Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tales From Ragnar Relay Napa - Part 1 of 4

Where to begin when describing the Ragnar Relay experience? It's a relay race, it's a sightseeing trip, it's a weekend away with a dozen of your closest friends. It's all that and more. And this is how it went for me. 

If you don't know, a Ragnar is an approximately 200 mile team relay race. They are held in cities all over the country and attract professional runners and weekend warriors. Most teams have twelve runners, who each take turns running three different legs. Distances range from two miles to more than ten miles, so there really is a place for runners at all levels. Teams start early Friday morning and run through Saturday afternoon. It really is a "Run. Eat. Sleep? Repeat!" experience. 


I signed up months ago for this relay. This was my third Ragnar event but my first time running in Napa Valley. I volunteered as Runner 12, which meant a shorter distance than that of most of my teammates. I chose that slot because I am still doing my Summer of Run Challenge, and running every single day has taken a bit of a toll on me. I wasn't comfortable running the longer legs on this Ragnar, but like I said, there is a place for every runner regardless of ability. (One of the things I love the most about Ragnar. If you want to run, you can, even if you are not a great runner.) 

Preparation is key to a successful Ragnar. With six people in a van for 36 hours, there isn't a lot of room for extra gear. You have to know what to pack and how best to stage it. I go with individual ziplock bags, each with a single outfit and clearly marked. I pack them into my bag in order, than I put my sweaty running gear back into the bags after I finish each leg. That way, my bag stays fresh and the van doesn't smell like a locker room. 


Once everything was packed, I was ready to go. But I still had a morning run to do. I decided to test-run the Ragnar, so I went out in the darkness of the morning and ran with my headlamp and reflective vest like I would have to do on my midnight leg in Napa. It felt good to get out and run in the early morning quiet. It's not really how I picture Los Angeles with it's hustle and bustle. 


Because this event was in Northern California, friends and I decided to road trip up there. We headed out Wednesday morning and spent the day driving through the heart of California. And of course, we stopped for the mandatory "everyone say cheese!" photo on the way. 


We arrived early enough that we were able to do our grocery run on Wednesday afternoon. We also spent another few hours going from store to store searching for last minute extras. Our team was the Super Heroes In Training. We each developed our own character and created costumes and accessories for the event. We were quite the cast of crazies, definitely. Here's two of my fellow Super Heroes, The Amazing Slowpoke and Weirder Woman. 


On Thursday, we met our teammates at Oakland Airport, picked up our rental vans, and finished the last of our prep work. The van was packed, our costumes perfected, and our pre-Ragnar work complete. We drove into San Francisco to meet the rest of our team and have our kick-off dinner. 

We ate at Viva Pizza in the Ocean Beach area, and it was fantastic. We decided to make it a family style meal, so we ordered a bunch of everything and just passed plates around. It felt like a family reunion as we all caught up on who had been doing what since we last got together, chatted up the new people and got to know them, and shared stories of previous Ragnar events we had run together. It was a great evening and the perfect way to start the weekend! 


Did I mention that I really, really enjoyed the Mediterranean Salad? 


And with that, we were done getting ready. It was time to go back home, get some sleep, and get ready to Ragnar. 

Next up: Running the Ragnar Relay.

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