October 26, 2011

REI Dublin Grand Opening

The REI Dublin grand opening is finally upon us. The new store is located at 7099 Amador Plaza Road in Dublin, CA. Opening day is Friday, October 28th but they are celebrating all weekend long. They will be having a free continental breakfast Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting one hour before the store opens. The first 200 people through the door all three days will receive a CamelBak water bottle with a $5, $10, $25, $50 or $100 REI gift card inside. They will also have a gear package sweepstakes. If you're not already a member and sign up during this weekend you will also get a free REI OXT Tech T-Shirt, while supplies last. Pedal to the store, and they'll give you a 15%-off coupon and a free bike maintenance check by REI techs. Doors open at 10am all three days. 

October 22, 2011

Wheels for Meals Ride

We did the Wheels for Meals Ride for the second year in a row. The bike ride benefits the Meals on Wheels Program in Alameda County. Again there was a 15 mile ride, a 35 mile ride and a 70 mile ride. We did the 15 mile ride last year and had planned to do a longer one this year but because we would be doing this the day before a race we decided to do the 15 mile ride again. We pre-registered online for $20 per person and were glad we did because the event sold-out. We drove out to Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area and paid the $6 entrance fee. There are several paved and unpaved parking areas at the park and we ended up parking in a dirt/gravel lot. We got our bikes and gear together and rode over to the check-in area. In attempt to avoid congestion, the three routes were given a designated hour to be able to check-in and start the ride. We were able to check-in and start our ride between 9am and 10am. At check-in we received bibs for our bikes and a color coded wristband that matched our route markers on the ride. The route markers for the 15 mile ride were green so we followed the green route markers on our ride. The wristband would also be needed after the ride for our t-shirt and lunch, both of which were included as part of the event fee. There was water and bagels available before the ride. After check-in we got back on our bikes and headed through the parking lot and up our first hill to make our way out of the park. The route for the 15 mile ride was very similar to last years route. First we headed east on Stanley Blvd which was under contruction. Because of the construction we rode on the street itself instead of on the bike path we used last year. We then rode through some quiet and beautiful residential streets in Livermore. After about five miles we reached our first rest stop at Charles Borromeo Church. The volunteers here were dressed up in a patriotic theme, even the dog had a costume. They offered water, lemonade, candy, fruit and PB&J mini sandwiches. We had some snacks and rested in the shade for a few minutes before continuing on our ride. After a short while we found ourselves riding on Vineyard and Wetmore bike paths where we were rewarded with great views. After climbing and descending we found ourselves at the second rest stop. This stop was at Sycamore Grove Park. The volunteers here had decorated the area with a Hawaii theme and wore island attire. They had Hawaiian themed music playing as well. There was water, fruit, candy, jerkey and PB&J mini sandwiches. After another brief break in the shade we hopped back on our bikes and on the bike path. After some turns we made a right onto Isabel Road and continued on the bike path until we reached Stanley Blvd. We turned left here and road back to Shadow Cliffs. As we rode back to the Lakeside Picnic Area there were volunteers cheering us on. We found a spot for our bikes in the "Bike Parking" area on the grass and then picked up our event t-shirts. We then lined up for our BBQ lunch which consisted of ribs, sausages, chicken, muffins, potato salad, coleslaw and fruit. We took a short walk to a shaded picnic table and enjoyed our food. We passed by the sponsor booths on our way back to our bikes and then rode back to our car to head home. It was a great event again this year. It was very well organized and the weather cooperated-it was wam and sunny. We will definitely participate again next year, maybe we'll even do a longer ride.

Wheels for Meals Website

October 16, 2011

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley

We recently got the opportunity to do Ragnar Relay Napa Valley. So what is Ragnar Relay? It's when 12 runners run about 200 miles, day and night, relay style. The Ragnar tag line is “Run, Drive, Sleep? Repeat”. Make special note of the question mark. So how about a few more details. The 12 runners split into two vans or other similar vehicles. Van 1 starts the relay and after each runner runs once, they then hand off to Van 2. Each runner in Van 2 runs once and then they hand back off to Van 1. This continues until each runner runs three times and the team as a whole completes 36 legs, passing a slap bracelet at every exchange. Each exchange has a parking area for the team vans and a designated area on the road for the two runners to hand off. Most also had porta potties which definitely came in handy. The exchanges where one van handed off to the other van were considered major exchanges and aside from the parking and porta-potties, many of them also had food for sale from local groups, water, sometimes coffee and hot chocolate and one had a sleeping area inside a high school gym. Each individual leg varied from the shortest being around three miles to the longest at about nine miles and have varying levels of difficulty. Each runner's total mileage varied from 13 to 22 miles. Most legs did not have any aid or water support but the team van was allowed to give aid to their runner. The few exceptions were those legs that were on roads where it would have been too dangerous for team members to provide aid and on those legs there were hydration stations. Most teams finish the race in around 30-something hours.
Ragnar Relay has been around for several years but this was the inaugural race for Napa Valley. The race began in San Francisco at Marina Green Park. The race took us from SF, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the north bay and eventually ending 186 miles later in Calistoga. In San Francisco there were staggered starts every 30 minutes starting at 5:30 am until about 3pm. Slower teams usually started earlier as they needed more time to complete the race. We reached the start an hour before our start time. We had to check in, show our safety gear and go to a safety briefing. Come 8:30am our first runner along with runners from 30 other teams took off and the race for us was on. Now the thing about Ragnar is that it's not really a competitive race, it's more about having fun. Teams usually come up with creative and funny team names. Many get custom made shirts for their team. Some teams are even out there running in full costumes. Van decorating are also a must do. Running is normally an individual sport and as runners we spend a lot of time running the roads by ourselves. Ragnar provides the unique opportunity to get 12 friends or even strangers and run as a team, supporting and cheering each other along the way. The fun aspect along with the challenge of the day and night race is what attracted us to participate. This was our first Ragnar, so despite researching as much as possible beforehand we didn't really know what to expect.
First thing that surprised us was how rushed everything was. Not in a bad way. We thought that there would be a lot of time to kill, but there wasn't. It seemed like we were always in a rush to get ready to run, or get to the next exchange or get some food. Running in the middle of the night was something I had really looked forward to. Some members of our team were worried about the night running. After doing it, running at night was a non issue. No problems, but not that exciting either. Running with oncoming car headlights in your face gets old pretty quick. The other issue with running at night is if you're running then you're not sleeping. If you're doing Ragnar you should expect to only get a couple hours of sleep. In our team, Van 1 just slept in their van. Not exactly very comfortable but it was easy. Van 2 slept in a high school gym at one of the major exchanges. While it was a chance to stretch out in our sleeping bags, a gym with 100 other runners who are all coming and going at different times doesn't make for a peaceful nights sleep. Food was another issue. I personally didn't eat enough during the race, probably didn't hydrate enough either. I didn't exactly get to keep to my usual meal schedule. So it was a lot of snacking, cliff bars and gels. During the last leg for the runners in Van 2 the temps actually got pretty high and they struggled to stay hydrated. We saw lots of other teams having to walk during this stretch of the race. But eventually we all made it to the finish. For Ragnar, the whole team joins the last runner to run the last 100 yards so that everyone gets to cross the finish. After crossing the finish line everyone got their medals and a team photo is taken. I must say Ragnar has some very cool medals. There is a finish line expo to checkout as well with a few product samples and actually every team got two free pizzas. Much needed as everyone was pretty hungry. There is also a merchandise tent at the finish. But I think the trick is if you want to buy some Ragnar gear purchase it at the race start as many things ran out by the time we got to the finish.

Overall Ragnar Relay is a very unique running experience. We had an absolute blast doing it. We had a great time with the friends on our team. We had a great time meeting runners from other teams. And we had a great time cheering for and getting cheered on by complete strangers. We will definitely be back for Ragnar Relay Napa Valley 2012. Actually we will probably try to do one of the other Ragnar Relays located around the country.

Ragnar Relay Website

October 2, 2011

October Events

Here are a few things going on in October:

10/1    Reach for the Stars 5k race at Del Osso Farms in Lathrop
10/2    Urban Cow 5k and Half Marathon in Sacramento
10/2    Bridge to Bridge 7k and 12k races in San Francisco
10/2    Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in San Jose
10/2    Mount Diablo Challenge Bike Ride
10/8    Golden Hills Trail Marathon and 50k at Lake Chabot
10/8    Muddy Maul & Crawl 2 mile obstacle course in Lodi
10/9    Happy Fish 5k and 10k races in Fremont
10/9    Primo's Run for Education 5k and Half Marathon in San Ramon
10/9    Muddy Buddy event in San Jose
10/15  Redwood Park 10k, 20k, 30k and 50k trail races
10/15  Footwear Festival at REI Concord
10/16  Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon in San Francisco
10/16  Silicon Valley Brain Tumor Bike Ride in Palo Alto
10/22  Rocky Ridge 5k, 10k and Half Marathon trail races at Las Trampas
10/22  Out for Blood 5k race in Oakland
10/22  Wheels for Meals Ride in Livermore Valley
10/23  St. Josephs 5k and Half Marathon in Stockton
10/23  Golden Gate Bridge Vista 10k race
10/23  Grape Stomp 5k, 10k and Half Marathon races in Livermore
10/23  SF Sunday Streets Cycling Event
10/29  P.U.M.P It Up 5k and 10k races in Lodi
10/29  Down & Dirty Mud Run in Sacramento
10/29  Napa Wine Country 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon
10/29  Warrior Dash 3.15 obstacle course in Hollister
10/30  Warrior Dash 3.15 obstacle course in Hollister
10/30  Down & Dirty Mud Run in Folsom
10/30  Four Bridges Half Marathon in Folsom
10/30  Halloween Spirit Run 5k in Pleasanton

REI Free Clinics (all at 7pm)
  Bike Palo Alto! 2011 (10am-4pm)
    10/9  Mountain View
    10/9  Saratoga
  Exploring Patagonia
    10/25 Berkeley
    10/26 San Francisco
    10/31 Saratoga
  Best Bay Area Hikes with Kids
    10/24  Saratoga
    10/25  Fremont
  Transit and Trails
    10/5   San Francisco
    10/11 Berkeley
  Hell on Two Wheels
    10/17 Saratoga
    10/19 Concord
  Circumnavigating the Bay Area Ridge Trail by Bike
    10/18  Berkeley
    10/26  Corte Madera

REI Used Gear Sales (all at 10am)
    10/1   Concord
    10/1   Mountain View
    10/1   Saratoga
    10/1   San Francisco
    10/9   Fremont
    10/15 Berkeley
    10/15 Brentwood
    10/15 Corte Madera