2016 ragnar so cal race recap

last month (april 1-2), kevin and i participated in our first ragnar relay race! if you don’t know, ragnar puts on a series of relay races across the country – teams of 12 spend two days (yes, overnight) each running three legs of an approximately 200 mile point-to-point course. we did the southern california edition, which started in huntington beach and ended on coronado in san diego!

we flew in a couple days before the race started so we could spend a little time with my family. i was so thankful to be able to squeeze this time in to see baby sister after four months apart! my dad also took us to check out a new brewery in redlands – perfect carb loading for the race the next day :)

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everything about ragnar screams crazy, but possibly the craziest part about this experience is that we only knew each other, plus two other teammates. I worked with our friend Johnnie back in Tucson, and when we asked us to be on a team with he and his fiance, Kristin, back in November, we didn’t really think twice about it! the rest of the team was comprised of their friends, all from Arizona. we met up with the team on their way to huntington from tucson on thursday evening, and joined them in the vans we rented for the weekend — here’s team Beer We Come all sunshine and smiles before having to run 200 miles.

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we got down to orange county around dinnertime, checked into our hotel, and went out for a team dinner at a nearby restaurant. kevin and i headed to bed pretty early in hopes of a good last night of rest before the race, but the freeway noise kept us up most of the night. we were up early friday morning to head down to the starting line to check in Van #1 (first 6 runners) and send off our first runner (kevin!). not a bad view to start the morning!

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we were short one runner on our team, so three people from our team filled in and each did a fourth leg as well. kevin filled in and kicked things off by running the first leg, a short 2-miler mostly along the huntington beach bike path. for some reason, I was worried about how much time there would be to pass in between the times that I was running, but I was amazed at how fast the two days went by once we started.

since I was runner 7, my first leg (12 miles) didn’t start until about 1:00pm, which was unfortunately right in the heat of the day, and my route did not have much shade. I was hoping to average around 8:00s, and was able to for the first 8 or so miles, but then had to slow down, and even stop and walk a few times because I was so overheated and dehydrated — definitely should have carried my own water because the course water stops were few and far between. I knew this would be the hardest leg to get through, since it was the longest and hottest, so I just tried to power through as best as I could. it felt amazing being done and passing the baton off to kevin to run next, and I even got a special medal for running the longest leg of the course!

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kevin was up next with about 9.5 miles and had a tough time on his leg as well – it was just so much hotter than we had run in throughout the past few months, and we also aren’t used to running in the middle of the afternoon. plus, his route was pretty hilly! I think we were both pretty relieved to get our longest legs out of the way first – although we got more tired, it still felt much easier for the rest of the time after those first legs!

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after the four other runners in our van finished their legs, we had a few hour break before any of us had to run again (while the other van was running). we headed to a nearby chipotle for a real meal, changed clothes and cleaned up a bit, and then headed to the next exchange point and tried to get some sleep. kevin and I ended up just laying in sleeping bags outside the van for a couple hours, but didn’t really sleep – I’ve never been a good napper, and since I was first up to run once the other van finished, I was worried if I did fall asleep I’d be too groggy and not feel refreshed.

we were all a little nervous about the nighttime legs but for the most part they ended up being really fun! I took off at around 11:30/midnight and my three miles went by super fast. I was worried about getting lost and not seeing any other runners, but thanks to all the reflective gear and lights they make you wear, I was always in eyesight of at least a few others out on the course. we did have one small snafu where we went to the wrong exchange and were waiting and waiting for our runner before realizing we needed to be at the previous exchange. it was a little stressful there for a little while, and probably augmented by how deliriously tired we were at that point, but we got it sorted out and back on track, and finished out our night legs!

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we then headed to our next exchange where we’d meet up with the other van after they’d finished their third legs. we had about 4 hours from when we got there to when it would be my turn to run again. there wasn’t enough room for all of us to sleep in the van, so kevin and I set up camp outside in sleeping bags again. just as we got comfortable, a race volunteer came over and told us we weren’t allowed to sleep in the parking lot for safety reasons, and directed us to a designated sleeping area. it was pretty much pitch black, so we couldn’t really see, and just wandered around until we found a spot that felt good (we were essentially on a beach). we dozed in and out for a couple hours, and woke up to slamming doors to realize that we’d inadvertently slept right near the porta potties, and the lines for the bathrooms had started to form around us. pretty awkward but we laughed it off and got up and got ready for our third legs to begin!

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my third and final leg was just under 10 miles and was the leg I was least prepared for. I didn’t review the map or elevation much, or really have a time goal. my legs were pretty sore at this point and our team was actually doing really well on time, so we all decided to take it pretty easy for our last legs. I knew mine would be along the coast, so I ended up stopping quite a few times to capture the breathtaking views! the leg turned out to be much hillier than I expected, and had road, path, dirt trail, and stairs, so I never got used to the terrain. regardless, I still really enjoyed this leg, but of course, it felt pretty amazing to pass the baton one last time to kevin and then be done for good!

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the rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent relaxing and cheering on the rest of the runners in our van. the other van had finished at this point and met up with us at some of the remaining exchange points, and we swapped stories from the previous couple days, since we hadn’t seen them much. once our last runner started, we began making our way to the finish line area, where we planned to run into the finish line together as a team. we made it there and parked with just a few minutes to spare — there was so much traffic! we spotted danny and all ran in to the finish line together – a pretty cool moment!


the finish line was right on the beach at coronado, so we hung out there for awhile and enjoyed pizza and beers in the beautiful weather, before heading back to our hotel and going out for a proper dinner (which all of us were basically too tired to eat).

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we all crashed pretty early, and woke up the next morning sore but ready to continue the celebrations. before many of us had to go our separate ways, the whole team met for a delicious brunch full of ridiculous bloody mary’s. (mine had a grilled cheese sandwich on it!)

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then, a few of us who had more time to spend in san diego headed to stone brewery, which was conveniently very close to the airport, so we pretty much hung out there for the afternoon sampling beers and recapping the weekend.

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all in all, we are SO GLAD we said yes to our crazy friend johnnie back in november when he asked us to be a part of their team. it was so great getting to see him and his fiancé kristin, and to make a few new friends as well. we’ll definitely be back for another ragnar someday, and it’s an experience I highly recommend for every runner/adventurer if you get the chance!

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nyc, part two

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a few more photos from our nyc trip last month…sunday was the first day after #jonas; we woke up and were amazed at how clear the streets and many sidewalks were already. it was still a bit of an adventure to get around, but it was a sunny, beautiful day and tons of people were out and about. we decided to make the most of it and get to a few areas we hadn’t seen yet. we ventured down in hopes of visiting the world trade center area and memorial, but a lot of it was closed off due to construction and the weather. we checked out trinity church and walked down wall street instead, eventually ending up down in battery park so we could see ellis island and the statue of liberty!

we had explored greenwich village a bit the day before, but wanted to see it sans jonas, so we headed back up that way and got our new york pizza fix at joe’s. obviously, there are a million pizza places here and everyone seems to have their opinion, but we thought this place was pretty legit. thin and foldable and very little seating. after lunch we ventured to the giant REI store and shopped around a bit there, then bar-hopped in the area and watched the football games. (we really liked fool’s gold). when we were ready to head back to our hotel, the weather was still nice, so we made a walk of it, and ended up at the ginger man for dinner and a nightcap.

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the one bonus to our flight being delayed a full day is that we had part of an extra day in the city (monday). we were able to store our bags at the hotel and decided we’d spend the morning checking out a few more spots. we headed uptown to spanish harlem to have a bialy at hot bread kitchen, an ethnic bakery within la marqueta. from there we went west and walked through columbia’s campus – so pretty, so ivy. after exploring the columbia area, we walked back towards downtown along the west end of central park, then hopped on the subway for a few stops and then checking out the cathedral and the library, before grabbing lunch near our hotel and starting our trek to the airport.

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such a fun trip and although it changed our plans a bit, it turned out to be kind of fun to be there during the epic snowstorm! i can’t wait to go back, hopefully in the summer next time!

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nyc, part one

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I think it’s safe to say we had a pretty epic trip to NYC a couple of weeks ago.

on friday, our first full day in the city, you wouldn’t have even known a blizzard was coming. It was 40+ degrees and sunny and chilly but overall quite pleasant. our hotel was just a couple blocks away from grand central, so we popped in there for a cappuccino, grabbed bagels from a nearby shop (which turned out to be our favorite, after trying two others over the weekend), walked up to see times square, and then to the southern end of central park.

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we did a little bit of shopping (aka we did not come equipped with proper winter coats, so both of us ended up buying one there…turned out to be a good investment), grabbed a few treats from milk bar, and then headed downtown for a late lunch at momofuku noodle bar. we probably had over 100 restaurants pinned to a google map that interested us, but eating here was at the top of our list, and one of our few “musts.” we got the classic momofuku ramen, some pork steam buns, and their take on a kale salad, and all three were fantastic.

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post-lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a bit to relax and recharge (literally…NYC drained our phone batteries like whoa), and a couple hours later, took the subway over to the greenpoint neighborhood in brooklyn to check out a few bars. first, we went to TØRST, a minimalist bar specializing in unique, higher ABV beers. we loved that you could get different size pours of each beer (5 oz, 8 oz, 12 oz), so we were able to try a few each. and the best part was that almost everything on tap was from the east coast, so it was all new to us!

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from there we headed just a few blocks down the street to brooklyn brewery. here, you buy “tokens” at the door in increments of $5, which you then use to redeem beers at the bar. unsurprisingly, this turned out to be one of our favorite places of the weekend – we loved the open, warehouse feel of the brewery, and ended up hanging there for a couple hours. we tried a bunch of different beers, but a favorite was the greenmarket wheat.

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after the brewery, the weather was still decent, and we felt like walking off some of our beer, so we headed down towards the williamsburg bridge and decided to walk across (we’d planned to do the brooklyn bridge, but we weren’t up for walking that far then, and never made it back over there). I am terrified of heights and especially bridges, but I was determined to have the experience and make it across. as you may know, there’s a dedicated walking lane on this bridge, and I actually felt pretty safe and secure the whole time. being able to see manhattan all lit up like that was totally worth it!

once we got across the bridge, it had started to snow lightly, and we were starving. we pulled out our phones and realized we were really close to katz’s deli, which stays open late on weekends and was another must on our list. you just never know what to expect from places like this that are so hyped, but holy pastrami, it was amazing. (probably also contributing to the amazingness was our level of intoxication). we split a pastrami sandwich (on rye, with mustard) and an order of latkes, and were in heaven. i’ll have what she’s having, indeed.

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we weren’t quite ready to call it a night yet, so we headed over to mcsorley’s, widely considered to be the oldest Irish tavern in NYC. here, there are two options: light beer or dark beer. lots of cool memorabilia on the walls here, and bartenders that feel like they walked straight out of another era. we sat in the window here and watched the storm start to pick up, and ended our night with a walk back to our hotel.

and then came Jonas.

but that didn’t stop us! we had reserved cronuts from dominique ansel for saturday morning, and there was no way we were missing out on those. the subways were still running, so we headed down to soho. these guys were totally worth the trip. (and the bakery had a great window for watching the snow fall).

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after pastries we braved the elements for awhile and walked up to NYU and washington square park — we couldn’t see much, since the snow was blowing everywhere, and most of the buildings were closed, but we did our best.

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once we had enough walking, we took the subway to the upper east side and made a quick lunch stop at dean & deluca, and then were on our way to the Met. we thought it would be a good day for an indoor activity, but by the time we got there, they had decided to close early, so we only had about an hour or so to see the museum. we checked out a few areas that interested us, plus the special exhibit on Egypt, and were on our way again. can’t wait to go back and explore more next time.

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then it was back to our hotel to regroup. by this time, most of the city had shut down – all museums, all broadway shows, and quite a few restaurants. we stopped by a newsstand to pick up some snacks in case we weren’t able to find dinner anywhere later that night. we relaxed at our hotel for awhile, and then got this bright idea that maybe everyone else assumed SNL was cancelled and that we should go because we would probably definitely get in. so we walked – well, basically skied – the mile over to rockefeller center and arrived just as the nice NBC man was announcing that the last standby tickets had been given out. oh well, we tried. we called around to see if any nearby bars/restaurants were open, and ended up at judge roy bean public house, where we had burgers and beers.

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and then came one of my favorite parts of the weekend. the mayor had issued a travel ban earlier in the afternoon, so there were no cars on the road, save for a few police cars and other first responders. we turned onto madison avenue to find tons of people walking in the streets, taking pictures, playing with their kids, having adult snowball fights, you name it. it was pretty magical, i gotta say.

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good night, Jonas! part two coming soon.

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if 2013 was a year of wildness (starting new jobs, buying a house, moving), and 2014 was a year of settledness (building stability in our work and home lives), then 2015 was most definitely a year of becoming.

2015 was a year of growth. growing into some beautiful new friendships and out of some others. the year where I finally embraced the value of quality over quantity in relationships, and the year where I experienced the freedom, but also heartbreak, that reality can sometimes bring. it was a year that required me to be a real grown-up in new ways – really hard ways – but ways that taught me a lot about myself.

2015 was the year of the marathon. in a time where running a marathon has seemingly become the new 5k, it’s sometimes hard to talk about running our first marathon as if it’s any kind of big deal. but the truth is, it’s a huge deal. more than anything else in 2015, training for and running my first marathon defined this year of my life. the marathon experience challenged me in every way – physically, mentally – and in the process, helped me fall in love with running all over again, and reaffirm my affinity for distance running. it’s an accomplishment I’m so proud of, and will remember always…and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

2015 was the year of the second car. (okay, in reality, it was only a few days of 2015…). if you’ve known us for a long time, then you probably know that with the exception of my senior year in college when we lived apart, kevin and i have shared a single car for the entirety of our relationship. what started as two broke grad students not being able to afford a second car eventually turned into just normal life, and save for a few #transitproblems here and there, we’ve learned to make it work, and figured we’d tackle the second car situation if/when it ever became a real issue. my time riding the bus (and occasionally bumming rides from friends) was incredibly humbling, and i’m thankful to have had that experience. due to a weird series of events over the past few months, coupled with the generosity of my parents, my family’s honda civic is now here in nebraska to stay. having a car (especially here in omaha) is such a ubiquitous thing, that it can be easy to take for granted, but the value of having another car isn’t lost on us one bit, and we’re grateful beyond words.

2015 was the year of the bar. last spring Kevin and I started meeting up at scriptown, a new brewery in the blackstone district. it was a short walk from my bus stop and the perfect place to grab a drink before heading home together. and somewhere in between the after-work beers and the weekend growler fills and bringing all of our friends in to try it out, too, it soon became our favorite place – our second home, a place where (nearly) everyone knows our name. this year, scriptown has been a place for us to celebrate good days and birthdays and anniversaries, and a place to wind down on the not-so-good days, too. we’ve always wanted a place like this – a place where we can be regulars at, and have real relationships with the bartenders and owners, and I’m happy to report we’ve definitely found it.

2015 was the year of the royals. alright, this one was probably more exciting and year-defining for Kevin than it was for me, but I have to admit, I had my fair share of fun cheering on this team to their first World Series since 1985. in 2015, I watched and listened to more baseball than I ever have in my entire life, and – yes, it shocks me, too – I didn’t even hate it. okay, so maybe having a giant crush on Eric Hosmer made the experience slightly more enjoyable :)

2015, like every year, was full of moments that I don’t want to forget. new half marathon, 10k, and 5k PRs for both Kevin and myself. seeing our amazing niece turn two. trips to California, Arizona, and Chicago, and the opportunity to visit with so many old friends. the four months we got to spend with my sister, while she lived with us here in Omaha this semester. and all the other everyday moments in between that make our life what it is right now – messy, beautiful, real. this year and every year, we have so much to be thankful for.

so cheers to a new year, to 2016 — I can’t wait to see what kind of year you’ll be.

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beer & bagel squatchy challenge

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Last weekend we participated in our first multi-race weekend: the Beer & Bagel Squatchy Challenge at Quarry Oaks Golf Course in Ashland, NE. This challenge consisted of a half(ish) marathon on Saturday followed by a 4-ish miler on Sunday. On hilly trails.

Having heard great things about Beer & Bagel in the past, we had started looking into doing the 4-miler a couple of weeks before the Chicago Marathon. We figured it would be a fun way to close out racing season, and even though trail races are more challenging than road races, 4 miles is a manageable distance. When we went to register, however, we discovered that they were also offering a halfish marathon distance, and that doing both races, or the “Squatchy Challenge,” qualified you for a special finisher’s medal. That was an easy choice. We like medals.

After Chicago I thought that I might have to skip out on these races thinking that they might be a bit too risky for my leg, but I’ve continued to take it fairly easy since the marathon and things seem to be healing up well (going purely off of feel here) so just as with Chicago and the Good Life Halfsy, I felt confident towing the starting line, taking it easy, and backing off if and when I felt necessary. I’m so happy that I was healthy enough to participate because this weekend of races turned out to be SO MUCH FUN.

Ashland is about a 30-minute drive from our house, so we left around 7:15 for a 9:00am race time. Since this was the inaugural year of the halfish, the race field was pretty small (just over 200 runners), so we were able to park quickly and fairly close to the start line. We stayed in our car for a few extra minutes (it was chilly – just under 40 degrees), had our breakfast (mini bagel with peanut butter, and a banana), put on our arm warmers (old socks with the ends cut off), and then headed up to the start line area to hang out at around 8:20. One thing that I love about smaller races is that it’s usually a much calmer atmosphere. They had a few sets of corn hole/bags set up so we did that for a while, stretched a bit, and made our way over the start line a few minutes before 9:00am. We lined up near the front since the race was not chip timed (not that either of us were super concerned with time). And then we were off!

The course was 3 loops of about 4.3 miles, alternating directions every loop. We ran together for most of the first loop, and then I split off to complete the rest of the race by myself. (I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I do not run well with others – at least in races). The course was really beautiful with lots of different terrain that kept it interesting (and challenging) – part paved road, part golf course/grass, part dirt trail, plus three creek crossings of varying difficulty including one that you needed a rope to get across. There weren’t many flat areas which meant you were either going uphill or downhill at pretty much all times – both really hard in different ways. I thought I would hate having to do three loops of the same thing, but since this wasn’t an area where I normally run, I never got bored and the alternating directions made it interesting (and Kevin and I got to pass and see each other a couple times). I didn’t really have a time goal in mind for two reasons: (1) even though I always want to put out a good effort during a race, I was mostly running this for fun, and (2) trails are a whole different ball game and I have no concept of what a “good” trail pace would be for myself. I tried to view these races as a way to celebrate the end of our racing season, break in our new trail shoes, and start getting more comfortable running on trails (we want to do more of it this winter). I finished in 2:19 and then waited for Kevin to come in (at 2:55) – instant PRs since this was our first trail half!

This was the Beer & Bagel run, after all, so after finishing we headed to the beer tent and were pleased to find several local craft beer options awaiting us! There were bagels, of course, but they were also grilling up burgers, so we opted for those instead. The post-race atmosphere was so fun – everyone brought chairs and blankets and set up camp to enjoy beers, food, and the awards ceremony. (Note to self to come more prepared next year). We hung out for awhile afterwards, took some photobooth pics, and headed home – after all, we had to do this all over again the next morning!

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Sunday we left our house a bit earlier – around 6:45 for the 9:00 start – since we knew Sunday’s race was larger and didn’t want to have to park far away. We got a good parking spot and once again hung out in our car for a bit, ate breakfast, and then headed to the start area. We forgot chairs, but happened to have a blanket in our trunk so we found a sunny spot and set our blanket up so we’d have a place to hang out post-race. We found our friend Teresa just before the race and of course had to take a pre-race group selfie!

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Doing this course for the second time was much easier, since it was only one loop and because we knew what to expect. The course was almost identical to Saturday’s, with the exception of the last 1/3 of a mile where they slightly modified the finish. It was also A LOT more crowded and there were several bottleneck areas. Even though I wasn’t trying to sprint through this, I did want to try to run the whole time, but it was pretty much impossible because there were so many groups of walkers spread across the entire width of the trail. I don’t mind when people walk in races – I do, too – but race etiquette and common sense would tell you to stay single file and move to the right if you are going to go slower. It was a bit frustrating but I tried to run in the areas where I could remind myself this was just for fun, and now I know what to expect for next year. On Sunday, I also ran through the creek crossings instead of using the ropes/stones to get across – that was fun (and I definitely, literally got cold feet)! I finished the 4.2 (ish) mile course in just under 43 minutes, grabbed a beer, and stayed near the finish line to wait for Kevin and Teresa, who came in together at just under an hour. They grabbed beers and we took a post-race pic!

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We hung out after the race for quite a while – had more beers (when I went up for the second time, the guy insisted on giving me two – YOLO!), food (chili and bagels – totally hit the spot), and got our special Squatchy medals! For early November, the weather was amazing – chilly at the start both days, but warmed up to about 60 by the end of the races and was super sunny – perfect for being outside! Both races were very well organized, with simple packet pickup, a great t-shirt (“drinker with a running problem”), and an amazing race director, who personally thanked us for participating in both days of the race. I’m so glad it worked out for us to do these races, and I think they’ll definitely be a regular installment for us moving forward. I don’t think I could ever give up traditional road running and races, but we definitely want to incorporate more trails into our training to build strength and mix things up a bit. We’ve got some exciting stuff planned for 2016!

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