And so our journey begins… 6 people. One van. 2 days. 1 night. 200 miles.
Didn’t get a chance to read why I signed up for this mess? Click Here.
Let me begin by saying I couldn’t have had a better team. They were positive, fun, witty, competitive, smart, and – fast. And when you are stuck in one van, navigating, driving, running, eating, and trying to sleep, all those things are extremely important. None of us really knew what to expect, but one thing was certain – we all came for an EXPERIENCE. And, we all couldn’t wait to cross that finish line.
The start is kind of hilarious. There are about 800 total teams, but start times are anywhere between 5am and 1pm. We had a later start (based off our projected time) which worked out really good seeing how we had to meet up, go pick up the van, pack the van, and get our butts to Huntington Beach by 10am. We knew we wouldn’t get much sleep the next 24 hours so a 6am wake up call was early enough!
Imagine 15 passenger “colorful” vans filling a parking lot and teams around in either tutus, costumes, spandex, neon, etc. Lots of crazy going on. We felt strong in our Betty designed Nuun tanks and got a lot of compliments. As you can see from the pict, even one of our guys wanted to squeeze it on (merely a photo op but what a personality!).
We started with about 15 other teams and – oddly anticlimactic – our first runner – Audra is off!
I say anticlimactic not because she isn’t bad-ass and we were cheering our heads off – but rather because most of us had anywhere from 2-8 hours until we actually started our portion of the race. We were ALL used to starting at the START line and racing with each other!! The first leg for most people is 2.6 miles. For Audra – it was just under 7. The joy of an Ultra team! Instead of 12 people running 200 miles, we had 6. Instead of meeting at each leg and exchanging relay wristbands, we met and provided water and high fives! Instead of “just” running 15-20 miles each, we doubled it. Each person ran 2 legs simultaneously before switching off to the next runner. Go Audra go!!
I can’t even begin to explain the next 24 hours…. And I’m not even going to try. It’s indescribable. It is truly just one of those things you have to experience to understand. And experience we did.
I will, however, let you in on a few of my thoughts along the way (we had a lot of time to think):
- The race is from Huntington Beach to San Diego, although at times we felt like we were headed due east, north, or running in circles. I get that we can’t run directly down the 5 to San Diego, but I do have some better ideas on how to avoid running around Oceanside for 6 hours! (Not to say I don’t like Oceanside… It’s quite a lovely town). It soon became a joke in our van that we weren’t headed south.
- My first leg I took off like a caged animal breaking free from the zoo. I honestly haven’t felt great in 3 months (from the athlete perspective) between injuries and the bike crash… I wasn’t sure what my legs could handle. Apparently, they could handle quite a lot that day! I looked at the watch and saw 6:40 and decided that is NOT SMART. Although it did feel fun for about ½ a mile 🙂 Sometimes you just have to go for it. Yes, I slowed down significantly. But it sure felt fun to run again.
- This course is extremely hilly. We all know because if we didn’t run it, we drove it. Everyone had their own good dose of hills. We liked to each say each of ours was the “worst hill ever known to mankind”. Team camaraderie at it’s finest 😉
- Seriously, what is the deal with everyone wearing headphones while they are running? Yes, I wear them occasionally (maybe once a month or every other month). BUT (not to judge or anything) I do think sometimes you just have to “shut it off” – to stay present. To be in the moment. To enjoy being a part of this amazing event called Ragnar (rather than just out on a typical Saturday morning run). Just my view. Selfishly, I wanted to chat with people too.
- A special shout out goes to Will whose first leg was 21 miles. Yes, 21 miles. You should’ve seen people jaws dropped as he ran through the finish chute of his first leg (12) and kept going…. He no doubt took one for the team & we were all utterly impressed.
- We all ate healthy and packed a ton of nutrients, yet even so, by 2am it was hard to stomach anything after so much running (and so little sleeping). Your body is – quite simply – messed up. We were kind of done with the usual – rice cakes, almond butter banana sandwich, pretzels, oranges, homemade bars, jerky – so we started talking about egg burritos and hamburgers. Talking, not eating. We can all dream.
- Running in the dark is a weird kind of awesome. Enough said.
- Back to food. As good as we were in consuming protein, fat and carbs during the first 15 hours of the race, all of us suffered a bit of stomach distress. Weird our bodies just weren’t used to running 20+ hours and eating sporadically throughout it all! You just can’t train your body to do that. When our first runner was about to start her last leg at 3:30am, I remember thinking I couldn’t manage half a mile, much less 10.
- Hours later. We all bounced back. Thank you Pepto!! The sun was up, we were a third of the way through, and we were finally out of Oceanside!! SO HAPPY!!!
- Driving, navigating, running, eating and sleeping all fell under “team responsibilities”. Everyone pitched in BIG TIME. We didn’t have our own dedicated driver like a lot of teams had, but I think that made us more of a team (and more of a challenge!). This race is all about teamwork and we had it nailed.
- I’m going to say it. We were competitive. While each of us agreed this was for “fun”, we all got out there and raced our asses off. We all crossed each “finish” line feeling like we gave it 100%. And while you have to prepare for running longer than your body might be used to, you also want to push your body to an extreme it hasn’t seen before. We had no idea how we were doing, or if that even mattered, but we did have that winning attitude. Turns out – we got 4th in the entire Ultra division, 1st for coed ultra over 30s (you can always find a category to win 🙂 ), and top 20th overall (within the 12 runner division). Hey, but… who is counting…
- My third leg took me under the 5 Highway, through Del Mar and up a hill I remember running about 15 years ago in the La Jolla Half Marathon. It didn’t take long to remember that pain again. I felt surprisingly good going into it and just wanted to motor up it and race strong till I saw my teammates. It’s amazing how a van full of people can inspire you even when they aren’t close to you.
- While our race took something like 26 hours, we were together for 36. There is a lot on the front and back end people tend to forget. Back to the teamwork thing. We were one. And it was pretty darn awesome.
- The final hours were ones that might never forget.
It turned into a “last man standing” kind of day. And no figure!! We had gone a long long way, on very little sleep. We were recovering from races, illnesses, injuries and lack of rest. Just think how well we could’ve done “prepared”!
I opted to take the run through Mission Beach (my old stomping grounds) and it was nuts.
So many non-Ragnar runners around – (imagine that people just enjoying their Saturday) drinking, eating, biking, pushing strollers, walking dogs. You name it, I saw it (and I wanted to be it!). I hit a very dark moment of running I haven’t hit in quite some time. DIG DEEP. I pictured running through Mission Beach with other runners — but I soon realized our little team was in our own world.
We were chasing a goal not many could imagine. We didn’t even know what to expect, but we rolled with the punches (literally). I was thrilled to give a hug to our final runner Liza (who had about an hours worth of running left) till we met her at the finish.
WE COULD ALL SEE THE LIGHT!!!
Ragnar isn’t just about running 200 miles. It’s about teamwork. It’s about stepping up when things get tough and taking on extra miles. It’s about taking the wheel (driving) when no one else wants to. It’s about sharing. It’s about racing when you aren’t actually being timed (we were only timed as a team, not as individuals). It’s about seeing what your body can do when it doesn’t want to “do” anymore.
Kudos to our team for hanging in there during those dark moments. For being flexible, patient, and so easy-going. While it took a while to get it all pulled together, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Thank you all for putting the fire back in this girl!
Thank you to Nuun who kept us hydrated along the course and to Betty Designs for creating some amazing running tanks. So nice to have their support “virtually” along the course!! Running in Betty and drinking Nuun no doubt propelled us even further, and faster. #feelinglucky Till the next adventure…..