Wednesday, July 27, 2011

7/22/2011 Ragnar Relay "Northwest Passage"

As an ultra/marathon runner I look forward to participating in relays with friends.  I spend so much time training alone, running 100 mile events and marathons by myself to be able to participate in an event with friends and push myself for someone else’s benefit is fun and a nice change of pace.  Because the distance of my legs in the relay are so short, 3 - 8 miles I find myself racing each and every leg.  Man it's fun to run fast!  
Last year I was asked to fill a spot on a friend’s Ragnar team. My friend Lindsey duToit, organizer of “We’ve Got the Runs”, started this team as a Washington State University (Mount Vernon WA Extension Center) team. She had 5 people drop a few months prior to the race and was having a tough time finding runners to complete all 12 spots.  She called me and asked if I was willing to join the team.  I was reluctant at 1st because I had signed up to run an evening 5k with my wife in Seattle a few hours after I finished my last leg of the relay.  After thinking about it for about 5 minutes I decided, heck I can do it all, after all they are all short runs.  Run 4 runs in 24 hours piece of cake right!  Now came the task of finding enough friends to fill the other vacancies, I thought it would be tough, but I was wrong!  I called up 4 friends Kevin Douglas, Bryan Robertson, Shawn Bussert and Chip Kiel they all jumped at the chance to join our team. 

The race was a blast we finished in 4th place overall, pretty good for a team that was consisted of 1 sub 6 minute miler, quite a few 6:30 – 8:00 milers, and a few 10:00 – 11:00 milers.  We were a real mixed team not a team of ringers.  After the race was over last year everyone on the team told me they had a blast and wanted to do it again. 

So this is where the story begins:

This year all the WSU team members, except Lindsey, dropped off the team.  This left 4 spots open for more friends.  Filling these spots was so easy.  We filled 2 of the spots with members of our club and 2 friends from Bellingham.   The team consisted of the following members:

Stephanie Kiel – Team Captain, 2010 team member
Pablo Cabrera – 2010 team member
Jessie Hofheimer – 2010 team member
Benjamin Lengerich – New team member
Dave Buttrey – New team member
Lindsey duToit – 2010 team member
Kevin Douglas – 2010 team member
Shawn Bussert – 2010 team member
Terry Sentinella– 2010 team member
Bryan Robertson – 2010 team member
Heather Anderson – New team member
Chris Wright – New team member
Chip Kiel ­– 2010 team member

Going into the relay we assumed our team would be slower than last year since we lost Andrew Lawson.  He ran our longest legs in 2010 and put down 5:30 miles.  His performance was amazing.  We also lost a few of the slower people on our team.  All of our new team member’s times were estimated between 7:15 -8:15.  The whole team now consisted of runners who promised to run times between 6:15 to 8:15 miles.  Our team was a bunch of friends competing against other team members times, competing against others on the road, running their best to help the team finish with the best time possible, and of course taking down as much ROAD KILL as possible (about 220 road kills were had).

Our team started at 2pm in Blaine Washington at the Canadian Border.  Our 1st van had a little bit of a problem for some reason they decided to go across the border instead of straight to Blaine, ahmm without passports, this could have ruined our race if the Border Cops decided to detain them.  I heard they questioned Pablo about his American citizenship. Luckily they let our van of misfits back into the U.S. thanks to the beautifully decorated van.  I was kind of surprised they didn’t question Kevin.  He was still sporting a Pink Mohawk from Badwater (was red but Badwater faded it to a hot pink color, NICE!).  I also heard the Tribal cops pulled over van 1 on the Swinomish Reservation for speeding in the middle of the night.  Once again this van of misfits talked their way out of it.  I think maybe they need a new driver next year?

The 1st 6 legs of the race was ran by the 6 members in our 1st van.  They came in 30 minutes ahead of time. I guess none of these 6 people knew the kind of speed they were capable of.  Basically the remainder of the race went the same way.  Every van dropped our estimated time down by 20 – 30 minutes, with a finish time 2:20 faster than we had predicted.  The whole team was pushing as hard as they possibly could.  I don’t think anyone ran their leg slower than their predicted time.  It doesn’t get better than that.

I was in the 2nd van.  Our van had a lot of fun pushing, prodding and teasing.  Nothing like building team spirit by reinforcement either negative or positive, whatever works, right!  Since we were the last van we were given the opportunity to finish the race in Langley WA at the south end of Whidbey Island.  Chip was our last runner; it is always a blast to watch him run.  Last year he danced across the finish line, this year I was waiting for some theatrical finish, but to no avail.  Watching him run up that last hill pushing as hard as he could with pure grit and determination on his face will be forever engrained in my mind.

Our team finished this year’s Ragnar Relay in 22:08, about 5 minutes faster than last year, and the course was 3 miles longer.  We placed 5th overall, Ok we lost 1 place over last year, still very good.  I was amazed we did so well since we lost our ringer.  Just shows what a bunch of good middle of the pack runners can do when working as a team.  I can’t wait to see wait we can do next year.