Sunday, April 17, 2011

Who Talked Us Into This?

O.K. Let's check my list:

1. Extra large Zip Lock bags? check
2. Sleeping bag? check
3. Cottonelle wipes? check
4. Vaseline? check
5. Phone, iPod and/or source of music of some kind? check
6. Starbucks card? double check
7. Five people to spend an uninterrupted 44 hours with in very close quarters and situations? - triple check!

You might think this is a list for someone who is going camping...but what this is a list of is what I MUST HAVE when I participate in a 200.9 mile relay race each year.

2011 marks the second year in a row that I have participated in the Ragnar Relay. Both years it has been a religious experience for me.

To give you a little background, Ragnar was a Viking who had a very colorful life and a subsequent very colorful reshaped life (learn about Ragnar here). But the important part is that he's the symbol for the Ragnar Relay Race Series that is put on in many many cities in the US every year. The lowdown on the Ragnar Relay is you put together a 12-person team of crazy runners (or 6 if you are an Ultra team - Ultra = 6-person team of REALLY crazy runners) who will live together in two "vans" (could be SUV's or actual vans - more on the vans later) for almost 48 hours - 6 people in each. These 12 semi sane people will run 200(ish) miles from one point to another. In our case, Huntington Beach to Coronado Island. What ensues is hilarity and hijinx that leaves everyone laughing and wondering what screw is just a little loose in their brains.

Friday morning, I left my house at 3:15 AM to drive the few miles to my old college roommate's house to get into her car with four other people for this years adventure. Our first job? To be in Huntington Beach at the starting line at 5 AM to check in, get our safety briefing ("Don't get hit") and be on our way with a 6 AM start time for Runner #1 (AKA Moi). They have tiered starting times - the earlier you start, the slower, ahem, the more time you need, ahem, the, aw heck, the earlier you start, the more time your team needs to finish. There I said it. If you start at 6 AM, be prepared for this to be a lengthy adventure. If you team's starting time is noon - well you do the math. : )

Anyway, at 4:02 AM, we pile into the Kia (her car was in the shop) and we move forward in the dead of night to HB. We find 5 minutes in that we need to go back, something was left on the ground. We start out again and before we get onto the freeway, we look at the clock and it says 4:30 AM.

What the heck? How did we lose 30 minutes????? At 4 AM it should take just about an hour to get to HB, but 30 minutes is out of the question.

Well, we begin to hustle and do what we can.

Driving down, we hit a little traffic and we persevere. Now the clock says 4:58 AM and we're not in HB we're about 30 minutes away. Not good. Our 6 AM start time is pretty firm and starting 30+ minutes late will pretty well screw things up.

I happen to look at my phone and see that Mr. iPhone tells me that it is in fact, NOT 4:58 AM, but 4:38 AM.

The car clock is 20 minutes fast.


O.K. so we get there...check in (so much smoother for us than last year, we're such pros!) and make our way to the starting line. You can see how it started off by watching this short video that ABC 7 ran Friday morning here. If you look carefully, I am in the purple jacket starting my watch at the starting line in the dark.

And I'm off!!! I'm runner #1 and that means I run three legs of this relay race: #1, #13 and #25.

Here's how it works, Van #1 (us) run legs 1 - 6, Van #2 runs legs 7 -12, we run legs 13 - 18; Van #2 runs legs 19 - 24; we run legs 25 - 30 and they we meet them at the finish line after they've run legs 31 - 36. The lengths of the legs vary and all of our running paces vary so it could take anywhere from 12 - 39 hours for a team to run the whole relay.

Due to some timing circumstances for our team, I was slated to run legs #1 and #2 to cover for runner #2 who couldn't meet us until late Friday night. So, I ended up running legs #1, #2 and #13. She ran my third leg (#25) so I was done running at 7ish PM Friday night. I ran 15 miles in 13 hours. But it didn't mean I had any less fun!!

So, I'll skip a lot of the details (what happens in the Kia stays in the Kia) but here are some of the highlights:

* One of the benefits of running the Ragnar Relay is that you're not bothered with checking in and out of hotels; you get the benefit of sleeping in either your car, the cement, a wet golf course from 3 - 5 AM, the beach...whatever sleep you can find.

* Occasionally, while your team member is running (like for instance...I don't know, runner #3's first leg) you get to lose track of time and are 25 minutes late to meet them at the exchange (the location where the runners hand off the slap wrist band). That provides a great amount of adrenaline to keep you going!

* In addition to not being bothered with pesky hotels with showers, clean sheets and soap, you also aren't made to deal with silly indoor plumbing. You get to have a very unique relationship with the porta potty. Here is what I learned about them this trip: Always try for the larger one designated for the physically challenged. The upsides? How about you can move around in it without the fear of falling in or dropping anything in (which is NEVER to be retrieved). If it's 90+ degrees out (as it was in Lake Elsinore on Friday afternoon) you are less likely to pass out of heat exhaustion in it. Also, an important safety tip ("Thanks Egon") is to bring either, the Ragnar toilet paper they give you OR you be the poster child for the mini Cottonelle travel packs. Life with porta potties for 39 hours and you tell me that you don't need them. So there.

* You learn to rationalize eating some food that you might otherwise never eat (like a meatball sandwich or a Carl's Jr. burger at 10 PM when you HAVEN'T been drinking all night)

* Your hearing becomes more sensitive to every beep, ping and sound that a mobile phone can make. Each time a phone made a sound, all five or six people in the car waited to hear someone say "that was me" so we'd begin to learn everyone's "sound" (of which I never did...I kept thinking the Kia was going to blow up).

* You get to meet and get to know five of the most amazing people you've ever met. The only reason you don't get to know the other six as well is because while you're running, they're sleeping and while you're sleeping (or something close to it) they're running. The five people in my Van (six actually in that we had a Van #2 person for one leg and overnight with us) are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met. They are real, they are loving and they are unconditionally accepting. I truly love them with all my heart and would be there for them no matter what they need. They are now family as far as I'm concerned.

Here's what you won't get:

* Competitive behavior - similar to my marathon 3 weeks ago, the goal was: finishing, uninjured, clothed and not bleeding and to have fun. Quality of time and not quantity baby.

* Whining - when you live with five other people for 40+ hours you will find yourself getting pretty punchy. Two years in a row, we had ZERO whining, passive aggressive behavior, cattiness, or otherwise icky behavior.

* Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Bad Attitude Pants. No further explanation needed, they just aren't there.

Once again, team #342 did not disappoint. I have been looking forward to this activity since the day I finished it last year.

And guess what?

I'm already excited about next year. : )

Run, Drive, Sleep? Repeat.