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Ragnar So Cal ULTRA Relay-Team Honeybadgers

April 25, 2012

Watch this video if you have no idea what the reference to Honeybadgers mean…

Way back in September, I decided it was a brilliant idea to do the So Cal Ragnar relay with not the usual 12 people per team, but SIX, classifying us as an “ultra team”. I’ve done the Ragnar Relay in So Cal before with 12 people, along with Utah and Napa, and each time, the experience is unforgettable. Albeit, the lack of sleep and logistical coordination, the whole notion of spending 24-30 hours cooped up in a van with 5 other runners exchanging relay legs and cheering each other on is a fun way to bond with your teammates and enjoy running for what it is. I always find these relays to be the most memorable for me because everyone is supportive of each other, not really worrying about how fast someone is running and once it gets dark, that’s when the fun really begins.

This Ragnar was a 203 mile course starting south of Los Angeles in beautiful Huntington Beach heading south down the pacific coast. Along the way we passed through Anaheim, Carlsbad, Del Mar and La Jolla. The race wrapped up near San Diego on beautiful Coronado Island.

We had a very strong team consisting of marathoners and ultra marathoners so I had no doubt that we would do well given the more mileage.

Neil, Meg, Steve, Dennis, Me, Jack=Team Honeybadgers!

Notice how we don’t really go along the Coast until the very end…more on that later

Since we had only 6 people, we each decided to take on 2 legs at a time instead of the usual one. I was Runner 1 so I had Legs 1-2, 13-14, 25-26.

Leg 1-2

5.1 Miles+5.1 Miles=10.2 Miles

We started at 11AM Friday morning and I kicked off the team start. Since we had a later start than most of the teams, we were running with fairly fast people. It was really hard to hold back and watch everyone dash away on their first leg because most people just had 5 miles to run, whereas I had to conserve energy for the entire 10 mile leg. It was already pretty warm at this point at the beach, the heat index would reach 110 that day the more inland we ran. I can’t say it was the most scenic leg as we ran on a flat bike path the entire 10 miles with very little shading. The vans weren’t able to drive alongside so it was just me with the rest of the runners, however my team checked in with me after the first leg, refilled my water bottle before I took off for the second leg. I wasn’t feeling to hot either, note to self: running 18 miles the day before an ultra relay is probably not the smartest idea. I’ve had better days for sure. I was glad to be done with my first leg as I handed off the slap bracelet to Meg.

Leg 11 5.5 Miles

The night before the relay, I realized I had miscalculated my second leg. It wasn’t a 12 mile leg, instead it was a 19 mile leg in the heat of the day! We quickly remedied that by splitting the 19 mile leg between me and Dennis. I would take Leg 11 and he would run Leg 12 and 13 for 15 miles and I would take Leg 14 for 9 miles. We would both come out with a 15 mile second leg. Good thing we decided to break it up because it was effing hot.

The more inland we ran, the hotter it got. There were ambulances out on the course with people getting carted off because of the heat. Leg 11 was a gradual uphill run through Corona, even though it was around 6PM when I started, it was still really hot outside. I can’t complain though, because most of my teammates took the brunt of the heat with heavy mileage. Even though this was a short leg, it was hard to get started again and once I warmed up after a couple miles, my leg was over.

Reality check

Melting in the heat

20120426-073336.jpg

Leg 14 9.2 Miles

Since it was getting dark by the time Leg 14 came around, we had to don our reflective vest, headlamp and tail light.

At this point, we were all started to get pretty tired from the miles and heat earlier in the day. It was finally cooling off as we got into the night legs which was nice and made the run more pleasant. Our strategy for this race was to keep moving to the next exchange point so we didn’t get stuck in traffic. It was better to wait for our runner at the finish of their leg than mull around the start. It was really hard for me to sleep during this Ragnar because we were constantly going. We didn’t have the luxury to rest for a long period of time while we waited for another van to cycle through. Even though we all had a couple hours in between our legs, we spent the time figuring out driving directions, timing of runners and generally trying to stay awake through the night. This 9.2 mile was pretty brutal on my legs. After running the last leg only 2 hours ago and getting crammed back into the van, I had to get warmed up again. I noticed a lot more guy runners during this leg. I think because it was a long leg, most teams put out their best runners who can take the longer distance. I was getting passed left and right on this leg, but all the guys who passed were really encouraging. I just wanted to tell everyone who passed that I had already 15.5 miles on my legs. I tried to zone out, but it was hard because of the uneven surface I was running on and the lack of depth perception from the headlamp. Finally I made it to the next exchange and handed it off to Neil who had 15 miles coming up through Temecula.

Leg 25-26

5.5 Miles+7.3 Miles=12.8 Miles

I started this leg around 5:30AM so I still had to wear all the night gear until my leg was done. Since the fog was so thick in Encinitas, they extended the night hours to 7:30AM instead of 6:30AM. It was really nice finally being able to see the ocean and running through the misty fog. The first 5.5 miles dragged on forever, it was taking me longer and longer to get warmed up and having a bunch of fresh(er) legs pass me was discouraging. My headlamp kept slipping off so I finally pulled it really tight and spent the rest of the leg light headed (note to self: must fix this headlamp problem before Zion). I was so happy to see Neil at the exchange point with a water refill for me as I tackled the last and FINAL leg. I was finally starting to feel good during this leg and was able to make up for my embarrassing pace for the last leg. Just knowing it was my last leg motivated me to move faster. It was a rolling leg with a big uphill near the end. I was so happy to see the “One more Mile” to go sign because it really was my last mile to go in the race. We would see these signs for every leg, but it would only apply to our second leg.

Looking like a hot mess

Everyone was getting anxious in the car on their last leg. They just wanted to be done and relax as well. It felt so good putting on clean non running clothes and not having to worry about when my next leg would be. We ran through more beach cities and the weather stayed nice and cool.

20120426-073314.jpg

Dennis had the very last leg (thanks for being such a trooper) so we quickly headed to the Finish Line at Imperial Beach and waited for him to come in. An hour passed…then more time went by. We knew he was having problems with his hip but I had no doubt he would still be pushing strong to the finish. When it finally got above a 12 minute pace, we started to worry. Could he have dropped out during his leg? I was waiting for Ragnar to call me on my cell to let me know. Did he get lost? We contemplated sending someone to run backwards but decided to give it more time. The more teams that came through the more worried we got. Finally I heard Steve yelling that he was coming. We ran through the finish in 28:59 hours. And Dennis promptly collapsed in the sand after. Turns out he got lost along with a bunch of other runners and ran 3 extra miles.
I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates for taking on this challenge and doing it with such high spirits and energy. Since we were a 6 person team, we had to work more as a team covering the entire distance, whereas in a regular team, you only need to worry about your van legs. Apparently we also placed third in our Ultra Mixed group and 39th overall out of 522 teams! Not too shabby for a Honeybadger indeed.

Random Final Thoughts

  • I loved this Ultra experience, it was definitely challenging but doable. We all went into the race knowing exactly what we were getting ourselves into, so no one complained about the amount of mileage they were given. In fact, I think some people (cough Jack) relished in the fact that they had the most miles.
  • It was TIRING, which is given, but I didn’t expect to be awake the entire 29 hours. It was hard to fall sleep in between legs because we had to constantly navigate our way to the next exchange and figure out logistical stuff. Some people got a little shut eye, but I don’t think anyone was really well rested.
  • Next time I would probably stay the night where the race ended. We never got to actually celebrate after because everyone was so tired and just wanted to get home. Our only “meal” together was during Steve’s leg at Chipotle where we ate our food so fast just so we could make it for his finish in time.
  • Your appetite gets really messed up. Since we were cycling through runners so fast, it was hard to time when to eat. We had packed sandwiches and snacks in the car, but most of us weren’t hungry immediately after our run. By the time I got hungry, it was almost time to run again, so I mainly ate a bar here and there just to keep my energy levels up. I think this may be why I didn’t feel so great during my legs. I was too afraid to eat much and have stomach issues during my leg. I finally ate my one sandwich of the day after my 2nd leg around 1AM. Talk about a late dinner. We had tons of food leftover and unlike previous Ragnars, we didn’t bring as much food as we normally do.
  • The medal that acts as a bottle opener is always nice 🙂

Here’s Steve’s post on his experience at Ragnar

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2012 8:53 am

    Yay! Congrats to all of you! Please give my thanks to Neil for taking my place at such short notice. It was really hard not being there, but you guys did amazing just like I knew you would. Cheers!

  2. May 8, 2012 10:15 am

    Congrats to the whole team! That is such a great accomplishment, especially with a 6 man team.

    Did you also run Disney’s Tinker Bell Half marathon, I’m asking because I saw another team called Honey Badgers 🙂

    • May 9, 2012 8:41 am

      Hi thanks for reading and welcome to the blog 🙂 I didn’t run Tinker Bell this year, did you? It sounds like fun, but a lot of $$$ for a half marathon

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