Ragnar Relay winds it way down Whidbey Island

Frank Jacques, shown here competing in the Deception Pass Challenge last month, will be running in the Ragnar Relay this weekend with a six-man team of Oak Harbor High School teachers. - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
Frank Jacques, shown here competing in the Deception Pass Challenge last month, will be running in the Ragnar Relay this weekend with a six-man team of Oak Harbor High School teachers.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

As we were sleeping last night, a group of dedicated, if not slightly deranged, individuals raced through the streets of Oak Harbor wearing headlamps, taillights and, in some cases, wacky costumes.

Thus is the adventure of the Northwest Passage, an event in the Ragnar Relay series. Each Ragnar race -- there are 15 throughout the year in the United States -- covers two days, one night and about 200 miles.

The Northwest Passage began with a staggered start at 5 a.m. yesterday in Blaine, and teams will finish, after wandering down Whidbey Island, between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. today.

Each relay team consists of 12 persons, or six for the masochistic.

Out of the over 350 teams, 20 feature runners from Oak Harbor and Coupeville.

One six-person team, the Ultra Edukators, is manned by Oak Harbor High School staff members Mike Crebbin, Jeremy Day, Frank Jacques, Eric Peterson, Jay Turner and Andy Wesley. And the personal qualities of the teachers  seem to fit those needed to take on the Ragnar.

They have a challenging, yet rewarding job (much like the race). The race gives them a chance to practice what they preach (personal improvement, testing limits, overcoming obstacles). And, finally, they are a bit quirky. (Who else would purposely lock themselves up in a room full of teenagers all day?)

Wesley and Turner twisted a few arms to get the others involved.

Wesley said, “We didn’t have 12 friends who are crazy enough to sign up...but we could find six.”

The pair challenged Crebbin, whose racing resume is one 15K 27 years ago, to take part and he accepted: “I’m always pushing my students and athletes to step up to the challenges and this definitely will challenge me.”

Jacques is the only one to have competed in a Ragnar race, running with a 12-man team last year. This time around he will race in the ultra (six-man) division. He said, “I did look at a couple of six-person teams last year with perverse envy of the endurance athlete.” Adding sacastically, “Luck-outs -- they get to run twice as much!”

Peterson said the race fits well in his triathlon training, and added, “Who wouldn’t want to run 35-plus miles in 24 hours?”

Turner saw the training as a way to stay in shape over the spring and summer and, as a result, has dropped 30 pounds along the way. He said, “I am currently running 40 to 50 miles a week, which, for a 40-year-old, 250-pound ex-football lineman, is a lot.”

He said they originally thought a 12-man team would be “too easy,” so they opted for the six-man version: “I’m beginning to think that might have been a really dumb decision.”

Four of the six are coaches, and along with that comes a completive fire. Peterson said he hopes the team finishes in the top part of its division. Crebbin was more specific: he wants to win.

Some of their teammates just hope to survive.

Wesley said, “I am looking forward to the experience but dreading the day after the race.”

Day said, “My goal is to finish without walking at any point, but in reality, so long as I finish, I’ll feel good about it.

“If you end up writing an article about the race, hopefully I’ll still be alive to read it.”

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