Five weeks ago at this time, I was on a train bound for Seattle, getting ready to run the Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay. It’s taken me this long to even think about sitting down and writing about it due to equal parts laziness and simply not knowing where to begin. And then I saw Dawn’s recap which was so thorough, thoughtful and kind and Megan’s, which absolutely captured both the awesomeness and the frustration of not knowing how to put into words an experience that defies them and I was all, “Well, shit… why bother? I’ll just link to those two and call it a day!”
Were any of you camp kids? Or theater kids? Or (so I can identify with my own point here) competitive speech kids? Did you have something that you did or a place you went or people that you shared an experience with that meant so much to you, but when you got home you couldn’t really figure out how to talk about it in a way that didn’t sound like, “Oh my gosh, it was so fun and funny! Then this happened and this happened and… well, I guess you had to be there, but seriously it was THE BEST EVER”?
That’s kinda how Ragnar was. I mean, I guess that’s pretty much how any relay is. Cram yourself in a van with five or six other people for 30-ish hours and the things that quickly bond you together are the very things that make you (as a unit) slightly unfit for polite society. And yet I want to talk about it here because it was such a great experience and I am so grateful to Nuun for making it possible and to all of my teammates for making it incredible.
I Amtrak-ed up to Seattle on Thursday and rolled into town slightly behind schedule. This put me at Nuun HQ for the pre-race pasta feed and van decorating a little after everyone else had arrived. Pretty much right up until the exact moment I walked into the Nuun office, all I had felt was excitement about running the race. The minute it became reality and I was about to meet these people that I had been emailing and Facebooking and tweeting with for two months, well, I sorta got freaked out. My adult extrovert decided to go on an impromptu holiday and my childhood introvert showed up to the party. I realized that everyone else there had met at least one other person previously and that I was literally the only one who didn’t know a soul. Thankfully, I think I did a decent job of keeping my nerves in check and probably just came off as the quiet weirdo who showed up late. All of which was true. I did actually latch on to Dawn and sort of followed her around like a puppy for a while, possibly sensing a kindred spiritness about her, or just that she seemed like the sort of person who might tend to be kind to nut jobs.
Then it was off to the hotel where Nuun put us out-of-towners up for the night and Becky, Holly, Alanna and I quickly took advantage of the rooftop hot tub and spectacular view. Some unpacking, repacking, show and tell of all our race gear and then it was time for sleep.
Becky and Holly were in Van 1 and had a much earlier wake up call then Alanna and I did. They took off to get the team started off right up in Blaine, WA and Alanna and I were collected by our van a bit later. All the forecast watching that we had all been doing obsessively for at least a week was a waste because we woke up Friday to steady rain that had not even been whispered about as a possibility up until that morning. However, Van 1 definitely drew the short running-in-crappy-weather straw and Van 2 lucked out and pretty much dodged the rain.
We started at Bellingham High School and I led off as the first runner from my van.
Prior to my start, there had been discussion in our van of (among other topics) two things:
1. Stacie’s fear of getting attacked by a goat while running. Five weeks later, the rationale behind that is a little fuzzy, but it was definitely a thing.
2. How much it would suck to get lost running one of your legs.
Welp, folks, I took one for the team on both counts during my first leg. Sort of. Somewhere near the beginning of my run, I passed the Wailing Goat coffee shop in Bellingham and filed that away as a fun thing to tell Stacie when I met up with the team at the next exchange. Then I ran. And I ran. And I ran some more. And it felt great. It was a (now dry), not hot, not cold Friday afternoon and life was all kinds of spectacular. Then I chose to interpret a Ragnar sign that said “Right” as “Turn Right” rather than the more accurate “Keep Right.” I accept at least 50% responsibility for what happened next, but that sign really threw me off. Up and up and up a road and past a fence and quite a ways onto private property before I realized, “Hey. Dummy. You are lost.” I added about 1.2 miles to my run and pushed my grand total for the weekend to pretty much an even 24. Thankfully, that was the only mishap I had and while they could have given me all kinds of shit for it, my teammates were incredibly gracious.
And the rest of the weekend? In a word, perfect. If you lived it with me, you know how it went and if you didn’t, you’ve likely heard plenty of stories already. A couple of highlights though:
– Our van driver and Nuun employee, Tyler, was a kickass dose of XY chromosomes in our lady van. I am so thankful that he is such a chill dude and handled the following exchange (about two hours into knowing him) as well as he did.
Me: “Um… so… I’m sure you hear this a lot, but… um… so… Like how many times a week does someone tell you that you look exactly like Apolo Ohno?”
Tyler: “Not once in my life actually.”
I’m also super glad I didn’t follow that by waxing poetic about one of his doppelganger’s performances on Dancing With the Stars.
– Let’s get real here for a moment, people. I’ll try and be as delicate as I can about this while actually addressing it directly. Pooping is of paramount importance during a relay experience. And if you’re like me and have a shy little guy of a GI tract that just shuts down when away from home (much less doing a running/not sleeping thing for 30+ hours), this becomes a big deal. Having run a bunch of relays now, I say a little poo prayer on Day 1 and make my peace with whatever may or may not happen in the next two days. Let me just say that, as far as this relay goes, Coupeville Middle School in Coupeville, WA will always have a very special place in my heart.
– My final, Saturday afternoon run on Whidbey Island was one of the most gorgeous runs of my life. Things that enhanced it included, my team cheering for me like the bosses they were more times than I can count along the way, greeting me at the finish with beer disguised as Lemon Tea Nuun in a bottle and taking pictures like this one. Bubble by the lovely, bubbly, want-to-put-her-in-my-pocket-and-take her-home-with-me Stacie.
There was so much more. SO MUCH MORE.
And as much as I wish I had the energy to write about it all, what I’d really like is to just live the whole gorgeous mess again with those awesome people.
So now it’s five weeks post-Ragnar and I find myself on this Thursday, preparing for a different relay. It’s Hood to Coast time. Which, as most of you know, is usually my favorite time. This is my fifth year running the race and even as I was so grateful to be selected for the Nuun Ragnar team, there was always this voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah yeah, this is gonna be great and all, but it’s not Hood to Coast.” I firmly believed that HTC would be first in my heart forever. On this, my fifth HTC-eve, it is with a medium sized amount of guilt that I have to whisper…
I liked Ragnar more.
Was it that the course was new and different to me? That with about 300 teams compared to HTC’s bloated 1250 last year, it was delightfully less crowded and more manageable? Maybe. Or maybe it was that I finally found my running people. I found this kickass group of women who were not only fast friends after two days, but have continued to communicate, and more importantly, made plans to continue to see each other. I will be reunited with some of them in December when I travel to Sacramento to run the California International Marathon and I might even luck out and run into Megan this weekend at HTC. They are the ones that I know I’ll turn to for advice when/if I get serious about chasing a Boston qualifying time and hopefully we’ll manage to get the whole band back together sometime for another relay.
Did I even begin to do the whole NuunKOTB experience justice? Not remotely. But it was the best and I loved it and if nothing else, I hope that Nuun and every member of that neon clad team of darlings knows how thankful I am to have been a part of the fun.