a blog about running fast with style
Ragnar Northwest Passage: Round 3.
This year’s RNWP was a time of self discovery and I’m not gonna lie kids, there were some very dark moments along the way but in the end I walked away having learned these four very valuable lessons:
1) 12 runners are better than 10.
2) Ending your night with Fireball shots at 7:00AM the morning of your race maybe not be optimal for peak performance- didn’t experience this one first hand but I’m pretty sure I have 3 teammates who would attest to this fact.
3) Tremonte should never, ever, ever, ever be given any form of caffeine- ever.
4) If your team/van captain assigns you leg 8 in RNWP they in fact hate you.
Lessons all learned (mostly) but I have to admit we had quite a bit of fun along the way even with the dark, dark moments and in the end we came out smiling (mostly).
And now for the long version of this tale of self discovery:
If you look closely at this picture and if you are really good at counting you will see only 9 runners and not the usual 12. One of the EBMs is running but we are still shy of that magic number 12. Rumor has it at some point we just decided it would be easier to run with 10, quadruple-up (is that even a word?) most of the guys, and enter the open division instead of the mixed division. Hmmm… it sounds sort-or like a good idea? Maybe? If they boys want to run more- let’em run?
For me heading into this race I wasn’t in the best shape of my running life but as in the previous years I figured I’d use it as a warm-up for Hood to Coast. This strategy had worked nicely in the past because my first 2 legs had been 5-7 miles and the last one 2-3. So while the last leg was still its usual painfest it didn’t last long. This year however was different, very, very different.
I knew a few weeks out I’d be running with van 2 but didn’t find out my leg assignments until a few days before the race. As any good distance runner I had obsessively looked at the leg assignments for van 2 and figured the most challenging legs would go to the boys and the remaining 3 would go to the ladies. So when the email hit my in box a few days before the race informing us we had 5 runners in our van I was a bit surprised to see my leg assignment (19.1 miles) but since everyone had 18-26 miles to run I was just happy to not have 26 miles. Besides 5.7, 7.7, and 5.7 don’t sound that horrible… oh how we rationalized.
And then I looked at my actual leg assignment and wished I hadn’t- so much up and so very little down but it can’t be that bad right?
Race day plan was to pick-me up from work and head straight to the start. Our Explorer (oh yeah- we forgot to reserve vans) picked me up with 4 runners 3 of whom probs needed a few more hours/days of sleep off a fun night/morning. To make matters worse there was some ridiculous traffic heading north and we barely made it to B-ham for the start. Ok we thought we’d barely made it in time but in all truth we still stood around for a bit. By the time we hit the start people were for the most part feeling more human.
Explorer 1 meeting up with Explorer 2 and some serious planning going on here kids.
And the actual exchange:
And just like that Explorer 2 was off.
Our leg 7 guy in the bacon print tri onesie was extra lucky this relay. He added a few more miles to the 26 he had planned on running which didn’t sound like a bad idea at the start but when you’re putting on your reused sweaty clothes for leg 5, since you only packed enough clothes for 4 legs, well, you might have different feelings those extra few miles.
I was up next so I did my very worst at navigating us to the next exchange and reminded all my teammates that I in fact have no navigation skills and that my use of social media made it difficult to look at my phone for directions since it was otherwise occupied. Yeah, I might not be the best teammate, but I did get us to the next exchange albeit a very creative route.
Okay, finally some miles.
My first leg was a beast with a nice 600+ ft climb and only 200+ft drop over 5.7 miles. I was a little worried but had run similar leg at htc so I figured it wouldn’t be that bad.
Friends. I was wrong. It was in fact horrible.
Leg 1 (8)
Here’s RNWP pic of the leg:
The first mile was mostly flat. I felt pretty good but wanted to be careful so kept the pace pretty conservative (I mean after accidentally sprinting the first 400m to catch a runner ahead of me- don’t judge). Somewhere in mile 2 we hit the hill and things got ugly fast. Then the hill just kept climbing and climbing and climbing. I told myself to just make it to mile 2 and then things would level off. Mile 2 beeped and I was still climbing. I kept waiting for things to level off and while my eyes told me my surrounds looked flat my legs pretty much wanted to stop on the side of the path and jump in the lake.
But I kept running. I needed to make it to the 4.5 mile mark and then it would be all down hill. Around mile 3 things got dark. I’d already moved past questioning every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life (yeah- moved through that one quickly) and now I was planning on how I was going to quit running altogether. Running and I had some good years, some good laughs, fast miles and I mean it was a good ride but sometimes enough is enough. Then I remembered I still had htc this summer. UGH. I CAN’T! I’M DONE. So I started to compose my email to our team captain (whom I’ve never met).
“Dear Puke and Rally Team Captain, I’m sorry to be canceling on such short notice but I can’t run Hood to Coast this year because…” Oh great, do I make something up? No- ugh not my style, I’m rather fond of the truth. Do I just not tell him why? I mean I don’t know him does he need to know why? Does he even care? Ugh- no- just be honest- tell him that even though I’ve run 10 relay races leg one on RNWP pretty much killed my soul and I have forever given up this leisurely sport of running. Done- will send after this nightmare is over. But dang I really wanted a sweatshirt that said Puke and Rally.
This leg had a few confusing parts by the lake but I luckily avoided getting lost (the only other time I’ve run at Lake Padden I accidentally led several runners-up a mount bike trail and very clearly off the race course). I finally hit the road and knew the crest was just a few tenths of a mile away and then the down hill and running magic. But there was no running magic. The downhill was just slightly better than the up.
5.7 miles later (7:45 average) I was done, in so many, many, many ways.
In true Elite Beer Miler fashion the rest of our team rallied their way through their hangovers and finished their first legs.
We managed to find a pizza shop and hoped our second round of legs wouldn’t be as cruel.
Explorer 1 wasn’t due at the exchange until just past one which meant I got about a full hour of sleep on the front porch of a high school:
It was the most magical hour of sleep ever on a relay. So magical that when I woke up to one of my teammates kicking me I had not idea where I was or who he was and then I realized that I hadn’t yet run my 7.7 mile leg yet. I’m not sure I have ever felt that level of disappointed in my entire life… okay maybe just my relay life.
We met-up with Explorer 1 said our brief hello’s and goodbyes and were off again! Before I knew it I was dressed head to toe in running safety gear on somewhere in mile x.x of a 7.7 mile leg and kids it was magical.
Leg 2 (20)
I’m fairly certain that the only reason this leg was so magical was that it just wasn’t my first leg. I ran a good 30 seconds slower per mile that I normally run on relays but I managed to find my stride and settled in for the ride. I think there was some down hill at the start but it was mostly on dark empty roads. The last 2 miles finished up on a trail and I think I ran over some water but it was dark and foggy so I couldn’t really see anything. I kept thinking I was seeing the mile to go sign but it just ended-up being another runner but finally I saw the sign and decided maybe I wouldn’t quit running after all. 7.7 (7:20 average).
By the time we’d finished I was starving and all I wanted was an egg mcmuffin but it was way too early (or late?) so I settled on chicken nuggets- not my normal relay food but they were amazing and surprisingly this was the first relay ever where I didn’t get sick to my stomach so who knew the golden arches was the key to #relay life. Dang that should have been one of the lessons I learned at RNWP.
The rest of the team ran their second set of legs and surprisingly (maybe not surprising?) everyone was feeling better. Too bad the relay doesn’t end after exchange 24.
I tried to be a good teammate and get a picture of Zach at the exchange but I have no idea who this is…
But we did make the exchange and were ready for our final set of legs… I think.
My teammates ran some miles:
And then it was my turn.
Leg 3 (32)
More uphill kids. More uphill. Always more uphill.
It didn’t look that bad on paper well compared to my first leg.
It climbed for 2 miles and then another mile and a half so math majors, it climbed for 3 1/2 miles. The first 2 were steep and it looked like it leveled off but it didn’t. I’m fairly certain the Explorer laughed and me when they passed me. The map of this leg made it look like it peaked at 3.5 but Garmin had it peaking well past 4. It was discouraging to keep looking ahead after the 3 1/2 mile mark just to see the road rising. Finally it dropped and gravity gave me a very little push to the finish line where my teammates were standing cheering me on. And to be clear by cheering me on they were laughing at my form which had completely fallen apart at this point and I was maybe dragging my left leg across the finish line. It was very graceful. 5.7 miles (7:41 average).
But I was done and that my friends felt amazing.
I completely opted out of any cool down since my legs were pretty much toast.
Everyone one else had challenging but speedy last legs.
And then we finished!
And we all stared at Zach as he almost passed out. Clearly we are very supportive team.
10 runners almost 200 miles and I’m fairly certain the 4th men’s team overall and proof that we were still talking to each other at the finish line:
See you next year Northwest Passage- but never again leg 8.