So after Thomas took off, Van #2 (Dean, Tay, Bonnie, Cat, and Colleen and I) headed back to our starting line hotel to try to sleep for another couple of hours. Because Van #1 was out running, it was just Bonnie and I in our room. I went back to sleep but Bonnie stayed up and just did stuff around the hotel room. We got up and checked out of the hotel and met out in the parking lot. We spent about 30 minutes decorating our van windows with the paint pens we bought at Party City. They didn’t work very well but we tried.
John had magnets with our team logo and names printed on them so we could “tag” other Ragnar vans. We had hundreds of them. I kept forgetting about doing that but Colleen and Tay were all over it – and they had a good time sneaking up on vans and leaving our “calling card”. Some teams just used paint pens and wrote on our vans. It was pretty funny.
After getting the vans ready to go, we decided to get some breakfast before heading to the first major exchange – where we would take over from Van #1 and start our running.
It was here that I made a serious navigational error. Actually, I was navigating just fine, but I was navigating to the wrong place. Somehow when I had looked at the spreadsheet listing where we were to meet, I had skipped a line and had jumped ahead to the next exchange. I must have looked at it too quickly then just had that location in my head as the place we were going without ever double-checking it. So, we drove towards Dana Point along the PCH and the ocean. It was a beautiful drive! When we were about 10 minutes away, I was looking at some pictures on the Ragnar SoCal Facebook page and noticed many pictures near the Anaheim Angels baseball stadium – which is very inland. I was wondering how they were going to get from there to Dana Point so quickly…and then I screamed….double-checked the spreadsheet, and realized my mistake. Yikes. We were able to turn around quickly and start heading north and inland. I was totally panicking but after about 10 minutes (including getting stuck in a big traffic mess in a mountain pass due to an accident) we were able to get moving along pretty quickly (there may have been some serious tire rubber left on our rental minivan along the way). We arrived at the exchange finally – a little flustered – but still with time to check in, attend the mandatory safety briefing, get our race bibs, t-shirts, and other swag. We headed over to the chutes – the areas where the exchanges take place and got ready to cheer Dean on. We found our Van #1 teammates waiting to ‘recover’ Paige from her leg too.
After Dean took off, we followed other Van #2’s (Van #1’s and Van #2’s are distinguished by different Ragnar issues stickers on the front and rear windows). Navigating runner trails vs. van trails proved to be more difficult that we had anticipated and it took several of us watching both maps in the Ragnar book (the RagMag) and Google maps on our phones to keep from getting lost. We parked about halfway and gave Dean some water. Then we went to the next exchange and got Tay ready to get the hand-off from Dean. We met Tay about halfway as well – her knees were hurting her a bit so we fetched some Motrin from the van for her – and moved on to my first exchange. I had my longest leg at the beginning – 5.2 miles. I wasn’t too worried because I knew that it was going to be mostly downhill, but I was anxious to get started! Perhaps you have heard about the SELF magazine tutu story and the way that blew up, so I thought I’d wear a neon pink tutu for my first leg – totally out of my comfort zone but, then again, all of this was out of my comfort zone!
The run started out great. It had warmed up considerably but it was still very comfortable. One thing I had not realized about this Ragnar race was that the streets aren’t blocked off AT ALL. For some reason, I thought they would have a course like most races have – where cops are directing traffic, lights are stopped for us, cars are not in our way, etc. Nope. This is pretty much just like running in your local neighborhood. We had to stop for all lights at the crosswalks and watch for cars constantly. So, I was a bit frustrated when I would get a good run going and have to stop – ELEVEN times in 5.2 miles. I quickly realized that my race pace was completely out of my control.
Ragnar places a sign when you have “one more mile” left on our run. John encouraged us to stop and take a “selfie” at these markers … so I did.
My run was tough and I have been struggling with running for quite some time now. I don’t know what happened after the half marathon but it is so hard for me to string the miles together. But, I pushed on when I could – having the stop lights was probably a good break. I was fortunate that my miles were mostly downhill – but as good as that sounds, it uses a different set of leg muscles that I had not developed yet so my legs sort of yearned to be on level ground … even uphill felt pretty good after a while!
I handed off to Bonnie and then she handed off to Cat. Cat had a pretty short run and we hit more traffic trying to get to the exchange. We started to realize that we might not make it in time so we opened up the van door and Colleen jumped out, and I followed behind with the Ragnar issued orange safety flags that we are supposed to carry when escorting a runner or crossing traffic. We ran down to the light, crossed over to the park, and went over to the chute where the exchanges take place while Dean tried to get into the lot with the van to park. It was a good thing that we did that because we only had a few minutes before Cat showed up to hand off. By the time, Cat and I walked out of the chute area, Dean and the van were entering the parking lot. Colleen had a really tough run and we wanted to get out at the halfway point to take her some water. I was navigating again (which is a mistake) and picked the halfway point on the map. Unfortunately, I thought she had a 9.5 mile run instead of a 7.5 which put the midpoint sooner in time and, basically, we were there but she had already gone past us – she is super fast! So we wasted a lot of time waiting for her and then got a late start heading towards the major exchange at Doheny Beach in Dana Point. It was Friday evening and traffic was very heavy, compounded with hundreds of Ragnar vans trying to get into and out of the parking lots (Van 2’s entering and Van 1’s trying to leave). We called Van 1 and told them we were having trouble getting there and so they recovered Colleen from the exchange and told us to stay out of the parking lot. We felt badly that, again, we were not there to support Colleen! We waited at a parking lot for about 30 minutes for Van 1 to get out of there and meet up with us down the road. Unfortunately, about this time, Bonnie started feeling very sick with stomach issues and Dean was having headache issues as well.
We headed to Oceanside to check into our “crash pad” hotel and to get some dinner. Bonnie and Dean stayed behind to rest and take some medicine and we went to Carrows for dinner – HUGE mistake. They were severely understaffed and generally incompetent and our “quick” dinner took hours. We were so hungry, tired, and cranky. We finally made it back to the hotel room and, by this time, only had one hour to sleep! I was able to fall asleep almost immediately, fortunately. I decided to wait on taking a shower until my 2nd leg was over with – sleep seemed like a higher priority!
We woke up at 11pm and headed to the major exchange again. It was cold and dark and
we took the blankets from the van to snuggle in while we waited. At this point we were all required to have our reflective vests on any time we were out of the van for safety reasons. With all the chaos of vans and runners, this is actually a pretty good idea. It was fun to catch up with the folks from Van #1 and they were looking forward to finally heading to the hotel to get some showers and rest (they had not been back to a hotel yet and we had been back twice!). And, so we start our second legs of the race…