OCTOBER 4, 2016, WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) – What is Ragnar? Well, while many Friday afternoons in the aviation community conclude with an all officer’s meeting at the Officers Club, or O-Club, the afternoon of July 15 this year served as only the starting point for 12 Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1 officers embarking on a unique mission.
Listening to electronic dance music blaring from a van and dressed in a bright pink tank top that read “Don’t Put Me Down For Cardio,” one of the aviators was shucking down oysters — a rather non-traditional pre-race meal to the untrained eye — as the crowd gathered dressed in costumes for the main event. It became obvious all too quickly this would be no normal run. This was Ragnar!
Comprised of a grueling, approximately 196 miles, the Ragnar Northwest Passage relay race began at the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington and wound its way around La Conner, through Anacortes, over Deception Pass, and mercifully finished in the small town of Langley on the southerly end of Whidbey Island. Covering some of the most beautiful scenery Washington has to offer, the Ragnar Relay was an incredible, albeit intimidating, prospect to even the most seasoned of athletes.
This year’s Ragnar saw two teams from VQ-1 compete. On the teams “GMOs”, “Genetics”, and “Spooks44!” were Lt. Cmdr. AJ Tereshko, Lt. Tyler Darr, Lt. Mark Phelps, Lt. Matt White, Lt. Lee Murphy, Lt. Sefram Carlile, Lt. Justin Roberts and Heather Newman — the better half of Lt. Rob Newman. Among the Ragnarockers were Dave Pucci, Ensign Amber Bixler and Ensign Nico Wooten. Running against other teams such as “Chafing the Dream,” “Twisted Blister,” “Crazy Monkey Attack,” and “Strangers with Candy,” the VQ-1 contingents knew they had their work cut out for them.
The teams also knew training for such a demanding race would prove difficult. Team members attempted to balance the demands of supporting worldwide signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations with training, but more often than not extra flight hours trumped logging extra foot miles. The mission always came first, the race second, but they were undeterred.
During the Ragnar, the 12 man teams divided into 2 vans. The six members in van 1 ran individual legs between 2-10 miles while the other team members navigated, recovered and offered encouragement. After completing six legs, van 1 passed the baton to van 2 at major transition points and the cycle repeated every four hours. Motivated by music and the reward of pizza and cold drinks at the finish, the teams from VQ-1 pushed themselves hard to the finish. The Spooks44! team, led by the unflappable Darr, crossed the finish line at 25 hours, 54 minutes, averaging a 7:55-minute mile. This impressive time ranked them 26 out of 532 teams and the number one public service or military team in the entire event.
VQ-1 represented the squadron with distinction, showing balancing a physical fitness challenge with military commitments is a fun and motivational way to stay Navy Fit!