195 miles, 12 runners, 2 vans … #RagnarSoCal w/ #afterNUUNrun

So a couple of months ago I was presented with the opportunity to captain a Ragnar So Cal team from Nuun Hydration, who generously provided us with a free registration and hydration products and other swag for the event.  Within 2 weeks I was able to fill the roster of 12 runners and this allowed us to get some of the planning underway, from van rentals (sponsored by The SF Marathon) to hotel and flight details. However, over the course of the next couple of month a couple of our runners were forced to pull out due to injury. With this happening it was time to find some replacement runners, we didn’t fill out 12th spot until a week before the race, talk about last minute, but it is what it is.

Thursday April 3rd
For most of the team, we arrived into Orange County on Thursday. In fact within 2 hours of my arrival we would have picked up our two vans and 6 of our team members (Erin, Wes, Paulette, Alisyn, Matt, and I) were already grabbing lunch at a local brew house at the Yard House.

carb loading & hydrating at the Yard House

After wrapping up our delicious meals and beverages, we were now on our way to the Thursday evening hotel in Anaheim which was located about 10 miles away from the Yard House, where we would meet up with Keith and Bruce. Bruce drove into Orange County with his wife. Keith flew into LAX where we was picked up by Jordan who drove down from the Bay Area. The other two members of the awesomely awesome #afterNUUNrun team Meg and Kristina would meet us on Saturday morning.

First thing on the agenda when we arrived into Anaheim was to set out all of the awesome swag from our sponsors and make sure that each runner or van got their goodies. It was like Christmas in April in one of the hotel rooms at the Sheraton Hotel on Harbor Blvd. We had some shoes courtesy of Skechers Performance Division, who kindly provided each runner with a pair of shoes and were our official race shoe sponsor. We had tons of tubes of Nuun Hydration. Magnets, cowbells, shirts, and other goodies from The San Francisco Marathon. Awesome t-shirts from Gametiime, compression sleeves from Zensah, race socks from FitSok, and bags upon bags of PickyBars sent to us by Nuun.

so many goodies!

Next on the agenda was to make our way to the Target across the street from our hotel to get our goodies for Friday to keep our bellies full and our bodies hydrated while in our respective vans. In the van 1 group Wes, Keith, Erin and I took this purchasing very seriously. First we had to get our window pens to decorate our vans. The second thing we had to grab were gallons off water (like 6 of them). Then came the snacks and beer.

we need tape, packing, blue, duct? so many choices

Along with these necessities I made my way to looking at some awesome Justin Bieber notebooks, which I opted not to buy. I opted not to buy them because I hate Justin Bieber haha. Honestly, I wasn’t sure why I was looking at notebooks to begin with. After a quick jaunt through the rest of Target we made our way back to the hotel. 

notebooks for all occasions
Shutter shades for those partly sunny days

Within minutes of forgetting to put the beer into the fridge, a series of messages to the group went out. It was simple… Who wants to run to Downtown Disney and grab some dinner? … Members of the squad were quick to respond and get ready to make our way for a 2.5-3 mile run to go find some pizza.

Why is Matt petting Alisyn?

After some delicious eats at Naples, Keith, Matt and I opted to run back to get some added miles while the rest of the team opted to take the hotel shuttle back. I guess some of us are just more committed to running than others …. bwhaha. However, we did beat the shuttle back to the hotel on this one. What I didn’t know was that beating the shuttle to the hotel would foreshadow the Ragnar Relay to come …. insert suspenseful background music here! 

With food in our bellies and a couple of beers in, it was time for a solid nights rest. Once the morning would come around it was all serious work here because clearly everyone was focused, our nutrition and hydration was on point and we were ready to win this thing … slightly joking.

Friday April 4
The team’s scheduled start time was for 12:45PM. With a later start (we were in the 2nd to last group of teams to start), Keith, Erin and I opted to go for a 3 mile easy shakeout run before meeting up with the rest of the team for breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast consisted of whatever we picked up at Target the day before and that morning after our run.

breakfast of champs!

If you haven’t learned by now, our team was all about 2 things … eating and eating. Clearly a mark of a championship team. With our bellies again satisfied it we packed our shit and loaded the vans to head to the start line where we were scheduled to meet our other two Van 1 mates Jordan and Kristina. Before we could get to the start we had to make another stop. Yes that stop was to get food at Subway! Priorities folks, if you aren’t eating then you are starving.

Upon arrival to the start line area in Huntington Beach, the team went through a very important safety information meeting, picked up our bibs, shirts, safety pins, RAGMAG, safety flags and other really important stuff. That really important stuff was so important it stayed in our van the entire time and was never looked at, however was clearly heavily guarded by 6 people at most times. 

With team #380, afterNUUNrun, checked in and materials in hand, it was time to get to the fun part … decorate our van and get ready to rock and roll on this adventure that was move us approximately 195 miles and take us 26+ hours. The van would be pimped out with our sponsors, Twitter handles, and other random things of awesomeness.

Before we headed back to the start to send Keith off, the team then did the musical chairs sponsor photos for van 1 …

team shoes sponsored by SkechersGO

Thanks to TSFM for the vans, Zensah compression wear, FitSok for our race socks.
Ragnar Shirts on and NUUN in hand!

Now with all of our pre-race duties completed it was really time to get this adventure started. For a brief moment we had lost our runner number 1 (Keith). Apparently he was off building sandcastles on the beach. After a quick reminder that he had to run sub 6 minute pace, it was time to start.

eye spy NUUN … the start line being a bit empty with 700+ teams already on the course.

With some word of encouragement and a countdown this thing was really about to go down. What we didn’t know at this time was how much awesomeness, fun and friendship building would go on through one little adventure.

BOOM! and like that we were now official ready and on our way to start this whole life changing experience. After Keith’s start we took some photos and quickly jumped into the van to head to the next point, where Kristina would be handed off to. The WORST thing for a runner in a relay is to get to an exchange point and not have anyone to hand off to. We saw this happen by the third leg with one of the teams that started with us.

At the first exchange we would find ourselves having to make a couple of U-turns to get into the correct parking location. Kristina was ready to rock and roll for her first go around. While in the parking lot everyone else was getting themselves adjusted and set in the van. Jordan, runner 3, was already a hot mess at this point trying to find stuff … YES SHE WAS THAT GIRL! While our fourth and fifth runners, Wes and Erin, were well set for their adventure as both have already participated in previous relay events. Last August, Wes and I were part of Team Pure Michigan for the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon.

Jordan already a hot mess before her leg started

With the hand off to Kristina complete, we had to make a quick stop at a local CVS to pick up some safety pins because Ragnar had run out of pins by the time our group started. Luckily, the CVS was on the way to the next exchange and our timing was just right to be able to cheer Kristina as she was about half way done with her leg.

high-five action during Kristina’s first leg

Over the course of the next couple of hours we would send off Jordan, Erin and Wes before I had my chance to run my first leg of the event.

Jordan off to the races
Hey Wes quit waving and follow the directions 🙂
Air-Run waiting for Wes at Angel Stadium

Leg 1 Friday
Finally, after a few hours driving Van 1 around and jumping in and out at exchanges it would be my turn to run around the mean streets of Irvine, CA. After getting the wrist band from Erin, I would start my 8.7 mile venture, which would lead me to Van 2 and Matt awaiting the exchange. I got off to a pretty solid start, kicking out a 6:20 mile … then after that shit went down and made me go slow … Yup, those damn stop lights and crossing signals. At Ragnar, all traffic laws must be followed for both runners and vans. Unlike most other races and Hood to Coast for that matter, all of the streets on the course are completely open, meaning if the crosswalk says stop you stop, but your time keeps on going.

I literally found a way to run into every single stop light over the next 6 miles or so. It was tough to get any sort of rhythm going not to mention to collect any sort of road kills along the way. Nonetheless, it is what it is and I had to stop at each light otherwise I would put my team in jeopardy of getting a DQ. Ragnar had sent a text message out to the captains just before my leg reminding that teams in violation are subject to getting DQ’d and face any legal fines imposed by the city.

I picked up my 1st road kill about 4 miles into the run. Eventually, when the course opened up and with less than 1.5 miles to go, I was able to pick up another 4 kills, giving me a total of 5 kills on my first leg. I was able to finish pretty hot with my final mile or so kicking in about a 6:20 mile as I exchanged with Matt.

Van 2 is ready to do their thing.


Van 1 back together … Time for a team selfie

Van 2 does their thing
Between major exchanges is the only time we really got to see the other half of our team, this is the norm for relays but it makes the adventure that much more enjoyable as we move around the course. While Van 2 took over with running the course, it was our turn to fill our bellies and try to get some rest in before our next legs would come into play after midnight. This would be the fun part of the relay with the headlamps and reflective vest portion of running.

Before we headed off to the next major exchange, we got our foodie fix and threw down some more pizza at Beach Cities Pizza just down the street from the next major exchange where Alisyn would hand off to Keith.

Van 1 getting our grub on

With our bellies full of pizza we made our way to the exchange to get some rest as well as enjoy the headlamp runners. This is where members of our van would also get a chance to brush their teeth to keep those pearly whites glowing through the night, not to mention to rid the garlic breath from the fresh garlic we added onto our bread sticks just hours before.

Leg 2 for Van ONERS! 

Now it was go time as Alisyn came into the exchange with Meg pacing her through the darkness. Keith was off and about to tackle the longest leg of the relay at night. At the end of Keith’s leg he would get a special pint glass for taking in this challenge.

As we each got prepared for our next leg that would take us into the early morning of Saturday, we started to sort out game plans, what people would run, and in Wes’ case who would pace him. I jumped at the opportunity to pace him and get a warm-up run since my next leg would be my shortest with 2.7 miles listed.

During the portion of the race we would find an interesting twist in the relay where Kristina would jump into our van without exchanging over to Jordan. Rather our team would drive to another exchange location with all 6 members of the van drop Jordan off then continue to run. This took up about 30 minutes of travel time to accomplish this. Every team had to do it so it was just part of the experience.

With Jordan now out of the van, we would travel to the next location where Wes and I would wait her arrival. During the dark hours of the events, other runners on your team are allowed to pace the runner that is assigned to go. Wes’ leg was just over 4 miles and it was pretty much pancake flat and at times very lonely on the trail with the exception of 4-5 jack rabbits that sprinted in front of us and were only visible because of our headlamps.

Wes ran very strong in this leg running at about a 7:35 / mile pace. This was about 1 minute per mile faster than he thought he could run it. Wes would hand off to Erin, giving me about 40 minutes or so to get to my next exchange location and prepare for my shortest leg of the relay.

Erin came flying into the exchange and I was off to the races. My personal goal wasn’t a time, okay maybe a time, but more importantly to try to beat my van 1 mates to the next exchange. As I flew out of the exchange area all I remember was a volunteer, cheering me on yelling, “Make this 2.7 miles your bitch”. At that point, I was coming out hot … and then I hit a stop light, 2 of them in a row … I could only do one thing and that was laugh at this point because all of my luck I would run into every single red light the streets had to offer. Fortunately, there weren’t too many lights on this stretch and I was able to run 6:19 pace for the 2.7 miles. This was good enough to get me into Matt, who was starting the 2nd go around for Van 2.  In the 2.7 miles I collected another 5 kills along the way giving me a total of 10.

After finishing my leg and seeing some of the Van 2 members, I asked them where Van 1 was. Van 1 was nowhere to be found. So I waited, I figured maybe in a couple of minutes they would be there. I checked the parking lot for our van with lights connected, nothing. 10 minutes went by, nothing … 20 minutes … nothing … 30 minutes … nothing … then about 40 minutes later and goosebumps on my arms from the cold ocean breeze at 4AM, I saw Van 1 coming and I jumped into the car. Apparently, Erin and Jordan piloted to the wrong exchange where they actually saw Van 2 … and that is when they realized …. OH CRAP! We went to the wrong pick-up area … thanks guys.

Van 2 out once again … We are knackered but only have 1 more leg to run each in Van 1

With it being 4AM, and hitting the 3rd major exchange more vans would be visible. At this point I started asking teams their start times. This is when I realized we had already caught up to a majority of teams that started 4-5 hours ahead of us. We were making up some ground which meant for a higher number of kills along the way. As we were able to get situated and find some moments of shut eye, we all had set our alarms knowing that around 7:30AM, Keith would be starting his 3rd and final leg.

One more run each then we head to the beach …

With traffic a concern at this point at each exchange, we left Keith and headed to the next location where Kristina would get her final start of the relay. With each change it brought us closer and closer to wrapping it up. At this point we were exhausted not from the running but rather the duration of the event with little, if any, sleep.  However, during this final set of runner preparations for each leg this is where we Kristina brought her competitive edge out, asking us what it would take to win this thing. The pressure was on! hahaha.

As each of the first 5 runners in the van wrapped up, I knew they my 3rd leg would be the biggest test as the first 2 miles would bring me up a hill. After that I could hammer it in to hand off to Matt. With an early arrival by Erin from her predicted time, I was off to start my climb.

I quickly saw a number of runners struggling to get up the hill, and I would pick off each runner one by one going up. By the top of the hill I had already picked off 15 kills. I knew the next portion of the route had some rollers, flats and downhills so I could look to gain more time and rack up more kills.

With the “1-mile” remaining sign visible, I kicked it into full gear picking off a majority of runners at this point. I would finish my final run strong with 29 kills in this leg and a total of 39 in the relay.

coming in hot with my final exchange into Matt

Hey Van 2 you do your thing, we are going to the finish line … 
With all of the runners in our van done, we headed to San Diego were we would grab some grub and wait it out for our team to finish it up. This is what the finish line waiting looked like.

Gas Lamp = FOOD!

a mean joke of making runners climb stairs to get to the finish area

 VAN1 awesomeness photo
Jordan had to carry the team at times during this race … literally

Finished! Let’s toast to that! 

With the final text of “Alisyn just left” we had a better understanding of what time she should be coming into the finish line area. Once we saw her the group gathered to cross the finish line area together as one big happy relay family … the relay was written and more photos were taken.

 Let’s toast to an awesome weekend of running with friends!

Team #380 afterNUUN run finished with an official time of 26:40:57 … this time was good for 8th in the Regular Open Mixed Division and 24th overall.

This entire weekend and race wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors. So a big thank you and shout out to Skechers for providing the team with our official race shoes, Nuun for providing the team with our race entry and keeping us hydrated, The SF Marathon (Register for any of the SF Marathon events and save $10 with code: DSC10RAGNAR2014) for providing us with vans and gear during the weekend, Gametiime for giving us comfortable shirts to kick it in between our running legs, Zensah for the compression gear to keep us recovering between our running, and Fitsok for our official race socks! 


One thought on “195 miles, 12 runners, 2 vans … #RagnarSoCal w/ #afterNUUNrun

  1. Pingback: 2014 The Year that was well … AWESOME! | christophermalenab.com

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