Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Napa Valley Ragnar Relay: Team Winos in the Night

200 miles, 2 vans, 12 Winos in the Night = a fun-filled 48 hours!

This past weekend was the Ragnar Relay in Napa!  Ragnar hosts relays all throughout the country but the Napa race specifically consists of running 200 miles as team from San Francisco to Calistoga.  The most common way to complete the relay is as a team of 12 but there are also "ultra" teams which consist of anywhere between 6 and 11 runners.  The race has 36 legs with each runner taking 3 legs for anywhere between 11 and 23 miles total.  Most teams have two vans - van #1 has runners 1-6 and van #2 has runners 7-12.  While runners 1-6 are running van #1 is "on" and supporting their runner currently on the road and making sure the next runner gets to the next exchange point.   During this time van #2 is "off" and has some downtime to eat, sleep, relax, etc.  When runner #6 passes the "slap bracelet" (literally) to runner #7, van #2 becomes the "on" van and van #1 gets some down time.

As I mentioned previously, I was excited to join the team, "Winos in the Night," after I saw Ashley's post on Facebook saying they needed more runners.  I was a little nervous since I didn't know any of the other girls on the team but they were all so sweet and welcoming and we became fast friends.  I was runner #5 in van #1 running a total of 20.7 miles.

Start times were assigned based on your projected finish time with about 20-30 teams starting at a time.  Teams could start as early as 5:00 am or as late as 1:00 pm.  We got the lucky 5:00 am start time which means we had to be in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco at 4:00 am for check-in Friday morning.  K wins husband of the year for getting up to drive me to San Francisco at 2:30 am Friday morning.  By the time I got to bed Thursday night it was about 11:30 pm.  This left me with 2.5 hours of sleep before my alarm went off Friday morning (important information for later). 

Once we got to San Francisco I met up with my van #1 teammates, said goodbye to K and we were off to the start line.  Check-in, safety check and speech, and packet pick-up went smoothly and soon runner #1 was off.

She was super speedy with only 2.8 miles to run and soon it was runner #2's turn!  She definitely had a hard leg - stairs, trails, sand, hills all on pitch black roads - but was rewarded with an awesome sunrise run on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Running under the moonlight.
Can't resist a bridge photo!

Just before 8:00 am (7:48 am to be exact) it was my time to run.  I was unusually nervous for some reason but the nerves wore off after the first mile.  The air was cool and crisp - and despite having been up already for 6 hours it was a perfect morning morning run.

My leg was 6.6 "hard" miles.  It started in Corte Madera and ended in Kentfield (in Marin).  There were three hills on the route - two that were manageable but one very steep one (like hands on the quads steep) that was almost three-quarters of a mile long.  The route took us up up up through a residential area where we got on a trail that provided amazing views of the bay.  You could see San Francisco, Angel Island, Alcatraz and Sausalito from up there (I wish I would have taken a picture.)  For the majority of the run I didn't see any other runners (which sometimes had me worried I was going the wrong way) until around mile 4ish I finally saw another guy and stayed behind him for the majority of the way back until he took off around mile 6.  Despite the big hill I had a lot of fun on this leg.

Final Stats: 6.6 miles/1:03:56 (9:42 avg)

It was finally time to meet up with the rest of the "Winos" as we headed over to pass the bracelet on to van #2.

Van #1 happy to be done with our first legs!
It was now time to enjoy our "off" time.  We made the 45 minute drive to Petaluma where we would meet up with van #2 again.  On the way we stopped off for food and COFFEE!! and enjoyed time relaxing on some shady grass (although I never was able to fall asleep).  They were also offering complementary massages so we were able to snag some of those.  It was nice to be able to lay out and stretch our legs after being cramped in the van.  I had my "stick" and was rolling my legs out like crazy. 

It was so fun to see the other vans at the exchanges.  Some people got really creative with costumes, names and decorations.  Some of the other teams had had magnets made with their team names and our van was slowing being "tagged" with the magnets of other teams asking for our vote for the various contests Ragnar holds.

Soon our time to relax had come to an end and we were on again.  These next 6-7 hours were probably some of my favorite times during the race.  Things just get interesting when it gets dark and people start getting delirious from lack of sleep.  :)

By the time my next leg started it was pitch black outside and I had 9.2 "very hard" miles ahead of me.  The leg started and ended in Santa Rosa.

Safety first!  While running at night each runner had to have a vest, headlamp, and tail light.  Actually, between the hours of 6:30 pm and 7:00 am anyone who got out of the van had to be wearing a vest.  One of my van mates also brought "knuckle lights" which ended up being amazing as they were easier to maneuver to illuminate the ground.

These 9.2 miles ended up being my absolute favorite of the entire relay.  The first 3.9 were along a fairly well traveled road and while the street lamps were few and far between there were a good amount of cars that helped keep the road well lit.  At mile 4 we turned off the "highway" and onto Guernville Road where there were a few stretches I got a little spooked as there were absolutely NOBODY around.  I was literally doing everything that my instincts were telling me not to do (run at night, alone, on a deserted road with lots of shrubs on the side of the road, etc).  Luckily, my van was awesome and stopped along the route about once a mile to ensure I did not become a Dateline story.

With about 2 miles to go I came back to civilization and told my van to just head to the exchange point and I would be just fine.  This is also when it started raining!  I love running in the rain and even though my legs were getting tired I had so much fun those last few miles.

Final Stats: 9.25 miles/1:24:14 (9:06 avg)

Our awesome driver had thought to get a hotel room since we were all done running by around 10:30 pm and wouldn't be back "on" until 4:00 am again.  We grabbed dinner and headed 30 minutes down the road to the hotel.  I was so excited to lay on a real bed and jump in a shower to rinse off.  I had been able to catch about two 30 minute naps in the van but with only 2.5 hours of sleep the night before I was exhausted. 

By the time we got to hotel, showered, crawled in bed and my alarm went off I had only gotten about 2 hours of sleep.  It was one of those "dead to the world" sleeps too that left me wondering where I was.  We were all moving a little slower than we had the day before and since I didn't properly stretch after my nine miler my quads were pretty angry with me.

As sooner as we were back "on" though the fun continued!  Despite the fact we were tired and sore, everyone was still very upbeat and positive.  We really had a great van.

The roads were very wet and the air was pretty humid.  Van #2 told us that it had pretty much rained on them all night.  Side note - we downloaded the app "GroupMe" so we could all keep in touch over text throughout the race.  It worked really well and I highly recommend it for any event or time you need to keep in contact with a big group of people and don't want to uses traditional text messages.  It was funny though when a message would come through since we would all get an alert and you would hear a bunch of "dings".

Runner 3 Jamie looking strong!  Poor girl had to wear the safety vest for every one of her legs since she was always running during the designated "night" hours.
One of our favorite signs.
Literally 23 hours and 59 minutes after I started my first leg, at 7:47 am Saturday morning, I headed out for my last leg which started in Napa and was supposed to be 4.9 "moderate" miles.  However, my quad was hurting very bad from not being able to stretch properly so one of the girls who had fairly low mileage for all her legs and wanted a few extra miles agreed to split my leg with me so I could still run and she could get some more miles.  Since this was the last leg and I wouldn't be running anymore this was allowed per the rules.

Keeping warm before our last leg.
The majority of this leg was on a path along the Napa River.  My legs felt heavy and never really loosened up and my only goal was to keep a steady pace.  I ended up making a few wrong turns as I think some of the signs got moved (at one point it said to make a right and to the right was an utilities shed) but was able to pass off the bracelet after getting in a solid 3 miles.

Final Stats: 3.05 miles/29:08 (9:33 avg)

Looking back I should have just pressed on for the last 1.9 miles but in the moment I thought my quad was going to rip in half.

YAY! Done!
Relay Total: 18.9 miles/2:57:18 (9:22 avg)

Just as I was getting back into the car it started to rain again - just missed getting to run in it again.

By 10:30 am Van #1 was done.  One of our runners was filling in for an injured runner in Van #2 so we headed to the proper exchange point and grabbed a team photo in the vineyards.

Van #1 DONE!
Team Winos in the Night
Rockin' awesome recovery fashions.

Then it was off to the finish to wait for Van #2 to be officially done.

We had about 4 hours to kill so we waited for another free massage that was heavenly.  They were only supposed to give you five minutes but my masseuse must have doubled that.  I was very tempted to offer her $50 bucks if she would just keep going for an hour.  My legs very much appreciated it.

Soon we got the text that van #2 was on their way so we headed over to the finish line so we could all cross together.

Unofficial team results: 200 miles/33:26:00 (10:01 avg) 

We all hung out together for about 20 minutes or so until Ashley's husband arrived to take us back home.  We said our goodbyes before I promptly passed out in the backseat.  In 48 hours I had had about 6 hours of sleep total.

Relays are long, tiring and a lot of work but they are also a true test of teamwork and physical and mental toughness.  This was a group of girls, all but one who I had never met before, and yet we cheered each other on, supported each other and got a long like we were lifelong friends.  We shared a lot of laughs and some good inside jokes.  I learned one girl had a suffered a lot of the same back and hip issues as me (this was a major first!) and learned about things she has done to manage the pain.  Someone had asked me before if I was worried about not knowing anyone and while I said "a little," I also said, "yeah, but they are runners - that is all we need - I know it will be fine."  

I had a great 48 hours running and getting to know a great group of women.  Congratulations Winos in the Night!  This definitely won't be my last relay.

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  1. I can't even imagine how good your bed must have felt after all that! What a way to get a long run in! I'm glad everything went smoothly, and hey, you get some great profile photo contenders (in a blanket on the bridge, or stretching against a port-a-potty!).

  2. Sounds like you had a great time!! I ran my first relay at Hood to Coast in August, and am definitely looking forward to doing another at some point. They are such a great time hanging out with friends and running. I like your team name too. :)

    1. I would LOVE to do Hood to Coast but I know it is so hard to get into - hopefully someday!

  3. Yay...sounds like SO much fun. I really want to do a relay. 2014's main goal!!! I quite like the sound of this one too actually. Well done on a great race - and how lovely to start with a bunch of strangers and end up with a bunch of friends! I really want some of those knuckle lights as well but rarely run in darkness so I can't really justify them ;)

    1. I thought this one was great - good time of year too. A lot of people who had done SoCal were saying it was so hot. If you need a team member next year you know who to call. :)

      The knuckle lights were awesome. I like them even more than a headlight. You can always justify safety. :)

  4. Great post Kristen! I'm so glad you were able to join our team. You fit right in! What a fun time we had, no matter how much sleep we didn't get. I need to get my butt moving and get my recap post up! I agree with you that this won't be my last relay either! :)

  5. Glad you had fun and it looks like you had great support! Sometimes I think sleep deprivation actually helps people make it through these types of events.


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