A Runner’s Log: Ragnar NWP Worst Pace Scenarios

When I started running with Seattle Green Lake Running Group back in 2014, I honestly had no idea what my life would become. The amount of great friends and lifetime of memories that have came from this group are limitless, but this particular weekend topped my list- Ragnar Northwest Passage weekend.

Do you know what Ragnar Relay is? Well, let me explain. Ragnar is an overnight 2000ish running relay consisting of 12 team members broken into two separate vans. Each runner runs 3 legs ranging from 2-13 miles per leg totaling approximately 10-24 miles over the course of 24-36 hours (depending on how long it takes your team).

I was honored to be asked to join one of the SGLRG teams, Worst Pace Scenarios, which was voted the “Favorite Ragnar Team” by the group last year, for 2015 Ragnar Northwest Passage (NWP). This particular Ragnar adventure starts in Blaine, WA, which is as close to the Canadian border as you can get without crossing and ends in a town on Whidbey Island. The relay passes iconic sights highlighting the true nature of the Pacific Northwest, including the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, Deception Pass, and the Puget Sounds, and has us running along rolling countrysides and through small towns.

I was a part of van 2, which basically means we started later in the day at the 1st major exchange and ran the last set of 6. Here’s the breakdown:

Van 1 (leg 1-6): Blaine to Bellingham- 33.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 7-12): Bellingham to Burlington- 29.7 miles

Van 1 (leg 13-18): Burlington to La Conner- 32.8 miles

Van 2 (leg 19-24): La Conner to Oak Harbor- 39.2 miles

Van 1 (leg 25-30): Oak Harbor to Coupeville- 24.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 31-36): Coupeville to Langley- 33.1 miles

Total: 192.2 miles

I ran leg 10, which was one of the easier legs only running a total of 10.9 miles total with legs at 3.10 miles, 2.0 miles and 5.8 miles. Now don’t get me wrong when I say “easier leg”. Ragnar is not for the weak hearted. Even though I may not have ran as much as the others in my van, I still had the same barriers. The HEAT for one thing. It was a scorcher during both our first legs and our last legs. Plus the second legs were ran between 11:30 PM and 4 AM. Not the easiest time of the night to run and the heat, oh the heat. I hadn’t ran in heat like that since I ran in high school track in Phoenix.

BUT, I survived as did the rest of my team and our results were quite amazing. Worst Pace Scenarios came in 12th in the Mixed Open division with a finisher time of 26:19:47.0 and finished 38th overall. Did I mention that their were 355 teams in the Mixed Open division and 543 total teams participating in Ragnar Northwest Passage. I’d say we did pretty good.

I knew several of the runners in Van 2 and I couldn’t imagine my first Ragnar experience without them. Although I may have been a little extrovert for them, I think they appreciated my outgoing nature and the 100s of pictures I was capturing during the runs. Plus, they were so supportive getting me through this race and I’m pretty sure 4 of the 5 of them have qualified for Boston. You can imagine how fast they ran but they never made me feel slow. That is true team work!!

I cannot wait until next year or maybe I won’t have to wait that long…Maybe Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona?!?!?!

Daddy-Daughter Adventure #3

If you would have asked me that when I agreed to go on the back of my dad’s Harley Davidson cycle, we’d continue that tradition, I probably would have laughed. I never thought that we’d be blessed with opportunity after opportunity to spend quality time together. This adventure however kept me at home as my dad decided that since mom was in Nashville, TN, he’d venture to the PNW to visit me! It was a quick weekend but it was packed full of fun and adventure.

It started with a jog around my favorite location, Green Lake, which is also where I spend majority of my time with my running group, Seattle Green Lake Running Group. We didn’t go very far because as a spontaneous purchase, my dad and I decided to run the Rock-n-Roll Seattle Half Marathon. We weren’t alone in our short jaunt. My roommate had one of his good friends from college in for the RnR Seattle, though he was running to win it, and he decided to come join us. There was a “HUGE” pace differences: my dad and I were closing in at 10:30 minute miles; he was at like 5:10 minute miles (or some crazy fast pace). You can imagine our faces when moments after we arrive he took off like a deer. My dad and I just started laughing because in less than 10 steps we couldn’t even see him. After our run, we grabbed some breakfast and coffee before heading home to get ready.

I knew Friday was going to be our one main day to spend in and around downtown but it was also our only chance to pick up our race packets. So that’s exactly what we did. I don’t drive into downtown because, well, driving a manual into the hilly center of Seattle is not a fun or easy combination. My dad didn’t mind taking the metro system and walking a little. We walked near the stadiums, took a few selfies with my new selfie stick (laughing while doing so), and wandered around the Expo enjoying the loves of runners.

After the expo, we headed through Pioneer Square, which was a first for him, and enjoyed a “Pre-Race” beverage at the Oldest Saloon, “The Central”. From there, it was to Pike’s Market Place for another selfie, then up towards Capitol Hill to the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a first for the both of us.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room opened in January 2015, located 9 blocks from the original Starbucks, and is a place for people to come and enjoy/taste/learn about unique blends of coffee.  Starbuck Reserve are rare and exotic micro live coffees that are unique to this location. I really had no idea what to expect, but I did learn that this roastery is responsible for roasting all of the Reserve label beans sold in all Starbucks. My dad and I did get to try two of the reserve labels, which in his words “the most expensive cup of coffee” and yes, he would be correct. This isn’t for the cheap at heart person, but it does offer a unique experience. We headed home for an early night after our tasting, but it wasn’t over yet.

A few days prior to my dad arriving, I received a WhatsApp message from my high school friend Blaine, who was going to be in town this same weekend and on a spur of a moment, decided he wanted to run the RnR Seattle Half Marathon too. So, after he landed at SeaTac, he taxied to my place to join myself, my dad, my roommate, and my roommate’s friend. Talk about a house full of runners.

We were able to catch some ZZZ’s before waking up and beginning our race day prep. This half marathon took me on a different training plan, which included adjusting my nutritional aspect to add a few supplements and this morning was nothing different. Luckily, my dad is the one helping me with my supplement/nutritional changes and so our mornings are fairly similar.

We made it to the meet up location for the SGLRG RnR crew for our typical race day photo before heading to the start line. I was pretty excited as this would be Blaine’s first official half marathon and my dad’s first big adventure through Seattle. My dad and I had a plan to run the first 5 miles at 9:30 pace then change to a 3 min. run/1 min. walk. However, at mile 5, I was feeling great and my dad told me to rock it. Which I did. I PR’d by 6 minutes finishing at 2hr 13minutes, a 10:13 minute mile pace. I was so extremely happy with this finish time and proud of my dad who didn’t finish to far behind me (2hr 27 minutes). Blaine finished at 1:54, my roommate came in at a 1:35, and his friend Roosevelt rocked it with a second place finish at 1:09. Do you know what it feels like to be standing at the start line knowing someone who is half way done before you even start? Let’s just say it provided some early morning laughter for my dad and I.

After the race and after-race party, we headed home to shower and re-get ready for another afternoon on the town before the Sounders game. I mean my dad couldn’t come to Seattle without experience a Sounders game. Blaine and Roosevelt joined us for a Ballard experience (one of my personal favorite). We enjoyed some good brews, good food and good company. Blaine parted ways with us as we head back to Pioneer Square for the ECS March to the Match experience.

One of my favorite parts of traveling with my dad is watching his face during new experiences. This was one of them. Between him and Roosevelt’s facial expressions, I was quite entertained. I think the biggest shock for my dad was the amount of people and the fact that we STOOD the ENTIRE game. We won 3-0 and the night still wasn’t over. It was time for dinner and we headed to another neighborhood close to home for some pizza and ice cream.

We crashed that night and woke the next morning a little stiff but ready for another adventure. We headed north to Mt. Vernon, joined by Roosevelt, where we were blessed with the chance to meet up with our Mexico/Canadian friends and spent the morning catching up. Instead of heading directly back to Seattle, we took a road trip detour to Lake Stevens. Reason is because this is the place of the Lake Stevens Half Ironman hosted in August of each year. I’m trying to convince my dad and his tri-group to race it. Another new place checked off for my dad and I together.

The night was less busy. We spent it relaxing, BBQ’ing, and enjoying each other’s company. It was a semi early night for both my dad and I, as he was jetting back home dark and early (like 3AM). I was absolutely blessed to be able to spend this weekend with not only my dad for our #3 adventure, but with my friend Blaine, and new friend Roosevelt. These are the moments in my life I cherish and love. AND my dad is already registered for next year’s RnR half marathon. Maybe I can convince my brother, sister, and mom to join in :-).

Stay tuned for my next mapless adventures.

Exploring Vancouver, BC…A city that I love.

In October, I ventured north across the US/Canada border to race in the Inaugural Rock N Roll Vancouver Half Marathon, which ultimately means “MINI VACATION”. (You can read about the race here).

I’ve been planning on running this race since mid June just shortly after accepting a new position. Thankfully, I was able to get several days off to take a long 5 day weekend. Like the times before, I selected to stay at the Samesun Hostel right on Granville Street, located in the heart of downtown. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”why on earth would you stay at a hostel if you’re there to run a race?” Well, that’s simple. It’s great for solo individuals on a budget. You get to meet so many people from all over the world (new friends), you have a bed (sleep) with roommates (new friends), and you are close to the action (fun). How does that not sound like a win-win. I know it does tend to get noisy in hostels but that’s what headphones and earplugs are use for.

Vancouver can be tricky to get to if you don’t know where you are going, and since I’ve been before once I entered downtown I was able to locate the parking garage immediately. Once checked into the hostel, I immediately connected with one of my hostel mates who I noticed getting ready and asked to tag along (which you can’t be afraid to do at hostels). She said yes and I’m glad she did. We ended up enjoying a great night out on the town with several other hostel mates (and we may have stayed out too late and drank a few beers). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go out very much during my first few nights here and I don’t do well just sitting at the hostel, so I’m glad I started on such a high.

The next day was a day I was looking forward to for sometime. There had always been one tourist attraction that I felt I was missing every time I’d come to Vancouver and since it was only Friday (2 days till the half), I knew I had the perfect opportunity to go there. Where’s there? I’m taking about Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (CSBP) is located approximately 30 minutes outside of the city center and can be accessed easily by car or bus. In fact, CSBP offers free shuttle services (times vary depending on season) that pick up and drop off at several locations around downtown, providing easy access to/from the park. Utilizing this service, I didn’t have to stress much on transportation and could spend a little extra time researching about the park. Here’s a quick summary taken from Capilano Suspension Bridge‘s homepage:

“Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 100 feet above the forest floor. The new Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure!”

The suspension bridge itself was built in 1898 and is Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction. It stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the forest floor and Capilano River. The park is 27 acres large  and new attractions being added since it’s opening. Other attractions around the park include the Treetop Adventures, Cliffwalk, Kia’palano (BC’s first nation people history), and the park even offers live guided nature tours. During the winter months, don’t forget to stop by the nighttime Canyon Lights attraction. This is a MUST DO activity when visiting…and it’s fun for all ages.

I ended up spending several hours around the park and was in complete “ahhh” walking over the suspension bridge multiple times. The weather was perfect so speed wasn’t a factor. I have this thing with nature; whether it’s simply just walking around the wilderness or exploring a park, nature has this way of bringing me back to my center. This park has much to offer someone who enjoys experiencing new adventures.

After exploring for hours, I made my way back to the hostel where I met up with my roommates for an exciting night out on the town. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to go out because I was there for a race, so I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to spend a night out in Vancouver.

The next day, Saturday, I was able to meet up with a friend I met during my first trip to Seattle nearly three years ago. She has been living in Vancouver for about a year. Today was a bit rainy but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a delicious brunch, and venturing around downtown and to Granville Island. Of course, we decided to do a little Granville Island Brewery tasting, which I haven’t been to Vancouver without drinking there.

I decided to take it easy this night because the next morning, Sunday, was my big race. The evening included getting dinner with Adrienne and enjoying some hilarious time with all my hostel mates, who were all drinking and getting ready for the big night out. There was quite a bit of alcohol consumed and many drinking games, which from a bystanders opinion was entertaining and quite enjoyable. I hit the sack early and was blessed with amazing roommates, who were kind enough to be very quiet when they arrived home in the early morning hours (2 AM) to allow me to get a good night’s sleep. Talk about support.

The next morning was the race. You can read all about it here on another blog post.  After the race, feeling exhausted and finally having a shower, a fellow hostel runner Donnie and myself ventured out for some food. I always feel like a massive burger after exercising and that’s exactly what we ate. We ventured down Granville Street to a local restaurant called Stackhouse Burger Bar and enjoyed a very juicy and meaty burger and fries.

Following lunch, we headed back to the hostel to relax and enjoy many beverages (as well as icing several body parts). The night continued with some entertaining moments and resulted in a semi-early bedtime as dehydration kicked in.

I knew my time in Vancouver would be short and sweet, but I couldn’t have imagined the weekend I had experienced. The amount of fun, laughter, memories, and friendships I made was more than I could have asked. The race, although injured, was still an amazing experience and I am happy that I was able to be apart of the Inaugural year for the Vancouver RnR Half Marathon.

Stay tuned for the next Mapless Adventure…

From Washington to Montana

The month of August was INSANE. I worked approximately 28 of 31 days and felt like I had absolutely no time to myself or for my friends. Now you might think “who on earth would work that many days” and to be honest with you I don’t know if I’d do it again. Thankfully, I was able to escape for a weekend getaway to the eastern side of the state to spend the weekend with one of my best friends. If anyone knows me, I love road tripping and this particularly weekend we decided that we’d really getaway from society and jet off to Montana. This would be my first visit to the beautiful state.

I left work on Friday and immediately started my road trip. It takes approximately 4-5 hours to travel from Seattle to Spokane and the day before leaving I found my stash of old school CDs. This made the car-ride way more entertaining…I mean how can you go wrong with busting out to Backstreet Boys for a whole hour! The car ride went quickly and before I knew it I was in Spokane. Due to very long days, Sydney and I determined it was more efficient to stay in and enjoy a nice bottle of wine! But to be honest, anytime Sydney and I are together we determine its more efficient to stay in and drink wine. It’s kind of our thing. Granted we did have an early morning planned as we would be road tripping to Montana to hike.

Before I knew it, it was time to wake up and I was reeling in intense stomach pain that gave me a bit of fright that I wasn’t going to be able to survive the day. Thankfully Wal-Mart wasn’t too far away and before I knew it I was feeling better.

Our road trip started with us jamming out to some old school 90s hits that took us back to our middle school years! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in quite sometime and as we passed through Couer d’Alene, we both started focusing on the scenery. If you’ve never been in this area of the country than you might not understand. The Couer d’Alene National Forest was breath-taking and with another hour we were on the boarder of Idaho and Montana. In fact, where we decided to hike was literally right on the boarder. We parked in Idaho and hiked between Idaho and Montana with spectacular views of the Lolo National Forest.

Our hike of choice was one called Blossom Lake Trail is a 6.0 mile out-and-back through backcountry. It’s hard to really describe what the forest looked like because many of the terrain have similar looks, but I do remember the start of the trail. You are walking along this skinny path that drops a foot or so on each side. It was something I haven’t seen before when hiking. The weather however was something I have experienced before. It was quite chilly with chances of rain (shocking).

We continued along the trail and kept running into multiple forks and of course we couldn’t decide which way…Left or Right. Another crazy event that occurred was locating the LARGEST PINE CONE I’ve ever seen and the spikiest tree I’ve ever seen (funny tree too). It might not seem like a huge deal, but I love finding new things whenever I go hiking. By the time we made it to the top, it had dropped temperature by easily 10 degrees. We planned at the start to jump into the alpine lake, however it being cold, I completely vetoed that concept. Sydney, however, decided it would be fun. It was fun, for me watching, and freezing for her, but now she can say she swam in an alpine lake in Montana!

We made it down the trail at a fairly decent hour and Sydney planned on taking me back to Spokane along highway 200 passed Lake Pend Oreille to Sandpoint, ID. This drive included more jamming to our crazy idea of a good music including “LET IT GO”. Back in Spokane, it was dinner and passing out from exhaustion.

Waking up on Sunday was something amazing because the weather was simply beautiful, sunshine and warmth. Due to this factor and learning that it was peach season, we headed approximately 10 minutes north to a community called Green Bluff Growers Association. This community is an association of small family farms and stands that was formed in 1902 to protect the local strawberry growers from outside competition. This association hosts seasonal activities including pick-your-own fruit and annual festivals. Because of the peach season, the first place we visited had rows and rows of organic peach trees and I had the opportunity to pick a peach right off the tree. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before and it was just as much fun as I would have thought.

This association is more than just farms and following the map of growers, we found a brewery, some wine tastings, a cider mill (alcoholic) and a meadery. I’ve drank plenty of beer, wine and cider (all of which were fabulous) in my days but this meadery-concept was something new. Hierophant Meadery is Washington’s first meadery, which is home to a tasting room of bottle mead (honey wine), kombucha, and other honey/beeswax products. Sydney and I were in love with this place and it was the perfect way to end one amazing weekend.

Well not really…it was just a good way to end our farm adventure. In fact, we headed back to Sydney’s place and partook in the Ice Bucket Challenge. THIS was a great way to finish my amazing Washington to Montana weekend with Sydney.

…unfortunately our plans for me to return in October for Apple Pickin’ were slightly impacted by Sydney’s new work contract moving her to the east coast… maybe next year.

Family Travel: Little Brother Visits Seattle

It’s been nearly two months since I turned 28 years old and that means it’s been two months since my little brother, Joel, came to visit me from his summer in Chicago. My brother, who was interning with his company at their head quarters in Chicago, was given the opportunity to fly out for an extended weekend. It would be his first time in the PNW and only my second family visitor since moving to WA in 2012. We have been discussing this trip pretty much since the moment I found out his company provided each intern with a free flight. In all reality, it was pretty much me telling him “You’re coming to Seattle”. My parents were also onboard with this plan to use the flight to visit his big sister, because we all knew he’d never come otherwise. I know I shouldn’t say never, but it’s hard for ue Lang siblings to travel to visit each other. So I was so excited when he actually booked the ticket. Plus, it was my birthday weekend too!

He landed pretty late Thursday night and I knew Friday was going to be an early morning so we didn’t do much once he landed. I love playing tour guide so I packed our weekend full of “typical” WA adventure starting off with a beautiful drive and hike in the mountains.

I’ve mentioned this before that the Cascade Mountain Range takes anywhere from a 45 minutes to 2 hour drive northeast/east/southeast from Seattle. For our hike, I selected one that I have been wanting to go on for sometime but haven’t been able to go. This summer has been all about alpine lakes and what better “Welcome to Washington” gift to my brother then to take him 4.1 miles up a mountain and make him jump/swim in one. This particular hike, called Lake Serene, is quite popular to many Seattlites and Washingtonians.

It’s a 8.2 mile round trip hike that climbs 2000ft, reaching the alpine lake at 2521ft. We started off on an old logging road before starting the climb up through  overgrowth forest, crossing over waterways and ascending upwards with the use stairs (yes, physical stairs built along the trail) until we finally arrived at the lake. We took a short break to refuel and then took a dip into the lake. The dip started off freezing, as the sun was beyond the mountain ridge and left us in full shade, but after several minutes became refreshing and much needed.

After the decent, we ventured to a local brewery in Everett, called Scuttlebutt, for some burgers and beers. It didn’t take us long after our arrival home before we crashed, as we knew another long day was waiting for us upon waking.

Saturday came quickly and before I knew it, my brother, my roommate and myself were heading down to CenturyLink Field for some pre-gaming at Pyramid Alehouse, where we met up with several other friends. This was my “birthday celebration” and what better way then to celebrate watching my beloved Seattle Sounders FC. The whole concept of our weekend together was to show my brother what it’s like to live here, and Seattle sports are a huge part of that. I don’t attend the Seahawks games ($$$) and rarely attend the Mariners, but the Sounders are a whole other story. My brother has never been to a professional soccer match and I loved being able experience it with him. The game was against Tottenham Hotspurs, a member of the English Premier League. Not only was this his first MLS game, it was both of ours first European match. It was a high scoring game of 3-3, but did end in a tie. I guess a tie is better than a loss.

After the game, the group ventured to a local pub for some grub. We didn’t last long before exhaustion set in, so we headed home for some RnR. The night was still young and as we were celebrating my birthday, we got ready and hit up the local bar scene in my favorite neighborhood, Ballard.

Ballard is a fairly popular night life spot that is only 10 minutes away from my home. It has one fun bar/dance club that my roommates and I are fond of, so after grabbing beers at King’s, another bar, we decided it was time to dance and DANCE we did, all night long.

You could imagine what Sunday consisted of after dancing all night long. If you’re thinking eating and lounging then you’d be correct. Joel and I left for brunch at popular joint called Portage Bay Cafe, per recommendation from one of my roommates. We weren’t disappointed and came home stuffed to the max. My original plan for Sunday was a microbrew tour throughout Seattle but being completely hungover (not going to sugar coat that fact) we didn’t make it very far from the couch. We did move later the evening and drove down to Tacoma to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the local breweries and met up with our brother-in-law’s little brother, Joe, who is currently stationed at Fort Lewis. This particular day, we were blessed with meeting his new wife and her daughter. I have spoken with his wife on the phone very briefly but I loved being able to finally met her and we enjoy each other’s conversation. After dinner, we decided that we wanted to relax but still do a little brew tour. Luckily, many of the local brews bottle their beers, so we did a “stay-at-home” brew tour with 6 local brews and watched movies.

Monday, his last day, was our “tourist” day. We drove past the Fremont Troll, wandered around Pike Place Market, stuck gum onto the Gum Wall, visited the Space Needle via the monorail, and walked along the boardwalk. Before his final departure, we ate lunch at The Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market and brewing since 1943. I “made” him get the beer sampler as one last good-bye from the Emerald City.

It was a hard, sad good-bye at the airport, but I couldn’t have asked for a better packed-filled weekend with my brother, Joel. We hiked, watched sports, drank local craft beer, and saw the sights. Hopefully, someone else will want to come visit me next summer so I can show them the Seattle Experience. I love my city! Until next adventure…