Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ragnar Southern California Relay

My friend BJ asked me if wanted to run the Ragnar SoCal this year. I am well aware of the Northwest Passage Ragnar. It sounded like a pretty cool idea to travel south to hang out with BJ and Erica, and try out an overnight van relay in a different locale. Yes came easy.

Our team name was "My Third Leg Is Harder Than Yours." “Innuennndo!” said one friendly volunteer, in his mad hatter hat, as he waved us into the safety talk. Became one of the weekend jokes. Names like this are pretty common at these events, as are big white vans with painted windows, drive-by silly string shootings, and guys in tutus.

Van 2:  BJ, Jeff, Matt, Matty, Ann and Me. Great group. Everyone was there for the fun, but the fact was, we had a pretty fast group. Everyone ran tough when their time came. I was the slowest of the bunch, due to age, injuries, and bad training, but I gave it my best with each leg, and managed to pass a few along the way. When everyone else is bringing it, you have to show respect with your own effort.

The Ragnar Relay Series is growing fast.  There are now 15 of these events around the country, when a few years ago it was just Utah's Wasatch, Washington's NW Passage, and maybe a couple others.  The Southern California edition consists of 36 legs, with usually 12 runners in two vans taking turns at 3 legs each, while traveling from Huntington Beach in Orange County to Coronado Island in San Diego.  Total distance is about 203 miles, and it took our team a little more than 30 hours.

We actually did ok, finishing 86th or so, out of almost 600 teams.  Not sure what happened there. Maybe we took the no beer in the van rule too seriously. The SoCal turnout set a record, with over 6000 participants. And they came in all shapes, sizes, and looks, wearing thongs, glowsticks, team slogans, and smiles, usually.

But the real story at Ragnar SoCal this year was the hot hot HEAT.  The SoCal course starts at the beach, but quickly heads inland, into the desert sun, through places like Anaheim, Corona, and Temecula. Corona just sounds hot, and it was. On the first day, temps were typically over 90, and reaching effectively to around 105.

A tough situation, being a runner in that heat, feeling the team pressure, and yet having to deal safely and effectively with the physical challenge ahead.  Worried me a bit, as I sat in the van and watched each of our runners go.  I was pretty awed by their efforts.  BJ is always tough, and trains in the sun, so not too surprised there. But Jeff ran up hill at a 10% grade for miles, in 95 degree heat. I felt guilty watching, sipping my Gatorade. Matt might've had it the hottest, needing to make the most of every stoplight. Matty ran like he was on fire, and Ann showed increased determination with every kill. A "kill" is when you pass someone, you know--Ann had 19 on her last leg.

Running the last leg for our van on Day 1, I lucked out, with *just* an 85 degree temp, which I managed with a frozen bottle of water to cool me off during the run. I absolutely melt in the heat. It's really ugly. And yet occasionally I find myself in these situations. Most of the bottle I doused on my head and shoulders, sending a physical tremble each time, but it worked. I ran with a big floppy hat I got in Nepal. I take heat seriously, and I'll happily look like a dork if it keeps me cool and burn free.

Night came.  We grabbed some zzz's on some golf course before our second set of legs.  Not too restful.  Everyone’s night legs went fast.  Probably my favorite leg.  I’ve always liked running at night.  My leg was on the El Camino Real, somewhere outside San Diego.

Our final legs were along the San Diego coastline mostly. Everyone kept running strong, despite the lack of sleep. My last leg was hindered by an Achilles strain, and then I had to climb a fence because of a wrong turn, which someone should've caught on video, because it was special. The finish came, with a happy team ending, the Pacific Ocean, and the obligatory beer garden.

Great experience! We had good times in the van, and just following our runners.  I wish I could’ve seen more of Van 1, but it wasn’t to be, as they ran when we rested. Got to hang with friend Will briefly at each exchange. And I got to hear a lot of Gotye and Katy Perry on the radio, and see a whole lot of Southern California with the best of peeps. I'm already looking around at other Ragnars around the country. Never know.

On Sunday, BJ and I went to the Padres-Phillies game, in some amazing seats, ten rows behind home plate. Padres won, 6-1. Great ballpark. A lazy afternoon in good seats at a ballpark is hard to beat.

Thank you BJ! Thank you Team Third Leg Is Harder!  Good times, as always! 


Charles Sunderlage said...

Awesome recap. After a handful of times through the Northwest Passage, I'm pretty sure I'm heading to Vegas to try their version in November!

Scotty said...

Hey Charlie! Thanks! Vegas would be awesome. I'm looking around--wouldn't be surprised if I give NW Passage a go. 5/15 for regular deadline.