Ragnar Napa Valley Wrap-Up

Team “Now Go Run” – Ninon, Heather, Stephanie, Bill, Keli, Andie, Sarah, John, Kevin, Kerri, Amy and Barbara

This is team “Now Go Run”, or  simply “316” at the finish line of the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley after 35 hours of racing and almost 200 miles.

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-ish mile relay race which involves teams of 6, 8 or 12.  We had a team of 12 split into two groups, Van 1 and Van 2.  Although we drove SUV’s, not vans.  But that’s not important.

Van 1 consisted of Andie, John, Kevin, Kerri, Ninon and Sarah.  Van 2 was myself, Barbara, Heather, Amy, Stephanie and Bill.  Van 1 started us off at 5:30am in San Francisco with Andie the first runner out of the gate.  After each runner completed their first “leg” they met our Van at the College of Marin where we took over for our 6 legs.   From 5:30am on Friday until 3:15pm on Saturday we’d swap back and forth, making our way to the finish line in Calistoga.

Each runner is assigned specific legs of varying distances.  The total distances for the legs ranged from 13 miles to 27 miles.  Some legs were short at 3 miles and the longest leg was 12.8.  The beauty of the Ragnar Relay series is that you can have runners of any ability on the team.  As long as you can run 3 miles you will be fine.  You just have to do it a few more times.  And then crawl into a van with 5 other sweaty tired runners and drive to the next point.  Therein lies the fun!

Shortly after my first Ragnar Relay race earlier this year I decided that doing the Napa Valley run in October would be fun.  I trolled along the website and tried to see if there were teams I could join.  Then I realized I knew a lot of people who were runners and wouldn’t it be fun to put together a team of 6 and we could join another team of 6.  So I went where all mid-to-late 40 year-olds go when they need to find something or someone.  Facebook.

I posted that I was looking to form a 6-pack for the upcoming relay and needed 5 other like-minded (read:  crazy) runners for my team.  The only caveat was that they didn’t expect to win and that they could run.  I thought I would have a hard time finding enough runners to fill 6 spots.  Lo and behold I had 12 ready to roll and a few on a waiting list within a week.

So we trained, planned and I got a lot of the logistics sorted out.  Who was running when, how far and what van they would be in.  When planning something like this you start big-picture then focus on the minute details.  Luckily I picked the brains of previous Ragnarians (yes, that’s what they are called) and got some great info.

We had one meeting to go over the timing and planning and then we didn’t see each other as a group until race day.

If you have ever played team sports you will have a clear understanding of what being in a Ragnar van is like.  You cheer for your runner, you laugh with your van-mates, you make light of blisters, sore feet and bodily functions.  Potty talk, bad language and inappropriate comments become commonplace.

But we all had one goal, get the runner to the next spot and pass off the slap bracelet.  The official “baton” of the relay.

Sure, things went awry.  In my overly, organized fashion and based on the general info from other runners I added in a handicap for all runners who had hard or very hard legs, adding 30 to 60 seconds to their average pace.  For the first and actually second legs we didn’t use that and ended up ahead of schedule.  In a normal race that wouldn’t be a problem, but in our race we are trying to time naps, travel time and parking with the estimated time that a runner will come in.  Being ahead of schedule throws everyone off, which lead to frantic texts at various times during the race.

Overall, I think everyone ran well and enjoyed their legs.   Two of us made wrong turns, adding distance and time to our runs.  I missed a totally obvious left turn onto Hwy 12, causing me to run into a condo complex, near a liquor store (at 12:30 am, I might add).  Duh.  I had ONE turn on the entire 8.5 mile run and I missed it.  A runner from Van 1 (we’ll just call him Magellan) made a wrong turn, ironically in the same general area he had made a wrong turn on a training run.  Luckily, the rest of the team followed their routes without a problem.  Even through a sketchy park at night.

The thing that sets this apart from any other run is that you are doing multiple legs on hardly any sleep.  I mean really no sleep.   Some of us slept 5 hours and some of us eked out maybe 3.  And that’s in a 40 hour period.  So you see how things can get wacky and people turn goofy after a while.

And that is the beauty of the Ragnar Relay series.  You are running on no sleep, are in a van with people you may or may not know very well and are expected to roll up, roll out and hit the ground running.  Because you’re on a team and each person is counting on you to get out and run.

We were lucky, no one had any major injuries and while we may have finished the race creaky, limping, tired and sore, we came out of it unscathed.  At least physically!

So based on our team satisfaction survey I think we scored a 3 or maybe 4 out of 5, with most,  if not all of our runners wanting to come back next year.  So we’ll see if “316” can pull out another Ragnar Napa Valley.

Now go run!

Keli 🙂








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