Hey, guys! I had the amazing privilege to be selected to run on Team Nuun, a.k.a. “Team Nuun Now, Wine Later,” at Ragnar Relay Napa Valley last weekend. I’m still feeling a bit of my Ragnover (Ragnar Hangover) after finishing the relay on Saturday afternoon, and parting ways with my teammates on Sunday morning, so I’m going to save my race recap for another date.
I didn’t want any more time to pass before I documented the high points of my Ragnar Napa experience, though, especially while I’m still basking in the glow of all the post-race feels. There are too may high points to list, so I’ve tried to narrow them down to 10… which is kind of like asking a mother of multiple children to identify her favorite child.
For now, in no particular order, here are my top 10 experiences at Ragnar Napa:
10. Meeting teammates from all over the continent.
Nuun has team members across the globe, and our team was composed of people from as close to me as Seattle, as far as New York City, and many points (Texas! Houston! California! And more!) in between. One of our teammates was also visiting us from Vancouver, BC, Canada, so we were an international team with one common goal: Conquering the 200-mile San Francisco-to-Calistoga course and staying hydrated all the while.
9. Decorating the “vans.”
When we all arrived at our hotel in San Francisco, we decorated our 2 “vans.” Our fearless team leader/captain, Brian, had rented us 2 Chevy Suburbans instead of vans, but we still referred to them as “vans” because Ragnar.
I was in Van 2 (a.k.a., the van that started last and finished last) and, being a Ragnar virgin and in inexperienced van-artist, I was a bit tentative to start. Eventually I got the hang of it and started to go a little bit overboard. Fortunately, nobody needed to rip the pens from my hands.
8. Laughing my arse off.
Spending 26+ hours with the some people in tight quarters leads to annoyance and acrimony. In our case, however, spending that much time led to friendship and zaniness, which included good-natured teasing, car-dancing to loud music, and coming up with hashtags.
7. Playing cheerleader.
As a runner, I’m firmly entrenched in the middle of the pack, which means I can win age group awards but only in the smallest of races on the luckiest of days. Being on a team with some very gifted athletes was eye-opening, and a treat to watch.
In addition to cheering on my Team Nuun teammates, I (along with my team) enjoyed offering support to other teams. If Ragnar handed out a Miss Congeniality award, it would surely have been given to our team.
6. Running through wine country.
The Ragnar Napa course is unlike any I’ve run before. It started in San Francisco, one of the most stunning cities in the country, and ended in the postcard-perfect small towns and vineyards of Napa Valley. I loved seeing Napa from the point of view of a runner. As I’ve written before, touring a new place as a runner is a treat.
5. Resting. Or not.
200 miles to be run. 26+ hours in a van. 6 people per van.
You do the math.
This is how I looked after roughly an hour of sleep, sleep obtained while leaning against a car window and using the hood of that sweatshirt as a makeshift pillow. (I think the bags under my eyes would have made a better pillow.)
The sleeplessness was worth it, though.
We used our rest time between runs to cheer, team-build (a.k.a. come up with new hashtags, drink beer while leapfrogging Van 1, etc.), fuel (gummi bears and Nuun make a great midnight snack), and wine-taste.
In other words, we used the time we were supposed to be resting by making memories.
4. Testing my limits.
As scenic and interesting as the course was, it was also tough. Running roughly 16 miles over 3 legs over an 18-hour period with only about an hour’s worth of sleep isn’t easy. Throw some hilly terrain and warm temps into the mix, and you have even more of a challenge to surmount.
I’ve faced some adversity over the last year and a half due to injuries, and I appreciated every minute I was out on the course. I was so grateful to be able to run and tough out all 3 legs. Running Ragnar tested me physically and mentally (especially during my last leg, when I was running on fumes) and makes me very hopeful for future races.
3. Feeling the accomplishment of completing a 200-mile relay.
As much fun as it was to run in a beautiful place with my awesome teammates, I wasn’t prepared for the relay to last forever. 1, I have a family and a job to go home to, and 2, 16 miles was enough mileage for under-trained me. Reaching the finish line in Calistoga and crossing it as a team was really special.
I love how Ragnar endorses the importance of the team in how it designs its medals.
2. The after-party.
Celebrating our accomplishment at the finish line party was a total blast. Fortunately, we had all hydrated ourselves so well on Nuun throughout the race that we were well primed to start the dehydration process with the party’s free beer.
[Pro tip: Nuun is also great for preventing and mitigating the effects of hangovers.]
1. Making lasting friends and memories.
Before last weekend, I’d about relays like Ragnar and Hood to Coast being amazing adventures and bonding experiences. I figured there was some truth to it, but I had no idea about the friendships and memories that would actually emerge from my experience on Team Nuun Now, Wine Later.
When I was preparing to leave for San Francisco, my friends and family were somewhat incredulous that I was going to spend so much time with a group of strangers. I knew better than that because my teammates and I would share a common interest in running, which historically has been a good friendship-starter for me. However, I couldn’t have anticipated the speed and strength with which I would bond with this motley crew of Ragnarians.
I am looking forward to reuniting with my teammates–hopefully to run more miles and make more great memories. Hashtag-worthy memories.
What are some of your best memories from relay races? What’s the longest you’ve stayed awake at one time?