Waves of runners started every half hour beginning at 5 am all the way until 2pm. An 8:00 or 9:00 start would have been lovely, but apparently we were a little too honest with our predicted times. The Ragnar official said we were going to be one of the faster teams so that’s why we were one of the last groups to get started. I don’t know how that’s possible being that we planned to average a 9:00/mi as our overall pace. Other teams who know the system better must have fudged their times slightly to get earlier starts then us.
We made a stop for lunch and Starbucks, then arrived at the Miami Zoo. The first major exchange point were Van 1 would hand off to Van 2.
We went through the safety orientation, and were given our supplies (flags, first air kit) which also included a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. That was the last freebie we saw for the rest of the relay.
The worst part about the late start was every exchange point would be completely out of food and giveaways by the time we got there. The Ragnarians were like a hoard of locust moving across the islands. The biggest commodity ended up being toilet paper. There was not a square to spare at any public restroom or porta-potty anywhere along the way. We learned to carry our pack of baby wipes with us everywhere.
At 4:30, Van 1 handed off to Van 2. Elijah (runner #7), got the timing braclet and was off. Legs 7, 8, and 9 of the relay were tricky because they were through residental areas with lots of intersections and traffic lights. There was alot going on. Elijah did better on Leg 7than he gave himslef credit for.
Traffic was INSANE. It required some ninja navigation skills to make it to each exchange zone before our runner. It was such an adrenaline rush each time we successfully completed a hand-off.
By the time our 5th runner (leg #11) started, we were out of the residential sections into the everglades. It was very dark, and exceptionally smelly. Poor Mr.Blondie has this leg. It went alongside a landfill area, and he could barely hold it together the smell was so wretched. He also saw a big snake along the way. He knew better than to tell me about it until afterward we were finished. Game over, I would have been done had I known they were that out in the open. :::Shiver:::
My leg (I was runner #12) , took me even further into a desolate section of swampland. I was wearing my iPod, but decided that it would be foolish to use it. I need every one of my senses available and alert to my surroundings. After close to an hour of running through what felt like in a black hole, bright lights and a glimmer civilization came into view. It was the Homestead Motor Speedway.
While the stadium was empty, it was actually pretty cool to be on the track.
When you think about a bunch of race cars whizzing around at 200 miles an hour, the track isn’t very big at all. However it’s much larger than your standard ¼ mile track. It messes with your mind. After going around the first curve I still had almost a mile to go!
How many people can say they’ve done a lap on a Nascar track? I’d read reviews about how dreadful this part of the run was, so I had prepared myself for the worst. I think this was one of the most memorable sections of the race.
Miles run this leg:
I handed of the timing bracelet back to the first runner of Van 1, then it was our turn to rest for the next few hours.
We stopped at a diner for food, then headed to the next major exchange point, Coral Shores High School, to sleep for a few hours.
I think Van 1 had a much harder job than we did. They did all of the overnight running which included an 11.1 miles stretch over the Key Largo Bridge. It's one lane in each direction, with barely a shoulder, and trucks and cars whizzing by at a high rate of speed. I don't know how people didn't get killed.
In the dark, one of the Van 1 runners got lost and turned a 4 miles leg into a 9 mile leg. She ended up having to knock on the door of a local resident who drove her back to the beginning exchange point for that leg. Luckily she was safe, but it set us back another hour.
Coral Shores High School looked like an Econoline convention. It was a sea of hundreds of vans with people camped out alongside them in sleeping bags. Instead of the standard 15 passenger van, we had a Town & Country mini van which ended up being really comfortable. The seats folded into the floor, making the middle a decent area to sleep.
What made this experience so much fun was that I was with my husband and another couple we've been close friends with for years. It would have gotten even more awkward otherwise.
Sleeping configuration: 2 people in the front seat, 3 in the middle, 1 on the back bench.