Some might say that the best way to recover from a week of nerdy improv debauchery in a different time zone would be to get some sleep. Some would suggest getting back to the swing of things. Very few, if any, would recommend a two day 197mile relay race in a van with a bunch of sweaty people that you just met. And yet, that is just what I did. Four days after getting back from tournament I was on my way to run Ragnar.
Ragnar is a relay race company (whose name means “judgment warrior” according to Think Baby Names) and the specific Ragnar I was running was NW Passage – starting in Blaine Washington and ending in Whidbey Island. When I told a friend of mine I was running Ragnar her eyes got wide and excited because she thought it might have something to do with Middle Earth. The only commonality Ragnar has with Tolkien is all of the eating there is in the van. To prep for my run I made a full packet of bacon, one dozen eggs and spinach meatballs (one pound of meat, two bunches of spinach, two eggs, almond flour, coconut flour, seasoning, bake at 375 until cooked).
My team was made up of a woman I knew vaguely at work – she invited me because she needed a runner and knew I ran, but we had maybe three conversations prior to the race; a woman I vaguely knew from having volunteered at Minds Matter with her for a couple of years – again, we didn’t really know each other; and 9 other people. The 12 of us were split into van one and van two. Each of us had three legs of the relay in order. I was legs 11, 23 and 35. My team’s name: Veni! Vidi! Vici!
My team met up on Thursday and headed to Bellingham where we would spend the night before our 9:30 start time the next day. The trip was fairly mild. For the first 30 minutes of it I was in van 1. Then, after a grocery stop, I moved into van 2 – the van I’d race with. The difference between the vans was palpable. The first van was filled with a bunch of chatting and a self-proclaimed neurotic woman and a lot of other big personalities. Van two was two comfortably married couples who’d been to each other’s weddings me and another peripheral running friend. They were all awesome people but it was like going from a rave to a cocktail party. I am just thankful I like both levels well.
Although we had intended to miss rush hour a late start and the stop at the grocery store actually put us in Seattle right at the start of rush hour. To top it off, one of my van mates had a walnut sized bladder so we had to pull off in Seattle. To be fair, everyone else in both vans ended up peeing at the same stop. It turned out that traffic was light for rush hour and with the express lane that drives past downtown we got up to Bellingham swiftly.
After dinner we checked into our rooms at the
hotel er Motel 6 er Motel 3. We were bunking 4 to a room. The room we 4 walked into smelled like the last 17 people who had stayed in it hadn’t showered, and were still in the room, decaying. We popped open a window and I unrolled my camping material because I was not going to be able to suspend my disbelief about the last time the sheets had seen a washing machine. I had no trouble falling asleep but I tossed and turned through active dreams, unfamiliar sounds and anxiety about my alarm and starting on time. I got up at 6 with Van One people and chanced the newly unoccupied bedspread (the top of it not the underneath) for another hour and a half. By then I was wide awake and starving.
I went to the next door sports bar after a complicated dance in the hot shower where I attempted to not touch anything but the water. It was 8:30 AM and the half dozen people in the bar were having their USRDA of Breakfast Beer. I opted for a ham bacon and veggie scramble and headed off to wake all my van mates up in order to get the day started.
Of course our start wasn’t until 1:30 and we were only a block away from where the start was so we had a lot of puttering around town to do. Eventually we went to the van exchange because we had to have training on exchanges and how to properly cross the street without getting run over, or even worse, disqualified for not using our flags. The only issue is that when we went to check in at our table our number had already been given out. Some other team had checked in as us. And, no matter how convincing we were about the fact that a mistake had occurred, we seemed to have stumped the Ragnar workers.
Us: So, apparently someone took our number. We are team 93, Vini, Vidi, Vici.
Them (checking the check in list): Someone has already checked in with that number.
Us: Right. But, it wasn’t us.
Them: Okay, so what’s your team number?
Us: 93. Our team name is Vini, Vidi, Vici.
Them: Well did you go get your safety training yet?
Us: No, because we haven’t checked in, yet. Someone has checked in as us. And we need to know what to do.
Them: Well, was it one of your other teammates that checked you in?
Them: Well, who would have done it?
Us: Well, probably someone who accidentally gave you our number instead of their own when they checked in. What can we do to get our number going so that we can be prepared for when our Van One gets here?
Them: What’s your number?
Eventually, by wandering around the parking lot, we found the team who was wearing our bibs because someone on our team overheard them talking about how “Stupid Ragnar” got their team name wrong on their bibs.
Our van started about ten minutes later than our expected time because the last runner in van one took a wrong turn and got a little lost. We hugged Van One and were off to support our first runner.
Runner after runner came into the van at exchanges and said it was scorching hot out. But, it was only about 70 degrees so I didn’t understand why it felt so hot to them. One of the runners got to run by the most idyllic lake. I swear at one point while we were waiting to hand her water I saw Andy Griffith and Little Ronnie Howard go up to the lake in black and white and cast out.
By the time it was my run it was 5:30 or so. I started out and immediately understood why everyone was complaining about the heat. Running on the blacktop makes 70 degrees feel like 90. My first run was mostly flat but 6.8 miles long. At the second support stop there was no van, just two van mates. Apparently a food bag or something had been left at the exchange that I had started my run at. There would be no more support on my run but I only had 2.5 more miles to go.
I got to the finish and exchanged my wrist band. I found a van mate and hung out waiting for our van to show up. It only took about two minutes. Also, it turns out it wasn’t a bag of food they’d left behind at the last stop. It was my bag. Full of my change of clothing. Luckily it was right where they’d left it. But now there would be a bag check at every exchange prior to take off, just in case.
I was the second to last runner in our van and then we headed off to the major exchange point. I could not have been looking more forward to a shower and a gym floor bed. By the time we got to the exchange the sun was starting to set and it was getting cold quickly. I got to the shower room which was more like a steam bath. That shower room was probably seeing more action that day than it did the whole year. I stripped down and headed to the shower. It was open space and looked a bit more like somewhere you’d hose a cow off – but in increments because when I pushed the button the water would only last for about a 4 second count. By the time I’d finished rinsing off my sweat I had sprained my wrist from pressing the button.
I found a nice spot on the gym floor and lay down for another night of anxiously fitful sleep. The next day cam all too quickly – mostly because it started at 1:00AM. My run started at dusk and I got to run over Deception Pass bridge. There is a little bridge before the main bridge and as soon as I hit it I got overwhelmed with both the beauty and the vertigo. I had to keep my eyes averted from the water rushing under the bridge. As soon as I got to the main bridge my vertigo had relaxed and I was calmly running. I took in the view and a deep breath at the beauty and a gust of wind almost took me off the bridge – it was so extraordinarily windy that I felt like I had to run with my knees bent to create extra gravity (I just taught you physics).
It was the best run I did in the race. After we all finished our second legs, I drove us to our next major exchange turned off the van and passed out in the driver’s seat. I woke up about 20 minutes before our vans third leg. I was tired.
The morning was cloudy and it was perfect temperature to run. But as soon as we got into the van on our third leg the sun came out. The heat came quick and by the time I was slated to run it was a good 75. My last run was only 3.8 miles and I told my van I wouldn’t need support.
I was so wrong. It was so hot on my run. I could barely stand it. My run was uncovered and on the highway. Vans and cars were passing by honking with well wishes. I would always wave back. On one turn I didn’t wave back I waved down a van and begged them for some water. They pulled ahead of me and brought me water. I drank half a bottle and poured the rest of it on me. about 200 meters later I was at the exchange. I probably could have made it to the exchange without the rescue but I hadn’t realized that I was so close to it.
As soon as I entered the exchange I found the van that rescued me and hugged them all. Then I got in the drivers seat and drove us to the finish line. We met up with van one and waited for our captain to finish the run and ran into the finish line with her. As we crossed the finish line as a team, they announced our names.
“Team #93, Vinny, Vinny and Vicky.”
We fell into a pile of giggles. It was cathartic to finally finish. We took some pictures and then basked in the sun and the glow of our finish.
The best way to summarize my feelings of Ragnar are in my texts to Andrew.
“Why am I doing this?”
“I don’t think I am going to try to run Hood to Coast this year.”
“This is fun.”
“I am exhausted.”
“I hate people.”
“Best. Run. Ever.”
“I can’t wait to run Hood to Coast.”
“Worst. Run. Ever.”
“Wish you were here.”
“You would be miserable right now.”
It was super fun and tiring and now that it is a week later I am looking online for a team that needs a Hood to Coast runner.