Ready to Ragnar!
[Hilo, HI, Oct 14, 2016]
Yep, that 3:30 wake up call was not fun. Our van was loaded from the night before, so we just had to add the coolers with the perishables. Mike, Laura, May, Camilla, myself and Lena jumped in, all of us jealous that the six peeps in van #2 got to sleep in.
The two-hour drive to Hilo was uneventful. We crossed the Big Island in the middle, so we had to go up Mauna Kea, then back down. We arrived in Hilo right as the sun was about to start rising. We donned our safety gear – a reflective vest was required of all team members between 7 pm and 7 am – then went to the start line to check in. We took some photos, then sent Laura off with bells and whistles. And just like that, the 200-mile race began. 🙂
We got some coffee nearby, then off we were to the first exchange, where Laura would hand off the baton to Mike. Mike would run, then hand off to May, then Lena, then Camilla, then myself. The race organizers had provided us with a giant PDF document outlining each exchange, rules, etc, so that’s how we knew where to go next. We had also estimated everyone’s time best on the mileage and their pace, so we’d have an idea when to expect the next runner at the next exchange.
Once we sent Laura off, we headed to the first exchange, Kalanianaole Elementary and Intermediate School, where we finally got around to decorating our van! California references were all over, as well as a place for us to check off each leg as we completed it.
We greeted Laura and sent Mike off on his way. Here he is, running strong. Can you make him out? All the trees and plants make it hard to make out our runners in photos, especially since we’re on the other side of the road.
Traveling alongside our runners turned out to be pretty exciting. Except for very few portions of the course, the people in the van are allowed to follow their runner along. Of course, we weren’t allowed to creep alongside them. We’d drive ahead, stop, get out of the van, cheer on our runner and give them food/water as needed as they ran by, then drive ahead, stop, get out of the van… you get the idea. This was all pretty exciting – I think we were worried about being bored while people are out running, but no such thing! More cowbell!!!!! 🙂 We were given two giant orange flags to use since our runners were in the shoulder against traffic, while we’d be pulled over on our side of the road. We didn’t want to get a safety violation! We were allowed a max of 2 before getting disqualified, and supposedly there were Ragnar staff driving along the course to make sure everyone was being safe. Below are some photos of Mike, May, Lena and Camilla running, exchanging or supporting along the course (they ran in that order). We don’t have any pics of Laura for some reason – I think we hadn’t figured out the whole “support your runner” thing yet, plus we needed coffee!
Afther all these exchanges, it was my turn to wrap up the first set of 6 legs for van 1. My leg was just over 7 miles with lots of uphill, and it was already 11 am. This meant temperatures in the 80s F /upper 20 C. It was hot!!! My van did a great job stopping a few times and supporting me!
I knew I was getting close to the finish when I finally reached the downhill. We were now on the north-east side of the island, on the Hamakua coast.
I approached the finish. This was a big exchange, since this is where the second van for each team would take over from the first. My teammates from van 2 joined my van while they were waiting for me to arrive, and took lots of photos while I was busting my ass in the sun. 🙂
Here I am, finally approaching and happy as hell to be done. My face was red like a tomato, although you can’t see that in the pics. You’ll have to take my word for it. With my finish, my team covered the first 43 miles of the race in about 8 hours.
After a wipe-down in the bathroom and a change of clothes, we were all ready to EAT!!! We went to Tex Drive In, where we got some rice bowls and got to taste these Portuguese donuts called malasadas. They originated in an island of the Azores, which was settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century. So how did a Portuguese pastry become Hawaii’s favorite fried treat? In the 19th century, Hawaii needed workers for its sugar and pineapple plantations. Workers from the Azores came in, and brought with them this sweet treat. I am glad they did, because it was delish!
I was really excited about the next part of the race. After food, we wanted to get to the next major exchange, where we would wait for the last runner from van 2 to come in. On the way there, we would drive on Kohala Mountain road, which to this day is one of my favorite roads ever. We passed John from van 2 on the way, and we did not envy van number 2 for having to conquer the climb we were doing in our van. Climbing Kohala Mountain road on foot is no joke! We had a chance to stop at a turnout and take some photos.
When we got to the exchange, the weather turned a bit and turned cold and windy with a little bit of sprinkles. We tried to get some rest, but we couldn’t really sleep all that well. There was a lot of commotion around as well, as other vans were coming in. It was about 7 pm, and the sun was setting. When Creighton, our runner 12, came in, it was already dark.
Laura’s leg was all downhill. You’d think that’s easy, but she was running on a small two-lane road with a shoulder barely wide enough for her. It was dark, cold, and windy, and it would be so easy to trip and fall! We stopped once to support her, which worked out great becuase she needed to shed some layers. I was outside of the van waiting for her, and I had to announce myself every time a runner went by, because I didn’t want to scare them, but also because I couldn’t see who the runner was and I wanted to make sure Laura recognized me. 🙂
Down at the exchange, we heard that the first runner from another one of our teams had a really bad experience on this leg. First, she fell and hurt her ankle. Then, a person dressed as a clown came out of nowhere and scared her! This was likely a prankster. Some Hawaiians can be protective of their land, and this onslaught of runners probably rubbed someone the wrong way. It was clear her team would have to divvy up her other 2 legs amongst themselves. This was the worst possible scenario during the race. We felt so bad for Wendy. On the upside, this clown incident has become a running joke with her. Now, anytime something bad or scary happens, we’re like “At least it’s now a clown.”
All the exchanges on our team went smoothly. I went last just before midnight or so. My leg was short (~3 miles) and flat, so it was over before I knew it.
After this, we hauled ass to the next major exchange and quickly settled in to sleep in the van. We had about 5 hours until van 2 finished their legs. Believe it or not, we managed to get a decent night’s sleep.