Posted by: Joe English | March 1, 2008

Live from Ragnar Del Sol — 3:30PM Day 2

Mesa, Arizona – 3:00PM – Hot was the theme of the afternoon. Our van took over at leg 30 around noon. The temperature had risen to close to 80 degrees. Mingling in the exchange zone prior to our last set of legs, the runners looked tired and a bit weary from the heat, but otherwise in good spirits.

Leg 30 is by far the most difficult leg on the entire course. Our runner, John Hetrick, took the reigns near the base of the long, steep, Usery Pass climb. Most of the other runners were reduced to walking up the two-plus miles of the grade. The heat was oppressive and the climb stretched out into the distance below the runners approaching us on the side of the road near the top of the climb. John must have easily passed fifteen teams coming up the climb.

John Hetrick on Usery Pass
John Hetrick gets water on the Usery Pass climb

After leg 30, the course comes mostly downhill from the top of Usery Pass into Mesa and each of our runners took their turn as we moved steadily up through the field. The runners ahead of us were more frequent and moving more slowly, so we were plowing through them, picking them off one at a time.

Dave Ryan and PTC Runner
Dave Ryan and the runner from the Phoenix Triathlon Club

On leg 34, our Dave Ryan was caught by a runner from the Phoenix Triathlon Club, but he hung with him for a mile or so then re-passed and dropped him. It was the only time of the day that we had been caught by another team – although the team had started an hour before us so we were actually far ahead of them. When Dave came into the exchange at the end of his leg, he was greeted to the cheers of a hero returning from war.

Finally, around 2:40PM, in 80 degree heat, I took the baton for the final leg. I dropped into a steady tempo and plowed away through the miles. The only hiccups came as I was stopped at three traffic lights, wasting at least five minutes during the short run. Along one of the Arizona water canals, I enjoyed a cool breeze running along the water. And then, there was the “one mile to go” sign along the trail. This multi-day adventure was coming to an end.

Ragnar Finish with team
Leading the team in to the finish

I turned off the road into Riverview Park, following a snaking sidewalk through the crowds and throngs of vans. Across the grass, I could see my teammates with their arms raised cheering for me. I rounded the final corner going so quickly that the team had to quickly wake up their legs for one more last sprint down the finishers-shoot behind me. We cheered, we high-fived, and promised to do this again over cool beers in the shade.

Joe at finish of Ragnar
Coach Joe at the finish of the Ragnar Del Sol Relay

Ragnar del Sol was a real treat for this running reporter. More manageable than Hood to Coast in size, it provided a sensational new opportunity for Arizona’s runners to experience the fun of an open-road relay. This race is real asset to the racing scene in Arizona and I hope that it becomes a staple for some years to come.

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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