The Relay: Napa to Davenport

Posted by Lauren

The weekend of April 30-May 1 was very unusual. Kyle and I woke up at 10 am, I made two berry almond buckwheat bakes following Ashley’s recipe, subbing blueberries and raspberries for cherries. Then we drove to the grocery store to stock up on some snacks and easy to make food (think: bagels). I grabbed a 1/2 salad 1/2 sandwich from Togo’s.

Top: little overnight bag, Middle: Togo's lunch, Bottom: other snacks - pringles, homemade curry chips, bananas

Around 1pm we drove to our friends’ apartment and packed up this minivan with what would look like camping gear: sleeping bags, coolers, toilet paper…

Thing is, we weren’t going camping. Instead we were about to embark on The Relay, a 194 mile relay race from Calistoga, CA to Davenport, CA.

Our van had six of the twelve racers, the other six were in a van somewhere in-between Calistoga and Napa.

Kit, Donna, Mike, Kyle, me, Kevin – such a happy van group :)

Van 1: Julianne, Sallie, Susannah, Chris, Julie, Mike S.

How The Relay Works:
– Runner’s are numbered 1 – 12. Van 1 has runners 1 – 6. Van 2 has runners 7 – 12.
– Each runner runs three “legs” of the course
– When a runner finishes his or her leg, he or she passes a bracelet to the next runner. This continues until the race ends. This means that for 26+ hours, your team has a runner on the road. 9pm? Yes. 2am? Yes. 5am? Yes. You get the idea.
– The exchange between runners 6 and 7 and between runners 12 and 1 require the vans to exchange.
– When your van isn’t the active van, you can attempt to sleep. Key word: attempt. Good luck falling asleep in the back of a minivan or in the freezing cold near the Golden Gate Bridge.
– When your van is the active van, you follow your runner and stop along the route every 2 miles or so to give your runner water and cheers!

I was runner 7. We drove to the first van exchange, which was in Napa, and waited for Van 1 to show up with our bids. Team 177 was way ahead of schedule, thanks to some fast legs in the first van. This put the pressure on for the entire weekend – nobody wanted to be the one that didn’t hit their time goal.

The starting line in Calistoga, CA… (that I never saw since I was in van 2)

Our first runner, Julianne

Ready, set, go!

Julianne passing to Sallie…

Sallie passing to Susannah…

Chris running through the Napa vineyards…

Hydration is key!

Julie’s turn to run…

I had never met runner 6, Mike, who flew up from So Cal to run with our team. I was nervous that he would run up and I wouldn’t be ready because I had no idea who he was, but Team 1 got me ready when he busted around the bend. While we waited:

Kyle stretching in a cute, little old-school track suit

Studying the line-up.

Recording “KILLS” aka when you pass another runner.

Van 1 people attempt to nap…

After quickly switching the bracelet, I darted off.

Mike passes the bracelet to me!

My first leg: 4.4 miles, moderate difficulty

Man, it was hot! My first leg was 4.4 miles, which I thought would be easy breezy. And how about the massive hill I had to run up (I’m not great with inclines)? Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I saw the van waiting for me with water on the other side of the hill. I tried my best to keep my stamina up, knowing that if I ran my hardest I’d still have time to recover before my 2am run.

I passed the bracelet to Kyle and wished him luck on his first leg, then joined my van to follow his route. We stopped so he could get water, and then drove ahead to get runner 9 ready for the exchange. This pattern continued until Kevin finished off our van’s first round, passing the bracelet to runner 1 of Van 1…

Kyle passes to Donna…

Pose with me Doze!

Donna’s all smiles :)

Donna hands the bracelet to Kit…

Beautiful rolling hills in northern California…

Kit’s water break…

Mike is ready to go!

Again, with the track suit?! Mike staying hydrated…

Kevin’s ready to go with a snug, sort of reflective, vest.

Dusk out!

Head lamps are a must! Kevin’s 1st leg…

Julianne is ready for van 1 to take over!

It was Julianne’s turn to run her second leg and it was time for our van to drive to the next exchange point and try to get rest.

Julianne passes to Sallie…

We made it to the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge and I decided it was too cold to sleep outside in my flimsy sleeping bag. A few of the guys did it and there was actually a prom group that had to step over Mike, who was laying on the concrete walkway. So funny! What wasn’t funny was how disturbed my “sleep” was. I think I got a broken 2 hours in, before Van 1 showed up and said “Mike should be here soon, get ready to run!” (There were two Mikes on our team, one in each van.)

Our team walked over to the exchange and waited to hear “177” was coming. I am a sucker for the cold so I was more than ready to run my 7.0 mile leg, despite the fact that it was 1 in the morning!

Group picture while waiting on the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

2/3 of van 1. It seemed to take forever, but finally Mike sprinted up and handed me the bracelet. I ran through Presidio Heights (beautiful houses) and along the ocean in the Outer Sunset neighborhood.

My second leg: 7.0 miles, hard difficulty

One truck of dumdums pulled up to say something snarky like “why you running girly?” but I was on a mission. Run Run Run…. Everyone still had amazing times and I wanted to keep the trend going.

When I passed the bracelet to Kyle, my teammates told me that Mike, runner 6, got lost during his leg and ran an extra 3 miles to get back on track. That’s why the wait seemed to take so long!

While the route is marked, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the tiny sign saying “Relay –>” hanging from street poles. Luckily, I took a screenshot of the route on my iPhone and would zoom in on the picture’s turn-by-turn instructions to make sure I was on track. Others wrote their route on their arms. Problem is: how do you read arm scribbles in the dark of night?

Kevin passed off to Julianne at about 6am and our van got ready to drive to the next van exchange, somewhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We stopped at a Safeway to grab more water, beers (hee hee), and change (goodbye sweaty clothes, hello clean underwear, phew!), and I got a China Tip Green Tea Misto with sugar free vanilla from Starbucks (a la Francesca).

Once we arrived at the van exchange, I got out and used Donna’s rolling pin-muscle thing. I also just soaked up the sunshine and stretched lightly. I didn’t want to attempt sleeping because I was the next runner so I decided to just relax and take in the nature. How hippie. While we waited people in my van napped…


Before I knew it the other van had showed up, telling us that Mike was on his trek up the hill. I picked great legs of the race – despite the hill in my first leg, the other parts of the first two legs were fairly flat.

Mike S. is coming!

My third leg: 6.2 miles, moderate difficulty

While not the longest leg at 6.2 miles, it was certainly the most downhill of them all. Downhill = fast, but it doesn’t necessarily mean easy on the body. I sprinted down the hill quickly, but could definitely feel how the downhill was making different muscles work harder.

Running down the mountain!

Note the awkward pigeon feet I have when I run…

Bathroom break!

Oh sweet niblets … Kyle on his last leg!

Donna’s off!

Getting water, through the Santa Cruz mountains…

Kit’s turn for his last leg of the race!

Two things greeted him during his last leg: Adrienne and beer!

Don’t let this face fool you. Mike dominated one of the hardest legs of the entire race. I do NOT envy him!

From Kyle to Donna to Kit to Mike to Kevin… our van chugged along until the very end of the 194 mile race.

I joined Kevin for the last two miles of his leg, making my total mileage 19.4 miles (longer than Kit’s combined, I’m competitive.)

Our teammates waiting to cheer us on!

The final kill count for our van. Impressive, huh?

Once we crossed the finish line we toasted to our success and decided it was time for FOOD. And SLEEP. LOTS of FOOD and SLEEP.


The Relay Team, 2011.

Big thank you to Sallie for organizing practically everything and being a great team leader!! Also, huge thanks belong to all of the family and friends that donated money for our cause – Organs ‘R’ Us. THANK YOU times a million bajillion!!

Want more information on The Relay? Click here. If you have any questions or are thinking about running a relay, leave a comment below!


Comments (4)

  1. Niki (Life's a Payne)

    I think that relay sounds amazing! Good for you! I can’t wait to get to a bigger city (sorry St. John’s) and take part in such interesting activities!

  2. Pingback: Bye July, Hello Busy Calendar | Sugar Coated Sisters

  3. foodsweatandbeers

    That’s just to awesome. Well friggin done (though, you know, a little late to the party).

  4. Pingback: California Wine Country Half Marathon, Healdsburg, 2011 | Sugar Coated Sisters

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