Disclaimer: This post is extremely long! I thought about breaking it up into two posts, but it really is a story that’s best to read from beginning to end. This race was epic.
The SoCal Ragnar is a 36-hour, 200 mile foot race from Huntington Beach to San Diego. Each team has 12 runners (6 in each van) who rotate shifts without any lag in between. Each person runs three legs total over the course of the race. When each runner finishes their leg, they pass off a baton to the next runner and this continually happens until the finish line (almost two days later).
I was really excited to find out that the ‘baton’ each runner passes is actually a slap bracelet!!! So cool.
But let’s back up. Even though the race was just 36 hours long, it really did feel like a week. Every hour was accounted for and had some big event going on. Time is such an arbitrary thing during Ragnar. You just have to worry about getting from point A to point B and as long as you’re moving forward, nothing else really matters.
Thursday, after work, we picked up our van and headed to Huntington Beach (where the race would start from). We grabbed dinner and had a quick team meeting to go over a few logistics. We stayed in a Howard Johnsons, which was an adventure in and of itself. The front desk was quite incompetent and would NOT give us our room. It was very frustrating because we had 12 runners and our support crew who really wanted to get some rest. Finally it all worked out and we tried to make the best of it. (There was a cockroach in our room, I was skeeved and didn’t really sleep well, but maybe I was just too excited to start the race!
Van 1 had to start at 6:30am, so they had to get up around 4:30. All six of their runners would go before my van even started (I was in Van 2). We slept til 7:30, checked out and headed to the first transition area where we’d meet with the other van and start running!
We got to the transition area pretty early, so we stretched out, relaxed and got our swag bags and t-shirts. We also had to listen to a safety seminar about the rules of the race and how to run at night.
I had some Rokit Fuel for breakfast. It’s a granola mixture made from whole foods. It was like a really good granola mixed with oats, dark chocolate, flax seeds and some other really good-for-you stuff. The rest of the day I ate lots of processed sports bars, so it was nice to have a healthier breakfast at the start of the day.
You can mix it with water or milk, but I just ate it dry. It was really good. Even if you’re not running, it would make a really good breakfast. It kept me full for a while, but didn’t weigh me down, which was nice.
They also had a few tents set up with coffee, water and snacks.
I grabbed a few goodies for the race. Free Gel and Shot Bloks? Yes please!
Van 2 is ready to run! Meet Mike, Mike’s Ham Sandwich, me, Taylor, Matt, Amanda and Tim!
Our team kind of had three different names. We started out as “We Ran LA” as a placeholder until we came up with something better. Then we became “Run Classy San Diego”. But last week, we voted to rename us “Team Chuck Norri”. Each team decorates their van according to their theme. More on that later!
Tim was runner #7, which means he is the first one in our van to run. Amanda and Tim are dating, which was super cute. Awe!
Soon enough, it was time for the handoff!
Here he comes!
Off he goes!
Tim had about 7 miles to run, so we headed to the next transition and decorated our van!
It started out all blank and boring…
But it didn’t take long to ‘Chuck Norrify’ our wheels!
All throughout the race we saw some pretty awesome decked out vans. The race camaraderie is so awesome. Everyone’s in it to have a great time and the hilarity that follows is unmatched.
We were so lucky to have a navigator in our van. Someone to tell us where to go so we didn’t have to worry about it. Thank you so much Amber!
Amber, Me, Amanda
And props to Taylor who drove almost the whole way.
Yep. He drives Dirty. There’s actually a lot of dirty driving in Ragnar. It’s pretty awesome.
Ragnar is all about ‘Safety First’. Each van had two flags and every time we crossed the street, we had to hold them up.
Allow me to demonstrate!
Or you can use them to sword fight. That works too in the Chuck Norris van.
Tim hauled butt and came in right on time. Here he comes!
Amanda was next to go! Smooth handoff. Nicely done!
It started to get really hot out there and she had some Ca-razy hills to climb. She had 5.5 miles to do, and it was on VERY steep hills. I really don’t know how she did it, but she was a machine!
Ragnar didn’t have any water out there on her leg, so we pulled over the van, waved the Texas flag…
And gave her some cold water. One cup to drink….
And one cup to pour over her head!
Then we drove to the next transition and waited for her to finish. Even with all the hilss, she came in strong!
Next up was Matt! We wrote directions on our hands with sharpies just in case we got lost.
They had signs throughout the course, but some of them were really not reliable. Better safe than sorry!
Matt ran an awesome leg, even in the heat. Another strong finish!
After the baton pass, it was Mike’s turn to go!
Run, Mike, Run! (By the way, he was the only smart one who wore a fuel belt. Good thinking!)
I was next, and I started to get really nervous with the heat.
It was 82 degrees out and my phone said it ‘feels like 87’. UGH! I had to start at 3pm, which was right dead in the middle of the day.
I had my directions down and I was pumped and ready to go. Despite the heat, I was really excited to start my leg!
We got to the transition where I would be running from. We were the first van there! We were like “Wow, are we that far ahead? No other team is here yet? We’re awesome”.
So we took some bad pictures of each other…
And some pictures of pretty Lake Elsinore…
And decked out the van a little more…
And THEN we realized…. WE WERE AT THE WRONG TRANSITION LOCATION!!!! Whaa??? We all jumped in the van and hauled butt to where we realized we had to be! Poor Mike finished his leg and we weren’t there to cheer him on and pass the baton! We felt really bad. That’s so sad!! It was a classic Ragnar mistake that now makes for a pretty funny story. We will all look back and remember the time that we left Mike waiting at Transition Number Ten.
I jumped out of the van when we got there and started running! My leg was 6 miles and was considered “Hard” by the race officials. Do you want to know why they call it hard? Check out the elevation map they provided! Straight up a freaking mountain!
Ok, ok… it wasn’t as bad as the leg Amanda had, but for me, this was not fun. It was realllly hot and there was absolutely NO shade. I had a water bottle filled with Cytomax that I drank within the first two miles. Thankfully two other teams along the way offered to fill me up again. And one angel gave me a cold orange slice. Whoever you are, I love you!
At one point, a garbage truck drove by and my hat blew off and I had to double back to get it. I thought it was kind of funny.
I jammed my ipod and ran best I could, and I stuck with intervals most of the way. At one point, I got goosebumps and actually felt cold, which is a bad sign of dehydration. I did walk the steepest parts but jogged the rest.
As soon as I saw my team at the transition waiting for me, I got really excited to finish. I’m coming guys!
YAY! I’m done! Taylor’s time to run! Poor guy, it was H-O-T out there!
As much as running up hills in that heat stunk, it was awesome.
Especially with the heat, I’m pretty proud of my pace. I finished in 1:18 with a 14:19 pace. Not bad for that much walking.
And the race people didn’t lie. My Garmin confirmed that I climbed a mountain! Geez! I think my hike a few weeks back definitely prepared my calves for the torture that was to come.
Yay, leg 1 is complete! Let’s celebrate with some goldfish!
Er… knockoff goldfish! YUM! No one else wanted to eat these, so I ate half the box myself over the course of two days. Ya’ll don’t know what you’re missing! I mean, Flavor Blast Cheddar, come on!
We found another team that was “Stay Classy San Diego”! Their van looked like a news truck and it was pretty awesome. They also had Ron Burgundy mustaches. haha Good thing we changed our team name, right? haha
We waited for Taylor at the next exchange. Since he was the last runner in our van, it was time for Van #1 to come back into the race and continue on. While we were out running, they had a nice lunch and relaxed on the lawn for a few hours.
That sounds all well and good, but we had other plans for food…
That’s right, folks. We took the Ragnar Party to the Pala Casino. We had big plans to go to the buffet and enjoy a big meal, but then the runner in us all realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea since we were only 1/3 the way done. I ended up with a really plain BLT, but I only ate the bread and the lettuce.
When we were done eating, we went back to find our van all alone in the parking lot. I think our Chuck Norris quotes scared off anyone who wanted to park near us.
Remember the whole ‘Safety First’ thing? They don’t fool around. When the sun goes down, the reflective vests come out! Oh yes!
Each van needed 6 vests and everyone had to wear them when you’re outside of the van at night. My favorite one was the LA Metro one. How awesome is this!
We had another two hours before the first van was done with their second round of legs. We tried to get some sleep. I found a picnic table and set up camp, but it was impossible to sleep. The lights were bright for the transition area and it was really loud with the constant cheering. Mike, Matt and I just laid there and chatted for a little bit until our runner came in.
After Tim took off, we headed to the next transition which was at the Lawrence Welk Resort!
I was really excited about this, because Irving and I have been there a few times! Really cool to be in a place that I knew!
Amanda was next and she was ready to go!
Then went Matt and Mike. And soon enough, around 3am, it was my turn again! I used the tiger tail to stretch out a bit first.
In addition to the flashy vest, the runners also had to wear a headlamp and a blinking butt light too.
This leg was only 2 miles long, but I really wished it was longer. The air was much cooler than during the day and I hit my stride early. It felt so awesome to run in the middle of the night. The adrenaline was definitely kicking in and I felt great! I did hit about four red lights along the way, but even with the stops, I finished in 23 minutes with an 11:11 pace.
The elevation on this leg wasn’t that bad at all. Rolling hills aren’t bad when they’re followed by a nice downhill.
After me, Taylor took off for six miles. I slept in the van for a half hour or so while we waited for him at the next transition. And then we arrived at our rest stop. Van 1 was off running again, and we had six hours to relax. Matt and I grabbed our sleeping bags and headed to the sleep area. (Everyone else slept in the van). I put on my eye mask and ear plugs this time and within five minutes, I was out. The next thing I knew it was bright and sunny.
I really wish I had taken a picture of that field that we slept in because it was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve EVER had. I will never forget how amazing it felt to wake up so restful and happy. We could see all the stars in the clear night sky and then in the morning, we realized we were actually sleeping on sand dunes and the Torrey Pines beach was right next to us. Just amazing.
The next morning, our van looked like this:
Six runners can really do damage to an innocent looking van. It was starting to smell a bit by this point. Ew!
I changed my shirt during each leg, but not my pants. Ragnar is dirty!
At Torrey Pines, look who parked next to us! The Biggest Loser van!
Soon enough, Tim was off again for his last leg! We followed along and gave him water along the way.
We were along the coast now, and closer to San Diego!
At the next transition area, look who we saw again!
And then came Tara! Remember Tara from Season 7?
There she is!! I was so excited!
Here comes Tim! He was now done with all three legs (for a total of 25.2 miles! Woah!)
Then Amanda was off!
After Amanda, Matt took off, and we headed to downtown San Diego to wait for him. It was gorgeous down there.
Across the bay, we could see Coronado Island (the finish line!)
What a great adventure it was so far. It’s all worth it for this!
We had about an hour to kill, so we relaxed for a bit in the shade.
Soon after, it was Mike’s turn and then I was up again! It wasn’t nearly as hot as it was yesterday, but my legs were sore from the 8 miles I did less than a day earlier! My route took me on a bike path, over a bridge and along some really nice parks. I did intervals again and made some friends with some other runners going the same pace. Originally I had to do 5.2 miles. Then it got changed to 4.2. I kept telling a kid next to me that we were almost there, right around the corner! Then I saw a sign that said ‘one mile to go’! What?? Apparently it got changed back to 5.2 miles and I didn’t know. This was probably for the best though. I gave it all I had since I knew I was done after this.
I finished my last leg in 1:02 with a 12:26 pace. The elevation for this leg was all over the place, but it wasn’t so bad. Well, except for that big hill at mile 4.5. That was bad.
Then we all headed over to the finish line to wait for Taylor! This was it! The last mile of our 200 mile race!
The finish line was along the ocean and it was really pretty.
When we saw Taylor rounding the bend in the final stretch, we all ran with him to the finish line! It was an exciting moment. A complete victory. Such an accomplishment.
I have survived Ragnar!
The medal was really awesome too. The beefiest medal I’ve ever seen. They don’t fool around. It doubles as a bottle opener too.
After we finished, we celebrated in the beer garden for a while and relaxed. I didn’t have a beer, the thought of drinking after that much running in the sun was just not appealing at all. But it looked like a lot of fun.
But I did enjoy some awesome pasta in the finish area. So good.
I may be the slowest runner on the team, but I had an AWESOME time. After some reflecting, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
My team was incredible. We laughed. We ate protein. We ran Ragnar.
Nobody messes with Team Chuck Norri.
And with that, as the sun was setting, we jumped back in our van one last time, and started the drive back North to LA.
I can not believe I was part of a team that ran 200 miles in two days. San Diego is a great city.
We stopped in Old Town for some Mexican food to refuel after all we’ve been through. Oh yes.
Sometimes, there’s a void that only some good guacamole can fix. It was fabulous.
I got back to my house around midnight and I kept thinking of all the things that had happened in the past 48 hours. There really isn’t any way to describe the excitement, emotions and physical challenge a race like Ragnar can create. You really have to experience it yourself to fully understand it’s greatness. I can’t believe it’s over. If it wasn’t for the pictures, I wouldn’t even believe it happened.
Our team also had an awesome film crew capturing our journey on tape. They’re going to turn it into a little documentary and I am so excited.
It was so cool to have them there. Our own little Papparazzi!
I’ll be back again someday, Ragnar. Especially if you have your own branded toilet paper again.
That was rad.
Edited to add… Taylor has perfected the Ragnar Reacharound. You just can’t fully understand it until you experience it. It’s basically a 3-point U-turn with just a little bit of curb added in just for fun. We did it multiple times. And we cheered everytime. Yes.