Google's team blog for the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage

July 20-21st 2012 Google's 6th year at the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage! This is a two day, 190 mile relay race from the northern tip of Washington in Blaine, through farm country and along the coast, across Deception Pass and finishing at the southern end of Whidbey Island at Langley. This isn't your average team offsite!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Slow in running and posting

Better late than never, eh? As is obvious at this point, we met our goal and finished the race! I managed to run all of my 14.9 miles on a rapidly swelling ankle and bruised and skinned knee. Thankfully my ankle didn't really complain while running, though it's decidedly against stairs and any sort of sideways motion. Frankly, my injuries have nothing on Matthew's poor toe - and he had much more difficult runs than I did! What a trooper. Anyway, I spent most of yesterday flat on my back with my foot elevated to try to turn what looked suspiciously like a grapefruit back into an ankle (I succeeded). Now I'm ready to go out running again!

The best leg was my 6 mile midnight run. It was too dark to really see much, but I loved the cool air and the lack of need to wear sunblock :-) My running pace more closely resembled that of a turtle than a human, but hey - slow and steady finishes the race in approximately one piece ;-) The last leg was my hardest: 4 miles up a hill followed by 2.3 miles down the other side. I like going down - all I have to do is prevent myself from flying face first into the pavement. Up hill - not so much. But I made it, swollen leg, scraped knee, sore muscles, sleep dep and all! My first race, but hopefully not my last - I'm looking forward to Ragnar next year!

And a few more from van 2

Start to finish in just under 31 hours! And already making plans for next year!

For me it was totally worth it because I found my street along the route:
(we probably missed lanes named for other team members because of the darkness - next year we'll try to find them all! :P )

More pictures here:


Sunday, July 29, 2007

A few more pics from Van 1


In retrospect....

Running the Ragnar with the Google Twelve team was a very memorable experience. It was a pleasure running with you, cheering with you, and getting to know you all. It is amazing what you can learn about a person after spending 24 hours together in a crowded mini-van ;)

Looking back on it, I can honestly say that despite the lack of sleep and muscle aches, that I would definitely do this again in the future. Here are a few of my favorite memories and lessons learned on this trip:

Running into downtown Bellingham along the waterfront was a great route! The sea-breeze at mile 6 was a life-saver after roasting in that afternoon sun.
Lesson: A cold shower can be an enjoyable experience...

Hanging out at exchange point 11 with both vans waiting on our commuting team-mate to beat the nasty rush-hour traffic. The team spirit prevailed and it felt good to be a part of this team.
Lesson: "Don't be evil" is a good motto to live by.

Running at midnight under the stars on a rural road was a unique experience. After electing to not use my I-pod on this leg, all I had with me were my thoughts and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement (oh, and an occasional semi-truck coming at me at 60 mph with it's bright lights on- yikes!).
Lesson: My first sighting of an "elite" runner was on this route. He passed me going so fast that I could have sworn he was on a bicycle at first. It was awe inspiring to watch him continue that 6-minute-mile pace into the distance and it made me realize for the first time that running a 6-minute-mile (even one of them!) is a goal that I would like to shoot for one day.

Seeing the finish line of my final leg (leg 30) off to a short distance to my right, then seeing a Ragnar sign pointing me to the LEFT (I could almost hear King Ragnar laughing), down a steep hill, around the corner and then coming face to face with a San-Francisco style uphill taunting me on to the finish line.

My most memorable experience though, I have to say, was having Min arrive unexpectedly to cheer me on as I crossed the finish line. She told me she wanted to be there with our baby to cross the finish line. I would have found the energy to sprint up that final hill had I known she was there at the end :)


Some photos from van 2

I’ve just posted my photos from the event.

Matthew’s Story

I never got a chance to write my entry on Friday with all the driving, and Saturday I was living on too little sleep to write anything, so here’s my chance to tell my story of the event.

After van 1 drove away from the starting line, we van 2 members wandered around Blaine for a while and then drove to Ferndale for big Denny's breakfasts.

I had a good first leg—9.0 miles, starting around 4 PM—but didn’t see the van often enough for my taste, and when my team told me “We'll see you in two miles” or I saw the “one mile to go” Ragnar sign, I always seemed to have to run much farther than promised. Since I had no idea whether I was ahead of schedule or behind, I never slowed down. My team told me I made great time, and one time I caught up to them when they didn’t appear to be expecting me.

After the leg, the little toe on my right foot started feeling funny, and I discovered I had a blister under my toenail. Ugh. Two of my van members are very experienced runners and fellow ERT members, so they helped patch me up, though walking was very uncomfortable the rest of the day.

After van 2 finished legs 7–12, we went to an Alfy’s for dinner. Because of the time spent there, and time getting a bit lost finding exchange 18 afterward, and because legs 13–18 were almost all “easy” legs (with one “moderate”), we only had an hour or two to try to sleep at the exchange before we were up again. A first aid volunteer patched me up again at the exchange, and I hoped it would hold.

My second leg (6.3 miles) started at around 2 AM in Anacortes and ended with a 2.3-mile loop through Washington Park—alone, since the van couldn't follow me into the park, and in total darkness except what my headlamp provided. I could hear the waves nearby, so I'm sure the view would have been pretty if the sun had been up. Unsuccessfully trying to avoid putting pressure on my right little toe, I ended up favoring the left side of my foot almost to the point of blistering it too, and I stumbled on a couple speed bumps on my way out of the park.

I only really managed to sleep from about 5:30 AM to 8:00—on the cold, hard floor of the elementary school gym. But the first aid volunteer (who had no experience with blisters because he normally worked at Tae Kwan Do matches) patched me up well enough that my toe wasn’t as much of a problem on my third leg as simple exhaustion.

My third leg, in the hot afternoon sun on Whidbey Island, was again “only” 6.1 miles, but it had one huge hill in the middle. As soon as I started my leg, I discovered that I didn't have the energy I had on Friday, and I was extremely close to simply walking up the steepest part of the hill. Somehow I made it, and faster than expected again, as Katya wasn’t ready at the exchange when I arrived! Shauna told me my team decided to nickname me “Flash.”

Memorable moments for me, both good and bad:
  • Our first runner, Amer, was very late to the scheduled 5 AM departure from Kirkland. When van 1 drove off to get to the starting line in time, they spilled onto the road the pages from one of our copies of the Race Bible that we had left on the van roof.
  • Min managed to catch the last seat on an early flight out of California and arrive at exchange 24 only a minute or two before Joe finished his final leg. And then Min was so eager to run with the team that she ran the last few miles of several legs alongside our scheduled runners. Thanks for the enthusiastic support!
  • At exchange 24, Katya and I very carefully packed everything into the back of the van. (We had too much stuff for the van and things fell out every time we opened the door.) Then I accidentally slammed her hand in the driver's door (I’m sorry!), and we had to unpack the rear of the van again to find ice.
Every time I got a couple of miles into my leg, I again realized how crazy I was to be doing this, but everyone really loved the experience, and there seems to be a consensus that we want to do this again next year.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Big Thanks!

Before we finish, we want to send a big thank you to the following for their help and support.

Google-thank you for paying our entrance fee and providing the snacks.
The Google-Kirkland IT Team-for the wireless card so we could keep everyone posted on our progress
Kurt Dresner, Trevor Hamilton, and Geoffrey Romer-for volunteering at the exchange stations
Joe Ravet - for taking Min's place
Wei Chen - for filling in last minute when we lost one of our team mates
Katya Rogers - for coming up with the great idea and getting us rolling
Our fellow Ragnar participants for routing us on, keeping an eye on us in the dark and sharing their supplies.
The Ragnar Relay Team for setting up a great course and super organization.

The end (and beer) is so close I can almost taste it!

I am lying in the grass next to the finish line right now, and thinking of Shauna who is running the last BRUTAL leg of the relay right now! It's an absolutely beautiful day and I am enjoying every minute of it! The sun is shining and teams and everyone is cheering as each team crosses the finish line. We'll all join Shauna for the last hundred yards and cross the finish line as a team. This race has been even more fun than I expected, and I have never enjoyed running as much as when I know I have a van full of friends ready to cheer me on.

I started my last 3.1 mile leg at 6am this morning. It was an absolutely gorgeous run through quaint farm country. It felt unreal to be running along through the middle of nowhere at 6 in the morning. I had one big hill, but I managed to run all the way up it, thinking for sure that as soon as I started walking my van would come up behind me and catch me slacking! I actually managed to do all three legs without walking (with the slight exception of slowing down once to scratch a really annoying mosquito bite on my knee, but that shouldn't count, right?). My goal was only to run the whole way, so I'm proud to say I did it!

Stay strong Shauna, and we'll be ready for you with cheers and beer at the finish line!


Give me sugar...FAST!!!


So, after finishing up my 3 legs I volunteered to run Wei's final leg since he had picked up a knee injury. It was a 7 miler with a couple of steep climbs but I felt pretty good about it since it was easier than my last leg and I had felt pretty comfortable doing that one.
I started out strong and was feeling pretty good until somewhere after the 5 mile mark. That's when I suddenly and abruptly lost energy, I started feeling dizzy and I didn't have any strength in my legs. I was able to continue running for another mile and a half or so and then I had to walk the last half mile. I made it to the exchange with Joe and promptly crashed. I lay down by the side of the road and it took a huge effort of will to get back up 10 minutes later. My awesome teammates helped me to the van and fed me a steady diet of sugar and electrolytes while I tried not to pass out. I finally managed to make it back to the land of the living by the time Joe had finished his leg (well ahead of time as usual).

Photos on Picasa

Check out the photos from Van 1. More to come...

Dawn, and uneaten by bears

Before going any further, let me say that Katya is a machine! I rejoined van 2 about 3:30am, to see delirious runners staggering up a steep slope toward Exchange 23. "That was brutal," gasped a fit-looking guy, about the preceding 6.2 miles of unrelenting climb. I started to worry how Katya was getting along, until the others assured me that whenever they stopped to hand her water, she was chipper and grinning. She was actually enjoying it! Minutes later, she came loping up to the hand-off point, barely panting, to slap our baton (a 'slap bracelet') on my wrist. We have some really hard legs on this route (many other hill-filled, and 8+ mile jaunts), but also some really kickass runners. :)

My following leg was a much easier 3.5 miles through the dark woods and over (lucky me!!) the bridge at Deception Pass. Initially, the looming woods and starry sky were very pretty and atmospheric. But somewhere along the way my brain decided to remind me that this was a state park, and as such, probably had some wild life... including big wild life... wild life potentially big and hungry enough to eat a lone human runner and her slap bracelet (Just how well-traveled is this route, anyway?) Pushing morbid thoughts aside and remembering all the souls who had just survived much longer legs, I shot out of the woods and onto the bridge just in time to see tiny fingers of dawnlight making their way over the horizon. Absolutely gorgeous: the light was just enough to give the mirror-like water in the straight below a pinkish hue, stretching out to the horizon and broken only by a few distant, shadowy hills. Oo. If anyone hasn't been out to this point yet, I'd highly recommend it.

Van 1 was raring to go at the next Exchange, and Amer took off into the dark with the bracelet. Van 2 went ahead to Exchange 30 for a much-needed sleep in an elementary school with (alas!) cold showers. But sleep is sleep! :) Van 2 is just about to finish and we're waking up Justin for the last set. Daylight at last!

Sleeping in the car, but at least I got a warm shower!

Van 1 just got back on the road to head to exchange point 24 and meet up with van 2. We got almost 3 hours of sleep back at Exchange 18, which happened to be a middle school! The gymnasium was opened up for the evening so we got a real treat of warm showers and indoor sleeping!

I guess I should mention that all of the previous major exchange points were at parks -- but they did have shower tents! That was an invigorating experience, ICE COLD water and showering in a tent in the park. Can't say I've done that before!

I slept in the van since I was the designated holder of the cell phone. I turned the ring volume all the way up and set alarms for 3am and 3:15. I can't say I slept very well, since the thought of waking up to sunny skies and a very impatient van 2 kept me a light sleeper. I woke up at 2:45, checked the cell phone and immediately van 2 called! They have 1.5 hours left of running, so we are on our way!

-- amanda

2:57 AM and we're hittin' the road

Are you serious?

2:45am--Amanda wakes me up... Team 2 is close to finishing their leg and its time to rock and roll. After 3 hours sleep, I crawl out of my bag and into the van. Amer's driving--thank god--I can sleep for 30 more minutes.

- Candice

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tuck and roll

I made it, I made it! After daring to defy the traffic gods and head up to meet the team at the peak of rush hour, I rolled in a mere (cough!) 40 minutes after Katya (the previous runner) finished her leg. Including the time spent kicking the dust waiting for me to show up, her recorded time for the 2.5 mile leg comes out to 1:15hr :) Fortunately, or unfortunately, we were about that amount of time ahead of schedule, so now we're right back on. In spite of the delay, our very considerate team stopped me from leaping directly out of the moving car and sprinting down the road, in order to take a little water and, of course, grab our "baton" (a slap-bracelet).

The rest of the 5.0 mile leg passed without incident, unless you count the increasingly beautiful scenery. Right through a valley of lush pastures overlooked by the snow-sprinkled cascades, and then through the trees along the sun-dappled coastline of the bay. The sun was at the perfect angle to set everything glowing, so it was challenging to keep my eyes on the road!

We're now kicking back with some pasta in Burlington, getting geared to meet van 1 again. One third of the course down!

- Shauna

Its Hot Outside!

While eating pasta in Burlington I thought back on the highlights of my run and I remember what everybody says about their run: "Its hot." This led to my stupid mistake of the day, I got early stage heat stroke. I made sure to have my asthma under wraps. I made sure that I ate early enough that it wouldn't weigh me down, but I forgot the all important amount of water that you need on a hot July day. Two bottles of water will not cut it. The heat will just suck that paltry bit of moisture from you and wring you out. My run started out good, mostly because it was in the shade. Once I took my first turn and found the wonderful world of the open road, uncovered by shade. I should have asked for a second water stop when I got to the halfway point, but I thought I wouldn't need it. By the time I got to the final third I knew I had messed up. I was starting to feel clammy and I wasn't sweating any more. To top it off, I swore I heard somebody behind me wanting to pass me by the clacking of my asthma inhaler. By the time I got to the end I was wrung out. So, I'm sitting here, eating spaghetti, recharging, to hit it again tonight. Eat, sleep, and run. So far its been quite fun

Eric Cederblom,
The now rehydrated
Google Security

Great way to spend my Friday night!

I've lived in Washington for over 2 years now but I feel like I've seen very little of this state. The view from checkpoint 12 was amazing -- right on Padilla Bay. That's when I decided that the best way to see Washington was to run through it! (And I got to see a lot of cows too)

My Friday night run was 3.6 miles, a perfect easy run right outside of Burlington. Since it was a Friday night I decided to wear my cute new running skirt (a present for myself for all the training I did!). Since we had to follow the rules I also got to wear a bright orange vest and a headlamp. I figured I might as well throw a Google blinky pin and some reindeer ears on while I was at it. Not my usual Friday night outfit, but I don't usually run on Friday nights either.

My run was nice and relaxing, but I must admit that by mile 3 I could have sworn I saw the exchange point (my finish line) just a hundred yards of me! Closer inspection revealed it was only a mirage -- just some orange signs. Could I be getting a little tired perhaps? I made it to my real finish with only a few blisters, and still feeling pretty good! 9.8 miles down, only 3.1 more left for tomorrow!

-- amanda

Google Security/First Aid

Don't worry everyone Google Security is here!!! Eric and I are here to make sure all the Google runners are running safely. No, we're not working today, we're actually running!!! I'm sure all of you are wondering, and the answer is yes, we have already dipped into the first aid bag.......twice.

Hugs and Kisses everyone

- Justin Read
Google Security Supervisor

Off to a great start

I decided that my relay legs weren't difficult enough, so I decided to twist my ankle and throw myself to the ground and scrape up my knee just prior to my first leg. Katya has pictures. Okay, so it wasn't exactly planned - we thought we were at the exchange point after Justin's run, and were walking up to wait for Justin when he ran by with no indications of stopping. In my panicked attempt to catch up, not realizing that we were still a quarter mile from the actual exchange, I put on my display of colossal clumsiness. We did manage to make it to the actual exchange in time to do a proper hand off, and fortunately my ankle didn't trouble me on my oh-so-difficult 2.6 mile first leg (but there was a hill! and sun!). It will be interesting to see how the next two 6 mile legs go...

-Brie (not Katya)

Joe said....

One down, two to go! I had a nice scenic leg through downtown Bellingham along the waterfront. The cool breeze coming off the water was just enough to counter the hot afternoon sun. I was motivated to finish as the team was graciously waiting on me for a lunch break, great team spirit! They had a live band and even cold showers at the exchange point. Feels good to have my toughest run behind me. We had a nice lunch and coffee break at Avenue Deli in DT Bellingham and are back on the road and recharged for round 2. Ding! Ding!

First road run?

Joe hands off to Justin

Wei-fast as lightnin'

Qi in action

First road run?

Seriously, before today, I only saw other cool people running on the road. This is my first time to run on the *real* road, and image this is 5.7 miles for a guy even seldom goes to gym!

Anyway, I made it and feel good!

Btw, this is Wei from ... :)

Just completed my toughest leg!

Though it's marked easy, it's the toughest to me, 3.9 miles on the road. I haven't ran over 1 mile for one and half years, even on treadmills, not to mention grassy, bumpy road. But I made it! And in time! Our team is still 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Had it not been for the water and cheers from my teammate, I'm sure I won't be able to make it. Go Google Twelve!
When I was passing a house, an unleashed dog kept barking at me and pretended to jump onto me. I was hoping the next runner was right after me so that... But when the next runner passed me later, I really regretted for the thoughts.


Candice's Halo

Love them hills!

This is what I get for signing up so late-stuck with the hills. They actually weren't so bad thanks to my great teammates who provided me with frequent water breaks. Running through the pastures was the highlight. Every mile I would see a herd of cows all huddled together watching these strange people running by. I also saw a baby deer and a llama farm but was then quickly distracted by the runner in front of me who decided to take a leak--ahhh, true nature.


Amanda didn't really run in long sleeves

Second leg is DONE!

RAWR!! I just ran 6.2 miles -- the longest run of my life!! I ran the whole way and completed it just minutes short of an hour, which is way better than I expected! Despite going to sleep at 1am and starting my run before I usually even get out of bed I am feeling great and having a lot of fun!

In the first mile of my run I heard a car coming up from behind me shouting and whistling. I was excited, thinking it was my team driving by and cheering me on. I turned around and saw that instead of my team van it was two guys in a pickup truck. I guess the locals are friendly here!


Run Amer Run

First leg complete

Well, after an somewhat inauspicious start (alarm clocks and I do not get along), I managed to get the first leg done without too much trouble. The start of the race was beautiful right next to the water but the leg itself was fairly boring, straight, flat and not much to look at. I'm sure there will be lots of beautiful scenery later, particularly as we get close to Deception Pass.

Lookin' Good at the Start

Qi is a speed queen!!!

Time stamp 5:20am.... we're ready to rock and roll but we're missing one person. We call Amer...he just woke up. Great--he's runner number 1. Van 1 decides to leave without him so we can make the 8am start. We'll figure out the first runner when we get there. Ninety minutes later we cruise to the starting line thanks to Qi's stellar highway maneuvers. Van 2 arrives shortly after--with Amer.

Good Morning Amanda-are you excited for the race?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


The night before...

Bags are packed, vans are full and I'm ready to hit the sack for a restful 4 hours sleep before we head out at 5am. We've raided the Google micro-kitchens for our snacks (thanks Peter!) and have the music tunes ready to go. Our theme song "I will survive".

I'm happy to learn I'm runner #3 which will provide reasonable running times 10am, 8pm and 6am-at least if we stay on track.

More to come...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Runners, take your mark...

First team photo. More to come!