Cam Runs With Child

Two weeks ago, I ran SoCal Ragnar like I’ve never ran before…12 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy was the biggest surprise. It’s been almost a decade since my last pregnancy. After ten years of birth control, I found myself with a positive pregnancy test and half a dozen race bibs I’d already paid for, including two Ragnars and all three of the Disney Tinkerbell races.  I had not planned on being pregnant for any of them.

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Now, we all know how diligent I am about training (please note sarcasm).  However, I really needed to be prepared for this race.  I’m over 36 which makes me a “high risk” pregnancy.  Also, I’m overweight and was actually in the middle of a transform session when I found out I was pregnant. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to run much.  I hadn’t really been running prior to the pregnancy but I had been strength training so I was pretty confident I could walk my little heart out.  So yeah, I walked an entire Ragnar.  It was surprisingly difficult to walk while everyone around me was running.  I did end up running a tiny bit when I just couldn’t take it anymore, but overall, I felt pretty proud of my 16 minute pace!

 

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Van 1 at the Start right after I headed out!

I’ve ran SoCal Ragnar many times, but not since they changed the course.  The course used to come inland through Temecula Wine Country, which made for a very warm race at the end of April.  The race now stays close to the coast, starting in Huntington Beach and ending on the Silver Strand in Coronado, starting on sand and ending in sand.  The course has a virtual exchange at Exchange 12 because of Camp Pendleton.  Van 2 ran into Dana Point and Van 1 ran out of Oceanside during this exchange.  Usually the hand-off between vans is a big exchange with a lot of celebration.  The virtual exchange kind of squashes that but luckily we had five more hand-offs to celebrate.

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Van 2 at the first major exchange.

For the first time ever, I got to start the race early Friday morning!  I was really nervous to race while pregnant, mostly because I hadn’t been training as well as I should. I ran for a little while along the boardwalk of Huntington Beach, then slowed to a fast walk and finished my 2.3 miles.  After this first leg, I felt confident I could finish the race.

My second leg ran along the San Luis Rey River Trail around sunset.  The trail was easy and flat but the bugs were out in full force.  I don’t know if they were attracted to my headlamp light or what, but by the end of my four miles, I was wiping them off my glasses.  During this leg, I got to run with the famous Ernie, the 93 year old Ragnarian who just ran Del Sol in March and finished his 6th Ragnar at SoCal.  Talk about inspiration! You can read more about Ernie on the Ragnar Blog.

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I finished up with 3 miles through a beach town in Encinitas that I didn’t even know existed, and I’ve lived in Southern California all my life.  Once again, Ragnar, you remind me while I love you so much.  It’s always to best way to see this country: from the pavement.  My legs were super sore, and not in ways that I was familiar with.  Walking this much and at this quick pace pulled at muscles and tendons I don’t normally strain.  This part of the course was on a main street that was covered in restaurants, shops, and bars that I wanted to explore, especially the donut shop!  I finished up my leg with a little jog and sighed with relief.  I had finished and thanked my body for putting up with my decision to spend 36 hours in a van, walk swiftly for 9 miles after sleeping less than 2 hours on zero caffeine, all while making a human.

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Baby’s First Ragnar

Sorry body, but we’re going to do it again, in Pennsylvania this time and at 20 weeks pregnant.  I’ll be walking my little heart out.

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That Time I Ran Ragnar Northwest Passage

Last weekend I traveled to the great Northwest to run 196 miles with 11 awesome old and new friends.  I had some really hard runs but felt very satisfied with how I performed.  I brought along my Skoras and my ninja sword and thoroughly enjoyed running in misty weather.  Here are the highlights from our adventure!

That Time We Unleashed Our Ninja Skillz at the Start Line

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That Time the Girls Were Photo Bombed by One of Our Own

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That Time We Encouraged Random People with a Smack on the Behind

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That Time We Took All the Selfies

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That Time We Recreated Things That Happened at Previous Ragnars

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That Time Ian Got All the Sleep

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That Time I Tried to Draw on All the Faces

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That Time We All Jumped

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That Time We All Wanted to be Like Robert

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The Original

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That Time We Ran 196 Miles in 30 Hours

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RagNapa!

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.

Plus, look at the pretty!

Plus, look at the pretty!

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.

We're cute.

We’re cute.

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.

Runner 1 ready to take off!

Runner 1 ready to take 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!

This is how ninjas train.

This is how ninjas train.

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.

Waiting for Crista!

Waiting for Crista!

Here she comes!

Here she comes!

Finishing up my first leg.

Finishing up my first leg.

And Ian finishing up his first Ragnar leg ever!

And Ian finishing up his first Ragnar leg ever!

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.

Rain!

Preparing for the rain!

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.

Supporting our Runner!

Supporting our Runner!

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!

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Me and Amy playing in the grapevines.

Me and Amy playing in the grapevines.

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.

Double Medals!

Double Medals!

N.W.A. Napa 2013

N.W.A. Napa 2013

My Third Installment of SoCal Ragnar – Return of the Ninjas

The streets are flooded with outlandishly decorated 15 passenger white vans.  That gorgeous inflatable orange arch rises up over the horizon.  Reflective vests and LED head lamps as far as the eye can see.  Is that a teletubbie running through the streets of Huntington Beach? It can only mean one thing…Ragnar!

I love the smell of Ragnar in the morning!

I love the smell of Ragnar in the morning!

On April 19-20, I participated in the Southern California course of the Ragnar Relay Series.  195 miles from Huntington Beach to San Diego with a team of 12 friends, or in my case, 12 ninjas.  This was my sixth Ragnar, my third SoCal race and my second race as captain.

Our team consisted of runners from all over the country.  Crista and Josh traveled from Idaho, Matthew and Greg scooted on down from Washington and Marcy, Shelby and Bill came all the way from North Carolina to run in the beautiful Southern California sunshine.  Shelby injured her foot last minute and had to be replaced by her dad, Bill.  Instead, she got to ride along as the designated photographer for Van 1.

Van 2 was filled with my coworkers, Mary, Nina, Mike, Evalia, Katy and myself.  Mary was actually at a conference in Colorado when the race started and met up with us just in time to run her heart out.

Team #510 N.W.A - Ninjas with Attitude

Team #510 N.W.A – Ninjas with Attitude

Race weekend started Thursday after work.  After months of planning, it was finally time to pick up the vans and get to the coast.  Mike, aka Hung Lo, went with me to pick up the two 15 passenger vans that would become our home for the weekend.  Waiting for the vans took an extra long time due to the high volume of rentals.  We always use AVR – Airport Van Rental Solutions.  It was packed with teams picking up their vehicles.  Once we had our vans, I hit up the local Costco for provisions.  Trail mix, bagels, lots of bananas and protein bars, along with some licorice and laffy taffy to keep us going through the long night runs.  And water.  Cases and cases of water.  I split the food into two boxes, loaded the vans and I was off to the beach.  Mike and the rest of Van 2 would join us at the first major exchange, Exchange 6, where Van 1 would hand off to Van 2.  I would be traveling with Van 1 for the first 6 legs, not as a runner, but just to get the team started.  Because I’m a control freak like that.

I met the runners from Van 1 in the lobby of the Best Western.  I’ve raced with Greg before in Vegas, but the rest of the runners were new friends. I found Crista and Josh through a former Ragnar teammate and I had found Marcy and Matthew on the Ragnar site.  They were looking for a team, I was looking for runners and voila!  A match made in Ragnar heaven.  We piled into the van and headed out for a pre-race dinner, then back to the hotel for some rest.  We had a start time of 6:30 AM which meant we had to pick up packets and listen to a safety briefing an hour previous.

Josh "Jogger-not" , Runner #4, and Crouching Coma'toes' Crista, Runner #1, freezing at the start line.

Josh “Jogger-not” , Runner #4, and Crouching Coma’toes’ Crista, Runner #1, freezing at the start line.

We got our goodies: shirts, flags, Cliff Bars, GU and Shot Blocks, and then Crista was off down the Huntington Beach boardwalk!  Just like that the madness had begun.  We headed to the first exchange where we would pick up Crista and drop off Runner #2, Greg.  We saw some teams that were familiar, like Can’t Hardly Run Straight and My Third Leg is the Hardest.  And some new teams, like Run4Boston, who sported awesome bumper stickers and shirts in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

This was the first race I had participated in since the tragedy in Boston and being a part of this running community definitely sparked a few tears during the race.  There was this feeling of unity, and we marked our vans with Boston love.  The Ninjas were even on CNN.

Oddly enough, during the race, the boys responsible for the bombings were being apprehended.  During Ragnar, you tend to disconnect from the world, living in this little bubble of survival, preoccupied with pace and eating and sleeping and portable toilets and ipods and coffee and ice packs.  Instead, we found ourselves checking the news and chatting at exchanges about the developments.

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Boston Love <3

Once the race starts, there’s little down time.  You’re in survival mode.  Drop off runner, support runner, pick up runner, repeat.  Runner #3 Matt Attack, blew through his first leg and Runner #4, Josh the Jogger-Not, swiftly followed.  So far, we’d had seasoned runners on the course, but Bill and Marcy had never ran a Ragnar before.  They were a little nervous to make their debut, but once Runner #5, Bill Kills Hills, took to the course, he was a natural.  And quite literally, killed a huge hill right off the bat. Runner #6, Marcy’s Dead People, brought us into Yorba Linda with gusto.  Van 1 took care of 26.7 miles and put our team ahead of our projected pace by a whole half hour.

There's absolutely no time for goofing around ;)

There’s absolutely no time for goofing around 😉

It was time for me to depart from Van 1 and for them to rest.  I hopped in with the group I was going to be spending the rest of the race with.  It was time for me to run!

Runner #7, Killa’ Katy, took on an 8 miler right away.  She took care of business while Runner #8, Evalia aka The Eliminator, readied herself for her first leg of her first Ragnar.  We were starting to get into the heat of the day with temperatures reaching into the 90’s.  Evalia dominated a 300 foot elevation gain in her first leg and we stopped to support her at the top of the hill.  And to make a few friends in the process.

The oldest Ragnarian at 89 years!  Now, that's a badass, ladies and gentlemen.

The oldest Ragnarian at 89 years! Now, that’s a badass, ladies and gentlemen.

My first run was 4.9 miles at 1:00 pm through Corona.  I ran this exact leg last year and though it was hotter last year, I made it a point to have plenty of water with me this time.  I asked to be supported at 2.5 miles and Mike and Evalia were just in time as I dumped the rest of my water over my head.  It was freaking hot but the good people of Corona stood on their sidewalks and handed us waters and oranges.  One team passed out wet towels which I promptly shoved in my bra.  I finished my third bottle of water just as I came upon the One Mile to Go sign, the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day.  Mike was waiting at the chute and I pushed up the small incline to the exchange.  I gladly slapped that bracelet onto his wrist.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Pink for getting me through those 4.9 extremely hot miles.

Mike, Runner #10, finished up his leg right on time and then #11, Ninja Nina, started her climb through Temescal Canyon, 5.4 miles uphill in the heat of the afternoon!  She handed off to Katy because Mary still hadn’t arrived from Colorado.  Katy ran another 8.5 miler like a boss but by the time she arrived at Exchange 12 in Lake Elsinore, she was hurting.  At the end of our 36.3 miles, we were a half hour behind schedule and down one runner.

After handing off to Van 1, we were finally able to get a real meal.  We feasted at Chili’s and used their bathroom to take a Wet Ones bath and change our clothes.  We set out for the next major exchange so we could maybe get a little rest before our early early morning runs.  Van 1 had 42.6 miles to run and we wouldn’t see them again until around 1:00 AM at Exchange 18 at the Welk Resort in Escondido.

Safety First!

The Welk Resort was one of the best exchanges.  They had a market, fire pits, a large screen projecting tweets about the race and a camera so you could see the runners coming in.  It was very crowded but everyone donned their head lamps, reflective and DayGlo gear, making the scene look like a huge party.  The music blared and the teams cheered and we waited for Marcy.  Katy couldn’t run again so Nina took her leg, another uphill battle.  But by then Mary had finally found us!  And she was ready to run.  Evalia kicked out her miles and then I was up.

Night runs are always my favorite.  I have limited depth perception on account of my sexy astigmatism  so not knowing what is coming, how far I have to go, whether there’s an incline, it all works in my favor.  The less information for me to psych myself out on, the better.  My night run was amazing.  Cool weather, just under 4 miles and all downhill.  It was glorious.

Our charging station.  We needed serious cord control.

Our charging station. We needed serious cord control.

I handed off to Mike and while the others rested, Mary readied herself for back to back legs.  Since Nina had taken Katy’s run, Mary was going to do the next two.  Mary took off out of the chute…in the wrong direction, earning her the ninja name Wong Way Mary.  She finished up our 22.2 miles in Carlsbad around 5:30 AM.  Luckily, she had a hottie Ultra runner to keep her company on that long 7 miles.

We drove to the next major exchange to try to rest up for our last legs.  Van 1 had 36.2 miles to run and hopefully that meant we could get some sleep.  Katy was still hoping to run her last leg after resting but in the morning, she decided not to push herself and risk further injury.  Matt Attack came through, finishing up his 8.6 miles and then taking on Katy’s 7 miles.    His mileage totaled 29.4 miles!  Obviously, we crowned him King of Ragnar.

Matt Wins!!!

Our Hero!!

With Van 1 done and on their way to check in to the hotel, we started in on the home stretch.  Evalia finished her first Ragnar and triumphantly handed off to me for the last time.  The second day is always the hardest for me and this race was no exception.  I had 6.2 miles around Mission Bay with a nice mile long, 300 foot climb which I walked shamelessly.  I stopped to use the bathroom and refilled my water at the park twice.  Then I finally glimpsed that mile marker and my fellow chick Vic’s motto rang true in my head.  “Anyone can run one mile.” It was just the inspiration I needed to get me through that last, longest mile of my life.  When I finally got to the exchange, I discarded that bracelet and whooped with joy.  I was done, another Ragnar in the books, and now it was time to party!

My eyes aren't closed, just happy!

My eyes aren’t closed, just happy!

We still had runners to support, but the last legs seem to fly by.  Mike and Nina both finished in a flurry and then Mary took on Leg 36 to bring us home to the finish line.  We drove down to the Embarcadero Park and made sure we had our ninja attire and stars for tagging.  We found the rest of our team, who looked quite refreshed, and we waited for Mary.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited…

My phone buzzed in my pocket.  Guess who?  Wong Way Mary strikes again!

“I’m lost!” she said.  “Someone must have switched the signs or something because I took a wrong turn.”

I put her on the phone with Katy who guided her back to the course.  Finally, we saw her coming down the stretch.  We fell in step behind her and crossed the finish line together.  We finished almost exactly 36 hours from our start time.

We took pictures and laughed and chatted but there was only one thing on our minds…showers!  Well, beer and then showers.  A few of us hung out at the Ragnar after party at the Hard Rock Hotel and we had big plans to party it up in the Gas Lamp!

Which lasted about an hour.

One glass of wine, and we were all ready to crash.  I party’d hard…in my sleep.

It was a whirlwind weekend.  It’s amazing to me how it always seems such a daunting task at first, the build-up damn near gives me anxiety.  I always think, “I can’t do this, this is way out of my league.” But then suddenly, I’m doing it.  And I just go.  And I run.  And I finish.

And then I can’t wait to start planning the next one.

Northwest Passage, anyone?

SWAG!!!

SWAG!!!