The Ragnar Relay Series has this persistent deal where you can earn a double medal for doing certain races within the same year. It’s all very clever because even though I already have a Gold Rush medal for running the SoCal and Napa relays in 2011, I simply had to do it again! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for extra bling.
Getting a team together for Napa was no easy feat. Ragnar changed their website and it is ruining my life. I had the hardest time finding runners to fill our team. I had to search on Facebook by posting on the Ragnar page and the Napa page that the ninjas were in need! I was still searching for runners up until the week of the race, which has never happened during any of my races as Captain. Finally, Facebook and my new fella, Ian, came through in the end. A full team we did have.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Bringing a new, only recently declared, boyfriend along on a 200 mile relay might be the death of a budding relationship. But if you think about it, Ragnar is a huge indicator of character and/or the ability to follow a theme; two factors that are huge when I consider a prospective love interest. Besides, if we can survive Ragnar and not hate each other in the end, this thing might actually have a chance.
So Ian, the new dreamboat, Amy, the RIPPED chick and climbing buddy, and myself all piled into the van for the eight hour drive up to San Francisco to meet the rest of our team. Some veteran ninjas were running, Josh, Crista, Dana, and Greg. Shanta’, Paul, Dru, Amy H., and Becca were our new ninjas.
The first time I ran the Napa course was the inaugural year. I was eager to check out the changes to the course. The biggest change was a new start line location. The race started at Golden Gate Park. Google severely mislead me to believe our drive time was about twenty minutes shorter than it actually was so after picking up Josh and Crista, we raced to the start. Normally, you’re supposed to be there an hour early to check in and get your stuff. Yeah, we were there just 15 minutes before our 7:30 AM start time! We rushed through the gear check and the safety meeting, and got Josh all pinned up seconds before he took off.
I was in Van 2, so it was time for us to rest. Or rather, make ninja stars and play at the beach. I was runner 7 this time, which is, by far, the best running position. Not only do you get to start off the race for Van 2, but you’re the first one done! Instead of sitting around waiting anxiously for my turn, I knocked out my 4 miles out and was ready to play. A tagging I shall go!
These first legs were pretty enjoyable. We were all feeling pretty good and ready for real food by the time Amy K. passed on to Van 1. We traveled to the next major exchange in lovely Santa Rosa and decided to find a restaurant. We ended up eating at this cool pub and taking in some electrolyte recovery drinks.
Normally, the night run is my favorite. However, about an hour before we were supposed to start running, it started to rain. And not just a nice, misty sprinkle, but a torrential downpour. I have horrible vision and neglected to procure any contact lenses before leaving for Ragnar. And I swear, Santa Rosa has the most poorly lit streets in the world. You can see where I’m going here, right? It’s like the perfect storm. I had to take my glasses off because they kept fogging up and my head lamp was illuminating nothing but the rain drops. All I could see was the streaks of light reflecting off the rain. I was running much slower than normal because I was afraid of slipping or running into something. I must have been over-focusing because after awhile, I noticed there weren’t any other runners in sight. And I hadn’t seen a Ragnar sign in about fifteen minutes. When I got to the end of the street and there were no directions as to where to go from there, it hit me…I was lost. At 2 AM. In the dark. In the rain. And I couldn’t see. This totally crushed my spirit. It was the first time ever I wanted to give up in the middle of a race.
I started walking toward this gas station on the corner, thinking I could ask for directions. I notified my team that I had indeed gotten lost and that I wouldn’t be arriving as planned. I pulled up the map on the Ragnar site, (Thankfully I had service! Yeah, smart phones!) kicking myself for not downloading the pictures earlier. I asked the cashier which way I had to go to get back to the course and he pointed me in the right direction. When I saw those blinking butt lights, I jumped for joy. Overall, I ran about a mile over the intended 6.6 mile leg. Which wouldn’t have so bad if there hadn’t have been a ginormous mile-long incline at the end. Which I mostly walked. By the time I handed off to Ian, I was cold, tired and cranky.
I don’t remember much more about the night runs because, with a gentle nudge by the crisis averting boyfriend, I curled up on a bench and passed out. This was also the first time I got a decent amount of sleep at a Ragnar! We didn’t have to run again until about 10 AM, so I was rested and ready to finish up my legs. It was still pouring down rain but Van 1 came in ahead of schedule.
My last leg was an easy peasy 3.1 miles on a beautiful trail along a river. The rain turned from downpour to a lovely light shower just as I started running. There wasn’t a one mile to go marker on this leg so when I neared the exchange, I was actually really bummed. I wanted to keep running! But my turn was over and now it was time to play!
The rest of my team finished up easily, running along the vineyards of Napa. It seemed like everyone turned on the speed and before I knew it, we were crossing the finish line. It was a Ragnar of firsts, the first time I got lost, the first time I actually slept, and the first Ragnar with a new beau. Who impressed the heck out me, I might add! This is the beauty of Ragnar, even though I’ve participated in this series a whopping 8 times, it never gets boring.