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2013-52 Week 18 – Ragnar II

Continued from Part I.

So when we last left Van 2 was out on the course and my van, Van 1 was heading towards the area of our next major exchange and was looking for some grub. Greg and I, from having the major exchange in the same area last year, and Tom, from living in the area for a decade or so, knew that there were no food places local to the exchange point, so we continued down the freeway until we found the next major shopping center (only a couple miles). A promising area emerged, so we wheeled into a parking spot and prepared to go our separate ways for food. Unfortunately it turns out that the shopping center had felt the effects of the economic downturn and half the food places were closed. Most of us found our way into a very busy and understaffed Juice It Up, where we sated our hunger with smoothies (wait, can you do that?). I also had a terrible reheated pretzel, but I was invoking Disneyland rules for this trip.

Oh, right, you’re probably going to want me to explain what Disneyland rules are (unless your my friend on Facebook and happened to see my post that day). My rule at Disneyland: eat everything in front of you at every meal, as you never know when you’re going to get to eat again. (The addendum to that at Disneyland is: It probably also cost you an arm and a leg, so get your money’s worth.) There, aren’t you glad I explained?

We still had an hour or so to wait until it was our turn to resume the festivities, so we decided to wait at the exchange. Every year there is one major exchange that wins the award for worst setup and parking, and this one won it for 2013. We wound up parking in another parking lot down the street after orbiting the completely full one next to the exchange (which we wound up being evicted from about the time I was heading up to wait for our runner). Tom, being familiar with the area, said he used to come down here and run, and I should get a nice tailwind for the majority of my run. While my first run had only one turn, a left from the beach onto the wash trail, this run had a grand total of two(!), a right and then a left in fairly close succession at the beginning of the run, otherwise it was six miles of straightaway.

Here’s where I make a quick sidebar for the best joke of the trip. Understand that this was the best joke in a van of five sleep deprived guys and one woman (who for reasons I will explain later was better rested than us men), so it’s pretty bad. In fact, it’s probably not worth the sidebar. But I still laugh thinking about it, so here you go. At one point in all of our navigating the area around the I-15 and Lake Elsinore, Danny turns to Tom and asks, “Are you the Thomas from Thomas Guides?” to which Tom immediately replies, “No, I’m the Tom from Tom-Tom!” Thus was Tom called Tom-Tom for the rest of the trip.

Why the sidebar? Well, I received the slap bracelet and started my run, appropriately taped up now that I had time to prepare for this one. About an eighth of a mile in I reach the first turn which is across the street, and I had to wait for a light . . . the longest light on planet earth. It felt like five minutes at least, which probably meant it was two and a half to three minutes, and we accumulated a few runners waiting there since it was a large, fairly busy street. Finally we get to cross and I turn right . . . into one of the strongest headwinds I have ever experienced. It was hard to move forward, let alone run. I made a point to mention to Tom-Tom later that while his navigation was generally spot on, his weather mode wasn’t very accurate. After another quarter of a mile I made the left turn and proceeded down the straightaway, with the wind coming across and whipping around occasionally rather than being steadily at my back. Despite being straight, this was actually the most difficult and mentally challenging of my runs, as it was just a continuing rolling hill with more up then down. I’d crest one hill to see a short decline and then the start of the next hill. Despite very much wanting to stop and walk multiple times over the last couple miles I managed to force myself to the hand off, where Danny and I completed our only successful one motion slap bracelet transition.

And there I was, already two-thirds of the way done. Evening was fast upon us, as I was the last runner who started during the daylight hours and thus did not have to wear a reflective vest, headlamp, and tail light. Night hours ran from 6:30 pm to 6:30 am, though, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I’d be wearing the gear come my last leg. Everyone else’s leg went pretty smoothly, aside from Tom-Tom’s only major navigational error that put us on a winding two lane road with no opportunity for turning around that took us a couple miles out of our way. We decided he just wanted us to see both Indian casinos in the area so we could compare, and we still made it to the exchange in plenty of time to meet our fastest runner Manny, so we didn’t give him too hard of a time (uh, right).

Our legs took us well into the night, and by the time we sent Kristin off on her leg it was right around midnight. Thankfully it was pretty much straight downhill and there were plenty of people running as well. We passed a long string of blinking red tail lights and also a camper. Well, plenty of other vans too, but the camper happened to be parked off to the side and also happened to contain Kristin’s husband Rick, who had driven down to meet us after he finished work for the day. We all met up at the next exchange and sent Greg off for the final leg of our second round, a brutal uphill climb to the Welk resort which was serving as the halfway point like last year. Whereas we spent last year sleeping on the side of the golf course, this year we split a suite so that everyone could grab a shower and some shuteye. Since we had five guys and one girl in our van (compared to van 2’s four women to two guy ratio, and the two guys were married to two of the women), Kristin asked if it was okay if she stayed with Rick in the camper and then met us at the start of her final leg. I knew it wouldn’t be an issue and also envied the fact that she’d be able to skip the three am wake up call. I agreed to text her when the runner ahead of her was underway, which would probably be closer to eight or nine in the morning.

The men (heh), however, had to get moving up to the resort. Lynn was kind enough to put my name on the room, so I was dropped at the front desk and acquired a key and towels. Greg still had at least twenty minutes left in his leg, so we made our way to the suite and met the second van loading up for their leg. They raved about the place and I walked in to see why. It was bigger than our condo, with the front door opening into a dining area with the living room behind it, a giant kitchen which stretched to my right and back a ways, and a bedroom and bathroom on the left side and the right side. By the time I had remembered everything from the car and had seen off the other van our first member was in one of the showers and two others had decided to go retrieve Greg from the exchange point down the hill. With that taken care of I claimed the other shower (which alone was bigger than the bathroom at our last apartment), got changed, and then climbed into one of the two beds in the bedroom on the left side, shutting the door but not latching it. I heard the others return with Greg, set my phone to turn the ringer back on at three in the morning, and eventually drifted off for a little sleep (seeing as it was nearly one in the morning already).

I awoke to the door being thrown open and Tom loudly telling me to wake up. Apparently, and extremely unsurprisingly, his first two gentle attempts to wake me had not done the trick (once I get to sleep, I generally sleep like a rock). I also heard him say, “Hey, there was another bed in here?” A fact that I later pointed out he knew, but apparently in the haze of everything they forgot and so two people shared the couch bed and I ended up with the room to myself. Not that it mattered, since we all only got a couple hours of sleep anyway and we were all tired enough to sleep where we fell. It was ten until three and I saw that I had missed a phone call from Lynn, who had apparently tried me (didn’t answer due to the volume not yet turning on), then Danny (who did answer but did not sound sufficiently awake), and then finally Tom (who wound up getting the rest of us up). I woke up fairly cranky, complaining about the shorter time period we had in the suite (sadly for us, it broke that they got the suite while we were running 44 total miles and we got the suite while they were running 22 total miles), and it took me the drive over to the next exchange to get back up to speed and back into the proper mindset. Thankfully I don’t talk much when I’m tired, so I don’t think too many people noticed (aside from my complaining on Facebook, which I retracted later).

We pulled into the exchange with a few minutes to spare, but not enough time for me to find my head lamp (which showed up when I unpacked afterwards, of course). I instead grabbed the small, ultra-powerful flashlight I brought and ran with that instead, which worked just fine. My final leg was positively windy compared to my first two, I had to make five (gasp!) turns. It was nice and cool around four am in Carlsbad, so I was able to run the last leg with minimal discomfort, my knee still taped from the second run. I was definitely counting down the last few miles, but was unwilling to stop and walk seeing I was so close to the end and accomplishing running the whole thing on a knee that required a lot of rest and tape heading into the event. My final pass once again bounced off Danny’s wrist (apparently I don’t have enough practice with slap bracelets), but he was kind enough to retrieve it and head off into the night.

We managed the rest of the legs fairly well, with Kristin and Rick beating us to the exchange point for her leg in plenty of time. We started looking for food and coffee during the third runner but were always stymied by location, hours, or a detour every place we went. We finally pulled into the final major exchange before the finish at the Torrey Pines glider port, a place we had the final major exchange at last year but I couldn’t remember for the life of me until we were somewhere around the Welk Resort (oh yeah! The big dirt lot!). It is serviced by one two lane access road which got pretty bogged down by vans, just like last year. We handed off to the second van for the final time and went to make our way out of the lot when we were stopped at the entrance. A fire truck came out of the line down the opposite side of the street, pulled a fifteen point turn in front of us, and then headed back out the way we were going. We followed it and then prepared to finally acquire the food we were desperately desiring at this point.

I had taken the food reins as van captain and someone familiar with the various joints in San Diego. Originally I was going to point the van at Hodad’s in Ocean Beach, since the course went right by the front door, but I found out a couple days before that they were going to be closed from 11 am to 5 pm that day. I never found out why, but did know they were filming there a lot that week, so maybe it was related. I had heard of a couple breakfast places when Jess and I came down the week before, so I suggested them. One of the van members had been to the Broken Yolk and wasn’t impressed so we instead headed towards the Hash House, which was only a few miles away and in the general direction of the finish line. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea since it was now mid-morning on Saturday, as when we drove by the front door the line wrapped back on itself several times over. We were hungry now, so it was time to fall back on other options.

Jess and I have a favorite pizza joint in San Diego, Pizzeria Luigi, so I plugged it into my phone and found out we were just over a mile from one of the two locations. We pointed the van in that direction and a few minutes later made a right turn onto a small street with a restaurant on our left . . . a Mama’s Kitchen or something like that. I looked at the GPS and verified we were in the right spot. This marked the fifth or sixth time we had been denied food in the last few hours and we were getting cranky. Right before we turned onto the small street we saw that the street ahead was being blocked off for a street fair of some sort. We turned around joined back on the main street towards the festival when someone in the back said, “Hey, Pizzeria Luigi!” Yup, it was just around the corner from where we were directed. I don’t know if it moved or we were being directed to the back door. We drove past the street fair to loop around and discovered it was a beers of the world festival, which peaked the rest of the van’s interest. It took us a while to find parking due the fair, but having done so we trekked back to the pizzeria.

And it was soooo good. I got the meatball roll that Jess and I love so much, but unfortunately takes a while to make. Pretty much everyone was done with their slices by the time I got mine, but they were still enjoying their various beverages and we weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere. Danny wound up ordering one too after putting away a couple slices, and we were all able to relax a bit. It was determined that when we left it was no longer necessary to check out the festival, we were satiated. Someone suggested we find a park to rest at like we had earlier and I remembered that the finish line was at the park we could see from our hotel the week before, so I suggested we just head there. It would be a few hours yet before van 2 would be at the finish line.

The finish line park fit the bill perfectly and we actually got to park in special lot due to the Excursion with the roof rack not fitting in the underground parking. We checked out the festivities a bit and then decided to rest in the shade at the edge of the park by the water. It was pretty awesome and most everyone dropped off to sleep for a while. I, of course, still have trouble sleeping during the day, and it turned out that Greg did too, but I had a flash of inspiration as to what we could do. I remembered that the last two legs of this year’s relay were actually combined into one last year, my infamous eleven mile leg. I also remembered that square in the middle of that leg was two giant hills that stretched for a mile. Why don’t Greg and I drive over and encourage that leg’s runner (it turned out to be Stacey) up the hills. When Greg heard about this and we realized who the runner was it turned out that they had dated for a couple years and Greg knew that she HATED hills. We had the plan and the destination, now we just needed the keys. Danny proved a little more difficult to rouse than we expected, but we secured the keys and started to make our way to the hills (or, as I called them last year, San Francisco in San Diego). I knew if we just tried to trace the legs backward that we’d be square in the teeth of downtown San Diego traffic, so I directed us back out along the edge to the freeway and cut back over to the general area that way.

Our route actually landed us at the end of the mile of hills, so we got to drive through them back to the beginning and Greg got to see exactly what I was talking about. I was much happier I was in a car this time and not running them. We hadn’t seen Stacey yet but were pretty sure we hadn’t missed her and, sure enough, we got to the base of the hill, turned right, and there she was running toward us on the other side of the road. Thankfully despite the fact that the area is still hilly it’s still laid out in a grid, so we could just move over one street and then cut up and criss-cross the route or drive along it depending on what we needed. Technically this part of the course was “No Van Support” which meant we couldn’t get out or give the runner water or anything, but that wasn’t our plan so we were still within the rules. She didn’t see us at first, nor the first time we stopped on an adjoining road, but when we parked at the summit of the first hill and waited I got to see an awesome double take as she realized who we were. We waited a little bit and proceeded to the top of the next hill, surprised at how well Stacey was killing it, we only beat her to the top by a little bit. It was as she was passing that I realized she was holding something out to the car. I reached out from the passenger side and came back with her sunglasses, and she kept motoring on. I made note to ask why she wanted to get rid of them later, as it was quite sunny out.

It was at this point that I knew we had to start heading back if we wanted to clear the traffic across the downtown area. We followed the runner’s path back and made it in plenty of time. The second van completed their last exchange (Stacey to Lynn) and had to fight their way back, making about fifteen minutes before Lynn came into view. In the meantime we all gathered up, donned our sunglasses (because we were finishing in the daylight as opposed to last year), and capes made by Jess from kid’s aprons, puffy paint, and much painstaking care. They featured a sun with our team’s initials (B.T.L.Y.) and our slogan “Run for Boston” as this was one of the first events since the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. I wore a black and white Boston Red Sox hat in tribute for the entire race. You know what, how about I show you instead:


I turned in one of the group pictures to show off my cape. I actually wore the cape during my first run too, just to get everything off on the right foot. I was the only one who pinned it though, everyone else tied a loop and wore it true cape style.

And that was it, we crossed the finish line together around 4:44 pm in a far better time than last year and a better time than we were projected to based on our paces. We celebrated, took pictures, distributed the medals, and then grabbed two lukewarm Dominoes pizzas (but they were free and we were hungry, so they were awesome). I asked Stacey about the sunglasses and she said that they kept slipping down her nose and she was tired of pushing them back up and would rather squint, which made perfect sense to me. We took one last tour through the swag tent, packed everything up and headed for home.

The ride home was fairly uneventful and surprisingly light on traffic considering we were heading into the tail end of rush hour traffic. I did see something interesting just outside of Carlsbad, looking to the east I commented, “It’s not everyday you see a hot air balloon in the sky.” Then we came around a bend and saw this:


I’m guessing they were from Temecula, and it sparked interest in a group of friends going to a balloon festival at the beginning of June. As for the van, we made it back the church safely, dispersed to our separate cars, and went home to sleep.

Weight: 226 Loss: 4 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 210.5 miles (+4 miles) Last year-to-date: 145 miles – Words-to-date: 36316 (+3690)

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