Monday, June 24, 2013

Relay Running!

The first two years I ran Ragnar I did so as part of 12 person team, which is the most common way to do it. The race is split up into 36 "legs" that have to be run in rotating order by your runners. So if you are a team of 12, Runner number one runs legs 1, 13, and 25, Runner number two runs legs 2, 14, and 26, etc. With a 12 person team you have two vans, with runners 1-6 in van #1 and runners 7-12 in van #2. When van #1 is on the course, the van 2 runners can rest, eat, sleep (sort of), etc. and vice versa. The vans meet up and trade off after every six legs. Someone on the team is always running from the start until the finish.

When you run as an ultra team, you have six runners and your runners can either each run double back to back legs - so runner number one runs legs 1 and 2, 13 and 14, and 25 and 26, the second runner runs legs 3 and 4, 15 and 16, and 27 and 28, etc. OR, everyone could run six shorter legs - so runner number one runs legs 1, 7, 13, 19, 25 and 31, runner number two runs legs 2, 8, 14, 20, 26, and 32, etc.

We decided to run the back to back legs. It meant that we all had longer runs, but it also meant that we had longer periods of time to eat, rest, and recover before we had to run again. I was worried that if we each were running six times that we wouldn't have enough time to recover in between. We have done the "back to back legs" for two years in a row now and I really like it. I would be open to trying it the other way (and maybe we will next year) but the three longer runs just appeals to me more than six shorter runs each. This year my first run was at 8:30am and was 15.4 miles, my second run was at about 6:00pm that same day and was 11.3 miles, and my last run was at 8am the next day and was 8.3 miles.

To me, Ragnar is a big, running party. One of the best things about it is seeing and meeting all the different people. This year there were about 1800 runners out there and we met teams made up of college athletes and teams made up of grandparents and their grandkids. There were runners who were fast, slow, young, old, new to running, and experienced runners, all out there together. The runners at Ragnar are SO much fun, and so encouraging and supportive of each other. It's a blast, and really inspiring and just FUN.

We went down to Logan on Thursday afternoon, had dinner (carb up!) and then went grocery shopping and packed the coolers and decorated the van before we went to sleep. Then we were up at the start area at 7:15am for our safety briefing and to get our numbers, van stickers, shirts, etc. and we started at 8:30am (teams start as early as 5am and as late at 4pm). We finished around 7pm on Saturday - tired and dirty but smiling.

Here are some tips if you are going to be run a relay.

- WHO is on the team matters. You are going to be living in a van for the better part of two days and one night with these people. You will get tired, dirty, more tired, and more dirty. If you are surrounded by people who are fun and encouraging and whose company you really enjoy, this can be one of the best weekends ever. If you have a team made up of people who don't get along super well, or even have one person that is negative or difficult, this can be very not fun. (And remember, when you are dirty and tired, best behavior tends to go out the window).  Nothing ruins a relay weekend faster than drama on a team, so chose wisely. Lauri, Alana and I have been on a team together for four years now- we have seen each other at our best and worst and know when and how to support each other.  Adding Josh to the team last year made it even more awesome and special as I rarely get "fun" time with him without the kids, and I love getting to share such a great adventure with him. This year two of our good guy friends joined us and it was the perfect combination. The guys were a blast and kept us all laughing. I love the "mixed" team and will stick with the 3 guys, 3 girls combo, although the all girls team was lots of fun too. We met family teams, college teams, business teams, running group teams, and teams made up of friends.

- Expect the unexpected. I know teams that have had injuries during the race, that have gotten flat tires, that have lost someone's running shoes, and all kinds of other "surprises". The weather can go from hot during the day to cold at night (and rain can always happen). Expect the unexpected, be prepared, be flexible, and be able to go with the flow.

- Organization is important! You need a team captain that can keep track of the important planning dates, that can make hotel reservations if necessary, figure out vehicles, handle volunteers, plan team shirts or costumes, plan food, make sure everyone has all their safety gear, etc. etc. etc. This is not something you want to go into without a plan. Also, when you pack for your relay, you want to be organized. Back your toiletries in one ziplock bag. Pack your safety gear in one ziplock bag. Pack each running outfit in it's own ziplock bag - this makes it easy to grab a new outfit (and not be digging around trying to find your socks) and it also gives you a bag to put the nasty clothes you are taking off in to so they aren't stinking up the rest of your bag.

- Have food! Some teams have each member bring their own food and some teams shop together. We have always just hit up a grocery store or Walmart as a team the night before and stocked up. It makes more sense to me to have one jar of peanut butter for the van than having everyone bring their own. :) Go for easy foods like bananas, bagels, turkey, energy bars, peanut butter, oranges, grapes, trail mix, etc. and make sure you have some "junk" too - our M&M consumption during Ragnar is impressive. :) You will have times when you are craving real food (turkey and avocado sandwiches were a big hit this year) and times when you need some treats. Watermelon never tasted so good as it did after my second leg. Make sure you refuel well after each leg so you are as ready to go as possible for your next run.

- Have fun! Decorate your van, pack cowbells, wear costumes, get team shirts, cheer for strangers, play loud music, encourage other runners, dance, sing, SMILE. 

- Pack two pairs of shoes.

- Pack a "stick" and roller.


- Just know going into it that you are going to experience a whole new kind of tired. The "Ragnar hangover" lasts for a good day or two. It's worth it.

Have you run a relay? Do you have any tips? Do you have any questions?


The Unexpected Runner said...

I just ran my 2nd Ragnar (Niagara) & I is all about fun! For me it is the only time I'm a 'social' runner. I look on it as a girls weekend on wheels! Lol! I also like meeting new people. I seem to get the van with a few I don't know. I actually prefer this. I get to meet people I wouldn't normally hang out with. I would love to try it as an ultra team next time. And yes, ziplock bags, a good sense of humour & being able to roll with the flow are ESSENTIAL to a good Ragnar. Glad you had a fun time!

Amy Z said...

Baby wipes for a quick 'bath' after your run!

Amy N. said...

Amen! Who is on your team is so important!

Great list! I need to hop onto a relay team! I don't have one on the books this year!

giraffy said...

LOVE it!! Some friends of mine did the ultra as single legs, and it is HARD.

Congrats on another Ragnar!

Canuck Mom said...

I am running my first relay in August with Nuun. The Hood To Coast Relay. Thank you for this info. I am a relay virgin and am pretty nervous about the ins and outs of it all.

jamie smith said...

So glad you had a weekend of R & R (well your version of time off anyway). I have a friend in Idaho who runs it every year too. When he's tried telling me about it. I didn't understand what the heck he was talking about in his lingo. Thanks for explaining the different relay options so well.

Beth @ Miles and Trials said...

That looks like so much fun. I've never done a relay, but would live to some day.