Lately I’ve been doing a lot of race reports. This isn’t so much a race report but more a story about the amazing people you meet along the way while participating in races and events and crazy relays. This year after volunteering at the Ragnar for a group of friends I met on last year’s Ragnar relay, I realized they’re just the sort of people that define “amazing”.

Maybe you’ve heard of the Ragnar Relay?  It’s an overnight running relay race with several different events taking place across the country at different times. The NW Passage event starts in Blaine at the Candian border and ends some 200 miles later in Langley, WA. 12 people split themselves into 2 vans, each running 3 legs of approximately 4-10 miles until the finish. Crazy, yes. I knew some friends who’ve run it and had a blast.

Ragnar NW Passage

Last year I fell into the event completely by accident.  I had met MacBeth and Kyle Watson, the fabulous owners of Mr Crampy’s Multisport in Redmond, WA through a business associate a few months before. It was shocking, given our mutual athletic interests, that we hadn’t met before. Kyle posted on Facebook that he needed an extra runner for his Ragnar team and I jumped at the chance.

Last July I found myself in a van of people who, with the exception of Kyle, I barely knew. And I didn’t even know Kyle that well to be honest! But everyone was kind, friendly, and funny and we had a pretty amazing time supporting each other and doing the relay.

The only downside to the Ragnar is that you don’t get to spend much time with the other van of people.  It wasn’t until late in the relay, a few hours before I was set to head out as the last runner that I got to meet some of our Van #1 teammates. At the last exchange as I waited for Kyle I first chatted with my teammate David Watkins, founder of Ironheart Racing, the very team I was racing for. As we started to talk I realized that I was surrounded by several people who had all gone through some serious heart-related conditions.

Ironheart

My teammate Kyle Watson had been struggling for a while with heart trouble only recently diagnosed. Explained simply, he wears nitroglycerin patches to counteract the heart attacks he has while exerting himself. He would later tell me that he had several heart attacks that day before he handed off to me on my final leg of the Relay. I remember asking him, “Do you know? Can you feel it?” He said, “Are you f’n kidding me? Hell yeah”. But he ran with a smile on his face and the unbridled enthusiasm and craziness that only people who know Kyle personally can attest to.

My other teammate Adam Knight had gone through 3 major heart surgeries all before the age of 25.

And then David Watkins, the founder of Ironheart, had flatlined on an operating table during open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. As I talked to David, I was struck by his candor, his openness, and his honesty. He told me that all he could think about was the legacy he would leave behind to his daughters and his wife. And how that revolved around being active, and never quitting, and telling yourself that you can absolutely do anything you put your mind to. 13 months later he told me how he finished his first Ironman, albeit after the midnight cutoff, but he still did it. He did it to drive home that legacy of never quitting. Of DOING it.

And here I thought I was just running a simple relay race, huh? Wow.

With David's lovely wife just before the final leg of Ragnar 2012. How lucky to meet such amazing people!
With David’s lovely wife just before the final leg of Ragnar 2012. How lucky to meet such amazing people!

I remember we all shared a laugh when Kyle pointed out that the vans were outfitted with defibrillation kits and nitroglycerin packs. He laughingly told me that if any of them dropped on the course, the EMT would take one look at their Road IDs and just scoot them off to the side and call it. I was mortified as they all laughed, but I guess in situations like that a sense of humor is required!

After meeting David Watkins and realizing the challenges some of the people on my team had gone through and were continuing to go through, there was no way I could go out there to run my last leg thinking “Gee, my feet hurt and I’m a little tired”.  Try again.

It’s not everyday you accidentally end up meeting some pretty damn amazing and inspirational people. Running with the friendly, amazing, kick-ass Ironheart team was a treat for sure. It was sheer pleasure to have crossed the line with them.

Crossing the finish of the 2012 Ragnar NW Passage with team Ironheart Racing
Crossing the finish of the 2012 Ragnar NW Passage with team Ironheart Racing!

This year I couldn’t run the Ragnar relay with the team again as my XTERRA commitments conflicted. Instead, I woke up at a ridiculous 3:45am on July 19th to drive up to Bellingham to fulfill the team’s mandatory volunteer requirements. As awful as the 3:45 wakeup was, watching the sunrise over Mount Baker on the drive north with a fresh cup of coffee helped nullify it. And more importantly, the knowledge that I helped out some great people and also got to cheer on lots of folks running the Ragnar.

I did get to chase down my old team and hang with them for a while at one of the exchanges before I had to hit the road back to Seattle. It was great to connect with everyone! Putting on the volunteer vest is oftentimes so much more fun and rewarding than actually participating. And if I could bottle all the smiles, hi-fives, horn honks, waves, and “thank-you’s” I got that morning, I’d have more than a lifetime’s worth!

David’s Ironheart Foundation supports cardiac patients and families worldwide by raising awareness through active lifestyles. The foundation provides resources, referrals and support to patients, families, communities, and organizations.

Below is some information about Ironheart Racing as well as details about the documentary that David Watkins is currently directing called Flatline to Finish Line. The trailer looks absolutely amazing! They’re looking for donations to help this documentary get completed, so please take a look and spread the word about this amazing organization and the people behind it!

And thank you again to the Ironheart team – including everyone I didn’t specifically mention in this post. You’re all amazing!!!

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About Ironheart Racing

http://ironheartfoundation.org/

The goal of the Ironheart Foundation is to inspire others, and motivate individuals, organizations and communities to live a heart healthy life. Along the way, we need to recognize the most common birth defect—Congenital Heart Defects and the #1 cause of death- Heart Disease. We hope to make a difference by promoting non-profit organizations that support research and programs that benefit cardiac patients and their families. We provide resources and referrals for cardiac patients and financially support those needing assistance with getting proper care. All funds raised are tax-deductible and go to support these Ironheart initiatives.

 

Flatline to Finish Line

http://flatlinetofinishline.com

An inspirational feature length documentary being filmed about a driven group of cardiac patients who are attempting to complete the world’s most grueling race, the Ironman® Triathlon. Along the way, they will explore the controversy surrounding sudden death in athletes. This project needs your help in raising funds to move into post-production. Your help is needed to share this inspirational message and to assist in raising funds for proper cardiac screening, which can, and will save lives.

 

 

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