It has been just over two weeks since I ran this incredibly fun event and I thought I'd better get it down on blog "paper" before the specific become any fuzzier.
The journey to this race started a long time ago. I'd read blog accounts of others that have done similar races, like Hood to Coast, and they always sounded like a lot of good fun. I received a flyer for the Ragnar race several months ago and wondered whether the Cruisers would be interested. I didn't necessarily want to be the team leader and decided that the Cruisers might not be into something like this, so I let it go. Then about 6 weeks before the race I found out that Rochelle, a long time CA Cruiser, was running the relay with a team of folks from her gym, appropriately named the "CrAzY gYm RaTs". I immediately emailed her an offered myself to the team if they had any openings. Her initial response was that the team was full but she would keep me in mind. Only a few days later I got another email from Rochelle asking me if I was still interested. Of course I was. And just like that I was the 12th member of a Ragnar Relay team. Rochelle was the only person I knew initially but after spending a day or two in a vehicle with 5 others you get to know them a little as well.
When I joined the team, I told them I'd be willing to run any leg they need me to. I said, "give me the hills, give me the long legs, give me the stuff no one else wants." Well I got my wish. I ended up with some good stuff.
Ragnar rates all the legs from "Easy" to "Very Hard". I got one "Very Hard" and 2 "Moderates". After having run the Very Hard leg I think that Ragnar rates them based on a beginning runner. There's no doubt that it was a challenging leg, but I wouldn't call it very hard.
To explain the format of a Ragnar Relay: there are 36 legs, about 200 miles total, that are split between the 12 runners. Each runner runs three legs ranging from as low as 2 miles to as much as 9.9 miles. Runners maintain the same run order throughout the 36 legs. I ended up with leg 6, 18 and 30. Each runner runs on average 16 miles or so. At the LA version the lowest 3 leg total was 12.6 miles and the highest three leg total was 21.1. Guess who got the 21.1?
In my estimation the running part of a Ragnar Relay is maybe the easiest part. More difficult is dealing with the lack of sleep and the effect that has on the other 6 folks in your van. Our van was awesome in that regard. Although none of us got much sleep, some more than others, we all got along famously. I'm not sure that can be said of all the other vans.
As the Leg 6 runner, I was the anchor for Van 1. I handed it the snap bracelet that served as a baton off to Jerry, the lead runner for Van 2.
Our team had gathered in Orange County on Thursday evening. We went out as a group for dinner and then drove up the Ventura and stayed overnight in a hotel near the race start. Friday race morning began with packing up the two Ford Expeditions that would serve us as race vehicles and home for the next 30 hours or so. Our designated start time was 9:30 with a required safety meeting at the starting line an hour before. There were something like 280 teams, but with the staggered starts from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m and starting times every 30 minutes only about 30 teams start running at a time.
We had projected times for each of the legs but there was a flaw, at least in my mind. The projected times were based on your 10K PR, but with a very hard nearly 10 mile leg, keeping up a 10K pace over that distance was somewhat realistic. The morning was spent seeing our runner off and then navigating/driving to the next relay point.
I began my first leg around 2:30 in afternoon on Friday. My first leg was the longest leg of the race. The route included a total elevation gain of 779 feet with most of that occurring in the second half of the leg. I was able to overtake a couple of runners and was feeling pretty good about my run. Pacing yourself is somewhat difficult due to the staggered start there are never that many people on the road with you and there is no real way to tell when they started. My major humiliation during this leg was being passed by Marilyn Monroe. Actually Marilyn was a very studly guy in drag, but being passed by the windswept white dress was a fun memory. My time for the leg was around 1:23 for an 8:30 pace. I was pretty pleased.
With that we were free for a few hours while Van 2 ran Legs 7-12. We grabbed a bite to eat at Corner Bakery and then headed over to the Major Exchange Point and tried to get some rest. It was still early in the evening so although we didn't necessarily feel sleepy a few of us did our best to catch some z's. I slept, or more accurately, napped lightly for about 2 hours.
Our second round started sometime after 9:00. My second leg, my shortest at 4.3 miles was classified as Moderate. I started running somewhere around 2:00 in the morning. I left the exchange point within steps of another running. Our leg took us pretty much straight down Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica to the pier. The run was a nice slow down grade all the way to the pier. I was a few feet behind the other runner about 2 miles or so. We were keeping up a pretty good pace. We were running on the sidewalk. We ended up catching up to a slower runner that was being paced by bicycle (this is allowed at night during a Ragnar Relay). I yelled out to the other runner "go into the street!" I got out there first and took the opportunity to pass my rabbit. I never looked back. One of the highlights of this leg was the number of homeless folks we passed spending the night in almost every doorway we passed. I made it to the exchange point with a 7:30 pace - undoubtedly assisted by the downhill and rabbit effect.
The second set of legs by Van 2 were shorter than their first set, so we had less time to rest. Although we probably need it more now than we did earlier. We caught about an hour of fitful sleep on the Santa Monica pier to the sounds of vans coming and going and cheers at the relay point. We needed the shorter rest to have sufficient time to get to the next Major Exchange Point.
We started our final set of legs around 6:30 on Saturday morning in Long Beach. My leg was a relatively easy one for me. I had 6.9 miles along the Huntington Beach bike path. I run here all the time so I was very familiar with how far I had to go. I enjoyed this leg, but I think I enjoyed the others more because I had the opportunity to run in places I hadn't run before. One of the highlights of this leg for me was putting a younger guy in his place. I passed this guy who may have been in his late 20's or early 30's and thought nothing of it. About 10 minutes later he came barrelling by me. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but I imagined that he had decided that he didn't want to get beaten by the old guy. Well his little burst of speed didn't last long. I maintained my pace, passed him up and got to the exchange point a good 5 minutes before he did. His tactics may have had nothing to do with me, but I had some fun believing that it did.
With that Van 1 was done with nothing to do but to wait for the rest of our team to complete their last round of legs and meet up in Dana Point at the finish line. That was around 11:00 on Saturday morning. Rochelle had the honors of Leg 36 and came across the finish line in the late afternoon 31:28:41 after we started.
This was at least an hour longer than we originally expected, but never having done anything like this we were all ecstatic. We hung out at the finish line festival for a little bit and then headed home for much needed showers and sleep. Everything went well. No one got hurt. There was even talk of getting together and doing it all again next year. Now we have a goal to beat.