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Ragnar Relay 2010

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Apr. 27th, 2010 | 08:50 pm

I've been riding on the most incredible runner's high for the past three days. My friend Raul invited me to join his running pals on team Prefontaineous Combustion to race in this year's Ragnar Relay. This year's course covered 200.6 miles from Ventura to Dana Point, which we totally clobbered by finishing in 28:02:51, or about 8:23/miles.

The whole thing I can only describe as some weird fraternity initiation/summer camp on wheels. Teams of 12 split up into two 15-passenger vans and take turns running a total of 36 legs across Southern California. Naturally, the idea of simply running for 30 hours straight isn't enough incentive for most folks. Fortunately, the crew I was with totally made the entire experience some of the best fun I've had in a long time. We dressed ourselves in some kelly green short shorts and tanks from American Apparel, threw on some sweet headbands and socks and proceeded to take no prisoners.

While Van 1 began the race at 11am on Friday, Van 2 and I didn't join them up until the first big exchange about 35 miles into the route that same afternoon at 4-ish. Sporting my tiny clothes, I prepared to run my first leg (#10) in Agoura. It was a rolling 5.5miles down a major artery (Kanan) and along the 101 Freeway. Starting later in the day gave me both the advantage of preparing myself mentally beforehand, but it also allowed for more butterflies to build up leading to my hand-off. I took the slap bracelet baton close to 6pm and took off. I was passed early on by a skinny high school kid. Discouraged already, I reminded myself to take it easy and maintain a consistent pace. About 2 miles later, I caught up to the same kid on a hilly portion of the route and proceeded to pass about 4 more people before completing leg 10.

I changed into my sweatpants, jumped back in the van and played the role of navigator until we reached major exchange 12 (at 9ish), at which point we said "hi" to our Van 1 buddies, snapped a few photos and then took off to grab dinner at the Canoga Park CPK. After dinner, we hopped back into the van -- which was starting to take on a mild funk at this point -- and zoomed down the 405 to the Santa Monica Pier to sleep for a while for the Van 1 crew to arrive. At roughly 2am, with lots of tossing and turning in the passenger's seat in between, Van 1 called to let us know they were about 6 miles away in Santa Monica.

I changed back out of comfy clothes and into my damp running gear. Van 2's first runner, Frank, took off for a 7 miles run along the beach and I once again resumed my role of navigator. We arrived in Torrance at around 5am and I hopped out to wait for Scotty to hand me the baton for leg #22, a mild 3.3 mile run on PCH. At this point I was running on anxiety. The effects of sleep deprivation were beginning to set in -- twice I imagined seeing people who weren't there, in addition to a 20-foot ball that turned out to be a tree. Thankfully, my second leg was brief and before I knew it I was back in the van, sprawled out on the last bench seat. I stayed awake long enough to see the sun begin to rise at exchange 24. Then I passed out.

3 hours later, I woke up and we were parked at Huntington Beach, where the Ragnar organizers had a breakfast tent set up and a small crowd was cheering runners on as they handed off the baton at exchange 30. I ate an egg sandwich my teammate's grabbed for me while I was dead to the world and started getting ready for my final leg. Raul, having finished all of his legs by this point, jumped into Van 2 and hung out with us for the remainder of the race. (Van 1 leapfrogged ahead to meet us at the finish line).

Weather conditions were looking rad at 9am. Overcast and cool. I must have annoyed some weather god because the marine layer soon burned off and by 10 it was a perfectly clear day with lots of sun. We reached a small park in Irvine at around noon and I was dreading leg #34 -- 8.8 miles on a hilly, shadeless stretch of Highway 133 ending in Laguna Beach. The first half was simply awful. I hadn't hydrated properly and my legs felt like lead, but I was still able to pass 4 people. A little over halfway into the leg, I spotted the first of two water stations. I pulled over, rinsed my mouth and drank two small cups of water. ::fanfare plays:: I regained my energy and took off to complete the remainder of the leg. I climbed one last hill, passed another teenager and it was all downhill the rest of the way. In the end, I finished ahead of my estimated time and passed 11 people before passing the baton for one last time.

Exhausted, hungry and thirsty I devoured a Snickers bar, a Gatorade and relaxed in the back of the van while Katie finished the final leg of the relay. We were all waiting on the beach in our skimpy costumes and crossed as a team (minus Paul and Heidi). I hope I get invited to join this fast-ass group of runners next year :)

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