Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ragnar NW Passage recap

Well hello there little's been a while, hasn't it?  Since July 30th...wowza I'm a bad blogger.   I actually have some good stuff to write about that I've done during this little hiatus...I've done a couple of relays - Ragnar NW Passage, and Hood to Coast.  And since I can't possibly recap BOTH of these in one post (and I suspect people have read a LOT of Hood to Coast recaps these days) here's my Ragnar recap, and I'll get to Hood to Coast next...and I won't wait a month to do it, I promise!  Oh, and this is going to be LOOOOONG, but it's a long race, right?

The Ragnar NW Passage runs from Blaine, up by the Canadian border, down to Whidbey Island, WA.  It's a completely beautiful place to run.  We lucked out and had an absolutely gorgeous place to stay at the home of our teammates, Jay and Dawn, on Anacortes.  We drove up the night before the relay and were greeted with this view:
Seriously - this is the view from the house.  So pretty. 

So pretty and also very big!  We each had a place to sleep on an actual bed and each bedroom had a shower.   And now for the best part...we got to come back here IN BETWEEN EACH OF OUR LEGS.  I'll let that sink in for a minute...yes, we got to return here between each of our runs.  No sleeping in a field somewhere, or in the van, or in the cold, or not showering.  We got to come here and relax, regroup and then get back in the van to drive to our next exchange.  It was total luxury.  In fact, this trip felt more like a vacation with a little running thrown in than a hard core relay.   Seriously, I felt so spoiled.

While I would have been perfectly content to just stay at the house, we actually did have to do some running too - so off we went on Friday morning, up to check in on a cold and rainy day. 
Michelle and I - ready to head out to the start
Michelle, Mike, Roy, Marjorie, me and Ed  = Van 1
 The check in went smoothly and we waited for the start huddled under the tents...

Me with Mike and Ed
 and people watching:

Michelle making friends - love the 'stache and sideburns
Michelle and the angler fish team

Michelle and I with Homer - he seriously tried to run in this get up!

Team at the start
Our start time was at 10am, and luckily the rain pretty much stopped right before that.  It actually was perfect running weather - overcast and cool.  I was really grateful, because it was the end of July and I hadn't packed rain gear (yes, I live in the Pac NW and should have known better, but the week before had been HOT, so I wasn't prepared).

This team is comprised of really experienced runners and we've all done lots of relays, so we didn't have any drama or second guessing, we just clicked along making our exchanges.  My running wife Michelle was runner 4 and I was runner 5.  Michelle injured herself about a month before the relay, and was nursing a sore foot/calf the entire time.  She was a trooper though, and always had a smile on her face.

My first leg was 5.8 miles - rated moderate.  It was my longest run and I always love getting the hardest leg out of the way from the start.
Mike supporting me and giving me water.  He kept trying to talk to me
and since I was out of breath from running uphill...I shoved him off the shoulder of the road.
Yeah, I'm sweet.

As this was my first race in almost a year and I was still working on getting my speed back, I wasn't sure how my pace or endurance would be.  I told the team I thought I could run 8:30/mile average and I came in on my first leg with an 8:23 avg pace, so I was really happy about that.
Leg one = DONE!
 After making the exchange with Van 2, we got some pizza and a beer to celebrate our first legs being done.  And then we WENT BACK TO THE HOUSE TO SHOWER AND SLEEP.  Yes, I am yelling.  Yes, that is how awesome this setup was.

After showering and catching a few Z's we headed out again to meet up with Van 2 to run our 2nd legs.  I was scheduled to run around midnight.  My 2nd leg was 5 miles and easy.  It started with a pretty significant downhill, and then was pretty much flat.  The run went through a little downtown area where I had the pleasure of running by a bunch of bars that were closing down - lots of drunken "whoooo hooooos!"....pretty funny.

I felt good on this run and averaged an 8:16 pace.  This little teeny girl passed me right out of the gate on the downhill but I almost had her at the end...if my leg had been another half mile long I would've had her!

After our last runner finished we again WENT BACK TO THE HOUSE TO SHOWER AND SLEEP...again with the yelling, I know, but I just can't get over the luxury of the whole thing. 

You know what's super awesome about being able to go back home between running (besides the obvious shower/sleep thing I keep yelling about)?  It's that your van isn't filled with a ton of gear!  We didn't have sleeping bags, all our food, all our clothes, etc in tow with us - we actually had room to stretch out.  We would just grab a bag with what we needed for that leg and we were good.  It was so nice!

We headed out again for our last legs and enjoyed some beautiful scenery along the way:

Had a little fun:

van one angels:  me, Michelle and Marjorie
I was super mature and took pictures of Michelle exiting the port-o-potty:

I'm sure this random guy was happy I photographed him coming out of the toilet...
And then there was payback:

Oh yeah, I suppose we had to run too, huh?  Back to that...Michelle's last leg was super hard - 6.4 miles with two huge hills in it.
holy hills batman!
Like I said earlier, she had suffered a calf/foot injury prior to the race, and for this leg in particular, she was worried about finishing.  She ran/walked the whole thing and finished with a smile on her face.  I was so proud of her because I know she didn't want to have someone sub and finish the leg.  She did awesome!

My last leg was 4.5 miles long, and was rolling hills around this pretty little bay.   I was happy that there were lots of trees because it was starting to get warm out, so I had shade and a nice breeze too.
The very end of this leg is a nice long downhill until you turn a corner and you have to run straight UP hill to the exchange.  It was kind of brutal - I told a volunteer that I thought it was cruel...but finishing up is a powerful motivator so I brought it in with all I had and ended up looking like this:

Trying to catch my breath after that last hill.
I averaged 8:26 on this last leg, which I kind of expected.  I knew the hills would get to me because  I wasn't nearly as hill trained as I would have liked, but I was happy to come in well within my predicted pace.
We're done!
 After Roy finished up his last leg we went to the local school at the exchange where we were able to shower and clean up.  Instead of going back to the house at this point we decided to go an get lunch in the little town of Coupeville. 

Then we had a few hours to kill....idle minds delirous after relay running can be a dangerous thing.  We set off in search of a fabric shop....we wanted to buy some faux fur....normal, yes?  Mike had this great idea that we needed to make beards for the team to wear in honor of one of our runners, Jay.

don't ask me what I'm doing's night...I'm kind of delirious....
 Anyway, this is Jay.  Jay obviously has a great beard, and a great personality to match.  The guy is funny, chill and laid back and also a strong runner.  He and his wife Dawn own the super awesome house where, as you know, WE GOT TO SLEEP AND SHOWER.

So, we searched around this sleepy little town for a fabric store, to no avail, but found this random little knick knack shop that had a faux fur hat in it.  The lady at the store thought we were crazy when we asked if we could borrow her scissors to cut the hat up.  We plopped down on the curb outside the store and cut that hat up into goatees enough for the team.  Unfortunately I have no pictures of the making of our homage to Jay...but I do have pictures of the end result:
sexy, yes?
We headed over to the finish with our creations in tow and waited for our team to come in.  We met up with van 2 and began dispensing the beards throughout the team.  Jay was thrilled...he was like a rock star with all of us wanting photos with him...

When Heather, our awesome captain, came in on the final leg we slapped a beard on her chin and ran across the finish line.  I'm sure she didn't know what to think, but everyone was having a lot of fun with it.
Deception Passers - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly = FINISHED!
After a little time in the beer garden we went back and ate, relaxed and enjoyed our last night in the house of awesomeness.  I didn't want to leave, it was so nice to be with such great people in such a beautiful setting.  It was the most relaxing relay ever!

We ended up finishing in 29:29, which was good enough for 3rd place in our division (I think there might have only been 4 teams, but who'se counting?).

This was such a fun relay.  Besides the amazing accomodations, it was also really well organized with the exchanges being super easy to get in and out of, and no congestion at all.  It just made the logistics so easy when we didn't have to worry about when and if we were going to make it in before our runner.

I was also really happy with how my foot held up and how my running is progressing.  I still am not feeling as fast as I'd like to be, but this was a great test for me, and I'm glad I came out of it with my foot feeling good.

Anyway, this has been a novel - thanks for reading if you made it all the way through!  Next up - Hood to Coast!  Which is guaranteed to be a shorter recap because I'm an awesome blogger and only took one picture...sigh...

Head over to Fitness Health and Happiness for Fitness Friday!


XLMIC said...

Sounds so fun! And I rarely come across another real life or in print! Love those beards!

jillconyers said...

What fun photos! Everyone looks so happy. One day I WILL run an endurance relay :)

Rachelle Q said...

What a great time! I love all the photos:) Awesome job!

Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

So good to hear an update from you!! Wow- you did an incredible job... great paces the whole way through, congrats! That is my kind of relay... I'd love to do one someday, but sleep and showers sounds so much better than curled up in sweaty, stinky vans. :) Love the beards, too!

Coach Jen said...

So fun to read and brings back memories of my own NW Passage relay. Fun to read about the other van perspective since I was Runner 12.

Unknown said...

Congratulations!! So glad to see you back with an update. How awesome to get to go to some comfort between legs - that must have been heavenly.

Clarinda @ Enjoying the Course said...

Sounds like a great relay! You are fast!!!

Btw...logistically, how did it work to return to the house after each van's legs were finished?

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I love those beards! That looks like a really fun group! Isn't that kind of what it ends up being all about? The people!?

Courtney said...

GREAT recap, i soooo want to do a ragnar!!

Teamarcia said...

Wow you've been a relay machine! Looks like a blast! I enjoyed Ragnar but wow Madison to Chi was SO hot this year. Might have helped if I slept too...

On the Right Track said...

those were the best pictures I have seen of a relay yet!!! Thaat looked like so much fun, and so so beautiful!!!

I love the fun you had along the way...great recap!

Suz and Allan said...

What a gorgeous house! Glad you had such a wonderful time. It certainly sounds like you've been really busy over the summer!

Jamie said...

So much fun! Looks like you had an amazing time!

Your post is getting me excited for Reach the Beach: New Jersey next weekend!

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