Race Report – Ragnar NW Passage, ultra-style

Ragnar NW Passage, WA,  7/18 – 7/19, 2014

I’ve done Ragnar several years in a row now, and this year wanted to try it on an ultra team, fielding just 6 people instead of 12. This seemed like a great idea when I signed on in January, but the realities of full time school cut into my training so much that I didn’t have time to put the miles in. By the time Spring quarter was over, I only had 5 weeks left to put any serious training in, which is simply not enough time for the body to adapt. My longest run was 15 miles, on shoes that I realized too late were rather expired. I went into Ragnar with severely undertrained legs and a time-bomb hip, deluding myself into thinking I could run 34 miles in a 24hr window. Sometimes, I’m dumb.

My first leg (“normal” legs 11 and 12 combined) was about 11mi, in the hot late afternoon sun, with zero tree cover. I overheated pretty quickly, and halfway through the large bowl of broccoli I’d eaten for dinner the night before (sometimes I’m very dumb) started twisting my guts into knots. Nothing felt very injured by the end of it, but I was much, much slower than I’d planned/hoped for.

Dinner was a mediocre margherita pizza at the La Conner Brewery and a delicious root beer, with a side of pleasant conversation with my van-mates. We continued on to the next van exchange and waited to start our next series of legs.

My second leg (23 & 24), which I was really looking forward to, was at night and would take me across the Discovery Pass bridge. The organizers set up loads of multi-colored lights set up all along the bridge, which is fun and pretty and, of course, safer. When I find myself alone on the road at night, with the trees stretching up above me on either side, reaching for the stars, I like to turn off my headlamp for brief stretches, and commune with the dark. But then I get freaked out and turn it back on again.

I managed the first half of that leg ok, but then my hip started really hurting, and I asked my van-mates for some Advil or something. That took a bit of the edge off, but there were long stretches of going through various mental exercises to keep myself moving. I envisioned some of the worst episodes in my life, and said that the current pain was nothing by comparison. I came up with a mantra that pain is in the mind and the mind is me and I say there is no pain. I sang some songs to myself. And so on. I slowed to an alternating walk/run shuffle, and eventually just a walk. The slowness gave me plenty of time to come to terms with this race becoming my first ever DNF.

I had my first DNS last year, due to a massive cold that knocked me out the day of the Lake Wilderness Triathlon (but I redeemed myself at the same race this year). I’ve never had to drop out of a race before. I would have still been really pissed off at myself had I been alone, but I had the extra shame of feeling I’d let the team down. Now a couple of the others would have to pick up my slack, and run even more miles than they’d planned on. I had only myself to blame, for not respecting the distance. There was nothing I could do about the injury now, but I could do something about my attitude.

I decided to switch into cheerleader mode, and be extra positive and supportive of the other runners. I stopped the car more often than requested to check if they needed more water/gels, and rang the cowbell with a little extra enthusiasm. I also made sure I bought beers at the end for the runners that ended up taking on my last leg (35 & 36).

We were the Ultra Queens of the Stone Age and Wilmas, and it was a helluva team of great runners and fun people. Despite my own personal disappointment, I had a great time and would happily run with any of them again. In fact, I finally joined the Seattle Green Lake Running Group and have discovered how fun it is to run with other people! Crazy!


After doing pretty much everything wrong this race, I’m determined to redeem myself next year. I’ve spent the past month carefully stretching and not running more than 6 miles until I can do so without pain (which I’m finally able to do again!). I will respect the distance, train properly, and next year, I’ll be ready.

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