Ragnar Napa Valley Race Review

It’s been over 48 hours since Team RAGnerds crossed the finish line of a 205 mile race from San Francisco to Calistoga in Napa Valley. We are still recovering from lack of sleep, funky stomach issues, sore legs, sunburns, and blisters, but wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Ragnar Napa Valley has 12 runners divided into two vans and tag teaming 205 miles relay-style through the night. Only one runner hits the road at a time, running a total of three legs. Each leg ranges between 2-12 miles and varies in difficulty. Van 1’s runners cover the first six legs. As each runner begins, the rest of the runners drive ahead to cheer their runner on and meet them at the exchange point to pick them up and send off the next runner. After the first 6 legs, van 2 starts running and van 1 gets a break to eat/sleep (although very little sleep actually happens). You repeat this three times, finally covering the full distance and ending with a huge celebration in Calistoga.

Marta, Brianna, Ellen, Alaina, Krystal and I were van 2 buddies. We ran our legs from 11AM-5PM Friday (yes, the hottest part of the day), and again from 12AM-6AM Saturday morning (yup, in the middle of the night) and again from 10AM-5PM on Saturday afternoon (again in the scorching heat). One might argue Van 1 had the better bargain. They got to sleep in the van from 12AM-5:30AM and ran in the fog. They did, however, start us off at 5:45AM in San Fran. I loved running the middle of the night. There’s nothing like taking off for an 8.5 mile run at 3 AM.

photo 1 (14)

Van 2 RAGnerds

What I love about Ragnar is that it isn’t competitive, but you can be competitive with yourself. Nobody actually knows your leg splits, nobody looks at your pace, and nobody knows if you walked up the hill (or mountain in our case). You can set personal goals and push yourself to accomplish them. That goal might be not walking, averaging a certain pace, or tackling your longest distance yet. It was empowering and internally motivating to dig deep and push through a tough run fully aware that there would be no glory if your goal was met. For each one of my legs I set personal goals to help me stay motivated and to push myself. My 11.4 mile run in the heat after 1.5 hours of sleep was so mentally challenging. I contemplated run/walking the final 7 miles but reminded myself that Ellen had just run 9 in the same heat, and Marta was about to run 5. I pushed harder than I have in many races and maintained a strong pace. The experience taught me just how mental running really is. I went from contemplating quitting to running one of my strongest 10+ mile runs. There was no reward of a PR, I didn’t earn an age-group medal, and only my Garmin and I know my mile splits, but finishing that run was rewarding because I learned how much I can push myself, and that I can talk myself out of a mental block.

photo 3 (6)

But enough about running, Ragnar is all about the TEAM and WOAH did we have fun. We had quite the RUN-cation. Here are a few of our favorite memories:

  • BJ’s Pizookies while waiting for Alaina and Krystal
  • Porta potty selfies
  • Embracing our filth
  • Buying all things Pumpkin Spice at Target
  • Cliff bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Knowing everyone’s digestive schedule
  • Alaina’s first purple toenail (I’m so proud!)
  • Screaming for our runners
  • Running in nerd glasses
  • Alaina and Krystal covering MORE DISTANCE than they ever have in their lives
  • Hearing weird noises in the porta potties next to us
  • Dancing to Call Me Maybe in the Van
  • Wine Tasting in at Mayo Family Winery in Sonoma
  • Watching Krystal’s strange strange facebook videos
  • Googling pictures of marathon runners who have pooped in their pants
  • Alaina running up a mountain
  • Marta getting lost and running extra mileage
  • “Pop some pills and get your ass to Napa”
  • Marta and Cristina’s terribly frizzy hair
  • Counting kills

photo 2 (7)

Thinking of running this race next year?


  • Beautiful (although challenging) course
  • Great Medals
  • Cute shirts that FIT
  • RagMag was clear, organized and made driving around easy
  • So many CLEAN porta-potties
  • Runs to suit experienced and new runners
  • Being a part of a team
  • Point to point runs for those of you who hate out and back or loops
  • Post-race party was super fun!


  • Would have loved more water stations
  • The community seemed unaware of the race and annoyed with the traffic
  • We barely got to see van 1 😦

I’ll leave you with this 100% sober finish line video. 

5 thoughts on “Ragnar Napa Valley Race Review

  1. Great post, Cristina! I loved the whole Ragnar experience and I’m so happy I got to experience it with our amazing Van 2… Van 2… Van 2!

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  3. Pingback: Running These Days | The Restless Runner

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