At just before 12:30pm last Saturday, I crossed the finish line with Team Fly by Night to complete the Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay. We were tired, sweaty, and in one case, fighting stomach issues after a recent trip to Mexico. Despite this, we completed the 168 mile relay course! And we did it in a respectable 26 1/2 hours.
It felt like much further in the past, but it was just the morning before when our team met up at the Northgate Park n' Ride in Seattle to count our gear and begin this adventure.
After making sure we had enough head lamps, reflective vests and food, 12 runners piled into a minivan and an SUV, and headed north to the relay start in Blaine, Washington.
Over the next day, teammates in each van took turns running legs of the race lasting 3-9 miles, while runners in the other van rested and ate.
Now to be honest, my squad, van 2, started our day pretty relaxed.
Because we were running second (slots 6 - 12), we first stopped in Bellingham, baked cookies at a teammate's house, napped on plush couches and watched Ferris Buelers Day Off on a 50'' TV. This was all while the other van of Fly by Night teammates hit the start line and began the run southbound in 85°F weather (guess life just isn't fair).
We killed a few hours at Kelly's house, then headed to the first exchange point for a safety briefing and warm-up run. After getting confirmation by cell phone that Joe, the last runner in van 1, was just under a mile away, we crowded the hand-off point. Kelly, our next runner, stood bouncing with energy, yearning to go.
In a blink of an eye, Joe screamed around the corner, crowds cheered and Kelly took the "baton", an organge slap bracelet labeled with the Ragnar logo.
Bam, she took off. Kelly's 5'1' frame soared down the road.
Van 1 would now get a few hours to rest and drive to the next hand-off point. Meanwhile me and Van 2 began leap frogging Kelly to make sure she had water and food, and that she stayed on course as we pushed south.
Team Fly by Night did this for the rest of Saturday and through the early hours of Sunday. Runner after runner would hop out of the van, strap on a head lamp and beat a path into the darkness. It felt like some crazy game.
I started my second leg, a downhill trek of 5.4 miles, at the groggy hour of 3:15 am. While I promised myself that I'd hold a steady and slow pace, the excitement of the night got the best of me, so I furiously chased the bobbing white and red lights in front of me (runners from other teams). My pace sped up from 9...8... then 7 min/mile as I burned downhill.
The descent was taking its toll and by the time I reached Deception Pass, my quads were numb. Finishing this leg was the only thing in my mind.
As I crossed the Deception Pass bridge, the ground was lit only by my headlamp and the full moon. This was probably a good thing. I'd be too scared to run if I could see the dark water far below the narrow bridge walkway.
Just before dawn, my van got to La Conner High School. Some of us grabbed showers, while others slep on the floor of the gymnasim. The sight of hundreds of bodies laying on the floor was surreal--a cross between a camping adventure and an emergency shelter.
After less than two hours, our team woke, dressed and prepared to receive the baton once more. Luckily everyone was healthy and energized. As we had done before, we met Van 1 and the runners exchanged the slap bracelet. The race for us was on once more... south to Langley.
At a quarter to noon on Saturday I received the last handoff just east of Rt. 525, the last 4.8 of our 168 mile relay. This leg would finish the race.
Unlike my previous routes, I had some elevation to contend with, with a big hill just before I entered town. I pushed hard and was coated in sweat as I entered Langley. Shirtless, I dodged tourists on the sidewalk and closed in on the final mile.
A few hundred feet from the finish line, my teammates Heather, Bob, Kelly, Catherine, Joe, Michele, Mike, Natasha, Ed, Molly, and Ted joined me and we finished the relay together as a team. A perfect ending.
The Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay was an amazing journey with Fly by Night. We met wonderful people, saw beautiful parts of Washington and traveled hundreds of miles by foot. Incredible.
We'll be back next year!
In the meantime, I have bigger things to worry about. Below is a video from our Northwest Passage journey.