Ragnar Northwest Passage 2014 Race Recap

Another year, another Ragnar has come and gone.  I have so many thoughts, observations, and so much I want to commit to memory.  Now that you've met the team, I guess I'll just start from the beginning...

The night before the race, most of us were able to meet up at the Oiselle offices to organize all our goodies, eat a pizza dinner and decorate the vans.

I got to bed nice and early and slept nice and late, since I was in van 2 this year and didn't need to hit the road until about noon for the first major exchange in Bellingham.  This was super weird moseying out of bed around 9AM and seeing tweets/instagram pics from our team starting as I was sitting and drinking coffee in my pjs.  We all met up at the Newton's parents house, since there's ample parking and they're right off I5.  

We forgot to take good pics of our decor, thanks dudes on Twitter for doing the work for us!
Not even 10 minutes into the drive we were cracking each other up and I was crying tears of laughter.  I knew this was going to be another ridiculously awesome experience.  

van 2!
It was great to meet up with our Van 1 peeps for a few pics, get our Ragnar swag, do the safety briefing and then we were off!  

first meetup with van 1
Since Amanda runs like the wind, and her first leg was just over three miles, we hightailed it out of exchange 6 to hand things off to Lauren.  So, my legs in a nutshell:

Leg 1: 6.8 miles

Leg 11

The first downhill portion of this run was rather nice, but it was canted a bit to the side and I was glad to get on flat road.  It was a pretty long run by my standards, since my long runs as of late are around 8 miles.  The views were lovely, but I could see for what seemed like miles ahead of me - which is mentally tough.  Thankfully, it was my first leg and all that Ragnar energy got me through without a hitch.  

Awesome views, for miles...
I accidentally turned off my Garmin when I put on the slap bracelet, but my last 5 splits were in the low 9s, which I was pretty darn happy with for a 7 mile run and I passed 9 people!

Leg 2: 6.5 miles

Leg 23

After our dinner at Skagit River Brewery and a little rest at La Conner middle school, we were back on the road around midnight.  My much anticipated run over Deception Pass bridge was one of the best runs of MY LIFE.  I was nervous about running in the dark with a headlamp; something I've never done before.  But the rolling downhills through the forest were amazing.  I felt like I was flying because it was the opposite of my first run: all I could see was the 10 feet or so in front of me (more than enough to run safely/see the ground) and then the majestic evergreens being illuminated every few minutes by the headlights of the vans going past.  All the other runners on that leg were so happy to be out there, too.  There was a lot of 'great job!' and 'strong running!' as we'd pass each other, and I passed 12 runners, averaging a 9:30 pace.  And of course, there was the amazing light display they added to the bridge this year.

Had to steal from Ragnar, because the one photo I took was super blurry and I was afraid of dropping my phone into the depths below.
Seriously, I felt like Santa Claus coming in for a landing.  It was just outstanding.  I was a bit worried about the weather.  Originally we were all concerned about the heat, but then the forecast turned to rain.  I thought I was going to freeze, but it started misting a bit while I was out there and it was downright refreshing.  Everything just came together.  Oh, and for the record, I did not have music on this entire race - didn't need it one bit.

a little comparison shot from when we visited with the kids about 4 years ago!
The next break for us didn't happen until close to 6AM and we had less than three hours until our next set of legs.  I spent a decent amount of time with baby wipes and changing into warm clothes before collapsing in the van with Amanda around 7AM for about an hour of sleep.  This is one of the major drawbacks of van 2.  It seems like the most mileage for van 1 is the first set of legs, while you're driving up to Bellingham.  The first break is only enough time for dinner and a nap.  And by the time you're really tired during the last break, there's no time to sleep.  

My vain attempt at sleep after dinner. I highly recommend a sleep mask, though.
We were up and at 'em again around 8:30AM.  It was rather funny that our whole van just sat on the curb at Coupeville High like zombies watching people come into the major exchange.  Other teams were making cheer tunnels, carrying boom boxes and even clipboards!  Clipboards!  I can't even imagine taking it that seriously with our times! We'd just drive our runner to the exchange, cheer/support them along the route after seeing them off and head to the next exchange and wait.  Like last year, I don't think anyone had any solid knowledge of each other's times.  No one was ever lost, or left hanging (for more than a minute, anyway) at any exchange.  That's just how we roll.

Leg 3: 3.5 miles

Leg 35

I was glad that I wasn't the first runner in the van this year, having to run right after sleeping.  I had plenty of time to wake up and prepare for my run.  That being said, I still felt like death warmed over - that's just par for the course for your last leg of Ragnar.  You just get through it.  It did not seem 'easy' and I averaged about a 10 minute mile.  Somehow, I was smiling during this run, probably telling myself to 'fake it 'till you make it.'

After I finished up, we gave Morena some support about half way through her brutal last leg to the finish and then hightailed it over to said finish line.

Parking was super easy and we had enough time to return our safety flags and catch up with van 1 before spotting Morena and running across the finish line together.  Apparently there were spots opened up for more teams this year, but you'd never know it - Ragnar ran super smoothly, as usual.

We sat in the grass and ate some pizza together and van 1 took off pretty quickly to catch the ferry home, as they were waiting HOURS for us to arrive.  A con of being in van 1, and I distinctly remember this from last year.  It's great to be done first, but then you have to wait, and wait, and WAIT to be truly done.  I did spot The Oatmeal (again) as we were eating and encouraged Paulette to grab a pic!

I left him alone (save for the catcalls as we'd drive by him in our van) since I already got one a few weeks ago at a Beat the Blerch training run:

with van 2 teammate Lauren, too!
It was fun to see him and his team out on the course, he was a van 2 runner as well.

Speaking of van 2, at first I was thinking that it's the lesser of the two.  But then I made a list of pros/cons, because I'm ridiculous like that.

Van 2 pros:  
  • You can sleep in and start later (ya know, if work or the kids aren't an obstacle in the AM)
  • The scenery, in my opinion, is better than the van 1 legs
  • You can eat a real sit down dinner at a normal hour after your first break
  • You're more likely to get the middle of the night running (yes, a pro!)
  • You don't have to wait for-ev-er at the end of the race to finish
Van 2 cons:
  • The legs are WAY HARDER OMG
  • There really is no good time to get more than 2 hours of sleep TOPS

And while I'm making a list, here are the reasons a minivan is way better than the 12 passenger van:
  • So much easier to handle, for all those 3 point and U turns
  • Much more comfortable/reclining seats
  • More reliable, more likely to be a newer vehicle (last year our 12 passenger van stalled on us at least 3 times)
  • You can open the back windows for more air, cheering and pictures
  • I'm guessing they're cheaper to rent
In conclusion, to remember the ridiculousness, I'm doing a straight up High School Yearbook tribute - "I will always remember" meme:
  • Cheering Amanada with "EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE YOUUUUU!" Because, we all totally do.

  • Whisper cheering, 'natch.  This is my favorite Ragnar tradition.
  • Whisper cheering killlll, killllll, killll sorta horror movie style when our runners where about to pass (or 'kill') another runner.
  • 'The Napoleon Dynamite Effect' of Ragnar - it kinda sucks while you're in it, but then it's suuuuuper funny and awesome after the fact.
  • "Bitch eatin' crackers."
  • I am an expert at U turns.
  • "You do YOU."
There are probably a bunch of other things that seemed absolutely hilarious at the time, but I'm forgetting them now.  I'm looking forward to the posts from some of my teammates.  And if you ran Ragnar and blogged about it, I'd love to read your post, so please feel free to leave a link in the comments.  I'm nostalgic already...   



  1. You got some great pics! Running over deception pass was one of my favorite moments as well, although it was super light out when I ran over :). I'm not quite sure I agree with you about minivans being better but they are most definitely WAY cheaper so there is that…but you just need a good driver you isn't afraid of a big vehicle and then you are all set. We should be on a relay team together someday!

    1. haha! For sure if you're running an ultra, the 12 passenger is CLUTCH for laying down/sleeping. But Amanda and I were the only van sleepers, so it worked out really well :)

  2. I loved this, Andrea. It made me miss Ragnar so much!! I just love all the inside jokes, and I enjoyed your pros and cons to van 1/van 2. I was in Van 1 for both of my Ragnars, and I enjoyed that, but you never know!

    1. I'm sure the van 1/2 is different for each relay, though. I'm SO jealous that you ran one with SBS - I'm kinda kicking myself for not entering the contest for Napa. I thought it would be too soon after running this one. Ah well, the Beat the Blerch run is Napa weekend, so I think I'll still be having fun! Next year, though...

  3. Great recap! Sounds like the Bird Machine team had a blast! It was great to meet you at one of the exchanges.

    1. So great to meet you, too! I'm sure we'll cross paths again soon :)

  4. I'm so glad you had an awesome time on runner 11 and the Deception Pass run! I agree van 2 scenery is better. I actually like that van 2 is harder too, but maybe that's weird!