Dear Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage… I have a secret…
I’m was a tad bit nervous to relay again.
There I said it.
If you’re new to this blog let me get you caught-up. I’m running Hood to Coast this year on this team. (Okay I promise more info on the actual team I’m on and the actual legs I’m running and yes even my Nuun giveaway soon… promise!). My last relay experience was Hood to Coast last year and it was a ruff one.
But as you can see I just can’t quit a relay, so when the opportunity to run another one hit me in the face the Monday before the Friday/Saturday relay what else was I supposed to do? I said yes.
So on a rainy Friday morning I made some new besties and set off for a little 200 mile 24 hour adventure.
As I said I was a last-minute add to our team, but not the last, last-minute add. When my friend (the gal who talked me into running- and by talked me into running I mean she said “hey we need another runner want to run” pretty convincing huh?) and I arrived at our team captain’s house we quickly learned we may be down a runner.
Note to everyone running a relay, if a team member stops responding to email, text messages and facebook, even though they’ve registered for your team, chances are they are not coming and you’re a man (woman) down.
So our team captain told his wife to pack a bag and get ready to run. Now that is hard-core.
So our little van of six runners was off to the start!
We made it to the start just in time for our safety meeting and our 1:30 start. I was running leg 2. Brian was leg one, Brady 3, Mel 4, Tiffany 5 and Nina was 6.
Running leg 2 was nice. You have enough time to warm-up and your done early so you get to relax (um sort of) in the van.
My first leg was my hardest and according to the Ragnar peeps it’s ranked “hard”.
I was happy my longest and hardest leg was first, it’s nice to get it out-of-the-way first. I was a bit concerned about this one since it was close to 7 miles (6.8) and my longest tempo run to date was (and is) 4.5 miles. I just wasn’t sure what to expect.
If you noticed the uphill for the last 1.5 miles then you pay attention to details much, much, much better than I do. I didn’t realize the up hill climb until we were driving to the start. This could be interesting.
Brian was off and we were on our way to the first exchange. He had pretty sweet race going on with some shirtless dude and in then end was able to pull away from him.
He handed off to me and I was read to go (I think). Our exchange went pretty well except I went for the classic “mile relay” hand off and he tried to slap the relay bracelet on my wrist. Oops… that was my bad.
My plan for this first leg was simple: don’t go out too fast! I looked down at my watch and in all the excitement I ran my first half mile in the 6:15 range. Better slow this thing down. I figured if I’d try to start at 6:45s and then pick it up (hilly last miles and all). I figured if the all my legs were flat I should be able to average 6:40s (thanks to htc pace calculator).
I felt good for the first few miles and then it started to rain and I questioned every decision I’d ever made about running. But what can you do? You just have to keep running (and hopefully not get passed by shirtless guy’s team).
I had a few miles in the 6:40s and then dropped to 6:30s and things felt good. The course was well-marked with blue signs but sometimes it was a bit unclear.
The sign would say cross the road and then turn right or go straight. There was an unexpected crossing and turn during this leg and I actually had to stop and look back to see if I’d gone the right way.
Luckily shirtless guys van passed me and saw my confusion and told me I was going the right way. I trusted them since they were driving that way.
I passed their van while they waited at the base of the hill for their runner. They told me good job and to slow down since their runner was falling behind. I was just relieved that I’d added to the lead (and not gotten lost).
The last uphill surge was tough and I slowed to the high 6:40s. I finally saw the exchange and Nina was there to give me directions. It was an awkward exchange to say the least. I had to run up on the grass, cross a street turn a corner and hand off. This exchange to Brady was better than my first with Brian (and yes I’m laughing because the route to the exchange was so awkward).
I managed to pass one runner from the 1:00PM start and some guy walking on the side of the road smoking a cigarette (does he count?).
It was a lonely 6.8 but I was happy to be done and ready to get dry. I’d managed 6:43s and was happy with it.
Our van made it through our first rotations and everyone ran great. We met up with van 2 and decided to find some food before we hit the next exchange.
Good luck van 2! Time to eat. We ended-up at Olive Garden. Lucky for me they have gluten fee pasta which I promptly ordered, okay sort of.
We had a bit of a wait so I busted out my best yoga moves (my hip was locking-up on me) including everyone’s fav legs up the wall. I pretty much looked crazy.
I finally had like 5 bites of my pasta. The tricky part with relays is you have to guess (and educated guess) when you’ll run next. I ended-up eating earlier since I though I’d be running earlier, so when we were finally seated I was pretty full. Sad.
After eating we made our way to the next exchange. At this point you’ll note I stopped taking pictures (sad face). I mostly just forgot but my phone battery was low as well. Note to self, bring proper camera to htc. Also bring foam roller.
My second leg was 5.7, so still on the long side for me. The good new? The first 2 miles were slightly downhill. The bad news? There were like a millions turns (have I ever mentioned how directionally challenged I am? I seriously led part of a race totally off course once… okay twice, but who’s counting?).
It was dark and somewhere in the 10 o’clock hour when I go the baton. I was a bit worried about this leg since it was still long and there were like a million turns (have I mentioned that before?).
I opted to carry the directions with me and was off. I was happy to see that this leg had more runners on it so I was more confident in the directions.
The first 2 miles I cruised at 6:30s something pace (mile 2 slowed because I hit an intersection).
I continued to feel good through 3 but got a bit nervous at 4; this thing is feeling long? The anxiety lasted to five but I was able to pick it up the last mile and finish in the 6:20 mid range (6:38′s overall).
One of the things I love most about Ragnar are their one mile to go signs. Even thought I ran with a Garmin it was nice to see the sign.
The rest of legs ran through the night and we were off to the next exchange and a little shut-eye!
Another awesome thing about this Ragnar race (not sure if it’s true for all of them) is that the major exchanges were at high schools so we could sleep in the gym. Okay it was a bit creepy seeing everyone asleep but still it was nice to be indoors.
Most of our team opted to stay in the van but the one thing I’ve learned over my years of relay-ing (5 yrs) is that (for me) it’s good to get out and let my legs stretch out. So I settled in for a few hours of no sleep. Yep no sleep. No surprise to me, I think I’ve only managed to sleep twice on relays, but it was nice to relax.
After my non-sleep we regrouped and waited for van 2.
We had a tight turn around (Brian only had 3.1 downhill to run) but we got me to my start in plenty of time. Last leg? 3.1. Mostly uphill. Ugh.
At this point it was like 5AM or something insane and my stomach was feeling less than awesome. Normally this would be cause to panic, but this is pretty normal for me during a relay. I knew once I started my final leg it would feel fine but the hour or so before I ran was less than awesome.
Final leg… here we go.
No one feels awesome on their final leg, important to know about relaying. You just get through it. Here’s what I faced.
I was thrilled my leg was only 3.1 miles, but not so thrilled with the terrain. I wish I could remember something about this leg but it’s pretty vague.
I remember the gradual uphill. I remember my van passing me and cheering me on. I remember telling a gal she was running the wrong way and I remember a lot of people walking.
I was thankful my coach had us running a lot of hills lately so I just kept moving knowing the very, very end was downhill. It was hard folks.
I was happy to hand off my relay slap stick for the last time (though it was a less than awesome exchange). I was done (averaged around 7:00s and I’ll take it). We hopped in the van and sprinted to the next exchange. I managed an easy 10 minute jog (something I did after every leg and swear by for warding off lactic acid build-up).
By this point it was sort of misting out. I managed to change into dry clothes but was still feeling sick (though I didn’t feel sick at all on my leg). The solution at 7:10 in the morning? One of these:
It was amazing. This calmed the stomach and soothed the sore muscles.
The rest of my teammates rocked their final legs and van 1 was D-O-N-E done!
Van 2 took off and we went to find some grub.
Once refueled we made our way to the finish, shopping and yes the beer garden (plus free pizza).
The only bummer about the finish is that they don’t have the results right away. We figured we were second in the mixed open but had to wait. Turns out we were 3rd (rumor has it there was a fast team of college kids) and we were 6th overall… 6th! Can you believe it! That’s bananas! Our team ran 23:09:42, apparently a 2 hour improvement from the year before.
I have to say I was a bit skeptical of this whole Ragnar thing, being a htc girl, but I’ll admit it, I’m hooked. I already eyeing the Napa Valley one (amazing right?).
Now I just hope my team invites me back next year, apparently they fired several people from last year’s team. They told me I’d find out in 8 months.
This was really a great experience. It helped that my team was amazing and funny (one of the most important things when picking a relay team). I was happy to shake off my relay jitters and am feeling ready or htc.
More importantly I’ve found a way to feed my relay addiction (totally healthy right?)
Here’s to next year (fingers crossed).
run pretty run fast