It’s Ragnanimous! I am in love with the Pacific Northwest. I spent this past weekend running relay from Blaine to Whidbey Island and it’s safe to say, Washington state brings the pretty. As always, I ran with my ninjas. My friend Tim took on the Captaining duties this time around and it was a total relief. I packed my gigantic suitcase with the necessities: running shoes, shot blocks, orange hair dye, ninja stars, and headed to Portland, where I was greeted by my Ragnar mentor, Jana.
We gathered two more ninjas, Mike and Amber, and headed for Seattle to meet up with the rest of our team. Many of our runners traveled from out of state and Eric was scheduled to pick up our van from the Seattle airport. The other van was being provided by one of our runners, Amy. The plan was to meet in Seattle, get our vans situated, eat a yummy dinner, then travel two hours to the start line where Dana had arranged for us to stay in a kickass timeshare. Of course, there’s always a snag.
Crisis #1…FLAT TIRE! On the way to Seattle, we stopped to get a couple bags of fortune cookies at Tsue Chong. We like to hand out the cookies on the course. Walking back to the car, Mike noticed the front tire had a screw in it. And it was quickly deflating. Luckily, we found a tire shop who patched up the tire and we were back on the road in no time.
Crisis #2…THEY GAVE AWAY OUR VAN!! That’s right, Budget gave away the roomy minivan that was to be our home for the next 30 hours. Instead they gave us a Ford Explorer. Which is not as roomy, nor as user friendly for getting in and out of. So we crammed all our stuff into the back of the SUV and I crawled into the cubby space in the way far back and claimed it as my own.
FINALLY, we were ready to eat. It had gotten pretty late with all our setbacks and for some reason, everything had closed at 8pm. We were running out of dining options. Plan one was to get pizza and take it to the timeshare. Plan two…find the nearest Olive Garden. Which is what we did. The other van opted for pizza, but we made a beeline for the breadsticks. Our bellies full, we headed up to the timeshare to get some much needed rest before our 8 am start time.
Race Day! We were awakened by the sounds of 1997 blasting from Jana’s ipod. We donned our ninja gear and drank our hotel coffee. We said goodbye to the toilet and its running water. We wouldn’t be seeing one of those for awhile. It would be Honey Buckets from here on out. We piled into our vehicles and headed off to the start. My van wouldn’t begin running until around 1pm but we wanted to support our team as we headed out on this great adventure. And wouldn’t you know it, we hit another snag.
Crisis #3…WE GOT PULLED OVER!!! That’s right, boys and girls, we were going 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. And even though there were tons of decorated vans careening through the small town of Blaine, Washington, Highway Patrol decided to stop us. He let us off with a warning but the time wasted was enough to make us stress. Then there was the task of actually getting to the start line. Last year, we accidentally went to Canada. This time, an emergency u-turn averted that crisis but it still took some time to find the start.
But we made it. Just in time to snap this picture.
We hung around the start for a while, then grabbed some breakfast at a snazzy little cafe close by. Then we headed to Exchange 6, where we would meet the other van and begin our runs. We got to the exchange super early. What’s a ninja to do with all that free time? Why, prepare the arsenal and tag vans, of course! And make some friends in the process.
We got word that Runner 6, DenaLee, was about a mile out and Eric took his post at the exchange. He would be handing off to me. His first leg was relatively short and he’s inhumanly fast, so we quickly made our way to Exchange 7. My first run would be 5.7 miles with about about a 600 ft. elevation gain. This was the leg I was dreading the most. I took a FrogFuel, packed some Shot Blocks in my belt, and put my Ragnar NWP mix on shuffle. I was ready to get this out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of the race in peace! As predicted, Eric came flying into the exchange and I was off!
The first two miles of the leg were through a residential area, with a nice steep climb. At the end of the climb, though, I was rewarded with a mile of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The course turned onto a trail through the forest, complete with green, mossy trees and ferns. The trail opened to Lake Padden and I ran along the lake until I exited the park. My team was waiting for me with water and I was really glad to see them. While the trail was cool and shady, the street was hot!
With that first leg out of the way, I was able to relax and support my team while the rest of the van ran their legs. Being second in our van to run had it’s advantages! I was feeling good and loving my van and I didn’t even care that I was smushed into a cubby hole. This race was shaping up to be the best Ragnar ever!
I was waiting to cross the street so I could hand water to our runner, Mike. It was a pretty busy street and I kept hesitating to cross. I wouldn’t be in position to get his water to him before he passed. I finally just bit the bullet and ran to cross the street. And I tripped. And fell flat on my face. In the street. With traffic. I quickly backed out of the street and Mike ran over to help me up. His water had been flung in the process. The safety flag was thrown to the wayside. And I was left with skinned palms and bruised knees and a little damage to my ego. Once I realized I was safe and not seriously injured…I laughed.
Then Jana made this…
And we all laughed. Hysterically. And every time someone in our van was looking at there phone and laughing, I knew exactly what they were laughing at.
Dustin was our last runner and he handed off to Dana about 10 minutes ahead of our projected pace. It was time for us to rest and eat and ready ourselves for our long night runs. We feasted on salads and burgers at Red Robin then drove to Exchange 18 at La Conner Middle School. They had showers and sleeping spaces in the gym and we attempted to get some sleep. I was in my cubby hole in the way far back, fading in and out of consciousness, when I heard a burst of foul language from the front seat. The next thing I knew, I was being roused into action. We had missed our runner! There was a severe lack of phone service and we had predicted Dana to be coming into the exchange at midnight. What we didn’t know was that Van 1 was kicking ass and they were now 30 minutes ahead of schedule. They sent a text to us to get ready…but we never received it. Thus, Dana ran into the exchange and was met with nobody to hand off to! Instead of waiting, she just kept running. She had ran about 2 of Eric’s 8.7 mile leg by the time we caught up with her to make the switch.
Eric jumped out of the van and took off. We waited for Van 1 by the side of the road to come pick up Dana. Once we made the switch, we did some quick math to determine where Eric would be on the course and where we should go to support him. Now, it should be noted here that Eric is a beast. He’s fast. Like 7.5 minute miles fast. And everyone always runs faster on their night runs. It’s a well-known Ragnar-phenomenon. We should have known he’d be tearing up the course. We drove up the course a bit and we waited for Eric to pass. We waited and waited and soon, our clocks were telling us we had waited too long. We had missed him. We quickly drove on to the exchange in the hope we’d catch him, but nope. He had gone through the exchange and just kept running! By the time we were able to catch him, he had ran 4.5 of my 7.7 mile leg. I wasn’t complaining, but sheesh, that’s a lot of miles for a Ragnar leg! I jumped out of the van to switch places with him and finish the last 3 miles of the leg.
Which turned out to be another magnificent run. I ran along the edge of Fidalgo Bay, then turned onto a bridge that spanned the entire bay. The moon was reflecting off the water and the air was cool and still, and I felt so incredibly grateful in that moment. I wanted the bridge to go on forever but after a mile, the trail turned through a wooded area. It was very dark and there was forest on both sides of the trail. All I could see was the path leading into a very dark hole in the slightly less dark trees. As the runners in front of me turned the corner, their back LED light would disappear, making the whole experience very “rabbit hole” like. It was spine tingling and exciting and a little scary but before I knew it, I had turned a corner and there was Jana at the exchange.
It was well into the wee morning hours by the time I finished and I tried to stay awake through the other runs. But eventually, exhaustion took over and I passed out in my cubby hole. I didn’t wake up until around 8 am. I was cramped and sore, my knees aching because they’d been curled into my chest all night. I stretched and changed and Jana and I ate breakfast while the rest of our van slept. This may have been the most sleep I’ve ever gotten at a Ragnar.
Thanks mostly to Eric running my miles, we were ahead of pace by a whole hour. We were well-fed and well-rested and ready for our final legs. Eric took over running around noon and then I had 4.2 miles of downhill fun. This run wasn’t as pretty as the other two, but it was fast and easy. I handed off to Jana and that was it! My running was done!
Now it was time to play! I spent the rest of the race supporting my van, tagging vans, and handing fortune cookies out my window. And my team was kicking ass on pace. By the time we dropped our last runner, Dustin, off for his last leg, we were an hour and a half ahead of pace. We notified the other van then sped to the finish line so we could all cross together in our ninja gear. Dustin finished up strong and quick and we crossed together to the Mortal Kombat theme song. A perfect ending to a perfect race.
This was my favorite Ragnar thus far. Everything just seemed to be at its best. Best team. Best weather. Best scenery. Best pace. It’s going to be hard to beat NWP, Napa. You better get your game face on!
Are you running a Ragnar this year? Did you see any ninjas at Northwest Passage? (That’s a trick question, you can’t see ninjas.) Do you want a pair of snazzy Ragnar compression socks to sport a your next relay? We have the hook-up! Recently we were able to score a pair of S/M Orange Ragnar PRO Compression socks.