All I want for Christmas…is a runcation.

Today’s the day.  People all over the United States are engaging in the frantic nocturnal scramble for commerce.  There will be some running involved, hopefully no running over.  Maybe a little kickboxing.  Some deep breathing exercises.  All in the effort to save a little cash.  And believe me, I need to save a little cash!  This year, I’ve spent more money on runcation and race entry fees than any other non-essential expense.  Quicken showed me this cute little pie chart and the category of “Race Expense” was the third biggest piece, right after “Mortgage” and “Household”.

I don’t how this happened, I had a race budget!  But you know, after SoCal Ragnar, I had to do Napa so I could get that double medal.  And all my friends were running in Washington, I couldn’t let them have fun without me.  And I had to do the Wine and Dine after Tink, because of that Coast to Coast medal.  And there was no way I was going to run in Disneyworld and not take my kids to other happiest place on earth.  Oh, and after experiencing the awesomeness of the ROC race in San Diego, I just had to do it again in Anaheim.  And so the story goes.  I have a hard time saying no to races and when I do say no, I’m green with envy when I see my running mates posting pics on facebook!

This year, I don’t want a lot for Christmas.  There is just one thing I need…are you hearing Mariah Carey yet?  All I want for Christmas is to race!  So here it is, my Runcation Christmas List.

1. Any East Coast Ragnar or any Trail – I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now.  And I’m dying to get the Scoot Chicks in a van.  D.C., Cape Cod, and Ontario are high on my list, but really any of them would be amazing.  The trail race is a new series.  Instead of a van, you camp and the race trails loop out from the camp site.  It’s a different kind of relay but I’m anxious to take it on!

2. E.T. Full Moon Midnight Half-Marathon – Sci-Fi is kind of my thing.  Just ask my X-Files and Star Wars ringtones.  This course runs along Highway 375, which was named Extraterrestrial Highway by the federal government, in the Nevada desert in the middle of the night.  Oh, and did I mention it borders Area 51?  The whole idea of this race gives me chills.

3. Spartan Sprint – It seems like everyone I know loves these races.  And I love dirt and I love adventure so I think I might love this race.  Of course, I also think I’ll need to beef up before I attempt something like this.  My upper body strength sucks.  So push-ups, here I come.

4. Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon – It’s pretty simple…music is awesome, running is awesome, running to music is double awesome.  The best part about this race series is that it is EVERYWHERE.  Madrid, Scotland, Ireland…oh, how I dream of the day I can run in a foreign country!  I might have to settle for L.A. this year, but one of these days…

5. Challenge Nation – This is the Ultimate Urban Scavenger Hunt and like a lot of these races, it’s everywhere.  I can’t think of a better way to explore a city I’ve never been to before.  It’s part physical, part mental, and a whole lot of adventure.  The race part is a 5k and there’s prize money to be won. If I can’t be on Amazing Race, then I’ll gladly settle for this!

6. John Muir Trail –  This isn’t a race but it’s top on my list of things I must do before I die.  The trail is 211 miles long and runs from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney in California.  It’s a hike, you carry your stuff on your back and sleep in a tent.  No showers, no bathrooms, just me and the Sierra Nevada Mountains…and probably some other people because I can’t see myself doing this alone.

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

“Chick on Chick” – Episode V – All Eyes on Vic!

Are you ready for the scoop? I’ve got the goods on our Chick Vic!  This is the fifth installment of our “Chick on Chick” series aka the one in which Cam asks Vic a bunch of random yet very important questions.  In case you missed all the action, click here to learn more about Jess, Brooke, Bec, and Meri.

"Vic"torious!

“Vic”torious!

I first met Vic during the Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run in Philly.  We were both there to roll in the mud with chick Meri and I’ve been trying to get her in a Ragnar van ever since. Between chasing down homicides and running marathons, this chick knows how to have an adventure!  We all know Vic’s an inspirational runner, but I wanted to get down and dirty with Vic.  Really ask the hard-hitting questions, about important stuff like toenails and reality shows.  So here’s the 411 on this top-notch reporter and superior pig roaster (which may or may not occur simultaneously).

Cam: First things first, how many toenails do you have?

Vic: “You know you’re a runner when….”
All of my toenails are on my feet. (There’s a sentence I never expected to write!) But only 6 of my 10 toenails can be described as normal. I’ve pretty much lost one toenail per marathon. My left foot looks great and the nails on my right foot, well, look stressed. I often paint them in the summer to hide how horrible they really are. I pretend it works, but I know it doesn’t. And I cringe when I get a pedicure. It’s rather embarrassing so I rarely go.

Cam: Gimme your Top 5 Bands of all time.

Vic: I love music, but am the girl who never knows names of bands, songs or albums. Don’t get me wrong, I can belt out a 20-year-old song with the best of them but if you ask me what it’s called and who sings it, I will come up blank pretty much every time.

So instead, I’ll tout my favorite all-time band, The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo – I feel like they’ve been with me through many stages of my life. I have many albums, including the coveted Sgt. Peppers’ on LP, though don’t ask me where the coveted paper dolls went. The Beatles are tried and true and have stood the test of time. I can pop on an album and sing along… And I’ve been to Penny Lane, Abbey Road, Strawberry Fields and the famous Cavern Club. Too bad I never met Jude.

*Please Note*

Vic receives 1up for this response.  I, too, claim the fab four as my most favorite band of all time!

Cam: What is your most cherished item in your closet? Besides your running shoes, of course…

Vic: I don’t really have one cherished item as I destroy clothes. I have skirts I wear often and one super flattering dress that makes weekly appearances in the summer months. One special item that’s been in my closet for 28 years, is hooded sweatshirt from my childhood. It’s an old swimming zip-up hoody from 1985. Yes, I still have it. Yes, I still wear it. Yes, I’ve tried to part with it more than once. No, I’m not giving it up.

Cam:  If you could live in any era, which decade would you choose?

Vic: My husband and I chat about this often. I’d love to have seen what life was like in the 30s. I know it was amidst the Great Depression and World War II, but it’s also when the city I live in hit its stride. I’d love to know what Rochester NY was like in its heyday. It was a simpler time, and the downtown where I work was BOOMING. Plus, my father was a child in the 30s and I would have loved to have known what he was like as a kid. Would we have been friends?

Cam: Which superpower would you want?

Vic: I’d love the ability to transport myself in an instant. I want to travel across the country, or world, in a flash. I don’t get to see my loved ones as often as I like – my sister lives in Australia, my cousins are in Ecuador and my best friend and parents are a six-hour drive away. I’d pop in for dinner, family gatherings or emergencies and to surprise my loved ones.

Cam:  Who are your heroes?

Vic: There are so many I could say, but I will go with a homegrown hero, Susan B. Anthony. An independent woman at a time in history when women toed the line, Anthony fought for equality. She was a key advocate for the 19th century women’s suffrage movement — and didn’t back down from a challenge. She voted in 1872, full well knowing she would be arrested for her action. She wanted to make a difference for others, to be heard. “Failure is impossible,” she said. I try to remember that motto any time I face a challenge.

Cam: Cast your perfect reality show.

Vic: Do I get to pick the people in it? I’m not a huge fan of reality TV, but if I could pick anyone from recent history to put into a room and interview, I’d round up Walt Disney,  Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Steve Jobs and Bob Woodward. All incredible trailblazers in my eyes.

Trailblaze on, my friend!  Do you have any questions for Vic?  Do you also love the Beatles? Chat with us in the comments! 

Ragnar PRO Compression socks winner!

Earlier this summer we were fortunate enough to score a pair of socks from PRO Compression. Rather than the six of us doing a whole “Sisterhood of the Traveling Socks” type of deal, we decided that we’d shower one of our lucky readers with them instead. Furthermore, we went to the orange Ragnar socks because hello, they are kick ass!

ragnarsocksOur Ragnar ambassador, Cam, has got quick a few Ragnar relay races under her belt and even SHE doesn’t own these awesome Ragnar PRO Compression socks (yet…).

Without further delay, the winner of our giveaway is…

ragnarsockswinner

Congrats to Aimee from Running with Sam. The Scoot a Doot Chicks salute you! Make sure you check your email for a special message from us.

For those of you who are bummed because you didn’t win, remember that coupon code JULY will save you 40% and get free US shipping. But act fast because it’s only good until Sunday, August 4th, 2013.

Relay! It will be fun!

Guess what time it is?  I’ll give you a hint.  It starts with an R and ends with AGNAR!  That’s right, boys and girls, Ragnar Northwest Passage is just around the corner and in just one short month, I’ll be trekking up north again to participate in the relay series in Napa.  I know what you’re thinking: This chick can’t possibly be writing another post about Ragnar.  I mean, what is she, like an ambassador or something?

Actually, yes, I am.

But rest assure!  This is not a Ragnar post.  Relay, it’s not.  (Hehe)

I’ve participated in many Rag- I mean, relay races and I’ve realized over the years that there is a specific recipe for putting together a successful relay team.  Relay racing requires tons of, ahem, leg work, in order to produce a smooth racing experience for all.  When I first started putting these teams together I made lots of mistakes.  But I had an incredible mentor who answered all my questions and told me all the tricks.  So that’s what I’m here to do today, my friends.  Help me, help you relay!

Get Yo Peeps in Line

First things first, you need runners.  Recruit, recruit, recruit!  Almost everyone knows someone who races nowadays. Luckily, Facebook is making it easier and easier to find runners.  You know all those annoying gym updates?  Call them out!  Oh, you ran 5 miles on the treadmill today at the gym?  Have I got a race for you!  I’ve used all types of social media to find runners for my teams, I even know someone who used dating sites to find runners.  How’s that for a first date?  Sometimes the best teammates are the people you’ve never met before.  Eventually, you’ll have an entire network of relay runners that you can call upon to fill a team.  And this video will be really hilarious…

After you’ve gotten people to agree to it, make them pay.  Always, always get their registration ahead of time.  Many people will commit, but these races are freaking expensive!  I always require the registration fee to hold a spot on the team.  Give them a deadline.  If they don’t pay, they don’t play.  Allow yourself plenty of time to find replacements.

The infamous "Friendship Contract"

The infamous “Friendship Contract”

The Early Bird Gets a Great Deal

Most races give a discount if you register early.  Relay races are no different.  If you can do so financially, register your team even if you haven’t filled all the spots before the price goes up.  Take advantage of those discounts.  Some races partner with different vendors, hotels, car rental places, custom t-shirt printers, and offer discounts if you book with those facilities.  Secure your before/after race lodging and vans far in advance.  Most companies will just require a credit card number to hold the reservation, but won’t charge until the deed is done.  Don’t wait until the last minute, because those facilities fill up quick.  Order your t-shirts/costumes early so you don’t have to rush deliver.  Take advantage of cutting costs where ever you can and make sure all your teammates have an idea of what their share of the cost is going to be.

Book early!  You don't want to be stuck in the dreaded minivan!

Book early! You don’t want to be stuck in the dreaded minivan!

Train

Training for a relay race is really no different from training for any long distance race. It’s important to keep in mind that you may be running in different climates, elevations, terrains, and clothing than you’re used to. It’s also important to keep in mind that you will be running on very little sleep and during the middle of the night in the dark.  Running with a headlamp is awkward.  So is running in a ninja mask or fish nets.  Practice!  Try to simulate these changes in your training runs.  I like to run this mountain circuit by my house because it incorporates many of the changes I could encounter in my relay runs.  Sometimes, the runs have already been mapped on programs like MapMyRun or Strava. Check it out on Google Maps. If you’re racing close to home, go to the streets you’ll be running.  I’ve found that incorporating other strength training activities, like weights and core work, into my training regime will increase my stamina and endurance.   And if all else fails, search for a relay training schedule  online and follow it!  Ragnar provides this Training Guide on their site.

Boxing is one of my non-running training exercises!

Boxing is one of my non-running training exercises!

Communicate

I send out many detailed emails during the months leading up to a relay race.  It’s important that everyone’s on the same page.  As a captain, I find it’s easier to come up with a plan and ask for input rather than asking for input then coming up with the plan.  It’s easier to make allowances once you have a base.  Facebook groups or group emails are a great way to get all the information to everyone efficiently.  It also allows for an open dialogue so everyone feels they have a voice in the team.

Initially, I make sure that everyone is aware of the costs and that the registration is non-refundable.  Injury happens!  And sometimes just days before the race.  At that point, your team just needs an able body and you might be willing to make allowances for costs to get someone to run.  In this case, it would be up to the injured teammate to get the registration money directly from the replacement runner.  I split all the costs between the teammates equally…van, food, shirts, gas, hotels…etc.  I do one big Costco shopping trip and give each van a stock of supplies.  This is what works for me.  Come up with a policy for handling costs and then implement it.  The important part is to make sure everyone is aware of your policy before anything happens.  You don’t want to lose friends because of cost issues but you don’t want to fund everyone’s race either.

Assigning legs and runner positions is also important to communicate early in the game.  I ask for each teammate to give me their top 3 choices and then I assign positions based on pace and preference.  I make it clear that you might not get the position you want, but that everything is carefully calculated and assigned for a reason.  Usually, I have no problem accommodating within those top 3 choices.

Lastly, logistics and travel plans!  Many times, runners are traveling from out of state and will need a place to stay before or after the race.  Have this discussion early so people can travel together or room together, if possible.  Some people prefer to do things on their own, which is fine too, just make sure you have that discussion so everyone is aware of what to expect.

Slumber Parties with new friends are the best!

Slumber Parties with new friends are the best!

Calculate

The pacing calculator will be your best friend.  I print out all the maps for the race and calculate the projected times for running based on the individual runners pace and distance of their run.  Not good at math? Relax!  Ragnar has a pacing calculator that does this for you!  Before I figured this out, I made my own Excel spreadsheet that is now highly unnecessary.  Remember to allow for elevation, weather, and fatigue in the later runs.  Encourage each runner to be very honest about their 10k pace.  If one runner is off by just one minute, it throws the projections off by hours.  The projections are so incredibly important in making sure your next runner is ready to take off when your active runner comes into that exchange.  Nothing’s worse than getting to the exchange after running your heart out and not having your team there to support you.  It has happened to us all at one time or another…the van gets lost, there’s traffic, someone needs a Starbucks…those projections help you make conservative decisions when it comes to how you spend your travel/down time.   So what will you do with those extra minutes…

Checking the time!  Are we on pace?

Checking the time! Are we on pace?

Support Your Runners

Many times during the race it will be up to the team to support the active runner.  This could be with water, Gatorade, GU, first aid, messages on the sidewalk with chalk, music, bullhorn shenanigans, cowbell, scissors for cutting off pants…whatever your runner needs, it’s the teams job to get it to them.  This is a team effort and knowing that your team has most definitely got your back is a huge reassurance.  Seeing my teammates on the side of the road ready to give me water and a cheer literally MAKES me keep running. Bask in the cowbell!  Throw your arms up in victory when you hear that honk!  And make sure that you offer that to all the other runners out on the course.  That unity is the most satisfying aspect of a relay race.  Complete strangers will offer you, without hesitation, a hug or a cold towel or a granola bar, and it will be the best damn granola bar of your life.

Just make sure to pass on the kindness to the next runner.

support

Are you considering a relay?  Any specific questions or concerns?  Ask in the comments and I’ll set your relay fears at ease!

Cam loves Ragnar, and coupon codes!

This is just a short and sweet little note to any possible Great River Ragnar registrants.  I have discount codes!

Great River is the second oldest race in the Ragnar relay series.  The course starts on the bank of the Mississippi River and runs from Winona to Minneapolis, MN.

Click here to check out the course and event!

This race is the sister race to Ragnar Chicago and if you participate in both Great River and Chicago, you get a nifty double medal.  DOUBLE MEDAL!

– For a 12-person team use coupon code: GR13JUNEreg. This will drop the price from $1,620 to $1,280/team.

– For a 6-person ultra team use coupon code: GR13JUNEultra This will drop the price from $1,080 to $900/team.

Registration closes July 10, 2013.

These codes have limited use so check it out and may the Ragnar be with you!

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!!!

So, have you heard of Ragnar?

I like to run.  I like to run with friends.  But when it comes to spending over thirty hours in two vans with eleven other sweaty, smelly, exhausted runners, all while covering almost two hundred miles…I AM AN ADDICT.

The Ragnar Relay Series takes the solitary sport of running and turns it into a team event.  Basically it goes down like this: a team of twelve rents two vans and takes turns leapfrogging through a two hundred mile course over two days.  Each runner takes on three legs of the race and each leg is about 5-7 miles long. Run. Sleep. Repeat.  Crazy, right?  YES!  What are you waiting for?  Being a Ragnar Ambassador, I’ve spoken with lots of people about Ragnar.  And I’ve heard lots of excuses.

My Mantra

Excuse #1 – I’m not ready for a Ragnar.

I am not a fast runner. I’m not an athlete.  I average a 13 minute mile.  I wear a size 14.  I am not “ready” for Ragnar.  But this April, I will complete my sixth race.  I am the slowest runner on my team but I am consistent.  I do my best, run my miles, and I contribute like everyone else.  If I can do this, anyone can.  I never in a million years thought I’d be able to run something like Ragnar.  But I did.  Five times.  And so can you.

Napa 2011

Excuse #2 – I can’t afford it.

Yeah, it’s expensive.  Especially if you have to travel.  But think of it this way: Ragnar is a  great way to see the rest of country.  There are Ragnar Relays all over the United States and one in Canada.  Ragnar also just started the Trail Series, where you run trails instead of streets and camp instead of drive from one exchange to the next.  How much would you spend to go sightseeing in your favorite city?  And how much of that city would you actually get to see?  I’ve raced in Washington, Las Vegas, Southern California, Napa Valley, and I am just dying to get on an East Coast team.  Turn your race into a runcation and see the country like you’ve never seen it before.

The Start Line at Las Vegas 2012. I had no idea Vegas could be so cold!

Taking time to enjoy the scenery in Washington.

On the beach in San Diego 2011

Excuse #3 – I don’t have 11 friends who run.

Really, you only need 5.  Each team of 12 is split into two vans.  While Van 1 runs, Van 2 is resting and vice versa.  If you can fill one van, chances are you can find someone else who can fill the other.  You can also find runners on the Ragnar site who are looking to fill those spots.  Our team, N.W.A, Ninjas with Attitude has had literally dozens of members. It’s a great way to make new friends from across the globe.

Las Vegas 2012

Northwest Passage 2012

SoCal 2012

Excuse #4 – I like to compete on my own and I need a challenge.

This is probably the best thing about Ragnar.  It’s designed for all fitness levels.  Do you want twenty miles on 3 hours of sleep?  We have a leg for you!  Do you want hills at one in the morning?  We have a leg for you too!  Do you want it all?  If you eat marathons for breakfast, you can join or create an Ultra team.  Instead of 12 people, you run with 6.  That means you can run like 50 miles over two days on very little sleep.  How’s that for a challenge?

Ultra Team Risky Business. They ran the whole thing in their UNDERWEAR. That’s hardcore!

While other’s slept, we ran!

So now that I’ve killed your excuses, here’s the one BIG reason why you should run Ragnar.  You become part of a community.  There are teams that compete for time and there are teams that run dressed in drag.  It doesn’t matter.  We’re all running the same course and it’s all about personal goals.  We’re in this together.  When you cross that finish line with your team, it doesn’t matter if you were the fastest or the slowest, if you puked or cried, you finished.  You’re a Ragnarian.

We represent!

Double medals, baby!

If you want more information, click the link to www.ragnarrelay.com.  There are videos, maps, blogs, stories and all kinds of good fun.  Find your Ragnar and I’ll see you on the course.  You might not see me, though.  Because I’m a ninja.