This past weekend I ran my third Ragnar Relay Series race in Southern California and my second Ragnar with George’s Girls. I truly think this race was well over 14 months in planning and was such a relief to see the weekend finally arrive. Our first Ragnar as a team was in October 2013 in Tennessee. We were 12 Washington College Alumnae on a mission to finish and I think after mere seconds of our finish in TN, many of us were already asking when we could run the next one.
The team decided to run Ragnar SoCal which went from Huntington Beach to San Diego. Again we wanted to run as George’s Girls so we set off to get 12 alumnae to run. We had a lot of the original team members join and even had some new join. Unfortunately, we had one member that had an amazing professional opportunity pop up and couldn’t make it.
This left us with 2 open slots mere weeks before the race. We were lucky to enough to get a cousin from one of the members and then I dragged Kelsey out of Ragnar retirement and she made the 12th. We finally had a full team and we were good to go. Our team members were: Lauren, Kelsey, Sarah, Wendy, Allison, myself, Jeanne, Melanie, Kaitlin Erin, Megan & Katherine (in that running order).
Since Kelsey and I were headed from Pittsburgh, we made all of our travel plans together. We headed out Wednesday night. We didn’t get there until about 1am and we were exhausted. It had been a long day of work & travel.
Since many weren’t getting in until late morning, we had the entire morning to do as we please. I ended up going for a short shake out run around the water and afterwards we headed into the Gaslamp District and just walked around. We literally were walking around and heard this guy talk about a place called the Donut Bar. We stopped right there in our tracks and insisted on knowing what this was. The guy was super helpful and directed us where to go. Once we got there, we realized we were not going to be disappointed.
After enjoying some donuts, we had to head to the airport and pick up Allison, Sarah, Mel, Meg & Wendy as well as the rental vans. We were meeting the others at the hotel in Costa Mesa later in the afternoon. Since there was some logistical nightmares with the rental vans, I was a little worried about that pick up, but luckily we were able to get things straightened out and once on site things went pretty smoothly.
Once we had everyone and the vans, we headed up the coast to Costa Mesa. It was a relatively easy drive and gave us a nice tour of SoCal. After checking into the hotel and reuniting with the others already at the hotel, we decided to go to Wal-Mart to get some snacks for the trip and markers to decorate the vans.
One of the best parts of a Ragnar race is van decoration. We don’t go all out crazy, but we enjoy some good window decorations. Compared to other teams, we are pretty tame. One thing we know we have to do for our next one though is design magnets to tag other teams. It’s fun to see what people come up with and how many tags you get.
After decorating, 11 of us headed out to dinner. We were still waiting on Kaitlin who had a later flight into LAX. Jeanne had researched a bunch of places and she picked an amazing place. We dined at Cucina Roma and I don’t think anyone was disappointed in their meal. They even had gluten free options for two of our runners to enjoy.
Since we had a start time of 9am, Van 1 had an early start on Friday morning. After some last minute logistics reminders at the hotel, we all passed out and tried to get the last sleep we’d enjoy for nearly 48 hours.
Van 1 arrived at the start line around 7:45am. We had to check in, get our bib numbers, flags and watch the amazing safety video. In the past, a Ragnar staff just belted out the safety rules. This time, there was an amazing video giving you all the safety rules. As it got closer to 9am, Van 2 joined us at the start line and George’s Girls was getting ready to go. Finally it was GO TIME!! 9am was here and it was time to start our journey to San Diego.
Leg 1 – Lauren was runner 1 and this leg was less 3 miles, so we had maybe 17 minutes to get to the first exchange. After we saw Lauren off, Van 1 sprinted to the van and off we went! Lauren ended up being the 3rd runner to the exchange and first female. Little miss speedy went sub-17 minutes for this leg and started things off well.
Leg 2 – Kelsey took off for her first leg. We were able to drive her route a little and gave her a quick shout and honk about 1.5 miles in and then headed to the exchange. She finished right on pace target for her first leg.
Leg 3 – This was Sarah and she was our Ragnar virgin in our van. As we left her exchange to head to the next one we all just sighed at what she had to run. The heat was really picking up and she had no shade on her course. We was basically running a typical California ravine. We felt so bad for her.
Leg 4 – This was Wendy’s first leg and her easiest and shortest. She took off with no problems and along her route, we also got to throw her a few honks and cheers.
Leg 5 – My first leg!! This was 6.15 miles and categorized as Hard. After 3 Ragnars, I don’t think I will ever get their categorization process, but I honestly wouldn’t say it was hard. I had set myself for a 10:30 pace, but my goal was to try and go 10:15 for this leg. I got our slap bracelet from Wendy and off I went. The first half of my race was on the trail. I was lucky though that it was in a more urban area and backed up to a lot of houses and shops, so I had some shade in some areas.
I felt pretty good and the legs were moving pretty quickly, so I just went with it. Somewhere around mile 3, I turned onto one street where a bunch of kids were out playing and lining the side walks giving out high fives to the runners. It was super cute! Then I saw the team up on the sidewalk dancing with the flags and it was a HUGE pick up for me! They cheered me on and headed to the exchange. I kept running and during the next mile I had to fight stop lights.
Ragnar thought it was a good idea to have a course where every runner went through about 5,000 stop lights. Many runners would literally sit there and wait for the crosswalk sign, but as a runner who battles this during my runs almost every day, I would stop, make sure it was safe and if there was a break, I went. I didn’t want to lose time for the team and I didn’t want my legs to start to cramp.
During this first leg, I had one stop light though at a huge intersection and had a good 4-5 minute wait. It was horrible. There were just so many of us standing there trying to cross. It was more annoying than anything.
Finally I made it to the exchange and saw Allison. The exchanges are usually super crowded, so as I get within yelling distance, I just started yelling Allison’s name. She was there and waiting. I was 1/3 done and the van was 5/6 done with their first set. I ended up finishing this leg in 1:00:58, which is 10:01/miles! Almost a full 30 seconds per mile faster than I thought I would go. This was a great start to Ragnar.
Leg 6 – This was the first mountain poor Allison had to climb. She had asked her husband about her leg’s elevator and he told her, it wasn’t bad. Whoops. Big mistake. Poor guy. It didn’t help that we were now in the heat of the afternoon, but Allison was tough and finished strong! She arrived and as she came in, Jeanne got the slap bracelet and set off for Van 2’s first leg, which was 12.1 miles.
This set of legs was 29.4 miles and took us 5 hours and 4 minutes. After giving Allison lots of time to rest, we headed down to our exchange 12, which was an hour away. Since Camp Pendleton was smack dab in the middle of the course, the teams had to go around it and had a virtual exchange in Oceanside.
Once we got close to Oceanside, we actually found an Outback and had a sit down dinner. We didn’t do this our first Ragnar and after doing this in Cape Code last year, it made a huge difference. It was nice to sit down, relax and actually have real food. Once we all enjoyed our food, we headed to the exchange to try and nap.
Exchange 12 provided us no naps as the vans around us were cackling, screaming and everything was just loud. We weren’t too happy about this, but what could we do. Night time hours also hit while we were at this exchange and out came the safety vest. After hanging out for a few hours, it was finally our time to go. Van 1 was on to their second runs, which will be recapped tomorrow in part 2.