What happens when you get 12 people together to Run 195.9 miles over 34 hours? Memories for a lifetime and one big check off of your Bucket list!
Ragnar Relay is an event I had been interested in doing for close to 2 years but didn’t actually know that many people who Run and even less who would want to spend almost 2 days Running from San Francisco to Calistoga. But luckily for me my prayers were answered when the Running Club I am a member of were getting a team together and sure I didn’t know most of the team but whole part of the fun is getting to know new people. I had been a member of the Running Club for 2 years and had only met a handful of people so was a little unsure how spending over a day in a van with 3 people I had never met before would go down. Nothing to worry about as we all got on really well!
The morning of Ragnar comes and we all met at Corey’s (our Team captain) house at 5am and head off to San Francisco where the event started at 7:30am. Corey was runner 1 and myself 2 so I had to be prepared and ready at the first exchange 30 minute after the start. To be completely honest, I hadn’t even looked at which Legs I was doing until the night before but here’s pretty much how they looked on paper:
Leg 1 (2 of the event): 5.5 miles ”Hard”.
Leg 2 (14 of the event): 4.7miles ”Moderate”.
Leg 3 (26 of the event): 8.3 miles ”Very Hard”.
Not anything that worried me, I’ve done Half marathon’s up to 3,200ft in the past so I went into it pretty blindly without looking at elevation.
The first leg was actually lot of fun. It started immediately with steps down onto a trail which then gave way to even more steps going both up and down the trail for a considerable distance, they were also sand covered and very slippery (my Garmin logged 140 flights). Those steps then gave way to an almost Tough Mudder style obstacle course of tree’s and rocks to climb over before going down onto the beach. Not going to lie, Running on loose sand is not easy, especially when you turn left on the beach instead of right adding 5-7 minutes to your time like I did. I had to double back towards Golden Gate Bridge which is when I decided to run on the compacted sand closer to the water. Big mistake! Because not 1 minute later a huge wave crashed on the shore and I ended up with wet feet for the next 3+ miles.
Part of this leg was also Running over the Golden Gate Bridge where the hand off was on the other side. There really could have been some marking for where this hand off was supposed to be as I stopped at a group of people that looked like it was the hand off point only to not see my team. I had to ask if anybody knew where I was supposed to go, only nobody knew and I ended up Running around aimlessly hoping to see someone.. anyone from my team. Luckily I found them and the hand off went smoothly but the whole leg left me thinking ”Hang on a minute, If that was ”hard” what is my ”very hard” one going to be like?” A Facebook friend joked that I would have to jump through rings of fire.
My second leg was a somewhat easy one for me as the first couple of miles were mainly uphill, something I seem to excel at. It was dark and we were running at the side of the road which was very narrow in places with no street lighting so I relied heavily on my headlamp and thank goodness for those awesome Tracer 360 vest because had I not been wearing them I could have quite easily ended up as roadkill! Anyway… the first few miles were a breeze until the downhill came which is no secret I absolutely hate and was made worse by the fact that I got a stabbing pain just under my left kneecap on impact. The pain was mild at first by then spread down my calf and up my quad, by the time I was done with the 4.7 miles the pain was so bad I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the event.
With Running legs split between 12 people it gave me plenty of time to roll out my Leg that was incredibly angry at me and with the help of an awesome team mate got my Knee tapped in some rather nice KT tape which eased the pain but stuck in a van didn’t help much as I found being sat still my Knee would stiffen up and hurt like hell yet once I was moving it was fine. I had never experienced this pain before and to this day have absolutely no idea what it was or what caused it but I am thankful for that tape because without it it I don’t think I would have managed my final leg.
The final leg was 8.3 miles and something I am not a fan of – road running! I decided that to avoid too much pain or further injury I would take a slower pace and try not even look at my Garmin which I succeeded in for the first 3.5 miles until curiosity got the better of me. The first few miles was still in the dark and those few miles where I saw the sun rise was so peaceful, watching the sun creep out above the hills in front of me and fill the horizon with beautiful pink and blue colors reminded me why I enjoyed Running so much and even took a few minutes to stop and take a couple of pictures.
The leg itself I found to be easy, there were no significant hills or rough terrain which had me decide that the difficulty ratings provided by Ragnar were not at all accurate and are really just a rough guide. I can only assume it was rated on distance. Despite the niggling pain on the side of my Leg / Knee the remainder of my run was smooth and within no time I was upon the final mile which was my cue to text the team and tell them I was almost done.
Once our Van had finished our part of the event we had a few hours to kill while we waited for Van 2 so took to hitting up a Brewery in Calistoga for a short while before heading to the finish site where we could wait for the other Runner and all cross the Finish line together.
The post race festival was smaller than I expected with each Van getting one small Pizza to share (literally one small slice each) and a Beer each, as I don’t drink I gave my ticket to a fellow team mate. There were also a few tents selling merchandise and Monster on hand for those that wasn’t into the Beer. Given the size of the event I have to admit that I did expect more at the end especially considering how it was made to sound in emails, everyone was in high spirits though so I guess that’s all that really matters.
I don’t know about the rest of the MHRC team but I really enjoyed this event and am glad I got to share the experience with them, knocking another event off my bucket list. The discussion has already been had of doing the Golden Gate Relay next year and is definitely something I want in on.
Do I have any tips for this event? Sure!
– Get a team together! Make sure you get along as you’ll be spending A LOT of time together in a very small space.
– Have team training runs so that you determine each others strengths and weaknesses,
– Plan! The positions vary in difficulty so there is a spot for all capabilities. Don’t go putting the newbie Runner with the longest mileage.
– Research places to stop along the way (Food, Water ect)
– Make sure you have the entire team’s cell numbers in your phone and take chargers / battery packs.
– If you have space take a cool box with some food and water in.
– Other must have while packing: Aid kits, Pain medication, Headlamps, Visibility Vests, Foam Roller, Wet wipes.
– Have fun! It’s great to finish in really good time but in my opinion Ragnar isn’t a Race but an experience. Leave those goals to PR at home and just enjoy it.