The Relay — Part One

Well after all of the fretting about my knee, half-assed training and having anxiety about WHAT THE HELL I GOT MYSELF INTO — last weekend Garrett and I completed The Relay — and I will tell you what, I feel like I barely lived to tell about it! After 44 hours of no sleep, 18.5 miles of running, poor fueling, dehydration and general suckitude, it took me almost a week to recover. If I had advice for anyone doing something like this in the future it would be: give yourself a few days off when it’s over! I took 3 days off of work and was MIA on the blog and that was almost not enough. But anyway, enough with the complaining — let me breakdown this crazy weekend for you.

First – a quick recap: The Relay is 36 leg relay style run completed over 2 days by teams of 12. Each person runs 3 legs and the total distance covered is just under 200 miles. This particular relay was from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. It promised to be very scenic and have pretty mild, coastal weather. Garrett + I teamed up with 10 other people from our gym and spent about 5 months getting ready to run. On Saturday, our 7am start time up in Calistoga called for a super early wakeup call.
...and so it begins. #therelay

We had spent the prior evening packing all of our food, gear and clothing into the most compact bags possible. The deal with the relay is that your team is split up into 2 vans which carry 6 runners each plus a driver. With 7 people in a van you have to be fairly organized with your space as there is very little of it. You are crammed in there with all of your stuff and as the weekend wears on it just gets messier and messier as the runners get nuttier and nuttier. Let’s be honest though, we started out pretty nutty to begin with 🙂


I consulted a number of different relay type packing lists online to make sure I had everything that I could possibly need and I still ended up needing stuff I didn’t have. This is clearly something that gets better the more experienced you get, and well I was mostly prepared – no list will have all the answers.

Packing for #TheRelay - I guess that means it is really happening! T-minus 6hours until wake up call! #TeamLongestWODEver

So we left Sacramento at about 4:30 am and drove up to meet our team at the start line in Calistoga. It was incredibly beautiful, but also very, VERY warm already. Not super promising when it’s 6:30 in the morning and your run isn’t until 3 in the afternoon, but at this point we were super excited and pumped full of adrenaline so we didn’t waste too much time thinking about it.
Ready to Run! #therelay #teamlongestwodever

I sent this picture to my mom and she said “How fun! It looks like all of you are camping but with less beer.” Which is sort of an accurate description of how the entire weekend felt — camping, but with less beer and a shit-ton more running. Maybe I will just organize a camping trip? 🙂

Our first runner to take off was Carolann, and you could hardly tell she was nervous! There was a little bit of pomp and circumstance at the start line and then the runner’s were off. It was so crazy to think that from moment on, someone from our team would be physically running for the next 36 hours. NUTS!

How it works is each team has 2 vans with 6 runners each. Runners 1-6 are in Van 1 and they each run their first leg (4-8 mile increments) and then pass the baton to the next runner. The van drops off each runner and picks up the runner that has just completed leg while all the other runners hang out inside the van. Often times, with longer legs, the van will stop half way through the course to check on their runner, cheer them on, or give them extra water if it is especially hot (FORESHADOWNING!) Hopefully that makes sense so far.

Then every 6 legs there is a “van exchange” and the second van will get on course with their 6 runners, and the first van can take a little break while Van 2’s runners complete their 6 legs. And this continues on and on until 36 legs have been run. Garrett + I were in Van 2 so after we saw Carolann off, our van had to stay off the course until it was time for Runner 7 to get on the course. Since we had a few hours to kill, we got to decorating our van.

We also added some check boxes so we could track our progress through the run. It felt good to be able to add a checkmark next to your name throughout the process.


After the van was nice and festive, we headed off to get some breakfast at the Napa General Store. I let my hair down a bit and ordered a breakfast sandwich with potatoes. It was amazing, but in my effort to be a little more free with my carbohydrate intake since I was going to be running, I ate a lot more gluten than usual throughout the weekend and it really didn’t do me any favors.


We finished up and decided just to head over the van exchange and wait for our runners. We had a couple hours to kill and in hindsight, we should have laid down some blankets and taken a nap. But instead we just kind of goofed off and hung out. Good for bonding. Not so good for long term energy conservation. 🙂


Finally at around 1pm, we got word from Van 1 that they were approaching our exchange so we had to get our first runner ready. Garrett was Runner 7, so he got pumped and prepped to take on his first leg. He was super nervous since he was the first runner out, and when Van 1 showed up they were very up front about HOW HOT IT WAS! All of there runners had needed water halfway through their legs so they suggested we stop and meet Garrett in the middle. Garrett got ready and the runner exchange, and shortly thereafter Gina came around the corner ready to pass off.

Garrett’s first leg 4.4 miles with a hill in the middle. He ran it like a boss and passed off to Grace, our Runner number 8.


I was Runner number 9, so it was time for me to get ready and I was NERVOUS! It was 89 degrees out so when it came to for me to take my picture (a tradition we did before and after each leg) all I could think to write was this:


I was speaking from the heart. 🙂 My first leg was 4.4 miles and very flat, but the heat was like nothing I’d ever run in. At first I hadn’t even packed a tank top because I’ve been feeling bad about my bingo arms lately, but I’m so glad I did and at 3pm that afternoon I could give a shit about vanity. I donned that tank top gladly and headed out for my first run.


I don’t know what to tell you about that first run except that the heat made me want to die right there on that flat, wine-country road. General running advice tells you to dress for 20 degrees hotter than the temperature that you are running in but let me tell you — there is no way to dress comfortably for 109 degrees, AMIRIGHT? I was instantly super hot/sweaty and the whole run was kind of a drag. I was most looking forward to that leg and I wanted it to set the tone for the weekend and it did not go at all how I planned. That said, I was happy to check it off when I finished!


I was done around 4pm on Saturday and after being up and going for 12 hours, and having only 1/3 of my runs completed, I was starting to freak out about what I had signed up for. There was a long way to go and I wasn’t sure if I was mentally (or physically) prepared for what it would require.

Next time I’ll tell you how the afternoon/evening went and my middle of the night run. EEP!

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13 Responses to The Relay — Part One

  1. Lisa K says:

    Sounds like a great time! I’d love to participate in a Ragnar relay this year. I can’t wait to read Part 2.

    • Holly says:

      I hear Ragnar’s are pretty well organized (and this relay probably could have used a little bit of that) so I’m still soooooort of curious about Ragnar. But maybe not for a while 🙂

  2. Susannah says:

    Holly, we were in Napa at the end of last week and we found it challenging to walk around wineries in 90 degrees and hot sun! So that means you are incredible! Ai yi yi, I can’t imagine running (so not a runner) and in the heat at that. Can you tell I’m an east coast lady?
    I’m glad you recovered and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the tale. And, seriously, you rock!

    • Holly says:

      Seriously. I don’t even mind the heat, per se — but being active in the heat takes getting used to. Last night was my first REALLY HOT, REALLY LONG workout at my CrossFit box and I was like “oh right. That’s how this feels. UGH.” It gets better eventually, but for a once and done run it was brutal!

  3. Allison B says:

    Glad you survived! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of it!

  4. K says:

    Holy hell, this is insane. And I can’t wait to read more!

  5. Pingback: The Relay – Part Two

  6. Juliann says:

    I’ve lived in Phoenix for 10 years and you’re right, there’s no way to be comfortable running in 109 degree temps. You just slow down the pace and drink more water. Glad you made it through the first leg!

  7. Lisa Kilpatrick says:

    I was thinking about doing the Ragnar in Vegas in September (I love in Utah). I have a friend from cali that’s interested. Maybe you could join the team!

  8. Lisa Kilpatrick says:

    My bad. It’s in November. Let’s do it!

  9. I read your blog a lot but somehow missed this post. Anyways, while sitting at lunch discussing my first 5k (which did not go as awesome as I had hoped – as in I just didn’t *feel* great and it was freezing as eff) one of my friends mentioned that she also reads your blog and that I should read you recap. I cannot believe the intensity of this race! And after reading Part I, I MUST MUST MUST read Part II…