by ourselves.

Just since I’ve started writing this, the band has started to break down their equipment. There are only a few vans left here with us. We will soon take off into the dark night and head out into the desert alone. We’ve got some work to do tonight.

In the next ten hours or so until the sun comes up, we’ll work our way north and east from here and eventually turn back south heading toward Phoenix. The roads will be dark, lit only by the moon and the brilliant stars.

There will be coyotes and, hopefully, no worse. I’ve already asked about the snakes. They are supposed to be sleeping for the winter, but we’ll see. I’m deathly afraid of snakes and I hope not to run over of them in my first 7.3 mile leg — which I’ll be running around 2:30AM. The thought gives me a shiver, but I’ll put it behind me hoping that our information proves to be accurate.

We found the van
A van decorated for the race

All but one of us in the van have run relays before. I asked the team why the come back for more and the resounding answer: “because it’s so much fun.”

“If you try to explain why this is fun to people that don’t run, they just don’t understand,” Rob Nichols tells me. “Running through the dark last year , with the moon and the stars, listening to the coyotes howl… it was just incredible.”

Duane Slade adds: “It’s an incredible experience. I remember being so tired in the morning. We were sitting in the Denny’s in the morning and we’re just staring at each other. We were just so tired.”

John Hetrick of Phoenix has run both the Ragnar del Sol and the more famous Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. He told me that this relay was particularly well put together in its inaugural year in 2007. “It was amazing how smoothly they put the race together, especially considering the logistics of such a long race.”

“One of the things that I like about this race,” adds John, “is that the race runs around the edges of Phoenix, making it easier to get around and jump ahead of the course when your van needs to.”

Chris Dragon, the only runner in our van who has never run an overnight relay, tells me that about his biggest concerns: “not losing time for the van and not knowing what I’ll feel like totally sleep deprived tomorrow morning.” We all agree that he’ll find out.

So as our runner approaches and we start getting ready to take the reigns of the race, we settle in for a long night without sleep, but filled with excitement and experiences that are as Dave Ryan says, “indescribable.”

Duane Slade adds, as he jumps out of the van into the dark, “it’s quiet out here. Really quiet.” The long night begins.

We’ll have more later as the night progresses.

Wish us luck!

Related articles:
Running the Ragnar Del Sol Relay with RxRunning1 (the complete story)

Selected photos from the Ragnar Del Sol Relay 2008

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News
http://www.running-advice.com

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