My First Ragnar

We were excited to support four Ragnar teams this year that competed in last week's Northwest Passage event of the Ragnar Relay Series. Over the next few days we'll share a few race reports from team members. Let me introduce you to Deb! Deb is a first time Ragnarian and a past participant of our half marathon training programs. Through the folks she met in the program, she joined a Ragnar team. Deb rocked it, and her photo with her boys is too precious for words. It *may* have made me tear up a little. Attagirl, Deb!

By: Deb

Last weekend I ran RAGNAR NWP and I am still on my RAGNAR high as I write this.  So much goes on in only 2 days that it would be impossible to capture it all.  It was my first time doing a relay race and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.  I signed up a while back and was just thrilled to have found a team that would “take” me. See, I am new to running, not very fast and - don’t tell anyone - I take walking breaks. Not prime RAGNAR material, I thought, but if a team would take their chance on me I was willing and ready.

If you have never heard of RAGNAR it is a relay race with 12 runners, 2 vans, covering 200 miles in 2 days.  Each runner covers 3 legs.  There are major exchange points between vans and in the end all 12 of us cross the finish line together to celebrate our accomplishment.  It is all pretty straight forward but at the same time one of the most incredible and unforgettable experiences!

I was runner#1.  Having done a few half marathons I figured that running a similar mileage split in 3 legs would be manageable.  Besides, kicking off the team was a nice perk.  Our team name was “Oh, Oh, The Places We’ll Go, Go, Go”.  We had a Dr. Seuss themed set of 4 teams totaling 42 runners, one team being an Ultra team (6 runners instead of 12). We left Thursday afternoon to avoid traffic, got settled in our hotel, had dinner, decorated our van and headed to our rooms to try to get some rest. We had an early start and needed to arrive extra early to get our shirts, flags and safety briefing.

I learned a few things about the experience and how to better prepare next time.

Watch what you eat!!!  No, really.  Even though I am not new to races I violated the cardinal rule of “do not eat anything new before a race”.  Without getting into the dreadful details, let’s just say I paid the price for choosing something that I am not used to eating and did not agree with me, AT ALL.  I was sick most of the night, got little to no sleep, and being the first runner I was extremely worried I would let my team down.  But there was no going back now.  We met at 4:00 a.m. and headed to the start line. I prayed that I would be able to finish my first leg with pride and no major embarrassment.

Your van mates, aka “vamily”, are the best support system ever!  I didn’t know most of my teammates; I met them on the drive over.  In the morning I had to share the fiasco of the night before and wasn’t sure how my first leg would go. I was just mortified that they would not think that I was a “worthy” teammate and I did not want them to pick up my slack.  My van mates were AWESOME!!!  They met me every mile and a half or so, cheering, cow belling, giving me water, asking me if I was OK to keep going.  I am certain that I would not have completed that first leg if it wasn’t for their support.

RAGNAR is for all runners!  I saw the best of people in those 2 days. I sort of expected that, but with over 4000 runners it becomes very evident.  Most of those that passed me, and there were plenty, had a word of encouragement:  “Keep going!”, “Good job!”, “Keep up the good work!”, a thumbs up or a smile.  I am not sure if more seasoned runners experience the same level of support.  I assume folks can read my body language and see that some of the hills were hard for me or my breathing was a bit harder, that I was getting tired, losing my form and assumed that an “attagirl” would come in handy. And it did. I appreciated every comment, every smile.  I felt validated as a member of the community, a bona-fide runner and that meant a lot!.  See, to me RAGNAR only catered to the 8 – 10 min per mile crowd but thankfully I was wrong.  The way the race is designed it really accommodates all levels. It is a team event with a good mix of paces so having slower runners does not make or break overall performance of the team. 

Lack of sleep is hard!  It was surprising to me to see that the running was not the hardest part.  The lack of sleep was far more difficult. In many ways RAGNAR felt like a big camping trip and to be honest I am not a big fan of camping. In those 2 days shower opportunities are few and not a private experience.  Sleeping on a gym floor with 500 of your new best friends or under a tree or in the van can be hard on one’s back.  Fresh hot coffee is a luxury and much appreciated, our awesome driver went to nearby Starbucks on Saturday morning, a life saver!

RAGNAR pride!  I really wanted to do the late night run, my badge of honor if you will, but my “night” run was at 7:00 p.m., still pretty light outside.  However, I did get to cheer my awesome teammates on their night runs.  The blinking lights from the reflective vests and head lamps are one of my most amazing memories.  That sums it up: amazing memories are made in those 2 days: the camaraderie, the support, and the views.  It is great to feel the joy of being surrounded by people that understand how unique this experience is and share this great sense of accomplishment.  My sons, ages 3 and 4, went to Langley to watch our team cross the finish line. That was very special to me as well.  I honestly can’t wait to do it again next year!

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