Thursday, April 25, 2013


So, after a ridiculously fun experience last year, Jim and I decided to run the SoCal Ragnar again this year. In case you missed it, Ragnar is a 12-person relay over 200 miles from Huntington Beach down to the San Diego Harbor. (I admit it, we runners are crazy: We pay $120 to run miles with no sleep and surround ourselves with sweaty, smelly friends, all for the "free" t-shirt and post-race snacks...and we call it fun! Twisted, I know.)
Our original plan was to wrangle a bunch of our former Biola cross-country teammates and make it into a reunion of sorts. But after a lot of initial interest, when push came to shove and it was time to collect the moolah, go figure, not everyone finds what I described above as unmissable fun. So we ended up with Jim, me, and Trevor (who lives here in Vista and runs with Jim every Thursday at 5am) (Yes, even in the cold, dark winter. They're super crazy!). That left 9 more spots, which we somehow filled with other crazies like us. A few from church, a few friends of friends, etc...(BTW, several from our team from last year stepped up the craziness and formed their own Ultra team--6 people running the same distance instead of 12! We graciously declined on that foolishness ;)).

Along with finding 12 crazy runners, we also had to find 3 volunteers to help at the race and 2 drivers to drive us around between legs. All in all, that's a lot of crazy (and perhaps somewhat naive/not-fully-informed-of-the-craziness-of-it-all) people...Which is a huge part of what makes this whole experience so fun. It was such a bonding experience, and I feel like not only did we have fun but we also came away with deeper friendships. And I am especially grateful that I got to do it with Jim. Jim is leagues ahead of me in running--or anything athletic or competitive for that matter!--but it was so great to be able to work together as teammates. In fact, we had such a great time, that we are contemplating maybe even doing another Ragnar (like the Las Vegas one perhaps?) later this year...
Jim and I ended up in Van 1, along with George and Jake (from our small group, their wives are my good friends Kristen and Sarah, and their kids are Jadon's good friends Molly and Andrew), Matt (George's acquaintance from the Marines who we all barely met on Friday morning before the race), and Jeff (a former student Jim helped to coach at El Camino High School like 6 years ago). We also had Jake's wife Sarah as our driver for legs 1 and 2, which was really nice, because that meant I got to hang out with one of my best friends all day--without our kids! For leg 3, Jim's dad joined us as driver (he was in town for a conference...and Sarah needed to get home to her kiddos).

("The difference between us and you: We make this look good!") 
(Our team name was "The Good Looking Team." Obviously, we meant it as a joke, but the announcer at the start line said, "Well, with a name like that, you guys better put up or shut up!" Little did we know what was to come...)
Van 2 was Trevor, Scott (the brother of our Biola teammate Steve who couldn't make it out from DC for the race), Brittany (friend from church who didn't get to run Ragnar last year but really wanted to), Molly (friend of Brittany), Lauren (friend of friend), and Jerame (last minute sub in and friend of Lauren). 

It is so amazing--and cool!--how running can bring perfect strangers together and by the end we felt like best buds.

Approximately 650 teams started Ragnar SoCal. To spread things out, 20-30 teams start every 15-30 minutes from 5am to 2pm on Friday. We had a 9am start time...
Matt led us out like a champ, coming through the checkpoint in 2nd for our heat...
He passed off to Jim, who proceeded to pass 6 runners from the previous heat (called "roadkill") before passing off to Jeff, who passed like 10 more before passing of to Jake, who passed some more before passing off to me...who passed 4 (woohoo!) before passing off to George, who passed like 10-20 more.
(This is Jim before his first leg. Notice his shirt: "When you see me, yell, 'Go Jim, Go Jim!'")

At that point we passed off to Van 2 at Yorba Linda Regional Park around noon, and it was starting to get broiling hot!!! The park looks cool and refreshing, but the moment you stepped out from the shade, you were being cooked alive. It was fun to see 2 of our volunteers there, Kristen (George's wife) and one of our collective favorite babysitters, Allison, who graduated from our youth ministry (not sure how she got suckered into this...except that Jim is very persuasive, and she is very awesome!). They got stuck making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for like 5 hours, lucky them.

After hanging out with them for awhile, we headed down the road toward our next big exchange and stopped at Jake's uncle's house at Lake Elsinore. The thermometer read 90 in the shade, but it was so pleasant eating Subway on his deck overlooking a little inlet...much better than running in the scorching heat like our teammates!
Oh yeah, that's also where we got tattoo'd!
We were expecting to be there for awhile as the heat slowed them down, but based on their updates we discovered they only slowed down 10 minutes off of their projected pace over their 40 or so miles...and they had tracked down A TON more roadkill (Scott alone passed 60 people on his leg...and then literally puked his guts out. Crazy runners.)
So before we knew it, we were up and running again, from Lake Elsinore down the 15 to the Fallbrook area just east of our house.
That second leg was my favorite. Whereas my other 2 legs were each half uphill, this one was 7.8 miles of continuous gradual decline. Running that at 11pm was a sweet, surreal experience!
As we continued to pass more and more people (and not BE passed by anyone), Jim's competitive juices started flowing, and we started doing some math. We estimated that maybe 250 teams had started ahead of us, and we had already passed about 150-200 runners, and the crowd was definitely starting to thin at each exchange, Jim started asking the volunteers how many teams had passed by so far. By 10pm, there were 55 teams in front of us...and we kept picking more off. The guys especially were going crazy!
After finishing our second legs, we stopped by our house to get a quick shower and an hour or two of sleep. But then at 1:05 am, Jim got the call that Van 2's last runner had just started their leg and we needed to get to Carlsbad fast. We had assumed they might slow down a little bit, since they had pushed so hard through the heat...but no! They had picked up the pace...and passed a ton more runners! So we all jumped into action (as much as half-asleep tired bodies can "jump") (BTW, try waking up an exhausted Marine who's come back from's a wee bit scary, let me say!), and we dropped Matt off at the exchange mere seconds before Scott came in. 
The third leg is notoriously the most difficult (my words were carefully chosen there--you wouldn't believe how many teams embraced awkward slogans about how hard "it" is...), since your body is going into shutdown mode from exhaustion, but by the time we finished just as the sun was rising on the coast, we were in tenth in, we had passed everyone but 10 teams who had started up to 4 hours ahead of us--and NO ONE had passed us! I'm not that competitive, and even I was excited. No pressure on Van 2 or anything, but we were gunning for the front!
So while they held up their pace, we celebrated with free Starbucks on the cliffs, 
a free sunrise massage,
and an indulgent breakfast at Denny's before making our way to the Harbor finish line. That's probably the best part of being in Van 1: getting to finish early and eat anything you want and just relax as you wait for the other team.
And they did not make us wait long. At 11:02 am, we joined Scott in crossing the finish line, a mere 26 hours after starting this grueling race, and only 3 teams crossing that line before us. It was SO exhilarating!
(When all was said and done, we found out that our finishing time put us in 2nd place for our division, which was actually MEN'S Open since we didn't have enough females to be counted as a mixed team...and 13th place overall out of 650 teams!)
Of course, while we're all celebrating and bragging to ourselves about how awesome we are, we suddenly realized we had no idea where Scott had gone...until we found him practically passed out in the First Aid tent.
That was what I loved about our team this year. We aren't a bunch of running elites. Shoot, for that matter, half of our team hasn't even been running for very long. Lauren has had a foot injury and hadn't run at all for the previous 5 weeks. Jake started running last year and his leg broke mysteriously on mile 22 of his first marathon. Matt and George are Marines who were deployed last year. Bottom's not like we really, truly trained for this. We're just a little bit crazy enough to find enjoyment in running...and even more enjoyment in competing.
And the craziest part...
I think most of us are crazy enough to do it again!

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