Turns out, this was my 12th Ragnar Relay, and 6th Ragnar SoCal! The way that the event is managed has changed over the years, but the amount of fun that I have (and amount of sleep that I don’t get) certainly hasn’t. The stress levels in planning for these relays has actually decreased because I know the processes and what to expect. This year’s planning went very smoothly and before I knew it, we were getting ready to depart from the start line in Huntington Beach.
Usually, a regular team is comprised of 12 runners (an ultra team = 6 runners), but our entire team was short by 3 people, so there were only 4 of us in van #1. This worked out well because we were able to rent a mini van, which was a) less expensive and b) much easier to drive. However, this meant that people had to pick up extra legs. I would estimate the average length of a Ragnar leg to be ~5.5-6 miles, so I was happy to take on a few extra miles. We had a rough plan in place for who would run what with the knowledge that we may need to improvise along the way.
The start line area wasn’t terribly exciting, and every exchange in general felt a little less lively than in year’s past. We started at 8:15 am, and Joe had a very short 2.3 miles to run, after which I was going to run legs 2 & 3.
Since this would be my second run of the day (I ran 6 miles at 3:00am with Frank) and it was going to be warm, I planned to take it easy. I always end up running faster during Ragnar, so I ended up with 11.8 miles at 6:55 pace. The first 4.5 miles were okay – I felt stiff and not great for the first 2 miles, but started to feel better after that. There was a series of tight turns after the exchange between legs 2 and 3, and they aggravated my foot. I started to feel really not great here, but hung on until the riverbed, where would run for about 4 miles. There was a guy in all pink who took off quickly from exchange #3, so I decided to focus on reeling him in. I started to get thirsty 7 miles into my run(s) and was glad to find a water station at mile 8. The riverbed felt very long and exposed to the sun, and I ended up with a lovely sunburn after this run. Despite stopping once for a drink and once to adjust my sock, I managed to pass Pink Guy and earn 40+ kills! I was happy that this run was over and to have a total of 17.8 miles for the day.
Gary, Jason, and Joe all ran well and then we went in search of some food. I usually prefer to drive all the way to the next major exchange (where van 2 would finish their set of legs) before stopping for food and fuel, but there was traffic and we were all ravenous, so we ended up stopping in San Juan Capistrano. We enjoyed a meal at Hennesey’s and then continued on to Vista.
I was on deck for legs 13 and 14, so I suited up on the way down. Since we aren’t able to run through Camp Pendleton, this was a “virtual exchange.” As soon as our runner #12 came into the exchange in Dana Point, it was radioed to a volunteer at our exchange in Vista. I left the exchange sometime after 6:00pm to chase the sunset for 6.7 miles. I ended up chasing more than the sunset when a male runner started to go off course less than one mile in. He missed a TURN LEFT sign and went straight instead, so I ran after him yelling like a lunatic for about half a mile. Not only was he was on his phone, but he responded to me like I was interrupting his call. Well, I was rightfully upset about this and refused to let him beat me into the next exchange. I ran angry for the first leg (3.9 miles) and made sure I blew past him on the last, steep uphill. I turned around and flew right back down that incline to continue through the next 2.8 mile leg. I was still irritated with phone-guy and the course felt like a gradual downhill, so I just let my legs do what they wanted. I must’ve been a little too focused on how good I felt, because I missed a turn somewhere and ended up in a neighborhood when I should’ve been done running. Thankfully, I found a major intersection and managed to find my way to the exchange. I ended up with 7 miles total/6:55 average pace.
Doing the math later, I realized that I’d covered close to 19 miles at 6:55 average pace, plus 6 more easy, for a total of 25 miles on Friday. Needless to say, I was ready for a few hours of sleep during our next break. Gary, Joe and Jason finished their runs and then we tucked our van into a quiet corner of the Taylormade parking lot in Carlsbad. Not being able to get comfortable and knowing that we had a 2:00am wake up call ensured a few broken hours of shitty sleep, but it was better than no rest.
I was happy to take the fourth leg in our last set, which meant I wouldn’t need to fully wake up until a couple of hours after van 1 resumed running. After a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to get one of my teammates to run my last leg, I started to prepare for the hills which lay ahead. I’d run this leg last year, so I knew what to expect: two miles of incline, with about .75 miles of really steep incline toward the end. After 25 miles on Friday, I was more than happy to run as easy a pace as possible. The first 3 miles were through the neighborhoods of Del Mar. The sun hadn’t yet come up, cars weren’t zooming about yet, so it felt calming and peaceful. I passed a few other slow-moving Ragnar runners, climbed the Del Mar hill, and coasted in with a smile. My last leg was DONE! Joe and Jason finished their legs and then our van was officially done running. Our last major exchange was on the cliffs of Torrey Pines, so we spent some time admiring the views, taking pictures, and talking about where we would eat.
The one aspect of Ragnar that I dislike very much is the lack of bathing after running multiple times. I sweat a lot and hate sitting in it for too long. I’m usually able to suck it up for Ragnars and deal with it until Saturday night, but as soon as I found a nearby 24 Hour Fitness on Yelp!, we were in the car and on our way. It ended up working out well because we found an amazing diner down the street (Cody’s Diner) and enjoyed a delicious brunch. We arrived at the finish line at about 10:00am, scored a great parking spot and table in the beer garden, and then just waited for van 2. It was pretty quiet when we sat down, but very lively when the other part of our team arrived. At the end of a Ragnar Relay, the entire team meets up right outside of the finish line, and all 12 (or 6) people run in together. Alex came flying down the path at about 1:30pm and we all crossed the line together. We took a few pictures and then received our race medals, which were set up like puzzle pieces and all fit together to make one large Ragnar symbol and message.
We spent an hour all together as a team, and then it was just van 1 left in the beer garden. We opened up the bottle of champagne purchased earlier to celebrate our achievement, hung out for a while longer, and then left to battle traffic for 2+ hours. I am so grateful that Gary and Jason took over driving duties, because Joe and I fell fast asleep! I dropped the van off, drove home, and sunk into my deliciously comfortable bed. Sunday was spent recovering and nursing a sunburn, and fitting in a very slow 6 mile run.