Two years ago, I got in a van with six strangers. They drove me almost all the way to Canada, dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, and told me to run. It ended up being one of the best things I ever did, so…don’t let that be a lesson to you. It almost never works out that way. I was super excited going into my third Ragnar last weekend, even though my running hasn’t been so great lately. I’m in a team with the most supportive, positive, fun group of women you could ever hope to find, and I knew we would have a great time. Last year I was #6, the last runner in van 1 (VAN 1 4LYFE!) and I loved that spot. All three legs were about 6 miles, so not short enough to feel like I had to push the speed, but not long enough to stress about. The best part of being last in van 1 was that my runs all ended with the handoff to van 2, so the entire team was there to welcome me every time, which made for a special finish. Then your van has a long break so there’s no rush to get to the next exchange. If you’re ever thinking of doing one of these, I highly recommend #6. Our beautiful captain sent out our leg assignments and I was stoked to see that I was #6 again. Woo hoo! A few days later, our teammate Christi emailed everyone in our van to ask if anyone would be willing to switch with her. She was #5, which had the most mileage in our van (a little over 20) and the hardest third leg. (8 miles with 2 big hills.) She was coming off a knee injury and didn’t want to push it. Since I didn’t have any reason to avoid leg five other than “it looks hard” I went ahead and swapped with her. I’m glad I did, because I know if I hadn’t, as soon as it was all over, I would have been telling myself that it wasn’t that hard, and I could have done it. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a total head case about running. I know I could pretend that I swapped just out of the goodness of my heart, but to be honest it was like, 30% goodness, 70% head caseness. We had a 6:45 a.m. start time this year, which could have sucked ass, but luckily our teammate extraordinaire Katie invited us all up to her childhood home in Bellingham the night before. This way we got a decent night’s sleep and didn’t have to get up at too ungodly an hour Friday morning to make it to the race. We got up around 5 and still had time for a coffee stop on the way. Much better than having to drive up from Seattle Friday morning. Thanks Katie! I remember pretty much nothing about my first leg. I know it started around 10 a.m., was 4.8 miles, and was…somewhere in Bellingham? I remember I felt great and that once I got to the end, my teammates were waiting with a cold LaCroix for me, so what more do you need to know? It was around noon when Christi finished leg 6 and passed off to van 2. We had a nice time cooling off and fueling up at The Bagelry in the ‘Ham, then went over to Boulevard park to relax by the water and watch some runners go by. You’ll never guess what I did during that first break. Once it was time for van 1’s second round, I was very glad to be #5, because runners 1, 2, and 3 had some hot weather. They were troopers, but it was rough. It was starting to cool off when #4 started her leg, and it was looking like I’d have perfect weather for my next leg. The downside of being #5 was that it started at cute little Snow Goose Produce, where they were serving some seriously good-looking ice cream cones, and right before I’m about to do an 8.2 mile run is about the only time in my life when I don’t want an ice cream cone. I’m in the middle of a little sweets break right now anyway, but note to self: next year ask for leg 4. My second leg started around 7:30, and it was absolutely perfect. It had cooled to a comfortable temperature, but was still light enough that I didn’t have to wear a headlamp. I had this same leg two years ago and I remember loving it then, loved it again this year. After Christi finished her second leg, we drove right to the next big exchange at Oak Harbor High School to get some sleep. This was when the early start time really paid off, because we were practically the only ones there. We got a prime parking spot, had the showers to ourselves, and set up our sleeping bags in the warm, dark gym. We were so happy! We got a solid four hours of sleep (that’s a lot for Ragnar) and when we woke up at 2:45 a.m. we were surrounded by other teams. The place was packed, there were lines for the showers and people were camping out in the hallways. Early start time forever. The last leg is where #5 sort of gets the bum deal, because van one’s last legs go: 3.2, 2.7, 3.1, 2.5, then: I wish this had been my first leg, because even though my pace has slowed a lot over the last year, my stamina is still pretty high, so a long hilly run plays to my strength. But this is a tough one when you’ve run 13 miles and had four hours of sleep in the last 19 hours. The upside was that it was a little after 5 a.m. by the time I started, so I wasn’t running in the pitch black night like runners 1 and 2 did. We’re only required to wear a headlamp until 5:45, so my awesome teammates met me around mile 5 so I could toss it. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked on those hills; I always feel like I could have done better once a race is over, but this time, I know I could have. So much so that there’s a tiny part of me that wants to be #5 again next year and really crush it. (Please don’t tell our captain this.) Once we were all done, we were fawning all over each other telling everyone how well they did. Seriously, this is the most supportive team you could ever have. Christi especially kept telling me how well I did on that last one, and saying that she couldn’t have done it. I told her I was sure she could have rocked it, because at that point I had totally forgotten that we had traded, and I didn’t realize she was thanking me. You’re welcome, Christi! Happy to do it. After a very satisfying breakfast at the Knead and Feed, we got to kill some time on Whidbey and then met up with van 2 for their last couple legs. We all crossed the finish line together in our team shirts, celebrated in the beer garden, then headed to the ferry. Once again, the early start time paid off, because the terminal wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would be later. Beautiful ferry ride, beautiful team, beautiful race. See you next year, Ragnar!