Race Recap: Ragnar SoCal
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m insane or just insanely obsessed with my sport.
Other times, like this past weekend, I KNOW I’m insane.
Truly, this wasn’t my fault. It started out to be an innocent peer-pressure into a race by my friend Kim, who is herself a little obsessed with running and medals and that sort of thing. Last year, right around this time (and before my love affair with Ragnar relays started), she talked me into registering for the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in San Francisco to be held in March 2016. It was being offered at a hugely discounted rate, and I thought “Why not?”
So I promptly registered and forgot all about it.
Fast forward about six months to the time when I ran my first Ragnar and was hooked.
I promptly began registering for every Ragnar I could, solidly booking up my calendar for 2016 (with 12 Ragnars, of course). SoCal was one that came a little later, but at one point I found a team of women through my local Moms Run This Town group and joined up.
The only problem was that I’d also registered for little things like the Rock ‘n Roll Half, so it turned out I double-booked some of my weekends.
Like this past one, the experience of which went a little like this…
Because I want to be able to run as much as I can, and because I love my job, I take off as little time as possible to go on runs. Thus, on Thursday night at 9pm, I hopped a plane and headed down to Orange County to run Ragnar SoCal. My flight arrived at 10:25pm and I was fortunate to meet two of my new team mates on that very flight. Together, we went to the rental counter, picked up the van, and headed to the hotel where we were staying with the rest of our team. Because we arrived so late and had to get the van, it was nearly midnight before we actually made it to the hotel. I’d been up since 4:30am, so I was a little tired, but I was happy to get to meet two other team mates before crashing out for the night.
Being in Van 2 gave me a little more time to sleep in, but we rose early the next morning and got ourselves a bit of breakfast before decorating the van and heading off to Exchange 6. Van 1 had left the hotel and started their run at 6:30am; we anticipated meeting them around 11am to see runner 6 in and runner 7 off. The exchange wasn’t far away, but we piled into the van and headed off through Huntington, excited to get this underway.
The trip up to the exchange was a time to get to know one another. We chatted, tried to figure out how to get music synced through the radio, and talked a bit about the upcoming legs we would be running. I also learned a little about a creature named the Honey Badger, but since what happens in the van stays in the van, I’ll move along.
It was a great time to learn about half of “Keeping Up With The Ragdashians,” which was the name of the team of twelve women I’d joined. I enjoyed everyone and looked forward to the experience with anticipation and excitement.
We arrived at exchange 6 to a sea of vans and people. Seriously, I’d never seen so many runners and vans in the same place before in my life. We got in line to sign our waivers, watch the safety video, and retrieve our t-shirts but were concerned over the length of time it would take – there were so many people we worried we’d miss the incoming van 1 runner.
Turned out not to be a problem, but it was still far too close for my liking.
I knew I was going to be pressed for time and not make it to the finish line party, so I chose to purchase my gear at exchange 6. I got in a second line to wait after making my selections and ran into another friend from Sacramento running on a different team. We chatted a bit, I stood in line for another hour, and soon van 1 arrived. Their runner came in, our runner took off (I missed it), and they all went back to van 2 to wait for me. Oh, and they took a picture, but I was knee-deep in the gear line and missed it.
As I was runner 8, my turn was up next. After I finally made it through the line to make my purchase, we jumped in the van and headed off to the exchange where I would meet runner 7 and begin the first 9.4 miles of my Ragnar SoCal journey.
We were in the middle of Los Angeles (or a suburb), it was 12:30pm, and it was HOT. Oh, and my first leg was a steady incline with no downhills and no shade.
I knew I’d melt.
I was right.
Somewhere around mile five I felt myself sweating profusely. My leg had van support, but as my van mates had discovered that we were all a bit “challenged,” they didn’t know where to find me. And they were having lunch. So I went without water until I found an aid station and continued on.
This leg is where our van earned the #novansupport moniker. It was a harbinger of things to come.
Let’s just say that, while we successfully cheered on many runners from other teams, we seemed to have a knack for missing our own.
Ok, always. We ALWAYS missed our own runners, even in broad daylight.
I finished up my first leg in a pool of sweat, handing the now-nasty wristband off to my team mate and looking to change out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible. However, as most of the next few legs were fairly short, we hurried on to the next stop before I could put on a set of dry, comfy pants and a new shirt.
The day continued on this fashion, with runner after runner heading out into the heat and finding success on the course. As day turned to night, runner 12 came into the virtual exchange at Doheny Beach. Because Camp Pendleton frowns upon civilians running through the military installation, van 1 was in Oceanside, and a timing chip allegedly let them know when our runner arrived in Doheny so they could take off.
I texted, and they were able to get going that way. Otherwise, they may still have been waiting on Monday.
This was to be our first break, so we headed to the next major exchange to get some food and rest. I’d not eaten anything substantial since breakfast and was a little “hangry” so I was quite unpleasant to be around.
We found a pizza restaurant near the exchange, went into said establishment sweaty and gross, and had food that made me more unpleasant than I’d been when I started.
It was terrible.
But it was fuel, so I ate what I could (as did my team mates) and we headed to rest and wait for van 1.
At this point, you can imagine the scene and smell: six women in a van, having run 40 miles in the heat, and no showers.
It wasn’t lovely, but part of the Ragnar experience, no?
It’s important to note that if you’ve never run a Ragnar road relay, you may have difficulty appreciating just how fun this whole thing is. Pushing your pace and distance is part of the experience. Sweating and not showering is (mostly) part of the experience. Not sleeping is DEFINITELY part of the experience. You’re running three different runs over the space of twenty-four to thirty-six hours, and things get a little slap-happy, you let down all pretenses, and you simply bond with your team mates in ways you don’t expect.
It’s amazing. 200-ish miles of stinky, sweaty, sleepy, funny amazing.
But I digress.
We made it to Mira Costa College to wait for van 1 and they arrived in what seemed like record time. Seriously, it was so fast none of us had time to sleep at all. We tried, I promise…it was just impossible.
They had less miles than we did, and it just didn’t seem fair. But as we are complete beasts, it was totally ok and we set out running once again, this time in the dark.
My second leg was a short 3.5 mile jaunt through a very hilly neighborhood. For whatever reason, night running is one of my favorite things and I flew up and down the hills, feeling great. I can say that run was probably one of my favorites, as is every night Ragnar experience I’ve had.
I handed off again, the next runner was out, and so on for another four women. Soon, it was time to hand off to van 1 again.
We were beat.
Van 1 had rented a couple hotel rooms in Carlsbad to sleep and shower on their down time. At first, that seemed like an unnecessary luxury but I can tell you without reservation that when they offered to let us use the rooms during that exchange time, we nearly jumped out of our running shorts at the chance.
I think we left skid marks getting out of there and getting to the hotel.
I know we did. I was driving.
We pulled up to the hotel, made our way inside, and I jumped in the shower. I wasn’t really concerned about sleeping , really…it was that shower that made all the difference.
My team mate jumped in after and I took a look at our pace calculator to determine how long we had until it was time to run again. I did a quick calculation, finding us to be running about an hour behind, and let everyone know an approximate time we needed to be on the road. We agreed to meet for breakfast and head out, hoping to get at least a few hours of shut eye.
We mostly didn’t.
My internal alarm clock woke me up early and it’s a good thing it did. I checked Facebook for runner updates and found van 1 had made up the hour plus more time. We needed to get on the road quickly.
I messaged the other room, we all got over to breakfast, and soon we were on the road again. We met van 1 at the Torrey Pines Gliderport with time to spare. When their last runner came in, their race was done.
Ours still had six-ish hours to go.
Runner seven left and we headed out on the course intending to support her in her last run.
However, as I mentioned earlier, we were “challenged.” We missed her, even though we drove ahead and waited for her to pass.
How that happened I’ll never know. It may have had something to do with Starbucks and a coffee addiction, but who knows? #novansupport
Next, I was up. My leg ran through Pacific Beach, down the actual beach, and into Mission Beach where I handed the bracelet off and finished my Ragnar SoCal run. It was a beautiful day, the weather was warm, and there were hundreds of people on the beach. I had to run through them.
It felt a little like human Frogger. If you don’t get the reference, look it up. I’m too old to tell someone as young as you what Frogger is.
Soon, I could see the exchange and knew the end was near for me. I had a good run on that last leg, my pace was solid, and even though I hadn’t slept much I felt alive.
That, my friends, is why I love Ragnar. I feel so alive after pushing my limits.
We were, at this point, near downtown San Diego. As the airport is smack-dab in the middle of downtown, my team mates were kind enough to drop me off to catch an early flight out.
I had to make it to Sacramento in time to sleep a bit and then head out for Rock ‘n Roll San Francisco the next morning. And my partner in crime for that race had informed me he wanted to be on the road by 3am.
Yes, 3am. After I’d not slept more than two hours since Thursday night.
And we were going to run another 13.1 in hilly San Francisco.
But that will have to wait until my next blog post as this one has gone on far too long…