Ragnar Northwest Passage - The Epic Race Recap

It's been a bit silent here on the blog, and part of that is due to the fact that Ragnar is SO EPIC that it took me awhile to compress all I have to say about it into a manageable post.  Also, life at home has been a bit topsy-turvy; but, I'll get to that later...

OK then, I left off with the team introductions here.  On Thursday night we all met up at Oiselle's Greenlake HQ to decorate our vans while eating some dinner.  I must say I was super impressed that Sarah and Paulette found parking for both vans together within two blocks from the office.  Well done ladies!

The whole gang and then some!

I'll never look at a 15 passenger van the same way again - our home for nearly 36 hours.

We finished up around 9pm and I tried to hurry home to finish packing and get to sleep for a lovely wake up time of 4am, but I hardly slept because I was so excited and, yes, nervous.  Ragnar began rather early for those of us in van one, with a 9:30 start time - which meant getting on the road around 5:30 so we could be there for an 8:30 check in.  We all met up near Sarah's place in South Lake Union, parked our cars, got our Starbucks and hit the road for Blaine - basically the Canadian border.  Any cars on the road at this time of day on a Saturday were mostly Ragnar vans and it was fun waving to all the other folks (including our friends from Nuun with team #Nuunsense) along the way.  The party and camaraderie begins even before you get to the start line!

Yes, we're still waking up... Morena, Sarah, Nolana, Me, Lauren, Becky

We made it up there in plenty of time for the mandatory safety briefing and gear check: teams must have a reflective vest for each member to wear whenever outside the van at night, two headlamps and two LED lights available for those running during night hours.  So we had time to hang out with our runner friends doing Northwest Passage as an ultra: Six Pack With Racks!

You can check out Lauren, Rebecca, Robyn, Bethany or Ria's blog for the amazing feat that these gals pulled off running an ultra.

Being the first runner, I was getting nervous - but in a weird way.  I've never felt worried about letting other people down when I run a race and I think we were all feeling a bit of worry or guilt about our upcoming legs.  I was getting over a head cold and I never train in the heat (it was HOT, heat indexes in the low 90s that day), Lauren was just getting a cold, and Becky was coming back from injury.  Not only that, but we were all nervous about the course and running on the roads - this was the first relay experience for our entire team, save Paulette.  Would we get lost?  Would punk ass teens switch the signs?  Would we get run over by a truck? Would we run out of water?  Would we make it to the exchange in time?  Would all the port-a-pottys be out of toilet paper? Spoiler: none of these things happened and all those Honey Buckets were stocked full of paper AND hand sanitizer the whole way through.


Yessss! Running! First leg was 6.3 miles. This is Bethany from the Six Pack team, you can read more about her here.

About two miles in, I began to really understand what Ragnar is all about.  My teammates passed by, hollering and cowbell-ing from the van as I started passing vans lining the side of the road full of group after group of awesome people cheering everyone on.  Including a team dressed as girl and boy scouts, princesses, Santa Claus, guys dancing in tutus, hot pants, or even a diaper...

I don't even want to think about the chafing...

I couldn't help but smile and definitely couldn't help but cheer when I saw my team by the side of the road and was positively giddy to run up to Nolana at the first exchange and give her the slap bracelet.  By the way, a good tip for the handoff - get the bracelet straight and hand it off like a baton so that your next runner can slap it on their own wrist. 

I so love this picture!  Thank you Sarah for being such a great team photographer.  It looks like I'm waving, but I am indicating my four 'kills.'

I took it pretty conservatively, finishing in just under 57 minutes for about a 9min pace, because of the heat and knowing I still had two more legs to run before it was all over.  One great thing about being Runner One (among many other things) was being done with everything first.  My nerves were gone and I was able to really get into this whole crazy, crazy experience. 

Checking off each leg really resonated with my list-making soul.

After Nolana ran,

Go Nolana!

Lauren had a very hilly and hot unsupported leg - meaning we couldn't get out to cheer or give her water (they had aid stations), so we cheered from inside the van and met her at the exchange.  
All smiles!
Then it was time for Morena to run; as she was out on her quick four mile leg, the VAN STALLED.  We were all charging our phones and left them plugged in while the van was off, that's the only thing we could think of that would have drained the battery.  So we unplugged closed all the doors and tried a few more times.  At that point we screamed at Sarah, our next runner, to see if she could get a ride in another van while we looked for someone with jumper cables.  Wouldn't ya know, right as she was about to get a ride, the van started. 

We made it!
Needless to say, we were very cautious about battery consumption after that and Sarah rocked her leg with 11 kills!  I think I had this many kills total for all my legs; kills = number of runners you pass. 

Sarah racking up the most kills in the van!
We had a discussion going as to whether it counted if you pass someone and they end up passing you back before you're done with your leg.  We decided that it counted and it only happened to me once anyway!  Before we knew it, Becky was finishing up our van's last run and handing it off to Natty at the first major exchange.

Van two, waiting for us to come in. Paulette, Laurel, Julie, Sophia, Natty and Ashley
Becky running in the hot sun

Quick team picture after Becky handed off to Natty.

There wasn't a lot of time during this break, maybe 3-4 hours based on our projections.  Although, time not spent running, driving, and cheering went by a LOT slower.  We couldn't believe we'd been in the van for more than 10 hours at this point. 

Visiting with teammate Megan (far left) at the Nuun tent.

Someone caught sight of a Jimmy John's nearby and we decided that would be a good and easy meal before starting our next leg, since we wouldn't have a ton of time to digest, or at least I wouldn't have!  This was one disadvantage of being in van one: dinner time wasn't really at a normal dinner hour.  When we started back up around 7:30, it was perfect chow down time for van two.  But at 4pm... meh.  After we ate, we drove about a half an hour to exchange 12 where we'd start the process all over again and rested. 

Meanwhile, here are some of the shenanigans that van two was up to...
Julie gettin' her six pack abs.
Sophia kickin' ass.  I think this is my favorite picture from the whole race - LOVE.
This girl! She is just incredible, and I think her van mates would agree.  Natty's the epitome of speed and strength - even pacing on other's legs when she'd already run over 20 miles.  MVP award right here. 


It was fun to wait for someone to run in to start my next leg and take the bracelet from Sophia!

Yeah, I was a bit delirious.

Getting to slap on the bracelet for the first time after Sophia rolled in with her six pack abs.

This was my favorite run.  I started out very tired and groggy and was really worried about how I'd fare.  But, we all discovered that running totally re-energized us and definitely brought on the endorphins.  I borrowed Morena's Garmin and didn't look at it the whole time, just went by feel and enjoyed running through the streets of Burlington, watching my shadow grow longer as we approached the magical hour of dusk and seeing the runners silhouettes against the setting sun.  I was 100% in the moment and it was just really cool.  The Garmin read 42 minutes for 4.5 miles, but I logged it in Dailymile as 40 minutes (because I had to wait at a stoplight for at least two minutes, I ain't countin those!) and kept it under a 9min pace. 

Love that we met people along the way - this was taken by Oiselle friend Deidre.  Thanks Deidre!

After this run I used one of Sarah's Shower Pills in the back of the van and changed into my cozy time-out sweats and trials hoodie as the temps were going down quickly.  My memories of this second leg were hazy, other than being the most popular girls at exchange 15 because Sarah remembered to bring insect repellent.  The word got out that we had some and we were spritzing people left and right to ward off the major mosquito invasion.  And at exchange 16 we got Snow Goose ice cream!  After this exchange my favorite memories came from the quiet night hours and 'whisper cheering.'  Ragnar wanted us to be very conscientious of the neighborhoods we were running at night - so no honking, loud cheering, etc. during designated 'shhhhhh' legs.  During Sarah's run we pulled over to the side of the road by some houses and whisper-cheered (Alexi Pappas style, of course) "yooou looook greaaaaat! yooooou're soooo smaaart aaaand preeeetty!  I beeeeelieve iiiiin yooooou!" and cracked ourselves up.  Yes, the slap-happy hours were setting in - not as many pictures from these legs. 

Pretty soon it was time for our big break and a little sleep.  Once Becky brought it in at the next major exchange, we chatted with van two, borrowed a few sleeping bags and hit the road to get some sleep.  Of course, I made Lauren get lost on our way to La Conner.  Oh State Route 20, why must you have a 'spur'???  That goddamn 'spur' is freaking confusing and we drove in circles for about a half an hour trying to get on the right track to Oak Harbor High.  We finally settled in around 2am and I was projected to start us off for our last legs around 5:30am.  Half of us slept in the van (one bench seat each) and the other half went into the high school gym to sleep.  I passed out in the van by about 2:15am and we woke to a text from van two around 4am, getting about two hours of sleep.  Side note, I brought a sleep mask and it was really helpful to block out parking lot lights, and would probably be even more helpful when trying to sleep in a school gymnasium.  I tried to rest for about a half an hour, willing myself to get up and put on my final set of running clothes and try to wake up. 


This was by FAR the hardest, and thankfully it was the shortest of my legs at 3.1 miles.  Yes, another benefit of being runner one was low mileage that decreased with each leg.  By this point, I didn't even bother using a GPS.  Another thing I learned about Ragnar is that, for most teams, it's not at all about pace.  At each exchange, we had a rough idea as to when a runner was supposed to come in and then we got out and waited.  We had no idea if someone ran 11 minute miles or 8 minute miles, really.  So I just tried to enjoy the scenery, and keep from passing out.  Success!


Beautiful views of Oak Harbor and a nice downhill perked me right up, though.

Again, after my run, things are fuzzy but I do remember the hills from hell that were part of Morena's last leg. 

Omigod, no thank you.  Especially this being her last leg on the least amount of sleep.  Man.  Just... man.

Once we were all done, half of us waited in a verrrrry long line for showers at the last major exchange, Coupeville High School, and then drove to the finish to get some grub.  OK people, so the last main meal we ate was at 4pm the day prior and it was a simple sandwich.  We. Were. Dying.  Thank God for the supply of Pickybars from Laurel, otherwise we really might not have made it.

SCORE. Without these and our vast supply of Nuun, we'd have been worse for wear

Of course all runners were hitting the one coffee shop in Langley that served breakfast food and not five minutes after we got in line they announced that they were done serving breakfast.  I seriously almost had a breakdown, and I had other reasons to completely lose it.  OK, the life being topsy-turvy comment above... 


On Friday night, sometime after my second run, my husband jokingly texts me that my son is puking and isn't that funny because someone usually gets sick when I have plans.  But on Saturday morning, as we're trying to find food, I get a text that they're at the hospital.  Um, I'm a generally weepy person when I'm tired and this was beyond tired.  Beyond hungry.  And now my boy was in the hospital.  Long story short (too late?), I was receiving texts on his progress while stuck on Whidbey Island, a good couple of hours away.  My teammates were ready to drive home and miss the finish, but my husband said there wasn't anything I could do at that point.  If we got home in 3 hours versus 5 hours, what's the difference?  Yeah, that's where my head was at as we finally found some food - gyros and fries which tasted heavenly.

Once we got to the finish line, we were on fire quickly cleaning up the van, washing off the paint and taking down lights so that we could get going as soon as possible.  I was feeling so bad that we couldn't hang out with van two and eat our free pizzas (they hand out two large pizzas to every team after the finish) while watching teams finish and share stories.  At least I got everyone to their nap and shower faster...?  After we dotted all of our i's and crossed our t's, we waited for Sophia to come in so that we could all run through the finish chute together. 
almost done! Laurel pacing Sophia to the finish.
Could these two BE any cuter??

It was great to see Laurel helping pace her in for our finish, it just embodied this whole experience of friendship, team, and how awesome it is that Oiselle brought all of us together. Our finish time of 28:11:15 was good for 3rd place in the women's open division!  Imagine if we were all healthy and really worried about our pace??

Anyhow, we took lots of pictures, got our bottle opener medals and headed towards the ferry.  The whole time I'm checking my phone for texts and getting random updates from my husband.  When I learned that my son was being moved to Childrens Hospital, likely to get an operation (it's kidney related - a narrowing in his ureter that we discovered when he was an infant that he supposedly grew out of, guess not!) I started keening like a dying cat and I'm sure everyone at Ragnar was like, whoa! She must be really moved by the Ragnar experience!  Ha.  So, yeah, after so much love and support from my amazing teammates, I finally made it to my car and white knuckled it to Childrens. 

Yeah, this was the picture text I got after our big finish.  Grrrrreat!

The amount of sleep I've had since then is a post for another day, and dealing with all of this coming off a 200 mile relay is a definite out-of-body experience.  But, I can now look back on it and smile and write about it (while I'm stuck in a tiny hospital room with nuthin' but time) because we're all okay and life will resume it's blessed normalcy and routine tomorrow.

Last night reading bedtime stories. We're being sprung today!

For now, I'm writing this up as big brother sleeps in his hospital bed for the fifth and likely last night.  Thanks for all the good juju sent our way when we needed it and, don't worry, it was a pretty routine procedure and he's doing great.  It was just an integral part of my Ragnar story, so I had to share.

I think I'm the last to write up my recap, so that way, I have links to my other blogging teammates recaps - yay!  Check it:


Next post: How to Survive Seattle Childrens for Five Days with Your Six Year Old


  1. So glad to hear your little boy is better. I'm sorry we didn't get to chat more this weekend. I am glad that we finally got to meet though.
    Hang in there. As every parent know, Sleep is over-rated, right?

    1. You would think I'm used to lack of sleep, but I'm a crazy person when it comes to getting my zzz's! Ragnar was so totally NBD, I want to do it again for sure! Trying to sleep in a hospital after? Nooooo thank you :)

  2. I'm glad to hear you son is on the mend!! Never mind being sleep deprived, that would send anyone into a tizzy.

    Congratulations to all you awesome Oiselle ladies out there. It was really great to meet you and it was such a blast running into you at the exchanges. You guys really rocked it!

    1. Leana! It was SO great to meet you and see you at so many of the exchanges. You were so fun to cheer - we believe in you!!

  3. Oh my gosh. That is so scary. I hope your little guy is okay. Can't imagine being at Children's that long :( I thought it was bad that I got texts from home saying my daughter smashed our iPad . . .

    I loved your recap, so much fun to read and the pictures were great!

    1. Yes, he's a-ok now, but yeah - five days at Childrens was ridiculous. It was mostly because we opted to wait longer for a permanent fix rather than a temporary one.
      haha, ahhh the ipad! something crazy HAS to happen when we moms are MIA, right??

  4. Saw the Oiselle van at exchange 28 (the one after those big roller hills) and wondered if you happened to be in Van 1! I was runner 1 as well (7:30 start time for the Fast Attacks - our vans were painted like viking ships!) - and loved my legs. :-) This was my first Ragnar and I can't wait to do another one - my team is already plotting how to do SoCal. And, I'm plotting to do Chicago (since I'm also from Chicago many moons ago).

    1. Ahhh! Yes I remember your van :)) Our other van is plotting an ULTRA - um, no thank you. I DO want to run NWP again, though, for sure. Maybe Hood to Coast if we could get in.
      Aw, yay, for Chicago - that'd be awesome. Maybe one day...

  5. OH man so sorry to hear your Ragnar experience ended with your little guy in the hospital...but SOO glad he is going to be ok! It was awesome to start with you guys and you looked great out there...see you there next year? ;)

    1. YES, I can't imagine not doing this every year - seriously. Plus, I want a do-over for the end part ;)
      Again, congrats on your ultra so very awesome!

  6. Glad that you had fun, but sorry it didn't end on a high note with your son being sick. Glad that he is doing better and on the mend. Ragnar was a truly epic experience. I would do it all over again in a second!

    1. Thanks Tasha! I saw you just before your second run, when you were wearing the tutu :) I said, hey! there's Tasha in the tutu, and said hi - but I think you were watching for your runner to come in, as well you should ;) I SO want to do Ragnar again.

  7. I have no idea how I came to your blog but I am glad I did. I am a mother of 2 boys and just took up running this year..so pretty much a newbie. I found a fun group of ppl and I am doing Ragnar NWP next year and I am runner#1...I am excited and scared. Ragnar is my ultimate running adventure and I think I am way over my head but I will train hard and do my best and enjoy the experience.

    1. well, I'm glad you found me! Ragnar is allll about the fun - do not stress at all :) #1 is a great position to be in, as well. Have you ever watched the Hood to Coast movie? There's a whole team of newbie/non-runners and they have the most amazing time, regardless. Say hi while you're out there if you see me in July (or before)!