Ragnar Relay Napa Valley pt.1

I was going to try to get everything written in just one post, but I’m prettttyyyy sure that isn’t going to happen, unless you want to be scrolling for 305723 days (give or take a couple days, obviously). So it will probably end up being a couple/few posts and then a “what the heck should I pack for a weekend in a stinky van” post.

Since this was the first Ragnar for many of us, I wanted to make sure everyone had the best experience possible. Trying to organize 2 teams, 24 people, 5 volunteers, 4 vans and all the logistics in between was, well, extremely stressful.  Towards the end people were dropping like hotcakes and I didn’t want the second team to have to a) turn into an ultra, b) have to cover all the extra legs themselves, or c) have a crappy experience because some people committed then un-committed at the last minute. Somehow, just somehow, we finally got all the spots filled literally a day-and-a-half  before the race.  And then one of our volunteers backed out. Sadly, we ended up having to pay $120 since we couldn’t find a replacement in such a short amount of time, but everyone took it in stride (I don’t think they realized how much work goes on behind the scenes, and I’m glad for it).

Thursday rolled around and it was van pickup day! A full day at work and then heading to the airport to pick up vans (my advice: call the rental place a few days ahead of time to actually make sure they’ll have vans for you. Sometimes your reservation means nothing, or in my case, my confirmation numbers apparently had NO reservations attached to them. Oy).  I had driven a 9-seater van for one of my jobs from time to time, but these 12-seater vans are beastly.  It was totally different than driving my “might as well be driving on the ground” Honda Accord, that’s for sure! Then it was packing time, which was surprisingly easy. I had already halved and bagged the granola bars, pb pretzels and fruit snacks for each van, and the silly string/glow sticks and window markers were already in each van.


One ziploc bag per leg, with everything I would need: sports bra, top, bottoms, socks, headband, vest for night leg, etc. A bag of extras (extra socks and underwear, tshirt and tech shirt) and a bag with a couple longsleeves, a hat, comfy sports bra and more socks). CAN’T FORGET MY NUUN AND TIGER BALM!

Since I was runner #3, my legs were incredibly long (2.7 hard, 6.7 very hard and 3.3 easy), I only brought 1 pair of shoes, my Brooks Pure Cadence.  There was even more Nuun in the side pocket of my bag (and Suzanne brought a couple tubes herself). It was much needed. As the primary driver of our van for the entire race (and her being the primary navigator), we needed to be properly fueled!  The extra clothes and socks ended up being a fabulous decision since it (surprise!) rained poured on us for half the weekend. Poor Jerry had to run his last 2 legs in a downpour for the entire time. He’s a trooper.

My roommates boyfriend came over late (as usual), so I got little to no sleep before Suzanne arrive around 230am (she drove up from San Diego), and we got about 2 hours of sleep before our alarms went off and it was time to pack up the rest of the vans and pick up Heather from BART, and head into the city to grab David from his hotel and on to Golden Gate Park! The drive in was actually fairly easy since we beat (most of) the commuters crossing the bridge, and since it was o’dark hundred, the lights were still on on the new eastern stretch of the Bay Bridge, so it was really pretty.  Team 2 (Long Leg Lovers) took off at 5:15am, so I was already seeing photo updates from them on Facebook.  We were the first people to arrive from Team 1 (Buns of Steel) and started to mass text everyone where we had parked since there were a million identical white vans parked around Hellman Hollow. Commence decorations and dividing of food/decorations/team shirts and safety gear.


The 9am wave is off!

Once David took off, we headed back to our vans to get to the first exchange before he did, since he had a short first leg.


This was provided by Ron from Team 2. This was their view, heading to the first exchange. A clear morning in SF!? WHAT!

David exchanged to Robert, we cheered, and were in the van again.  Shanna drove so that I could change and get ready for my first leg, since I was runner #3. My leg was no van support, and had a hill, which was why even at 2.7 miles, it was listed as hard.  I mean, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point, right?!

PicMonkey Collage

This + application of temporary tattoos on our teammates in the parking lot = TONS of crazy stares/looks from the poor tourists at the base of GG Bridge who had NO idea what they were in for when they purchased their bus tour ticket that morning!

After the most awesome slap bracelet exchange ever (it stung REALLY bad but only fired me up!), I was off! It was a lonely few miles with no van support, and the first third of it was slanted (poor knees/IT band), and the sun peaked just as I was starting (good thing I thought to still wear a tank and shorts even though it was COLD at the start), and by mid-run, I was a sweaty beast. I could only see one runner in the distance, but was too far ahead to ever catch. I ran through Sausalito and the views of the water, Angel Island and the city were absolutely breathtaking. I was also blazing faster than my anticipated pace, which excited me. My average pace for the race was 10:30 (turtle-like), but it felt good and it felt right, so I just ran with it (ha). First mile- 7:59 (told you, fired up); second mile- 8:24 (I stopped to take a picture of the view and chat with a confused man at the pier); last .8- 8:37 average.


See that? That’s my arm on the right side of the picture. I came through the exchange so fast that Suzanne could only get part of my arm. BOOYA!

It felt AMAZING! to get through my first leg of my first Ragnar.  After all the planning and stress that went along with planning, it just melted away during that leg and it was back to just running happy.   We got back in the van, I awkwardly wiped my sweaty self off with an Action Wipe (lifesaver!) and headed off through Mill Valley to the next exchange. On the way, we spotted San Francisco Running Company and made a quick u-turn. It’s a good thing we drove by one because Jerry needed a handheld for his long leg later that night. Even better, there was a Starbucks in the same center! +2 points for me being able to get that giant van into that tiny parking lot and parked straight!

PicMonkey Collage1

At the next exchange – wait, you don’t do this in parking lots? THAT’S HOW WE ROLL!


The boys of Buns of Steel, van 1! Robert (front) is a beast, and Jerry (back) is such a trooper!


Cherry Limeade, Grape and Fruit Punch Nuun running through my veins!

Shanna, Jerry and Suzanne each finished their first legs, we handed off to van 2  and then it was break time!   We drove to the next major exchange area and hit up Whole Foods for lunch/dinner/whatever you call when you’re able to eat during Ragnar.  It was the best decision ever, and also allowed us to use actual (nice) bathrooms, and to change without fear of touching/stepping on/smelling poop or pee 🙂  It also allowed us more photo ops!


Leg 1 complete!


Ragnar Ambassadors on board!

Oh what was that, you still aren’t convinced how much I love Nuun?

image (12)

You’re welcome.

It’s seriously the only electrolyte drink I have ever found (and I’ve tried tons) that I can use pre-, during and post-race/run and NOT get sick. And that folks, is pretty much a miracle with my stomach. It’s also great for double-fisting with Starbucks  🙂

….. more to come after our break 🙂

Comments (6)

  1. Katrina Pilkington

    I hope to do a relay – a Ragnar too – one day! SO much prep involved!
    Katrina Pilkington recently posted…What I learned at FLBlogCon 2013!My Profile

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      Do it! I think it’s easier if you just join a team vs trying to captain and organize it yourself. Or do it with a group of friends that you know won’t back out on you at the last minute!

  2. Running Hutch

    OH how I wish we’d been able to see you guys out there! Would’ve been so much fun!
    Running Hutch recently posted…The Accidental Ultra RelayMy Profile

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      Next time? 🙂

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