“we all move forward when

we recognize how resilient

and striking the women

around us are”

-rupi kaur


The journey from Chicago to Madison began about as rocky as any team captain wouldn’t want to start a Ragnar. Showing up Friday morning to find that our rental van agency hadn’t bothered to communicate a lack of vans was less than amusing...and just a smidge stressful. All the pre-planning, organizing, endless communications were briefly overshadowed as I pulled out all the grittiness I had in my runner soul to ‘work the problem. BirdMachineCHI was going to conquer Ragnar Chicago one way or was just a matter of how.

Every member of the team flew into action, calling every van rental place within an hour of Chicago. I haggled with the site manager, demanding his help to rectify this oversight... I would not let my birds down! We still had plenty of time to make it to the start... if only we could find vans!

As the clock was ticking down, miracle of miracles… two large transit vans were found at the other airport agency and BirdMachineCHI was back in business! Everyone scrambled to our new meet-up location and loaded up the vans before heading to the Ragnar Chicago start line.  

The hard part was done. All we had left to do was run 200ish miles really damn fast to keep the Podium Project streak alive! Pressure is indeed a privilege.

Looking back, it all is a whirlwind blur of roller-coaster emotions, slap-happy late night jokes and dancing punctured with intense handoffs, super speedy paces, and just under 22 hours of epic womaning-up.


Some of the highlights:

"I think my favorite moment was walking into the Mattress Firm 30 mins before close for our “rest” and the manager being totally cool with it - even suggesting a king size bed for us! Becki Spellman you can spoon me in public any day..". - Jeannie

"My take away, like others have said, is that the power of a team is so much greater than the sum of all its parts. Nothing can stand between a strong group of determined women and their goals!" - Elizabeth

"I’m personally proud of pulling through on my first leg that I ran. Throwing up 3 times (and pulling a back muscle in the process) and still continuing on. Very humbling experience and definitely walked away a stronger person!" - Betsy

"I stood at the exchange, intentionally struck the Power Pose and started breathing to convince myself that I could dig deep even though I was already dehydrated before starting. Even though it wasn’t as fast as I hoped and planned, I picked up 40 kills and never gave up, and I did keep it under 7 min pace! I finished and felt inside that I truly was "good enough" to be on this team." - Kristina

"Walking into the bar in the middle of Wisconsin at 5:00 am to use the facilities - to see a group of men pay no attention to the haggard women walking in because they were fixated on the Royal Wedding." - Laura

"The support I had throughout the race and especially from van 2 was amazing! We all worked hard, supported one another, made sure the next on runner had everything they needed and was ready. Everyone was completely tuned into the moment and what was going on. It was a really neat to experience and being on the giving and receiving end." - Ashlyn


After spending almost 24 hours in a van with complete strangers, there are bound to be some nuggets we carry away with us... from feeling complete freedom to get naked in the van because you are too hot and wet from the last leg to changing your mindset from “I can’t” to “Dang, I got this!” Also that Spandos are amazing. And those Limber track suits are as intimidating AF to the competition... and the McDonalds crew who thought a gang of ninjas had just walked in.

"Take away- we’re strong in our best and at our worst. Having people pulling and pushing for you is powerful! - Becki

There is indeed a badass inside of all of us." - Jenna

"My take away from this experience is that a team of supportive women are a force to be reckoned with, #BirdMachineCHI! We celebrated the finish of each leg as a victory and moved forward together as one!" - Nicole

"As far as modesty goes, I think I was in the wrong van. After each of my first two legs, I stripped off my wet sports bra and just sat there to cool off. After the second leg, I completely stripped down and sat naked when I got in the van a little before 2am after a very windy rainy 5+ miles. Jenna said something about how she’s barely known me and she’s already seen my Ta-Tas! (Jenna has all the euphemisms for body parts! She cracked me up.)" - Kristina

"Also I’ve never been very comfortable with short shorts before. I wore the flyte and Spandos shorts for the first time and I’m a whole new woman now!" - Maeluen

"I think a takeaway is to believe in the power of the team! I did things that weekend I never would have been brave enough or confident enough to do on my own (hello, running faster than I thought possible on zero sleep in the middle of nowhere) Another lesson -- excuses are crap! I think how often I've complained I "can't" do something because of circumstance x,y,z (not enough sleep, stomach issues, weather, etc.). But how amazing is it to learn that you CAN!" - Laura

So after 21:37:11, BirdMachineCHI roared across the Ragnar finish line in Madison, taking first place overall in the Open Women’s Category. We edged out second place by more than half an hour!  


We wouldn’t have been able to do this without our amaze-balls crew: Van 1 with Christine & Lisa; Van 2 with Andrea & Molly. They drove as fierce as the runner ran, expertly executing GPS navigation, pit stops, and towel duties.  Ladies, we would not have been on the podium without your love and support...and late night sing alongs and yeti dance moves.

Becki, Maeluen, Jeannie, Betsy, Laura, Kristina, Nicole, Jenna, Elizabeth, Amy, Ashlyn, Lisa, Christine, Andrea & Molly…

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for volunteering to join me on this crazy Ragnar journey. For trusting me to get us to the start and through to the finish. For truly believing in yourselves and each other. A better team could not have won this Ragnar. As Kristina said, “We all have strengths and weaknesses. That is why we need a whole team. We filled in the gaps, called one another up, iron sharpened iron, and I know I finished a better woman than I started. The sisterhood in this sport is incredible!



Primary Subcategory

Racing - Races
Allyson Ely