Any relay race is going to be a challenge. I mean, look at it empirically: you’re going to be travelling in a van for two days with five other people, all stinky and messy, driving around like mad, managing your body aches and fuel intake and sleep schedules, keeping all the race rules in mind, run a whole bunch of miles, make all the cut-off times, figuring out who controls the tunes, and people repeating “Dilly Dilly” like it’s going out of style.
That’s a lot to wrap your head around. And after running the 2017 Reebok Ragnar South Beach relay with 12 buddies in two vans over two days, my noggin still feels like warm tapioca pudding left out in the sun. It’s like a reverse scenario with that cake in Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park. That could be the weirdest sub-reference I’ve done in a good long while, so we’ll just leave that one alone.
Anyway… let’s kick off the discussion with a brief overview of the Ragnar Relay Series. These events are probably the most well-known relay series in the country, with almost two dozen races scheduled, from Hawaii to the Adirondacks and almost anywhere in between. Teams consist of 12 runners, each of them running 3 legs to traverse the approximate 200 miles from Start to Finish.
Each leg is of different mileage, during different times of the day, and must start and finish at designated Exchange points. Everyone will run at least 10-11 miles, and some runners will do 20 or even more, and teams must maintain at least an 11 minute/mile average to make it to the Finish and have a recorded time. Runners are met at each Exchange by their team, where the next runner takes off running and the team drives over to the next Exchange to repeat the process.
The race never stops. Once you start running, you have runners on the ground until everyone crosses the Finish Line together the next day. It’s pretty cool that way.
So when my pals from Team Shenanigans decided to take on the inaugural Melbourne to South Beach Ragnar relay, I was in. Being a local Floridian made travel arrangements a snap, plus Boots could tag along in her car to take photographs at various parts of the journey. And also to bring along a fresh cooler filled with ice-cold Ovaltine at the end of each leg.
Yes. “Ovaltine”. That’s the ticket. Sure.
So Team Captain Lisa assembled the team of 12, split into two vans, of whom I’ll list now in runner order:
Then come back here when you’re done. Don’t worry; we’ll wait for you.
No, I won’t talk about them while they’re gone. Yes those shoes looked cheap. So does your Mo– hey, you’re back! Sweet let’s continue by moving forward to our next H1 moment, a dashing little ditty called…
In order to properly pick up your registration materials, all six members of Team One must head to the Race Start in Melbourne together, sign in, register one cell phone number per van so that it can receive live information and updates from Race Command (MORE ON THAT IN A BIT), watch a safety video that lasted about 10 minutes in length, then pick up their individual bibs and van sticker.
Boots, Jackie, and I arrived Friday afternoon, while the rest of the team would not arrive until later that evening. We decided to head down to the Start Area anyhow and check out the scene. There was a lot of excitement and activity in the area. Aside from an embarrassing band doing their best to entertain with live music, there were the usual registration tables, bib pickup tables, merch area, and of course people already checking out the safety video.
As we were leaving, we came across our pals in the 1KRC team, including 1KRC uber-svengali Jesus, my Chicago Marathon random encounter buddy Maria, and of course as always Megaphone Gyrl Robyn. If you need to spot me in the picture, just look for the giant:
Afterward we grabbed some dinner at Smokey Bones and headed back to the hotel room to crash. I Xanax’ed up and was out pretty quickly. I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep that weekend. I was right.
That alarm came entirely too quickly. Jackie, Boots, and I groggily got up and out there, loading up the van, and picking up the rest of Van One at their hotel. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Start Line, where we quickly began the registration process. Things moved very smoothly, although as you can tell by this picture, NONE of us were impressed by the safety video:
After we were fully registered and good to go, we head over to the Start Line to await the 5:30 race start. Which of course included this lovely Van One photo op under the Start Line arch:
Van Two didn’t have to get up so early. Their race wouldn’t began until Exchange 6, located at Vero Beach High School, at about 10:30 later that morning. So that’s where they’d do their registration and wait for their big start.
Finally the magic moment came, and at 5:30 AM the countdown began and Jackie, Runner 1 from Team Shenanigans, crossed the Start Line. Our 193-ish mile relay was off and running! Pun intended!
The 2017 Ragnar South Beach Relay!
The run consisted of a lot of driving from Exchange to Exchange, waiting around, checking out the local scenery, and enjoying the fun, festive atmosphere. It was a goshdarn beautiful morning at race start, especially as we primarily running south on A1A from Melbourne to Vero Beach.
The Exchange was handled via an orange “slap bracelet”, which constituted the hand-off from runner to runner. As each runner approached the hand-off area, a race official would call out the team number approaching and another official would mark the time on a spreadsheet. There were no bib chips, timing mats, or anything electronic. It was good old fashioned slappin’ and yellin’. That sounded a lot more suggestive than originally intended.
Here are some morning runner exchange pics:
In between all the waiting, we got some time to do things like hang out on the beach:
Take pictures with Dinosaurs:
And catch up with buddies on other teams, like Emily, Yasmin, and Robyn:
I was Van One, Runner Four, which meant I was going to be doing the longest legs of the race. Yay me! My first leg was 10 miles, followed by a 9.1 miler and a final 7.6 mile stretch, giving me a total distance of 26.7 miles spread out over the course of the race. Fast I am not, but steady consistency is the key.
Right around 7:40 AM, Rebekah finished her leg, handed off to me, and off I went!
Here’s a satellite view of my first leg, which started at Golden Sands Beach Park in Vero Beach and ended at Beachland Elementary School.
This leg was a 9.5 mile shot down A1A, then turning inland onto Beachland Boulevard for a 0.5 mile jaunt to the Exchange Point. It was a pleasant run, entirely on sidewalks and very flat. There was of course minimal shade, and since my leg started at 7:48 AM, it got pretty hot, pretty quickly. I kept my intervals to “run a mile, walk a minute” for the duration, stopping only at both of the two water stops available on the leg. They were much needed.
There wasn’t much in terms of views of the ocean, but I did get to pass by Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, which I suppose was something cool for a Disney nerd like myself. Other than that, I listened to my music and just cruised along. I tried to keep track of all my Kills and Deaths, but as most runners I kept pace with were just kept leap-frogging each other, I quickly lost interest.
Boots was tagging along in her car to take team pics and captured this action snapshot as I reached Exchange 4:
I handed the bracelet off to Ray and met Boots at her car for a quick frosty cup of “Ovaltine”. Then it was back in the van to take Mark to his first leg at Exchange 5, and then off to Exchange 6 for the big hand off to the runners in Van Two.
Exchange 6 was also where the runners of Van Two registered, signed-in, and began their race. As such, it is a pretty large exchange area, taking up a big chunk of the Vero Beach High School parking lot. Local vendors were selling food, drinks, and coffee, with merch tents and other vendors available as well.
This was also the first time I got to meet up with the Van Two runners, which is sort of another thing to mention; you are all one big happy team, but for the most part you won’t see much of the other van and its runners throughout the race. Before and after the race you’ll have plenty of time, of course, and there will be brief moments at Exchanges 6, 12, 18, 24, and 30 — that is, if one of those Exchanges isn’t a “virtual” Exchange. And Exchange 30 was virtual. Where we in Van One stopped at Exchange 30 is not the same location where Van Two started. After you finish a virtual leg, you have to call, text, or message your other team and let them know that they can start running.
A few more Exchange 6 photos:
Brittany in Van Two ran one of the hardest legs in the relay: Leg 11, which is a 12.3 mile jaunt, starting at around 3:00 PM. That is the longest individual leg in the entire race, and starting during the heat of the afternoon. She and all runners who ran that leg received a special medal from Ragnar to commemorate the achievement!
Meanwhile for us in Van One, it was now around 11 AM in the morning, and as Van Two began their legs, we were ready to chow down. We were not scheduled to start our next legs until around 7 PM that night, so Van One drove down to Stuart to find a good place to nosh. We found it at Hurricane Grill, not only did we enjoy ourselves with food and good company, we found a waitress who pronounces “water” the same way Mark does. What are the odds?
Then it was off to Exchange 12, where we would park our van, relax, and nap until Van Two runners completed their legs there. The Exchange was located at Sandsprit Park in Stuart, an expansive location with plenty of room for not only vans, but open spaces for people to lay out on sleeping bags, hammocks, and tents.
I grabbed my sleeping bag and makeshift towel-pillows and found a choice location on soft earth. It felt absolutely freakin’ heavenly. Soft, comfortable, and serene.
And it would have been perfect, if it hadn’t started raining right as I was about to fall asleep. Back to the van I ran, where I chilled for awhile with the team. When the rain let up and the sun came out, I went back out again and it felt just as perfectly wonderful as it had before. And just like before, it began to rain again 20 minutes later. So there was no sleeping, no napping. Just a bunch of sitting around waiting. Grr.
Darren from Van Two made it to the park in the early evening, right around 6:30 PM, and as such Jackie began her second leg, and we were off again. It was now nighttime, which meant all runners needed to be wearing their headlamps, reflective vests, and LED taillights while running. Team members who weren’t running were required to wear their reflective vests at all times when at Exchange points.
The rain had let up by the time Jackie had arrived at Exchange 13 and handed off to Anita, and the night felt a little cooler and more inviting. I mostly bided my time until my leg started at Exchange 15, located at The Pine School in Hobe Sound. We were still in upbeat spirits, as you can probably tell:
We were a half-hour ahead of our pace schedule by the time Rebekah had rounded the corner into the Exchange and slapped the bracelet onto my wrist, so our time was holding up well. At 8:40 PM I took off on my second leg, a 9.1 mile journey from Hobe Sound to Jupiter.
Here’s what my leg looked like:
This leg of the race was easily the most challenging one for me. I was tired, sure, but the adrenaline was still roaring. While I was wearing all of my required nighttime running gear, it was still very, very dark. By the time the course left the populated Hobe Sound area around Mile 1, and until we reached the outskirts of Jupiter around Mile 6, we were in absolute darkness. There was no light except for what you brought with you. And usually that’s enough, but this patch of the course on Federal Highway went through a completely remote area, passing by Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Blowing Rocks Preserve, adjacent to the Indian River. There were no sidewalks during this portion of the course. This meant that runners were running on a VERY narrow shoulder on the road, blocked off by orange cones, AGAINST traffic.
I’m not complaining about this, as the Race Bible prepares you well ahead of time for this situation. What you need to be is smart and focused. Cars are constantly coming your direction, their headlights often blinding, and I was always thinking about what I would have to do if I needed to suddenly get out of the way. There wasn’t much room to pass on such a narrow shoulder either, which meant if you needed to pass another runner, you either did so on the street (if no oncoming traffic was nearby, NOT recommended) or on the grass on the side of the road. I tried the grass one time and nearly rolled my ankle; it was slippery and pitched at a sharper angle than I had imagined.
There were also plenty of bridges and inclines on this patch, which also added to the challenge. But I kept pace until Mile 7, when I started to feel my right calf cramping up. My electrolytes had been working overtime, but not enough to prevent this flare. I slowed, stretched, and continued, but the pain slowed me to 12 minute miles for the last 2.5 miles of the course.
That was my make-or-break moment of the race… or was it? MORE ON THAT IN A BIT.
The Jupiter Lighthouse was a wonderful beacon in the distance, as it guided me to Exchange 16 at Lighthouse Park in Jupiter. I handed the bracelet over to Ray, stretched the calf out as best I could, and sort of happily limped back to the van. The cramp wasn’t going to stop me, but it did slow me down. Oh well. Battle scars.
We drove to the next Exchange at the Jupiter Community Center, where I met Boots in her car. She grabbed me a Publix Sub (most needed) and poured another cup of “Ovaltine” (even more needed), and we sat in her car kibbitzing. It was around 10:30 PM and the Team was certainly tired but still in good spirits. It helps when you’re hanging out with buddies, after all. Ray arrived and handed off to Mark, who began his 8.2 mile sojourn to Exchange 18 at the Gardens Branch Library in Palm Beach Gardens. There we would hand off to our Van Two teammates and then try to get some shut-eye for a few hours.
The Library parking lot was PACKED with vans and sleeping runners. I don’t know if there were designated sleeping areas located elsewhere on the ground, but many people had to find space to sleep wherever they could… including in the parking lot spaces themselves, which was a definite no-no. We found our teammates and chatted for awhile with Darren, Brittany, Lisa, David, Lauren, and Shelby. Everyone was feeling good if a bit strung out, or at least we did until Jackie and I tried to get some coffee from the coffee tent, only to find out the coffee was cold and stale. The kid running the coffee tent looked confused and said more was “brewing”, but none ever showed up. Furthermore, there were three water coolers for runners, and two of them were empty. I’m glad we had our own supply, but this was pretty unacceptable, especially at this hour.
Mark arrived and handed off to Lauren (who began a 3.5 mile leg), and we bid adieu to our teammates. Our next Exchange point was Exchange 24, where we planned to crash for a few hours until Darren arrived from Van Two at 4:30 AM. We got to Lantana Municipal Beach Parking in Manalapan by around 1:00 AM. I grabbed my sleeping bag, towel pillows, headphones, and battery charger, and looked for the designated sleeping area…
… only to discover that there really wasn’t any. Anywhere.
Most of the group slept in the van. Jackie wasn’t sleeping at all, and just bounced around the Exchange for a few hours. I found a patch of grass on a sloping portion of earth leading towards the ocean. I thought maybe I could sleep on the sand but there was literally no beach there. Just waves crashing up to the sea wall. So off to that sloping ground I went, setting up my sleeping bag, laying down my towel pillows, and trying my best to capture whatever sleep I could.
I think, in total, I managed about 20-30 minutes, tops. And not all at one time. That ground was hard and uncomfortable, and there was just way too much noise around us to really get any shut-eye in. Even with the headphones.
And the reason there was so much noise around us? Because all the Van Twos in the race were arriving at the Exchange much earlier than scheduled. And the reason for that is wonderful number we’re gonna call:
Three Legs of the Race Were Canceled
At precisely 2:08 AM on Sunday morning, each team received the following text from Race Command:
The first rumor we heard was that those legs were closed due to lightning. Not true. Then we heard that the police closed down that area because of a “political protest”. Political protests always go down at 2:00 in the morning on a Sunday. RIGHT. The fact of the matter is that Legs 19, 20, and 21 took runners through some of the worst crime-ridden neighborhoods of Palm Beach County, and nobody organizing the race really bothered to check up on this… or if they did, determined that it didn’t pose enough of a risk for runners.
I’m not going to delve into speculation or rumors on this blog, but a runner I spoke to later on in the race told me what she saw as she was running through that portion (before they closed it off), and her descriptions were absolutely revolting and DEFINITELY unsafe. They did the right thing in closing those legs, but the race should NEVER have gone through those areas of town in the first place. Teams and runners ended up being cheated out of the race for which they had expected during that time.
Also as a result, Vans made it to Exchange 24 earlier than expected. It got loud, busy, and crowded MUCH sooner than expected, which made sleep almost an impossibility. I gave up roughly around 3:55 AM, when Jackie smacked me and told me to wake the F up. What this also did was royally mess up the standings as well; runners had to use an “honor” system if they skipped legs 19-21, and start Leg 22 at an estimated time in which they projected they would have started otherwise.
Anyone think most teams actually did that? Yeah. But I probably don’t blame them either.
Back to the Race…
By now most of us, if we had gotten any sleep at all, were back in the land of the living. Exchange 24 was poorly stocked, with only a single water cooler. No coffee, no food for sale, nothing. It was a little disheartening. We killed time until Darren came running in some time past 4:30 AM, and Jackie was off on her final leg.
We were now back at the beach, and the scenery was much more agreeable. At least, that which we could see at 4:30 in the morning. But at least we were moving, and that got our spirits pumping again. Despite all the setbacks thus far, we were really ready to finish the last legs of the race with enthusiasm! Which makes it so unfortunate to title the next section of my review:
An Unfortunate End To An Unfortunate Race
A friend of mine who Captain’ed another team described the rest of the race as follows, and (paraphrased) it went along the lines of: Every time I told the team to cheer up, that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the Race said “Hold my beer…”
We began to notice some major problems with the Ragnar phone app. That was usually our primary data source for Exchange information, where we would not only find address information and turn-by-turn directions to where we needed to be.
Look at this example of where the Ragnar app told us to go for Exchange 26:
“Somewhere in Boynton Beach” isn’t quite helpful, is it? Thankfully we had a printed out copy of the Course Overview, plus our own GPS/Waze applications to guide us. But often the app was telling us one thing while the Overview was saying something entirely other. It often got quite confusing. The race stressed that the APP was THE primary data source. So if it’s flawed, glitchy, or not showing any data whatsoever, teams are going to be in for a world of hurt.
Still — you have to take responsibility for your own team and be ready for all contingencies as they occur. We had the Overview. We had GPS coordinates. So we had to put everything together ourselves on occasion in order to drive where we needed to go. Often that was as easy as following the herd, but nonetheless this is a major information architecture issue that must be resolved for the general safety of all involved.
Nonetheless, things started out fairly well. Jackie finished her leg and handed off to Anita, and her leg finished right next to the beach in Delray. And you certainly could do a whole lot worse when it comes to a fine-looking Exchange point:
It was pretty goshdarn beautiful out. We could have just stayed there, but there was a race to run. Anita handed off to Rebekah and we drove to Exchange 28 at Miler Park in Delray Beach. This was my final leg of the race, and when we checked the race app earlier, we discovered my final leg had been shortened to 5.8 miles instead of the scheduled 7.6. I was fairly tired so that meant less time on my feet. This was agreeable.
Rebekah finished her final leg, passed the slap bracelet to me, and I was off!
So here’s a satellite view of that last leg:
After the handoff I took off an easy pace. I was tired, my calf was aching, so I took it easy. The course itself was fairly nondescript. We ran through some local Delray neighborhoods, arriving onto Federal Highway and heading south into Boca Raton. The only major delay was when we had to cross Federal to head West on Yamato; jaywalking or trying to beat oncoming traffic is a definite no-no and will get you disqualified. So I took an unscheduled break during that time. I had heard about other runners being held up for five minutes or more by police directing traffic, so this was no big deal.
What WAS a big deal, though, was the water situation. There were zero water stations on the leg, which of course was fine for a 5.8 mile run. I had my handheld bottle with enough capacity to last at least 5 miles or so. Still, it was a hot morning, and by mile 5 my bottle was depleted. No matter though, I was less than a mile away from the Exchange.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
At mile 5 I was out of water, but since I was so close I upped my stride so I could finish triumphantly. I wanted to end strong, so I kicked it into high gear with excitment. Onward I went, checking my Garmin to see how close I was to mile 5.8. I hit 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6… where was the Exchange? I didn’t see any crowds, vans, runners, spectators… nothing. Was I lost? What was going on? There were other runners around me and I followed all road signs to the letter, so something was off. Way off.
I found out at mile 5.7, when a 1KRC runner passed me by and said, “Check your texts. They’ve extended the leg. We’re now doing 7.6 miles instead of 5.8. Call your team and let them know!”
Holy. Effing. Eff.
I stopped to a walk, fished out my phone, and checked my texts. Sure enough, this is what awaited me:
To give you any idea of the timing of the situation, I started this leg at 7:35 AM. I didn’t receive the text until 8:28 AM, WHILE I WAS RUNNING. If it hadn’t been for my 1KRC buddy, I never would have known what was going on. I never check my phone for texts (or anything) during a run.
I called the team to let them know the sitrep. Meanwhile I was out of water, I didn’t pack extra electrolytes or fuel, there were no water stops anywhere during the leg, and I just spent the last 0.7 miles hightailing it to a non-existant Exchange area. And now I had to run another two freakin’ miles on top of all that.
Happy, I was not.
I called the team and let them know what was going on. While there was Van Support during this stretch, we didn’t plan for any, especially for what we thought was less than six miles. And to top that off, most of the next two miles were going to be spent on the El Rio Trail, a 1.5 mile paved trail that was gated off and often far removed from side roads.
We were on our own.
I was parched. If I had known I was running 7.6 miles, I would not have emptied my water bottle by mile 5. At the very least, I would have refilled it at some store or restroom off of Federal Highway. I just had to sweat it out as best as I could, but I was already completely depleted. I met up with another runner from Central Florida, who had just run the New York Marathon the week before. He had nothing good to say about the entire Ragnar South Beach event. We ran the rest of the leg together, chatting about running, racing, anything to take our mind of things.
THANKFULLY at one point around mile 6.5, a Support Van from another team had pulled onto the grass, near a break in the fence separating the trail from the road. He saw us and asked if we were thirsty, and handed each of us an ice cold bottle of water. GOD BLESS YOUR SOUL, SIR. I don’t know what I would have done without it. I drank about half of it and poured the rest over my head. Not to engage too deeply in hyperbole, but this saved my life.
We emerged from the trail onto NW 20th Street, entering the Florida Atlantic University campus. We could see the Exchange, a quarter-mile off in the distance, and we were in ZERO rush. I was mighty ticked off, but glad to see this through to the end.
I passed off the bracelet to Ray and met Boots, who handed me my pre-requested Starbucks latte and a scone. It was still hot. I needed it. I may have scowled for the next hour and a half. Let’s just move on to:
The End of Van One’s Journey
Ray and Mark finished up the last of Van One’s race legs, and the neighborhoods they ran through, to be honest, weren’t the greatest either. Ray started in some of the safer areas in Boca Raton but soon found himself in parts of Deerfield Beach (off Hillsboro) that I wouldn’t go to on a bet. Mark finished the final leg starting in Deerfield and ending in Pompano Beach, through some further sketchy areas around Copans and Federal. Let’s just say that the allure of running alongside the pristine beauty of Florida’s east coast beaches was nowhere near the vicinity of where these legs were; this was almost entirely “working poor” neighborhoods. And I’m not being snobby or judgmental about it, but there are corridors down A1A or pretty much anywhere east of Federal that would have been safer and infinitely more scenic.
My scowling finished by the time I was able to settle down with a cup of “Ovaltine” and relax. We waited for Mark at Exchange 30, located at Northeast High School in Oakland Park. Anita and Rebekah regaled us a fully detailed history of the Auburn War Eagle while we were waiting. They know their stuff. Meanwhile it was that special brand of heat and humidity that only South Florida can deliver by midday, and Mark may have made a left turn at Albuquerque, but not every runner can say that had a high school marching band come out to greet them as they came in for their finish.
(By the way, did I mention that there were showers and rest rooms available to runners at this Exchange? No? Well that’s because nobody told us either, until Ray found them almost entirely by accident…)
We were tired, we were fried, we were worn out, but damn we were happy to be done. Lunch was long overdue, and we were mere minutes away from one of our favorite local joints, Burgers & Suds in Pompano Beach. They have a kickass beer selection and some of the best burgers in the Southeast. I managed to procure the last Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (sorry guys!), a big ol’ awesome cheeseburger the size of my face, a side of fries, and Boots and I split a bacon-wrapped conch fritters appetizer.
We were a wee bit hungry. Anyone if you’re in Pompano and looking to nosh, hit up Burders & Suds. Especially if you can’t find a good lamb burger in Alabama. Consider that a completely unsolicited endorsement from your pals at Hokeyblog.
After lunch we drove Mark, Anita, Ray, and Rebekah to their hotel near Miami International Airport. After a quick freshening up, we then proceeded to make our way over to Miami Beach to wait for Darren at the Finish Line.
This was a process.
The Race Bible instructed us to park our car at Miami Beach Senior High (where they filmed the high-school scenes from Porky’s!), where we would be “shuttled” to the Finish Line at Lummus Park, in the heart South Beach’s Deco District, smack dab on Ocean Drive. So we did just that, driving to and parking at the high school, only to realize that the line waiting for the shuttles was fairly long. As in, was barely moving. At all.
As it turns out, the shuttles that were sent to take us on the 10 minute sojourn to the Finish Line? They were not buses. They were not shuttles. They were not jitneys.
They were these tiny six-person extended golf-carts. And I think they maybe had three of them in operation at any one time.
There were several dozen people waiting in a long line, and they were loudly grumbling when they saw a tiny golf cart show up, barely taking enough passengers to make the line move much at all.
We didn’t want to risk not meeting Darren and the rest of Van 2 as they crossed the Finish Line, so we called for a Lyft. The driver showed up in two minutes and had our entire group at Lummus Park in no time at all. By this point we’d already rolled our eyes at so many event missteps, this was just yet another snafu.
But at least the Finish Area was hopping. You could see the Finish archway, hear the announcer, listen to the cheering and music, and watch the faces of bemused tourists who were wandering what the heck was going on in the first place. We parked ourself on the wall next to the walkway and waited for Darren to arrive.
Then the rain came. By the bucketload. Because of course. But it eventually lightened up into a small drizzle, and the atmosphere around the Finish Line was really buoyant. Lots of energy and music and the natural excitement of Ocean Drive helped keep spirits alight. The rest of our teammates from Van Two joined us (they had also taken a car service) and in a matter of minutes we finally saw Darren making his way down the Lummus Park walkway. We joined him to run those last few steps together across the Finish Line.
We received all of our team medals in a bundle, and we wore them with pride for this team pic:
It was still raining, of course, but we were happy and excited to not only have finished, but to finish together as a team and has friends. The following photo really solidifies the moment:
The Finish Area itself was a bit of a bust. The only food available was cheese pizza from Little Caesar’s, and there was water to drink… provided that you still brought your own cups or bottles! This was a HUGE tactical error. I’ve participated in DOZENS of races that finished on or near the beach, and all of them provided plenty of bottled water, Powerade, chocolate milk, anything. Most people had parked elsewhere and took transportation to the Finish without bringing race supplies, and to rip of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “nor any drop to drink”. There was of course an “after party” at The Clevelander, but that just meant you could walk over there and pay a slight discount on their already overpriced fare. No thanks.
It was a long two days and I was beat. Our teammates invited us to join them for post-race celebration with beers and dinner, but to be honest I was ready to take a long hot shower and pass out. I bid them all adieu, and Boots and I headed back to occur to drive back home to Sunrise. I’m happy to report that the rest of Team Shenanigans had a most festive time later that evening (joined by the our buddy Rob and his wife Mebs; Rob had run the Miami Man Triathlon that morning):
Of course this brings us to our last H1 moment of this long and winding race review…
What’s the overall verdict on the 2017 Ragnar South Beach Relay?
Ho boy… OK. Before I sum up my thoughts, allow me to present two communications from Ragnar Relay.
The first is a post on the official Event page on Facebook, which they published at 1:54 PM the day after the event:
The second is this email from Ragnar Relay, featuring a message from CEO Chris Infurchi:
I think it basically goes without saying that event disappointed in many ways. Many mistakes were made, organization, preparation, and communication was sub-par, and the whole was entirely less than the sum of its parts. And some of its parts weren’t exactly all that great to begin with.
If you’ve been reading my blog up until now, you can see that what started as a fun, upbeat, festive relay challenge devolved over time with a host of organizational breakdowns on the part of Ragnar Relay, to the point that, for many, they just wanted the whole thing over with. It was often an exercise in frustration and a lack of delivering what was entirely promised by the Ragnar organization.
My takeaway is this: we had a blast, despite the race’s shortcomings.
I got to spend two days with friends, driving around Florida, running, sweating, drinking, clowning around, following maps and GPS coordinates, attempting to sleep and failing, guzzling down coffee whenever we could get it, being goofy, having fun, dealing with heat, rain, cramps, hunger, thirst, dark roads, odorous vans, Dilly Dilly, sharing everything on social media, and generally have a great time together. Alongside over 300 other teams doing the exact same thing.
Would I do another Ragnar again? In a heartbeat!
But not Ragnar South Beach.
Not until they seriously reassess and reboot the entire process. Ragnar offering all teams a $400 credit for another race was a worthwhile gesture, and we’ll take them up on that. But we won’t be using that towards another South Beach relay until they completely rework this race.
Put it this way: if I gathered 12 friends in two vans and we organized a 200-mile run by ourselves, with our own support, lodging, logistics, etc. we still would have had a fun time and a memorable experience. But we pay Ragnar to take care of the legwork for us and utilize economies of scale to make it cost-effective, and to leverage their vast knowledge bank from past races, and the challenges and obstacles therein, to design a relay that offers up only the best and most memorable relay experiences possible.
Ragnar didn’t deliver on that last part at Ragnar South Beach.
But we had a fantastic time, despite those deficiencies. This race, ANY race, is what you make of it. Be prepared, know what you’re getting into, and be ready to change the plan at a moment’s notice. We were, and because of that we managed to enjoy ourselves during that long, sweaty, challenging 193 mile trek.
And in the end, that’s what we’ll remember best. So if the relay itself devolved into a bust, the time we had was anything but.
So way to go, Shenanigators! Here’s the video: