Monday, April 23, 2012

SoCal Ragnar Relay 2012

A “Ragnar” race is a 200 mile relay race that teams of 12 or 6 (ultra) cover over two days. The relay is meant to have all runners regardless of ability participate in an endurance event that not only tests your legs but also highlights the incredible sense of community that runners have with one another. The teams are released in waves so faster teams start later and hopefully most teams finish around the same time. Team vans are decorated, there are some very suspect costume choices but everyone is excited and having a blast.

Runner #5
I have never participated in a relay race and most of my races are of the solo variety with the exception of ultra marathons where I may have a crew. I am relatively new to ultras so having a crew has been my saving grace on many occasions. When I do not want to take another step they provide not only physical but emotional support in the inevitable dark moments; without them I would have been toast.

This race shares a similar dynamic crew/support and a runner with the exception that we all rotate and shift our roles. In addition to cheering your runner there are over 500 other teams doing the same so it quickly becomes a love fest all the way around. You cheer for others and they cheer for you.

The course was from Huntington Beach, out to Corona and Lake Elsinore then through the 78 to Carlsbad and down to Coronado. Looking at my 3 legs I figured it would be good training and just a pleasant experience, but it ended up being so much more. Well here is the break down…my only goal for the event was not to get passed and to be the best crew/teammate I could be for the runners and other participants around me. So here it is.

Essential Equipment
Shorts: NorthFace Cardiac (used in Calico 30k (Report) and LA26.2 / Patagonia Long Haulers – my std short nowadays, it is short but the 80s retro style works for me.
Jacket: NF Better than Naked Jacket (used on second leg at night, perfect to not overheat and block the mist) / NF Torpedo (between legs to stay warm)
Headlamp: Black Diamond Sprinter – the race requires a red blinker light so this light was perfect
Hydration: Ultimate Direction Handhelds (Review)
Accessories: Garmin 310XT (battery life ensured I could capture every leg and keep splits), Headsweats Visor, Oakley Radar Glasses, Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves/Moeben Arm Warmers – when it gets hot soak them and reduce that core temp, when cold they cut the wind and let you keep light yet warm.

Leg #1 – 2.59 miles – 9:56 avg pace

This was a short 2.5 leg and the stop lights killed me. I met the team 10 minutes before I had to start running up the hill. There were a few false summits so I would commit some energy only to find that I had to keep climbing. I felt really good on the downhill and was able to keep my legs turning despite having expended a little too much on the uphill.
I caught a few runners on the way up and almost got caught myself, beating the pursuer by 150/200 yards. I felt weird repeating my mantra… “catch the tutu, catch the tutu” but at Ragnar I guess that is normal.

a lot of teams were counting how many people they passed, i.e. "kills" or "roadkills" we simply ran to have fun, passed and got passed but loved every minute of it
Leg #2 – 5.81 Miles – 7:43 avg pace

I felt like a wimp before this leg. It started at 1:46 AM; I was exhausted and really not in the mood to run. My body wanted to shut down. This is when I realized how much crewing/supporting was taking out of me. Supporting other runners was mentally taxing and around 10 pm I just focused on napping in the van and hydrating. It felt so much easier to run than it did to support because making sure your runner is good you quickly forget to take care of yourself. Literally 20 minutes before I was supposed to run I was scrambling to get motivated, I threw down some NOS (energy drink) and a snickers bar from an AM/PM…I could just not get out of the funk. When I saw John 20 yards from the exchange after trekking through the night it was all the motivation I needed. It was pretty much a wake up slap to know the team is counting on you and everyone was cranking out amazing efforts given the conditions I had no right to complain. (note: I still complained a little, mea culpa)
This leg was a blessing, a nice downhill run in the dark. I could not see too far ahead of me so instead of running on the side of the road I ventured towards the middle until I saw a car coming then I would head back to the side. The first few minutes I felt weak and just not in sync, my body did not want to push out the miles at that hour. At mile 2-ish I saw the team van pass honking and cheering and it was an adrenaline rush. I was 20 yards behind another runner and just blazed right past them. I then focused on catching the next blinking red light…next thing I knew I cranked out a 23 min 5k and at the end avg 7:43 pace with a best pace of 5:03.

Runner 6 – Hill – 2.51 miles – 11:59 avg pace

In the car prior to my leg Anh agreed to let me pace her up the hill at the start of her leg. The hill was not only intimidating because of its length, 2.5 miles, but also at night you just never know when it would end. At the exchange I gave her the slap bracelet and we both took off into the night. This was my favorite part of the race hands down. 

I told her that we would break down the hill into manageable sections. My concern was that sitting in the car for a while then attempting to get too much out of our sore legs would blow out the calves and make running tougher that it had to be. We worked up the hill together. In the first 25% of the hill we were passed by a few eager runners and it took a lot of humility to pause and hike sections when the van was passing by, but it paid dividends. We passed all those runners about 75% up the hill and still had energy to spare. At the top we actually asked a volunteer if we had already finished the hill since Anh still had a huge smile and was still able to run while others were barely walking.

Leg #3 – 7.48 miles – 8:44 avg pace

At the start of this leg I saw someone at the exchange wearing Hoka’s (big moon shoes) and said hi and asked how she liked them. When she turned to talk to me and I recognized her from Daily Mile it was Diana (link). So cool to meet up with someone who I only “know” virtually. This report is getting long so I will be brief. I decided to lay it down on this one and do whatever I had left in the tank. I overheated a little and was soaking myself with cold water quite a bit. The van was a huge help on this one, they would leap frog me every few miles and I would just pour water over myself, it was heaven. I never got passed and caught a few runners on the uphill and even gave another runner most of the salt caps I had since he was cramping.

In summary we drank beer (thank you Stone Brewery) and I made a new friends. This report would be way too long if I went into all the details so I limited it to the legs I ran. But Charlie, Nicolette, Jerry, John, Anh are amazing individuals. Second leg, Jerry set the tone and ran with the setting sun in Lake Elsinore. John’s second leg really just set me up and inspired me to perform way above what I thought I could and Anh just crushed hills and smiled the whole way. Charlie’s third leg was brutal when he faced some false summits and an uphill finish. Nicolette on her third leg worked cramps and finished strong running along the beach.  The other van (6 per van) were just as inspiring dealing with temps in the high 90s through Corona and finishing up in Coronado smiling and happy. I really hope that I get invited back to participate with this group in the future. They are a balanced bunch that smiles a lot and stays happy and that’s really what it’s all about. 
Team Picture after 200+ miles


Lisa@RunWiki said...

I love that you guys ran for fun... I saw that Ragnar tweeted you Van window picture... Reading this recap makes me want to participate in one! Sounds so fun. Congratulations

Alejandro Mares said...

I saw that too, they shared it on the FB page, it was just so fun and it was a different type of event since you wanted to endure for your team more than anything else. I highly suggest trying one and seeing what its all about. thanks for reading i know this one was a longer one.