Monday, September 8, 2014

Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report

Apparently I have this little habit of signing up for half marathons immediately following my relay races. To keep with tradition,  I decided to join my running friend Emily for a little 13.1 mile run through the Oregon wine country at the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon.

We were both running on used legs this time around, I was seven days out from Portland to Coast and Emily had just returned from Vancouver BC where she was lucky enough to get a much coveted entry into the Lululemon Sea Wheeze (which I TOTALLY want to run next year!). As such, neither of us was feeling all that hopeful for a record breaking race. With that being said, it was a beautiful morning as we drove an hour out of Portland to the starting line at the Stoller Family Estate. Right away I was blown away with this race, ample parking for attendees, plenty of Honey Buckets and a portable gear check system that was not only easy, but efficient. Plus the vineyards were beautiful in the early morning light.

Emily and I made our way down to the starting line and kept wondering why we had elected to run the entire half marathon course when we could have just as easily registered for the two-person relay where we could each run a nice little 10K. I told Emily that my goal was to just run the entirety of the course. I feel like I'm just now finally feeling recovered from that hip issue that plagued me all spring and early summer. I knew I could complete the mileage but I had no plan to really push my pace, especially coming off Portland to Coast the weekend prior.

As such Emily and I settled into a nice easy pace. We chatted about our previous weekend's adventures and Emily's new job. We enjoyed the pretty scenery and just chit-chatted the first several miles away. Around mile 5 and ANOTHER rolling hill, Emily told me she was going to slow down on the upcoming incline and told me to go on without her and I did. Soon enough I came upon the relay handoff where the relay runners exchanged. It was easy to spot the fresh legs on the course as we pulled out of the water station and up another hill.

Let me pause for a minute and talk about the support on this race. Wow - wow - wow - I give this race TWO THUMBS UP for their support and water stations. There were stations every mile and a half all along the course WITH Honeybuckets. Really really nice for runners. Luckily it wasn't a super hot day but if the temps would have been just a few degrees higher, those water stations would have been a life savor for runners. As it was, I almost felt water logged by the time I finished the course. I probably could have skipped a few and done just fine, but wow it was great to have the resources!

I talked to a few people along the way but mostly kept plugging along on my slower pace. It felt good to run this as more of a training run. I wasn't winded or in pain at any point and that was welcome. I was starting to think ahead to my dreaded 'mile 9' coming up (my own personal wall in any and every half marathon I run) but then I remembered the course was going to serve wine at mile 8. YEAH - now this is a race I can support - wine on the course!

After a quick shot of white wine followed by a water chaser, I was off and running toward my dreaded wall. I tried hard to not let mile 9 intimidate me and was feeling pretty good about my 9th mile performance when the real challenge was in front of me. Yet again, I should have spent a little time with the course map. I didn't realize miles 10-12 would be on a gravel road. It was my first leg of Portland to Coast all over again. I was going to need a new pair of kicks after my summer races.

The final mile was kind of painful but I see from my Garmin data that I ran that final mile the fastest of the entire course so I guess that's why it hurt a little bit. The final kick was on an uphill, I hate when races put the finish line on an uphill, because at that point in a race even a flat surface feels like a climb.

The finish area was really first class. First off it was a beautiful sunny day. Secondly the number of wineries participating in the complimentary pouring was outstanding. The medals were beautiful as was the complimentary wine glasses for finishers. This race certainly had my favorite finish line to date! I wish I didn't have to drive home, I would have sampled every single winery!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Portland to Coast Race Report

Entire team with Hood to Coast Founder Bob Foote
at Finish in Seaside

Another year - another awesome time with my Transplant Trotter Portland to Coast team!

This year I was back in van 2 which means I got to sleep in a little bit, especially since our start time was bumped back from 6:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

My van met up at 12:00 and our normal rendezvous point and we were off to the first van exchange at the St. Helen's Fair Grounds. The weather was nice and I was excited for another great year!

Van 2 waiting for Van 1 at first exchange

My first leg was Leg 21. From the course description it looked like a decent first leg "5.00 Miles - Moderate Flat, slightly downhill terrain near a creek on gravel back roads."

But here is the thing, it didn't feel downhill at all. It felt flat flat flat. I don't really understand that downhill description. Maybe it was because the entire 5 miles was on a loose gravel road. I had a fast pace for sure, but if this section would have been paved I would have KILLED my pace. Speedwalking on gravel is just too hard. My feet don't come up off the ground enough and I ended up with several rocks in my shoes. Not ideal. I was also so filthy when I finished this leg from kicking up all the dirt. It did go fast and I killed nine others on the course so I was feeling good.

We exchanged right on time to our first van and we were off in the middle of the night to our sleeping spot. Lucky for van 2, I have a friend that lives at the Leg 30 van exchange so my team was able to go inside sleep on a soft floor (without any mosquito), electricity, heat and a running toilet. We were offered use of their shower, but we all decided sleep was a far better option than cleanliness at that point so we crashed. A few hours later and we were up and ready to go for our second rotations.

My second leg was Leg 33 -  a 7.72 Mile hard leg with Rolling hills on narrow country roads. I was walking in morning hours and the morning coastal fog was trying to lift over the hills. It was chilly out but once I got going I wasn't cold. I was walking along a familiar road and even spotted some homes I spent time in as a child. At one point I spotted two adorable little kids sitting at the end of their driveway and I knew they belonged to one of my high school classmates. I yelled to them and told them to tell their mama hi from me. It's so fun to be able to 'go home' like this and be part of this race.

After my leg, I changed into my Donate Life "I'm a Living Kidney Donor" shirt to wait at the final exchange before we all went to the finish line. A gentleman approached me while I was waiting for Marie to come in and he said he wanted to shake my hand. His wife was a kidney recipient and he wanted to thank me. I just can't express enough how good it feels to talk to people about organ donation. I talked to him for several minutes. His story is exactly alike others yet so incredibly different. I love that I can make a difference, it's so great that our group gets together every year to share our messages.

Our entire team crushed our projections and we arrived about an hour and a half earlier than predicted. Perfect timing as that meant we were still within Hood to Coast's guidelines (if you arrive more than 2 hours ahead of schedule you can be disqualified from entering the next year).

When all was said and done my team finished in 28:14:38 with an overall pace of 12:51. Not too shabby for a group of people filled with anti-rejection meds and missing organs. We placed 15th in our category - a record high for our team! It was another amazing year for the Transplant Trotters.

We also had a chance to do some awareness for organ donation surrounding the event. Here is a a news clip from KGW News Channel 8.

Crazy guy sitting outside his house - I sang with him

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lacamus Lake Half Marathon/Vine & Vinayasa

While I was running the Ragnar NW Passage my buddy Emily casually mentioned that she would be pacing the following weekend at the Lacamus Lake 1/2 Marathon and wanted to know if I was interested in joining her. She asked me right at that point in a 200 mile relay when your legs are numb and your thoughts are soaring for your next adventure and I might have said "I'm interested....tell me more..."

I still don't know why I thought this was a rational idea - I was exhausted, my legs were spent and I was ready for some serious rest after 7 days of competition. The thing is, I remembered how AMAZING my first pacing experience was with Emily just a short month prior at the Vancouver USA Half Marathon and I was interested to do it again.

I decided to let my legs rest for a few days following Ragnar and then see how I felt. My first run on Wednesday said no, luckily my Friday legs said "go ahead, why not!?"

So Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m, Emily picked me up in downtown Portland and we drove together to Washington. It was a small event so we were able to pick up our pacing stick and and find our way to the start fairly easy.
All smiles at the starting line
It was a warm summer morning and the race started right on time. Once again we were pacing the 2:30 group and even though my legs still felt tired, I knew I could easily sustain this pace for the next 13 miles. This race starts out by kicking you in the teeth with a really really insane uphill climb. If you know me, you know I love climbing but starting up such a significant incline so early in a race was unwelcome even by me.

My legs were still warming up but up up up we had to go. The good thing about such a brutal incline so early on a course is that once you conquer it, everything else feels easy. By the first mile marker we were coming upon Lacamus Lake and some gorgeous views. I was happy this was a large loop course. We circled the lake and did a short out and back stretch on the second half before returning to the start. It was lovely to have such pretty views - even if the temps were climbing.
Intimate race - starting line shot

I had wrongly assumed the first major climb would be our only hill of the day. The course seemed to be a never ending up and down rolling hills course. I asked Emily why she didn't prepare me for this and she said the organizers never posted an elevation map so she didn't realize it herself. Normally - this is my kind of race. I love the opportunity to surge on the uphill and coast down the declines but I was running with the pacing stick so instead I just focused on my overall pace and kept things nice and consistent.

By mile 4 it was obvious Emily wasn't feeling this course. I didn't realize it at the time but she was dealing with a recurring case of Plantar Faciscitious and was experiencing some real pain. It was obvious to me she was going to fall off pace so we had a few glances and acknowledgement that I'd continue ahead with the pacing stick and keep the 11:30 minute mile pace for the group and she would do what she had to do. Although I was unaware of the ups and downs of the course, I did know there was an out and back portion and that if necessary, Emily could slow down her pace and rejoin the group if needed. I went on ahead.

I could feel runners behind me but nobody kept pace WITH me at this point. It was an odd sensation for me as the other time I paced the runners ran along with me and we talked and ticked the miles off blissfully unaware. Unfortunately for me, this time I felt like I was all alone. As we neared the long end of the first half of the lake, the course truly flattened out and I felt like this was a good time for me to make up the 40 seconds we were behind from the big first climb. I allowed myself to run a little closer to my regular speed - hoping I wouldn't lose too many of my pace group. I really had no idea though as nobody would run alongside of me, I couldn't ask anyone how the pace felt. What I did know is that by mile 6 we were on target to finish at 2:30 and that made me happy.

Post race with the other pacers
It felt like I was running alone, but it was worse because I wasn't running MY pace, I was running a pace group pace. Last time I had lots of people around me and the miles ticked by quickly. Without fellow runners to talk to this race was feeling awkward and challenging. Soon I started to see the fast runners as we hit the split on the course, I was heading on the "out" portion and the fast runners were returning on the 'and back' side of things. I saw my awesome fellow Ragnar Ambassador Wendi killing it at the front of the pack, followed by some of the other awesome pacers followed by my Ragnar teammate Wendy (this tells me if your name is Wendy(Wendi) you must be fast.
Wendi at the finish line still proudly sporting her Ragnar tat

Once I hit the turnaround portion of the out and back I started scanning the crowd for Emily. She wasn't that far behind and I encourage her to join me since she was the one wearing the pace shirt (although I was carrying the pace stick). I asked her how she was doing but it was obvious she was in pain and not having the run she was expecting,

I dropped her again a mile later and decided to run the 2:30 group in solo. Of course I still felt alone but it was ok because we were entering my favorite part of the race. Around mile 8, we entered a lovely scenic trail. It felt great to get off the pavement and under the shade of the trees. Since we were on a trail I felt even more isolated from the rest of the race but it was so pretty and scenic I didn't really mind.

It was on this portion that I caught up again with a father/daughter duo that I had talked to around mile 6. They wanted to know if I was running on pace - yes, I was. They told me all they wanted was to beat me to the finish line. I told them that I was rooting for them and hoped I didn't see them again.

As I entered the soft shaded trail I spied them in the distance, we were probably around mile 9 at this point. The father was wearing a Rock and Roll San Francisco 1/2 Marathon shirt so I yelled ahead of me - "Hey Rock & Roll San Fran! You better move it or I'm going to pass you!" They turned around and said "NOOOOOO!" and thus our little game of cat and mouse was on. For the next remaining miles we took turns leading one another. I must admit it was fun. They were awesome. Then the father pulled off the trail to tie his shoes and I told him I expected him to catch up quickly and pass me.

As I pulled off the trail and back onto the abrasive pavement I was ready to be done with this course. If my math was correct I was on pace, but I was missing my friend Emily - the mathematician that was so good at calculating distances and pace so I didn't have to be bothered by it all. As I pulled up to the final water station I learned we were exactly a mile out. Even the English nerd that I am could figure out I was running about 3 minutes ahead of pace. I decided to stop at the station and wait out my time so those running the pace could catch up.

As I cooled my heels, took in some water and talked to the volunteers manning the water station my favorite father/daughter duo passed and they were elated. I was happy to see them as well, I really wanted them to meet their goal.

Soon after they passed I noted that it was time for me to move again. I quickly fell into my assigned pace once again and noticed yet one more incline. As is typical with me, I had a desire to pull up and move more quickly on the climb but I kept my pace constant and passed a few folks that had just passed me at the last water station.  One guy told me I was a turtle . At first I was appalled but he told me it was because I was so consistent, never slowing even when running uphill. I realized this was actually a compliment and then he told me I would eventually catch all those hares on the course. I don’t think he realized I was a pacer. Although I don’t know how he could have missed this consider I was carrying the pacer stick high in the air, but none the less it was a nice compliment and I took it.

I also passed my father/daughter duo on this final hill of the course. As I passed them I said ‘don’t worry, I will be going this exact same speed as I go downhill, so I’m sure you can take the lead back one last time.” And you know what? I was right. As we began our approach on that last final significant decline – the one that tortured so many at the start, I channeled my inner pace coach and slowed. I didn’t open my hips and speed down that super steep hill. In fact, I slowed to a near walk at one point because it was so darn steep and I was worried about re-injuring my hip. And somewhere on this descent the father/daughter duo indeed passed me and surged ahead to the finish line.

I crossed the line about 40 seconds slower than I should have. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t cross right on target but considering I was left without my mathematician pacing pal, I think I should be ok with my lag.
Finish line shot

In summary – it was hard pacing alone. I don’t want to do that solo again anytime soon. It’s much much better with a friend to help you calculate splits.

Post race Emily and I hightailed it south to the city of West Linn, just south of Portland where we met up with my other running buddy and Emily’s bo – Brady for a little refreshing Lululemon Yoga. Lululemon was hosting a “Vinyasa and Vino” event at a local winery. I was unsure of my ability to hold a warrior pose consider my legs were rubber and I haven’t practiced yoga in literally at least 6 months (probably much longer if I’m honest). But truth be told it was exactly what I needed. I stretched out my sore muscles and challenged my body just a little tiny bit more that day. It was a gorgeous sunny day and when all the strain was over we were all treated to some lovely delicious wine. I could not complain – not for one tiny second. It was a really truly perfect Sunday afternoon.

Winery yoga

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Peanut Immunology Program Update

Filling out medical waivers ... you can't do
this procedure everywhere just yet

I've been posting updates on Instagram (@Andergard) and Facebook, but realized I have neglected updating Issy's food trials here - so thought I would take a couple minutes to put down our progress on the blog.

Since beginning the peanut immunology program on June 26th, things have been going really well for Issy. The first appointment was basically the two of us sitting in our allergist's office for half a day. First they had Issy blow into this contraption to measure her velocity of breath - they have her do this every time we go in and it helps them monitor the openness of her breathing passages. It's a good thing to monitor when potential anaphylaxis is involved.

Next up they brought in a small container or red liquid. In this cup, they had mixed up juice with a tiny amount of peanut flour. Issy opened her mouth and ingested the liquid. Then we waited. Then some time later, we repeated the process: blow, liquid, wait. This went on a number of times. Issy watched the entire Princess Diaries movie as well as some other cartoons so it was several hours we were there. Luckily for me, they had WiFi so I was able to bring my laptop and work. When we left the office we were given our own mixture of peanut flour and juice and instructions to give Issy doses every morning and evening. There were other instructions that followed such as not to let her do any vigorous activity for two hours following a dose and to not let her go right to bed after a dose.
Our first at home peanut flour mixture

The first week went well. The second week we had to call the office for instructions as Issy woke up one morning throwing up. I didn't believe she was ill from her peanut therapy as it had been 10 hours since her last dose but we had instructions to call with any complications. As such we were told to reduce her intake for two days and then resume normal dosages. She was back to her old self later that afternoon but we followed instructions. When we returned to the office the next week we were surprised to see the liquid was being replaced with actual tiny bits of peanuts.

We repeated the blow, eat, wait routine and left the office with a new 'medicine bottle' of tiny peanut pieces - each one cut and measured by the staff to be exactly .01 grams. I must admit it was terrifying to see my girl eat these pieces of peanuts. But things were going well. She did experience an upset stomach from time to time and we have found that lollipops help her tummy settle.

Moving on to solid nuts

During this period, we traveled via air to Houston Texas. Per our doctor's instructions we did not give her the peanut therapy on flight days, just in case of a reaction. Once we returned I mentioned how I was excited that the next time we flew we hopefully wouldn't have to ask for peanuts to be removed from the snack and board early to wipe the seats down. I was told we already didn't have to worry about that. Issy's body has already built up a significant tolerance to peanuts - so much so that we didn't need to make such flight requests any longer. WOW!
Doubling the dosages

The next appointment - the peanuts got a little bit larger. And by this point Issy was really not happy with the taste of the peanuts. She says she's been able to taste the peanuts since the liquid mixture and she doesn't like it. Now that the nuts are getting bigger in size, she is really starting to have a mental hangup. It's tough because with this program it is VITAL for her to ingest peanuts every single day. Even once we get through the program she will still need to eat them daily for her body to keep the resistance built. It's going to be a struggle to get her to consume something she despises on a daily basis for the rest of her life.
Getting HUGE!

Yesterday was a big step in Issy's progress. The peanut pieces we were sent home with this time are HUGE - they are .25 grams to be exact. To me they look absolutely monstrous in size. With the bigger resistance brings new benefits. Issy can now safely consume food that includes the label "processed in a facility with peanuts." THIS IS A MAJOR ADVANCEMENT. We have avoided food with this label her entire life and it has severely limited what food we can purchase. I had to stop shopping at Trader Joe's because they added this warning to EVERYTHING after a legal review of their products a decade ago.

Mentally preparing to eat a big piece

To celebrate yesterday, Issy ate her very first KitKat bar. Although no peanuts are in this candy bar, we have never allowed Issy to eat them due to potential peanut cross contamination and a ''processed in a facility' warning. Truth be told - she didn't love the candy. She didn't hate it though either - I think she just built up what she always assumed it would taste like in her mind over all the years of not being able to have them.
Happy girl - and the new dosage size

Then last night my girl and I went out to eat at a restaurant we would have avoided like the plague before the program began. There were two dishes on the menu that would have normally sent us fleeing - a salad with walnuts (now safe) and a rice bowl type dish with peanut sauce.

I still had my regular talk with the waitress to ensure there would be no nuts in our food but I didn't panic over the idea of cross contamination because her body could now handle cross contamination now that she is consuming .25 of a peanut twice a day. I was able to order food for her that she has never tried before - we had fried wontons with wasabi (she has been wanting to try wasabi for a while now) and plantains. She wasn't a huge fan of the plantains BUT that's not the point. Usually when she wants a new food, I have to prepare it - it was really fun to go out to a restaurant where somebody with far superior cooking skills than I have, could do the heavy lifting.

First restaurant meal without heavy research/talking to
the chef/freaking out. Just so happens the name of the
joint is "Isabel" - how appropriate! 
As great as yesterday was for our food allergy journey - this morning was a little rough. She did not want her morning dose of peanut. The size of the nut is really intimidating to her. I understand - this is something she had feared her entire life and now she has to consume it twice a day. She eventually ate the peanut but with a lot of coaxing from me. This has been a process. It has been a struggle but I know it will be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ragnar NW Passage Race Report

I love me some relay running - that's a given. It's how I started my running career. I was basically bullied onto a Hood to Coast corporate team and the rest is history. Once again this year I was captaining the crazy Control Freaks for the NW Passage - it would be our fifth year of conquering the nearly 200-mile journey.

Ragnar NW Passage 2014 Starting Line
Unfortunately, I was rather preoccupied with the Houston-based Transplant Games of America leading up to Ragnar so I was a little less prepared than normal. My family flew home from Houston early Wednesday morning. My Ragnar van left Portland the next afternoon headed for Bellingham. I was still exhausted from a week of competition, but I was excited for my favorite running event of the entire year.
Control Freaks 2014 Van

Van 1 had some considerable changes this year - we only had three regulars returning this time around as there were pregnancies, spinal surgery and other life changes going on with team members. As such we really had to scramble to fill the remaining three spots. The final spot was filled while I was in Houston and I had yet to meet our new runner. I wasn't worried though - runners are cool people. I was confident it would be great.
Van #1 at the Starting Line at the Canadian border
As typical we pulled into our usual Holiday Inn in Bellingham late Thursday night. It's a six hour drive to get there and we'd have another 30-45 minutes in the morning to get to the starting line. We all crashed pretty quickly (at least I did) and tried to get some solid rest. Our starting time was the earliest we had be assigned yet - 7:30 so we were up and out the door by 6:15.

The start of NW Passage is at the U.S./Canada border in Blaine Washington at a lovely park with views of the border crossing station. It's a great place to start the race and offers fun photo opps. I sat through the safety session, gave out my credit card number for a hold on our safety flags, had our safety gear checked and confirmed and collected our team's Ragnar shirts. We were ready to start!
Jessica securing our border

Fun art at the border crossing

Emily ready for leg #1

At 7:30 on the dot our first runner - Emily was off and kicking on a nice cool, flat 6.3 mile run. This was Emily's second year running with 'the Freaks' and I was confident she would have a good run and she did. Next up was our new addition, Wendy, and although it was obvious from our conversations in the van the day before that she was an experienced runner - I was worried about her because she had a fairly severe hamstring injury. Her doctor had her all taped up like a pro. To be honest - she looked intimidating even though she couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall and less than 100 pounds. Because of her injury, we gave her the shortest overall distance in the van, 13.6 miles total. Her first leg would be her most challenging - a 6.8 "Hard" leg. She did great - coming in faster than her projected time.

7:30 a.m. start!

Wendy ready to run her first Ragnar!
Check out her badass tape job 
Next up was our newbie, Jessica. She is a long distance runner currently training for the Chicago Marathon (as is Wendy too), but she hadn't done a relay race before. Jessica's hardest rotation was also first up - having to run the longest single leg distance of our entire van at 8.2 miles. I ran this rotation last year and it's kind of a rough run. No van support, along a 'highway' where you are running a gradual uphill the entire 8 miles against semi trucks barreling at you at 50 miles an hour with little shoulder and no shade. Jessica did GREAT! I was super proud of her and happy her first relay rotation went well.

Jessica prepping for her 8.2 miler
Killing it!

Next up was our van's secret weapon - Kate. Kate is not only a veteran relay runner having run Ragnar 4 times but she is probably my fastest friend, qualifying for Boston and New York a number of times. Kate was assinged my least favorite leg in Van 1 which actually gives you two short lovely runs followed by a beast of a long torturous climb at the end of the race. As such, her first rotation went fast. Super fast - Kate had a quick little 3.9 mile run and we didn't even have enough time to stop for her. She KILLED it.

Kate would hate me if she knew
I posted a pic of her

I was up next as runner #5. I had a 'hard' leg at a distance of 5.8 miles. There was a team that had been pacing with us from the start called "Oh my God Becky....." and they all wore these plastic butts over their shorts/pants. Everyone thought they were so funny and clever - but my very first Hood to Coast rely team "Sweet ASSets" did the butt things YEARS ago.

Team "Oh My God Beck...y" 

My Sweet Assets Hood to Coast team - Circa 2007

We were running the butt years before
the Becky girls

Anyhow - at the start of my leg, one of the Becky girls was leaving the exchange just ahead of me. We spent the next 6 miles playing leapfrog. She was quick on the flats but I was able to catch and pass on the hills. I kept thinking "your butt might be flashy, but mine is a hill climber." After all that running in the Houston heat just days before, I was so thankful for the Pacific NW air. Although it was a HOT day for Washington, there wasn't any mugginess and that was all I needed to get in a fast run. I felt like I was finally running free and it was the nicest run I had experienced in a while. Oh - and I beat the Becky girl into the exchange.

Praying for a good run
Up to this point, our 6th runner and only dude in our van- "B-Willy" aka Brady had been driving our monster van. Once I handed the slap bracelet off to him, I took over driving duties and brought us 'home' to the first major van exchange at Bellingham high school.

Brady cruising!

Van Captains at first major exchange
We easily found our van 2 and they were pumped to get running. Unfortunately, for us - our van 2 was a fast group. Which meant we didn't get as much downtime as they got but during our break we grabbed some grub and then hit up the Lululemon outlet.

BWilly hands off to Lindsi in Van 2 and gives a little love

To say my van was Luluemon obsessed was an understatement. We had already made one Lulu stop on our drive north the day before where I estimate somewhere around $500 was spent by my van and by looking at our runners you would think Lulu sponsored us. Did I mention that is how Wendy joined our team? Emily and Brady shopped at Lulu so much they became friends with Wendy -who used to work at Lulu.
Vans 1 & 2 (except Brady) at the first major exchange
Anyhow - because of all the shopping -we didn't have enough time to shower (who needs a shower on Ragnar?) or sleep. I was bummed about the lack of sleep. We made it to the next exchange with enough time to change and reorganize our van for our upcoming night legs. Our speedy van 2 rolled into the exchange right on time. Our forecasting was RIGHT ON TRACK. We headed out for our second rotation within 8 minutes of our projection. Amazing!

Checking off my legs

The second round of Ragnar is my favorite rotation because it means NIGHT RUNNING! I know a lot of people don't necessarily love the night runs but this rotation is the reason I do relay races. I love running at night! Unfortunately, for the past three years - my second leg was so early in the day that I didn't get to run at night. Last year I was runner #3 which meant the final mile of leg was in the dark but the first miles were at dusk. Not quite the same thing. It's the main reason I took the long mileage leg this year - to ensure I'd get a dark night run.

During our second rotation, we were no longer pacing with the "Oh My God Becky..." girls but we were now keeping up with the "Nightmare Before Ragnar" team - considering my daughter is a BIG Tim Burton fan, I went and talked to them and they gave me a magnet for Issy. As much as I loved this team - Brady did not. They were dressed up in costume and makeup and the Jack Skellington character really freaked Brady out during the nighttime rotations. He was a little creepy in the dark with his painted face.
Team "Nightmare before Ragnar"

Emily is like me - wanting a night run - so she and Brady swapped their 2nd rotation legs. Even though Brady had just brought us home, he was off and running the first leg of the 2nd shift - a 4.5 mile 'moderate' leg. All in the daylight hours. Our injured runner, Wendy, had a nice easy 3.8 mile leg - again in the daylight. During Jessica's 6.7 mile run - dusk settled and the scene started to change. I love this time during Ragnar. The entire vibe changes from a loud cowbell ringing party to something different, not bad - just different. Kate's short 4.10 mile run brought us into total darkness. My longest leg was up next - an 8.1 mile run.

Jessica had to run in night gear even though it
was barely dusk when she finished

Kate ready for the first real dark run

What I find so enjoyable about running at night is that you become a dot, a flashing blinking light in the distance. Nobody can see the turnover in your legs, it's just you and the darkness and I love it. I had a goal of taking this leg slowly, knowing I was still recovering from Houston. It wasn't a problem meeting that goal!

My legs were angry at me. My body was upset with me. I was still exhausted from travelling and although my body tolerated the earlier 6 mile run, it wasn't having this 8 miler. And just as I was telling myself to stop listening to my body and just run - it started raining. It rained on me for about 3 miles. Luckily it was a heavy mist/light rain and I was wearing a brimmed hat to support my headlamp. Being an Oregonian - rain doesn't faze me too much. I didn't enjoy this run as much as I should have, but I came in as projected and that was enough for me. Emily took the bracelet and was off in the darkness for our final nighttime run at a distance of 5.6 miles.
Me ready for a dark lonely 8 miles

It took us a while to make contact with Van 2 at the next exchange but they made it with just seconds to spare before Emily arrived. This is the hardest part of the race - we are stinky, we are tired and now we have to drive an hour to the next exchange. Brady was driving and I was navigating. The rest of the van was sleeping and I was doing everything in my power to stay awake and keep Brady company. That was the longest drive ever.

One cool thing is that we crossed over Deception Pass in the darkness. This year the pass was lit by Nite Ize and it looked so cool! It made me jealous that I wasn't in van 2 - I bet that was a memorable leg for those runners.
Deception Pass at night

We found our way to Coupeville in the darkness. Jessica and I headed into the warm gym to sleep, Emily and Brady found a place outside and Wendy and Kate slept in the van. Being so exhausted coming into this Ragnar, I slept hard in that school gym. Probably the best Ragnar sleep I've ever gotten.

Once again, exactly on projected target, our Van 2 rolled into the high school at 6:30 a.m. Emily took back her first position and ran her final 3.1 miles. I have run this leg in the past as well and I loved this leg. It's short and there is some significant climbing for the first mile, but then it ends on a serious decline along the Sound. It's a beautiful run and it's fast. It was actually my 5K PR for a while a few years back. Wendy has a nice easy final leg with 3 miles and Jessica wrapped up her first Ragnar with an easy 2.4 mile run.
Final handoff between Wendy and Jessica
Poor Kate had her roughest leg of all to complete. She had two nice easy legs early on, but this is where she had to earn her keep. A few years back we nicknamed this leg "the cleavage" because the elevation course looks like boobs - you climb a brutal hill, come down into the cleavage and then climb again. It's long, it's hilly and it's on the water - so the likelihood to experience strong headwinds is high. Thankfully Kate is a strong runner. The wind was brutal. When we stopped to give her water - our van doors slammed shut and nearly severed fingers. We saw some really strong runners really struggling on this leg but Kate did an amazing job and ran it fast!

I took the bracelet from Kate for my final, and shortest leg. I only had 4.5 miles to go but I didn't have much left in my tank. My legs were stiff and although I can usually shake them out within the first mile of my third leg - I just couldn't get them to turnover. I eventually stopped looking at my pace because it was so disappointing. Instead I focused on the scenery. This was a gorgeous run. It was 9:00 a.m. by this time and I was fortunate enough to be able to run along the Sound - the sun sparkling on the water and the morning fisherman on a calm body of water. I also saw a deer on my final leg - and I won't lie, I stopped and took pictures and didn't feel bad about stopping at all.

#FoundOnMyRun I love this course

Stunning views helped the tough
leg of my final run

A little foggy but beautiful

This leg was what Ragnar likes to call as having 'rolling hills' - dang they hurt, and I like hills. When I saw the famous "One Mile to Go" sign - I had to stop and commemorate the moment. The very last section of this leg was a giant downhill (which hurt just as much as the uphills) followed by a short, but super steep incline into the exchange. I was passed by a number of runners on the decline but I wasn't about to sprint and re-injure my hip. I took it nice and measured and let gravity do the work. One of the runners that screamed past me on the decline was the Jack Skellington runner - but he wasn't wearing his scary makeup any longer. As I hit the final portion of my 2014 Ragnar, I looked up at a massive climb and saw Jack in the distance. He wasn't moving very fast and for the first time in two legs, my competitive nature kicked back in. I dropped my head and started climbing. I love passing on the climbs. At the midway point of the climb there is a Ragnar volunteer radioing in our team numbers. I knew I was close and I was closing in on Jack. Just as I pulled up behind him and reached the Ragnar volunteer, Jack stopped running and started walking. I kept my pace strong and pushed hard into the exchange. It's just cruel to have the final push be on such a brutal uphill but I was done!! Brady took the bracelet and had only 2.4 easy miles to bring it home for van 1.

The most coveted sight on a Ragnar Relay

We easily found van 2 at the busy exchange and I'm embarrassed to say, we missed Brady finishing his leg. We were too busy talking! There were no volunteers calling ahead with racer numbers and we didn't know he was there until he passed us. Lindsi literally chased him into the handoff area to take the bracelet.

Van 1 was done and van 1 stunk. The rest of my team was completely content to head straight to breakfast/lunch and then onto the finish line. I was not so content. I wanted a shower and I wasn't leaving the school until I had said shower. My team went to find a Starbucks and I made my way to the locker room. That shower felt AMAZING!

We then made our way to a cute little restaurant and somehow got in without a reservation. It was the best burger I've eaten in years. I also enjoyed some mimosas to celebrate our race completion. Then it was off to the finish line for massages, beer and to wait for our Van 2 to join us. And true to form - they arrived right on schedule at 3:45 p.m.

Post race libations

It was another great Ragnar but my body was still angry with me. Because Brady drove 98% of the race, I offered to drive us four hours home to Portland while everyone caught up on sleep. Luckily Kate kept me company and traffic on Saturday evening was minimal. But most importantly - we had two new converts in our van. Jessica and Wendy LOVED Ragnar (as I knew they would) and both are already planning their next relay race!! And just as importantly, Kate - who has been suffering a running slump - felt re-energized and ready to recommit to her running goals. Which is a good thing because she is running the New York Marathon again this fall. All in all it was another great event and I'm so happy to have been part of it!

The gangs all here - Control Freaks Unite!
And then there was pizza!