April 06, 2014

Ragnar SoCal, Part 1

(I typed this post on Friday... I'm going to try and get caught up today!)

The past couple of days have been super busy! It’s probably going to take a few posts to write everything out, but I’m going to try and keep a log as I go, so when I get internet access, I can start posting them. Right now, as I type this, I’m at Exchange #12 of Ragnar SoCal. But let me back up…

Yesterday, I got up bright and early to head to the airport. My flight was at 8:30, and I got to the airport at 6:30, so I had plenty of time to check my bag and, most importantly, have a glass of wine before getting on the plane. I’m a SUPER nervous flyer, and wine definitely helps take the edge off.

Jerry dropped me off, and when I went inside, the line for baggage check was ridiculously long. I waited in line for a few minutes, when a woman who worked there directed me and several other people to go to international baggage check, because there wasn’t a wait. There were only a couple of people in line ahead of me, so I thought it would be a super quick check in.

I don’t know what the problem was, but I waited there for 35 minutes, and the line didn’t budge. I was really starting to worry about even making my flight, let alone get a glass of wine, because I still had to go through security. Anyway, I finally checked my bag at about 7:15, and thankfully, security was a breeze.

I booked it to the gate (which was, literally, the farthest from security it could possibly be). Next to the gate was a bar, so I had a glass of wine. We boarded the plane, and we sat there… and sat there… and sat there, at the gate. Finally, the pilot came on the speaker and said that the plane was only about 10 days old (which I could see—the plane was super nice!), but that they were given the wrong manual for the plane, and they needed the correct manual in order to fly. Yep, that was reassuring.

We ended up waiting on board the plane for an hour and fifteen minutes at the gate! My little wine buzz and completely worn off, and I was getting more anxious by the minute. I had brought a bag of chocolates for the flight crew (something I do for every flight), and one of the flight attendants came by to thank me. She asked if she could get me anything, so I asked for a glass of wine. She asked if I could wait until we were airborne—I really didn’t want to, but I figured I could white-knuckle the take-off while sober ;)

We finally took off, and the flight ended up being great. Not at all turbulent, and I loved having the little TV on the seat back with about a hundred movies to choose from. There was also a flight tracker on it, which was awesome--I could see exactly where we were and how much time was left in flight on a little map:

When I arrived in San Diego, I got my bag and waited for John to pick me up. I was SO excited to see my team! John picked me up, and we went to his house, where I was able to meet everyone but Thomas and Hilary. Hilary was already at our hotel in Huntington Beach, and Thomas’s flight was delayed. We had a snack, and chatted for a bit, and then John and I left to go pick up Thomas. 

Thomas lives in Portland, and he brought us doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts! 

Mine was called “Old Dirty Bastard”—a yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, peanut butter drizzle, and Oreo crumbs--right up my alley ;) I ate it before I thought to take a picture, though!

We left John’s house and took our two vans up to Huntington Beach to our hotel (the Ragnar starting line was in Huntington Beach). Everyone was starving after a long travel day, so we went out for our team dinner. When we were done eating, we went to Party City and to the grocery store to get decorations and snacks for the race. We got a little silly in Party City ;)

We had to leave for the starting line at 3:50 AM, so we made it an early night. I was in bed at 10:00, but it felt so much later, because in Michigan, it would have been 1:00 AM. I set my alarm for 3:30, but I was wide awake at 3:00, so I got up and got dressed in my clothes for my first Ragnar leg. Van 1 (Thomas, me, John, Caitlin, Hilary, and Paige—in order of our legs) headed to the starting line. I was so surprised at how cold it was! I was expecting it to be really warm in SoCal, but I ended up wearing a sweatshirt and I was still freezing.

We got our team checked in, took some pictures, picked up our shirts, etc. Van 2 met us at the starting line to see Thomas off. 

Then Thomas got ready for his first leg. We lined up to cheer for him when the race started. They ended up starting our wave 15 minutes late, because they were waiting on some teams. At 5:15, Thomas took off. Then the rest of us headed to the van to go support Thomas.

There ended up not being any spot for us to stop, which was a bummer. We couldn’t even see the runners—aside from it being pitch-black outside, the runners were running on a path, that wasn't visible from the road. We just went to the first exchange to wait. I got geared up in my nighttime running stuff (headlamp, finger lights, vest, etc.) and shivered at the runner’s chute. It was freezing cold! I wore a sweatshirt until it was my turn to run.

There were about 3-4 people who came through, and then Thomas. Since we were the first wave to start the race, I only had those few people to follow. I was worried about getting lost, but I was careful to follow the signs, and my leg was a pretty straight shot (just a couple of turns on the whole 7.2 mile leg).

I was running at about a 9:00/mi pace, but I kept getting stopped at traffic lights, so my splits were in the 10:00’s. I passed a couple of people, including a girl in a grass skirt, and then every time I got stopped at a light, she caught up to me. So I asked if she wanted to run together, and I just slowed my pace to match hers (about 10:30/mi). We chatted, and at mile 7, we were on the lookout for the exchange point.

A van rolled down the window and yelled to us that we were going the wrong direction. We both thought she was just messing with us, because we were sure we had followed the signs correctly. And we saw some runners way up ahead of us by about a half-mile. The girl I was running with called her team, and they said we should have turned. She ended up getting in the van of the people who’d stopped so they could drive her, but I didn’t want to do that (Ragnar rules say that there always has to be a runner on the course, and you can’t hitch a ride). So I just turned around and hoped I’d find my way!

I came across another woman who was going the wrong way, and I told her what was going on. She called her team, who said they’d come find her. We stopped at an intersection and waited there for a long time (my lap pace was at 40:00+/mi at that point!!) I called my team, but we couldn’t figure out where I was or which direction to go. I was so frustrated! Finally, the woman’s van got there to show us the right direction, so we followed them back to the course.

I thought I was really close to the end, so I picked up the pace. Then at mile 8.3, I saw a sign that said, “One mile to go”… I was so disheartened. I slogged along for the last mile, and finally got to the exchange point at mile 9.3 (of a 7.2-mile leg). My average pace was 11:30-ish, with all the traffic lights and then stopping for a while to figure out directions. 

I was glad to get my longest leg out of the way. My second and third legs were only 3.0 and 2.9, so those would be a piece of cake after my first one. While the rest of Van 1 ran their legs, we got out and cheered between exchanges. That’s my favorite part about Ragnar! 

At exchange 6, we met up with the Van 2. Paige came in, and Dean headed out, so Van 1 was done with our first legs.  A couple of days ago, I got an email from a woman named Michelle who is a reader of my blog, and she said that we’d be running right by her house. She offered to let us stop by for water, or bathroom breaks, or whatever we might need. John checked out the logistics, and it turned out that she was only 4 miles from exchange 6—which was perfect, because we’d be done running. 

She’s a teacher at a middle school, so we ended up making plans to go to her school to say hello. I was a little nervous, because I’m always nervous to meet people, but it worked out so well! We went to her school, and the office was expecting us. Everyone was so nice! They took us to her classroom, where we met Michelle and her class. It was a reading class, so we chatted with the kids a little about journaling/blogging, and how it can open up so many opportunities. We stayed for about 15 minutes, and then we headed out. I’m glad we went, because it was so fun!

Michelle suggested a place for us to get lunch, and by that time, we were all ravenous. It was a Mexican place, and the food was fantastic! After lunch, we headed to the next major exchange (#12). It was right on the beach, and such a great place to hang out for a little bit! 

The rest of my van wanted to nap, so I went for a walk looking for an ice cream shop, but I couldn’t find it. I did find a huge flight of stairs going up the side of a mountain, so I decided to earn some altitude on my Fit Meter ;) I went up the stairs once and then back down. This picture really makes it look so small--in person, the stairs seemed never-ending!

I found a nice spot to sit and work on a blog post, so here I am :) To be continued...


  1. I was so excited to see this! It sounds like everyone is having so much fun so far. I missed your posts this weekend! Didn't realize how big a part of my life runsforcookies is until now :)

  2. You were so close to the ice cream!! I'm sorry you didn't find it! Those stairs are a nice beast to conquer. I run in Dana Point all the time, glad you enjoyed some time there!

  3. How exciting! This looks like so much fun! I can't wait to be able to run. :) I too am unbelievably frightened of flying. The slightest shake of the plane and my everything starts sweating from anxiety. I talked to my doctor about this actually and she prescribed me a few xanax pills. I took a half pill before a recent flight and wow...what a difference. Not once did I feel nervous. I was SUPER relaxed the whole flight. Better living through chemistry I say!

  4. SOOOOOO proud and excited for you all! Congratulations Katie!

  5. Sounds like an awesome race! We have something similar here that goes around Reno and Lake Tahoe, and it is a total blast. Hard to believe how much fun you can have cruising around in a van in between legs, but it's so great to get to cheer on your team and check out the competition.

    Also, I love love love the finger lights!!! Where on earth did you find those?? :)

  6. I know exactly where your last pic is! And you're right, that's a giant set of stairs! You're really giving me the relay fever!

  7. Woo so exciting! Bummer that you got lost, at least there were people around to let you know before you got even further. Love that you met a reader & all that, how fun. Going to read part 2 now :)

  8. The correct flight manual has to be on board the aircraft because it's an FAA requirement, whether they need to refer to it or not (I'm sure they didn't!)
    The race sounds so fun!

  9. Such a fun read - makes me wish I had a Ragnar coming up!

  10. I couldn't concentrate on much after you talked about doughnuts ;) Sounds like you are having a great time so far (minus getting lost)!

  11. My friends and I did the American Odyssey Relay last year (like Ragnar - from Gettysburg to Washington DC) and the same thing happened to our runner #1 - her whole wave went off in the wrong direction! Added two miles to her leg 1 - but, just like you, she had a really good attitude about it!

  12. Tabitha M.April 11, 2014

    Where did you buy your finger lights? I'm doing a glow run in Chicago and August and those would be perfect.

    1. Hi Tabitha,
      I bought them on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Etekcity®-Finger-Lights-Flashlight-Colourful/dp/B00CHP4XN6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1397479125&sr=8-3&keywords=ring+lights

      They're fun to wear!

    2. Thank you.

  13. Cool to get to meet up with a reader! Looks like tons of fun!


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