Remember when I was in a running rut following my half marathon in January? Times have changed. It’s amazing what a few weeks of rest and a new training goal can do for you. After running my second Ragnar Relay with Team Nuun over the weekend, I’m feeling ready to take on training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon and New York City Marathon in the coming months. But first, I’ll recap Ragnar SoCal, where Team Nuun came in at the top of our category.
After an early flight to San Diego last Thursday morning, I met up with Team Nuun at the hotel. This was the first time all 12 of us met, as we were flying in from New York, Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver, etc. The group decorated our two vans and relaxed before heading to dinner at Stone Brewery.
Thankfully, we were able to sleep in the next morning before driving to Huntington Beach for our 1pm start time. Ragnar Relays have a staggered start, so teams of all paces will finish around the same time. Our team started with the second to last group. As a moderate-paced runner, I was initially nervous about racing with a fast team. However, each member focused on his or her individual effort. From the start, the race was about having fun.
Leg 1 — Costa Mesa, CA — 4.5 miles — I was Runner 2 in Van 1. My first (and longest) leg started at 1:20pm. After seeing Runner 1 (Stef) off at the starting line, Van 1 drove to the first exchange. Our group only had 5-6 teams in it, and most of the runners with my leg were faster than I am. After the hand off, I ran the majority of the leg without seeing any other runners. That was strange. I felt like a local going for a training run in the hot sun. While Ragnar places signage at each turn, I occasionally questioned whether I was still on course. At one point, I even passed a sign by about .2 miles before a spectator came after me. Despite the isolation, I ran well. I had to stop at a few intersections in a residential area, which allowed me to push myself on the stretches between them. I stopped my watch at each intersection to track my pace. In the photo above, I’m entering the next exchange to hand off to JT. The first 6 legs flew by before Van 1 and Van 2 met up at the first major exchange. We ate In-N-Out (risky, I know) and cleaned up before our second legs.
Leg 2 — Oceanside, CA — 2.8 miles — My second leg, which started at 11:15pm, was my favorite. It was obviously dark by that time, so runners were required to wear night gear. Nuun provided a blinking vest for each runner. I also wore a Vivid Headlamp, which was gifted by Fitletic. I wore a hat with a built-in light during my first Ragnar, so I was unsure how a traditional headlamp would feel. Fortunately, it adjusted well and stayed in place on my fastest leg. The Vivid Headlamp is waterproof, runs on AAA batteries, and has a variety of light settings. I highly recommend it for Ragnar runners or those who train in the dark. Check my Instagram for a giveaway! My leg started on a major road but split onto the cart path of a golf course. My parents live on a golf course in South Carolina, so the route felt strangely familiar. It was pitch black during my run, so I used the headlamp to carefully light my way. By this point, Team Nuun was catching up to groups ahead of us. I passed four runners on this leg and was proud of my 8:30 pace. After Van 1 finished our second legs, we napped for about two hours at the next major exchange.
Leg 3 — Encinitas, CA — 2.9 miles — Stef really crushed her final leg, so we almost missed her at the exchange. It was chilly at 6:30am, so I had to quickly pull off my sweatpants and jacket before heading off on my final leg. I didn’t even have time to start my watch. First, I climbed two sets of stairs and had a beautiful view of the ocean. At this point, there were dozens of runners around me. The group ran down a hill and onto a major road, where I focused on passing one runner at a time. Many people were run/walking the stretch on the major road. I felt strong but wished I had worn shorter sleeves. California temperatures drastically change depending on time of day and proximity to the water. With one mile left, I decided to really push my pace. I turned right off the major road, ran down a hill, and met JT and the team at the beach. This was my candid reaction. I had passed 16 people total during that leg. Team Nuun continued to pass large groups (30+ on some longer legs) as the race continued. After we passed the snap bracelet to Van 2 for the final time, we ate a giant brunch and headed to the finish line.
Van 1 had about two hours to relax at the finish line before our final runner arrived. We drank Nuun, ate pizza, and caught up with non-Team Nuun friends. When Runner 12 (Suzanne) was close, we met her .25 mile before the finish line and ran in together. The photo below was taken moments after our 26-hour finish. As I mentioned above, we focused on running for fun over racing to win. However, we ended up racing a fast time. As it turns out, we may have won the Mixed Open category. I will probably never win my category as an individual runner, but it was sweet to win it with a group of incredible athletes.
After the race, Team Nuun drove back to the hotel, took much-needed showers, and ordered more pizza for dinner. We sat near an outdoor fire and shared our favorite memories from the race. It’s incredible how close you feel to a group of people after spending 26 hours in a van with them. I hope that I can run another Ragnar Relay with Nuun in the future.
I caught an early flight in San Diego on Sunday morning and was back in New York in time to prepare for this week. I’m already starting a new training schedule and will be sharing my goals for Brooklyn soon. Until then, I’m grateful to have another destination race in the books.
Photos via Ragnar Relay