That was awesome. Can we do it again? Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra recap #sixpackrack

This past weekend, I had the privilege and honor of running the ultra fabulous 196-mile Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay from Blaine to Langley with my team Six Packs With Racks. We were only one of five all-female teams running the relay as an ultra team; the majority of teams have 12 members split amongst two separate vans. I’ve never participated in Ragnar or any sort of relay before and when the opportunity to participate in an ultra team came up, I figured why not? Without a second thought, I handed over my check to Lauren, our amazing team captain, and I was signed up. At a local margs and miles blogger meet up, Lauren convinced a couple other gals to sign up and Six Pack with Racks team was officially formed. Our team had a good mix of ages and speed and we were all in it to have a good time. Here’s a quick intro to the team:

Ragnar Northwest Passage Ultra Team Six Pack With a Rack

Our team. From left to right: Robyn, Rira, Jessey, me, Lauren, Bethany

LaurenOur fearless leader. She’s extremely organized and type-A which is a personality trait you need in a Ragnar captain. She had to run up some monster hills (more like mountains) on her last leg, on no sleep and she was smiling about it. Absolutely incredible.
BethanyShe’s the definition of inspiration. She trained for her last marathon through breast cancer and only missed a couple of runs due to surgery. Bethany always had a smile on her face and helped other runs on the course even though she had longer runs than they did.
Robyn: Robyn is one speedy gal and recently BQ’d in Eugene. She also ran a 1:39 half marathon the Sunday before Ragnar. No big deal, right? Robyn had the difficult job of being the team anchor, which meant waiting around on Day 1 for all of us to finish our runs so that she could get out there and run her ass off. Robyn also had some of the most lengthy runs, including a 15.4 mile leg.
Jessey: We all knew Jessey was fast before Ragnar but we didn’t exactly know how fast until she casually told us her marathon PR time (2:50) and that she’s won some races. Wow. Jessey had the highest mileage of any of us, totaling 38 miles, one of which was 17 miles. She rocked every single one of her legs, despite not feeling well towards the end. She’s also the only runner to get hit on by a drunk guy in the middle of the night. She’s also sarcastic and hilarious and loves running in heat & humidity.
RiraRira is a focused and fast runner. She was determined to pass as many runners on each run as possible (“kills”) despite the fact that she was on an ultra team. She also did a great job helping me navigate the roads and keeping me awake when I was running on fumes.

I was runner #3 and was assigned legs 5/6 (12.3 miles), 7/8 (13.7 miles) and 29/30 (6.9 miles). Our team decided to double up legs rather than run 6 separate legs and I was thankful for this since I’m not sure I could’ve mentally handled 6 legs vs 3. I didn’t do any specific Ragnar training other than a couple of double days and some afternoon runs in the heat when possible. Looking back, I’d structure my training a bit differently for an ultra (more on that later). As the day for Ragnar crept up, I grew increasingly nervous. What if I passed out on the sign of the road? What if I poop in my shorts (this became a real concern at some point.. more on that later)? What if I fall into a ditch during my night leg? What if I miscalculated my abilities and I just can’t do it? I was filled with self doubt. Thankfully Lauren was right there on Twitter to remind me that I was going to finish each of my legs, even if she had to drag me across the finish line.

Six Packs With Racks Ragnar Northwest Passage Van

Yes, those are giant (and perky) boobs on the back of our van

Ragnar Northwest Passage Ultra Legs

Our legs on the side of the van. People would stop and stare.

Ragnar Northwest Passage Ultra

More staring and gawking on this side

What I Packed:

Non-food:

  • Head lamp (required of all runners)
  • Reflective vest (required of all runners)
  • Two pairs of running shoes
  • Flip flops
  • iPod shuffle and USB charger
  • iPhone and USB charger
  • 3 running outfits in a ziploc bag. All 3 of my shorts were Oiselle Rogas.
  • Car charger
  • Oiselle trials hoodie and black Gapbody pants for the evening (it gets cold)
  • Clean change of clothes
  • Water belt
  • Handheld water bottle
  • Regular water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Compression socks
  • FRS energy fuel and sports beans
  • Bottle of Immodium
  • Aleve
  • Travel toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Travel mouthwash
  • Garmin

Food:

  • Jar of nutella
  • Grapes (these were a hit)
  • 2 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (I survived off of these)
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Hawaiian rolls
  • Peanut butter M&Ms
  • Pretzel M&Ms
  • Raspberry fruit roll up things
  • Peanut butter packets
  • Bananas
  • Pita pockets filled with hummus and turkey
  • Hummus
  • Pita chips
  • Peanut butter pretzels (notice a theme here?)
  • Justin’s peanut butter chocolate cup
  • Roasted almonds and cashews
  • Probably some other things that I don’t remember right now…

Ragnar Northwest Passage packing list

Items that I did not bring that others brought to share (besides more food): Foam roller, the stick, a real camera, tail lights for night run, Nuun, binder full of team leg maps and van directions, a cooler and our team shirts. All the other items that were brought were used.

All of our personalities meshed well which is good considering that we were together in a van for 31+ hours and no sleep and cranky/upset stomachs. When we weren’t running, we were either driving, navigating, changing our clothes, munching on food, trying to sleep for 15 minutes or cheering on our teammates. The biggest difference between a regular Ragnar relay and an ultra (besides the extra mileage) is that an ultra team is always on the move and there is no down time. Other teams have two vans and one van has the opportunity to take a break to go to a restaurant or camp out in a high school gym while the other van is running. We were on the go for the entire 31-hour relay. It’s exhausting but time goes by so fast. Another big difference in the ultra is that when you run through the exchanges, you get to yell “running through” and people usually shout “way to go ultra girl!” at you which helps pump you up for the second leg.

Heading into Ragnar, my legs felt pretty fresh. I ran the See Jane Half Marathon on Sunday without pushing myself too hard and took the rest of the week off. The morning of Ragnar, I woke up at 4:10 AM and then headed over to Seattle to meet my team for the drive north to Blaine, just south of the Canadian border. On the ride up, I drank 2 bottles of water and was determined to hydrate as much as possible before my run. At the safety meeting, the Ragnar officials said the heat index would be creeping up to 92 and reminded us to hydrate so that we would not end up the back of an ambulance. Our start time was 9:30 am and the parking lot was filled with other decorated vans and pumped up runners. Lauren gave us our awesome Six Pack With Rack team shirts, complete with boobs and our runner number and Twitter tag on the back. Our name was a bit ironic since none of us have racks or six packs (or at least I don’t). A lot of guys got a kick out of team name. After getting our Ragnar tattoos, bibs, race shirt and slap bracelet, we met with the Oiselle Party Like a Flock Star team and took a bunch of pictures with each other.

Six Pack With a Rack Ragnar Northwest Passage Ultra Team

Notice how clean and smile-y we are?

Ragnar Northwest Passage Six Pack With a Rack Ultra Team

Our serious game faces

Ragnar Northwest Passage Oiselle Six Pack Rack Team

Hanging with the Oiselle Party Like a Flockstar team before the start. These ladies finished 3rd in the women’s open division. Way to go!

Ragnar Northwest Passage tattoo

You’re not ready to run Ragnar until you get a tattoo

Ragnar Northwest Passage start line

Love the energy at the start line

Ragnar Northwest Passage cupid

Yes, he wore a diaper for all 3 of his legs

Bethany kicked it off for us with a 13.1 mile run and she looked great on the course. We stopped on the side of the road to cheer for her and other runners. We also saw Andrea from the Oiselle team running by and gave her a high-five. Once Bethany finished her 13.1, Lauren took over and ran 12.1 in increasingly hot temperatures. Thanks to staying hydrated, I had to pee at every single exchange. So glad the honey buckets were in a great condition, especially since I couldn’t hover towards the end.

Oiselle team Ragnar Northwest Passage

Andrea rocking her first leg

Ragnar Northwest Passage Santa

Here comes Santa Claus. He’s on the same team as Cupid

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra relay

Bethany handing off to Lauren. She’s done with her first leg

Leg 1: 12.3 miles with 464 ft of elevation gain and 461 ft of elevation loss (not sure what official pace was from my Garmin since it didn’t work)
My leg started around 1 PM and I knew it was going to be hot since I was burning up just standing around. I think my stomach started to ache before my first leg, despite the fact that I took two Immodium pills. Since it was hot and my stomach was ache-y, I decided not to take my water belt and grabbed my smaller handheld instead. Big —  I would pay for it later. As I was standing in the chute, I got my iPod shuffle and my Garmin ready to go. Lauren came running towards me, slapped the “baton” on my wrist and then I was off. I hit the start button on my Garmin and then took off on my run. I was immediately passed by 3 speed demons but had no intention of trying to keep up with them since their leg was 5.8 miles and I had 6.5 miles to run after them. I wore headphones on all 3 of my runs but kept the volume low enough that I could hear cheers from my van and instructions from the volunteers.

Ragnar Nothwest Passage ultra neon

Who loves neon?

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra leg 5 6

Starting my first leg

Despite the heat, I was feeling pretty good but I have a feeling that I started way too fast since I felt sluggish and slow towards the end. I realized after pushing the start button that my Garmin was keeping track of time but not pace or mileage so I had to run by feel. If I had to guess, my first few miles were probably in the 9-minute mile range and I was aiming for 10-minute miles. I did not want to go out too fast early on, even if it meant getting “killed” (Ragnar term for passing runners) several times. Sidenote: I kind of wish I had a sign printed on my back that said “go ahead and pass me. I’m not going to try to keep up with you since I have to run more than you.” I wouldn’t be surprised if my last few miles were more like 10:30. The scenery during the first part of my run was my least favorite of the entire relay. I had to run by warehouses and across the I-5 overpass although I would get to run through some cute neighborhoods towards the latter half of the leg.

Entering the warehouse area, I was getting a little anxious about my pace and there weren’t any other runners around. I ran up to a guy in a yellow shirt and slowed down to chat with him for a couple of minutes. I learned that he was part of a team called 5 Hot Dogs and a Bun (a mixed ultra team of 5 guys/1 girl) and that we would be running the same legs. I asked him what his pace was (he said 10:30), I thanked him for the chat and then took off a bit faster to hit a 10-minute mile. Not long after, I turned the corner and saw my team cheering for me which perked me up, despite the fact that I was hot and a little grumpy about my Garmin situation.

I ran some more and got hotter and had no idea where how far I had run. I was so happy when I saw the ‘1 more mile to go’ sign since it meant I would get to see my team again and get more water at the exchange. Someone on the team refilled my handheld and then I took off for my 6.5 mile leg. Somewhere into this portion of my run, I ran out of water. It was mostly my fault that I ran out so fast since I didn’t secure the top right enough and water was slowly leaking out. I was so focused on the run that I didn’t notice how wet the outside of the bottle was until it was too late. Once I ran out of water, I became grumpier, hotter and started questioning why I was running Ragnar, much less an ultra version of a relay race that I’ve never done before. I eventually stopped at the top of a hill in a neighbor and asked a random couple to go inside and fill up my water bottle. They were so nice and asked me what all of us runners are doing and I told them about Ragnar. They said they’re definitely going to participate next year. I gulped my water down and ran out again about 20 minutes later. It was getting hotter by the minute. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky; my skin was burning, my head felt like it was on fire and sunscreen-filled sweat kept dripping into my eyes and making them sting. I also wanted to eat my sport beans but couldn’t since I was out of water and my mouth was too dry. I started getting side cramps that hurt like a bitch. Grumpiness returned once again.

Ragnar Northwest Passage wtaer bottle refill

Need more water. Thanks, Jessey!

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Off for round 2

The route lead me into a small town and I stopped at a drive-up coffee stand and  \asked the guy in the window for some water. He filled up my bottle and this time, I made sure the lid was secure.

I had no idea where I was, how many miles I had left to go and for some reason, I wasn’t seeing a lot of runners on this portion of my leg. I just wanted that damn leg to be over so that I could drink more than 6 ounces of water. I struggling a bit from dehydration but decided to suck it up and pick up the pace since I knew I was probably running behind my projected time due to all the water issues. I thought to myself that if Marshall Ulrich can run across the United States in 52 days (which = two marathons + a 10k every single day), then I can finish a measly 12.3 mile run. It sort of worked for a while but on occasion, I’d notice that my head was throbbing, my skin  felt like it was on fire and my toes were starting to cramp.

I think I almost cried when I saw the one mile to go sign and picked up the pace even more and got another kill. I ran into the exchange, slapped the bracelet onto Jessey and then for a few seconds, had a scary realization that I wasn’t breathing normally. Rira handed me a water bottle and I think almost drank the entire bottle. I was definitely dehydrated and I wish I had carried my stupid water belt with me. The exchange I ran into was a major exchange so there were a lot of teams hanging out and several booths. Megan gave me my first Nuun bottle after I mumbled something incoherent about wanting a bottle. Thank you, Megan and sorry for mumbling at you. I was too tired to change into my next outfit so I sat in my sweaty & stinky clothes for a while. I also had a nice coat of salt chunks all over my face. I also kept apologizing for making our team run behind. Because I kept stopping and asking random strangers for water, I was 10 minutes behind my projected finish. I had either 3 or 4 roadkills; not completely sure of the total since I was more concerned about finding water and lost track of a couple of runners. I was probably killed 6 times.

After I finished, Jessey started her 9.3 mile leg in the hot weather. After Jessey, Rira ran 9.3 miles and then it was finally Robyn’s turn and she ran 10.7 through farmland just as it was starting to cool down. I honestly don’t remember much between my leg and the start of Robyn’s leg other than the fact that my stomach started to hurt even more so I popped another Immodium and I cheered on my teammates. Robyn was getting impatient and wanted to get out there and run and I don’t blame her. It’s hard waking up at 4 AM and not running until 6:30 PM.

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

Jessey finishing her first leg and handing the baton to Rira

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

Cheering on Rira from the side of the road

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Rira is rocking her run

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

What the hell is Lauren doing?

While Robyn was running, my team found a Subway and we all ordered sandwiches and got back into the van to support Robyn. I think everyone on the team enjoyed their sandwiches but the last thing I felt like doing was eating. Blech. At the next exchange, I started feeling worse and ran to the bathroom in a hurry (although nothing happened). I made myself eat my turkey sandwich and potato chips and it tasted like the worst thing in the world at the time but I knew I needed the calories and energy for my next run. It also started getting really cold as the sun was setting so I was thankful that I brought along my Oiselle trails hoodie (so comfy) and some loose Gapbody pants to stay warm.

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

I just wanted a pony ride

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

In the middle of nowhere

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Robyn running into the sunset. She knows that we’ll have Subway for her on the other side

Ragnar Northwest Passage subway

Maybe if I smile this will taste better?

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“Hurry up already!”

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Robyn handing it off to Bethany. We’re starting our second legs

Leg 2: 13.7 miles with 158 ft of elevation gain and 158 ft of elevation loss
I was dreading this run since my the status of my stomach was going downhill fast, as in shit my pants scary, despite the fact that I took 4 Immodium in a 24-hour period, the maximum you can safely take. My time to run came at around 11 PM ish or so and it was the first time that I’ve ever run with a headlamp and reflective vest in the pitch black and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stuck some toilet paper in my side pocket in case I had a bathroom emergency and I told my team that if I got stuck on the side of the road, I’d give them a call so that they would know I was running behind. I think my words to them were more like “I might be stuck shitting in a ditch somewhere. Don’t worry if I’m late.”

As with the first leg, I started getting really nervous before this leg and I turned on my music a little early so that I could chill out a bit. I made sure that my Garmin would actually pick up the satellite this time since the last thing I wanted to do was run in the dark with no clue as to my mileage and pace. It was finally go time and I realized that running in the dark is actually kind of cool. There was a small hill at the beginning of my run but the rest of it was totally flat. My stomach started feeling better as I progressed through the run and I started picking up the pace, ranging from 9:20 to 10:00 minute miles. I really enjoyed this midnight run through farmland, although I had to hold my nose a little whenever I passed a dairy farm. The moon was out, it was quiet all around me and on occasion, a van or another runner would pass me. It was just me, my music and a bunch of random thoughts flying through my head. And the occasional scent of cow shit.

My teammates did a great job of checking in to make sure my stomach was ok and I remember at one point I screamed out “Well I haven’t shit my pants so I’m doing good.” I’m sure the dude behind me appreciated that.

Ragnar Northwest Passage night leg

Getting more water in the middle of the night

Ragnar Northwest passage night leg

Ragnar Northwest Passage night leg

This was my view for nearly the entire 13.7 mile run

Towards the end of this leg, my quads started to ache a bit from the constant pounding and the feeling was similar to the feeling you get towards the end of a marathon. I expected the aches but still was getting a little worried about the final 6.9 miles I had to run but tried not to think about it too much. I was mainly focused on making sure I had a good comeback run after being dehydrated and my stomach issues.

I felt great once I finished and started stretching in the grass. I looked at my Garmin and realized I finished in 2:19, faster than my half first half marathon pace from Rock ‘n Roll Seattle. I think I finished somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 or 1:30 AM and my team was getting tired.

Ragnar Northwest Passage stretching

Stretching in the middle of the night

After I ran, Jessey had to tackle 16.4 miles with a total of 1,000 ft of elevation gain. What a champ. Her stomach also started to take a turn at some point during her run. In the wee hours of the night, we allowed ourselves some time to bitch about our tired bodies, our stomachs and other “annoying” runners who told us “good job” when they passed us, not realizing that we’re running double legs. Someone in the van asked us to sum up Ragnar in one word and my one word was poop. Poop was what I wanted to do, what I felt like and what I looked like. Don’t worry, we eventually escaped our temporary negative thoughts but we needed that bitch session in the middle of the night.

Ragnar Northwest Passage Oiselle hoodie

Driving the van on no sleep. Seemed like a good idea at the time

Ragnar Northwest Passage

We’re starting to look progressively worse

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Robyn finishing leg 2 around 6:30ish am

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Bethany is pumped because she is DONE. Kind of jealous of her at this point.

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Lauren heading out for her final leg

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Jessey rocking her run

Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island scenery during Lauren’s run

Ragnar Northwest Passage van

The sad state of our van

Leg 3: 6.9 miles with 468 ft of elevation gain and 429 of elevation loss
While Bethany was completing her last leg like a champ, the rest of us stopped at Starbucks and got coffee, which I desperately needed. Lauren still had to face her crazy mountain climb during her final legs. The 538 feet of elevation gain came in the form of two gigantic hills, one after another. We stopped before the hill to cheer her on and give her some positive reinforcement and stopped at the hill to cheer her on again. We also harassed a guy in gold shorts the entire way up the hill, asking him if he wanted a ride a few times. He also stopped right in front of us to put body glide on his balls, something that can never ben unseen. Lauren climbed up the hills with a smile on her face and you would’ve never known that she had already run 23 miles.

When Lauren assigned legs, mine were originally 12.3, 12.3 and 8.something. A couple of weeks before Ragnar, I noticed that the middle leg increased and the last leg decreased slightly. Looking back, I’m so thankful that my last leg was a very short 6.9 mile leg since my quads were killing me. The scenery on this run was the best out of all 3 legs and I had views of the coastline along Whidbey for most of it. The hills were rolling and I ran up most of them, albeit very slowly but the downhill was absolutely excruciating on my quads. I power walked the downhills half of the time.

Because I stopped eating after I forced myself to eat my Subway sandwich (with the exception of two PB&J squares), I had almost zero energy on this run. Thank goodness my teammates practically forced me to carry my sports beans with me. I didn’t feel like eating those either but I stopped and opened the package and guzzled them down. While I was walking and eat the sports beans, some dude came up behind me and started shouting “good job, you’re almost there! You can do it!” Maybe it’s because I was running on fumes but the last thing I wanted at the time was this guy’s positive energy. I was only 2 miles into this run with another 5 to go and on my way to completing 33 miles.

I started running again once my sports beans were consumed and ran into the hot dog ultra guy again (remember him from leg 1?) He was having a rough go at it and I stopped to talk to him and make sure he was ok. He said his hip was throbbing and I shared stories of my quads hurting and then ran on my way. I had a steep incline to the exchange and started running the wrong way. Everyone at the exchange asked if I was an ultra runner and then pointed me to the correct route and started cheering like crazy. I was off for the 2.4 mile portion of the leg. The only thing that stood between me and finish my first Ragnar relay was 2.4 miles, less than a 5k. Oh boy, did this last 2.4 miles hurt. The elevation gain was only 147 ft on this portion but I think my legs were just ready to be done. Despite my slowing pace, I still passed a few people during this portion, despite the fact that I thought everyone would be sprinting by me since it was such a short leg. I was leapfrogging a girl with a tutu and she made a strong push and sprinted pretty fast into the finish line. I didn’t have it in me to sprint but I did pick up the pace when I saw that final one mile to go sign. I’ve never wanted to see that sign so *&(&*(@* much. I started to tear up a bit during the last mile thinking about how much me and my team accomplished in such a short timespan.

I ran into the finish line and slapped the bracelet on Jessey’s wrist for the final time and watched her take off for her final 12.6 mile leg. After Jessey finished, Rira had her longest leg ahead of her of 12.6 miles, which she dominated by killing 9 16 other runners (sorry Rira for getting the # wrong). Robyn then took it home for us for the final 8.5 miles.

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra

So happy to check off that final leg

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra Whidbey Island

We’re almost done

The Finish
Our team got to the finish line and changed back into our Six Pack With Rack shirts for our finish line photos. We made our way over to the finish line to cheer on other teams that were finishing and wait for Robyn’s arrival. It was so much fun to see the teams reunite with each other and run across the finish line together. There was one girl who was a bit of a jerk and cut through another team and sprinted past them so that she could finish before they did. Once we finished, Lauren picked up our team medals. I love the whale on the medal and the fact that it says “ultra runner” on it. We lined up for our final team photo and decided to skip the finish line beer and pizza so that we could get into the ferry line.

Ragnar Northwest Passage finish line

Robyn running to the finish

Ragnar Northwest Passage

Chasing Robyn through the finish

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At the finish line!

Ragnar Northwest Passage finish line ultra team

The awesome #sixpackrack team

Ragnar Northwest Passage ultra medal
While waiting in the 90-minute ferry line, someone spotted Dairy Queen up ahead. It was like finding an oasis in the dessert. We jumped out of the van, walked over to Dairy Queen and ordered blizzards and French fries. My appetite wasn’t fully back but the cold ice cream tasted good in my throat and my body was craving the salt on the French fries. The drive back from Whidbey to Seattle was uneventful and to be honest, I don’t remember much of it since I was so out of it. We all went our separate ways in the Park & Ride and it still surreal to me that we were done and started this journey the prior day at 5:45 AM. I’m in awe and have so much respect for every single one of my teammates. Running Ragnar Northwest Passage as an ultra with these ladies is an experience of a lifetime.

There were only five all-female ultra teams and we came in 2nd place in 31 hours, 10 minutes and 59 seconds. Woo hoo!

Thoughts on Ragnar and things I would do differently next time:
Food:
I can’t really control how my stomach felt, despite the fact that I took Immodium but I definitely craved food other than typical snack/junk food. I don’t really eat a lot of junk food so not sure why I thought PB crackers and M&Ms was such a good idea. Here’s what I would probably want to pack next time: PB&J sandwiches (which I brought), grapes (which I brought), watermelon, pineapple, string cheese, pita chips (which I brought) and sliced turkey.
Gear: Lauren brought a real camera which I highly recommend. I also wish that I brought along one of my cameras, in addition to using my iPhone. My iPhone is fine for close-ups but it’s hard to capture your runner when they’re far away from you. After listening to Bethany and Rira rave about their iFtiness fuel belts, I’ll be buying one of those. I like my handheld but it didn’t hold enough water for the distances I was running. I could’ve also gotten away with not bringing a clean change of clothes since I had my team shirt and I ended up wearing a pair of dirty running shorts. They smelled but I couldn’t tell since we all stunk so much. I later asked my husband to describe how I smelled and he said that I smelled like I rolled around in skunk poop. Sounds about right.
Training: I didn’t do any training specific to Ragnar other than attempt some runs in the heat of the afternoon and a few double days. I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon and was up to 31 miles for the week once Ragnar rolled around, with my longest run being the half marathon distance. I think it would’ve been a little less painful if I had been around 40 miles a week and between 16-18 miles in my long runs by the time I got to Ragnar. I certainly got the mileage done but I think the experience would’ve been a little more pleasant with more weekly miles under my belt. As Ragnar got closer, I remember stumbling across someone’s Ragnar ultra recap and she recommended being marathon-ready when running Ragnar as an ultra and I have to say that I agree with her advice. When you’re running Ragnar as an ultra, everyone on the team has to run marathon+ distances with ~ 6 hours of rest between each run. No matter how much you run, nothing is going to prepare you for the feeling of sitting in a van, getting out of van, getting back into van (repeat a million times), running, driving, repeat. I guess if you want to get an accurate feeling for Ragnar, go for a long run during the hottest part of the day and then sit in the back of your car for 6 hours and get out everyone once in a while to stand around. Get back in. Get out and run during the coldest, darkest part of the night. Get back in your car but don’t sleep at all. Get out 6 hours later and run again.
Random thoughts on Ragnar:

  • Size up on the Brooks tshirt. The size small was made for a small child
  • Pack less food than what you think you need
  • Have a strategy on supporting your runner in advance. Ask them when they think they might need a water refill, more fuel, etc. and check on them even before they requested their water stop. We followed this approach and it worked really well
  • It’s summer but don’t even think about not bringing a warm outfit or you will freeze to death. Since it is summer, one of your legs is guaranteed to be hot and steamy. Make sure to hydrate like crazy and bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat and/or sunglasses
  • Cheer on other team’s runners whenever possible. Stop on the side of the road and yell at them or honk at the them (nicely) as you’re driving down the road. Hearing teams cheer for me when I was struggling helped me out
  • Unless you’re in it to win it, don’t stress about your pace and time
  • Create your own team shirts since you’ll be taking a million pictures with your team at the start and finish line
  • I hate using the bathroom in public but the Honey Buckets that Ragnar supplied were the cleanest porta potties I’ve ever used. Great job, Ragnar
  • Unless you’re a crazy fast team or a really slow team, you’ll have to wait in line for the ferry
  • If you normally listen to music when you run, bring your music device. There are lots of long stretches where you won’t have much to entertain you and you may not see many other runners
  • Try to bring something that makes you stand out at night. When you’re driving the van, it’s really hard to tell which person is your runner
  • It’s hard but make sure to eat and hydrate between legs
  • If you run out of water, don’t stress. Just ask some locals or another team for some water. Everyone is very friendly
  • Carry your cell phone with you so that you can call your team if you get lost or are running behind your projected time
  • Enjoy the scenery. Sure, not every run is scenic but how often do you get to run next to rugged coastline or through diary farms and corn fields?
  • Have a 60-second pitch ready for Ragnar. The locals will ask you what the heck is going on

Our team made it across the finish line without crying, shitting our pants, passing out on the side of the road and we got 2nd place in our division to too. Would I ever do another Ragnar ultra? Definitely. When are we doing this again?

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See Jane Run Seattle Half Marathon Recap

Stretching at Seattle Greenlake Running Group

Social stretching

I ran my first half marathon of 2013 on Sunday, along with fellow Ragnar ultra teammates Robyn and Lauren. By now, I was supposed to have run 2 or 3 half marathons in 2013 but my work and personal travel plans kept getting in the way.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of joining the Seattle Green Lake Running Group for my last run before the half. Sara and I got there a little early and ran 3 miles around the lake before joining the group before a second 3 mile lap. I left my Garmin in my car so had no idea where my pace was and kept speeding up to 8:30 and 9:00 min miles, which is fast for me and not necessarily what I wanted to do a couple of days before my race. I didn’t run or work out at all on Friday or Saturday in order to allow my legs to rest.

Pre-race: I skipped the expo since some evil person decided to close both the 520 bridge and 405 N, pretty much creating traffic hell for us Eastsiders wanting to go over to Seattle. I decided to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn (5:30) and head over in order to beat traffic and find a parking space. I wore my Oiselle Winona tank and my gray roga shorts and it’s probably the most comfortable race day outfit I’ve ever worn. I also decided to carry a handheld water bottle rather than my usual water belt which was a bit risky given that I’ve never run more than 5 miles with my handheld but it was fine for a half marathon. I would’ve been grumpy if I had stupidly run with a handheld for a full marathon.

On the way over, I hate some peanut butter crackers and a cherry pop tart. Not the healthiest pre-race meal but I didn’t feel like eating oatmeal. I was able to grab a space right at Gas Works Park which is nice since I haven’t figured out the whole parallel parking thing.

It was a gorgeous morning and I’m so glad that I got there early to enjoy the scenery. Another plus: the lines for packet pick up and the honey buckets were non-existent. The line got pretty long toward the start of the race. I knew it was going to be a warm race since I didn’t need to wear my jacket at 7am. I ran over to my car and dropped my jacket off so never used bag check. I ran into Julie and her husband before the race and chatted with them for a while.

Seattle view from Gas Works park See Jane Run Seattle Porta Potties

I lined up in the 9-11 minute mile group and cranked my iPod up while waiting to go. I wasn’t nervous for this race since I didn’t have any intention of setting a PR, given that Ragnar is coming up this weekend. My only goal was to run a consistent, even pace which didn’t happen. My pace was all over the place, ranging from 9:20 to 10:00.

The course traveled around Lake Union and was really scenic and flat, minus a short but steep hill around mile 7. As you can see from the map, there were a couple of out and backs, although I didn’t mind them since it gave me a chance to see the super speedy ladies, including the 16-year-old girl who won the race. I saw Robin early in the race and she was flying and placed 26th!

See Jane Run Seattle Course Map

Here’s a breakdown of how I felt during the race:

Miles 1-3: My legs weren’t feeling that great and felt kind of heavy, despite resting on Friday and Saturday. We got to experience our first out and back during this part of the race and I picked up speed when I saw the effort the fast ladies were putting in. I also got to see Lauren for the first during the turnaround. I think it was during this part of the race that I noticed the mileage wasn’t matching up to the signs.

Miles 4-6: The race started to thin out around during the middle miles. There was some decent shade in some areas which I definitely appreciated. My stomach started to grumble right around mile 6 which was a little annoying.

Miles 7-10: Lauren and her friend passed me at exactly 6.98 miles since she called out to me and asked what my Garmin said. We knew at this point that the mileage wasn’t adding up. I encountered the short, steep hill around mile 7.5 ish and it wasn’t that bad, except the downhill was a little scary so I slammed the breaks on pretty fast. Heading into mile 10, I passed the parking lot and the finish line. It’s always tough seeing the finish line knowing that you have 3 miles to go. I also saw Rira around mile 10 – seeing her perked me up and she also snapped this awesome photo. So much better than the “official” race photography.

See Jane Run Seattle Half Marathon

Miles 11 – 12.86: I was ready to be done with the race during the last couple of miles. It was getting warm and my sunscreen started getting into my eyes and stinging. I was very thankful to have Lauren and her friend right in front of me. I followed both of them the last couple of miles and didn’t even think about my pace. I’m not sure what the temperature was around 10am when I finished but the sun was out and my race was covered in salt. I also realized that I neglected to eat my sports beans which I meant to eat around mile 8 or 9. I need to be better about fueling during races. During Marine Corps, I didn’t start eating my sports beans until mile 15. I did stop at all the water stations and grab guzzle some water. By the way, great job volunteers!

When I finished, my Garmin said 12.86! It’s the first time I’ve ever run a race that’s been short. Grr. It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to PR this course since it wouldn’t be a “real” PR. I finished in 2:08, which is behind my 2:06 time for the Labor Day Half and faster than my 2:17 at Seawheeze and 2:19 at Rock ‘n Roll. I’d like to run a sub 2:00 half at some point but I’m not going to attempt it until after Chicago so it will likely be a 2014 goal. I didn’t feel too tired after I finished, at least compared to the halves I ran last year which is a good sign.

See Jane Half Marathon Seattle Finish Line

Once I finished, I met up with Lauren and plopped down on the grass just on the other side of the finish line and started stretching and taking pictures.

Seattle See Jane Run Half Marathon finish

I eventually got up and wandered around to grab food and samples. I got a cup of pretzels, a bagel slice, peanut butter and my champagne glass with chocolates. Since it was so hot, I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate or champagne. After the race, I headed home and the journey was a cluster*(#$&. Remember how an evil person decided to close 520 and 405 North? Because of the closures, there was a ton of traffic and the route was extra long. Even though I had 50 miles worth of gas in my tank when I left my house in the morning, I was starting to run on empty and I realized I left my purse and wallet at home. (*#&$(#*&%(*#&%(*#. I made it to a gas station in Factoria and had to call my husband and ask him to bring my purse so I could fill my car with gas. I was starving so I started eating the See’s chocolates from the race which tasted great but upset my stomach. Thank goodness that the Shell gas station in Factoria has a nice, clean bathroom since I had the fun of being stuck in the bathroom for 25 minutes. Ugh. I just wanted to go home and curl into a ball.

See Jane Run Seattle champagne te

See Jane Run Seattle Half Marathon shirt

medal2

 

Here’s a quick summary of my thoughts on the race:

Pros: Scenic course, loved running a female-focused race, parking was easy, loved the chocolates at the end, like the t-shirt, great volunteer support
Cons: Course was only 12.86 miles (huge con), couldn’t find elevation chart on the site before the race, not very much crowd support (didn’t bother me but it might bother others)

Coming up on the blog: Ragnar Ultra with team Six Pack with a Rack and my first time at Jasyoga

Holiday Weekend Recap

This was one of the best 4th of July holiday weekends weather-wise that we’ve had in the Seattle area so I definitely spent as much time as possible outside, working on my runner’s tan. On the morning of the 4th of July, I joined the Seattle Green Lake Running Group for a little jaunt around the lake. As you can see from the photo below, everyone was decked in their finest red, white and blue athletic apparel. I ran two laps around the lake for a total of 6.13 miles. Everyone in the group is so nice (and very speedy) and despite the fact that it’s a little bit of a haul from the Eastside, I’ll definitely be back to join them for more runs.

Seattle Green Lake Running Group

Seattle Green Lake Running Group decked out for the 4th of July

I was a little short on mileage for my weekday runs so doubled up and ran 4 miles in the evening, close to dusk. My legs were feeling great so I decided to make this run a tempo run which was a bad mistakes. My shins started screaming and towards the end of the run, I could barely walk. I came home, iced my legs and immediately put them into compression sleeves. I did the next logical thing any runner would do and started researching the difference between shin splints, stress fractures and compartment syndrome. Thanks to the powers of the Internet, I did the one-legged hop test and realized I just have a gnarly case of shin splints. The husband and I skipped fireworks since he came down with a cold and went to bed early. Continue reading

#SixPackWithaRack

I’ve never run a relay so I decided for my very first one, I might as well make it an ultra. On July 19th, my Ragnar Ultra Team will be covering 200 miles as part of Ragnar Northwest Passage, starting near the Canadian border and continuing down to Whidbey Island. Lauren pulled together the team and Rira, Robyn, Bethany and Jessey were all crazy enough to join the fun. I’m runner #3 and will my legs are 12.6 miles, another 12.6 and 8 miles. I’m in awe (and thankful!) of my fellow teammates that took the hard mileage. I think Robyn and Jessey have a 16 or 17 mile run, in addition to all the other miles they have to run. I’m not going to lie… I’m perhaps a tad nervous about this one. I know it’s going to be a blast hanging out with these ladies for 30+ hours but I’m hoping that I don’t slow us down too much and/or pass out on the side of the road in the heat.

Sidenote: Special shoutout for Lauren to being such an organized team leader. Thanks for all your hard work!

Oh, and here’s our meetup photo from May’s Miles and Margs where Lauren suckered/convinced Robyn and Rira into signing up. (Photo stolen from Stacie).Image

So about this training for Ragnar thing. I googled “train for a Ragnar ultra” and there isn’t exactly a Hal Hidgon “run an ultra relay race” plan so I’ve just been following my scheduled marathon plan. I did come across another runner’s blog that said you shouldn’t run an ultra relay unless you’re already in marathon shape. I am nowhere near marathon shape right now. Gulp. I reached a total of 26 miles in training last week and rearranged my weekend run to do longer back to backs. I skipped a 3-mile run during the week and combined it with my Sunday 3-mile run, for a total of 10 miles on Saturday and 6 miles on Sunday. I woke up at 6 am on Saturday to get my run in before it got too warm, despite the fact that I love sleeping in until 7:30 or 8am on the weekends. I let myself sleep in on Sunday which meant I had to do my 6 miles at the gym since it hit 95 degrees in Redmond.

My mileage is increasing to 28.5 this week, with 4 miles tomorrow, 6 on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday, 11 on Saturday and 3.5 on Sunday. I’m going to attempt to run my 4 miles outside in the 80 degree weather since it might be good conditioning for Ragnar. I grew up in Florida and my fellow native Floridians would be ashamed of me if they knew what a heat wimp I’ve become. In my defense, I haven’t lived in Florida since 2002 and my body has definitely adjusted to Seattle’s moderate temperatures. 

If you have any tips for surviving an ultra relay race, let me know. These are a few of the tips that I’ve read on other blogs:

1) Eat as much food as possible for an ultra relay, especially protein
2) Bring Immodium to help with stomach issues
3) Baby wipes. We won’t have time to shower so this will help reduce the stink
4) Put outfits into zip block bags and label them for each leg

I’ll post my full packing list when it gets closer. Any other tips?? I’d love to hear them!