coachella for runners [Ragnar SoCal Recap]

7 Apr

Warning:  This post is going to be DOOZY.  But bear with me, it’s a good one.

This last weekend, I had the privilege to race Ragnar SoCal with Team Dirrty Dozen.  I had always wanted to do a Ragnar, but was put off by the insane amount of organization that would be required.  Luckily, my friend Melissa contacted me a few months ago about filling a spot on a team of women who met at FitBloggin’ and I jumped at the chance.

Our team consisted of 12 women, 6 in each van.  Here’s the breakdown of team Dirrty Dozen:

Van 1

Van 2

We all met up on Thursday night for a team dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  I drove home to DTLA, and set my alarm for 4:10 am to meet up with the team the next morning.  It was an early morning, but I was excited!

The race started in Huntington Beach, and we finished in downtown San Diego.  20 teams or so started every 15 minutes.  Our start time was 6:45 a.m. on Friday, so we got to the start about an hour before hand for a safety check and registration. And of course, team photos.

I love Huntington Beach — I had a fun 13.1 there last year, and my good friends Heather and Blake got married there as well (in HB, not at the half marathon).  I’ve also spent a couple of 4th of Julys there.  Fun way to start the weekend!

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.54.12 AM

Jenica, Debbie, Jillienne, Me, Lizzie, Jamie, Amy, Kathleen, Kia, Jill, and Carrie 🙂


My friend Andres (from my DTLA Running Group and BoMF) was running on a different team — the awesomely named “Ragnafarians.”  We bumped into them many times throughout the weekend.  I was so impressed by their attention to detail with their theme.

IMG_6320After a good amount of time goofing around, it was 6:45 and Lizzie began her first leg along the bike bath in Huntington Beach. She ran even splits and seemed relaxed.  Our first legs took us from HB to Irvine — Jenica ran through Chapman University’s campus, Jillienne’s exchange was at Angels Stadium, and I picked up the slap bracelet baton from Amy in Tustin.

My first leg was 9 miles through the city of Tustin to Orange County’s Great Park in Irvine.  Although I’m no OC native, I know the Great Park well because I ran the Color Run there two years ago (with my friend Riley!) My first leg was hot and slightly uphill most of the way.

Although it wasn’t the most scenic of routes — mostly residential with some strip malls — I had a great time.  The roads are not closed for Ragnar events, meaning that we often got stopped at stop lights.  While it was sometimes annoying, I enjoyed the ability to interact and chat with other runners.  I went out a little fast, but had my total pace come in at 7:22/mile.

In Ragnar parlance, “kills” are the number of people you pass each leg. My first leg had a  kill count of 42. IMG_6334

Shout out to Thirty 48 for saving my feet and calves in the first two legs!

I handed off the slap bracelet to the speedy and inspiring Jamie, who began the first round of runs for Van 2. The first “major exchange” was quite a spectacle – tons of vendors and people milling around looking for their runner or runners looking for their teams.


After I cleaned myself off to the best of my ability (dry shampoo and Action wipes FTW), we refueled with Quest Bars that Jillienne picked up from Nutri Shop Pasadena.  SO good.  IMG_6332We drove out to Dana Point where we’d exchange with Van 2 again in a few hours.  But first, we rehydrated and refueled with some pizza and beer.


I fell in love with Dana Point…


…and it was at this major exchange where I dubbed Ragnar “Coachella for Runners.”  Tons of people were using this idle time between the exchanges as a chance to sleep (in sleeping backs on the grass).  Others were eating, drinking coffee, foam-rolling and tiger-tailing. The rest were marking vans with innuendo-filled sayings, or of course, chatting about running.  It was so awesome being surrounded by hundreds of people who are as obsessed with the sport as I am, and it reminded me why I love it so much.

IMG_6338I also ran into my Back on My Feet buddies in Dana Point.  I would have been on their team if Dirrty Dozen hadn’t nabbed me first, so I was glad I got to spend some time with them.

10175009_1436133303294518_354201808_n-1After a few hours, it was time for Lizzie to start her second leg.  It was awesome that she and Andres (from the Ragnafarians) were waiting in the hand-off zone together!

IMG_6347Can we just appreciate Dana Point for a hot sec?


Lizzie’s leg was challenging — the sun set right as she started, and she had 12 miles to cover in the dark with no van support of any kind.  She got an awesome pint glass for finishing it though, I am still jealous.

Ragnar rules require that between the hours of 6:30 pm and 6:30 am, all runners have to wear a reflective vest, a head lamp, and a tail light.  Jillienne and I sported our matching Halo Belts.  Neither of us even noticed them while we were running – and they looked cool.

IMG_6351My second leg was a 2.7 miler through Oceanside down to the pier. It was short and mostly downhill, but the challenging aspect was that it was as at 1:20 am.  I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, so my van could eat and rest.  My first mile was 6:30 (whoops), but I held on and finished the whole thing with an average pace of 6:47.  I am SO not in 5k shape and this was a challenge — but it was so fun.  I blasted my obnoxious music and was reminded of just how much I love the sport. (Yes, running is a sport). Total kills = 21. IMG_6360My teammates were also crazy supportive and put up with my goofiness.  They also all think I’m some crazy speed demon (ha!).


We high-tailed it out of Oceanside and headed to the next major exchange (in Carlsbad).  But first, we got food at the only option — McDonald’s.  We all laughed when in the woman in the drive through urged us to enjoy the rest of our day.  Which day?? One double cheeseburger later and we all got to pass out for the “night.”  2 hours of sleep in a van? #winning.

I LOVED all of the vans with witty sayings. IMG_6368

Lizzie’s third leg began before 6 in Carlsbad.  She had the most mileage, but arguably the sickest views. IMG_6367Our team killed hills and meandered through cute beach towns of Northern San Diego County.  Around 10:15 am, Amy finished her last leg and “slapped” me.


I set off for an easy and relaxed 4+ miler through Torrey Pines into La Jolla.  My first time miles were pretty hilly, so I kept it controlled by enjoying the scenery and trying to perfect the art of the runner selfie. IMG_6384I wanted to NOT go out too fast for once, so I actually sang out loud a little bit to try and keep my pace under control.  It worked!


This was my favorite leg by far. It was so beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, and I wasn’t killing myself.  I “killed” 17 people. My favorite part was passing a group of 3 athletic looking dudes — who I am sure though “who does this chick think she is?”  One of them passed me again but only for a few strides. HAH. IMG_6393


I slapped Jamie and she was off!  My splits were uneven due to the hills — 8:08, 9:24, 7:43, 7:10 but it felt incredible.  And I was done! IMG_6398

We all snapped some photos as Van 2’s runners set off.





Jillienne, Me, Amy, Lizzie, Kia, and Jenica

We enjoyed a nice brunch at Cody’s in La Jolla before heading down to DT SD to wait for Van 2’s runners to come in.  It was SO amazing to have real food.


We mozeyed down to San Diego.  We met up with the Ragnafarians yet again (I stole a piece of pizza from them – thanks guys!) and tried to avoid falling asleep standing up.

IMG_6402Wasn’t too hard when this was the view…

IMG_6404After a little while, Runner #12, Debbie, came toward the finish.  Ragnar culture dictates, though, that the whole team crosses the line together.  The only problem? Debbie beat Van 2 to the finish!  After maybe 20 minutes or so they appeared, and we all crossed together. (This was about 4pm on Saturday.  You can do the math time wise).

Any race that has a bottle opener for a medal gets two thumbs up from me.


We posed for pictures, talked about the race, and then slowly said our goodbyes before going our separate ways.



It was an incredible weekend and an inspiring one.  I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical about whether or not I would like Ragnar (let alone doing it with strangers!)  I thought “Why would I run 16 miles over 22 hours when I could do that in a little over 2 hours?”  The added challenges of no sleep, weird times, and weird nutrition made it a unique race.  Additionally, it didn’t feel like running one 16 mile race — I felt like I ran 9 miles, a 5k, and then a 4 mile fun run.

I would totally do another Ragnar and am already trying to coerce my best friend to do a team with me one day. It was crazy, but just the right amount of crazy!

  • What’s your favorite race you’ve ever done?
  • Are you a Ragnarian?
  • Did you log some miles this weekend? Where? 





12 Responses to “coachella for runners [Ragnar SoCal Recap]”

  1. Heather Brittany April 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    This is amazing and you’re the best!! How rad!

    • gillian April 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Aww thanks!! ❤ you Heather!

  2. Jillienne @ ChasingRaspberries April 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I loved that you double-killed someone! You are a speed demon! We need to hang soon… 🙂

    • gillian April 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Haha YES! We should plan a race together soon!

  3. Katy Thomas (@KatyMarie5) April 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    This sounds like so much fun, but also so hard! I’ve never heard of Ragnar before – I really enjoyed reading all about it here 🙂

    • gillian April 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks Katy! It really was a blast!

  4. Ashley @ Brocblog April 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    This looks beyond fun! I definitely need to do a ragnar eventually.

    • gillian April 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      You’d love it — I definitely want to do one again.

  5. Angela April 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Bad*ss Gillian! Sounds like so much fun…would love to do it some day!


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