This weekend, I completed my 14th Ragnar Relay event, and my second as a fundraiser for Back on my Feet.
What is a Ragnar Relay? It is an overnight relay race where a team of 12 (6 for an “ultra” team) cover 200ish miles. Each team is split into two groups of six and each group travels in a separate van. The two groups hand off to each other at three major exchange points. Within each van, each runner completes his/her “leg,” and hands off with a slap bracelet to the next runner, cycling through the six runners three times. The vans leap frog each other; while van 1’s runners are covering ground, van 2 is heading to the major exchange point to wait to begin their set of legs. So, each runner on a regular team should run three times and will run between 2.5 and 12 miles. As mentioned, this is an overnight relay race. No rest for the wicked!
What is Back on my Feet? Back on my Feet is a national organization that uses running to help those experiencing homeless find themselves and their way via running. Residential members are afforded access to training, employment and housing resources by maintaining a 90% attendance rate to the organized group runs. The Southern California Back on my Feet chapters host their runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 5:30 – 6:30am at four locations between Long Beach and Los Angeles. In addition to the weekly runs, our BOMF groups participate in local 5Ks, 10Ks, half and full marathons. The goal isn’t to create runners and fitness fanatics within the homeless population, but to use running to create structure in the lives of those experiencing hardship. Waking up at 5:30am to run requires discipline and dedication, important elements of being independent and self sufficient. My next post will dive more into what Back on my Feet is all about~
I committed to fundraise again this year before this Ragnar Relay and met my individual goal of $500. Our two teams (24 runners) raised a combined $12,000.
At 8:14am on Friday morning, an unmarked black van pulled up in front of my house. My Ragnar checklist included 10 clean sports bras, 10 pairs of socks, 5 running outfits, 3 pairs of shorts, 3 t-shirts, an extra sexy pair of orthodontic sandals, toiletries, two shower pills, a Petzl head lamp, my Garmin, chargers and …no reflective vest. Ragnar Relay requires each team to have at least 2 headlamps per van and 1 reflective vest per runner, for night running. After a quick stop at Target for the essentials (Swedish fish, toilet paper, baby wipes, trail mix, water, and more candy) and then a stressful stop at Sport Authority for the aforementioned reflective vest, we were ready to run. The relay starts in Huntington Beach, right by the pier.
Joe lead our team out with a 2.9 mile leg and finished strong, but kind of mad too.
Tatiana was up next and ran strong!
On many of the legs, we were able to stop somewhere along the way to cheer our runner on.
Tatiana then handed off to Lesley.
My turn! I was runner #4 (legs 4, 20, and 34), but we were one person short and took on leg #5 for my first run. It was noon and close to 80 degrees, so I had initially planned to run easy. An energetic male runner who left for leg #4 right after I did caused me to run faster than planned (i.e. we were racing eachother). I knew that it would be a fast leg because it was so short, but also wanted to finish both legs feeling good. I became irritated when my competitor decided to play chicken with some cars at a stoplight and I decided that getting out run by a girl would calm him down. My second mile and all subsequent miles were under 7 minutes, but I felt controlled. Plus, I knew that after I went through the first exchange, I could slow it down. I came into exchange #4 before EMR and settled in for another 6 miles. Though the heat started to get to me at about mile 5, knowing that my team was waiting with water at mile 6 motivated me to maintain pace. I felt like I couldn’t slow down after mile 6, I was running fast and feeling great.
Leg #4 & 5: 9 miles total. Pace: 6:45. Cities run through: Santa Ana and Tustin.
Jen set off to finish our van’s first set of legs, and then we went in search of food. Somewhere along the way, our van was dubbed the Vanaconda and decorated accordingly.
We ate at Board & Brew in San Clemente and it really hit the spot. We all felt satiated and a bit sleepy, but still pumped for our night legs. After a stop at Starbucks for caffeine and Albertson’s for some discounted Easter candy, we drove to the next major exchange which was actually a virtual exchange. The relay route had a large gap, so van 2’s last runner would arrive at the exchange in Dana Point and we would start our second set of legs in Oceanside.
We hung out in the parking lot, “rested,” and talked about the upcoming runs. Although I was runner #4, I switched with Joe and ran the first leg in the second set (leg #13). This leg was actually one of the best Ragnar runs I’ve ever completed. We started out right by the water in Oceanside, but soon found ourselves on a bike path in the middle of some dense foliage. While the path was fenced on both sides, it felt like we were running through a dark, creepy forest. I made two new friends during this run, Marcus and Naomi, and we talked and ran easily together for 4 miles.
Leg #13: 3.86 miles total. Pace: 7:45. Cities run through: Oceanside
It was a great run and what made it ever better was that my friend Matt was waiting at the finish! He happened to be in the area for work and I’d been trying to rope him into running the leg with me. Though he couldn’t run, he came to say hello, which worked out well because my vanmates were waiting for me at the wrong exchange. I waited around for ~25 minutes before they arrived and we resumed our journey. Tatiana picked up the extra leg for set #2 and after all of our runs, we were pretty tired and retired to our (now stinky) van in a parking lot in Oceanside. Though I love Ragnar Relays, the part I dislike the most is napping in a cramped van without having showered. The overwhelming fatigue usually results in a few hours of shut-eye, but it is uncomfortable. Thankfully, I wasn’t the first runner for our last set of legs, so I had ~2 hours to wake up and re-locate my mojo.
Also, we had napped at the wrong exchange.
We made it to the correct major exchange in time to meet the last runner for van 2 and began to check off our last 28.5 miles. Lesley started the party with some twerking.
And handed off to Joe, who crushed a set of stairs during leg #26.
Tatiana slapped a bracelet on my wrist and I took off for leg #28.
I mentally prepared to climb from miles 3-5 and we hit our first hill at mile 2.85ish. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. It was a medium-grade climb up to a water station. After the water station, the climb became a bit steeper .”It’s kind of hot again, but this really isn’t too bad.”
Then we arrived at the base of Camino Del Mar and I slowed way down. I felt like I was running straight toward the sun – more vertical than horizontal. “IS IT RIGHT THERE?” I inquired upon seeing my vanmates (“it” being the top).
I survived Camino Del Mar, descended a bit, and then saw another monster hill looming right around mile 5.5. With only .7 miles to go and no more runs on tap, I sprinted up the last hill and finished strong.
Leg #28: 6.2 miles total. Pace: 7:12. Cities run through: Encinitas, San Diego
We finished our last set of legs by the ocean in La Jolla and celebrated with delicious food and mimosas at Bare Back Grill.
We arrived in Crown Point Park, in San Diego, at about 1:30pm to await van 2 and celebrate with a free beer and free pizza. Unfortunately, I ended up getting really sick with allergies/a sinus infection as soon as we arrived at the finish line and didn’t run in with my team. Ragnar Relay finish lines are unique in that the entire team waits right before the finish line and runs in with the very last runner. The medals were also very interesting this year – the back side of each medal was different and when assembled together…
One downside to the two-van arrangement is that van 1 and van 2 don’t spend a lot of time together aside from a few minutes at the major exchanges. We were finally able to all get together for some beer and pizza.
Jen, Tonie and I hit major traffic during the drive back to Los Angeles, but enjoyed great conversation. My first order of business upon arriving home was a shower; there is nothing like the post-Ragnar shower. I fell asleep quickly that evening, but felt a tinge of sadness when I didn’t wake up in a van with 5 friends eating Swedish fish for breakfast.