The So Cal Ragnar Relay is done and I know that I’ve shared just about everything I could about this race before it actually took place - from my intended music playlist, introducing all of my team members AND (if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter), you might have seen a few zillion pictures of gorgeous California scenery, many gorgeous sweaty runners and many obnoxious pictures of the So Cal Ragnar Medal but guess what? I’m not done yet.
The Ragnar Relay is a very special breed of running experience. My teammate Gillian coined Ragnar the “Coachella For Runners” and she’s absolutely right. When the topic came up at FitBloggin’ last year, I said yes but I was scared to death (I do have 4 half marathon DNS’s in the last 4 years due to injury) but after this fantastic experience, I’m already thinking about Ragnar #2. I think every runner should think about doing a relay race so that’s why I’ve come up with:
(and why you’ll want to do another one as soon as you’re done with your first)
R – Runner Zen
You already know you’ll need to run 3 lengths of differing mileage at 3 different times of day or night but you won’t really know when or what your terrain will really be. We were stuck for nearly an hour at our first exchange and our runner beat us to the exchange.
There are terrain differences, detours, unexpected weather changes, traffic jams, being woken up from your 45 minutes of sleep with a mini crash into your van (no one was hurt, annoyed but not hurt) but you keep going. You want and you need to finish what you start.
A zillion things could happen. Hopefully nothing will be life threatening. It’s good to look the Ragnar Relay as an ultra marathon or an IronMan (not that I’d know from experience) but you need more than just training, power, stamina, mental fortitude, hydration and fuel to reach the finish.
Finding Runner Zen and being able to adjust to change is key in a Ragnar. If you’re high strung and change isn’t easy for you, count yourself lucky that you may have one of five other teammates that can help guide you.
A - A List of Essentials
There are many lists of the things you’ll need for a Ragnar Race and a zillion things you think you need but actually don’t. Here’s what you need:
- An organized Captain that makes a Race Bible: Leg Maps with distances and designated runner, driving AND running directions, emergency contact information, social media information for all members of the team, details of the 3 major van exchange locations including restaurant information.
- A backpack or easily accessible reasonably sized duffel bag - You do not have a ton of room in a van with 5 other people.
- Required Night Gear: Ragnar approved night vest, head lamp and attachable light (your entire van will need to show these before being issued bibs to begin the race).
- Electronic Accessories: Phones, iPod, camera, car chargers and plugs (for music accompaniment while running, navigation, social media updates and communication).
- Cash/Credit Card: You will see gear/jewelry at the first major exchange and finish line that you will want to buy to commemorate this event. Don’t pass up the opportunity.
- 3 separate running outfits in separate plastic bags: Weather and day/night time appropriate top (l/s, s/s, tank, fleece), bottom (capri/tights/shorts/skirt), bra, underwear and socks – the separate sealable plastic bags are key for trapping smells and efficiency. I also printed out a copy of my leg map and put it in each outfit bag but never needed any printout.
- In between/sleeping outfit: Comfortable pants, socks, bra, shirt/sweatshirt – also in a separate sealable bag.
- Appropriate weather gear : Sunglasses, hat/visor/headband, sunscreen, rain jacket, gloves, fleece hat etc.
- Go-To Running Accessories: Camelback/Fuel Belt/Spi-Belt/ArmBand, phone/iPod, earphones, electrolytes, portable supplement, anti-chafe remedy and/or tape/brace
- Post-Run Remedies: rehydration (water, Gatorade, electrolyte drinks/powders - we had some drinks in a cooler with ice), non-perishable refueling components (pretzels, bagels, crackers, nut butter), foam roller/tennis ball/stick, ice-pack/Icy-Hot/Proform, compression gear, slip on but not flip flops (too cold at night)
- Food and a plan to get real food: Snacks and food components. I brought along some SexyPop Popcorn since the company was kind enough to send me a huge haul (and since it wasn’t heavy to carry) and it certainly came in handy! In Van 2, we only got the chance to stop off for a real dinner and everything else was snack food that was in the van.
- Blanket/Sleeping bag/Pillow: I learned that a car gets very cold when you turn it off to grab sleep while you can (many people laid sleeping bags out on the ground but I was not one of them). I used my backpack as a pillow.
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, hair ties (brush optional), pain reliever/anti-inflammatory medication, medications/vitamins you take daily or require in different environments (anti-nausea, allergy meds etc.), deodorant, sanitary products (ain’t nobody got time to go to the drugstore if you unexpectedly get your period) and for me, Action Wipes (I did receive these as a gift from the company but my entire team would agree that they were an absolute godsend!). People say bring toilet paper (I did) but never needed it.
- Optional: Window Paint (t0 decorate your van), costumes, themed t-shirts, Duran Duran pin (oh that might be just me).
G – Gather a Good Group
If your only friend from the 12 person team is NOT in your van, you’ll be lucky to see your friend for about 30 minutes tops so it’s crucial you gather a good group of people for your van. You will get to know the 5 other people in your group better in 36 hours than you ever thought you possible. The 5 other people in your van will see you at your best (cheering for others and finishing your runs) and your worst (smelly, tired, cranky, underfed, nauseated etc).
I was exceptionally lucky with my van-mates. I knew Carrie and Jill and had met Jamie but I didn’t know Kat or Debbie. We were lucky that no one was too annoying, whiny, bitchy or high maintenance because as much as this experience is an amazing one, it’s trying on the nerves. It’s amazing that we were all respectful of each other’s many needs which ranged from support to silence at any given time.
N- Navigation and Driving Skills
Your phone GPS isn’t going to cut it here. In order to get through 200 miles, you need a competent driver and a true human navigator. You will rely on your Race Bible directions and use your GPS but if you don’t have a good driver and navigator team who communicate well with one another and a team that supports the two (by making sure both have food, water and rest when they need), your team will be SOL.
We were lucky that our main driver knew the area well and drove our van like a champ, our back-up driver also drove a truck so she was exceptionally comfortable behind the wheel. Our main navigator was exceptionally adept and rarely took a break. As a relatively new driver, I would never have been comfortable driving so I was very grateful I didn’t have the job.
A – A Sense Of Humor
You will be in a van for 36 hours, if you can’t find a way to laugh this experience is NOT for you. Ragnarians have a great sense of humor – from team names, running in costumes and even the van decorations are hilarious. While at exchanges you might notice that your van gets tagged with window paint or magnets. It’s all in fun. You laugh or you’ll realize just how tired you are.
In our van, we could only listen to the radio so when the same 4 or 5 songs came on the radio (which included yesterday’s Tunes For Tuesday Two-Fer picks), we all wound up finding it funny and making a joke of it. When you’re punchy, you can either get annoyed or laugh. I’m very happy my group chose to laugh.
R – Resolve
Finding a group of 12 people that have the firm determination to cover 200 miles in 2 vans over a 2 day period is a little crazy and yet incredibly inspiring. Even though you are not in the presence of your entire team during the relay, you communicate and try your best to support your entire team (social media certainly helps with this too).
The So Cal Ragnar Relay was comprised of over 700 teams of 12 and no matter where you were during the 200 miles of travel, there was always a sense of community – whether it was honking/cheering for a runner (yours or someone else’s), seeing the bay of decorated vans, passing or being passed by a runner (this is called a “kill” and tallied on vans) or even watching an exchange of the slap bracelet between any two teammates. As “kumbaya” as it may sound, there’s a buzz of positive energy throughout Ragnar that you can feel throughout the course but the you can’t really feel the true power potential until you’ve had a chance to let it all soak in. I’m a few days post-Ragnar and only now while preparing for this recap, do I realize how much strength, determination and resolve was present along those 200 miles.
It’s no secret that I’m exceptionally inspired by stories of strength of spirit, determination and resolve (it’s the heart and soul of why I even have a blog) and being a part of the So Cal Ragnar Relay made me feel all sorts of fabulous but even my medal paled in comparison to this:
All I can say is that I’m hooked and I’m hoping that my team wants to do another Ragnar Relay sometime very soon.
My other teammates have some great recaps of this amazing experience. Please check out:
- Gillian@thatsG: http://thatsg.com/2014/04/07/coachella-for-runners-ragnar-socal-recap/
- Jillienne@ChasingRaspberries: http://chasingraspberries.com/so-cal-ragnar-relay-team-dirrty-dozen/
- Jamie@FitApproach: http://www.fitapproach.com/fitness/ragnarsocalrelay/
- Debbie@LiveFromLaQuinta: http://livefromlaquinta.com/2014/04/07/ragnarian/ AND
Have you ever done a relay? If so, which one would you recommend I try next?