51 days: Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage 2013 – Part 1 of Racing with ‘Pain Now, Beer Later’

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Only 51 days away! Raised so far: $8,952! Want to increase this total? Chip in a few bucks to one of our causes here!

Over the last 100 days of our fundraising drive we have an ongoing fundraising challenge! Every day for the last 100 days  before Ironman Lake Tahoe, I’ll be picking out a motivational winner that earns $5 to the TFAC cause of their choice. Lots of winners so far – the first series of deposits have been made! How do you win? Go find out the details here.

Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage 2013 – Racing with ‘Pain Now, Beer Later’

On Wednesday I highlighted the quick bits involved with putting together the 2013 edition of our Ragnar Northwest Passage squad. Essentially, we built one team by merging two previous tribes – the “Unknown/Pain Now… Beer Late” team with a group of “CN Honey Badgers”. The big question remained… how would these tribes get along?

I failed to mention one very important bit of information in the previous post. When the recruiting process began to fill the 12 spots for our team, whenever a new person was offered up to join the team, only one question was asked: is he/she fun?

If you could knock out a 5:30/mile 10K pace, but were a jerk, we didn’t want you on our team. If you could run 11:30/mile, have fun, and play well with others, welcome aboard! The ONLY prerequisite to being in one of our vans was that we were going to have a fun experience – all it takes is one person to destroy the fun, and that wasn’t going to happen.

Fortunately, many of the runners on the team were already friends… or friends of friends. Those who didn’t know each other already had been Facebook friends for several months, so we had become familiar with each other. Our first meetings weren’t, “Hi, I’m Jeff!” but instead were, “Hi, so good to finally see you (insert name here)!!!” followed immediately by hugs.

And this is where this race report will take a different twist than most I’ve written. I’m not going to quote individual times, distances, elevation profiles, or the highs and lows of the individual segments – because these aren’t important in this race… Ragnar for me is all about the experience. The shared moments. The laughs. The silly pictures and moments from the road.

One of the unfortunate parts about these types of relay races: due to logistics issues, the teams split up into two vans. During the course of the race each van develops its own culture and stories. As I was in Van 2 this race, many of the stories I’ll be sharing pertain to the events in our van. The vans have brief opportunities to mingle at the major exchange exchange points (when the baton passes between teammates in different vans), but they are usually quite brief – the incoming van is supporting their runner on the course and has just enough time to find a parking spot at the exchange. Once the handoff takes place, the van that just finished is interested primarily in food, showers & sleep, and the van that just took over on the race course needs to support the runner out on the road. There is enough time to just barely cross-pollinate the van cultures at these exchanges. Fortunately, we live in the age of social media – that certainly helped the vans (and teammates within the same van) in contact and constantly entertained… and cross-pollinated.

Getting the party started

Van 1 drove up to Blaine, WA, on Thursday afternoon the day before the race as our start time was 7am Friday morning. Sleep was necessary as it would be difficult to come by over the next 30-ish hours. There were the usual pre-race shenanigans…

Van 1 enjoyed an pre-race evening meal and participated in some carbo loading...

Van 1 enjoyed a pre-race evening meal and participated in some carbo loading…

Somebody apparently didn't get the memo regarding the team name, as our little unicorn opted for the fruity carbo loading option.

Somebody apparently didn’t get the memo regarding the team name, as our little unicorn opted for the fruity carbo loading option.

Part of the Ragnar culture is to decorate the van - you can tell that they've done this before, huh? Van 1 had it all figured out...

Part of the Ragnar culture is to decorate the van – you can tell that they’ve done this before, huh? Van 1 had it all figured out…

There was even time to catch up on some e-mail and texting...

There was even time to catch up on some e-mail and texting…

Yes. That was a horse head. And because it is so spooky/funny/awesome, here is another one! I'm not sure we want to know why, Doss, but I am certainly glad you did!

Yes. That was a horse head. And because it is so spooky/funny/awesome, here is another one! I’m not sure we want to know why, Doss, but I am certainly glad you did!

After a good night of rest, van decoration, last minute preparation, and a little horsing around (sorry, I couldn’t resist), they were up and ready to conquer the course bright and early in the morning. Here is Van 1 doing the obligatory pre-race pose!

Van 1 getting those smiles warmed up - for the most part those smiles wouldn't go away for the next 30+ hours. Don't they look ready to go!?

Van 1 getting those smiles warmed up – for the most part those smiles wouldn’t go away for the next 30+ hours. Don’t they look ready to go!? Back row, L to R: Jamil, John, Jess, Marie, Kris. Front row, L to R: Doss and Tami.

The starting line in Blaine, WA. Where the 196 mile journey begins!

The starting line in Blaine, WA. Where the 196 mile journey begins!

And then they were off and running! Right at about the same time that Kris was getting the show rolling, blasting the roads through and outside of Blaine, Van 2 was meeting up at a park & ride on the north end of Seattle. We piled on in to a 7-passenger SUV and made our way up toward Bellingham to the first major race exchange.

See how happy we look here in Van 2? On the road, caffeinated, and ready to go have some fun!

See how happy we look here in Van 2? On the road, caffeinated, and ready to go have some fun!

We made it up in great time, had ample time to get organized, decorate the van, take the obligatory set of pre-race pictures, mingle a bit… and wait for the handoff from Van 1. Unlike Van 1, however, there was no actual horsing around in Van 2. Sadly.

What the Van 2 rear window decoration lacked in refinement, it made up for in message. You knew why were there... and the honey badger (well, devil ghost dog) showed that we meant business.

What the Van 2 rear window decoration lacked in refinement, it made up for in message. You knew why were there… and the honey badger (well, devil ghost dog) showed that we meant business.

And then we were ready to rock! Van 2 was on a mission... to have FUN! Back row, from L to R: Christie, Ginger, Jeff, Brian. Front row, from L to R: Sharon, Suzanne, and Melissa.

And then we were ready to rock! Van 2 was on a mission… to have FUN! Back row, from L to R: Christie, Ginger, Jeff, Brian. Front row, from L to R: Sharon, Suzanne, and Melissa.

We even started off with temporary nicknames (as we all know your real nickname is earned on the road). Clockwise from upper left: Badass Brian & Malicious Melissa, Crazy Christie & Suzie Sweetcheeks, Gangsta G & Sassy Sha-Run, and the Beautiful Mermaid

We even started off with temporary nicknames (as we all know your real nickname is earned on the road). Clockwise from upper left: Badass Brian & Malicious Melissa, Crazy Christie & Suzie Sweetcheeks, Gangsta G & Sassy Sha-Run, and the Beautiful Mermaid

Yep, all the prerequisites were in place to have a very fine Ragnar.

We’ll pick up with some stories from the road in the next blog post… Stay tuned for “Part 2 of Racing with ‘Pain Now, Beer Later'”, where I might start to discuss the actual race itself. But only if you ask nicely…

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