After our van was finished with our first set of legs and we had a break, we headed into town to find somewhere to eat before trying to get a little rest. We found a restaurant/brewery (are you sensing a theme here?) where we were refreshed by a delicious meal and beverages. Being a lightweight in the alcohol department, my husband and I opted for Diet Cokes while most others enjoyed a beer. Then it was off to the next major exchange (a casino/resort), where we freshened up in the restroom, got some Starbucks, and rested. This was to be our shorter break before taking over from Van 2; they continued the faster-than-expected trend and were ready to hand off much too soon.
My husband took the slap bracelet from Rick, runner #12, just about sunset. Dale had the dubious honor of having to wear night gear for all three of his legs; he was either starting before the sun was fully up or right at dusk, so he wore his vest, headlamp, and rear light each time. This set of legs was much, much harder than the first set. Not only were the legs mainly going UP instead of down, now we were running into the wind. We're not talking a gentle breeze here; no, this was a full-on high wind warning, with speeds of 30-40MPH and gusts much higher.
There's nothing that can prepare you for running uphill into a headwind at night with sand blasting you periodically. Dale had over 6 miles to cover, going up with occasional short downhill sections. I had 4.5 miles (rated moderate?!) with an elevation gain of 500 feet. It. Was. BRUTAL. I probably walked as much or more as I ran for that leg; it was dark, cold, and very windy. It was a little spooky, too, running in the desert at night and seeing signs that said 'Do not feed the wild horses or burros' as I ran--probably good that I couldn't see much beyond my headlamp out there. And having to go across cattle guards at night in the wind? Not fun. I'm not joking about it being uphill; here's the course and elevation chart:
One of the things you see a lot of in Ragnar is vans that boast how many 'kills' the runners have made; that means how many people they passed as they ran. As a slow runner, I'm usually the one being 'killed' along the way, but on this leg I passed 4 or 5 people even with all the walking--it was just plain an ugly run for everyone. I was never so happy to see the One Mile To Go sign than on that leg, although those signs are infamous for being imprecise: they could be a mile away from the exchange, or a little less, or (often) a fair amount more. Seeing the lights of the exchange gave me the boost I needed to finish running.
The rest of our team had tough legs to run as well; it's particularly hard having such difficult legs during the nighttime hours. You can't gauge distance or speed well, there's not a whole lot to look at to take your mind off the hills and wind, and the time seems to drag. We all ended up taking quite a bit longer than projected based on the distances and ratings for each from Ragnar.
As we were driving to exchange 17, our team captain got a text that there had been a change in plans for sleeping arrangements for the 'off' van. Something had happened, and we could no longer put out our sleeping bags at Exchange 18/24. They gave a couple of alternate locations, neither of which sounded good in the cold and wind. As we were waiting for Penny, runner 6 and team captain, to finish her leg, we made a group decision to find a nearby hotel and rent a couple of rooms to sleep and clean up. That turned out to be the BEST decision we could make; two rooms, one for the guys and one for the gals, with two queen beds in each, allowed us all to get 1) hot showers (YIPPEE!) and 2) sleep inside in a nice, warm BED and not outside in the wind and cold on the ground. We might only have 3 or 4 hours to sleep, but it was much more restful sleep under those conditions. Note to self: suggest doing this for future Ragnar teams!