Relays are like childbirth, you’ve got to forget the pain before you decide to register for another one. Apparently, Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back was not painful at all, because a month after running it, I ran Ragnar Relay NW Passage. It actually wasn’t a planned race at all. A friend of mine who lives in Washington was registered for the race, but she contacted me asking if I was interested in taking her place because she was undergoing some medical issues and felt it was best not to run. It took a heap load of discipline not to immediately say “yes.” While extremely supportive, it would have meant my husband had to spend another weekend with the girls, and it also would have meant more money spent on racing and traveling. After deliberation, I suggested for my husband to run instead. Even though he did not seem thrilled with the idea, I knew he would enjoy running in his beloved Pacific NW.
Three days before the race, my friend from Washington contacted me once again and said her husband was thinking about not running and asked me if I was interested. Without hesitation, I said “YES!” I figured finding a babysitter for my 11-year-old and my two-year-old would happen out of will and determination, and when my mother-in-law agreed to watch them (and our dog Jake), we were over the moon!!! Running with my husband is ALWAYS a privilege!
The plan to getting to Redmond, WA (where my friend from Washington lives and where she kindly allowed us to spend the night) was cumbersome. On Wednesday, we traveled from Eastern, Oregon to the Oregon Coast (6.5 hour drive) with a 2-year-old, an 11-year-old, and a beagle in tow. On Thursday morning, we drove from the Oregon Coast to Redmond, WA (5.5 hours). On Friday morning, we met members from Van 2 and drove from Redmond, Wa to Bellingham, WA (1.5 hours) to conduct the first exchange between Van 1 and Van 2.
Distance: 4.8 miles with a rating of Moderate according to Ragnar website
Actual Distance: 4.4 According to Garmin Forerunner 220
The first mile of this leg was uneventful. It was on the streets of Bellingham and I had to cross five different lights, all of which required me to stop because they were green for passing traffic. After the first mile, you reach the bay trail and get to see the sound and the opportunity to run on the boardwalk.
Despite the fact the temperatures were in the 70’s my run was extremely hot. Maybe it was the humidity, but either way, I was drenched in sweat, and that is rare as I am not someone who perspires heavily. Fortunately, I do not mind running in warm weather, so I was not bothered by the temperatures as much as my husband (who prefers cooler temperatures).
Distance: 8.7 miles Very Hard
Actual Distance: 8.69 miles
While most people seem to prefer the night runs (those who prefer cooler temperatures), I don’t particularly care for running when it’s dark out. Running at night in the dark is very overwhelming for me. My peripheral vision is poor, so I cannot see what’s around me, and my headlamp only lights a portion of what’s ahead, making it difficult to discern the terrain. Furthermore, because of the poor lighting, you tend to momentarily lose your night vision when facing incoming headlights.
Okay, enough of my whining. The point is, night runs are just okay for me. This particular run felt very long and aside from a bridge I know I crossed, I don’t remember much about it. It was definitely dark, and without a doubt very hilly, but there’s not much I can say. In fact, for a stretch, it felt like I was running by myself because I could not make out anyone in front of me, nor could I hear anyone around me. At the end of the run, I was drenched in sweat, and relieved my longest and most challenging run was over.
Distance: 6.3 miles Hard
Actual Distance: 6.32 miles
Van’s 2 night run ended about a 1/2 hour after the sunrise. This means we were up during the hours of the morning most people would prefer to be sleeping. While some slept during other team members’ runs, I felt obligated to stay awake. Unlike Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back, we had a driver, so I was not staying awake to help the driver stay alert. I wanted to be awake for my teammates while they were running and cheer them along the way. When we finally finished, we parked our vans in the next exchange and made an attempt to sleep. Attempt was definitely the key word, because I was lucky if I got one straight hour of sleep. It was just too bright out, and because I was the first runner up, I definitely had to be ready before all the other runners. At the exchange, there were showers and restrooms. While I didn’t shower (not a fan of showering in public) I did take advantage of the flushable toilets and the luxurious sinks with running water and soap to wash my face and brush my teeth. It’s amazing how a little soap, water, and a fresh breath can make someone feel rejuvenated.
Once it was my turn to run, I was ready to be done with the relay. I missed my daughters, and while grateful for the opportunity to share this relay with my husband, I was ready to head back home to Oregon and sleep in my bed. Of course, first we had to endure the drive back to the Coast from Washington and then the drive from the Coast to Eastern Oregon. We were in Whidbey Island and I could see bodies of blue water around me. It was still warm out, and my leg had a couple of gnarly hills, but I was not fazed by the route. The last leg of the relay is the relay you run with heart because at that point, the body and mind don’t have much to offer in terms of stamina. I could tell by the number of people I was passing that they were giving it all they had to finish the last 6.3 miles of the 200ish relay.
On a really random note, I do not ever celebrate passing anyone. If you’ve run a relay before, there is this tradition in which you count the “kills,” or the number of runners you pass during your leg. I’m by no means trying to be self-righteous here, but I personally do not find pleasure passing someone who is struggling and or may have a different running pace than mine. Perhaps it’s because I believe that each and every single runner out there is on a journey, and that journey could well be a journey to self-healing (cancer survivor, the loss of a loved one), a journey to self-discovery (first relay, first run after having surgery), or a journey to raise awareness about a social or medical cause. In essence, I always feel privileged that I am traversing the same path as the runners out there, and in a way, passing them is not celebratory for me; it is more of an acknowledgement that I am grateful I was a part of their path if only for a brief moment in time. But again, I digress.
This leg was also perhaps the most motivating for me. My teammates, which were nice but complete strangers, seemed to be completely vibrant and awake during this particular leg. Maybe I was too reserved and apprehensive during my first two legs of the relay, but it was during this last stretch that I felt like I finally got to know them. It completely changed my mood around and I was so appreciative of the fact I got to share this experience with them. At the end of the relay, they no longer felt like strangers to me.
Ragnar Relay NW Passage vs Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back
Scenery: Wasatch Back
Maybe it was because I had more scenic legs, or perhaps it was because I had never been to that part of Utah (I’ve only visited SLC for the Riverton Half-Marathon), but I felt like my views for Wasatch Back were so much more worthy of a smart phone picture than NW Passage.
Exchanges: NW Passage
The exchanges at NW Passage were less congested than the ones at Wasatch Back. Don’t know if this had to do with the number of registrants or the size of the exchanges, but the exchanges at NW Passage were much more ample, with better parking. I don’t recall if Wasatch Back had a place where you could shower, but because I vividly remember the one in NW Passage, I also feel like this particular detail beat out Wasatch Back.
The Finish Line: NW Passage
Getting to the Finish line in Wasatch Back was quite the experience. It took forever for our Van to just get into the parking lot of the Finish Line. The place also seemed very small for the amount of runners, making it feel really cramped and more of a carnival than finish line.
On the other hand, NW Passage had a big finish line with plenty of room for runners to walk around. One thing that Wasatch had that NW Passage did not have: Free Ice Cream, Pizza, and Soda at the finish line. This was nowhere to be found in NW Passage. The free Pizza (Papa John’s) was all gone by the time our team finished at NW Passage and you had to form a line to wait for it if you wanted it. However, if you like Beer at the finish line, NW Passage definitely had Beer, which was not the case in Wasatch Back. My husband got to enjoy a delicious cold beer, which is exactly what he wants at the end of every race.
Have you completed a Ragnar Relay before? Were you in a team with strangers, or people you knew?