Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage 2009

Or How to have such fun over 24 hours.

This was such a different experience than last year. Last year I had committed to running this relay and had to bow out about a month before because of injury. I had planned on helping the team by doing bike support during the night hours. Lo and behold, the team came up short a couple of runners and I got asked to run again. I did it and realize now just how much at a disadvantage I was going in with my limited training. I had a fabulous time but it sure did hurt.

This year, the same drama began this week as we came up short a few runners. My running group wanted to put together a fast team and was scrambling to find women runners for our mixed open team. At the last minute, the roster was set. It included 5 elite or ex-elite runners. A couple of friends of friends who were just as fast (it seemed to me) and then people like me. :-p I seriously was the slowest on the team but that was ok with me. My goals were to run my best and have a great time.

Since we were expecting to come in at such a fast pace, we had a very late start. Of the 150 teams, teams had been startin since 8am. We started at 4pm with two other teams. :-O It was very strange having so much time in the morning to get up the race start at the candian / us border town of Blaine, WA. The worst part of this was that we were not going to be running with anyone for hours and hours.

At 4, the dedicated volunteers got us started. The three runners took off and our guy beat the other two quite a bit. It was hot out there at 80 and humid and at the hottest part of the day. He blazed in and handed off to me, Runner #2.

LEG#1 – 4:34 PM – I had two volunteers holding traffic for me at a tricky 4way stop with railroad crossing immediately after the exchange. I blazed out of there not wanting to hold up traffic. When I saw sub 6:00 pace (:-O) I spent the rest of the mile slowing myself down and didn’t do a very good job. :blush: I had hoped to come in between 7:45-8 for this 6.2 miles. Once I was out and running, I knew I’d be delighted with 8 pace. I got passed by one runner after a couple of miles and waited the whole rest of the run to get passed by the guy from the all male team who started with us. It never happened. :cool: My van passed me and cheered at about 2 and I begged for water. I was already so dang hot and running into a hot headwind with the sun in my face. At 4, I got water again (dumping on my head and such) and ran along Birch Bay. I’d been hoping for more of a tailwind but no, headwind again. The last two miles were just holding on. As I was running along a beachfront, the temptation to get in the water was great! I ran by a family water park. :meh: I passed a family out for a stroll with ice creams in their hands. :temptation:

Total: 49:45 6.2 miles 8:02 pace.

Everyone else in the van ran well considering the heat and rising humidity. It was lonely out there. We saw no one else involved in the race at all except for a couple of volunteers at each exchange. We pulled into the exchange where we’d change vans and were happy to see a few other teams plus the rest of our team waiting. It was nice to meet everyone who was running. We sent them off and headed to our hotel room to shower and relax a bit before our next runs. We got a little lost on the way there plus the other van was so damn fast that we only had time for showers, a bit of stretching and then we were back to the next hand off. Oh well. It was still wonderful to have a hot shower.

It was already dark by this time and we heard from other teams that the last runner of van 2 was tending to get lost. Our team had a bike escort plus we had radio contact with the other van and we warned them. But that last runner got lost. :sad: She ended up running about 1.5 miles longer than expected (making her 7 mile leg rather long) and she came in and took the mix up hard especially since she’d been sub-6 up until the point she got lost. She is an elite runner and had not done an event like this before but she obviously regrouped because she ran really well the last two legs.

LEG#2 – 11:46 PM - The guy before me had a fairly short run which meant we had to hurry up and get to the exchange so I’d have a chance to get a short warm up. It was that usual feeling when running at first. There is this horror that you have to run hard on these lead lined stumps called legs. But after a few minutes of easy running, I thought well, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Runner #1 came blazing in and I having learned my lesson took off at what seemed like a comfortable pace. I’d expected to come in between 7:30 to 7:45 for this flat 3.5 mile course. But after just a few minutes of harder running I felt great and kept a very steady pace. I did have a bike escort and he was great. I’ve done long rides with this guy and he just cracks me up. He’d obviously been warned by the team organizer and my coach not to babble and distract runners but I made him chat with me even though I told him I’d not be responding back. He had my bright commuter bike lights on his bike and lighted my way. It was really nice. Cooler although humid (still 65 degrees at midnight), peaceful and we were on dark country roads with no one around. I am delighted with my steady pacing and kick ass time! I’m surprised I slowed the last half mile but there were some turns in there and I was worried about getting lost.

00:25:50 3.5 miles / 7:23 pace :grin:

these were all fairly short legs and soon enough we were in waiting for our last runner and hanging out with the other van. We’d been seeing flashes of lightning off in the distance at this time and realized it was coming closer. This had not been forecasted. Lightning storms are rather rare out here in the Puget Sound Area. About 10 minutes before our runner came it, there was a clap of thunder (still a ways off) and it started pouring. We were all delighted that we would be done soon. Poor van 2. :coughcough:

We were a block from our hotel room (van 2 would use the showers once in their off time) and we did have enough time to shower and turn the lights off for a bit. Unfortunately, we got a call too early from the other van to COME NOW and I really could not fall asleep. Imagine our dismay when we got to the next van exchange and waited over an hour. :muchnamecalling: Oh well. We’d rather be way way way way (no really) way early than late.

LEG#3 – 5:57 AM – I’m running a 5k and I’m done. That’s all I told myself. When I first started warming up, I could barely run but after a bit I felt better yet again. I really did keep warm-up to a minimum (half mile) and I probably should’ve gone a little longer considering this course. Overall it was going to be downhill but the first half mile featured a nasty climb. But we were in the thick of things now and starting to catch other teams and that would help. I’d finally feel like I was in a race and see other runners! I took off and within a quarter mile passed a guy fussing with his ipod :eyeroll:. Then the steep climb began and I was dismayed by the barely 8:30 pace I was hitting. I just concentrated on form and kept at it. I knew I’d get my reward. I could hear the guy making time on my pass but once we crested the hill I was ready! I could see other runners ahead and it was a long downhill and my legs finally felt warmed up. Go! :grin: I passed three other runners and I am so pleased with keeping my head and staying with it. The hard workout I had last week with the hard downhill mile and uphill repeats was really valuable for this run for me. A final turn and into the exchange and I was done. All my team was cheering me on because they knew I’d run well. Yay me! :blush: I was bouncing in the van for a while let me tell you.

00:22:40 3.1 @ 7:18 pace.

And this may be a 5k PR. I looked it up and I ran 22:30 in 2006 on a course which I’m not sure is certified and was before I wore a garmin. I walked :blush: in the last mile of this race and still came in at that time so I’ve always thought the course was short but I don’t know. Either way, I’m delighted!

We made it to the last van exchange where showers were available. Then we started the drive towards the finishing area. Along the way we passed the other van close to their exchanges as we cheered for their second runner. We knew the organizer of this team and my coach would be starting his next hard hard leg and wanted to heckle, I mean cheer. It was fun being able to see other runners from our van. They really ran their hearts out. :hug:

We made it to the finish and there was nothing there yet really. No food yet. :majordisappointment: We heard from the other van at their last exchange that there were just 7 teams ahead of us now out of the 145 which had started earlier. We knew we were ahead of the two teams we started with at 4. :cool:

Our final runner came in, food was finally available and we all hung out and chatted for a while. As a team we’d run the 185 (or so) miles in 19 hours and 22 minutes (or so). I have a hard time comprehending the overall pace was 6:15. amazing! Everybody had their ups and downs but we’d all done our best and had fun while doing it.

It was quite an experience being on such a fast team. It meant we had very little rest between legs and made getting to exchanges (even our exchanges ahead of our speedy runners) a bit of a challenge. It was nice to be done so early.

I came into this event obviously much better trained and I’m delighted with how well I ran. I’m going to be sore but just that sore. No aches or pains. I am amazed I was able to rip out a second sub-7:30 5k at the end of the event.

Great event! The Ragnar group really does do a good job taking care of their runners. I’d do one of these events anywhere I believe. Of course in the middle of that first leg in the heat with two more legs ahead and a long sleepless night, I swore I’d not do this one again. :blush: Then I remembered that whole Reach the Beach thing coming up here sooner rather than later. :laugh::hug:

1:38:15 overall time / 12.8 overall miles – 7:41 overall pace
Passed by 1 runner, road killed 4.

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