Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay - The Captain's Version

I love the large running relays.  You take 12 people, 2 vans and 200 miles or so and run a few times through generally beautiful scenery overnight.  No sleeping, weird eating and desperate attempts to stay hydrated and arrive at the end delighted with your team and the shared experience.  There is nothing quite like it.  It's about the running but it's also about the challenge of getting 12 runners and 2 vans and what seems like endless amount of gear all pointed in the right direction on race day.

I've done 4 of these relays over the years (twice at Ragnar NW and twice at Reach the Beach in New Hampshire).  After two years with the Reach the Beach team, I bowed out.  K and I had managed to combine my love of relays with some great vacations on the east coast but it was time to vacation elsewhere this year. 

So what to do?  I need to do another relay and Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay is a great event at a good time of the year. I could put myself onto a team by putting my name on the runners' board of those who were looking for teams.  However, I really like having some people I already know on the team.  Cue Coach Lesley. I needed help recruiting 11 other runners.  Quickly we had a roster of 7 team members and signed up with me as captain to handle registration details and van rental.

With Lesley's contacts, we were able to come up with three volunteers who would provide some sort of course support at the event.  This was a big deal.  If we did not provide volunteers, we would have to pay a lot or be disqualified.  After a while we came up with 2 more team members.  I did get onto the ragnar runner board and found a runner who seemed to be a good fit and she recruited another former teammate from a previous relay team.  One more found and we had 11.  Ah, this is doable and I didn't think much of the relay.

Then it was a five weeks out.  Hmm.  Better start doing something about this relay.  A member was able to recruit her niece and we were golden.  12 runners.  Team start times were going to be set soon so I sent a request for runners to update their 10k times, asked for phone contact and safety item talley and checked in with some of our unknown runners about what they could handle mileage-wise for the relay.  With Lesley's help, we set runner order and had a start time.

We had some new relayers to our team plus safety rules had changed for this relay.  I sent out an email detailing runner order, how relays work, basic safety requirements and thinking about packing food and gear for a relay.  I got some nice responses back and a lot of good questions.  We had a very responsive group.  I knew this was going to be good.

We were the Orange Ogres so we started pulling in fun gear for the relay.  These are things I've always wished I'd had on previous relays but had never done anything about it.  As captain, well,  I felt obligated to pull out some tricks and fun for this relay.  I didn't have to fly across country with glow bracelets, orange tutus and window paint and I found fun items online in time to have them shipped.  I figured out a cute, cute adorable Orange Ogre and we had t-shirts and magnets made.  It's fun stuff and it's the little details which add to the experience. 

I'd been fretting that the van rental (done back in May for this late July race) was just a hoax.  So I called to confirm and felt better.  With two weeks to go and knowing we were going to be out of town the weekend before Ragnar, I sent some more final emails to both the running team and our volunteer team.

Getting 6 people into a van and up to Blaine, Washington for the start of the race required some figuring.  And then I got to do it again for Van 2.  I sent out final race day logistics, a final packing list and the race time predictions for each runner.  I tried not to nag about don't forget your reflective vest!  I sent a reminder to our volunteers and figured logistics for them too. 

And then I got the first heart stopping moment as captain.  One of our volunteers had forgotten about the event and was going to be unable to attend.  ACK!  There was much frantic figuring and pleas to find another volunteer.  Fortunately we were able to have someone else jump in and I could breathe again. At least we had 12 runners ready to go...cue foreshadowing.

Five days before the race, a team member seemed to have possible strep throat.  Uh oh!  If it was strep and they could get antibiotics, they would be able to run IF necessary.  This was an experienced relayer and knew how hard it would be to find a replacement.  She offered to stay on the team but as it got closer and closer and i started thinking about her situation; I knew it would be better to get a replacement.  I'd be so worried about her out there running when I knew she'd had a busy and exciting previous weekend, had two young kids (one who had been sick too) and still would have to travel again to get to the event and still be recovering and on antibiotics. 

And as luck would have it, someone who'd we asked to join the team before had a previous conflict clear and could do it.  This was tuesday, three days before the relay could begin.  I breathed easier again.  Wow, I'd figured out how we could run with just 11 members but that would put a strain on one runner who was already going in planning on running just two legs (instead of three).  if we were down a runner, she'd have to complete all legs.  I sighed a huge sigh of relief and tried not to turn an ankle anytime I walked around. 

I sent out the final email and was so dang excited!  I took the day off from work and did some final cooking (pancakes, chicken pasta salad), shopping (ice) and picked up some equipment we were borrowing from a team member who lived in Kirkland.  Les and I got together to sort piles of things into two discrete containers and then off to pick up the van.  Finally, my last great fear of not having vans was laid to rest.  Of course picking up the vans took forever and a day though and was quite aggravating.  Paying for an extra day and an easier pick up place might just be worth the added expense.

after all that though, I was maybe too excited.  I could not at all sleep the night before the relay.  K was in the first van and since I'd be awake anyway, i went to meet Van 1 and help them get packed and on the road.  Basically that involved getting my bossy voice out and cramming things in.  I went home and tried to nap.  After 45 minutes I gave up adn got up.  Oh well, who needed sleep?

Finally, it was time to go meet my van and we were off.  Ragnar, here we come!

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