Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ragnar Napa Valley: Part 1

Ragnar Napa Valley
September 19 - 20, 2014
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

It's hard to believe that Ragnar ended almost two weeks ago - last week was a little bit of a blur, but I'm finally sitting down to blab for awhile about the latest epic running adventure... Ragnar Napa Valley. After completing So Cal in April, we knew we wanted to do Napa for the double-bling, the Gold Rush medal. Because, I mean, look at that thing!

I digress. After flying up to the Bay on Wednesday  night, Heather and I spent Thursday morning running from Target to Costco to Dick's to Fresh & Easy to get our last minute supplies together. Lord knows we've done this before, and after all the leftovers from So Cal, we definitely cut back on the snackage that we bought for Napa - and we still had plenty left! Thursday afternoon was also arts and crafts time, because you know the bells had to make a comeback, in addition to some really epic poster-making by yours truly.

Thursday afternoon began the onslaught of flights, delays, arrivals, BART stations, pick ups, and the shenanigans began.

People always ask how I convinced a bunch of crazies to do this, so I always think it's super fun to talk about our teams come together. For this trip, 6 of the 12 that did So Cal were back, with some additions:

- Heather, Tina, Trista and I are sorority sisters
- Jill, Kim and Vanessa did So Cal with Trista, Heather, and I
- Jill brought along Kate
- Kim brought along Tricia
- Erica brought along Aileen
- Tina brought along Erica (who I also know)
- Tina and Erica brought along Kristin (who I've met a handful of times)
- Tina, Erica, Kristin, Jill, Kate, and I are all alumnae of NAU (Go Jacks!)

So fun right? This time around we had a lot more actual connections, whereas So Cal was a little bit more jumbled and from all over the place.

When everyone got to town Thursday night, we had dinner, van decorating time and our team meeting (because that's how Heather and I roll) to ensure van set ups, vests, blinkies, and headlamps were all in order. We intended for a Mean Girls movie night, but everyone was well past exhausted at that point, and with a 2:30 am wake-up call, why stay up later that necessary, amiright?

Our start time was 5 am at Golden Gate Park, about 45 minutes from Heather's. Each van made a stop to pick up a rider or two so we could all re-assemble and get organized at the park before the start. Up at 2:30 am, on the road at 3:05 am, and to the park just about 4 am, in time to get settled, grab posters and cowbells and get Van 1 into the safety briefing before we could goof around at the start line.

Start line! Let's go Napa Valley!

Despite being in Van 2 for DC, I still had the set up of So Cal (Van 1) in my head, so being back in Van 2 was a little disorienting, realizing that I don't actually start the race right away, but get to go start with some downtime. How very odd!

After seeing Aileen off at the start, Van 2 headed up across the Golden Gate towards our first major exchange and to stop for breakfast. We found our way to an IHOP, only to discover it didn't open until 7 am (it was barely 6 at this point). So we slept for an hour in the van, got out of the van at 7:05, only to see another Van 2 and random other patrons waiting for the doors to open. Apparently IHOP only schedules one cook and one waitress on a Friday morning, so we sat for 20 minutes without even being seated. I was worried about time, the exchange, safety briefings, and the like, so we ordered our food to go and still left IHOP at 8 am. Geezo.

Van 2! Tina, Kristin, Kate, Jill, Kim and me.
Finally at the exchange, only to discover not only were we there with enough time, but also plenty early enough that not all the vendors were set up yet, and we went through safety briefing #2 of the day - so, hindsight, plenty early to get through it all! Oh well.

We played at the Sierra Nevada tent, Jill and I were the first two KT customers of the day, and hung out in the Ragnar store. Tagged some vans, made some new friends, and got ready to send Tina off as runner 7 for her first leg...

I was runner 10, so despite sending Tina off, I still had a little ways to wait. And wait... it was so hard waiting!

Did you run Ragnar Napa, this year or ever? 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Report: St. Paul Harvest Festival 5K

St. Paul Harvest Festival 5K
Chino Hills, CA | September 27, 2014

It was only because my mom and I happened to drive up to Trader Joe's, right by St. Paul's, that I even saw that this 5K was happening. I knew it'd run a course similar to what I was eye-balling for the 5K I'm planning, so I wanted to see for myself what it was and how it actually wove its way through the community around the church. The Harvest Festival comes annually, right around my birthday, but little did I know that there is a 5K attached to it on the Saturday morning of the carnival! Count me in.
Empty carnivals are sort of eerie first thing in the morning.
I signed up Thursday night when we got home for a whopping $30 (yay local races!), and geared myself up for an early alarm on Saturday morning. Despite the race not starting until 7:30 am, they asked you be there at 6:30 - I was there, checked in, and was back at my car by 6:45 to sit, finish eating my peanut butter toast, and relax for a few before making my way back to the start.

I was texting Sandy before the race, and boldly stated that I was gunning for a PR (since last December), and that because medals were only given to age group winners, I told her I wanted to leave with a medal. Go big or go home, right? Sandy told me to stay strong and push it until it hurt. (Spoiler: I did)

 The race was based off clock time - no mats at start or finish - so I started in the middle-front of the pack - beind all the high school kids in their cross country gear, but in front of enough gung-ho kids that I wouldn't run them over once we were on the road. At least I'm aware of my surroundings, right?
Ready to go. Let's do this!
The course isn't scenic, but is flat, with one nice downhill and one slight uphill going through Boys' Republic. I was chugging along well, tailing a guy in an LA Marathon shirt and thought I'd at least hang on to him as my bunny for as long as I could muster. First mile 7:57. Well, shit, this is not going to go well later! I met a lady just about here who asked if that was really mile 1, and what time did I have on my watch, because she was aiming for a 24-minute race (off her 26:30ish PR too). I told her we could stick together and make it happen. She left me later.

The Boys' Republic roads hits their fire road entrance, comes out on the main city streets again where they have us cross into a flat neighborhood and make a loop around the housing track, and back eventually across the street towards the school. Mile 2: 8:05. Huh, okay... I guess I can push this pretty well when I really want to! 

Into Mile 3, I definitely felt the first two miles catch up with me, but heck, at this point, it's just a mile to go. Go get this PR, because even if I walked the last mile, I could take 12 minutes and still have a decent PR. For the longest time, I've wanted to break my 26-minute barrier, and today just might be the day. My legs were toast at 2.5, and I sludged along, trying to keep quick steps but already feeling the burn. Mile 3: 8:30something. Ok, .10 left. Get this. 6:34 pace for the last sprint and a final time of

Holy crap. That burns. But holy crap, that's 1:02 off my previous PR and a damn good race for me. I don't think I've ever felt that tired after a 5K, which also tells me I was doing it right. Woo! I was desperately trying to get to IERC before they left for their group runs, so I stalked the placing boards as they plowed through results.

Bam. Second in age group, and she let me walk away with my medal since I couldn't hang around for the awards ceremony. Thank you, St Paul, for a great little race and a sweet finish to boot!

Did you race this weekend? How'd you do?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Things Thursday

I've been uploading and looking through Ragnar photos all evening... and am already feeling totally nostalgic and wondering when our next Ragnar will be. Hooked much?

1. Ragnar Napa Valley
In short, was amazing, but you'd expect no less, right? Aside from the unbearable heat (heat index of 100 sometimes), uber long legs and not performing the way I wanted, another incredible relay weekend in the books. Recaps coming soon (hopefully part 1 tomorrow!).

2. Job Searching
I had an interview on Tuesday! I feel pretty good about it and am hopeful. But still pounding out job applications and hoping for the best. I got some really good feedback about addressing my lay-off in cover letters and such, so now that that's in place, I hope that will also turn around the response rate I've gotten. I have 22 applications out in cyberspace right now and hoping for some positive feedback soon... keep your fingers crossed!

3. Running Club Fun
So, along with Sandy, I finally joined a running club out here. The Athens Road Runners became a huge part of my life for the last five months I was in Athens, and I wish they'd come around sooner! The IERC is a huge running club out here, just down the highway from me, and they sponsor a full LA Marathon training program -- see where that's going? :) This weekend is just my second week with them but I'm excited to see what comes to play with this amazing group!

So yes, Ragnar fun coming soon!

What's new in your world?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Live Every Day Like You're Glen Coco

Iiiiiit's Ragnar time, kids! This afternoon I am hopping a train to downtown LA and taking the bus to LAX to fly to San Francisco (catch all that?) to go run 204 fabulous miles from Golden Gate Park to Calistoga, in the heart of Napa Valley.

I mean, really... this can't be all that bad, right?

I am so excited to:
a) reconvene with some of my So Cal teammates (6 of us in total)
b) meet some new, fresh Ragnar-virgin teammates (the other 6)
c) not have to drive the van (we have TWO drivers! TWO!)
d) run 26.3 miles because if I can do it at So Cal (undertrained) and do it now (pretty well trained), then I am totes marathon-training-ready
e) wear all things pink all weekend

Yep, that's right. We are team On Ragnardays We Wear Pink and basically all weekend, we will be wearing all things pink. Boas, beads, shorts, and tees - and even my reflective vest and shoes at some point are pink. It's so fetch.

But if you're bored about reading about my exciting day up to the Bay to get ready for these shenanigans, I'll leave you with other Ragnar-related fun:

Peace out, kids! Feel free to stalk Instagram and Twitter all weekend! #ragnarianswearpink will be all over the place - enjoy and follow along!  

Are you running Napa with me this weekend? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tips for Surviving a Relay

It's Ragnar week! I'm so excited to get up to the Bay and hunker down for another fabulous racecation with some of my favorites - and some newbies!

I may not be a total vet when it comes to relays, but with two overnights under my belt (Ragnar DC | So Cal) and one shorter distance relay (ATL 20K), I think I have a pretty good handle on what to expect. I would love to do a marathon relay at some point, or some other long-distance non-overnight ones, so for now, my whole frame of reference is pretty much overnight relays for the purposes of your guide here! I wanted to whip this together for not only my newbie teammates, but anyone else who's on the verge of their first relay, too.
At the start of Ragnar DC, 2012.
Tips for Surviving an Overnight Running Relay

Pack More Than You (Think You) Need

One of the best packing tips I've seen is the idea of using gallon Ziploc bags to store your outfits. Not only does it keep things organized, but after that run is done, you can shove everything back in that bag to minimize overall stink. With the bags, though, it's easy to pack only the essentials. Don't be afraid to pack a little more than just what fits in those bags. For me this year at Napa, I'm adding a jacket, as it rained through nearly all of Napa last year. I also always pack at least 1 extra sports bra, 1 extra shirt, 1 extra pair of socks... you get my drift. You never know when that extra sports bra will come in handy... 

With that - and it's on the packing list linked above, but my best point to emphasize: use those gallon-sized Ziploc bags! It helps keep you organized while you're packing, but also as you're digging around in your duffel bag at 2 am trying to find your headlamp. And minimizes (read: does NOT get rid of!) the stink in your van. You'll thank me. Promise.

Get Over Your Fear of Porto-Potties

I mean it. Ragnar is far from short on portos, and while they're not the most glamorous (who ever said running was glamorous anyway?), you need to get over it. Only on major exchanges and/or on your van's breaks are you going to find the time (and, frankly, energy) to find a 'real' bathroom. And when you do, it'll be the best thing ever. But in the meanwhile, suck it up, hold your breath, and just go. Every. Time.

[Photo Cred: Ricole Runs]
Sleep Where You Can, When You Can (But Know You'll Be Sleep-Deprived Anyway)

Whether it's a 40-minute catnap in the backseat, or 3 hours in the beachside park, try and get your shut-eye whenever you're able. The photo above can be deceiving also - not every Ragnar has a major exchange that's inside with spaces to spread out under a roof. At DC, one of our exchanges was at a high school that we could have camped out at (we slept in the van in the parking lot); but at So Cal, all our major exchanges were outside parks or parking lots near warehouses. 

Keep yourself in mind - if you have a long run coming up and you haven't slept in 27 hours, it's not gonna be pretty. One of the best things my team did for me before my 12-miler during So Cal was making sure I sat down and slept at our exchange. I slept only 2ish hours in choppy increments, but I know it made a world of difference having at least some sleep. 

Nighttime selfie, So Cal 2014.
Get Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

There is no better way to make friends than to shove yourselves into a van for 36 hours. Moreso than that, there's no better way to make friends than having to change in front of people you've just met. Heather and I opened up our team meeting before So Cal with, "We talk about poop. A lot." It's going to be uncomfortable at first, but then you're all in the same boat van and you may as well make the most of it. And it turns into some great inside jokes afterwards. 

My major uncomfortable is running in the pitch dark - I'm an (admitted) total scaredy-cat and getting through the night legs are pretty mentally exhausting for me. At the same time, though, they're also freeing and exhilarating as I (sort of) conquer my nighttime fears. It's hard to push through that mental wall, but when I do... holy wow!

Your Routine Will Not Be Routine

We all have our race day routines. Get up, eat your bagel and peanut butter, drink your coffee, take your immodium, etc. etc. With few exceptions, know that your routine will be far from your routine during a relay. Logistically it's harder, you'll want to sleep more than you'll want to spend time french-braiding your hair into your lucky race-day-hairdo, and other things just don't become the priority! After some time in the van, you'll learn to sacrifice and take what you can get. 

Costumes Are Critical

Okay, so not critical but they really do spice up the whole experience and get you a little more amped up for the utter shenanigans about to come. I don't dress up for a race hardly ever, but have realized that not only does it pull together some more team camaraderie, but other teams get so excited when they recognize you time and time again from your van decor and team ensembles. 

Adventures in Runderland, So Cal 2014.
In DC, which was the first Ragnar for nearly our entire time, our only matching piece was our finish line, team shirts. After watching all the teams flying by us with their decked out vans, colored capes and silver leggings, we knew we had to take it up a notch the next time around. For So Cal, we had our start line costumes (characters from Alice in Wonderland, of course), and for the finish line we had our team shirts and all wore purple tutus. Our vans were covered in cheshire cat smiles and ticking clocks, and our magnets also had the cheshire cat smile - so when another team saw any of those smiles, they knew we'd been around. And they recognized us for just that! So again, not critical... but certainly an added element of fun. 

Two-a-Days Are/Are Not Critical

Take this for what you will - and it will depend on YOU and your strength and in-shape-ness. For So Cal this year, I was far from as in-shape as I needed to be to do 25.9 miles over three legs, but that wasn't just because I didn't do double days. I just wasn't in shape in general, but the only reason I hurt was after my final leg and I had to do this awesome jumping photo... you get the story. For DC in 2012, I was more in shape and it wasn't until the third leg that my body wimped out (under-hydrated) on the third (and shortest) leg. And now, heading into Napa and after a 100-mile August (many with double days), I'm feeling more in shape than I have in a long time and I'm ready to go, despite not having many recent double days. You need to figure out what's going to work for you - most of my doubles only occurred so I could get used to running in the dark again. 

Enjoy the Scenery

No matter which course you're doing, whether it's a Ragnar through the mountains or Napa, or Reach the Beach, there's scenery to take in. That's half the fun of racecations, right, is getting to see everything! So Cal is my home, so while there was nothing new or exciting to take in, it was still a feeling of "Wow, I live here!" that made me really appreciate where the course took us. 

[Photo cred: Trista. I think. So Cal, 2014.]
Enjoy whatever comes your way - whether it's new or not - and stop and take those photos. In a 30+ hour relay, those 2 minutes to mess with your smartphone camera are not going to matter. I promise. My friends and running friends especially know that I am constantly snapping away, but hopefully come to appreciate the fun, random shots we've got later! 

Have Fun

The obvious one, of course, but I mean! The logistics, the lack of sleep, the runger, the nighttime scary runs are all really easy to get stressed over. At the end of your trip (and really, throughout), you just need to look back and say you had a great time. That's what these races are all about - having fun, being a little ridiculous, and getting to know 11 other runners really, really well! 

What other tips would you share for someone running an overnight relay?