Monday, July 30, 2007

Northwest Passage Relay Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 17th Edition
332.52 miles raced in 2007
Race: Northwest Passage Relay
Place: Blaine, WA to Langley, WA
Miles from home: 3,000+
Course Difficulty: Variable
Course Enjoyability: 8.5 out of 10
Weather: 60-70s; cool breezes, intermittent sun. Pretty ideal.
Finishers' Medal: 8 out of 10

With all of the races going on for me this year in every conceivable distance, I have been simultaneously looking forward to, and dreading, this race in particular. For the same reason I cannot stand air travel, participating in a relay run where runners are coming from all over the country, convening together at random times where so little is in my control, is something that gives me nightmares. I deal best with this by, well, not thinking about. Luckily, (if that is the correct word) I have had both a fair amount of other races and personal issues going on in my life as of late to keep my mind off the fear that one of my teammates simply wasn’t going to make it to the race.

In addition to simply ignoring all that could go wrong with gathering 11 others together from across the Lower 48 to meet in the corner of Northwestern United States, I was able to assuage fear of a relay failure by assembling a team of runners whom I felt could be trustworthy enough to get there on time. And given that I was not putting together a team with the intention of winning, but rather to get along well together, have a good time and be dependable, reliability was a key ingredient. Let me say that everyone more than met those criteria and I am proud to be a part of this team. Therefore, let me introduce them in the order they ran.

Todd Futa (Age 35):
What can I say about Big Ahi other than the fact he is one of the most stand-up fellas I have ever met. Besides committing to be my host for the Seafair Marathon a year ago before ever having actually met me in person, Todd also assisted with my travel arrangements for that flight as well. Throw in that he has opened his home to any of the runners who were coming in early for this race, as well as be the guide to the area, and this laidback triathlete was one of the very first people I thought I would love to have on my team when the idea of running this relay came to mind.

Todd will be competing in his first full Ironman Tri in just about a month. Go Todd!

Loren Leigh (33):
The owner of a reptile exporting business (yep, you read that correctly), I met Loren through Jenna another relay teammate to be introduced later. Down-to-earth and funny, I had the pleasure of meeting Loren at the Marine Corps Marathon last year. I knew he would be an asset to the team because of his responsible nature and videographer skills. (I am kidding about the latter part. I only knew he was going to be filming so much of the trip after seeing him the morning of the race whipping out an impressive-looking camera. I cannot imagine the editing he is going to have to do.)

Nathan Boward (30):
Built like a linebacker, I haven’t the foggiest idea how Nathan can run the speeds he does. A very congenial chap, it was a pleasure to meet Nathan, Jenna’s boyfriend, for the first time in Washington. I knew that if in the wilds of NW Washington we were to encounter a cougar or Bigfoot, they would be no match for Nathan.

Abby Fenzil (31):
A late addition to the team after one runner pulled up injured, Abby brought spirit and funk and kept Jenna entertained for sure. Having never ran a 10k, Abby has already cranked out numerous marathons in impressive times. Quick with a smile and a joke, Abby was a wonderful late addition to the team.

Jenna Kyte (23):
One of my fave people on this little planet, Jenna is mature beyond years and was one of the very first people I thought of when putting together this relay team. I knew if I got her then I could also lasso in Loren and Nathan and we would have 25% of the team picked. Oh yeah, she is like nice and stuff too.

Amy Yanni (53):
Having met Amy last year during Fiddy2 at the Glass City marathon where we ran about 9 miles together, Amy and I have stayed in touch and ran numerous marathons at the same time since then. Thinking about who might be up for a fun adventure, Amy was at the forefront of my thoughts. She’s run over 70 marathons in just 3 or 4 years and was named one of’s top Female Marathoners of the Year for 2006. Even if she wasn’t a fellow law school survivor and a great person, you can see why I would want her on my team.

Katie Markley (26):
The theme of meeting some of the nicest people in my life during Fiddy2 continues with Katie. Running over 23 miles together in the wind of the Mercedes Marathon last February, the petite Katie and I fast became great friends. Logging nearly 3,000 miles in a year (which she calls an “off-year”) the ultramodest Katie was also listed as a Top Female Marathoner in 2006 by (I know how to book me some ringers).

Mike Mills (35):
I first met Mike at my running club’s New Year’s Eve party just a week before Fiddy2 started. He was kind enough to let me crash with him one of the nights I ran the Goofy Challenge to kick off the year in 2006. Mike has literally been running all over the world this year (having already completed a marathon in Antarctica for goodness sake), so I figured he would like a more “local” trip of 3,000 mile away to Washington.

Kathy Wahlgren (35):
Kathy was our quietest member as she appeared to be getting some well-needed rest from her stressful job as an ER nurse. I met Kathy for the first time just the day before the relay but as a veteran of other relays and a teammate of other runners on the team, she came highly recommended. She churned out great run after great run. We were happy she could make it.

Dane Rauschenberg (31):
Some insufferable punk who MUST have split times.

Christine Currie (42):
Without a doubt the unsung hero of the relay, Christine was instrumental in the planning of the entire event and making sure everything went smoothly. Another great friend, Christine ran stellar times just a few weeks after dealing with a nasty injury which had sidelined her training for quite some time.

David Kleeman (50):
The newest member of the half-century club with a birthday right before the race started, David ran like a 30 year-old and was an excellent choice to be the anchor for our team. Another vet of relay racing, I knew that David’s expertise and running experience would come in handy often.

That’s the team. And as the next few days would show, it was one heck of a team. 189 miles. 12 teammates. 2 vans. 1 purpose.

Friday morning:

After getting all the team members to Blaine, Washington late Thursday night where the start of our journey would begin, we finally had the team all in one place and ready to run. Based on our estimated pace time we would be starting at 11 AM. To begin, allow me to state that our estimated pace time was just that: estimated. Based on our 10k PRs (or best guesstimate) most runners wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace for the longer legs. We assumed most teams made the same estimation and therefore wouldn’t be too far off once the running started.

As the clock ticked down for the 11 AM start, we finished snapping pictures of our surroundings (we were about 100 yards from the Canadian border) and got our cheering caps on. The format of the race was such that one van containing 6 runners would each do one leg each, with the other members trailing for support. Once all 6 runners finished, the next van would take over. Lather, rinse repeat two more times and hopefully about one day later we would be in Langley, Washington and had safely traversed 189 miles.

The only drawback to this format was that my recap will be half-incomplete. Besides a few short stretches, my Van (Van 2) would only be in cell phone contact with the other van, and its runners, sporadically. I therefore cannot attest to all the trials Van One went through and all the wonderful stories from their side. I hope to piece them together for myself soon but this recap will be missing them. I can, however, paint the picture of Van 2 and the ride we had.

The Waiting:

Once Van One was underway, we needed to grab a power lunch and kill a little bit of time before we would try and find some of our teammates to cheer them on. A hearty meal filled our stomachs (perhaps too full) and we were underway. Camping out at a spot near where Nathan would hand off to Abby we killed some time by throwing a Frisbee around and looking over our routes. As other relayers passed us from the earlier start times we would hop out and cheer them on, figuring there would be some lonely stretches where we hoped other teams would do the same for us and others.

At one point, a few of us jogged down the road to see if we could see where the relay exchange would be. We turned around after seeing it was quite a bit up the road and didn’t want to wear ourselves out before we had even ran our first leg. Here we saw that one of the runners passed the turn and was heading in the wrong direction. As the traffic on the road completely drowned out our attempts to scream for him, I took to foot. By the time I got to where he was supposed to have made the turn he was rapidly disappearing down the wrong road. I quickly jumped into our van, squealed out of the parking lot Dukes-of-Hazzard-style and caught up to him. Only after setting him in the right direction, did I notice Mike was still in the van. He later told me he never even heard me getting into the van and only woke up after I had sped away and made him slide from one side to the other. Note to self: Mike is not a good guard van.

All told, we saved four teams from making the wrong turn, set the sign back up (it was either knocked over or the volunteers had directed the runners the wrong way) and still had time to cheer for Abby as she went by. Still trying to figure out how we did not get the award for the favorite team. Another note to self: allow teams to run the wrong way from now on.

We all piled into the van after this and slid on down the road to where Jenna was going to be taking the hand-off to add a little more support. After this, we realized it would make the most sense to go down to our exchange where Katie would take over from Amy and set up shop. Time was approaching for us to lace up the shoes and start a-runnin’.

Katie’s 1st run: (4.1 miles; 35:58; start time = 4:33:44 PM):

When Amy came flying in, we were all sitting on the grass in a wonderful little park cheering loudly. A band was playing and tent-like showers were set up for each runner from the first vans to jump in and rinse off the stench. Happy to finally be running (or having our van be the one that was actually “on-duty”) we jumped into action. We knew Katie’s run began with a sharp series of twists and turns and were hoping to guide her along to some extent so she would not get lost.

Unfortunately, there are places where the runner troops along where cars cannot. As detailed as the instructions are for the runners, they are a little lacking in the driving directions. Luckily, we were able to scoot along and saw Katie standing at an intersection looking for the right way to go. We pointed her in the right direction and away she went. Unfortunately, it was not EXACTLY the right direction but she ended up where she needed to be (having run further than she needed) and fell instep behind a man wearing a tu-tu. The tu-tu wearing team would become fast friends with us as we often crossed paths.

Katie had a horribly tough first leg for someone warmed up, let alone for someone who had been up for 7 hours traveling cooped up in a van. After a mile or so of running, she hit a monstruous hill that we were all glad was not on our own leg. But she trooped on and before we knew it, it was time for the hand-off. Each team was given a slap bracelet that acted as our baton and Katie slapped the bracelet onto Mike’s arm and away he went.

Mike’s 1st Leg: (2.7 miles; 16:18: start time = 5:09:42 PM ):

Blessed with a short first run, Mike still had to contend with short, but steep hill himself. However, we got our first roadkill (passing another team’s runner) of the day when Mike plowed on by a hapless runner who did not know the Air Force guy was bearing down on him. Kathy awaited.

Kathy’s 1st Leg (5.9 miles; 51:00: start time = 5:26:00 PM):

Some changes on legs happened a few days before the race started, some for the worse and some for the better. Kathy was one of the lucky ones who had her leg shortened. Unfortunately, she had the bad luck to be running against a few runners who were obviously top athletes (including one team made up of only 6 runners). As such, the time Mike had made up was soon lost as these competitors took off. But Kathy held her own on a beautiful part of the course, skirting right past Lake Washington.

Mike cooled his heels in the Lake (I am pretty sure he cooled more than his heels but we didn’t venture down the hill to view) and I got ready for my first run of the day. Chatting with one of the Tu-tu wearers who left a few minutes before Kathy came in and passed me the bracelet, I decided to make it my goal to catch him.

My 1st leg (9 miles: 56:28: start time = 6:17:00 PM):

My first portion was bumped from 8.9 miles to 9 miles (insignificant) but remained mostly flat except for a mile long downhill. I know it has been said before, but it bears repeating: I love downhills!

Very soon, I had passed the tu-tu wearing fella (who told me he would see me in Langley, the end of the race) and set my mental sights on the next two runners. I would not even catch a glimpse of them for four more miles and by then I was hungry. My van told me that the ultrarunner had been sported a 9.5 minute headstart on me at the last exchange and I was determined to do two things:

Catch her
Not exhaust myself for my next two runs.

As I passed one runner on the long stretch before I handed off to Christine I was just a few feet behind the ultrarunner. I slapped the bracelet onto Christine’s arm a few seconds in front of the other runner and hit my watch. I was quite pleased with my 6:16 miles but more happy I had put my team back into a fine position.

Christine’s 1st Leg (2.5 miles; 21:35: start time = 7:13:28 PM):

Unfortunately for Christine, she got a fresh ultra runner and a speedy 19-year-old receiving the hand-offs from the teams I had just passed and they were hungry. A stretch of pancake-flat 2.5 miles allowed Christine to pass yet another runner, even though she did eventually give up a position to the other two runners. Christine then slipped through a town that consisted mostly of 3 biker bars and a few other stores all located on a tight S-curve.

What was odd was those stores made up the whole town except for a few house here and there but instead of being rundown the stores were all well-kept and inviting (even though the one bike bar looked exactly like the Blue Oyster in the Police Academy movies). Then just like that, Christine was motoring through fields again in the middle of no where. David stood ready and waiting for his first shot of running.

David’s 1st Leg (5 miles; 34:30: start time = 7:35:03 PM):

What David had told only a few was that his hamstring had been bothering him for quite some time. So as he revved up his goal was to see if he could warm it up and then go from there. Well, warm it up he did as he continued on the same flat route Christine had started and moved along like nothing bothered him at all. I jumped out of the van and ran along with him with water for a few feet and he told me he felt great. Good thing, as we were counting on him to make up some time for us.

David didn’t disappoint as he cruised through the hills and picked off a few runners himself. Waiting for him was Todd, ready to begin his second leg and take us into our 9th hour of running. Slap went the bracelet, away Todd went, we bid adieu to the rest of Van One who were also waiting and cheering, and we walked down to a beautiful lake to let David get cooled off.

1st Break:

We knew that we had a small time period in which to get food in our bellies given the shorter length of Van Two’s next 6 legs, so we couldn’t dilly-dally long. So, a quick bite to eat filled our appetite and then off to the final exchange station for Van 2’s second leg we went. Luckily for us, we were able to utilize a high school’s showers to get a little clean before we readied for our second legs.

While some of my van grabbed a quick nap, I stayed awake and computed our split times in the spreadsheet I had on my laptop. I wanted to see if we had a shot at getting our time under 24 hours. I knew it would be very tough but hoped it would happen anyway.

Before I knew it, my cellphone rang and Jenna told me that Amy was off and running and kicking ass, so we better get Katie ready. I roused the team and soon one tiny little female running machine passed off to another.

Katie’s 2nd Leg (8.5 miles: 65:30: start time = 11:20:49 PM):

Katie had been fuming about how her first leg had not been up to par and therefore seemed to be on a mission. With one of the longest legs on the day, this run would have been difficult enough if not for the fact that it also contained some of the longest sustained hills of the whole day well. But Katie not only seemed to brush off the hills as if they were nothing but cheerfully charged on through the night. Anyone who discounted what Amy and Katie could do would be sorely surprised when this one-two punch flew by them.

Mike’s 2nd Leg (6 miles: 49:00: start time = 12:26:19 AM):

We were all shaking our heads in amazement when, in a rather warm temperatures, Katie handed off the bracelet to Mike who began running through the night wearing long running pants and a long-sleeve shirt. Not quite sure how this man survived Antarctica.

Definitely not the most scenic route, Mike passed by what seemed to be a refinery of some sort which the pungent smell of lord knows what permeating the nostrils. Then we almost had to physical restrain him from jumping into a casino at one point. But Mike made his run look effortless and knocked off a few more runners of his own.

I have mentioned that driving directions could have been a little better and here is where they were most lagging. As Mike veered off of the main road and began suddenly running across a body of water on a sandbar, we all realized there was no where for the van to follow him. I had the foresight to bring my trusty GPS with me in the Van and we could see that if we scooted back down where we came from we could horseshoe ourselves around the water and be where we thought we needed to be.

After some swift maneuvering of the big honking van (my Chrysler Crossfire this beast was not)We made it there and had Kathy primed and ready with just a few minutes to spare.

Kathy’s 2nd Leg (2.4 miles; 20:00: start time = 1:15:19 AM):

As Kathy’s leg was so short and winded through a running path through parts of town that we could not follow, we more or less wished her good luck and sped away to the exchange station. Good thing we did as she flew in before we barely had a chance to park and ready ourselves for the exchange.

My 2nd leg (6.3 miles: 43:18: start time = 1:35:19 AM):

I should have known this might not be a good leg from the beginning. The bracelet didn’t stick to my arm but somehow still rolled up into a ball after Kathy slapped it on me and bounced away. Somehow, in spite of the dark hour, I saw it as it bounced away and under a truck. Christine told me that Mike had said to her “Did Dane run into that truck?” and having not seen me dive underneath the vehicle was confused by his statement. She thought I had been hit in traffic. Luckily, that was not the case.

I saw a few runners up ahead and wanted to tally my roadkill count soon so I kept them in sight. Before 2 miles were up, I passed four of them and was in the clear. So clear, in fact, that I wondered if I was going the right way. There were a few places on the route that could have used a little more signage instructing runners that yes, you are indeed still running straight on this road. Even though we were told that when in doubt, run straight, a little more assurance does help when you are running in the middle of the night.

Up ahead I saw my vanmates cheering loudly for me so I knew I was going the correct way. I told them to simply go ahead to the next exchange as I did not need any drink or towels. I knew the next exchange was a little tricky as I ran into, around and then back out of a 2 mile loop in a park where there was no way they could follow me.

As I got to the loop I was eerily reminded of my run at the Old Dominion 100 a few short weeks ago. With my headlamp bobbing in the darkness I was running on a small (thankfully paved) path through a cloud filled sky which I could not see anyway because of the dense tree cover. As such, my visibility was limited the odd aura my headlight gave which only extended about 6 feet ahead of me. Full of twist and turns as well as steep climbs and descents, I could nary get a pace going because of the occasional speed bump that was built into the road (put in to slow cyclists, I assume).

Minutes ticked by and the words of a runner I saw coming out when I was going in (“It’s totally longer than you think.”) could not have rung more true. I was exhausted and just wanted to pop out and slap that bracelet on Christine’s arm. Luckily, the darkness became a slightly lighter shade of pitch black and I could see the flashing lights ahead on cones signifying the exchange area. I made the quick turn, plopped the bracelet onto Christine’s arm and took a big sigh of relief.

Christine’s 2nd Leg (6.2 miles; 63:33: start time = 2:18:37 AM):

I am so glad this leg was not mine. Christine had the absolute highest elevation gain and some of the steepest climbs of the entire relay on this toughie of a leg. There is nothing much more to say other than she crushed them like a champ. I caught my first little capnat of the day by lying down for about 15 minutes and covering up in a blanket. As such, I missed the first few miles of her run but when Mike jumped out to give Christine water, I hopped right back in the driver’s seat to pick him up down the road.

Up and down she went and in wonderfully fast fashion. David said she was doing all the hard work and was going to relish the downhill she left for him on his upcoming leg.

David’s 2nd Leg (3.6 miles; 24:38: start time = 53:22:10 AM):

Relish he did for as soon as the bracelet was on his arm, David was off. Mostly downhill, this section’s main sight to see was Deception Pass, a gorgeous arched bridge of a deep gully. Unfortunately, no one could really see it given the time of the night. This might have been for the best as I am sure none of the tired runners wanted to look down and see what one false step could have in store for them.

At David’s behest, we sped ahead to the next relay exchange and met up with Van 2. Full of vim and vigor and with all kinds of stories of trash talking with other runners and good natured ribbing we sent Todd of into the night on his next leg. Poor Todd gets the Ah Crap Award as his leg was nearly doubled due to one of those late in the day course changes. Kudos to Todd for not complaining once.

2nd Break:

We were all feeling pretty groggy at this point and wanted to get to the next place where we would begin running and possibly grab a shower. Unfortunately, when we go to the exchange, we saw that there were no warm showers and even the cold shower tents were not set up. The majority of us opted for makeshift cleanings in the bathroom and laid down on our sleeping bags in nearby gym or in our Van.

I finally laid down myself for a quick rest and wouldn’t you know it slept for a full hour plus missing the phone call from Jenna telling us that Amy was on her way. We quickly rolled up our gear, splashed some water on our faces and Katie readied herself for her final exchange.

Van Two rolled in just a few minutes before Amy and you could tell how happy they were to be done. We wanted to experience that same feeling and finish off a long day of running. We no longer had a shot at finishing under 24 hours but no one was done giving it their all just yet.

Katie’s 3rd Leg (6.6 miles: 52:48: start time = 8:01:51 AM):

Katie’s three legs contained the highest total climb of any runner on any van. But one of those climbs is going to make for a spectacular picture. Mike used a wonderful camera and some awesome skills to get a shot of tiny Katie trudging up a gorgeous if you were not running it hill that looked similar to the Pacific Coast Highway shots in California that we always see in the movies. But like earlier in the night, she crested these hills like a champ and continued to cheerily eat up miles.

Mike’s 3rd Leg (6.3 miles: 43:20: start time = 8:54:34 AM):

By now we were all really ready to be done. Nevertheless, always in good spirits, Mike took the handoff from Katie and sped away. This late in the run, we had already long been passing teams who had started earlier than us so there were a few more people to catch than there had been earlier in the race. (e.g., In my second leg I had nine roadkill.) Mike had one in his sights but had some pretty steep hills to contend with before that would happen.

However, not only did he get that runner, but chugging along he picked off one more runner, right before the hand-off. Then immediately celebrated with a beer. I mean immediately. He wasn’t out of the chute and David had a cold one in his hand. I have the picture. It is hilarious.

Kathy’s 3rd Leg (4.9 miles; 46:18: start time = 9:37:54 AM):

Kathy’s leg was rather lonely (at least from Van 2’s perspective) but she appeared to want it that way. She waived us on after we stopped the cheer and told us just to meet her at the end of the leg. But Van 1’s raucousness didn’t get that memo and now, a little rested and full of energy after finishing their part, rumor has it they pumped Kathy up for quite some time.

My 3rd leg (6.1 miles: 39:20: start time = 10:24:12 AM):

All I wanted to do was catch the few runners who were in front of me, including the team we would knew as Team 43. Nice people all in all but they were in front of us and they must go down. Unfortunately, although they were one of the teams I had passed in my first leg near the end in my final sprint and then again passed them right at the start of my second leg, events transpired to give them a 16 minute cushion when I finally received the hand-off. With only 6.1 miles to make up the gap I knew barring leg cramps on the other team, it was going to be impossible.

But I took the hand off from Kathy and ran so fast out of the chute that I had to duck underneath Mike’s camera as he was taking pictures of the exchange. There was no way I would catch team 43 but there was another guy about 3 minutes ahead of me who was going to get run down.

Within a mile, I had already tracked down the runner and passed him. Spurred on by a rejuvenated, (and often without pants) Van 1 on the sidelines cheering me on, I gave it all I had. A couple of quick steep downhills helped my pick up a little time for the one long steady uphill and the short but almost vertical uphill right before my exchange. Darn near running a 10k PR this late in the game on this course made me feel like I had given the team my all.

Christine’s 3rd Leg (4 miles; 37:30: start time = 11:03:32 AM):

Once again Christine was saddled with a leg that had more hills than you would ever want while running for leisure, let alone for your third time in 17 hours on a race team. But she gamely conquered them all, as well as speeding traffic on a busy highway and gentle harassment from Van 1 as they needled her good-naturedly on the side of the road.

We were down to one last push and David took the hand-off from Christine at a luau exchange station (I have no idea why, so don’t ask) and off he went.

David’s 3rd Leg (6.3 miles; 43:44: start time = 11:41:02 AM):

Saddled with a couple of long steep uphills to start his leg, David was determined to knock off not one but two separate runners who both happened to be wearing Orange shirts. Like hunters being hunted, David started the task of tracking them down.

As we repeatedly pulled over both vans to cheer him on the other runners knew that someone was on their tail. Repeatedly looking over their shoulders, one seemed not to care too much, while the other appeared as if he did care but there was nothing he could do about it. In fact, he turned to Loren’s camera one time and said: “He’s got me.”

And he was right. When we left David with about a mile to go to the finish of our long arduous task, David was still a hundred yards or so behind this one last orange shirted chap. We wanted to make sure we were parked and ready for the final run. If he was alone, we were going to all run in together as a team.

As we piled out of the vans amidst all the orange and blue banners that were the colors of the Ragnar Relay series (poor Florida State fan Mike detested all this Gator like coloring), we were eager to see what our anchor runner was going to do. Obstructed by trees and a right turn, we could not see the runners until they were just a few hundred feet from the finish. Amy ran over to the street to see if she could see the runners and threw he hands in the air in excitement.

Just then, steaming along like it was nothing, came David all alone. A huge cheer erupted not only from our team (named “Postfontaine”, by the way, in a humorous take on the famous runner Steve Prefontaine; David came up with the name and later on Sunday we found we won the contest for the best team name. Fitting it was David who would finish the race for us.) but from everyone sitting around the finish. We had made many friends during the day and I think just as many teams were happy for us as we were. (Surprised we did not win the Favorite Team award. Guess we passed too many people.)

With David leading the way, this merry band of runners crossed the finish line in 25:22:56. We finished 8th out of 24 in the Open Mixed Division (where in you had to have at least 6 females) and 14th overall out of 58 finishers. Ironically, if we had one less female we would have not only been considered a “men’s” team but would have taken 3rd overall. But we were absolutely proud of everything we did during the past day of running and were already beginning plans to run yet another Ragnar Relay as soon as possible.

While impromptu plans for a few of us to run an 8k race in Seattle that night (yep, we like pain) were derailed by a longer than expected lunch plans, we enjoyed quick showers in our hotels near the airport and had one last dinner together. We had only been together for about 48 hours total (and even less for the separate vans) but it felt like days. Great friendships were made, a wonderful time was had by all and there are more stories to be told (and kept secret!) than any book could ever do justice.

Final thoughts on the Race organization itself:

I have never done a relay of this sort before but I know how races need to be run. To say this race went without a hitch would be incorrect. But what race can travel 189 miles, through various terrain with 58 different teams of up to 12 people without something going askew. That said, I was absolutely floored at how well the race was put together.

From the course descriptions for the runners, to the elevation profiles for each leg, to the spreadsheet sent out to each team to input all the data and have it calculate split times and estimated departures etc,. I have to say I am rather impressed.

As mentioned, there were a few places where driving directions could have been a little more defined but that was in only one or two legs of the 36 total different places. In addition, there are a few places where a few extra signs or possibly a lamp or two (like my run through the dark park in leg 2) could have saved a little trepidation on the runner’s part and helped ease their minds that they were in the right place.

I know it is not that I had low expectations, which is never the case (I always expect the most) but because the race was so well put together that we all had a wonderful time and were thoroughly looking forward to our next excursion together. Some of our more experienced relay runners also expressed both surprise and also were impressed at how well the race was run by its organizers. So, three cheers goes out to Ragnar Relay and here is to many more races of similar quality in the near future.


1L said...

As the honorary teammate (yes, the injured one), I am so proud of you guys. What a fantastic race and effort. I can't believe how well you captured the experience, Dane. Having run Hood to Coast, I would say that this relay equals it in terrain!

Hopefully you will want to organize again for next year, and I can make it then!

(By the way, I am back on the roads, albeit slow, short, and easy)

Unknown said...

Thank you for the detailed description of your experience. Which took longer, running the race or writing the report? I don't know whether to be more impressed with your performance on race day or with you detailed recollection of every minute of the race. We loved having you out for the race and I appreciate your generous critique of the race.
We work very hard to put on the best race possible and we are always making improvements. I think your suggestion for better driving direction is very doable. I would like to say in our defense on the whole sign-in-the-wrong-direction thing that we were up against vicious enemies in the form of annoying teenagers. The likes of which we have never faced before. We had crews check the course once every two hours or so and without fail some kid had turned a sign or stolen an led arggg! Don't know what it is about this race. We've never had this problem in the past. We're working on solutions. the most promising of which are the following: Placing the signs in a pool of water and running an electric current through them, chaining dobermans to each sign, wrapping them in razor wire. Actually once the race is large enough we'll have volunteers at each turn and that will solve the problem. I will probably 2009 before we are at that point for this race.

Take care

Dan Hill
Ragnar Relay - Founder

Yellow Scuba said...


As always, your memory astounds me. I don't even need to write a report since you have covered all of our legs. Thanks, buddy! :)

This was a great relay all-around - great weather, beautiful course, excellent work on the part of Ragnar, and, of course, a very cool team in Postfontaine! We surely had the coolest shirts, not only the best name!

Thanks for running so hard and giving me as much padding as possible. I ran my hardest to keep it, but sometimes youth (that little bugger!) and faster legs on competitors just win out. Even so, it was a great experience. Thank you for bringing us all together. Postfontaine rocked!

Dane said...


We missed ya. Next time for sure. Glad to hear you are recovering.

What a pleasant surprise. Glad you made a trip to my blog. I figured it was teenagers or some other act of god. Over 189 miles not every sign can be perfect. But I like the electircal current idea...


My pleasure. I told everyone I didn't care what they did but I was giving my all. Thanks for giving yours too.