Ragnar Relay Napa Valley

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley

What an EPIC weekend at the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley (in fact it was the highlight of an epic 10 days for me, but that’s a new post on a personal vacation)!

12 BAMRs (BadA$$ Mother Runners) lead by Sarah and Dimity, our two fearless leaders, took on Ragnar Relay Napa Valley. And the exuberance that we unleashed on the roads – I don’t think the roads leading in to Napa was ready to handle that. 

This is more of a race report, so if you want a more condensed version and/or want to get an idea of what other BAMRRs thought, check out these links – 

http://anothermotherrunner.com/2014/09/27/129-napa-valley-ragnar-relay/ – The Podcast ( I LOVE how both Sarah and Dimity described me. I think that will be my new motto in life!)
http://anothermotherrunner.com/2014/09/24/ragnar-napa-valley-mother-runner-recap/ – A small snippet from all the team members.

Meeting the Team

After the epic trip that took me to Monterey and Big Sur, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, I joined the team at the very last minute before heading off to team dinner. (Had to settle Mr. FauxTriathlete and the minions into their hotel before I could escape)

Vans 1 and 2 all decorated (Pity I missed the decoration party)
Vans 1 and 2 all decorated (Pity I missed the decoration party)

At the team dinner, I sat next to Dimity and picked her brains about longer distance triathlons (70.3 which is on my bucket list). Dimity, who did Ironman Coeur d’alene last year, was very encouraging and said all that is needed is to show up day after day after day and be consistent with training. 

A spark has been ignited!!

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.04.29 PM
Excited to be starting on the 205 mile journey!

The San Fransisco to Napa Valley Journey

Waiting for the start

The hardest thing about the relay has been the waiting to start my run! And as the very last runner, I had more time that I appreciated initially, but started wondering if I would ever get to run!

While Van 1 started the journey at 5:30am, Van 2 had a while to go and started photos, shopping, etc at the first big exchange. Melissa, Van 2’s first runner fretted that she wouldn’t be at the point in time and …. guess what … we weren’t. Oops!

We hung around for more pictures and … guess what … completely missed Melissa at her exchange!! That exchange was a “choose your own” and not knowing the area, Melissa kept running to the next point while were were waiting and wondering!! Comedy (not so at that time!) of errors later, we located Melissa and all was well. (Listen to more of this in the Mother Runner Podcast)

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.06.54 PM
One too many pictures (and a wrong turn) ended up with a runner missing!

I’m a first-thing-in the-morning runner and so my biggest concern was how to fuel myself just enough so I don’t have GI issues. I ended up not eating anything other an a bagel at 8am and then nibbled on half a lara bar every 1-2hrs and fueled with 1 scoop of UCan about 30minutes before it was time for me to run.

Leg 1: 6.2 Miles

My first leg was the hardest in terms of miles and elevation. But it was “only” 6.2 miles, so not too bad. My instructions were to pace properly,  not walk eye on HR and negative split.
I am a fairly good pacer (even without a HR Monitor) and very rarely do I start off too fast, so I wasn’t too worried about that. The run straight out was a bit disconcerting for this Galloway Run-Walker but I had been doing that for the past 2 months, just at a different pace. I was supposed to look at HR as well, but really, it was highly annoying to have to keep glancing down at it!! 
I kept trotting along until I started hitting the hills. Remembering the no walking, I trudged along. Until I got to a point where I was going backwards! Not kidding! The hills were very steep mountains and knowing that I had 2 more runs within 8-10 hours of finishing this one, I decided to walk up the mountains. 
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As the hill/mountains hit, I did what I do best – take photos!

When I came down the climbs after 3 miles (steep downhills that I couldn’t take much advantage of), I saw this guy walking with hands on his hips. So I go up to him and encourage him and ask him to run along with me. And he did. 

We trotted along for a few hundred yards, me feeling happy that I’d encouraged someone, when I glanced at him to talk and it struck me – he was in long slacks (temperature was in the high 90s) and his brown shoes didn’t really look like running shoes. And NO BIB! 


As I was debating what to do because there was no way I could outrun him, he waved me on and dropped off. 


Maybe that’s a lesson for me not to talk to everyone I see while running.

 The rest of the run was uneventful and I maintained a strong, steady, and negative split run without walking. Running into the exchange and seeing all the pink tutus lined up cheering was like having a personal cheer squad! (And I will admit, one of the reasons I asked for this last runner slot). 

I don't know if you can tell - I was just a tad excited about having run  a great first leg.
I don’t know if you can tell – I was just a tad excited about having run a great first leg 🙂 

The Exchange

Going to eat dinner immediately after my run wasn’t appealing to me and instead I chose to nibble some of the chipotle take away at about midnight when we were about to “sleep”. I was still afraid of GI issues and maybe not finding a portapotty on time! Since the Lara Bars and UCan combination worked the previous time, I continued with that. 

We slept in a high school field at the exchange and surprisingly fell asleep for about 3 hours. The other girls left the sleeping SBS (who has the envious ability to fall asleep ANYWHERE at ANYTIME!) and me until it was go time.

Jodi (our resident Disney Princess) and I trying to catch some Zzzzss..
Jodi (our resident Disney Princess) and I trying to catch some Zzzzss..

Leg 2: 4.2 miles

This run was to be a night leg for me but because of earlier snafus, it ended up being a break of dawn run. Just like I run at home. Beautiful, calm and running through the town of Sonoma.

SBS giving me a send off to leg 2.
SBS giving me a send off to leg 2.


My legs were heavy for the first 20 minutes and I was beginning to regret going hard on the first leg. I reminded myself that this flat and short leg was to be my recovery run, just like I easy Zone 1/2 runs between days. By about mile 3, my legs started feeling like they could run again and before I knew it I was done! 

Except this time, there were only half the number of pink tutus from before. Van 2 ended up at exchange 25 instead of exchange 24!! 

Adopted by Van 1. Van 2 was - "Temporarily Misplaced. Often."
Adopted by Van 1. Van 2 was – “Temporarily Misplaced. Often.”

While waiting for them, a random volunteer came by and gave me a hug and a cheek kiss. In the style of a muah, not an actual kiss (else I’d have landed him a right hook!). So I “muah-ed” him back!!! 

Sigh … only me … only I would end up doing random crazy things like that in the middle of running. 

The exchange 

The next big exchange was in daylight and the rest of us sneaked off while SBS caught some sleep in the van. We then proceeded to giggle at every thing we saw or heard and even made a barter and quite a few friends by offering them “Fat M&Ms” (It has been decreed by the BAMRR team that Peanut M&Ms shall henceforth be known as Fat M&Ms as a reminder of yours truly who had never had them before and thought that she was being offered “Fat” M&Ms). 

As Melissa said in her Ragnar recap - you can barter just about anything for "Fat M&Ms".
As Melissa said in her Ragnar recap – you can barter just about anything for “Fat M&Ms”.

After a successful exchange this time around and while our other runners were off, we relaxed and walked around town. Not realizing that poor Jodi was suffering in the heat with water rationed and no shade!!

Yes, I walked around town wearing a Tiara.
Yes, I walked around town wearing a Tiara.

When Jodi got back and told us of the situation, we worried for SBS who was off running 11.x miles without water (expecting water support)! Melissa went into Mama Bear mode and got ice, water and popsicles to hand out to runners. (Hear more on the podcast!) And we were glad to do it – the conditions were unbearably hot and it was a matter of safety. The best outcome was seeing SBS fight it and finish super strong. 

Leg 3 –  5.7 Miles

Since our earlier runners had got the full brunt of the heat, Ragnar officials gave us the option to combine legs 35 and 36. That meant JMart and me running together. All that worry about heat and earlier runners where instantly relegated to the back of my mind as we prepared to take off. 

All fired up and ready to hand in my Princess/Diva card for a WARRIOR Princess transformation.
JMart and I all fired up and ready to hand in my Princess/Diva card for a WARRIOR Princess transformation.

And just as I was excited, it appears from the podcast that the other BAMRRs sensed it and wondered at what shenanigans the two of us would pull. Ha! There was so much awesomeness together that the road to Callistoga did not know what hit it. Or as Dimity called it “Two people with more personality than a party of 100 people. Forces with a capital F”. 

What good is a run without a mid run selfie? Especially with a fun running buddy and great surroundings!
What good is a run without a mid run selfie? Especially with a fun running buddy and great surroundings!

In spite of jokes and singing (yes, there was a lot of singing aloud to ‘Frozen’ as cars sat in the traffic wondering what we were up to!) and selfies and fun, the first 2 miles were on heavy legs and I often thought that I just HAD to stop to walk. But the image of SBS finishing strong on her hot leg stayed with me and I was going to run straight instead of walk breaks in her honor (And images of ‘there is no walking’ that a certain someone, who I didn’t want to not listen to, had planted in my head.).

And so I didn’t walk. Even even I was almost doing a crawl-run.

But as soon as I made the turn into Calistoga, I don’t know what came over my legs. I still had about 2.5 miles to go, but I felt like I just “took off”. My legs were running by themselves and I was feeling smooth (until I looked at my reflection in a store window). The miles were a gentle uphill and I soon started feeling my quads, but with JMart at my side encouraging me and reading off my pace, I did not slow down. 

Even though I told my legs to “shut up” a few times, I finished strong. And happy. The entire team ran in together and it was all celebrations. 



Proud of my effort. And exhausted!
Proud of my effort. And exhausted!

The celebrations continued well into the night after a few of us slipped out to bring back dinner to be enjoyed amongst more giggles. Right until it was time to say goodbye the next day.

The laughter would not stop even when we were faced with the sadness of having to say goodbyes.
The laughter would not stop even when we were faced with the sadness of having to say goodbyes.


What I felt about my running

In spite of instructions (I still can’t believe I didn’t follow instructions! I’m usually very particular in training!), I ran the first leg hard. After I walked up those mountains, I felt like I had to give something back and went for it. In the back of my mind was the thought that running a hard first leg wasn’t probably a good idea. But I still did. 

Leg 1 – 12:51, 14:31, 15:35, 12:19, 12:20, 12:08, 11:39

After that hard first leg, I decided that second leg would be a recovery run and I stuck to it. I did not take off even after I felt warmed up. So I was proud of that effort in being patient (although I felt just a tad deflated when I was told that pace didn’t matter, only avr HR mattered.)

Leg 2 – 13:59, 13:27, 13:22, 12:45

And, I was amazed at my final leg. I was feeling tired (and nervous) for the first 2-3 miles and it felt like a run where my legs refused to move any faster. But all of a sudden my legs got a mind of their own and ran away! And then held it until I finished. I may not have pulled in spectacular paces and had to slow down plenty when we came to crossroads, but it all just felt effortless. Effortless may be a wrong term since I did want to stop, rather it took lot let effect to run it in than I expected.

Leg 3 –  14:07, 13:57, 14:02, 13:17, 12:14, 11:33 (that last mile was even after not stopping the Garmin for a few minutes after we crossed the finish)

Physically, I pulled it in even though my quads were feeling that false flat. Mentally, I reined it in when I was running faster! When I knew that my pace had increased without me putting a conscious effort, my only thought was on holding on for dear life. Although I never really got into that pain zone, the last mile was uncomfortable even while I kept trying to chip away into the pace. So if you know me, traversing a mental barrier that involves any kind of pace other than a kumbaya pace is HUGE! 


Thank you, Sarah and Dimity, for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be a part of your team and meet some incredible women!
Thank you, Sarah and Dimity, for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be a part of your team and meet some incredible women!


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  • Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    I love Ragnar and it’s definitely addictive. Glad you had a blast!

    • Thank you 🙂

      We are already preparing for the next one!

  • Great pictures! I just did the DC Ragnar a few weeks ago and I loved it. I can’t wait to do another one! It is such a blast isn’t it? Great opportunity you had to spend time w the amazing AMR runners.

    • I saw such beautiful photos of Ragnar DC!!! We have that on our radar for sure! And the AMR gang is just awesome!

  • Julie RunWalkFASTPASS Repeat

    Great photos Smitha…what an amazing experience. Cool you got to run with team AMR. Your rock!

    • Thanks Julie. They were awesome! And we just got along so well with each other. Girls weekend with some running!

  • Jesica D’Avanza

    I love all your photos! This looks like an EPIC weekend. I’m so excited (and jealous, yes) that you got to experience it. Racing is Napa in high on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experience. xo

    • You could do Vineman 70.3 that Maria did !
      The funny thing is we went to Napa and didn’t drink a single drop 🙂
      Hood to Coast that you did is on my list to do 🙂

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