I honestly have no idea how to recap the Ragnar Relay. I have thought about how to sum up my Ragnar experience in one blog post for the past 2 days. And I’m still not sure how to do it, but here goes (and yep… it’s long).
This was my first relay race (well the kind of relay that needs vans and lasts more than a day). As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, this was sponsored by Nuun (race entry), The SF Marathon (vans), Skechers Pro (shoes), Gametiime (shirts), FitSok (socks), and Zensah (compression sleeves). And it was all organized by Chris (thanks so much!). He put together an awesome group of SFM Ambassadors (you can read all about our team members here). I had known about the race for a while and looked forward to it, but other than reading one of Paulette‘s posts on a previous relay experience, I didn’t do any real research. In other words, I had no idea what to expect.
I had been in SoCal for a week when relay Friday finally arrived. After being dropped off at the hotel, I connected with the other members of van 2. I had met all of them before (Alisyn, Paulette, Bruce, and Matt) except Miriam. I knew it would be a great group. We decorated the van and then headed to exchange 6 where we did our safety training and picked up our gear. Then lunch. Then waiting…
Around 6ish (our wave started at 12:45) we were ready to begin. And we got to see the other half of team (minus Chris who was racing his leg). I had met Keith, Wes, and Erin before and got to meet Jordan and Kristina for the first time IRL. After Alisyn and I rocked out to Bohemian Rhapsody (and the rest of our team slowly backed away from us), Chris came back in and our first runner was out. Insanity began.
We darted to each exchange, which were a bit haphazard and poorly organized. But soon enough, it was my turn to race. I had gotten a little nervous about my first night leg. I wasn’t scared to run in the dark since I do that often, but my course included a long section on a “horse and walking trail,” which I took to mean as unpaved (read tripping hazard). Alisyn volunteered Matt (her fiance) to run with me since he’s training for Western states. I was really glad I had him with me. Even through it ended up being a paved trail, I only saw 4 other runners the entire time, one of which ended up running with us for a couple miles. But there was also a random guy on a bridge and we were off the streets for most of the run. There was also one spot where I was half convinced we missed the route (we didn’t)! Save for a couple of street lights, it was a fast leg. I ended up running a 7:18 pace (my fastest on all the legs) and felt good enough to chat with Matt for most of the run. Since there few other runners, I only had 3 roadkills on this leg. Before I knew it, I was handing off to our next runner (although in the dark I could barely pick out Bruce from all the rest of the runners).
Bruce’s leg was a short two miles, so we raced to the next exchange. This time, I joined Alisyn in her night run. She hasn’t run much in the dark and was nervous about night blindness. I was happy to join her on her leg since she had found me a buddy for mine. Her leg was the same distance as my first one (6.7 miles) but had a lot more climbing (823 feet!). But she did great and man, she rocks the downhills (I had to work hard to keep up!). Her leg led us into the Dana Point Harbor (would have been gorgeous if it was light out). Then our van got a break. Paulette and I were starving and there was a Carl’s Jr. I had a Diet Coke and a big order of fries (carbs & salt? yes please!). My stomach had been hurting, this didn’t really help but it tasted great at the time. Then we drove down to Oceanside for the next big exchange.
Exchange 12 was at the Oceanside Pier and what apparently is now known as the Junior Seau Amphitheater. I had forgotten my sleeping bag, so I slept in the car with the ladies while the guys camped out on the beach. I got about 2, 2 1/2 hours of sleep. Eh. When I checked my phone I saw that Van 1 was making up massive time on their legs and would be at the exchange faster than expected. So we rushed to get ready and Matt at the handoff from Chris. When Chris came in we had to tell him we hadn’t seen Van 1 yet, but we figured they were parking. (nope). We headed off to inland Oceanside and when we got there, we saw Van 1. We were shocked … and then we realized (at apparently about the same time they did) that they had gone to wrong exchange. We waved as they piled into the van to go back and get Chris!
My next leg was the one I was looking forward to the most. It was only 2.1 miles, so I had hoped to be really speedy (and I knew there was a good downhill) and it ended at my high school (go Longhorns!). Well, the course was more hilly than I remembered (nearly 300 feet, a decent amount for just 2 miles) and I caught 2 red lights (boo!). I ended up being about a minute slower than expected. Despite this, I still had 10 roadkills (pretty good for 2 miles). I barely got to realize I was at my high school before we were off to the next stop.
The next major exchange was at TaylorMade in Carlsbad, less than a mile from where the hubs and I used to live. We didn’t spend much time there, we were hungry. We decided to head down south a bit and catch breakfast at Denny’s in Encinitas (yes, I know there are SOOO many good breakfast places in Encinitas but time and cheap breakfast were the priorities). I was excited about a real bathroom and for the first time actually changed all of my clothes (as opposed to just a shirt) and brushed my teeth! That was the best. I ordered a bunch of eggs and toast to calm my upset stomach (it seemed to work but took some time) and had a nice cup of black coffee. We saw two other teams there before we left for the next big exchange at Torrey Pines Hang Gliding park.
I hung in the van for a bit when we got there because I was tired and my stomach still hurt. But eventually I found my way to the rest of my group, who were enjoying the amazing views (and not noticing how close we were to Blacks Beach…) At this exchange, we ran into fellow SFM Ambassador Heather and my fellow Fleet Feet team member, Erica. And then it was off for morning running on a beautiful, sunny day. My leg went around Mission Bay. (It wasn’t great to be able to see the exchange way on the other side at mile 3!) I am glad I got to run this in the day as it was so pretty. The leg was described as “very hard” but save for a couple flights of stairs, it was really flat. The hardest part was the final mile, which was straight into a pretty strong headwind. I ended up with 31 roadkills and a strong need to change into non-sweaty clothes (thankfully I changed quickly and was able to do so before we moved to the next exchange). It took me an hour to run my final 7.5 miles but I had completed just about 23 miles at this point, so I was ok with it.
The final legs weaved through the nicest parts of San Diego and the race ended at the harbor behind the San Diego Convention Center. I can see why they picked this location: stunning view and lots of parking. But it is also one of the busiest parts of SD on a sunny, spring day during rolling spring break, with tons of Ragnar runners. So basically a big ol’ mess of traffic. After sitting in it for a while, most of our van’s runners jumped out to meet the rest of the team and run in with our final runner, Alisyn. But I was exhausted so I hung with Matt who was driving. We met up with the rest of the group and posed for a finish line photo :) We ended up finishing 8th of the 510 mixed regular teams and 24th overall (720 teams). Not too shabby! Then it was time for beers!
This was a crazy experience and there were things I loved and didn’t love about it all.
Loves: I loved running through the area. The course wove through places where I had lived in college, where the hubs grew up, where I grew up, and where we had lived together. I had a story for each community for my van (whether they wanted to hear it or not). I also loved being a part of a team and running as a group. I loved my team, even those in van 1 I didn’t spend nearly as much time with. And we had a pretty chill van and that was nice. And I liked racking up all those miles so quickly!
Not So Great: I didn’t like that I didn’t get to spend much time with the other van. It’s kind of unavoidable but it almost felt like 2 teams instead of one. I was also really confused about how they described each legs of the race. My hilliest run was rated the easiest and my most flat run the hardest. I’d like it if Ragnar provided an explanation of how they determined course difficulty to better prepare for the runs. I also thought in the “trail” sections they should have put up some floodlights and I’d think more signage would be awesome. I also really like sleep, so not having much of it was not fun for me.
I’m not sure if I’ll run a relay race again. But then again, the Calistoga to Santa Cruz Relay seems pretty tempting…
(thanks to all the team members for the photos :) )