Race Report: Ragnar 2012 – Northwest Passage

[I know you love my writing and all, but before we get to that, please note that if I don’t get another $900 donated in the next 6 days I will not be wearing tutu on the top of a mountain range, and sick kids will cry, and you’ll feel awful. So please chip in today!]

Ragnar Northwest Passage, Blaine to Whidbey Island, WA – July 20-21, 2012

Our brilliant and highly organized team captain came up with the team name this year, Mortal Wombats, and my buddy Matt designed us a sweet t-shirt logo based on the old Mortal Kombat design:

Another brilliant member of the team (they’re all brilliant, really) picked up some temporary tattoos, and we still had some leftover Ragnar tats from last year, so this happened:

I later added another wombat under the ragnar tat, for balance

Van 1 team shot, just before go time:

Wombat 1, GO!

And we were off, from scenic Blaine on the Canadian border. Standard practice is to stop halfway through your runner’s run to give them water or gels or whatever, and whether they need you or not you give’m a good cheer and cowbell. Then you proceed to the exchange and the next runner gets ready.

Wombat 2, GO!

Last year, I was in van 2, which has a much more leisurely start time, as they don’t have to drive as far north, and don’t have to get to the exchange until mid to late afternoon. The disadvantage to van 2 is you end up being awake for a lot longer, and your meal planning is much more difficult.  Their first and last runners also have the most brutal runs.

Wombat 3, GO!

The thing being handed off there is a slap bracelet. I always try for the actual “slap” on the wrist, because that’s what it’s designed to do, but with sporadic success. After the first runner the bracelet is a bit gross, and stays that way for the next 24 hours. Fortunately, as soon as you’ve completed your first leg, you are also gross, and it ceases to be an issue.

Wombat 4, GO!

Last year, I had all kinds of gut cramp issues on my runs, first at the Epic Oregon and then at Ragnar (and also in a few of my half-iron tris). This year, I finally linked it to starting out at too fast a pace without warming up enough. And by “warming up” I mean at least 10 minutes of easy jogging, so my gut can figure out that we’re RUNNING now, not riding a bike or sitting in a van. So I did my usual warm up stretches and then jogged around the parking lot as much as I could before the predicted finish time of Wombat 4.

Wombat 5, GO!

Less than half a mile from setting out, I came to a stop light. It was taking forever to change, and a couple people caught up to me while I was waiting. The gal next to me said, “Let’s just go for it,” and as I was starting to say yes she bolted, so I followed suit! I then decided (rather stupidly) to try to keep up with her, but it became clear very quickly that she was a lot faster than me. My run speed has improved quite a bit since last year, and my goal this year was 9 minute miles. This gal was pulling more like 8:15. I came to my senses and let her go, but still let her speed influence mine as I tried to at least keep her in sight.

All my warming up seemed to have paid off, as my gut was perfectly happy to let me fly along. It was a very novel experience to just be running without all that swimming and biking nonsense preceding it. Turns out I’m even faster now than I realized. I killed the first leg of 5.8 miles in 48:48, for an average pace of 8:24 per mile. WHAT!?!?!?!? I was blown away, and started to worry that I’d set myself up for piss poor runs later.

Wombat 6, GO!

[picture missing]

The last runner from our van was off! We met him halfway through for cheering and water, and then headed to the first van exchange, where Van 2 was ready and waiting.

Wombat 7, GO!

We were now in Bellingham, and one of our number was from the area, and knew the best spot to go get some grub. We ended up at The Colophon Cafe, and I had a fantastic black bean burger with vegan-friendly split pea soup and strawberry lemonade:

After dinner, we moseyed over to the next van exchange point, where I took a quick nap on the gym floor near other Ragnarians (the van exchanges are at high schools for the sleep space and shower facilities):

By the time it was our turn to take over the running, it was night, and the reflective vests came out in force!

At night you have to be more subdued in your cheering so you don’t wake the locals, so when we’d drive by our runner we’d use a loud whisper “goooooood joooooooob,” and then giggle a bunch because it was a little funny and we were a lot tired.

My second leg was mostly downhill, which was both exciting and scary for me, because I love flying down hills, but that’s also where my gut is most likely to cramp up. So, as before, I warmed up as much as I could before go time. And then it was GO TIME!

I set out, and thankfully my gut stayed quiet. Soon enough, I was flying. My van-mates drove by at one point and threw cheese at me, because they’re rad.

I love running at night. Everything’s quiet, and sometimes the stars or the moon keep you company. There weren’t any streetlights in this area, so the only illumination came from my headlamp and the taillight of the runner ahead of me. I kept glancing down at my watch because I couldn’t believe what it was telling me. When I reached the exchange and we did the math, I learned the truth. I’d just run 5 miles in 40:19, for an average of 8:03. I nearly fainted. Granted, it was mostly downhill and otherwise flat, but still! I didn’t know my legs could move that quickly. AWESOME!!!

After our sixth runner finished crushing his run, we headed to the last van exchange. The gym was packed so we spread out on a comfy patch of sidewalk and rested a while. I didn’t really sleep, per se, but it was still nice to stop moving for a couple hours.

After getting up and scarfing a PB&J sandwich for breakfast, we set out again for our final legs. Everyone remarked at the end of their runs how much the attitude of the other runners had changed. We had all been positive the whole time, of course, but we’d found the other teams to be pretty dick-ish during the night runs. Some people just can’t handle the sleep deprivation and close quarters. We were now on the final leg, though, and suddenly everyone was cheerful and rooting for each other. A couple hours of sleep might have helped there, too.

As I prepped for my own last run, I was acutely aware of how tired my legs were. That second run had taken a lot out of me. It would have been amazing to continue the trend and  be even faster on the last leg, but I knew I didn’t have it in me. I decided to just try to hold my original goal of a 9 minute pace and see what happened.

I set out, and hoooo boy, my legs were screaming! The hills were especially miserable, but I kept pushing myself, and managed to hold to a 8:56 average over 4.5 miles, for 40:12 total. That put the overall average of my runs at 8:27, over 15.3 miles total. Nice! I celebrated in style:


After our runs were all completed, our van went for some EPIC post race grub at The Braeburn, near the finish. Everyone else had bacon, which was especially funny with me sitting in the middle… surrounded by bacon. It smelled GOOOOOOOOD!!!

At the finish, we lounged in the grass waiting for Van 2 to show up, watching other teams run through the finish arch.

Some teams are a bit more elaborate with their outfits than others:

they seriously run in that garb

We headed down to the arch at the predicted finish time for our last runner and linked up with the rest of Van 2. As our runner came around the bend we forced tired legs into a last short jog and crossed together. Then there was lots of posing, and pizza, a long drive home, and the best sleep ever.

Go Wombats!


P.S. Don’t forget to chip in to help sick kids and put me in a tutu! In Montana!

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