Ragnar So Cal: April 9-10, 2015

My apologies -- It's been oh so long since my last blog post!  This year has been extremely crazy for me, but things are finally slowing down a little, and I get to recover a little after recently completing 6 races in the past 6 weeks!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently ran the Ragnar So Cal relay.  What is Ragnar?  Ragnar's mantra is:  Run, Drive, Sleep(?), Repeat.  And it's exactly that.  The course is a 200(ish) mile overnight relay race, 12 runners, 2 vans.  This means that your team of 12 is continuously running until the 200 miles are completed.  It's quite a challenge living in a van with 5 other people, let alone run at the most random times of day!  So I'm super excited to tell you a detailed story of my experience.  There quite a few different courses across the nation.  My first one was in my home: sunny Southern California.

Packing was one of my biggest concerns.  I followed advice I found on the web and packed clothes for each leg in a gallon sized zip lock bag.  So for example, my first leg was in the afternoon, I packed shorts, a tank, compression socks, and a clif shot.  It was perfect because after my leg, I changed into clean clothes and put the dirty stuff in the zip lock bag, keeping all of my clean clothes fresh!

I packed my headphones, armband, safety gear, etc. (stuff I would use for pretty much all of my legs) in an easily accessible bag.  Ragnar requires at least 4 headlamps, and for all runners to have a reflective vest.  They do check at check-in, so make sure that you buy your safety stuff beforehand!

Safety first!

You start with a two vans.  There are 12 runners total.  Runners 1-6 are in van 1, and Runners 7-12 are in van 2.  I was Runner 2 and put in a van with some of my favorite people.  And you can't live in a van for over 24 hours without decorating it a little:

My friend, Tony, was awesome enough to print out our team's photos to post on the van windows.  Some advice: duct tape it!  We were losing heads while driving on the freeway.  And yes, we did have a dog in our van, our little Spartacus!

Elle and I picked up the van.  Look at all those rows!  I definitely recommend not going cheap on a van.  I saw someone teams in mini-vans and I imagine they probably got on one another's nerves!  It was nice because we all got our own little row to sleep on.

Then came van decorating and signage!

Any time you pass another runner it is considered a "kill".  As you go through your race you get to tally up all of your team's kills.  It's so fun adding those kills, especially after a hard leg!

How cute was our van?!

We started in Huntington Beach.  Before checking in your entire group has to watch the safety video.

Like I said, they do check to make sure you entire group has their vests, headlights, and tail lights.  After check in, you're off to start your race!

Your captain puts in a request for a start time about 1-2 months prior to the race.  We forgot to put in a request.  In that case your start time is automatically selected based on your group's average pace.  The later the start time, the faster the pace.  We had a start time of 12:15 PM, which we missed, and ended up running in the same wave as the elite groups (at 12:45 PM)!

And we were off!

For everyone on my team, this was our first time running Ragnar.  I recommend adding each other on the Find My Friends app, so you always know where your runner is.  This race is a bit unconventional -- you don't have 5,000 other runners with you, especially if you're in a later start wave like my team was.  Also, for anything shorter than 8 miles, I would recommend going directly to the next exchange after dropping off your runner.  We missed a hand off because we thought we had enough time, and it's such a bummer when you're the runner who just ran their butt off, only to have no one to hand off to!

This was my 5th race in the past 5 weeks, so I opted for a shorter distance.  My first leg was about 4.5 miles.

But I scored 6 kills on my first leg!

I was super stoked to be done with my first leg and run out all those race jitters.  We brought a foam roller that came in handy after all those miles and sitting/sleeping in a cramped van!

Anytime we had some grass, we took it as an opportunity to stretch, even Spartacus!

For added fun, we brought water guns.  We sprayed other teams, as well as our own teammates.  No one seemed to mind since it was hot and sunny.

And just like that our entire team was done with their first leg.  From here, your entire team gets a few hours to break while Van 2 completes their mileage.

While other teams opted for fine dining and celebratory beers during their break, we chose:

In-N-Out! Cause how could we not?

Afterwards, we parked our van in a random neighborhood and tried to get as much sleep as we could until our second leg.  Our second leg started at about 1 AM.  This meant we needed our reflective vests, headlamps, and taillights on.

If you've never ran with a vest and headlamp, I highly recommend doing at least a run or two in it.  I didn't train at all with a headlamp or vest, so it was incredibly frustrating running in it, especially at 2 in the morning when I'm usually sleeping.  My route was a trail, so it was pitch black, and very, very lonely/scary.  This was my hardest and most frustrating leg.  So, like I said, train for running at odd hours with your safety gear on -- it'll help when Ragnar time comes!

To be honest, I don't remember what time we finished.  But I do remember falling asleep super quickly after that second leg.

Our last and final leg started at around 9 AM.  We finally got a picture with most of our team (Lisa L. was running when we got this group shot).  The final exchange had coffee (what I like to refer to as liquid gold), which we totally needed after getting only an hour or two of sleep in the van.

The final leg felt like a blur.  I thought my final leg was going to be the hardest for me since I was functioning off of very little sleep.  But it turned out to be my easiest and fastest leg.  I caught up to people who started at 5 AM the previous day, who were super encouraging as I passed them and told them I was dying.  And just like that I was done with my last leg.

Nothing feels better than getting kills on your last leg!

Lauren was Runner 6 (last runner in Van 1), and since both teams were at this exchange, we got to cheer her on for an epic finish to her hilly third leg:

Do cheer on your teammates every chance you get to!

And with that, Van 1 was done with their Ragnar miles.

But how awesome does my team look after very minimal sleep and 27 hours of nonstop running?

We had some time in between, so we grabbed some Chipotle and did a little exploring.  Josh was awesome enough to take us to Mt. Soledad where we got an awesome view of San Diego, and a little group rest and reflection time.

At around 4ish PM our entire group finished.  You don't get to see the other van very much throughout your Ragnar journey, so it was awesome to be able to finish with them:

The medals are awesome, because on the back when you put all of the medals together it says "Together we ran 200 miles".  Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of it, so here's one that I borrowed from momsrunthistown.com:

But it's still a pretty epic medal all on it's own:

We finished 54 out of 487 in the mixed division, with a finish time of 27:51:26.4.  Not bad considering our entire team consisted of newbies!

And of course, Lisa L., Elle, and I had our much deserved celebratory beers, while the rest of the team ate celebratory pizza:

Packing tips:
Do not over pack -- you want as much space as you can have in that van.  Our group used this guide here provided by Ragnar Relay, and it was perfect.

This was definitely one of my favorite races I have ever done, and can't wait to do another one!  We're hoping to get a group together for Ragnar Las Vegas, stay tuned!