A Full Report

Well, it’s been a couple days, so I think I can properly reflect on my race experience now. My muscles are barely sore and I believe I’ve erased the sleep deficit I built up Friday and Saturday. The hard patches of the race are fading in my memory already and I am still focused on the bright spots.

Let’s see…G and I dropped Lucy off at day care and met up with the 3rd runner in our vehicle, Valor. We headed up to Bellingham and arrived with tons of time to spare. Our other vehicle left earlier as they ran the 1st three legs of the race. We waited for them to arrive at a lovely seaside park in Bellingham. There were numerous teams hanging out and lots of great costumes, decorated vans, etc. Eventually, Anand ran in to the exchange point and Valor took off on his 1st leg. G ran next and flew with sub 8-minute miles for the full 11.2 miles he ran. Wow. I took over a little before 8 pm for my first leg. It was also 11.2 miles and started along the scenic Chuckanut Drive. I even ran by a strawberry farm where the berries were fullly ripe. It smelled amazing. This section of my run was one of the highs: Chuckanut Drive at sunset. Gorgeous. I started off way too fast and my first couple miles were at about an 8-minute pace. I gradually slowed down, though my average was still 8:30/mile. By the time I finished, it was pretty dark and I happily handed off to Craig.

G, Valor and I set off to find food in Anacortes. We made the dubious decision to eat Mexican food and I suffered for it throughout the rest of the race. I didn’t have any major issues, but lots of stomach cramps and generally feeling yukky. After our hasty meal, we drove to our hotel room to try and catch a very brief nap before Valor’s next leg. We only had about an hour, and I was never able to sleep. I did lay there, which is more relaxing than not, but the hour was up way too soon.

At midnight, we quickly gathered our things and headed off to the next exchange point. Valor picked up running before 1 am and had the least pleasant leg of the whole race- 16.8 miles through the dead of night. Poor guy. G took over for a quick 7 miles through residential Anacortes. My night leg began around 4:15 am and was a very hilly 10 miles. I started off more slowly this time, though still struggled up some of the hills. Lack of sleep did not help my energy level! It was mostly a beautiful run, all along the coast and in some nice wooded areas. I love that time of morning, before the world has started to stir. The moon and stars were bright and the temperature was nearly perfect. The best part was crossing the Deception Pass Bridge as the sun started to rise. Totally breathtaking, and a tiny bit scary. The final stretch of that leg was all downhill (thank goodness, I was getting really tired!). After I handed off, we made a beeline for the hotel as we had a longer break and wanted to try to rest.

I decided to have a quick shower before laying down. Valor and G were already sleep by the time I finished. Sadly, I was not able to do more than doze for the next couple hours. Before I knew it, it was 9 am and time to get moving again. We grabbed a quick coffee from a rather incompetent barista and made our way down Whidbey Island to the next exchange. Valor struggled in his next leg and COMPLETELY ran out of energy. He walked the last mile or so and was as white as a sheet when he came in. I made him eat about 1,000 calories and he bounced back in no time. G again amazed us with his speed and finished up his last leg of 11.2 miles. My turn again. The last section of the whole race was mine to run. Just 8.1 miles (though my GPS said it was 8.4). Definitely the hardest, and also the least scenic. I slogged through it and only walked up one hill. Finally, the finish was in sight. G and my other 4 teammates were waiting to join me and we all ran the last few hundred yards together.

All this was followed by picture taking, some beer and pizza. We didn’t linger too long as G and I were anxious to get home and pick up Lucy. We were just in time to put Lucy to bed, then grabbed some food and showers before crashing ourselves. Lucy was a dear and treated us to 2 great nights of sleep in a row. Boy did we need it! The whole event was a great experience. I’m not convinced I would do the ultra version again (as an ultra team we ran twice as many miles as we would on a regular team), but otherwise it was a lot of fun. On one hand, it’s nice to do a different kind of event w/ gorgeous scenery and largely friendly teams. The down side is you actually do a large portion of the running completely alone.

But yes, I’d do it again. And we did surprisingly well in the overall results– 85th out of 142 teams (only 7 of which were ultra teams).


G’s report

Prathap’s photos (he was on another related team)

Michael’s photos (also on the other team)

Ragnar Photos

I’m feeling much better after doing this all day: sleep, eat, short walk, repeat. Incidentally, the t-shirts for the relay race say “run, drive, sleep, repeat”. Or something like that. It’s pretty accurate save for that part about sleep! Anyway, detailed report is yet to come, but here are G’s photos of the race.


Danika on the final haul
Someone remind me what possessed us to sign up for this ultra relay? I am BUSTED. Done. Beat.

Ran 29.2 miles. No sleep since Thursday night. It was really hard work. With some awesome highs. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I have a bit more energy. Right now, I’m planning to spend the majority of my day on the couch with periodic trips to the kitchen for food.

Ragnar, Baby!

In about 24 hours, G and I will be starting the Ragnar relay race. For once, I will permit people to call me crazy, as this is one of the weirder things I’ve ever done. It’s 187-odd miles, 6 runners, 24+ hours. The whole thing kicks off tomorrow at noon. G and I are runners 5 and 6, which means we’re the last on our team (also means I get to cross the finish line when it’s all over). By way of training, I’ve done very little that’s specific to the relay aspect. I’m hoping I’ll be fine on my endurance base. The legs I’m running were changed by the race coordinators at the last minute and I’m now running a total of 29.2 miles (down from 34).

In order to psych myself up, I’ve been reading a few accounts from other relay races put on by the same group (here and here). They make it sound just a little insane, and a whole lot of fun. Wish us luck, and pray that Lucy is an utter angel in our absence.

Tall and Skinny

I’m not sure where Lucy gets those traits from, but that’s the word from her 18-month check up. She’s about 33 inches tall (75th percentile) and weighs 22 lbs 3 oz (25th percentile). Her head is big too. No other issues really, except those pesky tantrums she’s been throwing lately. Off to do some internet research on tantrums (feel free to give me your advice, if you have any!).

18 months!

Happy Birthday to my little girl. It’s been an incredible ride, so far. We visit the doctor later this week; I’ll update her stats then.

The Secret to Chocolate Chip Cookies

I LOVE a good chocolate chip cookie. Who doesn’t? I don’t really have a standby recipe, although I have been using a version in David Lebovitz’s book “The Great Book of Chocolate” to pretty good success. Then last week, the NY Times published an article about the secret to good chocolate chip cookies. They did all sorts of research and discovered one of the big secrets was chilling the dough- for 24 hours, or even 36. There were other things they concluded, but I wasn’t much for the science part. I just wanted to get busy making those cookies (esp. since the process would take a day and a half).

Anyway, I made them. They rock. And I do think they’re better at room temp. I did, in fact, use the various flours and such that they suggest. But I think the sea salt was the real secret to success here. I’m sure I’ll be making these again. They may even become my standby recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Time: 45 minutes, plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (I used Ghiradelli chips- a mix of semi-sweet and 60% cocoa).
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.