I will never get to type the following sentence again so please excuse my over-the-top enthusiasm. I participated in two races over the past two weekends and freaking won both of them!!! Seriously. I’m not lying. Ok, so yeah this weekend’s win of Ragnar Napa Valley was entirely pulled off by my team mates and yes the Oakland Hills Half Marathon was tiny, but hey.. a win is a win. All joking aside, I consider both events a win because I had a blast at both and got a good opportunity to assess my fitness levels and was pleasantly surprised.
Ragnar Napa Valley Ultra Relay
This was my 5th Ragnar and my 4th Ragnar Napa. I took last year off and had quite a lot of FOMO seeing lots of my friends enjoying the fun (albeit exhausting) shenanigans that define the Ragar relay series. Since I joined my first 12 person team 4 years ago, I wanted to do the 200 mile relay as an ultra team (6 people instead of 12). Under normal circumstances you would be hard pressed to find 5 friends who want to, or are even able to, run 30-50 miles in a 24 hour period, but at November project that is not the case. We had not 1 but 2 ultra teams and 3 full NP teams as well as several NP friends running on other teams. That’s insane! I was running with a group of 5 dudes who had expressed interest in an ultra while back before we knew just how many of our friends would be running. Since we are an ultra team, we drive and run the entire time and do not get the benefit of resting while the other van is running – since there is no other van. For this reason, and because he is way more fun than me, we had my husband join our team as our driver and general cheerleader which I have to say was once of the best decisions we made as a team. In a normal year he would be running with us but he is still coming back from injury which to me made his participation as a non-runner even more impressive. There is no way I would be able to handle a Ragnar weekend if I couldn’t run.
We started at 1 pm, a full 90 minutes after the next group of teams. We started with only one other team and only 3 teams remained to start behind us, so we had a lot of catching up to do. I was running legs 2, 8, 14, 20, 26 and 32. Leg 2 went across the Golden Gate Bridge, which at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon is a sea of tourists on bikes taking selfies. The run was beautiful though and once I got abut halfway the density of tourist thinned out enough to where I could take advantage of the slight downhill coast at a nice east 6:15 m/m pace. This was faster than I wanted to go in my first of 6 legs but I had to make up for the awful pace sucking stretch that was running on Baker Beach. I mean seriously WTF!!
Leg 8 included the giant hill climb out of Fairfax which I was slightly terrified of but actually felt totally fine going up while still managing to maintain an 8m/m pace. And because physics is a wonderful thing, what goes up must come down so I got to make up some time on the lovely downhill. Meanwhile my team mates were crushing their legs at seemingly inhuman paces. We are talking low to mid 5 m/m paces!
Leg 14 was a nice n easy coaster but it was closing in on dinner time and I was getting hangry. So afterwards, I went to Chipotle and bought 7 chicken burritos only to find the second half of mine in my purse as I got ready for work this morning. mmmmmm. Thankfully leg 20, which I had to run at about 12:30 am was also super easy and mostly downhill. The real kick in the ass was leg 26 which was an 8 miler with a cpl hills that I started at the un-godly hour of 4 am. While my body was very confused when i started, after a few minutes I warmed up and muscle memory kicked in. These pre-dawn, super dark night runs are my favorite because you are deep into wine country at this point and the starts are beautiful. My last leg should have been a nice n easy 3.3 mile burst with a little hill at the end. However, I got distracted by the sick sunrise and the signage was pretty terrible so I tacked on an extra 1.4 miles my going the wrong way down a path! That was mentally really tough but it made me push myself harder to try to make up some of the lost time which was actually an important lesson: My legs were tired and it felt like I was running with cinderblocks attached to my feet, but I was actually turning out sub 7 minute miles pretty consistently. This was really surprising based on how I felt, but also really encouraging. Clearly i am getting better at being uncomfortable and my legs are just used to running that pace. I did the math and I ran a total of 34.5 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes / mile. I’ll take it!
We had some stellar performances by every team member and I was really inspired by how fast and positive and amazing my friends are!
Oakland Hills Trail Half Marathon
I found out about this race 2 days before it was meant to take place and decided it was a good chance to race on my local trails and test out my fitness. The course followed trails in Redwood Regional Park that I know so well I could run them with my eyes closed (ok well not really) so I felt confident going in. It was also the inaugural running so the winner would also be setting a course record – an enticing perk to say the least! While the course was familiar, I also noticed that they seemed to pick the hardest route possible through the park. My suspicions were confirmed at the start line when the race director, Tim of InsideTrail Racing said that they had purposely included all the big hills for our enjoyment. Thanks Tim. But in all seriousness it was a really fun course. The highlight was probably bombing along French Trail (a particularly lovely section of very narrow single track that weaves through the Redwoods) politely asking a large group of Chinese tourists to please move to the right so I could pass. Apparently I cleared the way for 2 guys who found me at the finish to thank me for pulling them through that section and clearing the way for them. I was running alone for much of the race but came up on a guy in the last couple miles. We crossed the finish line at the exact same time because I had the advantage of knowing that my GPS watch was lying when it said we were at 12.2 miles and that we were actually at the finish. I finished in 1:49:36, a pace of 8:12 per mile, which was good for first place women and 7th place overall. The guy I crossed with beat my chip time by 2 seconds. Damn! I feel good about this performance given that the course had a lot of elevation and I was holding back a bit to make sure I had enough in the tank at the end. I had a ton of fun and I highly recommend Inside Trail Racing events! They are super nice, really well run and a really nice size.
Coming up: Tamalpa Challenge XC this weekend and the Mount Tam 30k on Nov 14th!