How to run 196.2 miles in a day

ragnar adk 2013 composite

By Stephanie Wien

Runners have strange ideas about what constitutes fun. Getting up early on a day off to run long distances. Going out even in rain and snow.

Running 196.2 miles with 11 other people over the course of roughly 24 hours.

The latter describes the Ragnar Relay Adirondacks, in which more than 200 teams of 12 runners each recently made their way from Saratoga Springs to Lake Placid on a non-stop relay. For fun.

The Ragnar Relay started with a single race in Utah in 2004 and has grown to a national series that now includes trail races as well as road races. This year was the second for the Adirondacks version of the relay.

I've had "run a relay" on my running bucket list for a while now, and when a friend shared that her team needed replacement members, I decided to join their existing team. Fitting into a pre-established team takes some flexibility and willingness to plunge into the unknown. Most teams are formed of groups of friends, although finding 12 willing runners and keeping them healthy until race day can be tricky when you sign up almost a year in advance.

Forming a relay team requires a lot of logistics. Each team has two vans to transport its two groups of team members to the various exchanges when they aren't running. In addition, teams need hotel rooms during and after the race, food and water to keep everyone going, and pace planning to make sure everyone gets where they are supposed to be at the right time.

ragnar adk 2013 saratoga lake

Our team had drivers for our minivans so that we didn't have to worry about navigation as well as running. That let us all enjoy the beautiful scenery of the route. We were in van one, and started out early on Friday morning at Saratoga Spa State Park, then headed out north on a route toward the finish in Lake Placid. My first leg was on Route 9 along Saratoga Lake, which was glassy calm and surrounded by changing leaves.

Runners exchange at specific points along the route by transferring a slap bracelet to a teammate. When it came time to end my first leg, my teammate took off down the road while I recovered and rearranged myself to prepare for the rest of the relay.

ragnar adk 2013 breakfast sandwich silo

Our first group finished up at Gavin Park near Saratoga Springs where we transferred running duties to the second van, then set our minds to getting some hearty breakfast. We ended up at the Silo Country Store in Queensbury where I had an egg sandwich about the size of my head. It was delicious, and I think they put about a half pound of ham on there, too. After breakfast we headed up toward Lake George where we had a hotel room to shower and catch a few winks of sleep before our next run. The rooms ended up being a great idea: This nap would end up being the only quality sleep I had for the duration of the event.

ragnar adk 2013 million dollar beach

The second van took over the rooms after we exchanged at the next major point: Million Dollar Beach in Lake George. As we headed into the evening hours, my second leg along Lake George would probably have been scenic if it hadn't been completely dark. I can say after that run that there is a really gnarly hill in Bolton Landing, which race directors decided would be really funny to put at the end of a nearly 8-mile route.

The school had spaghetti dinners for sale as a fundraiser, and although it was well past my bedtime, no less my dinner time, I felt obligated to eat something more than a prepackaged energy bar. As a bonus, the meal was served on old-school cafeteria trays and the milk cooler smelled just like kindergarten snack time. The race information said there was free indoor sleeping at the next major exchange at the Essex County Fairgrounds, but it ended up being the floor of a barn covered in sleeping-bag-cocooned runners.

Heading into the night, our runners soldiered on by the light of their headlamps to the Ticonderoga Middle School where we once again traded off with the other van. The school had spaghetti dinners for sale as a fundraiser, and although it was well past my bedtime, no less my dinner time, I felt obligated to eat something more than a prepackaged energy bar. As a bonus, the meal was served on old-school cafeteria trays and the milk cooler smelled just like kindergarten snack time. The race information said there was free indoor sleeping at the next major exchange at the Essex County Fairgrounds, but it ended up being the floor of a barn covered in sleeping-bag-cocooned runners.

ragnar adk 2013 mile marker evergreens

All too soon it was time to wake up and get ready for the final stretch. This last section of the race was in the heart of the Adirondack Park and the trees were at their peak fall color. We were all pretty ragged at this point, so appreciating the scenery was a great way to keep our minds off more mileage on tired and sore legs. At one point we stopped to cheer on our approaching runner, and turned to see a postcard-perfect beaver pond surrounded by fall colors. Everyone had to get out of the car to take a photo or two.

ragnar adk 2013 road foliage

ragnar adk 2013 wetland

My final stretch was a short but hilly route into Elizabethtown with an exchange conveniently located near a Stewart's. I could finally use a real bathroom and change into fresh clothes. I can't even count the number of portable toilets I used over the course of the race (although that might make for an interesting infographic).

After our final van exchange, it was our turn to head north to Lake Placid to grab food and wait to cross the finish as a full team. As the other van arrived in anticipation of the final runner, we all prepared for the end and finished together, if somewhat stiffly for some.

ragnar adk 2013 medal

One thing Lake Placid could use is a huge biergarten for Ragnar weekend. Everyone wants in to the Lake Placid Pub as a way to cap off the events, so waits climb to over two hours or more, much too long for famished runners. There is pizza and beer at the finish, although this year each runner had one dollar-beer coupon instead of a free voucher, but there should really be more substantial options.

I have to admit being too tired to party the night away in town afterward, and my stay in Lake Placid was all too brief. I did manage to get out after showering to cap the night off with some maple soft serve from Emma's Lake Placid Creamery. My first experience was enough to get me planning a return to Lake Placid, perhaps in the winter when the streets are full of skiers instead of runners. Stopping at The ADK Cafe on the way home for one of the best egg sandwiches I've ever had the day after the race was a fantastic end to a wonderful adventure.

Stephanie is on Twitter as @StanfordSteph.

Comments

It was such a great experience!

It was lovely getting to know you Steph! Can't wait for the next one!

TURTLE POWER!

You see that one idiot standing in Lake George waving at you? I'm that idiot! Glad you had such a good time, this was my 2nd Ragnar experience and am already thinking of which one to do next.

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