Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hey Sole Sisters... Ain't That Mister Mister...?

The race: Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage
The characters:  #1 Kris, #2 Marie,  #3 Jess, #4 Kristen, #5 Lizzie, #6 Diana, #7 Ginger, #8 Sherri, #9 Andria, #10 Lindsay, #11 Jeanene, #12 Maryanne. 
The Road Crew: John and Tony

The location: Washington State, from Blaine to Langley.
The date: July 22 and 23, 2011.
The distance: Almost 190 miles / 300 Kms
The goal: To have the best experience of our lives while clocking 28hrs 05 min, for a 9:01 min/mile.
The results: Sub-Masters Second Place with 27hrs 24min 57sec for an 8:47 min/mile pace (bettered the goal by 40 minutes).

Since I learned about Hood to Coast, H2C, six years ago, I had in mind doing a road race relay. In January 2011, the dream was possible when a girl named Jessica posted in Narrows Bridge Running Club: 3 women needed for Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage

I was in. 

After putting my racing calendar in place for 2011, this race would become a huge and important milestone in my racing journal. Ragnar was scheduled to be my race #100. 

The race consisted in 187 miles ran uninterrupted by 12 runners, with only one runner hitting the road at a time. “The rest of your teammates are on support duty in your race vehicles. Teams require 2 vehicles, with runners 1-6 in van 1 and 7 -12 in van 2. Van 1's runners will cover the first six legs. It's a relay, so as the each runner begins, the crew in the vehicle can drive ahead, cheer their runner on, and meet them at the exchange point to pick them up and drop off the next runner. After the first 6 legs, van 2 picks up the slack and starts putting in the miles.” And so on, until leg 36 is complete.

The distance to cover was not big deal for most of the runners, who would average 15+miles total; the BIG deal was the system: Run, Eat, Sleep? Repeat. But... easier said than done.

After leaving the comfort of our homes the day prior to the race, and carbo-loading at Olive Garden in Bellingham, the team was ready for the adventure. 

Mix and matches from Van 1 and Van 2 shared hotel’s room to get to better know each other. I (Van 1) shared with Ginger and Lindsay (Van 2). No much partying; after all, we needed to hit the sac to have a good night of sleep. Van 1 had to leave the hotel at 6:20 am as our start was at 8:00 am. Van 2 could sleep in a little bit more as they were expected to start at 1:45pm.

Race day was a chilly and beautiful one. John drove his 6 girls, including his beautiful wife Kris, Runner #1, to Blaine, border with Canada, to start the mission. Once at race stage, Jess, our amazing Captain and Runner #3, without whom the terrific team organization and logistics would have not been possible, checked the team, and received our bib numbers “34” and baton. 

We perused around prior to the start and enjoyed watching some of the wonderful costumes some teams had. Our favorite was The Lord Of The Ragnars. 12 runners dressed as the characters of Lord of the rings, with tree included. Other vans that called our attention were the Trail Rex, F. That Hill, A tiger on top of a mattress, Six Sick Sisters, to name a few.

The race began and all the wheels and pulleys started to work in an astounding harmonized way. So harmonized that there were no snags

This is how the wheels and pulleys moved:

Kris, Runner #1 took off, and Van 1 drove to next stage; time was calculated for the runner to arrive according to predicted pace and course length and difficulty; when time came, next runner was ready at the exchange; baton was passed; next runner took off; runner that just finished was helped with water, food, and an incredible cheerful comment: You smoked it!. 

Left the exchange area, cheered the current runner, said goodbye and drove to the next stage. Two, three, four, five, six times. In the mean time, life in the van was quite interesting. The runner that just finished "baby-wiped" her body and "dressed-up" for her next leg, we indeed felt clean. We ate, and ate, and ate. Clif bars, peanut butter, and bagels sustained us, to the point that we may not eat them ever again. We drank tons of water, talked and laughed a lot, and never slept.

At exchange #6, the baton was passed to Ginger, Runner #7 from Van 2, and now was Tony’s turn to take his girls, and did what John has done. Six times. The strategy for the first leg was to run it slower than race pace with the purpose of conserving energy for legs 2 & 3.

Van 1 drove to major exchange #12 to eat and sleep. Grabbed a sandwich at Subway, extended the sleeping bags and blankets on soft grass and the resting time started. John captured a sweet conversation of two runners that kissed the same boy in High School. John confessed that he was forbidden from inviting friends to Facebook for 48 hours, who knows why. With all those stories, who can sleep? I barely dozed a little.

We got up, cleaned up, and got ready for Maryanne, Runner #12 (Van 2), to arrive and pass the baton to Kris, Runner #1. Time to repeat.

Second leg promised to be a hot one; mid 70’s, hot for Seattleites and running. Kris #1 went off, followed by Marie #2, and Jess #3. One by one, each runner took upon her second leg. Kristen #4, was the first to wear lamp and reflective vest. Though she was not still running on official night hours (8:30 pm to 5:30 am), she was supposed to arrive at the verge of it: 8:30pm. I, #5, took off after Kristen, at sunset, for a short run, 3.4 miles and when I finished there still was some daylight. Though my legs (limbs) were heavy, I ran my second leg almost at my 5K pace, what made me really happy. Runners #6 to #12, Diana, and all Van 2 runners, Ginger, Sherri, Andria, Lindsay, Jeanene, and Maryanne completed their second leg in total darkness.

After Diana, our Van 1 anchored runner, passed the baton to Ginger at exchange 18, at about 9 pm, John took us to a comfortable Inn in Oak Harbor, close to the start of third leg. Noteworthy to mention that this was a gift from John and his wife Kris. They paid for the lodging so all 12 runners could sleep 2-3 hours on a nice bed and enjoy of this pleasant luxury. 

With the words “My third leg is 2.9 miles. I am golden” our superb Captain Jess informed us that she would stay up so she could receive the updates from Tony on how Van 2 runners were doing, and when was the time for us to leave. At some point in the middle of the night, 1 am or so, when I am profoundly asleep, Jess knocked the door and said the words we wanted and at the same time didn’t want to hear: Leaving in half hour. You can stay in bed and be in the parking lot in 30 minutes or take a shower. I did, and feel great". Marie and I followed her second advice: A nice shower shook the sleep away, and we departed for our final run.

Van 1 met Van 2 at exchange 24. We gave them the hotel keys for them to go there and sleep, and we took the baton.  Our third leg started about 2 am and had a slight variation on the methodology followed during the first two legs. Van 1 supported first runner Kris practically all the way because of the darkness and the loneliness of the course. She was really running in the absolute wilderness and had a very hard 7.8-mile course. Truly, it was a scary leg to run. As Marie, Jess and Kristen had shorter, easy and fast legs (3ish miler), the support was not necessary. Team would have not had time to support the runner and get to the next exchange on time for the next runner to move on. Though my third leg was a longer one, 6.4 miles, it started at sunrise, so the Van support was also not needed, in addition of being a “No Van Support” leg.

This final third leg of mine was defined as “hard”. It was hilly as Whidbey Island is, but the beauty of the crack of dawn and the freshness of the early morning made it a delightful leg to run. When I crossed exchanged 29, and passed the baton to Diana, I broke and I couldn’t control it. A fast clip of my life ran through my mind: my husband, my kids, and me as a survivor: Having the opportunity to love them everyday and having the chance that each of my organs, muscles, nerves and sinews work for me to do what makes me so passionate about: running races.

John drove us to exchange 30, where Diana passed the baton to Ginger. Van 1 team members were done. All successfully completed the three legs with glory and without troubles. Though it was no picnic, it was the suffering gratifying challenge that only runners understand.

We went back to the hotel to shower, and for John to have some sleep. We had breakfast and drove to Langley, to the finish stage.  Van 2 team members arrived later and all 11 present runners waited for our final runner, Maryanne, to accompany her and to cross the finish line all together. 

We clocked 27:24:57, 40 minutes ahead of our goal, and we took second place on the sub-masters category. Sweet ending.

To close remarks IMMENSE thanks to our Cappie Jess for the amazing coordinated logistics. Again, this would have not been possible without her; to Diana for the fantastic and meticulous itinerary which was followed to perfection, and for Van #1; to our two Mr. Misters for the driving and moral support; to the Tebb's for the lodging gift; to Adam & Cari (Jess's sis) for Van #2; and to all SOLE SISTERS for making such a great team. 

A video is coming. Hey Sole Sisters... Ain't That Mister Mister...?



1 comment:

Petraruns said...

Oh sweet lizzie lee you have made me SO excited about my relay now it sounds like your number 100 was amazing! What a trip! And yes please do send me an email with all the packing / advice etc. you can think of - it would be SO welcome!