April 26, 2010

Ragnarly Recap

I apologize in advance for a long, probably disjointed recap of this weekend.  The occurrence of events is a huge blur and I'm struggling to put it all into words - what a crazy experience!

I think my experience with the Ragnar Relay can be best summarized by their tagline: Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

Going into this thing, I didn't think the running was going to be very difficult for me.  I was only doing a total of 14.6 miles, with a solid 8-12 hour break between legs - and turns out I was right!

Our team started at 7am in Ventura.  I started my first run just before noon, and it was a short 2.8 mile route through Camarillo.  Even though I promised myself I would take all of my runs easy with the marathon approaching, I started out pretty fast, because let's be real here, who wouldn't run fast for only 2.8 miles?  I finished the first mile in 8:17, and then I came to a hill and slowed down quite a bit.  All of the route distances, elevation profiles, etc were in the Ragmag, but the tiny bump in the elevation profile was deceiving, and the hill turned out to be a bit brutal, gaining 160 ft in less than half a mile.  Thank you trail runs!

The parrot all ready to go, and finishing my first leg!

My favorite run was my second leg that started at 12:57 in the morning.  This was a 6.1 mile route mostly through Beverly Hills.  I was a bit nervous for the night run since I had already heard a few horror stories about bums and running completely alone through wooded parks, but thankfully I had a pretty stellar route and I felt safe the entire time.  I was also slightly nervous for this run because it was part of the "hillier than thought" LA marathon route, and a girl in my van had run the LA marathon and was telling me how the hills I was about to run on totally sucked.

Here I am all excited to go at 1am! Reflective vest, headlamp, and blinking butt light for safety!

I took off fairly fast again, and was having a blast running in the dark.  There was something about running at 1am, in the dark, that was really exciting.  The few drunk people I encountered on Sunset Blvd were harmless and entertaining, and I was enjoying the surroundings.  Once I got to Santa Monica Blvd I came across another girl who was running about my pace and we decided to stay together for safety reasons.  We pushed each other up the hills (which weren't bad at all!), and she helped me keep my pace fairly fast and steady.  I also had additional motivation because I knew Nina was volunteering at the exchange until 2am - so I needed to get there before she left!  We passed 13 people, ran the last mile at 8:13 pace, and I made it to the exchange before 2am!  I still don't know exactly what it was, but this run make the whole experience worth it to me, and I had a mega runner's high.

By the time I had my last run around 9am the next morning, I was feeling pretty crappy, and dreading having to run again...but excited I was about to be done.  My last leg was a 5.7 mile route through Seal Beach.  Right as I was about to take off, I saw Andee, who then cheered for me when her team drove by to find their runner up ahead.  So nice to see her, and wow was her team fast!  They started 7 hours after my team and were passing us with about 1/3 of the relay left - amazing!  Anyway, like all of the other legs I had run, I started out a bit fast.  However, this time, my fatigued legs were not having it.  I totally shut down after about a mile.  Bonktastic.  I struggled to finish the last 4ish miles of this run and fought with myself not to walk.  

Finishing up my last leg - DONE!

A fun, and sometimes frustrating part of the relay was navigating the course in our huge 15-passenger vans.  Thankfully, I was able to program all of the GPS coordinates of the exchange locations into my GPS, and we only got slightly lost a few times.  I highly recommend doing this, and being very familiar with the route.  We saw a few runners who had gotten to the next exchange, but the runner they were supposed to hand off to (and van) were MIA.  That would totally suck!

One of my favorite parts of the relay was seeing all of the decorated vans with all of the creative team names. There were some great team names, and van decorations...everything from "The Vangina" to the "we eat our feelings" van with food wrappers attached to it.

Being the "Jungle Janes," we decorated our van with a jungle theme.

I am also very glad that each of our vans had a designated van driver, who drove the entire time so that none of us that were running had to worry about driving, too.

What sleep?  The lack of sleep was definitely what made the relay difficult, and is what took a toll on all of us.  I heard a few people say that this relay was harder than running a marathon, and I think the lack of sleep and sitting around in a van for hours has a lot to do with it.  

Thursday night, those of us in the first van that had to go to the starting line only got about 4 hours of sleep.  We didn't get everyone picked up, the vans decorated, and to the Motel 6 in Ventura until about 1am, and had to be to the starting line to check in at 6am Friday to be ready for our 7am start.  I was tired and we hadn't even started the relay yet!  Bleh!

People trying to get some sleep on the Santa Monica pier around 2am.

After everyone in the first van finished running, we met the 2nd van at the first major exchange where it would then be their turn to run, and we would get a break.  This exchange happened around 1pm - and were projected to be at the 2nd major exchange around 7pm.  This gave us about 5 hours of free time since we'd want to get to the exchange a bit early.  By the time we sat down and ate an actual meal, got to the house we'd be "sleeping" at, and factored in driving time to the next exchange, we were able to get about 2 hours of sleep.  And we had even less time before our 3rd and final van switch, resulting in about an hour of sleep.  So going into my last leg, you can imagine why I may have felt like total crap, and started having some pretty bad stomach issues.

Not a flattering picture, but I'm willing to sacrifice my good looks to sum up exactly how I was feeling at that point :-)

And to think I was on a SLOW team (aka we got a lot more rest time than fast teams)!  Not sure how they did it.  Kudoos to them.

I've been asked about 10 times already if I would do this again next year.  Heck yes!  So much so that I've totally lost my mind and want to be on a 6 person "ultra" team.  Recruiting in progress.  And now that I've done this once, I've learned some valuable lessons and hope to make the next time an even better experience.

The Finish.
My team ended up finishing the 200.6 miles in just a few minutes over 35 hours - making our average pace around 10:30 min/mile.  Not bad!  I'm extremely proud of our team for pulling this whole thing off.  It involved TONS of planning and we were able to make it to the finish pretty smoothly.  Our team was also very diverse.  Hardly any of us had ever met each other, only a few people had run further than a half marathon before, and we even had a girl who had never ran outside before, or more than 6 miles, and didn't know what a marathon was!  You can imagine the look on my face when I found this out as she was about to head out on her 7.7 mile run!  But really, super impressed with my n00b team's relay skills.

Here we all are at the finish with our wonderful van drivers!  Yeah Jungle Janes!

And I think this could quite possibly be the most amazing race medal ever!  Ragnar sure knows how to make their runners happy :-)

What an amazing experience.  There were some fantastic highlights, and definitely some low points, but it was all worth it, and I can't wait to do it again!


  1. Awesome what and adventure! Thanks for writing it up so well!

  2. what a great recap of your event! i still think back to my relay adventure back in september, and how impossible it is to try to explain it to people who a) have never run a relay event before and b) to people who dont understand why us runners do what we do (and LOVE what we do haha)
    reading this totally sounded just like what i wrote (http://danielle09justdoit.blogspot.com/2009/11/200-miles-24-hours.html)
    congrats, and good luck with your ultra! that will be intense!! and i loved the outfits :)

  3. Wow. I'm exhausted just reading this.

    Great, great recap. Definitely captured the spirit of making running a fun and exciting thing.

    Next year Andrea...next year!

  4. Awesome Job!
    I've never ran a Ragnar relay but I plan on doing it this August, your post got me super pumped!
    Love your outfit! Looks like so much fun.

  5. glad you had so much fun! And you ran great, congrats! (btw: if you think that was "long" you haven't read any of my reports for much much shorter races!)

  6. So weird that I didn't see anyone from your team. Probably we were running in parallel universes. Or it could have been the sea of people there! Your costume is so cute. Good job!!