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Ragnar Relay San Francisco to Napa

October 11, 2011

Third Ragnar Relay in the bag! (First in SoCal, second in Utah). 11 amazing runners/friends and a beautiful course, what more could you ask for? This was definitely the most fun relay I’ve participated in.We ran 186.4 miles from San Francisco to Calistoga, Golden Gate Bridge to Wine Country. We started in Marina Green, near downtown San Francisco, where one of our first runners actually ran across the Golden Gate Bridge! Then we headed toward Sausalito and Mill Valley. where we raced inland and experienced the rolling hills and farmland of Petaluma before heading toward the Valley of the Moon.  We ran south to Sonoma and along country roads to Napa Valley, where endless vineyards surrounded us. Finally the course ended in the Calistoga Brewing Company with lots of wine and beer at the finish!

I was Runner 12 in Van 2 so we took our time in the morning to head to the first exchange point. This was my first time being in the second van so it was weird not running until close to 6PM. My first leg was 2.7 miles, it was definitely not the best leg as I had to cross so many crosswalks and wait for red lights. Since the leg wasn’t very long, having to stop and run made me anxious to get it done. We met up with the first van for a little bit before heading to a Chinese restaurant close-by for dinner. Note to self: running on a full stomach of Chinese food is not a good idea. We made a beeline to the next exchange point in Santa Rosa where our van would start again. Since it was getting dark, I paced my friend 4 miles for her second leg. I hoped running this extra leg wouldn’t come back and haunt me for my own legs.

My second leg came around 1AM on Saturday morning through Sonoma. I had 9 miles to go in complete darkness. Since the race isn’t big to begin with, there weren’t that many people running with us during our legs. We also passed a lot of teams in the beginning so the teams we started to see were running at a similar pace as us. I strapped on a headlamp, reflective vest and tail light and got ready for my midnight run. The roads were really hard to see since the light wasn’t that bright. I made sure to run right on the white reflective strip on the road so I don’t faceplant into the dirt gravel next to the road. When cars came from the opposite direction, their headlights would blind me for a second before my eyes adjusted back to the darkness. Since I couldn’t see much, the miles actually flew by. I think it was a sense of adrenaline from running at night and not knowing where I was going. My friend from the van, Dennis, hopped in along the halfway mark to pace me to the finish. I was running a 7:30-45/mile and it felt so effortless. Think nighttime running might be my new calling? The run weaved through some creepy neighborhoods but generally stayed on the main road. We ended up passing a couple people towards the end and scaring them because we would come up so quietly behind them and most of them had headphones on. I finished my second leg and we headed to the third and last exchange to get some much needed rest.

This was the part that didn’t go so well logistically. The directions and maps in the Ragnar bible were completely wrong and we spent a long time trying to find this next exchange point. When we finally did find the exchange point, nothing had been set up and we were one of the first vans to arrive there. This was good in that we could camp our van closest to the exit and had plenty of room to sprawl out. I dozed off and on for 2 hours before we got the call from Van 1 that they were running late because one of our runners had gotten lost. Apparently signs were stolen from the course and many runners were running aimlessly through the vineyards. When our sixth runner came through the exchange point, the race directors wouldn’t let our next runner go because the course wasn’t set up yet! We were held for 30 minutes before our runner was able to run his leg.

We were all pretty exhausted by this point as the sun was rising and we were sleep deprived. My last leg was 5.2 miles around 10AM on Saturday. This was the worst leg for me in terms of how my legs felt at that point. Being cramped in a van for 24 hours and running full out on the previous 2 legs had my legs spent. I toughed it out for the final leg and saw my whole team waiting towards the end to run me in. It was awesome getting to run with the whole team together through the finish. Another successful Ragnar Relay in the books.

Total time: 25:28:09. We came in fifth in our regular mixed open division and 15th overall out of 296 teams. Not bad! Looking forward to the next relay which isn’t until April 2012 in SoCal from Huntington Beach to San Diego, except this time we are doing it with 6 runners covering the 200 mile distance!

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