My husband and I recently had the chance to run as runners 9 (me) and 10 (him) on the Kindred Spirits team for Ragnar Northwest Passage. Ragnar is a relay race, where teams of 12 (sometimes just 6) take turns running three times each to cover about 200 miles over the course of around 36 miles. This is the second time we’ve run Ragnar Northwest Passage and the third Ragnar race we have done.
Ragnar is so much more than just a race! It is an experience unlike any other –well, at least unlike anything else I’ve ever done. One of our team members described it as “summer camp in a van,” and that is about as close as you can get. The teams we have been fortunate enough to be on are not particularly competitive; the goal is simply to finish and to have fun in the process. We had that, for sure!
My first leg was hard, both as rated by Ragnar and by my standards. The day was warm, and that took way more out of me than I anticipated. Running as the sun beat down on me turned into walking rather quickly; as a result, I took longer than projected to finish my leg. Bummer.
I was not the only one who was slower than the projected times, however. We weren’t doing too bad initially, but gradually our projected finish time slipped later and later. It was not looking too good for us to finish in time to enjoy the free pizza and (not so free) beer garden.
One of the fun things we did as a team was get pink tutus that lit up for all the women to wear on our night legs. I put mine on as we approached my second leg, which went along a trail and then into town. I couldn’t tell how visible it was, but my husband said he could see me a long way down the trail. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as being TOO visible when running at night, so I was very happy to wear the tutu!
Night legs are often what runners dread the most, especially if they haven’t done much night running. I really enjoyed my night leg, though; there’s something almost magical about running in the dark, your headlamp shining on the path ahead. The only part of this night leg that I wasn’t too excited about was when I was running through town and had to pass a man walking down the sidewalk the opposite direction. It wasn’t a problem, but I did avoid eye contact and made sure I was moving briskly at that point. I did much better on time on my second leg, which was my one easy leg.
The team time, however, had slipped enough that our team captain made the decision to contact Ragnar for permission to “leapfrog” in order to catch us up more. We had to do that last year when we ran Ragnar Las Vegas, and in that case it was a matter of dropping one runner off, then going ahead to the next exchange to drop the next runner off before the first finished to have two people running their legs concurrently. For this Ragnar, however, they had us select to runners to run one leg together and skip a leg altogether. Since my husband and I are close to the same pace and run together regularly, it was have us do one leg together. Given a choice of my last leg (6.8 miles very hard) or his (5.8 miles hard), we opted for the shorter, slightly less difficult leg to make up the most time.
That meant we had the unusual opportunity to run together on one leg during Ragnar. It. Was. Awesome! We were able to enjoy the sights along the way, like eagles hunting in a field, and keep each other company while pushing one another just a bit more than we might have run on our own. We finished his leg a couple of minutes ahead of projection, which was nice to see.
As a result of the leapfrogging and other time we were able to make up, the team finished early enough to relax, eat pizza, have a beer, and enjoy being together without feeling rushed.
I don’t know when I have laughed so much as I did with this group. Yes, we ran a lot of miles, but we had fun, no two ways about it. We’re already talking about running Ragnar Adirondacks together next year (September 2014), and of course there are plans to run Ragnar Northwest Passage again. Some of the faster runners may opt to gather people to form an ultra team (six runners instead of 12), but I think most will be back next year as part of the Kindred Spirits team. I want to work on improving my pace before next year; I’d really like to be consistently running an 11 minute mile or better as my 10K pace by then.