Who’s crazy enough to travel to San Francisco, CA & get in a van with 5 strangers for an adventure? That would be me! Last weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the Napa Ragnar Relay Race. I started running in Ragnar Relay Races in 2011 with 11 women I didn’t know. To me, these races are different than 5k, half marathons, full marathons that you do on your own. The experience can’t be replicated in any other race.
Not familiar with what a Ragnar Relay Race is? It’s a relay that covers approximately 200 miles. There are two vans with 6 people each. Van one starts early Friday morning, covers varying distances between 6 runners, then van two takes over. Everyone has a chance to run three different times, alternating between the two vans. At the end you are supposed to run to the finish line together, get your medal, beer and pizza, and celebrate your accomplishment. At least that is what should happen…
First, finding 12 people who mesh well together is a challenge. This was my fourth Ragnar. But my first out-of-town Ragnar with strangers. From the beginning there was an obvious divide between the two vans. Since I’ve done these races before, I knew that we might not all gel well together. The lack of communication between our vans was horrific. We never knew where Van One was, which is crucial for preparing the next runner. The Captain chose to keep things to herself, even our finisher shirts! Why? I have no idea. The Captain also lacked prioritization. She was focusing on getting decals on our vans and what we needed to wear at the end of the race before strategizing a communication plan.
My first leg was hard. It started uphill. Isn’t that awesome? My calves were on fire, I started feeling shin splits, my toes were going numb, and my knee was hurting like nobody’s business. I wanted to cry. This was a recipe for disaster. There was no view of any pretty scenery. The mountains were dry and it was hot. Luckily, the first leg was only about 4.5 miles. I can honestly say that I questioned why I decided to do this race. What was I thinking? I was hurting and missing my family. I doubted I had made the right decision.
My second leg started around 1am. I hate running at night. My depth perception is not the greatest plus many I was alone for most of it with only the light from my headlamp. At night, small bumps in the road seem gigantic and adds to the paranoia. I’ve been known to get lost at night and I struggle to be brave. My crutch is always my husband who has helped me during night runs. This time I was on my own. My knee hurt at first, then the pain went away. I was able to turn on the turbo and finish strong. My Van was awesome and leap-frogged me throughout my leg so that I would feel at ease. There were 3 runners after me and it got extremely dark. To the point, that when we were supporting our runners, we couldn’t accurately tell it was them until we were face-to-face.
The final breakdown of communication happened on our last leg. Our 10th runner had to run a half marathon as his last leg. It was close to 90 degrees and it was a non-support leg which meant that we couldn’t aide the runner. Our runner was struggling. He sent a text and before we could respond, the Captain responded telling him, it was too bad he was struggling but that it was against the rules to help him since he was on a non-support leg. Wow! She is heartless. We stopped and helped him anyway. A few minutes later, she calls back to tell us that we need to hurry because two people from Van One need to catch a flight. Say What?! This was news to us. She also suggested we just skip our last legs so we could make it back in time (we ran them anyway). We went to the last exchange to meet the two runners who supposedly needed to catch a plane and when we got there they told us that they thought it was us who needed to catch a plane. To top it off, turns out the rush to get back was because 4 out of 6 runners from Van One had set up a spa appointment and didn’t want to lose their deposit. Again WOW!
The medals that you get in a Ragnar race are like puzzle pieces and combine to say something about unity, which is pretty funny considering van one was not there to meet us at the end. However, Van Two rocked! I would never change my experience with them. I learned a lot about what not to do and feel that I know what needs to happen in order to make the next Ragnar event a better experience. Although the interaction with Van One sucked, it doesn’t sway me from participating in future Ragnar races. As chaotic as this race was, meeting new people, running, and having an adventure of a lifetime overshadow any negatives. I loved my experience and hope this will entice you to do a Ragnar race in the near future.
Run. Rest. Drive. Repeat.