I’m telling myself that the statute of limitations on writing race recaps is two months from the race date, or before your next race, whichever comes sooner (can you tell I was a lawyer in a former life?) My next race — the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon — is coming up this Saturday, so it’s definitely time to look back on the surreal experience of Ragnar Napa Valley.
My husband Mike has always said that the best way to make friends is to share an adventure with people. The type of experience doesn’t matter so much; it could be a canoe trip, a camping excursion, or, say, a 200-mile overnight running relay from San Francisco to Calistoga. True to his word, over the course of 36 hours at Ragnar Napa Valley, I went from knowing just one of 14 people on the Ragnaritas team to intimately bonding with a great group of women!
I joined my college roommate and sorority sister Renée in Van 2. Six runners and one intrepid van driver!
Van 2 had the luxury of sleeping in at the hotel until a decent hour, whereas Van 1 — six more runners and another wonderful driver — needed to be at the starting line in San Francisco before dawn (which I’d like to think was partially made up for by the fact that runner number 2, Annette, got to run over the Golden Gate Bridge in the early morning fog).
For each set of six race legs the Ragnaritas all sported inexpensive matching tank tops from Old Navy in either gray, raspberry or a perfect Ragnar orange:
I’d say a good 75% of the fun of Ragnar is getting dressed up in costume and getting into the spirit of the event with your teammates (the other 25% being running and having the privilege of covering more miles than you could ever cover on on your own). Part of what I love about running is that it is an individual sport that lets you challenge yourself no matter your age or ability. The beauty of a Ragnar relay, though, is that for a couple of magical days it turns running into a team sport that allows you to share the experience with a wonderful group of like-minded
crazy fun people.
Over the shared hours in close quarters in the van (or SUV as the case may be), you develop inside jokes:
You count and mark your “kills” (other runners that you manage to pass on your legs, all the while neglecting to count the number of people who passed you):
Our fearless team captain Shana (a super-speedy marathon runner who contributed a lot of those kills on some of the hottest legs of the race, no less), diplomatically assigned the race legs to each of the 12 runners. Some people ran 12.3 miles total while others ran a whopping 26.3 over the 33 hours we were on the course. I had just had a few weeks to recover from the Santa Rosa Marathon and was very happy with my 17.2 miles total as runner number 9. My first leg was 4.4 moderate (hilly but not killer) miles through absolutely gorgeous sequoia trees and cattle farms! It was hot in the mid-day but the trees provided some shade and they smelled so lovely!
After van 2 finished all of our first legs we got to camp out for a few hours of much-needed rest in a park:
My second leg was 3.4 “easy” miles through Santa Rosa in the wee hours of the night. It reminded me of the pre-dawn start to the marathon I’d run on those streets just days before, except this time I ran past a cemetery of all places, at 2 or 3 a.m. (who can remember now — it’s all a bit of a sleep-deprived blur). We got an hour or two of sleep back at the hotel after the second round of legs and before we knew it, it was time to head back out for the last round.
My third leg consisted of 9.4 “very hard” miles along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley on the way to Yountville. In spite of the blazing heat of the day on Saturday, I loved it because it re-traced where my husband and I had driven on our 20th wedding anniversary trip in July. My van mates captured this picture of me running next to one of the many wineries along the route:
I was so happy to finish that third and last leg:
Before I knew it, we were all celebrating at the finish line party with a few well-deserved beers and a team photo:
Somehow our incredible team of two drivers plus 11 masters women (age 40 and over) and one “young” lady managed to come in sixth out of 44 women’s open teams in an overall time of 33 hours, 14 minutes, 28 seconds. The beauty of it though was that it wasn’t about the finish time, it was about the experience. For two days we got to go off the grid and enter a Ragnar relay world where the only things that mattered were your teammates, running, food and sleep. I’m glad I had the opportunity to join the Ragnaritas to run Ragnar Napa Valley 2014.
Have you ever run a relay race? What was your experience like?