Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage July 19-20, 2013

Well, I've put it off long enough, but it's time to blog about my amazing experience at Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage  The experience of this race went way beyond my expectations, and it is difficult to put into words exactly what that felt like.
 As I had blogged earlier, I had been asked to run this relay with a team from Nuun Hydration.  I have been a fan of this company for about a year, and was honored to represent their company in this relay.  From the moment I started receiving emails from Megan from Nuun I knew that this was going to be a great experience. She was so helpful with always responding promptly to my questions and concerns.  And when she offered to pick me up from the airport when I arrived in Seattle, I was so happy and relieved.  Meeting her in person was great. Just a sweet, genuine person.  And she's a fellow Oiselle Team Member, so even better!
  I arrived in Seattle on Thursday evening at 9pm.  Megan picked me up at the airport and brought me to the Sheraton Hotel where I would be staying with 3 other ladies on the team.  Once I arrived, I met Leana (runner #6) who would be in Van #1 with me, and Tasha, runner #7 in Van #2.  We busily got ourselves ready for bed, knowing that Leana and I would be up bright and early to be picked up by our van at 5:30 the next morning.  Danielle, the other lady staying with us had a late flight from Boston, and ended up not arriving to the hotel until 3 am!! Luckily she was in Van #2, and they didn't need to leave Seattle until 11:30.
  I slept very fitfully, as to be expected the night before a race.  I think I woke up every hour, worried about not getting up on time. Leana had set an alarm, but I really should have set a back up as well!
Luckily, we both woke up on time, with the help of the alarm, at 5 am.  I quickly got dressed, repacked my bag, and we headed downstairs to wait for Casey from Nuun to pick us up in Van #1. A few minutes later, the van pulled up, and I was able to meet Casey (runner #5), Jenny from Nuun (runner #2), Sarah (runner #3) and Colleen from Nuun (runner #4).  We all agreed that a stop at Starbucks was in order, which made me super happy.  I knew I was with the right group of people!!
Casey, our fearless leader of Van #1
  One grande Mocha Latte and chocolate croissant later, and we were on the road to Blaine, WA for the start of the race.  We arrived in Blaine 2 hours later, and the excitement level went way up.  Along the way, we also saw the Oiselle Team Van #1 with Sarah driving!! How fun! I received my sweet Nuun Ragnar water bottle and was excited to see the ample supply of Nuun available in the van. Sweet hydration!!
  Our scheduled start time was 9am, and I was runner #1, so I started to get myself ready for my first leg of 6.3 miles.  We attended the mandatory safety briefing, received our race bibs, Ragnar tattoos, safety flags, took the requisite Honey Bucket break, and then it was time to line up.  Casey was our designated team captain. His only rule for us was to "Have Fun".
    So, with that in mind, I was ready to start this party. After our team was announced, I was off for my first leg of the race. I held back at the beginning, as the other runners I ran with started out very fast.  I think this was to my benefit, as within a mile or 2, I was able to start passing people.  I passed a couple of ladies, and then by the end, I was able to pass 3 guys. What an awesome feeling! I ended up being the first lady to finish in my group, which was completing empowering. I think my time for the run was around 52 minutes, with an average pace of 8:30/mile. Not a hilly leg, but a bit boring, because most of it was on a straight road. The temperature was rising, and it was full sun. Still nicer temps than on the East Coast! I passed the slap bracelet to Jenny, and she was off on her first leg.  I jumped in the van, and we continued down the road. This pattern continued until all 6 of us had completed our legs.  We then were at Exchange 6 in Bellingham. We passed off the bracelet to Van #2 so they could complete their legs. Van # 2 included Tasha, Kim from Nuun, Robert from Nuun, Zoe from Nuun, Sara (friend of Sarah in our van) and Dani.
 At these "major" exchanges, there were showers, food, Nuun, and even foam rollers to use!  I decided to take advantage of the foam rollers, and rolled out all the tight parts. It felt great!! After saying hello to Megan at the Nuun tent and some of the Oiselle ladies, our team decided it was a good time to go off course for some food.  Casey had found a great place in Bellingham, the Boundary Bay Brewery.  I took the time to change my clothes, and then enjoyed a lunch of fish tacos and an Oatmeal Stout. Yummy! After lunch, it was time to head to Exchange 12, where we would meet Van #2 to start our second leg.  This was in Burlington.  My next leg was at approx. 7pm.  It was still warm and sunny, but not as hot as it had been for my team-mates through the afternoon.  This run was 4.5 miles through the town of Burlington.  I found it a bit challenging with the regular streets, sidewalks and street lights. I decided I would ignore the red lights, and just take my chances when the course was clear.  By doing this, I was able to pass one woman who had started before me. She was not too happy with me, as she said "So, that's the way it's going to be, is it?" and tried to chase me!  I quickly shifted into a faster gear, and she never caught me!  I feel like I was running away from her the whole time. The rest of the leg went well, except I made a wrong turn at a bridge, and ended up running an extra 1/10th of a mile because of it.  I also ended up on the wrong sidewalk of the bridge and had to cross 4 lanes of traffic to get back on course!  Ooops. So, I lost some time while waiting for the chance to cross. Nice downhill finish made up some time, so I ended up with a 9 min pace for this leg. 

Colleen and Sarah

     What a great feeling knowing that I was 2/3 of the way done already.  My team prepared for the night running, with safety vests and lights.  The temperature had cooled off quite a bit by now, so once I had cooled off from my run, I decided it was time for my Oiselle running pants and lux layer. I would not be running again until early in the morning.  Our van continued on, completing our legs.  All my van mates loved the night running!! I even offered to pace Leana on her run, thinking maybe it would be difficult for her to run by herself at night, and she didn't need me! I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. It seemed pretty cool to don the headlamps and follow the blinking lights ahead of you.  Maybe on my next relay!! Once we finished our 6 legs, we continued on to Exchange 24, where I would start my last leg.  I fell asleep on the way to the exchange. It was almost midnight by then.  We all "slept" in the van for a few hours.  It was difficult, with hearing all the runners coming and going, and we were in a van. All six of us.  I was fortunate, as I had a whole bench seat to myself.  I think I dozed on and off for about 3 hours.Leanna
   At 4am, my husband sent me a text that said "You are a warrior goddess". What a motivation, thanks honey!! I decided I would get up and have a shower before my last leg.  This turned out to be a great decision! Although the shower wasn't the greatest (it was almost scalding hot), it did revive me quite a bit.  I put on a fresh pair of running clothes, dried my hair, and returned to the van.  After a great breakfast of Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar and Cherry Limeade Nuun,
I was ready to go.  And boy, did I go!! I was amazed about how great I felt. My first mile pace was 7:40/mile! After slowing down a bit during the hilly 2nd mile, I was able to finish strong along the water in Oak Harbor.  My time was 24:53, only 43 seconds off my 5K PR!! What??!! I was so surprised to be feeling so great. I think it was the weather. 54 degrees and overcast.  Perfect. So now that my legs were done, I focused on cheering my remaining van-mates on in their legs.  Colleen had the roughest leg. If you want to see how hard it was, check it out here. 8.1 tough, tough miles.  I give her major props for that one! Good thing she's an ultrarunner. Total badass! 
   Casey (runner #5) also had a challenging 4 mile run with some nice rolling hills.  The temperature was rising and the sun came out at this point.  I think our van really lucked out on Saturday with the weather. By the time we handed off the Van #2 at 10:00, it was getting much hotter.
   After we finished our last leg, it was time to EAT!! We went to a great place in Coupeville that was offering a Ragnar Breakfast special.  I had waffles with berry sauce with scrambled eggs and a Mocha Lattte. It definitely hit the spot.  After breakfast we headed to the finish line in Langley on Whidbey Island.  We had a good amount of time, since we weren't expecting our team to come in until 3pm.  We took the time to change into our new Ragnar t-shirts and enjoy the Beer Garden next to a horse show going on.  Not something you get to do everyday! While enjoying our beer, Mason Reay from Nuun came by to say hello.  He and Jenny got into a hilarious conversation about whether Jenny had ridden horses as a child.  "How do you think I grew up? I didn't even own a blazer!" Just one of the hilarious "Jenny-isms" from the weekend. Others include: "I don't enjoy things that I can chew but don't swallow" and "196 miles ain't no thing!"  This lady cracks me up. And it was her first ever race. Not first relay, first RACE ever.  She handled the miles like a champ. She admitted she had never run more than 5 miles before, so the fact that she ran over 13 miles in 24 hours is amazing!!
Finally, at 3pm, we were told that our last runner, Sara (friend of Sarah in our Van) was coming in.  We met up with Van #2 and we all ran into the finish.  What a fun experience. Then we all posed for photos together as a team. 
Here is Van#1 at the finish. Casey,Sarah,Jenny,Leana, Me and Colleen. Note only 1 of us has running shoes on, and the cool Beer socks on Casey.  This was an all around awesome experience from start to finish.  Sarah and I already started coming up with ideas for team names next year "Green Legs and Hammies" was one idea, so keep those socks Casey!!
  I want to say special thanks to all the "Nuunies": especially to Megan for handling all the logistics of the trip; Casey for being our fearless Van leader and driver; and to Mason for the opportunity to represent such a great company. 
Thanks also to all my team-mates who were so supportive and great. I count you all as friends now, so we need to keep in touch!
And lastly, but certainly not least, thanks to my Rock Star husband Chris for taking over for the weekend and holding down the fort for me.  I couldn't have experienced this without you!! I would say I owe you, but I really don't...... can anyone say "Army Wife"? Just kidding honey, you can do a Ragnar anytime the opportunity presents itself.
  I will be working on another post-Ragnar post soon. I spent another 24 hours + in Seattle before flying out on the red-eye on Sunday evening.  Activities included yoga at Oiselle HQ, meeting some great Oiselle ladies, and touring around Seattle. Stay tuned!!



1 comment:

  1. Such a great recap Nicole! I'm so glad that I was able to meet you and share this experience with you. You were an awesome vanmate and teammate! You are one awesome runner. I really hope we have a chance to meet up again in the future!