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2013-52 Week 17 – Ragnar I

Ragnar So Cal.

I ran my first half marathon in September 2009. I ran my first (and so far, only) full marathon in March 2010. That was about the same time that I was approached by one of the people in my life group to see if I could fill in for a team member that had to drop out of the upcoming relay. Having just finished all my marathon training, it sounded like fun. Little did I know . . . Since completing my first Ragnar in April 2010 the stats are as follows: 0 marathons, 2 half marathons (Disneyland Half Sept 2012, Rock and Roll LA Oct 2012), 3 Ragnar Relays (2011, 2012, 2013). Needless to say, I was hooked.

If you haven’t read any of my previous Ragnar blogs (and if you click the little tag at the bottom of this post you’ll find there’s been quite a few in the last year and a half) I should probably take a minute to explain what is going on. If you know the drill, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph. The Ragnar Relay series started 10 years ago in Utah and has grown in to a States-wide phenomenon (with the first Canadian race being run this year). It is a continuous relay, covering around 200 miles (this year was cut down to “just” 195) and being spread over twelve runners separated into two vans of six each. If you are crazy (and I am not yet), you can enter an Ultra team that has only six runners, with every runner doubling up on their legs. There are 36 legs total, each runner running three times. The first six runners start off, then the sixth runner hands off to the next van of six runners, whose last runner hands back off to the first runner in the first van, and repeat until the whole distance has been covered. It usual takes anywhere from twenty-eight to thirty-eight hours to complete, with our teams usually in the low thirties. Yes, this does mean you have people running at three in the morning (actually one of my favorite times to run).

I captained Van 1 this year, which basically meant I was in charge of making sure everything went smoothly. That was going to be a challenge at the beginning since I had to get up at four in the morning, and we all know I’m not a morning person. We were meeting at 4:30-4:45 to load up the car (a team member’s Expedition) to make it down to Huntington Beach by our start time of 6:30. It turns out that Huntington Beach is further away than I remembered, even with no traffic, as we were pulling into the lot around 6:15 with several long lines between us and the race start. I was the first runner, so I made sure I had my shoes on and forewent taping my knee in the interest of time; I’d have to do the first leg in the knee brace I was wearing for back up instead.

Timeout for a quick aside: this is the fourth year I’ve done the relay and I’ve run a different set of legs each time. The first year I was in Van 2 and runner number 7, the second year I was in Van 1 and runner number 3, last year I was in Van 2 and runner number 9, and this year I’m back in Van 1 and runner number 1. I’ve made it my goal now to run this race for the next eight years and run each as a new runner number (the alternating Vans pattern does not have to be maintained). I’m already a third of the way there!

At 6:28 when they called our team number at the starting line and we were a ways back in the third (and final) line with a safety briefing ahead of us after that I made my first executive decision as Van Captain: you people deal with this while I go run! I am well familiar with the safety rules and didn’t really need to be present, so I stripped off my warm ups, changed my shoes, put on my bib, and ran to the starting line. They were running a few minutes late but were about to start things off, when I realized that I didn’t have the timing chip. Now we had never used a timing chip before, but I had been told there would be one this year, so I sent Greg (who had accompanied me to the starting line) back for it. The race started and I hung around the line for thirty seconds or so, then asked the people working the line if it was okay if I started a little late, as I was just waiting for the timing chip.

“What timing chip?”

Well, that answered that then. I found Greg heading back to me, about to say there wasn’t one. I told him we were good and started, a little late but on the way. It took a quarter of a mile or so for my knee to warm up fully and I had to run with a water bottle again (see my first run last year, but I still wasn’t going to make the mistake of two years ago), as I didn’t have time to set up my belt, but at least we were out on the course. Thankfully we were running next to the beach and the attendant changing areas/bathrooms for the first couple miles, as the fact that I didn’t go pre-run started to catch up to me and I could take a minute to take care of that around mile two.

After the first couple miles, the course then cuts inland and begins the trek towards the Inland Empire (obviously not all on my leg). This initial stab eastward follows a biking/running trail that parallels a large inlet/water body that seems like a giant wash. It is long, straight, very boring, and easily one of my least favorite places to run. It feels like I’ve run at some point in this wash every year, even the first year when the course went started in Ventura instead of Huntington Beach, as my last leg just happened to fall in the same area, but I don’t think that’s true as I’m not sure how that would have happened last year when I was runner 9. I did have to run a different part twice (for a much shorter distance) during my two Disneyland Half Marathons, as the path is how you get from Honda Center to Angel Stadium without getting run over. Needless to say, I am not a fan, but was glad to only be doing a few miles there. Oh, and have I mentioned the smells? You know what, I think it is time to move on . . .

The first exchange point was located in a dirt lot that abutted (heh, abutted) the path but required running down a steep hill to get to the chute, which my knee was not particularly happy about. My team was present and I handed off to Danny, not quite slapping the bracelet hard enough and having it bounce off his arm to the ground (we only managed one clean exchange out of three, but oh well). I took my customary few minutes to cool off, change shirts (have I mentioned how much I love the giant Ziploc bags on these things, just chuck all my soaked clothes in there and don’t worry about it), and we were off to the next exchange.

Much of our navigation for the first set of exchanges was just along one main street with small side jaunts to each of the exchanges as we were just following the aforementioned wash. We were early to all of our exchanges so no one had to wait in the chute (unlike what happened to me two years ago, ::cough::, not that anyone in my van was on that team, and it only happened once). After sending Greg off (he was runner 6, so the last in our van before meeting the other one), we made our way to the first “major” exchange (where the two vans meet) and braced ourselves to find parking. Major exchanges are always terrible parking, so it was understandable when I missed the entrance to the park due to the suspicious lack of vans. We apparently hit the park at a sweet spot, and actually got a pretty good parking spot. We tracked down the members of the other van near the chute and awaited Greg’s arrival.

A little while later Greg came in and Aaron (runner 7) was off. The total time for our legs was right around four hours, and we made our way back to Van 1’s parking spot (about half a mile worse than ours) so that we could see them off and also pick up the van decorations that they had which we would be using to adorn our vehicle. With the goods exchanged we bid them farewell so they could make the next exchange and headed back to our vehicle for some decorating and to figure out what we would do with our downtime. It was about halfway back to the van that I remembered the whole reason I was runner 1 this year, I had to teach!

The class I teach meets on Fridays, and that does come into conflict with the fact that Ragnar starts on Friday every year. The first year of Ragnar I hadn’t started teaching at CSUN yet, so by the time I was hooked on it I had to figure out a way to juggle both. My original idea a couple years ago centered around separate cars and meet ups, but that just wasn’t going to work with time frames (and particularly traffic) involved. Inspiration then struck, this is a class that featured an introduction to all types of computing skills, so how about a day where the class met online to discuss online classes (someone find Jenny and point this out to her, as it’s the best example of “Meta” that I’ve been able to come up with). With my trust cell phone as a wireless access point and my laptop to access the online environment, I’ve been able to run several years of successful online sessions from the comfort of a van. Added bonus this year, I had a laptop with a working battery, so I didn’t have to plug it into the van! Of course, this all works better if I remember to do it. Thankfully I did so with a couple minutes to spare and was able to get back to the van and online (with some minor technical difficulties) to kick off class only five or so minutes late. Historically the students have enjoyed the class and claim to have learned quite a bit, especially since I use a feature (online chat) that most professors forego in their class. We wrapped class up after forty-five minutes or so, as they have additional online work in the form of a project I assign them through the traditional class page that they could work on for the remainder of the time. Some of them were having too much fun, and it took a while for everything to wind down.

In the meantime my fellow teammates were decorating the van around me and then decided to wait for me before heading back over to the various goody tents back by the exchange. I finally managed to usher most everyone out of the class and was able to behold everyone’s work. Most amusing to me was the list of teammates on the side of the van, the furthest rear window on the passenger side listing “Tom/Greg/Matt” on the top row, “Danny/Manny” on the second row, and then “Queen Kristin” (our lone female in van 1) added to the adjoining passenger door. After all was said and done I asked Tom why he ordered everyone that way, as I was a potential order to it but was convinced he didn’t think the same way I did (it wasn’t by runner number, as that configuration mapped out to 3/6/1/2/4/5). I was correct, as the pattern I saw was alphabetical order by length of name (don’t ask, it’s probably a problem in my brain), while the reasoning for the order that was explained to me was:

“First I put Tom, because I’m Tom. Then I put Greg, because he’s in my Life Group. Then I put you, because you’re leading. Then I put Danny because he’s driving. Then I remembered Manny’s name (we had various connections in the car, with some of us knowing people better than others. Needless to say we were a lot closer by the end). Then I was out of room and had to give Kristin a special nickname to make up for it.”

And that is how Kristin got her nickname for the rest of the trip.

Coming back from that little rabbit trail: we went to the goody tents, picked up various beverages, looked over the swag tent, where nothing jumped out at any of us, though I already have a bunch of it and they weren’t carrying the sweater I wanted there. Like last year, I wound up ordering what I wanted online with the free shipping code they sent out afterward. Actually, Kristin showed interest in the track jacket, but I merely bring that up to setup something later. After we were satisfied that we had seen everything we needed to, it was back to the van. Since we still had plenty of time before the next major exchange and no desire to proceed further inland until we had to (I was having traumatic flashbacks to the 105+ degree heat from last year, though forecasts put things in the high 80 to low 90’s range this year), we rested on a nice shady hill directly behind our van for an hour or so. Eventually I mentioned that we might want to track something down to eat, so we loaded up and headed towards the next exchange, intending to find some food in the area.

Alright, then, nearly 2400 words and we’re only a third of the way through. I’m going to call this one: To be continued.

Weight: 226 Loss: 4 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 206.5 miles (+2 miles) Last year-to-date: 135 miles – Words-to-date: 32626 (+2375)

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