Sunday, April 20, 2014

#14in14: Mokelumne River 50K

A few months ago, I signed up for the Mokelumne River 26.2 managed and organized by Elemental Running. Then on Wednesday or Thursday this past week I decided to email the race director and find out if it was possible to upgrade to the 50k, with a quick response back from him, I was now officially moved from 26.2-miles to the 50k. The motivation you may ask? Well I found out that the 50k finishers get a jacket ... Yes, I am a sucker for swag.

So here I was, on my way to run my first ever 50k race. However, this wouldn't be my longest distance in a single run. In 2013, I ran the Dirty Half-Dozen 6 Hour Endurance Run and earlier this year I opted to say hello to turning 34 by running 34-miles. After upgrading to the 50k an email went out that was titled "Mokelumne River Runner Instructions", this email had the typical packet pick-up instructions along with some interesting additional instructions regarding cows, bulls, ticks and poison oak. At this point I started to think ... WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST UPGRADE TO? However, I knew that the jacket would be awesome and would be worth it. Wait, I didn't even know what the jacket was like, it could have been a cotton zip jacket, fingers crossed and let's hope it is a legit running jacket.

Who would you react if you saw a cow or bull during your run?
Saturday morning came around with a 3:30AM wake-up alarm. This early start to my day would allow me to have my typical smoothie breakfast, cup of coffee, and handful of ENERGYbits®. After making sure I had all of my goodies in my crate and bags I was off to pick-up my buddy Kevin who was running the 26.2-mile run. This would be his 2nd marathon overall. He ran his first marathon last month.

The drive would seem to be a bit long while on the roads, but time wise only took a little over 60 minutes. The highways leading to Lake Camanche in Valley Springs would be pretty dark and lonely at times and border line spooky with very little light along the road. Once we pulled up to the South Shore of Lake Camanche, we were welcomed with a back log of cars getting into the staging area as each car would have to purchase a parking pass to get in.

arriving to Lake Camanche (South Shore) in Valley Springs
It's official we are at the race staging area!
Once inside of the staging area, we walked to the packet pick-up got our swag (a bib number, shirt, pins, and some other stuff in a bag). With about 1 hour until start time for the 6:30AM 50-mile and 50k start, I proceeded back to my truck to get ready, here is where I saw my cousin Edd who was also running the 50k. Not too much after I saw a couple of my Buffalo Chips Running Club teammates (Laura and Kynan Matz), another one of my twitter running homies Clint, and a few others. I partly wanted this 50k to be a somewhat secret race since it was going to be my first 50k and I didn't train specifically for this race. However, with all of the familiar faces it was going to be far from a secret.

After I through on my race attire, pinned my bib and loaded up my handheld bottle with some Nuun Hydration, I walked about 1/4-mile to the start line area. At this point I saw trail badass Paulo and a handful of other top notch trail runners who would be out to try to win this thing with some smashing times. One thing I do really enjoy about trail running is the low pressure start line areas, there isn't as much anxiety at these races. For me I knew just getting out and enjoying the trails would be a good day, and obviously finishing my first 50k. While waiting for the start to come around we saw the minutes tick by, first it was 6:35, then 6:40, not until 6:46AM did we start the race. During this time a few of us joked about the bulls on the trails and how awesome (not really) it would be if we got chased by one or two.

With the race now underway, I opted to start around middle of the pack, since this was my first 50k I was going to run somewhat smart and start slow and push where I felt like I could. The course was an out and back, so the out would allow me to figure out the trail and the back would allow me to run a little more consistent, or at least that was the plan. My strategy using my "lap" button would provide me some info on distance from aid station to aid station as well as moving time between each one.

Strava screen shot of the course elevation

Start to Lancha Plana (aid station 1)
With a conservative start I started with runners around me moving through the trails once the trails opened up around the first mile or I took at the opportunity to pass some runners and run in my own space on the trails.  Around 2 miles in, I was now running around 2-3 runners. This would be the case for most of the race.

The first portion of the race would cover just under 4 miles based on my Garmin, at this point there weren't any major climbs nor was there any sight of cows and bulls, the only thing to report at this point were the sounds of cows somewhere in the grazing areas. The gates at this point were open so there wasn't any time wasted on opening and closing of gates.

I ran the first section of the trail in a time of 35:29. Once I got to the aid station, I made sure to refill my water bottle since the next stretch to Campo Seco would be around 8 miles without any aid between.

Lancha Plana to Campo Seco (aid station 2)
Right after leaving this aid station, I passed a couple other runners and came across my first cattle grazing gate that I actually had to open and shut behind me. Once I separated myself from a couple of those runners I had just passed, I really started to enjoy the trails, but this is where it seemed like the cows mooing started to get a little louder, to be honest I got freaked out a little bit because of the fact that what if a cow and bull were just hanging out nearby, I would be kind of screwed since I was by myself on the trails.

With the trails all to myself and about 2.5 miles out from the Lancha Plana aid station, this is where I fell and literally almost ate shit!  Some people use the term, "I ate shit" as a way of saying they fell pretty hard. However, in my case, I tripped on a rock and landed inches from eating a cow pie. I collected myself brushed off the dirt and washed my cut from my fall and continued on my way.
post race photo of the result of my fall
This portion of the race might have been the most beautiful part of it all. Below are some photos that my cousin Edd posted on his Facebook. I wish I would have ran with a camera, because these views were completely awesome and breath taking.

Some of these areas along the trail during this stretch were pretty exposed and the sun started peaking out and really started to take a toll on me, I knew having a handheld would save me during this run. During this stretch I would also have a decent little climb to make. With the combination of sun and climbing I made sure to keep the fluids coming as well as consume my fruit bars and gels that I had in my pack.

After getting past the climb, the downhill along with some open meadows allowed me to switch up my focus and just cruise down rather than struggle up. Just before the Campo Seco I started to see a couple of runners in front of me, this was a good thing because as fun as the trails had become, they had started to become a little lonely at times, so seeing other runners provided me a little bit of joy.

This stretch took me 1:15:09 to cover the approximately 8 miles.

Campo Seco to 50k turnaround
I was quickly out of the Campo Seco aid station after refilling my water and dropping my Nuun into the bottle. I also grabbed a handful of pretzels to help with some salt and something other than just fruit bars and gels. 

After getting out fairly quickly of this aid station which would take me to the 50k turnaround some 2.5 miles out or so, I was passed up one runner who got into the area before I did and was the runner who I had seen as I ran through the meadow.

This section of the race had a fairly steady climb up and was mostly on gravel. This area was completely exposed and where the sun would start to take it's toll on most runners. With the turn around coming up, I saw a number of lead runners already making the turn and heading back towards me. Getting out to the turn around, I passed 2 other runners who were in the 50k distance. Just before hitting the turnaround I saw Clint working his way back down, seeing a familiar face on the trail was a good thing at this point.

While at the turnaround one runner who was a few yards ahead of me continued past the sign, meaning he was one of those extremely BADASSES that was running the 50-miler.

I hit the turnaround 26 minutes 24 seconds after leaving Campo Seco. At the turnaround there was no water or aid, so I knew I was about the same time and distance away from being able to load up on food and water. The bright side of climbing up to the turnaround was that the distance back to Campo Seco would be mostly downhill.

50k turnaround to Campo Seco (aid station 3)
After turning around, I knew that this part of the course would allow me to see more runners that would be working their way up to the turnaround. This is always the positive part of an out and back course.

As I worked my way down, there were a lot of exchanges of "way to go", "nice job", "looking strong". Around half way back down to Campo Seco aid station, I saw Laura and Kynan. A little bit further down I saw my cousin Edd, who was snapping photos, however the photo he took of me didn't come out.

With the downhill continuing, I was covered the return portion to Campo Seco in a time of 22:11.

Campo Seco to Lancha Plana (aid station 4)
Knowing that there was about 8 miles from Campo Seco to Lancha Plana, I decided that it would be a smart idea to refill the bottle with some water and throw down some food along with my gels and fruit bars. I think at this point I ate some crackers and pretzels for some salt.

Heading back to the final aid station before hitting the finish line, I saw a number of runners making their way to the marathon turn around and came across one runner heading back to the next aid station as he too was running the 50k. We chatted for a few minutes while running along side one another tackling some of the hills. He asked me which distance I was running, I informed him the 50k, at that point he said "Damn, there goes another place in the race I just dropped." I didn't catch his name but I was a bit worried about him because he just seemed pissed, but it is always hard figure out during any endurance event, if the guy was really struggling or if he was mad. I offered him some of my gels and even some Nuun to pop into his water, which he refused.

After making covering more distance on this leg, I came up to the half marathon turn around point, where there were more runners heading back as they were the marathon and half marathon group which started about 60 minutes after the 50-mile and 50k.

This part of the race became pretty memorable because at this point I saw my buddy Clint on the switch back, he was probably about 5 minutes of moving time a head of me (about .4-.5 miles ahead if I had to guess). With a quick wave to him, he saw me and I could tell from his body language that he was going to pick it up a bit to hold me off.

Moving towards the end of this stretch I knew all I had to do was get to  Lancha Plana and I would be able to count down the miles to the completion of my first 50k. After opening and closing the final cattle grazing gate of the stretch I finally covered the distance of about 8 miles in a time of 1 hour 17 minutes exact.

Lancha Plana to Finish
After another refill of the hand held bottle and a couple small cups of cola, I was ready to push the final 4 miles to the finish line. During my time at the aid station one of the volunteers told me I was the 5th overall 50k at this point. I knew if I could keep myself moving, I could probably hold off any other 50k runners behind me, though I wasn't sure if someone was closing ground anyways.

For most of the course, I was running alongside the 3rd place overall marathoner, who was holding pretty strong at this point. We passed a number of half marathoners still on the course making their way to the finish. I remember passing one guy who asked me which distance I was running and responded after I told him the 50k, "Dude you'e badass, enjoy that jacket!" See I wasn't the only one aware of the jacket.

With a couple of small climbs to finish off this stretch, I was able to see some horse trailers and some boats, I knew I was getting close to the finish line. I decided to pick up my pace a bit to see if I could finish strong. I finished this section in 39:47, giving me a total time for the 50k of 4:36:06.

After crossing the finish line, I was given my bling and jacket and checked the official finishers screen where I finished 5th overall and 3rd in my AG. With a quick high-five to my buddy Kevin, I saw Clint at the finish line, where he told me, "Hey thanks for the extra push, when I saw you on the trail, I said no way am I getting beat by Chris". Clint ran this race very strong considering he was dealing with being sick and coughing during the race at times. Clint finished a couple of minutes ahead of me and 4th place overall.

bling and jacket in hand!

Clint and I at the finish showing off our new swag.

It was an awesome Saturday morning of running and I think another 50k is probably in the future at some point.

Some of you might be wondering about my #14in14 title ... yes I have decided to modify my goal of 14 marathons in 2014. I have decided to change my goal to include 14 runs of marathon distance or greater as part of my 14 in 2014. So far I am 4 runs in the my #14in14.

Have you ever decided to just upgrade to a distance at an event without training for it? How did it go?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fit Friday: Every Journey Has a Start

Every journey has a starting point, the destination maybe undetermined or may change over time, but everything has a start. For me my running journey started in 2004, with my first marathon on June 6 at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (don't judge me for running a few RnR races before I knew better). This first marathon will always be special to me because my dad also ran his first marathon at this race.
my first marathon, 2004
My journey started with a finishing time of 4:53:30, a pace of 11:12/mile! My second marathon was a tad bit faster in 2006 when I ran my first California International Marathon at a finishing time of 4:17:29 (9:36/mi). Keeping to my under-prepared training, I ran my first official half marathon in 2007, where I clocked a time of 2:20:54 (10:45/mi) at the Davis Stampede Half Marathon. You can see my official results in my 2004 - 2007 races below:

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be talking and posting on my own running blog about going after a Boston Qualifying time (check out my Chasing the Unicorn post). I was never fast when it came to running (marathons or races at least). During my fittest days in high school, I was able to sprint but only when a soccer ball was involved, running really wasn't something that I would call something I loved to do. Even after my first marathon, running seemed pointless, thousands of people running 26.2 miles ... for what?

my first California International Marathon, 2006
my first half marathon, 2007
Now fast forward to today, I have completed 1 endurance run, 1 30k, 20 marathons, 25 half marathons, and 33 other races of various distances ranging from 5ks to 10-miles. I have recently picked up personal best of the following:
  • 5k: 18:55 Oktobrewfest 5k - 2013
  • 10k: 38:41 Run to Feed the Hungry - 2013
  • 10-mile: 1:05:42 Capital City Classic - 2013
  • 1/2 Marathon: 1:24:40 Shamrock'n Half Marathon - 2014  
  • Marathon: 3:09:25 California International Marathon - 2013 *BQ*
I do not know where this journey shall end or what the destination really is, but I do know it has taught me so much about myself, how to commit to something, make good decisions when it comes to caring for my body, and how to turn dreams into goals.

Getting "fast" as some of my friends like to label my running wasn't easy, at points I did question my sanity and felt like I will always just be at that level, before 2013 I had never broken 3:30:00 in the marathon, now a casual 3:20:00 marathon is attainable. The secret to getting "fast", and fast is relative, is to run, have a plan, and stick to it! Re-examine your plan after the race, and modify it to help you grow. Every day of training and racing is another step in the journey, enjoy each of those moments.

Where did your journey start? How did you feel after finishing your first race?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chasing the Unicorn

From April 15 through April 21, there will be a ton of emotions pouring. One year ago on April 15 a series of tragic events took place killing 3 and injuring hundreds. On April 21, 2014 we will celebrate Patriots Day as a country but runners know it more as the day of the Boston Marathon.

two of my friends in a recent News10 Boston Marathon piece.
For one day in every runners life we have a little bit of Boston in us. That day comes on a Monday in April. No matter your speed or where you are from, there is a little piece of you that thinks getting to run the Boston Marathon is pretty cool and special. 

Until the tragic events that occurred in Boston, at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, in 2013, I had never owned any article of clothing or memorabilia that had the Boston Marathon logo on it. To me the unicorn that sits right in the middle of the logo is magical. In fact it is more than that, it is sacred. 

To this day the only article that I own that has the logo is the Adidas shirt that reads "Boston stands as one". I won't even borrow a jacket in the cold that bares the logo because it is that special to me... By the way that is a true story. It is so special that it is my goal to finish the Boston Marathon with a qualified time of my own. Now don't get me wrong people who run the Boston Marathon under a charity bib is amazing work. In no way do I think people shouldn't be able to do this because raising the money for charity might be tougher than most training plans. I am just speaking for myself when I say that I will only run Boston with my own qualifying time.

my only piece of Boston gear
After last year's events in Boston, I felt sick to my stomach and gutted, but during this time I also felt more determined to get myself to Boston. After April 15, I started to look at races and thought of ways to qualify even working various situations in regards to races and training plans. 

A few weeks after Boston 2013 I ran the Big Sur International Marathon. This race was special to me in so many ways, the first was due to the fact that my son was celebrating his first birthday that Saturday and we opted to celebrate it at the marathon! I was registered and trained for Big Sur 2012, packed and ready to go then my wife went into labor and delivered our healthy baby boy 2 days before the marathon. The second reason this race was special was because I felt that I could immidatley do something to honor those in Boston by running with the 4:15 Pace Group (signifying the 4/15 date of the Boston Marathon) and holding a "Big Sur supports Boston" tribute sign.

During the Friday of the expo at Big Sur, I remember exchanging some text messages with my friend, Chris K., who informed me that he was going to pace the 3:05 group at the 2013 San Francisco Marathon. After a series of text messages, I remember the words, might as well roll the dice and see what happens. What could be the worst thing? During the race you end up having to pull back. 

At The San Francisco Marathon, I ended up running a 3:09:27, which became a PR for me at the time. I gave the BQ attempt another go in September on the last possible day to qualify before registration for 2014 opened up. I bonked in the Ventura Marathon running a 3:13:xx. 

Nonetheless, I didn't quit on my goals with training. What this did though was allowed me to focus on 2015 where my age group qualifying time would be 3:10, since I will be 35 before the 2015 Boston Marathon. In December 2013, at the California International Marathon my first attempt at a BQ in my new age group, I successfully accomplished it. I not only ran a 3:09:25, but this would be my new personal best! 

a special shirt that I purchased at the finish line of CIM2013
With that being said, I know that I need to run a better BQ time to get myself into Boston 2015. All runners chasing that magical unicorn know that getting a BQ is one thing, it is a special moment and accomplishment in itself, but getting into Boston, running it and finishing it are all different steps. 

So my goal is to better my BQ time by at least 2 minutes, in 2014 to get in you had to run a BQ -1:28 or faster. Ideally I would like to get a BQ minus 5 or 10 to get in early on the registration process. I know putting the work and committing to running and training smart will make that wearing of the jacket that much more magical. Going from a marathoner to Boston Qualifier has happened now the next step is being Boston Marathon Finisher!

To me the unicorn is more than just the logo, it represents a lot of hard work, time dedicated to going after a goal, a lot of physical and emotional challenges, commitment to a sport and life choices, and most importantly support from loved ones who let me chase after a magical creature. 

Do you have goals or ambitions to run Boston with a qualifying time you earned or do you think a charity bib is more of your liking? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

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!