Friday, August 30, 2013

Ragnar Relay Recap - Northwest Passage - 2013

What is "Ragnar"?

Ragnar was a king and hero of early 9th century Scandinavia. He was a conqueror, a wild man, a leader, fearless and free-spirited (possibly a romanticized version of history that may or may not be based on facts).

A Ragnar Relay was named after so when the Ragnar Relay founders decided to include a long uphill route that gained more than 4,000 feet of elevation.  Who on earth would want to run such a thing?  Ragnar would!

Instead of catering to ultra-runners and those who have dedicated their life and hours each day to serious, competitive running, Ragnar Relays offer an epic opportunity for anyone (and their friends) to accomplish something amazing, together.

These are Ragnarians.

Ragnarians seek adventure, love fitness and the outdoors, give moral support to each other at 3 AM, enjoy camaraderie, don’t stop for bad weather, accomplish the amazing – together, aren’t afraid to wear crazy costumes, cheer others on, and ring cowbells to celebrate victories – small and large

Ragnarians fulfill their freedom to roam, to explore, to lead, – a free-spirited desire to get out there and experience an outdoor adventure with friends. They traverse beautiful scenery, conquer challenges, and celebrate as a team. They outfit themselves in crazy costumes, deck out their vans and tents and walk away with kick-ass medals, bragging rights and unforgettable stories of this epic adventure!

Most of those last two paragraphs aren't my words - they are descriptions I mostly copied from the website - but I did so because they hit the mark dead on.

The Northwest Passage 2013 Ragnar Relay was held on July 19th and 20th.

The course began at Peach Arch Park in Blaine, WA (the most popular US/Canada crossing in Washington) and continued southward through Birch Bay, Bellingham, Burlington, Mount Vernon, LaConner, Anacortes, across the Deception Pass bridge on to Whidbey Island, through Oak Harbor and Coupeville and ending in the little town of Langley.  196 miles.

Our team name was "Cool Runners".  11 of the 12 people on the team were related to each other... kind of a family reunion with relatives coming from Washington, Utah and Arizona.  They had a solid group of 11 but needed one more runner to fill the vacant spot. helped get us connected and it was a perfect match!  They were thrilled to have me on their team and I was thrilled to be there!

Teams were assigned a starting time based on the estimated average pace of the entire team.  Training wasn't really a focus for this team as they were more interested in just enjoying the event and spending time together.  Accordingly, we had a slow average pace and ended up with a 6:45am starting time.  The slowest teams started at 6:00am and the fastest teams started much later in the day... like Noon, or 4pm.

Each team member is assigned a position, #1 thru #12.  Runners #1 thru #6 all ride in one van and runners #7 thru #12 ride in a second van.  I was runner #8, hanging out with the second van.

Each team member runs specified segments, in the assigned order.  Runner #1 would run Segments #1, #13 and #25.  Runner #2 would run segments #2, #14 and & 26. etc...

I ran segments #8, #20 & #32.

My first run (segment #8) started about 1:30pm or so, running from Fairhaven up to Lake Padden and then to the I-5 interchange at North Lake Samish.  Although this leg had the most elevation gain of all 36 segments, it was a great route!  My wife & kids and their friends were waiting for me at the lake to cheer me on and then my hiking buddy Tim (Oarboar!) Mahoney met me just out side the park to encourage me to keep up the pace... and he popped up again at the N. Lk Samish exchange where I handed off the wrist-baton to Colton (our runner #9).

After our last runner complete her segment at the Burlington High School, our van went to grab Subway sandwiches at the local Wal-mart before driving out to LaConnor to try and catch some sleep before our 2nd wave which we expected would start at about  11:15pm.

My second run began at about 12:15am and took me by the Swinomish Casino next to Hwy 20, across the Tommy Thompson Trestle in pitch black night, through a tree covered trail and into Anacortes.

After that, it got cold out and I was ready for some sleep.  Eventually we were dropped off at the Coupeville High School for a couple hours of sleep before beginning our last legs of the run which started about 10:30am.

After running faster, further and longer than he ever had before, our Runner #7 had to call in some backup help for the last mile and a half which involved a nasty & long hill.  I was glad to step in and help out (but I really should have made a pit stop first and had something more than nothing for breakfast).  I tried my best, by my tank was on empty and I ended up walking a couple short stretches despite my desire not to.

Word to the wise... even though you may not feel hungry, don't skip the chance to consume some calories before your third run!

My final run finished about 1:00pm on Saturday.  From then on out the focus was on aiding the team and encouraging them to hang in there to the finish line!

With 45 minutes to go we finally crossed the finish line and successfully collected our medals!

Although this blog post completely lacks the fun details... the costumes, the camaraderie and the thrill of the event I can honestly say this was one of those weekends that will forever be a memorable one.

I owe that to all my fellow Ragnarians.  I also owe it to my family for supporting my hours of dedicated training and the Cool Runners team for taking a chance on me.

With the fond memories of this epic adventure, I've compiled many of the meaningful images into a book on  It's the images and the effort that I put into it that makes it a special and personal memento for me, and me alone.  You can buy one if you want to, but I'd rather have you join me for the 2014 relay instead.  :)

Fellow Ragnarians... if you would like some help in creating a similar book feel free to let me know and I'll help you out if you need it.  Or... if you are looking for a team or a teammate, feel free to call me, maybe.

I'll try to lay off the Ragnar posts for at least six months.



PS:  Coming soon:  A Trip Report to High Pass with epic photos!

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