The Trail Nuts have run the Hood to Coast Relay the past four years--it was our first relay, and until this year, the only relay that any of us had tried. After four years, we decided that it would be good to branch out and get a different relay experience. We asked around, and so many runners loved Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage that we decided to give it a try.
Date and time: Friday July 18th through Saturday July 19th, 2014
Registration fee: $1320 per team
Location: Blaine, WA to Langley, WA
Events offered: 12 person team, 6 person ultra team, 12 person high school team
Number of teams: approximately 600
Beneficiary: It Ain't Chemo; ALS Association Evergreen Chapter
Team name: Trail Nuts (team #108)
Van 1: Den, Tom, Juliet, Dave, Lilly, Mike
Van 2: Chris (captain), John, Rene, Pat, Joy, ME!
Team product sponsors: Zico Coconut Water, Onix Sports, and Trail Butter
Swag: Official Ragnar swag included with our team entry: a neon green tech t-shirt (mens and womens sizing), patch, window decal, Clif Builder Bar, and Shot Blocks. There was also tons of Ragnar swag available online, at the starting line, at Exchange 6, and at the finish line. In addition to the official Ragnar swag, our product sponsors provided with Zico coconut water, Trail Butter pouches, and Onix Sports arm sleeves.
Parking: Somehow, we happened to beat the rush to most exchange points. Having a little more parking or more clearly marked parking would have been a little helpful.
Volunteers: Because our team all lived more than 100 miles away from any point of the course, we were not required to supply volunteers. Thank you to all of the awesome volunteers at the 2014 Ragnar NWP! For the most part, the volunteers were pretty good. It seems like some of them needed more training though (maybe they hadn't been volunteers before)?
Course: The Trail Nuts were excited to run in a region that was fairly new to us in terms of racing! The course is a 196 mile point to point course extending from Blaine, WA (on the Pacific Ocean near the Canadian border) to Langley, WA (on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound). The course is fairly hilly. Each team of 12 runners is split between two vans, with each runner completing three legs out of the 36 total legs. Each leg is between 2.4 and 8.9 miles, total distance covered by each runner varies between 13.6 and 19.1 miles. No one on our team had run any of this route, so we were a little nervous about what we would encounter.
The race: The Trail Nuts drove up Thursday afternoon, which took about 4 1/2 hours. That night we had a team dinner and handed out goodie bags and swag from our captain and sponsors, as well as our team t-shirts (which I designed!). We decorated our vans with paint and taped on our sponsors' logos and our trusty mascot, Mr. Peanut. We called it a night pretty early, since our team had a 9:00am start time.
The next morning, my vanmates and I ate a leisurely breakfast (I brought oatmeal and craisins), and then soaked our legs in the hot tub while we waited for our teammate to pass by the hotel. John made a spreadsheet that estimated what time we would need to be at each exchange, and included a fatigue factor (it's been pretty accurate in the past for Hood to Coast), which helped keep us on schedule.
I was runner 7 (legs 7, 19, and 31), the first runner in my van. We all grabbed lunch at a Fred Meyer near the exchange (I had a sandwich). We went over to Exchange 6, picked up our Ragnar bag and poked around. Brooks was there giving out prizes, and there were beef jerky and nuun samples, and a few vendors. And then at about 2:30, Mike handed off the wristband to me! My first leg (leg 7, 3.6 mi, moderate) was sunny and warm, and went through part of town, where I lost a lot of time at some intersections, and then headed out along a trail, part of which was through a park, and was on the water. My vanmates' legs (8-12) were all pretty warm also. Once Chris passed off to Runner 1, we went to the next exchange (Oak Harbor High School), where they had spaghetti dinners for sale, and free showers, and a gym to sleep in. I bought a dinner, which also came with salad and dessert, and then went to sleep in the van for a little while. Just before midnight, it was my turn to run again (leg 19, 8.7 mi, very hard). I was tired and a little cranky, it was muggy, I was very nervous about my longest and hardest leg in the dark, and my eyes were irritated from allergies so I was stuck wearing my glasses. The first part of my leg was through town, which was more stressful and tricky in the dark than the remainder of my leg, which was mostly along a well-paved country road. There weren't many lights, except for when vans came by. In a way, it was good that I couldn't see the hills, that I just had to keep running! I passed quite a few runners, and a few runners passed me. Most of them politely said "good job," which I really appreciated. At one point, about half way in, my flashlight started to flicker and I panicked that the batteries would die, and that I'd have to find a slow enough runner to pace with and share their light. Fortunately, the batteries held on just long enough for me to finish my leg! I was very relieved to have gotten that out of the way, and to only have one leg left to go. I stayed awake for a few of my vanmates legs, but then couldn't stay awake and tried to get more sleep. After they finished, we headed out to the last major exchange--another school. There was pancake and egg breakfast for sale, and showers and a gym for sleeping in. I bought a breakfast, and then went to sleep in the van. It started to drizzle as I fell asleep. When I woke up, my stomach didn't feel very good. Shortly before my teammate was scheduled to arrive, I was having some major tummy trouble. I was pretty worried about the outcome of my final leg (leg 31, 6.3 mi, hard). Fortunately the first aid station had some immodium, and so I took it, and hoped for the best! I felt pretty crappy for most of my last leg. My stomach ached, and I just felt lethargic. Leg 31 first went through some farmland (slightly hilly), before heading toward and along the water (very hilly), and then through the woods (also very hilly). I wasn't moving very fast, but I just kept trying to keep my legs moving, knowing that every step was bringing me closer to being DONE! As I saw the exchange come into view, I just sprinted with everything I had left in me (okay, so it probably looked more like a jog to everyone else...) and handed off the wristband to my vanmate. I was so relieved that I was done. As I watched my teammates finish each of their legs, we became more and more excited to cross the finish line! Unfortunately, the one place along the entire relay that we didn't have cell reception was at the finish line. Fortunately, we did manage to meet up with Van 1 just in time to run in with Chris to the finish!
Overall, I would say that Ragnar is easier logistically than Hood to Coast, but the legs and course are more difficult. There were plenty of Portapotties, parking was fairly easy, and there were some nice touches that Ragnar has that I'm surprised that Hood to Coast doesn't (labelled exchange signs in the exchange corrals, team names on our bibs, and the free Ragnar swag included with registration). It did seem like there were more issues with losing time due to trying to cross intersections than we had with Hood to Coast,
Post-race: After crossing the finish line, we received our medals and went to a photo-op area (one side had an official photographer, the other side teams just swapped cameras). There were food and beer vendors, as well as merch vendors. I headed into the Ragnar swag tent and bought a jacket and a visor. I loved all the things they had for sale, but had to limit myself! ;) Then we headed to one of the two houses we had rented for the night. Bre and Sue had prepared appetizers and lasagna and dessert for us! We decided not to shower and change before dinner (because we'd just end up going right to sleep). Sitting together as a whole team, eating and sharing stories was so much fun! Then Van 2 headed to our rental house, which was on the beach. We walked out and took some pictures, came back in to shower and get clean (finally), and chatted a bit longer before going to sleep. We woke up quite early to go catch the ferry and get back to Vancouver before our vans had to be returned.
Photos: There were some free race photos taken by Gameface Media. There are pictures of five runners from Van 1, and two runners from Van 2... and that's it. Oh well.
Results: Results were posted online the Monday after the event (we were anxiously waiting to see where we placed for TWO WHOLE DAYS!) The Trail Nuts did pretty well, finishing in 29:11:41, which means our average pace was 8:57!!! We were 93rd out of 333 Mixed Open Regular teams, and 152nd out of 506 total teams.
While Ragnar was super fun, it was super hard to go back to work on Monday because I was so tired! Still, running a relay is an amazing experience, and I loved Ragnar NWP. Next year, a few of us are actually thinking about doing a Ragnar Ultra team!