In case you missed it, I did the Ragnar Relay last week! Yes, I know I’ve been a little over the top with my Ragnarthusiasm. I have already proclaimed that I am a Ragnarian. I explained the culture of Ragnar. Next week I’ll have a must-have Ragnar packing list. So, if you’ve stuck with me this far, I know you are a true Ragnarmaniac. If so, you’re in luck! Today is the actual recap of our Ragnar Adventure.
On Thursday I took the day off work so that I could finish packing and head to Huntington Beach. I was planning to stay over at my stepson’s house (and see the twins!). The team would be meeting (most of us for the first time) for dinner a little later that evening. My timing was perfect. I had time to take in an hour of the boys’ baseball game, then I headed over to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Newport Beach to meet the Dirrty Dozen.
In the meantime, team captain Amy, her cousin Lizzie, Jenica, and Kat (the three latter gals are not bloggers..yet) had done the chore of shopping for supplies and picking up the vans.
We had a great pre-race dinner, and believe it or not, in spite of the presence of seven or so bloggers, there are no pictures of food to be shared! As a side note, our server was knowledgeable enough to steer me in the right direction when I asked about vegan ingredients in the food. I had the minestrone, angel hair pomodoro, and, accidentally, a glass of Cabernet (I was sitting next to Carrie, thought I heard her order Chardonnay, and just said, “I’ll have what she’s having.”) I’m not usually a red wine drinker, but I enjoyed it. A lot.
At that point, Amy handed out our shirts (including an extra one that we could wear when we finished!), and our team binders, one for each van, that contained all the rules, maps, legs, everything we could possibly need to get to the finish line. We were still missing two teammates: Jamie, who was flying in later that night from Atlanta after a Sweat Guru event, and Melissa, who would be taking the train from Pasadena the next morning.
After dinner we headed over to the hotel where most of the girls were staying, did a little van decorating, then I headed back to Huntington Beach to go to bed. There were two important things that I didn’t find out until the next morning when I read the group text. The first was that the battery on Amy’s car died while we were using the headlights to light up our decorating. They were able to jump it, but we weren’t sure if it would start the next morning.
The second thing was that Jamie’s luggage didn’t arrive with her! All her race gear, not to mention her “real life” clothing was lost somewhere between Atlanta and Orange County. I found out later that Melissa packed up a full bag of gear for Jamie, including three changes of running gear and shoes, before she headed south the next morning. Now that’s a teammate!
The next morning, I rolled out early, and after a quick stop at Starbucks I headed to the start line to meet my team and cheer Lizzie, our first runner, off on her way. Jamie had made it by then, though she was dressed in her jeans from the night before. Still, she was good for some photo ops.
Our start time was at 6:45. Twenty teams start every 15 minutes or so, and with over 700 teams, the start times ranged from before 6:00 to close to noon, with the slower teams starting earlier in the day. As soon as Lizzie took off, we did too. Van one was off to cheer her on (Lizzie had the most mileage, about 25 miles overall) and to head their next exchange. Van two had a few errands to take care of before we could think about running.
Because of the point to point nature of Ragnar, we had several cars that needed to be moved to a central location for pick up after the race. Since we had to pick up Melissa from the Irvine Amtrak station, that is where we chose to take the cars. We went back to the hotel, picked up the cars (fortunately Amy’s car started right up), then drove to station. We didn’t have enough drivers, so while Carrie, Jill, and Melissa when to pick up the last car, Kat, Jamie and I headed over to the airport to pick up Jamie’s luggage (yes, it arrived). We all met back at the train station then headed over to the sixth exchange, a main one where we would start our run, which was just a few miles away.
We went to our required safety meeting, which covered the rules and safety requirements. Ragnar is quite strict that certain rules are followed (with good reason with 700 teams, 1,400 vans, and over 8,000 runners on the unmarked roads, day and night, from Huntington Beach to San Diego. Then we picked up our bibs, shirts, and safety flags. Then we had some time to kill while we waited for Gillian to finish up her leg. So we went shopping!
Jamie was our first runner, with about 10 miles to run. As soon as she took off, we dashed to our van because we wanted to get ahead of her and cheer her on. Apparently that was the plan of everyone in the parking lot because we got stuck in the most awful traffic jam ever! It took us about an hour to get free, so by the time we were almost at the exchange, Jamie was already finished. Fortunately, we were in contact by text, so she knew what was happening. Still, it is a shame not to be there for your runner.
We seemed to have a hard time during the first leg with our timing. We wanted to get ahead, cheer on our teammate (not to mention all the other runners), but we would stop too soon, or have a hard time finding parking for our 12 passenger van, and miss our runner. At least we made it to our exchanges on time!
After Jamie, Melissa took the baton (actually a slap bracelet), then Kat, Carrie, Jill, and then me, our last runner. Everything went smoothly, though we seemed to be falling behind on time (in spite of some speedy legs by Gillian in van one and Jamie). By the time I started my 6.75 mile run it was almost 5:30.
My legs was rated Extremely Hard and I’ll have to agree. It started with about a one mile uphill, on what seemed like a 15% grade. Other than that, though, I felt great! I’m not used to running in the afternoon, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. I finished my leg just as it was starting to get dark, in Dana Point. I handed off to Lizzie, who was heading out for an unsupported 12 mile leg in the dark. It was time for Van two to get some food and some rest.
First we drove south to Oceanside, close to our next exchange. Then we hunted down a place to eat. That sounds pretty easy, but we did have two vegetarians on board. Using a combo of Yelp and Happy Cow, we tracked down the Hill Street Cafe, which had something for everybody. Interestingly, we all ordered the same thing, the Baja Bowl, with tofu for Jamie and me. It worried us a little because there were an awful lot of beans in the bowl, but it sure tasted delicious. Then we headed to the exchange to get some rest.
We parked the van and tried to get comfortable. We experimented with a variety of positions (Jame even tried the floor for a while, but by then there were some stinky shoes and feet surrounding her!). I tried to snuggle into my sleeping bag and pillow, but it was really hard to get comfortable. As we finally relaxed just a little, we suddenly felt a big bump! The van in front had backed into us while trying to park. No damage fortunately, but it did get the adrenaline flowing. But, as Carrie said to the offenders, “we’re fine, you just woke us up!”
We got about an hour more of poor sleep. Between other runners chatting and trains going by it was a challenge to really fall asleep. I woke up with a headache, which really worried me. I knew I would complete my run, but I knew it would be really difficult with a migraine. I did bring my medication (important point if you’re planning a relay race).
Then it was time to bundle up and head to the bathroom about a quarter mile away. It was chilly, so I wrapped my sleeping bag around me to stay warm. I wasn’t the only one. I even managed to brush my teeth, using a bottle of water and spitting toothpaste into the gutter. What I didn’t bother to do: brush my hair. After my first run I put on a cap and didn’t bother with it any more. It was a little tangled. Then it was time for Gillian to arrive and we were off again.
It was 2 am by this time, damp, chilly, and very dark. We were well lit up. Ragnar requires all team members to wear reflective vests at all times between 6:30 pm and 6:30 am, plus headlight and taillights on the runners. I also added my Halo Belt and Knuckle Lights, so on my 4.8 mile leg at 4:00 am in Carlsbad, I really lit up the night.
It was great though. I wore a long sleeved base layer, with a lighter weight short sleeved top, capri length tights, gloves and a watch cap, and I was perfectly warm enough. There is something wonderful about running in the dark, especially when you can still see where you’re going and you feel safe. I even encouraged another runner who I caught up with when he was walking up a hill (yes, there were a lot of hills on this leg too). I got him to run with me for a while, but he eventually returned to walking (so I got to count him as a “kill,” the Ragnar term for each person you pass).
The great thing was that by the time I finished my headache was completely gone. I did have a few tummy problems on this leg, probably because of fueling only on things like trail mix, Clif Bars, pretzels, popcorn, fruit, and of course, those beans. The first thing I did, after I passed the bracelet to Lizzie was to head to the bathroom. It was nothing lasting though, and I felt better right away.
It was very early in the morning at this point, and we decided to drive ahead to the last main exchange point and try to get some sleep. It was in La Jolla, near Torrey Pines (fortunately at the top of the hill). After we parked, we curled up and tried to get a little sleep. Tried is really the operative word. After about an hour, as the sun was rising, we started to get up and were at least treated with a beautiful view of downtown La Jolla in the distance.
I found some coffee, and had a Luna Bar for breakfast. Yum! They did have some kind of breakfast available, but I believe it included pancakes and French toast, which sound delicious, but not vegan unfortunately. It was a couple hours, but the time flew by and finally Gillian came in, finishing her final leg.
Jamie took off on her final leg and we took off to our next exchange. Our team had a lot of longish legs in our final turn. Jamie had a little more than eight, Carrie and Jill had over seven, and I felt lucky to have just 5.5. We had become much better at judging cheering points, so we were able to stop and cheer for most of the team on our final leg. We were now working our way from La Jolla down the coast toward downtown San Diego.
My last leg started near MCRD, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot where my sister got married. My legs felt tired and rubbery, so I was surprised that once I got going I got into a flow and knew that I could finish strong. My route headed to Harbor Drive and I had a very scenic and flat run along the San Diego Bay, Spanish Landing, the San Diego Harbor, and finally toward the finish line, behind the San Diego Convention Center. My team gave me a bit of inspiration as they drove by me at about mile one, honking and waving as they passed.
As I finally neared the finish line, I felt really strong, which was amazing since I had run over 17 miles in about 24 hours. I had my eye out for my team knowing that they would be waiting for me so we could all run across the finish line together. When I was about 100 yards out, I saw the girls from van one waving me over. They pulled me out of the finishing chute, and explained that my van was still looking for parking! I stopped my watch (I’d kept it going even during traffic lights until then), caught between feeling frustrated watching the other teams finish in front of us, and happy because I beat the van to the finish.
Finally, they found a parking space and headed toward us. I’m not sure if they followed Amy’s instructions and actually ran, but they got there. And then, the Dirrty Dozen, finishing as a team ran across the finish line.
Not only did we have a wonderful time, we finished strong, 25th out of 52 teams in our category. Nice job, Dirrty Dozen!
I know this has been a really long post, so thank you if you’ve stuck with me to this point. I still feel like I’ve skipped some important details, but I’ve done my best. Part one fills in a few more details, and explains a little about the race itself and its culture. In that post I also put into words my feelings about my teammates, which I don’t want to skip here because they were truly the most important part of the experience. From my last post:
“It is hard for me to express in words the feelings that I have about the friendships that we created during Ragnar, especially with the women in my van. Usually when people first meet, you talk a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living, things like that. Throw those same people in a van with no shower, no sleep, no real food, in situations where they are there to totally support and cheer for each other, suddenly you’ve got the makings of lifelong friendships. Either that or they’ll never speak to each other again. Fortunately team Dirrty Dozen experienced the former situation. I can truly say that I love these women, even after only a few days. I want them on my team for my next Ragnar.”
So, are you ready now?