6 of us ran Ragnar Cape Cod this past Fri/Sat as an Ultra team (6 people, 183.6 miles). 5 of us had participated in a traditional team (12 people) at Ragnar Michigan last year, so we had some familiarity with the event structure. Mandy, our 6th, had never run a Ragnar and joined the team when we were a week out.

We ran it in 6 legs each. So we’d each be running about 30 miles total, anywhere from 2.3 to 10.9 miles at a time, with around 3.5 hours in between runs. We run as a fundraiser for Beat Nb, a nonprofit beating cancer for kids through innovative clinical trials and research. As a 6 person team, we raised over $6,000 while having a great time (shameless plug: come join us for another Ragnar!)


Day -1, Thursday

Everyone arrived in Boston between 1030a and 530p. Us early few grabbed the vehicle (GMC Yukon XL) we’d be in the next 48+ hours, and headed to Faneuil Hall. We met up with Carl, who lives in the Boston area and works by the hall (Carl ran Ragnar Michigan with us last year), and the team grabbed some beers and wandered around Faneuil while waiting for everyone to get in.

Shannon was last to arrive, and when she showed up we hung out a bit longer and headed to Braintree to all sleep at Carl’s for the night. His family had spaghetti prepared, and we roomed summer-camp style on the living room floor – the best sleep we’d get that weekend. Lots of laughing and good times as we prepared for tomorrow – the start.

Day 1, Friday

We were up around 7am, but for no particular reason other than that’s when we woke up. Our start time (assigned based on the runners’ average paces) wasn’t until 2:30pm, and the start line was only half an hour away from where we were staying. We spent some time decorating the van (washable markers are a must! but we forgot LED lights and magnets – lame), then headed to Carl’s breakfast recommendation: Kristin’s Breakfast. Monster pancakes and a packed table of food was just “race prep.” 

so fresh-faced

From there, we hit up the grocery store to stock up on water, Gatorade, and all sorts of bars and snacks. Then…

The Start Line

We arrived in Hull, MA around 12:30p, although that was probably an hour before we needed to. We checked in, showed that we had our headlamps/safety vests/blinker lights, and watched the 10 minute safety video. We collected our van goodies (van sticker for front/back, some temp tattoos, safety flags for street crossings throughout the race, a couple trash bags and an air freshener…), and walked to the start line. 

The teams go out at 15-30 minute intervals (12:30, 1pm, etc). You line up with your start time 5 or 10 minutes before, and they call out each team as you go. At 230pm… our first runner, Travis, hit the road. We were running.


me trying to keep up with a 6:05 pace while holding a video camera

team Beat Nb at the start line

We’re running.

It was hotter than we expected. Not terrible – high 60s, clear skies, direct sun. While Travis is running (5.2 miles), we drive to Exchange 1 – Southshore Baptist Church in Hingham. The Exchanges are where we switch our active runners – with a slap bracelet. There’s always Port-a-Potties, a sectioned off 6′ x 6′ area (or so) where the actual runner exchange happens, and a parking lot where a bunch of vans are parked waiting for their runners. Often there’s food and drink available for donations to local charities. Most exchanges are churches, schools, or parks. A few won’t have addresses at all – I had to Google how to plug GPS coordinates into my Apple Maps app. 

Travis finished his run in 34 minutes (a 6:30 pace – faster than he’d meant to go, but he was chasing a faster runner and got caught in the competitive spirit), and slapped the “I’m running right now” bracelet on Zack, who was then off.

Travis handing off to Zack

Zack ran 5, and while he was running we consulted the Big Book. It’s a printed book I create for the race, with Ragnar’s provided map book (details on all exchanges and legs – including elevation, map, turn by turn directions, and addresses) as well as a list of our names and contact info, our estimated schedule, and a general itinerary. 

I was up for leg 3 (my first leg was my longest – and OUR longest, at 10.9 miles). Each Ragnar has a hardest leg, which gets it’s own name (for Cape Cod: the Wicked Hahd leg) and medal. I finished in 1:22:58, a 7:35 pace.

After me was Shannon, then Anthony, then Mandy. Rinse, wash, repeat (except for the rinse and wash part). We write our names on the van, with 6 checkboxes after each name. When we finish a leg, we go check off a box. 

why is Anthony so happy this far in

By the time I got to my second leg, it’d already gotten dark, and I knocked out 4.1 at a 7:12 pace. We’d all been running pretty well, with Travis (our fastest runner) sticking to sub-7s, and the rest of us on the low end of the 7s. It got into the mid-40s for the evening, which felt great while running. Waiting for the runners at each exchange was chilly – Mandy was wrapped in a blanket, and we all had jackets (with a few pairs of sweats or warmups pulled on – smaht). Then we’d hop back in the van, drive to the next one, and do it all over again. 

Legs were between 20 minutes and just over an hour, averaging around 40 minutes. 

We ran all night. We’d sleep for 20 minutes if we could, but Friday night we probably maxed out at 90 minutes. Leg 3 for each of us came and went (4.3 miles at a 7:19 for me), and on my 4th leg, the sun rose. I was bonking – I realized I’d forgotten to eat anything in hours – since my last leg – and I ran 4.7 at a 7:48 pace. 

these are less fun in the complete dark

Day 2, Saturday

By each of our 5th and 6th legs, we were feeling the sunshine’s energy, but our legs were tight from the 15 hours we’d been on the road. Plus we were all 18ish miles in.

There’s a new energy that comes with the morning, and Exchanges were buzzing a bit as it warmed up and we were getting closer to the finish line. I finished my 5th leg at a 7:22 pace, dreading getting back out there for a final one, but feeling inspired by my teammates putting in such great mileage and times. 

By the time I ran my 6th leg, I was hurting pretty good (and let’s not even talk about chafing!). I’d done the math, and knew I needed to hold a 7:05 pace for my 3.3 mile leg if I wanted to hit my overall goal pace: a 7:30. I pushed hard on a crazy hilly leg, passing 15 people and feeling able… but missed it with a 7:22 pace. It put my Ragnar total at 30.1 miles, with a 7:32 pace. 


mandy running


travis finishing his final leg with a handoff to zack


shannon hurting but strong at the end of her last leg – a brutal mile of steep uphills

tired but still smiling

It had been cold, but not rainy yet. Maybe some sprinkles. We almost skipped the rain completely, but just before Anthony’s last leg, it started.  He ran a quick 2.7 in the rain (his leg had been scheduled to be 5+, but a last minute change from the race directors swapped his leg to 2.7 and Mandy – our closer – to an 8.1 mile final run. Yikes!). And then it was Mandy, for the last leg, running all highway in the rain. 

We met her at around 3.1 miles, where she threw her rain jacket at us and said “I hate this” (the jacket) with a huge smile on her face, and ran off to finish the last 5 miles of our Ragnar experience – a total of 183.6 miles.

Parking was iffy at the finish line, and we got a text from race command (how runners are primarily communicated with throughout the race) providing an alternate address, and a note there’d be buses there to get us to the finish line. We rolled out quickly, and got to the finish line, at the top of some big hill in Provincetown, MA. 

Less than 20 minutes after we arrived, we saw Mandy turn the corner to the finish line. We started screaming her name, and the 6 of us ran across the finish line together. We’d done it. 183.6 miles in 24 hours, 19 minutes, and 14 seconds – a 7:57 overall pace. We were cold, tired, delirious, and so happy. It was just after 3pm.


ok I didn’t have my video stabilizer on me for this one, but… JOY!

We collected our medals, and Shannon had Yelp’ed to find out there was a pizza place an 8 minute walk from the finish line. We ordered 3 huge pizzas, got beers from the place across the street (the pizza place was BYOB), and sat there for over an hour, laughing and smiling and collecting ourselves.

shannon yelping us to pizza at the finish

some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. no sleep and big miles adds to the flavor

Shannon drove the 2 hours back to Boston (we’d have to be up around 330am the next day, so had gotten a hotel 6 minutes from the airport). We soaked in the pool and hot tub, and wound up asleep by 1130. Total combined sleep over Friday and Saturday night: 5.5 hours. 

Thanks Ragnar, for organizing an incredible adventure. We all agreed running as an Ultra team was a huge challenge, and a worthy one. 

Thanks to each of my team members – Travis, Zack, Shannon, Anthony, and Mandy. Your passion for Beat Nb and helping the KIDS who we’re helping to beat cancer, and your fundraising efforts… not to mention the camaraderie and memories… is so appreciated.

We wound up placing 23rd out of 465 teams (430 of those were 12 person teams).

We’ll be back. 

I don’t have Zack or Shannon’s totals (get Strava!!!), but here’s the leg details for the other 4 of us:


Kyle

Leg 1: 10.9 mi, 1:22:58, 7:35 pace
Leg 2: 4.1 mi, 30:03, 7:12 pace (15, 1:53:03)
Leg 3: 4.2 mi, 30:48, 7:19 pace (19.2, 2:23:51)
Leg 4: 4.7 mi, 36:50, 7:48 pace (23.9, 3:00:41)
Leg 5: 2.9 mi, 21:40, 7:22 pace (26.8, 3:22:21)
Leg 6: 3.3 mi, 24:29, 7:22 pace

30.1 miles, 3:46:50 h:m:s
7:32 overall pace


Mandy

Leg 1: 3.9 mi, 29:46, 7:28 pace
Leg 2: 6.5 mi, 51:29, 7:50 pace (10.4, 1:21:15)
Leg 3: 4.3 mi, 34:42, 7:57 pace (14.7, 1:55:57)
Leg 4: 2.5 mi, 19:52, 7:54 pace (17.2, 2:15:49)
Leg 5: 2.9 mi, 22:38, 7:48 pace (20.1, 2:38:27)
Leg 6: 8.0 mi, 1:07:11, 8:19 pace

28.1 miles, 3:45:38
8:01 overall pace


Travis

Leg 1: 5.2 mi, 34:18, 6:30 pace
Leg 2: 7.8 mi, 53:43, 6:51 pace (13.0, 1:28:01)
Leg 3: 3.7 mi, 24:34, 6:38 pace (16.7, 1:52:35)
Leg 4: 5.7 mi, 39:39, 6:52 pace (22.4, 2:32:14)
Leg 5: 7.4 mi, 54:43, 7:23 pace (29.8, 3:26:57)
Leg 6: 6.2 mi, 46:50, 7:28 pace

36.0 miles, 4:13:47
7:03 overall pace


Anthony

Leg 1: 3.9 mi, 28:34, 7:11 pace
Leg 2: 6.3 mi, 47:38, 7:27 pace (10.2, 1:16:12)
Leg 3: 6.5 mi, 54:14, 8:19 pace (16.7, 2:10:26)
Leg 4: 3.7 mi, 29:09, 7:46 pace (20.4, 2:39:35)
Leg 5: 4.7 mi, 39:00, 8:16 pace (25.1, 3:19:35)
Leg 6: 2.7 mi, 21:57, 8:08 pace? (watch messed up)

27.8 miles, 3:41:32
7:58 overall pace (missing exact last leg details)

Kyle Matthews