Monday, April 26, 2010

Ragnar with the "Ragnerds"

Last year, Eddie and I were invited to join a Ragnar team and as much as we wanted to do so, we were just way to busy.
I had heard about another team forming this year, emailed the team captain and secured one of the last spots. Eddie decided against it, as we were doing a 70.3 one week later.
Before I go any further, let me explain what Ragnar is. Ragnar is a relay that is put on in several parts of the country. The one I did is the So Cal relay from Ventura to Dana Point. Basically, you have a team of (up to) 12 runners and 4 volunteers. These 16 people are divided into two large vans: Van one and van two. Each runner has three legs that they are supposed to run. While you are running your leg, the van heads over to the next "exchange" location to get the next runner ready to be passed off to. Once all of van one's runners have finished their first legs, van two kicks into action and goes through the same process. This is repeated until all twelve runners complete 3 legs. These legs are all over the place...through farming areas of Ventura, trails, the coast and downtown areas.
Going into this, I only knew one person that I would be doing this with. Our group decided to meet on Thursday night, drive up to Santa Barbara and stay the night there. This would save us from having to leave at 4:30 on Friday morning to make it to our 9:30 safety briefing and start time. So, we pile into the vans and head up. A friend of someone in the group, very kindly, offered to let all sixteen of us sleep at his house in Santa Barbara. We pull up at about midnight and are told that the house we are staying at is under major construction...and it was! Major construction as in, there are no floors. So, we knew we wouldn't have beds to sleep in (because who has 16 beds in their house to offer up?), but we had sleeping bags with us. The floors were just wood structure. I started to roll out my sleeping bag and noticed a room around the corner with a set of bunk-beds. Cami noticed them at the same time and we claimed them quickly! I still hardly slept at all that night.

TCSD Team ready for action!

The next morning we had breakfast, went through our safety briefing and got our first runner, Justin, ready. Justin was a good guy to get us started because he was fast!
Justin flying through leg one

All of the runners in our van finished up their legs, and I was the last to go. This was the longest leg of the relay and was described as "very hard". 9.9 miles with 830 feet of climbing within a few of those miles.
Map of my fisrt leg

So, I reviewed the map, got my gel flask ready and waited for the runner before me to pass off the baton.
Waiting team vans

The first couple of miles were pretty easy. I was able to pass a few other runners, including a guy who received PLENTY of heckling from our van (mostly Cami and her beloved bullhorn) as well as from his own van. My van was really good with the moral support along the way. So, I managed to pull off an 8 minute mile, which I was pretty happy with, considering the distance and the climbing. I was the last runner in our van, which meant we handed off to our second van and we had a break for several hours. While the other van sent off their six runners, we had lunch and then headed over to the exchange spot that our van would start running again. We still had a few hours, so we pulled out our sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep in the park that was the exchange spot. It was getting dark and cold and it was very loud from all of the events going on, so no one really slept. But, it was really nice to just rest. Tired? Pull up some grass!

Our van was up again, right when it got dark. We worked through our runners who had legs through Hollywood and L.A. We used a bike escort for our female runners, for safety reasons. We had one small set back when one of our runners got lost. There was a marker missing, so a lot of runners were getting lost (and pissed). Luckily, we sent a two way radio with the bike escort, so we were able to navigate them back in.

My second leg was at about 2:30 in the morning. I was equipped with my head-lamp, reflective gear and bike escort, Gerry. This leg was 4.3 miles through Santa Monica. The streets weren't very well lit and the sidewalks we were running on were cracked and uneven. I caught up with a guy from another team. It was nice to see someone else out there! We had a really good pace going and I could tell that he was struggling to hold it, so I took off. We literally hit every single red light. So, he would catch up to me at every light as did another guy. It was so frustrating for all of us! We would commence in a little bit of smack talking at each light and then hull ass to the next one. Our finish was at the Santa Monica Pier, which was awesome! The three of us were neck and neck until there was a steep downhill. I'm a terrible downhill runner, so they smoked me there. Without the red lights, I finished this one in 30 minutes and 30 seconds. This was my favorite leg and probably one of my favorite running experiences! When else can you run the Santa Monica Pier, at 2:30 a.m. (safely)??
Santa Monica Pier. Cell pic is better than no pic, right?

My leg being over meant we had a little break again. It's a little fuzzy at this point...we may have gotten something to eat? We went over to the exchange spot to get some rest while van two completed their legs. I was freezing and didn't want to get out of the van, so I grabbed my sleeping bag and wedged myself between the seats of the van on the floor. I think I dozed off a couple of times before we were radioed that van two was about finished.

Our van started again just at sun up, which was a good thing because we were in some seriously sketchy areas! We finally got to my leg, which was a nice flat, coastal run in Huntington Beach. I had to pull off seven miles and I was exhausted! At mile 4, Ragnar had put up a marker that said there was only one mile left. I knew I had three, but it still sucked to see that sign. Justin, one of the guys from our van, met me at mile five to run in with me. We didn't do much talking, but it was so great to have the company. Just before getting to the exchange spot, Justin handed me my TCSD cape to put on and a few seconds later, I had finished my final leg! As tired as I was, I was still able to pull off sub-eight minute miles. The cool thing about being the last runner in the van is that both vans are there to greet you when you finish.

Finishing my final leg in Huntington Beach

So...our van was done!! We had some breakfast in Huntington Beach and then headed to the final finish in Dana Point. I was out cold on the drive over and had no idea where I was when we got there. We went over to the finish and waited for the other van for, what seemed like, an eternity. We were just exhausted! The last runner in van two came through and we crossed the finish together. twenty-eight hours and some change and we were done!

The official finish in Dana Point

Such an awesome experience that I am really looking forward to doing again! We had a great group of runners that was supported by an even greater group of volunteers. I can't imagine the coordination and organization that went into making everything go so smoothly.

You have to have a genuine love for running to enjoy this. Otherwise, it could be a miserable 28 hours! I'm looking forward to next year!

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