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Ragnar NW Passage 2014 Race Report

Ragnar NW Passage – a team of 12 to cover 200-miles over 2 days, from Blaine to Langley. Fittingly, we were team 12th Van, captained by the Russell Wilson horned up Ber. The night before I set aside IPA’s, bananas, bread loafs, pb, gu, energy bars, reflector vest, headlamp, sleeping bag, and a couple changes of running clothes.

Morning of I went for a large coffee & greasy sausage and cheese sandwich. The team congregated to stock the food and cooler bins, loaded our tahoe & climbed in; headed to Blaine for check-in. Once there, good-intentioned people with elaborate costumes milled about, everyone a caricature, a wordplay. Blow up dolls, dinosaurs, fake butts, men in Hooters shorts, a lot of 12th man memorabilia. The mandatory safety meeting went something like this: “…statistically 3 of you will get lost and we expect 6 ambulance calls, so try not to be one of those people and look after your own…” We got our schwag which were the token tee’s, patches, and 1 hat to be shared by the twelve of us.

At 9:30 our first runner took off'; we leapfrogged her, catcalling before exchange 2 in Birch Bay. The race did well at porto organization, there was never much of a wait despite the thousands, if there was a wait at all, & never a shortage of tp.

What I loved most about Ragnar was the creativity in team names, van decor and the concept of “tagging.” Team names incl: Eat Between Legs, Our Third Leg is the Hardest, We Have Bananas & Bon Jovi – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?, Cirque Du Sore Legs, Pardon My Fartlek, Derek Zoolander’s School for Kids Who Can’t Run Good, JuRAGNAR Park, Just About That Action, Boss, and, Just the Tip…of Washington.

I had not been aware of the “kills,” prior to racing, and it was likely the notion of kills that helped me run outside of my means for all those miles. It’s a good way to stay sharp (if that’s possible), to stay distracted by counting. Between a teammate & I we took down like 200 people. The 12th Van filled the back of the tahoe with a death toll so large even Lynch would show enthusiasm.

The heat was hanging by 1pm. As the leg 5 racer, bragging about all the coffee I had drank, and all the water I hadn’t, I got the heat tingles, face red, dehydrated feelings of a pure novice. Maintaining 6:08’s for over 5 miles, my stomach was the sacrifice. Grumpy, I sat on the lip of the car drinking too-sweet water when the ultra male members of “Eat Between Legs” gathered to ask us our paces and offer well-wishes. They would be our estimation of excitement, a joy to leapfrog along with. Ber & I managed hard effort tempo paces in each of our 3 legs. The first and third leg were not pleasant for me, but my middle encouraged power and thrill.The middle leg, my longest at 8.1, was sometime before 11pm. It had started to rain. The exchange took place at a cute roadside market with woven baskets, ice cream, coffee and wine for sale. There were clusters of people licking towering ice cream cones, and I huddled under an overhang jealous, wondering if I could get a teammate to hold a cone for me till post leg. S. Morrison, the coolest husband around came in beneath the multi-colored lights. I’ve always wondered, at least for myself personally, if there’s a psyche benefit to running in the dark. I consider visible verification of topography etc. an opportunity to exploit weakness. Whatever you can see you can feel, and whatever you can’t see, maybe, you have to deal with as the foot strikes, in a sudden. Something felt like magic: probably the fact that the leg covered Mt. Vernon’s flat country roads, but I chugged away consistently with 6:02’s, and had high spirits upon finishing. “Eat Between Legs” was there for high fives once more. After Van 1’s night legs were completed, we went to OHHS to try to get some rest before our final go around at 4am.

The gym floor felt like a gym floor, the lights were kept on, women had ecstatic conversations in the shower room that sounded through the bricks to our sleeplessness. There were several people with sleep apnea, and a gem of a person who plugged in a mattress blower in the wee hours of the morning. When we started milling around at 3:45am, the gym floor was adorned. I suffered stomach cramps for 18 hours, so much so that I couldn’t lay in any position except for straight & face up.On our way out I saw a couple spooning between their sleeping bags and felt a happy feeling. In the high school hallway, people were sleeping along the walls, against the vending machines, it was like we were the sole survivors of an apocalypse. Van 1’s final set of legs began around 4am, and as each leg passed, the sun slowly rose. My last leg was through Coupeville, past my old cross country camp cabin, and along the winding roads I used to do my morning miles on. I had nothing left but acid in all parts, and cursed my inability to finish strong. Despite the ache, I held 6:27’s, ending on a steep hill.

After our last teammate finished her leg we all showered, went for coffee, and bought mimosa fixings. The coffee was absolutely necessary. We decided to leapfrog 12th Van 2, to tour the last of the race, to support our team, to catcall them up the hills, and to sip our mimosas to the sound of cowbells and clappers. I passed out in the back for a good portion of this & woke up craving sugar. Pork jerky and black licorice were passed around.

At the finish line, there were tents with memorabilia, and a lackluster beer garden with a pizza shortage. The finish line was jovial. Costumes still worn, some people limping with makeshift wrapped ligaments. We got word our last leg was headed in, met him on the street, and crossed the finish line together in a time of 27hrs12min (8:19 avg.), taking 48th/500. Finisher medals were necked, and pictures were taken. Ragnar NW Passage was challenging  – the kind of thing you wonder why it is you commit yourself to it, but also, the kind of thing you keep signing up for.

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