Ragnar Napa Valley: The Mother Runner Recap

Fear the tutu. And the mother runners wearing them.
Fear the tutu. And the mother runners wearing them.

Team Bad*** Mother Runner, as Ragnar censored us to be, showed 205 hilly, hot, fun miles from San Francisco to Calistoga just exactly what a mother runner can do. (Which is to say: run hard, laugh harder, sleep little, cheer our guts out, get lost a time or two, live in a porta-potty for a while, and otherwise get our Ragnar on.) Each of the 12 runner had a different experience, and we wanted to capture them all, so we're excited to share short recaps from each runner. (I—Dimity—put a word limit of 200 on each can count to see who followed the rules.)

Mother runner partners: making the run that much sweeter. Thank you.
Mother runner partners: making the run that much sweeter. Thank you.

Before we launch into them, though, we want to give a shout out to all of our partners who supported our team both for weeks of training and for almost 38 hours of racing. You hydrated us, fed us, timed us, kept us clothed and tutu'd, among other important, helpful things. Thank you, thank you.

Jen was all smiles by her second leg.
Jen was all smiles by her second leg.

The entire week before Ragnar, I was a nervous wreck.

I was worried about what would happen at home while I was away. I was worried, as I do with every race, about getting there on time. Most of all, I was worried about meeting all these new people, and letting them down in some way during the relay. I hardly slept. I was heading out of my comfort zone. Way out!

As the BAMRRs—badass mother Ragnar runners—started arriving, each one as awesome as the last, I started to relax. Not enough, however, to get a good night’s sleep. The 2 nights leading up to the start of the relay I got about 5 hours of sleep total. So going in I was already sleep deprived.

But there is nothing like good ol’ adrenaline—and chocolate—to keep you going. I was runner #1 and I wanted to start us off right. The first leg was in the complete dark, so there wasn’t much sight seeing but it was the start of something incredible. Although those 38 or so hours are a blur to me right now, I know is I had a blast, I met some fabulous new friends and I can’t wait to do it again!


Erin took a tumble on her first leg...and lived to run two more legs.
Erin took a tumble on her first leg...and lived to run two more legs.

My first leg took us across the Golden Gate Bridge. I tripped on the dark trail and skinned my knee. Blood is badass, right? Then I took the wrong trail. (Hint: If there is a tree blocking the path, you might have chosen the wrong trail.) The sand on the beach was deep and hard to run through, but the sunrise was gorgeous!

A huge hill lead away from the beach—and coming from flat-land Illinois—that hill felt like a mountain to me. At the top of the hill, my van mates were waiting for me, ringing cow bells; seeing them renewed my spirit and fired me up!  The end of the leg was running across the Golden Gate bridge on a foggy San Francisco morning and something I will never forget. What a thrill!

We laughed, we cackled, then we laughed some more. There was no such thing as TMI. Hugs and high fives were around every corner, even after 36 sweaty runs and 40ish hours without a shower. It was just a continuation of what Dimity and Sarah have created with AMR; they encourage and inspire us to not only be better runners ourselves, but to also encourage and inspire other runners.

Lisa bringing it home. (Can you hear the cowbells ringing?)

My Ragnar trip taught me many things. I learned that I am important. That taking time for myself isn't optional—it's necessary. I have 5 kids, ages 7-16. They keep me busy. They keep me happy. But I need time for myself. It doesn't have to mean a trip across the country, but taking time for me is a good thing. It makes me so more fulfilled and ready to give to those around me.

I also learned that my body is amazing. It isn't the perfect size. It isn't the fastest. But it is mine. With work and training, my body has done things I never thought I would do. It is a gift. I want to continue to achieve great things with this body of mine, and think kindly towards it.

The final lesson is that people are awesome. I loved commiserating on the hills with my fellow runners. I loved strangers clapping and cheering me on. And I loved my teammates. They embodied what the AMR tribe is all about. When troubles hit, I saw them support, encourage, and help each other. They cheered and sympathized. And in the end, we celebrated our 205 miles together, strong and proud.

We worked really hard to get Kelly  this badass picture. Just in case you were wondering.
We worked really hard to get Kelly this badass picture. Just in case you were wondering.

My Ragnar experience in three words: Imodium. Enough said.

Yes, I was that woman with horrible GI issues.  This, however, did not define my experience.  I had three invigorating, hard, beautiful runs, but they did not define my experience. When I remember Ragnar, I think of hot pink tutus gathered on the side of the road cheering for runners from all teams. I think of my excitement bubbling up when I saw Lisa coming around the corner; knowing she was rocking her run, and it was almost my turn. I think of the thrill that made me shake my booty and dance.  I think of the sights and sounds at the end of my run: the silhouette of my teammates’ tutus, cheers with cowbells, and yells of encouragement. I think of dried mangoes, conversations, hugs and high fives. I think of home. I’m returning home more sleep deprived than when I left, but my spirit is recharged and I’m left with a giddiness in my heart.

The four words that actually define my Ragnar experience? Team Badass Mother Runner.

Kim: quick with a smile and a spreadsheet.
Kim: quick with a smile and a spreadsheet.

Ragnar Napa appealed to all my senses...

Touch:  Feel the fog of San Francisco bay as it gives me a chill. Feel the burn in my quads ascending a hill so steep I thought I could reach out and touch it in front of me. Feel the wardrobe malfunction on my third leg as my running bra strap unattaches itself.

Taste: the Nuun, the chocolate milk, the PB&Js, the Twizzlers, the homemade cookies, and the cold Coke so badly needed after TMI GI issues. Enjoy the sweet taste of victory as I pass the “one mile to go” sign on my last leg.

Hear:  my music, the cowbells, the quiet during the long night run when I take out my earbuds for a bit. Embrace the “good job runner” that so kindly keeps me moving despite being passed.

Smell: myself, the porta-potties, the midnight pizza.

See:  the colors of Ragnar: the orange manicure on my hands, the purple bruised toenails on my feet, the fluorescent green of my safety vest, the pink of my Badass tutu.

My6thsense: community and comradery of 11 wicked awesome women I hadn’t previously met, but somehow bonded with in an inexplicable instant.

photo (48)
Dimity: trucker hat, a brand new TriggerPoint STK, mother runners, tutu, shades, and shade. Pretty much all she needs.

My Ragnar in a few numbers: 14 miles total, 5ish hours of sleep, 30 pieces of Twizzlers, 2 lattes. Compared to Ragnar Colorado and Ragnar D.C., this Ragnar round for me was fairly easy breezy.

When I think back to my swim team days, I remember eating Skittles on the pool deck, playing hours of Uno, chlorinated hair becoming straw in the sun. I don't remember a single stroke in a race. Same thing with Ragnar: I remember inside jokes that only became funnier as miles piled on and sleep slipped away; I remember blaring Lady Gaga from the van as we cheered and cowbelled by the side of the road for all the runners going by; I remember saying, "Good job, runner!" to nearly everybody in forward motion; I remember hanging under the shade of a tree with five women who I didn't know 10 hours earlier, but instantly connected with as we chatted about everything from kids and grades to divorces to tight IT Bands to the deliciousness of the dried mango at Costco. I know I ran some miles, but they just fell in between the more fun times.

I remember, from our DC Ragnar, Aimee coining the phrase "fear the tutu", which became our motto for this year. Mother runners pay it forward.

The six of us from Van 1 were again hanging in the shade with snacks aplenty (and dare I say beer? I dare.) when we were receiving texts about the hot, hot, hot, long, long, long legs Jodi and Sarah—both in Van 2—were running on Saturday afternoon. We sent them love and advice, positive vibes and strength, and then, knowing they were in their teammates' great hands and had oodles of mental toughness and muscles within themselves, we went back to chatting and napping and laughing.

Melissa was The Mother Runner on this relay, keeping Van 2 organized, hydrated, and fairly on track. Except for that one time she got lost, and that other time they went to transition 25, instead of 24, to meet their runner.
Melissa was The Mother Runner on this relay, keeping Van 2 organized, hydrated, and fairly on track. Except for that one time she got lost on the course, and that other time they went to transition 25, instead of 24, to meet their runner.

My Top Ten Lessons of Ragnar Napa 2014:

10.  Relay races make running an epic team sport.
9.   Two tall Badass MotherRunner authors will be recognized in public and greet their fans graciously.
8.  Parallel parking a 15-passenger van takes mad skills.
7.  Everyone is fighting their own battle.
6.  Laughing, crying and every other possible emotion can be displayed within 36 hours.
5.  There are no coincidences.
4.  You can barter fat M&Ms (aka peanut M&Ms) for just about anything.
3.  We can learn so much about ourselves by listening to others.
2.  When you are unsure what to do, just keep running.
1.  I am stronger than I thought.

#Laura's entry used lots of #hashtags. And she #killed her #runs at #Ragnar.
#Laura's entry used lots of #hashtags. And she #killed her #runs at #Ragnar.

This year has been one of the most challenging of my life. Many times it has been hard to put one foot in front of the other, literally and figuratively. I didn't quite know what to expect when I was picked for the BAMRR team, but I knew it would be a much needed adventure of a lifetime.

Being part of this team exceeded my expectations and I will be forever changed. I met 11 incredible, fiercely determined women who encouraged me, supported me, inspired me on so many levels, and who will always be in my heart.

In addition to meeting these badass women, my Ragnar experience also reignited my passion for—and love—of running. Step by step, I was reminded of the physical and mental challenges running presents, the difficulty of pushing through those barriers, and the exhilarating feeling of exceeding the boundaries I think I have.

I am truly grateful for this BAMRR experience, which reminded me to "throat punch" any negative thoughts I have about my physical and mental capabilities. Thank you to my BAMRR gals for setting a fantastic example of the badass, fierce mother runners that we are!

Jodi, fired up after her third leg.
Jodi, fired up after her third leg.

I planned, trained and dreamed about Ragnar for months. But nothing could properly prepare me for what was ahead. As a relay virgin, I had no idea what I was in for. Maybe that is part of the beauty.

So what IS Ragnar? It’s running, road tripping, camping, and tailgating. It’s a slumber party. It’s slap-happy sleep deprivation. It’s fields of vans and port-a-potties. It’s getting lost and, later, found. It’s going off the grid. It’s a different reality where time stands still yet flies by. It’s running up a killer hill on leg 1 and pushing the pace because you flew across the country to do exactly that (and Sarah might pass you in the van at any given moment!). It’s flying along a night leg at 3 a.m., totally outside your comfort zone, but more alive than ever. It’s beautiful misery on a third leg that tests and rocks you to the core: when hellish heat and unrelenting sun render you desperate and defeated, but you have a team counting on you to go the long, lonely distance.

It’s the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. It’s putting the “tough” in Tough Girl Tutus. It’s laughter and tears, dance parties, singing out loud, hair braiding, and new BRFs. It’s slapping on the lipstick and rocking the princess ponytail, no matter what is thrown at you. THIS is Ragnar.


In addition to slaying 26+ miles, SBS found a dime at the first transition. We'll let you guess which excited her more.
In addition to slaying 26+ miles, SBS found a dime at the first transition. We'll let you guess which excited her more.

Like with my previous two Ragnar legs, I have a very specific plan to follow in this third—and longest—segment. Being a rule follower, I intend to stick to my marathon coach’s dictates as closely as possible for the, gulp, 11.4 miles. But given the mid-80s temps and the scorching sun beating down on me with little to no shade, I’m anxious and concerned.

I start at a comfortable pace, set to run six 20-second pickups in the first three miles. When my Soleus Mini beeps for a third time, I kick my pace up a notch—just before turning the corner to face a hill. Coach Bri had wanted me to run close to marathon pace (9:00, give or take 5 seconds) from miles 3 to 9, but told me to adjust as needed for the heat. I quickly tell myself sub-9:30 is acceptable, but the heat and hill quickly wear down that resolve—and my pace—to sub-10:00.

Barely a mile into this no-van-support leg (race organizers said teams risked a ticket from California Highway Patrol if they stop), I’m panicked at how strenuous my effort feels—and how parched I am. I’m actively cursing by the first water station, offering body-temperature, foul-tasting water.

The next mile is one of the toughest I can remember. Seconds after my brain insisting I.will.not.walk.until.mile.9, my body slows to a walk. I fantasize about calling Coach Bri and crying; I envision myself hitchhiking; I contemplate how long it would take to walk the six miles ahead of me. Then, like an oasis in the desert, there’s Van 2, filled with the encouraging faces of my teammates. A ticket from CHPs be damned!

Melissa holds a frosty water bottle out the window; Jodi and JMart hold baggies of ice. I’m moved beyond words, and my face crumples into an ugly cry. All five BAMRs offer encouragement and empathy. But what really pierced my heart was a big hug from Jodi, who’d just completed 9+ miles in the same scorching conditions. After kissing me on the cheek, she whispered in my ear, “You’ve got this; you’re badass.”

With those uplifting words—and bags of ice shoved in my bra and my compression shorts under my Tough Girl Tutu—I resumed running. And I never walked another step of Ragnar Napa. Some of my miles, including the final two, were well under 9:30. I sprinted toward my vanmates in the transition area, filled with abounding pride--and deep gratitude.

JMart getting hosed down. Her personality was no worse for the wear.
JMart getting hosed down. Her personality was no worse for the wear.

#NoSleepTill Napa, a hashtag included in my official race entry, proved itself to be true!  I can officially claim only 1.5 to 2 hours of rest over a 40 hour period. Because I was fueled by endorphins and Nuun Energy, it was apparent early on that sleep would have to wait as there was too much fun to be had. I was “wired” and had a blast every waking moment.  Unfortunately for my team, I am not like SBS who can sleep anywhere!

As a member of Van 2, we established early on that navigation and timing were not our strengths.  We were frequently “temporarily misplaced.”  Not LOST just misplaced. Unfortunately, it was not just our van that was MIA, but our runners. As a TEAM, we conquered these obstacles—obstacles, which magnified by lack of sleep and heat, proved to be stressful. But there was never any finger pointing or placing blame; we agreed we got into the situation as a team and would resolve it as one. We stuck together from the beginning to the very end. We celebrated conquering fears, horrifically hot runs, and sheer badassness. I am forever changed and grateful for my experience with this wonderful group of women!

Love Y’all!


A jubliant Smitha with open arms. (No First Aid necessary, btw.)
A jubliant Smitha with open arms. (No First Aid necessary, btw.)

Awesome, remarkable, extraordinary, fantastic, incredible, unbelievable, … I could go on and on describing the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley experience with the team of Bad*** Mother Runners.

The team had a few hiccups along the way that included a wrong turn, a lost runner and a missed exchange point. But hey: We were born to be awesome, not perfect. And we maintained that awesomeness all throughout, just rolling with what we got ourselves into.

It was hot as Hades and there were 11+ miles to be run on the last leg. SBS would say that her run wasn’t great. But watching her finish that run was inspiring. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. SBS should read Sarah Badass Shea.

It is easy (relatively) to run 15+ miles over 26 hours and still maintain a spring in your step, but it is hard to laugh all the time for 2 days and not feel the effect on your laughing muscles. My cheeks hurt more than my legs!

The Ragnar Relay Napa Valley started out as a run with a group of girls, but it ended up being a girls weekend adventure with running thrown in.

A gift from Princess Jodi to all of us, pre-Ragnar. Better than a real diamond.
A gift from Princess Jodi to all of us, pre-Ragnar. Better than a real diamond.

28 responses to “Ragnar Napa Valley: The Mother Runner Recap

  1. The bit about Dimity and Sarah being sweet when people recognized them is so true.

    I said hi to Dimity outside a portaloo at exchange 29 which in retrospect is not a suitable place for me to introduce myself and say hi, but she was so gracious.

    So hi Dimity – next time, I’ll introduce myself a long way from the loos!

  2. Looking forward to my first Ragnar in 2015. This was just the inspiration I needed. Thanks for the advice, inspiration and the laughs ladies!

  3. Which of you DC BAMRRs are going to be at the Philly party? I will be there. SBS said 3 or 4 of you were planning to attend….would love to meet you and swap Ragnar stories!

  4. I saw this in my inbox early this morning but saved reading it for this afternoon’s nap time. So glad I waited! Sounds like you all had such a great time!! Congrats to all.

  5. Thank you again, Sarah and Dimity, for this wonderful opportunity! And thank you to all of my teammates for inspiring me to be a BAMR! It is an honor to be a part of this great AMR community! I loved reading these recaps and reliving this awesome adventure! Love and miss you all!

  6. Krista- We all would LOVE to meet the DC BAMRs! We are hoping to get to the retreat in Little Rock in April and meet up there!?? Could ya’ll swing that?

  7. Leslie- Your J-Mart was my van-mate and is a hoot! Love that gal and her Southern drawl. You are lucky to have her as a friend!

  8. Love Love Love it! BAMRR’s Who is up for more? I am feeling so excited after reading those recaps and missing my DC BAMRR’s that I think planning for an all BAMRR Reunion is in order. After all, planning the next race is what we do right after we finish right?!?

  9. Wow! LOVE and hugs to my 11 new BRFs across the US and Canada. What an amazing group of BAMRs. Honored to be part of this tribe. xoxoxo

  10. love seeing all your smiling faces again!! for me, I think Ragnar is like childbirth……as time goes on you forget the pain and remember the joy!

  11. Great job ladies! Loved the posts and am so happy for all members, not just my dear friend, Jennifer Martin. I knew she would bring energy, her infectious laugh and encouragement to your team. Job well done!

  12. These pictures are so cute and made me smile, thanks for sharing your journey and things you learned and remembered! Ragnar rocks!

  13. Awww, I’m missing my BAMRR teammates! Great recaps guys! What a great experience! Dimity and Sarah are giving women life changing experiences and lifelong friends with these races. Thanks so much!

  14. Thanks SBS and Dim for the opportunity to share this unforgettable experience. The laughter continues via our facebook group and daily text. I am thrilled to say I have added 11 BRF’s to my life! I cannot wait to be reunited with my teammates. I miss you all terribly! Many happy miles until we meet again! Bring on Little Rock!

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