Ragnar Relay one tough challenge

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
— You need a little help from your friends if you want to run 200 miles.

Kayla Schaapveld of Janesville along with with 11 teammates will run the Ragnar Relay from Madison to Chicago on June 8-9.

Running 200 miles is a long haul, but Schaapveld, who is marking her second Madison-to-Chicago Ragnar and third Ragnar overall, said it’s a rewarding challenge.

Ragnar was a Norse Viking in the 9th century. Race series founders Dan Hill and Tanner Bell named the race after him because he was an adventure seeking, conquering, tough guy.

Each individual runs three legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from three to eight miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together.

Schaapveld’s “Green Machine” team includes, Janesville’s Steve Hovland, Marie DeCreamer, Nathan Herzig and Jessica Garcia and Andrea Amend of Beloit. Each runs for Janesville’s All Season Runner shoe store. Green Machine is one of 134 teams entered.

“It’s really a fun race,” Schaapveld said. “It’s more than 24 hours, so you run overnight.”

Ragnar runs are not all about dead-serious competition, although ultra teams of six runners push hard. The emphasis is on fun.

Think of runners in crazy costumes laughing all the way to a great finish line party. Some runners call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. Awards are given for best team name, best decorated van, best costume, most spirited exchange and overall favorite team.

The 25-year-old Schaapveld, who works for Pepsi, graduated from Milton High School in 2004 and the University of Minnesota. Schaapveld wasn’t a runner in high school or college.

“My friends ran a sprint triathlon, and I didn’t want to get left out,” Schaapveld said of her entry into running.

Ragnar runners pile six runners in two vans and switch at six exchange points. It’s recommended each runner average 11 minutes per mile.

“That’s pretty liberal,” Schaapveld said of the recommended pace. “Most team members run a mile in a lot less than that.”

Schaapveld and her Full Frontal Nerdity team finished the Ragnar Florida Keys on Jan. 6 in 32 hours. Schaapveld’s 2011 Slizzard team finished the Ragnar Madison-to-Chicago in 28 hours. Schaapveld ran 13.5 miles at the 2011 Madison-Chicago race and 18.5 miles in Florida.

Night running brings different challenges, but it provides runners with the most adventure.

Runners wear reflective vests, headlamps and taillights at night. Typically, each team member runs at night, and Schaapveld relished the experience.

“The biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had was running at night,” Schaapveld said. “You can barely see on the trail, and all you see are these flashing taillights on other runners ahead of you, and you try and pass them.’’

“Each runner you pass is called ‘road kill,’” Schaapveld said. “You keep count of your road kill, and it gets marked in your van.”

Sleep is rare. Runners do get a break, but not long enough to really rest.

“I try to sleep for a few hours,” Schaapveld said. “But I really don’t get that much.”

“It’s a different kind of race,” Schaapveld said. “It’s fun being part of a team.’’

Last updated: 7:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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