Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ragnar Northwestern Passage 2017 - #GRRLS Grab Back

Last year I ran with the "#Golden GRRLS" Ragnar team and had such an amazing time that I jumped at the chance to join them again THIS year!

I had an amazing time again, which isn't surprising with such an amazing team of women. Our goal was to finish in under 24 hours, which is an unofficial feather in the cap of competitive teams.  You KNOW you're good if you can do that:)

Our team name was "#GRRLS Grab Back" but by the end of the race I think we should have been named "A Series of Unfortunate Events".

Team #GRRLS Grab Back at the finish line!

It started before we even started...

Our AMAZING team captain Jules, keeps everything straight for us and was double checking everything before race day. She called up Budget on Wednesday to confirm our vans were in order, which was when she discovered they only had one van reserved for us...huh? NO.

The thing is, is EVERY SINGLE 16 passenger van, large SUV and Mini Van was booked within a 4 hour radius because it's Ragnar weekend. So even though the call was recorded and she could prove that she asked for TWO vans and they were super sorry about messing the reservation up, physically there wasn't a vehicle for us to use.

As a team we scrambled to try and find a replacement but it was Carrie that came to the rescue with her big SUV with external storage. She's awesome!

I managed to hit horrendous traffic on my drive up to Seattle to meet my teammates. It was so bad I seriously thought I was going to make us miss our exchange with Van #1 in Bellingham. I really thought I was going to have to meet my team out on the course. So stressful. Last year we missed first place by 20 minutes and I did NOT want to be the one who made us lose this year! It was supposed to take me an hour to get there, and instead it took me TWO AND A HALF. Although I learned later it could have been MUCH worse. Apparently I5 was closed down in Lacey about 30 minutes after I passed through and traffic was backed up for MILES.

I was assigned as runner #10 in Van #2. In a Ragnar there are up to 12 runners (Ultra teams can have up to 6 runners) divided between two vehicles. Runner #1 starts the race and then hands off to runner #2 and so on.
Van #1 runners lounging at the startline

Runners are ready to go!

Our team was assigned a start time of 1:00pm on Friday in Blaine, WA (We can see Canada from the start line!) and Eliza tore through leg #1!

Did I mention how amazingly talented the ladies on this team are?

Everything was going according to our carefully crafted Excel Spreadsheet plans when Van#1 missed an exchange with Runner #3 (Karen) who ended up waiting about 10 minutes for Runner #4  (Jules). The course is on some back roads and Google Maps is spotty, so it's easy to get turned around. THEN Jules took a wrong turn due to some confusing signage. She ended up running almost an entire extra mile!
But she still rocked her pace like a boss;)

The thing I love about this team the most is that even though we had a clearly stated goal and everyone REALLY wants to win and do our best, everyone managed to keep a positive attitude and not drag the energy down and turn the experience into 24 hours of stressed out misery and blame throwing.

I've seen plenty of teams disintegrate under a lot less pressure.

#GRRLS Grab Back Van #1 and Van #2 at the big exchange in Bellingham!

The hand off between Runner #6 (Laura) and Runner #7 (Carrie) went smoothly and I even had time to find two geocaches! Van #1 went off to find some food and Van #2 was officially up and running!

Carrie ran like a boss and finished strong!

Runner #8 (Kristina) BLASTED through her leg, finishing to the song "Winning" which seemed appropriate:) (Did I mention she ran a sub 5 minute mile two days earlier?!)

Runner #9 (Angela) Ran an amazing leg picking up some of the time lost earlier which helped missing the exchange.

We didn't have GPS signal so I was using the written directions and the course signage to navigate to the exchange. We made a right turn, which was where I thought we were going the wrong way, so we turned around and followed a sign telling us to go straight...We saw an exchange up ahead and I even asked the volunteer what exchange we were at...but I still felt like something was wrong...but we shook it off as a layover of worry from the earlier snafu's.

The largest rice crispy treat I've ever seen. I HAD to have it!

Kristina decided to run out and meet Angela and run in with her, when we got a text from Angela. "I'm here. Where ARE you?!"

Have you ever seen 4 women in running gear standing in a field scatter in panic?

I have.

We jumped in the van and drove (quickly, but safely) down the road where we picked up a confused Kristina and tore over to the correct exchange. The exchange that was just down the road from where I had us turn around...

On the upside I got a nice preview of my leg. On the downside Angela ran her legs off for no reason other than personal achievement.
Leg #1

I managed to give the sweaty slap bracelet to Runner #11 (Jeanine) and she managed to hand off to Runner #12 (Rachel) who managed to hand off to Eliza in Van #1 with NO PROBLEMS AT ALL!!

And she looked awesome sporting the ONE80 headlamp. Like an angel that runs like the devil:)

Then we almost went to the wrong exchange 45 minutes away.

"Luckily" Rachel was trying to navigate and wasn't feeling super logical after her run and asked someone else to double check where we were going.

It turns out we only needed to go to a school about 15 minutes away. We didn't even have to turn around or anything.

Some of the scenery they got to run through.

We had enough time to grab the spaghetti dinner they were selling in the cafeteria and a 45 minute nap in the gym. I stared at the ceiling for 45 minutes because I couldn't sleep and forgot my ear plugs in my stressed out dash to the van in Seattle.


Yay! We managed to grab the slap bracelet without any issues! Carrie ran an amazing 10.5 miles, where I ran into Mark from my 2013 Ragnar Team in Nashville TN! Kristina ran her 5.5 miles like a comet and we missed the exchange again...and Angela scorched her 2 miles:)

My Garmin decided to suck power and die just as I started my two mile leg, but whatever. I can run two miles without my precious Garmin...Plus, I had the charger in the car, so it was a fixable problem. Mark was running this leg too! We said "hi" again as we ran by each other. (This was the only leg that Angela and I handed off without incident).

Leg #2

I handed off to Jeanine for her 9.8 mile night time leg, which was also the Deception Pass leg. She got a special medal for running it and everything:) We missed her exchange too. I mean we were THERE this time, but we weren't ready at all. Rachel was still getting her gear on when Kristina ran up and yelled "SHE'S HERE!!!" (We had stopped on course to cheer her and offer aide support but missed her, which lead to miscalculating  her arrival.)

Deception Pass

Sunrise at Deception Point

Rachel is a quick change artist and was on the road in no time.

She ran a strong nine miles, even though she started having some woozy issues at about the 4 mile mark. We made sure to give her course support with water and food, but she didn't want to switch out. So we made sure to shadow her. She's not a complainer, so we knew if she was saying anything about it, it must be pretty bad.

Successful final handoff to Van#1!

Then lots of electrolytes for Rachel...and a little sitting. It was all good.

At this point I drove us to the next big exchange (we didn't even get lost) and then I TOOK A SHOWER.  On the scale of great showers it was pretty low on the comfort scale. But on the "I'm  finally clean" scale it was off the charts! Then I bought a really gross/weird cafeteria breakfast because I was super hungry and my standards were really low at that point. But I gave Kristina the coffee it came with so we're besties now.

Then Jeanine, Rachel and I layed out in the sun like homeless people. It was amazing.

Then we started our final legs!

Carrie ran an amazing 6 miles and Kristina rocked her final 7.7 miles. Did I mention she has amazing form? She does. I'm jealous. We're all jealous. Maybe Angela isn't...Her form is pretty awesome as well. She rocked her final 7 miles as well. We missed the exchange. Sigh...

We were doing great and we stopped and cheered for her and asked if she needed water (It was HOT!) a couple of times while she was running. We passed the "One Mile To Go" sign...and then we kept driving...and driving...Finally I was like "This is the longest mile I have ever experienced. Something isn't right here..." and Kristina was like "Yeah...this CAN'T be right. That was the second "One Mile to Go" sign. We need to turn around."

And then we were ALL like "AAAAAHHHHHH!!! CRAPPPPPP! Flip a U-turn RIGHT NOW!"

So we did.

And Rachel managed to get some spotty GPS service and get us to the correct exchange (that was NOT marked with signage) where the volunteers were yelling at us and making us even more confused and finally I just jumped out of the van and ran and found Angela who was less than pleased, but still nice to us. Probably because we had water.

While we were driving the wrong way, we drove up this atrocious hill and I was SO GLAD it wasn't part of my leg.

Plot twist!!

It WAS part of my leg!


And it was hot...

But my team was awesome and they stopped and gave me salt because I really needed it. and sweaty.

(Side note: I think the girl I played leap frog with for most of the run peed her pants. I didn't ask though, so I can't be sure. I am SO GLAD I have never had to make that choice OR had that choice made for me. I mention this, because I had to pee the entire run. I had planned on hitting the port-a-pottie before I started but we all know how that turned out.)

I managed to finish, not pee on myself AND hand off the slap bracelet successfully...So I'm totally a winner!

We even managed to locate ALL the remaining exchanges. Which was convenient because the last one was the finish line:)

#GRRLS Grab Back finished in 24 hours and 22 minutes! Even with losing about 45 minutes in missed exchanges!

First in the Women's Open Division!

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