On the Road with Ragnar!

Ragnar is a relay race that can take you to all kinds of cool cities through all kinds of terrain. I experienced my first Ragnar with some of my fave fools. A group of us former and current Reno (KTVN Ch 2! Woop!) news anchors get together at least once a year and take on some sort of ridiculous physical challenge. We love to get together so much that we know the shared agony of 24-hours of running is much more tolerable simply because we adore each other. Nothing can be too miserable when you’re in good company, right?

ragnar pre

Wendy Damonte, Tom Henkenius, Kristen Remington, and myself.

All of us share the same passion for being outdoors and we all, for some reason, love a good challenge. A half marathon or a full marathon just won’t cut it. Because those are over in 2-6 hours. And, well, we are greedy with our friendship. We want to spend as much time together as possible. So why not hang out and catch up, while working out and getting sweaty? We are able to stay completely content even when we’re tired, achey, and pretty disgusting.

OK here’s how it works… we signed up for the Ragnar from San Francisco to Napa because well, we like to run and we like wine. The night before our 24-hour relay we went out for a fancy dinner in SF, complete with delicious wine. Then we went for another cocktail Wendy dubbed a “final final” at a total dive bar near our hotel. The bar was appropriately named “Final Final” so we just couldn’t resist. When 12am rolled around we were laughing hysterically at our pre-race regimen. Who goes to a bar the night before a pretty hardcore race?! Not to worry, we paced ourselves and drank way more water than booze. It was simply fun to be together, in normal clothes and make-up.

ragnar night out

Our good friends John Cruz, Tom Crist, and Ann Burns (on the left) are filming all of this for an upcoming production called “Jet Set Go” STAY TUNED!

We napped for a few hours, then it was time. We got to the start line near Golden Gate park.

ragnar start

ragnar start fools

Not sure what’s going on here… Our good running buddy Jim-Tim (on the left) is also part of our relay team. Lucky Jim-Tim, right?!

I was first in our relay. I had about 5 miles to complete, which sounded super duper, easy breasy. But that lighthearted rhyming and jaunting around the City was cut short when I looked up. I had a gnarly hill along the coast as part of my run. I trudged my way up and I eventually go too Sausalito, which I LOVED!

ragnar sausalito

Apparently, I was in awe of Sausalito. You would be too, trust me! Seals flippity flop by you as you run! Too Cool! 

I still reached the finish line, feeling “eh” about my time and “eh” about my body. Why can’t I run fast like everyone else on my team? What I learned over the course of this relay is it’s not about comparing myself to others, it’s about simply enjoying every moment. While our other runners blazed through the miles, I ate brown rice and cashew butter (it may sound weird but that combo is a great go-to for me!) The carbs, protein, and healthy fats helped me feel energized and strong. After each teammate ran their legs, it was my turn again to run through a rural city I had never heard of.

I pummeled my way through this next leg and loved every second of it. In fact I had more “kills” than I’ve ever had before. “Kills” are when you pass a runner on the course. I know, sounds so mean, doesn’t it? I’ve been “killed” by many people so it feels kinda nice when I get to do the “killing” for a change. I think the food helped.

The entire time we are running, our teammates are driving alongside us in a mini-van. We scream for each other and stop for each other, offering water or Gu every couple miles. It’s a really sweet showing of support that makes me pretty emotional. Sometimes I adore their help, and get so happy to see them around corners, stopped on sidewalks. While other times I want them to leave me alone and stop watching my pathetic attempts to hobble through the course. It’s a love/hate, relationship depending on my exhaustion level. But mostly their smiles and cheers melt my heart and LOVE WINS.

ragnar van

Thanks Dolan Auto Group out of Reno for letting us use your ride! 

That van is “home” for the entire duration of the relay race. We keep our clothes, dry socks, food, and water in there. The van is also where we nap, if there is time.

ragnar morning

Photo taken as the sun was setting, pardon the grainy-ness. This is us getting pumped for the next run.

This run took us through an open valley of farmland during the middle of the night. Yes, we run at night too. And that’s the most exhilarating part. You’re doing something you would never normally, purposely do. Most of the time, running at night is stupid and downright dangerous. But when herds of people are doing it and you’re being followed by a mini-van full of your friends then it’s a freaken’ blast! The stars shine above you and the only lights along the road come from dozens of runners and their head lamps. The head lamp isn’t always ideal. Sometimes you can follow that light so closely that it feels like you’re in a tunnel. It’s always good to look up and around you, even if it’s pitch black. Give your eyes and your focusing abilities a break.

After the rush of a nighttime run, it was time for a little RnR. We have another mini-van of teammates running overnight while everyone in our van gets to zzzzz. They were able to zzzzz while we ran, so it works out for everyone to get 4-5ish hours of really uncomfortable sleep in a car. We end up bending and crackling and sometimes snoring, and before we know it everyone around us is awake. Other mini-vans are also parked near us so anytime someone hits the car keys, we hear their beeps. Anytime someone slams a car door shut, we wake up startled. And if I hear one more person let a Port-O-Pottie door slam… well, I won’t go there. Let’s just say the word “sleep” is a false exaggeration of what’s really going on. We are resting our eyelids, but our bodies and brains are far from comfy.

ragnar sleep

When we wiggle and wrangle our way out of the van, it’s time. Again. With a quick brush of the teeth, and insertion of the contact lenses, we are ready to run some more. On Day “2” I am usually a lot slower  to start. My brain is foggy and my legs are heavy. But I think that’s a natural occurrence when your body is straight-up spent! it’s still a big rush, for some reason. We see the sun set and the sun rise and we keep running through the many varieties of nature. We were able to make it to Napa.

ragnar baby bash

I love to listen to Baby Bash on my Pandora during long runs, don’t you?! “Suga, Suga, how you get so flyyyyy?” 

If you’ve ever been wine tasting among the vineyards then you know how gorgeous they are. There is something even more spectacular about running through them. You can smell the grapes, see the birds, and bask in the glory that when it’s all over you will be able to partake in a swig or two. So we took on mile after mile, step by step, conquering a stretch of land that a car would probably be able to complete in an hour. But a few hours later, as the sun was beaming hot, we finally finished! That last leg feels so great, even if you are not the one to end the relay. It’s a team effort. Every stinkin’ step. We feel each others joy and each others pain, and we wouldn’t want it any other way! Now, let’s have some wine!

ragnar grapes

ragnar wine time

Special thanks to Robin (in white in the middle) for coming out to cheerlead and help us with any of our random needs. Also the HORNS! Brad and Amanda (on the left) are quite the dynamic duo. Brad is an excellent photographer and Amanda is a baaaaaad runner! She saved us by running a few extra legs for us. It helps to have a full team! 

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And this is just a teaser clip from “Jet Set Go” CANNOT WAIT for you to see this show! 

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UP NEXT, I explain the Ragnar Trail Run in Tahoe. IT WAS BRUTAL! Far less jolly, much more dirty. Stay tuned for my next post….

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Neda Iranpour

About the Author

Neda is an Emmy-award winning evening Anchor in San Diego, a cyclist, a marathon runner, a WBFF Pro & a member of the vegan club. She loves to share stories, including her own!