Before I ran Ragnar Relay DC, I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into. I worried about everything from how to train to what to pack to how (and whether) I would sleep to whether (and how) I’d be able to stay friends with my teammates after enduring 199 miles of running together. After I ran Ragnar–and especially after I showered and slept–I found myself encouraging anyone with the slightest interest to go for it.
10 Big Things About Ragnar
1. Ragnar is just plain awesome.
2. Ragnar works—The logistics, the relay hand-offs, the running three times in 36 hours, the lack of sleep–it all works out.
3. Ragnar is fun.
4. The Ragnar people know their stuff. Follow the rules and trust the process and enjoy the adventure.
5. Ragnar is not about you, it’s about your team. Do your best, but focus on encouraging your teammates instead of worrying about how you compare.
6. You don’t have to know your teammates to have a blast. I only knew two of my teammates before Ragnar, but we all got along and had a great time together.
7. Enjoy the Ragnar culture. Decorate your van. Keep track of your kills. Socialize with other teams at exchanges.
8. Be proud of your Ragnar experience. Whenever I see someone wearing a Ragnar shirt or spot a Ragnar sticker on a car, I know that person has a spirit of adventure.
9. Be prepared to belong to a new tribe. If I meet someone who has done the Ragnar D.C. relay, I can’t help but ask which runner they were and feel a special bond if we ran the same legs.
10. Ragnar embodies the best of running–adventure, challenge, encouragement, accomplishment.
5 Tips For Training For Ragnar
Even if your team is just running for fun, you will have more fun if you train for the Ragnar experience. Here are some things I did in the weeks leading up to Ragnar.
1. Run at a different time of day than usual. With three runs over 36 hours, you are likely to be running in the morning, afternoon and night. Since I usually only run first thing in the morning, I wanted to do a few afternoon runs to get some experience running when it’s sunny and warmer.
2. Run twice in the same day. This aspect of the Ragnar experience wasn’t as challenging as I expected, but I still think it’s a good idea to fit a few “two-a-days” in your training schedule.
3. Hills, hills, hills. If any of your Ragnar legs are hilly, train for hills! My first leg was ridiculous, with the first 4 miles being a giant uphill climb. I focused my training on hill work, and I am sure it paid off.
4. Test out new gear. If you plan to use new gear for Ragnar, make sure you try it out on a training run first. I started using my Nathan hydration vest before Ragnar even though I didn’t really need it on my shorter training runs.
5. Test out new fuel. If your Ragnar legs include a longer distance than you are used to running, you may want to have fuel during that leg–a sports drink, chews, or gel. Make sure you try out different types/flavors before Ragnar so you know what works best for you.
5 Things To Know About Running Ragnar
1. Your van is your mini-team. This may be different for different Ragnar races, but we did not see much of the runners in the other van. Since I was the first runner of my van, I had even less time with them, because I started my leg as soon as their runner came in.
2. You may be alone during part of your legs. Yes, there are lots of runners out at the same time you are, but you may have stretches of your legs where you can’t see anyone else. Your van can leapfrog you a little bit, but don’t forget that it has to beat you to the next exchange so the next runner can get ready to go.
3. Pay attention at the short orientation. At the orientation meeting, they explained how to follow the Ragnar directional signs that charted out the 199 mile route. The rule was “touch the sign, then follow the arrow.” I had to go through that process at least once when I wasn’t sure where exactly I was supposed to turn and it worked!
4. Drive s-l-o-w-l-y and support other runners. When you aren’t running, your van may be leapfrogging your runner or driving to the next exchange. Make sure you drive carefully, pass runners slowly, and offer support to other runners who may need water, or just encouragement.
5. Wipe off and change before leaving the exchange. I was lucky to finish most of my legs at a place with a rest room where I could splash water on my face and change my clothes. Even if the next runner has a short leg, you have time to use a shower wipe and change your sweatiest clothes, and it will be worth the wait to everyone.
10 Pieces Of Running Gear For Ragnar
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Ragnar is serious about safety and before you can start you must show them that every member of your team has the required reflective vest, head lamp and tail light for the nighttime legs.
2.Flashing Tail Light. We ended up with a few extra taillights which turned out to be a good thing, since we were able to give one to another runner who lost theirs–possibly sparing them a penalty.
4. Hydration vest and/or fuel belt. Ragnar does not provide water stops along its routes. While some runners relied on their vans to hand over a cold drink mid-leg, some legs are on trails without van support, so be prepared to carry your own water/sports drink. I’ve been trying the Orange Mud HydraQuiver for shorter runs and like my Nathan Intensity Vest for longer runs.
5. GPS Watch. Even if you’re not worried about your pace, you may want a GPS watch to know how far you’ve gone since the routes will be unfamiliar. Each leg has a “One More Mile” marker, but the other miles are not marked off. Relying on a GPS app on your phone could be dangerous if you’re in a remote area.
6. Compression socks. I wore my Procompression socks for every leg. I know the science is inconclusive, but my calves seem to appreciate the extra support.
7. The Stick. I used this on my quads after every leg. It was great because I could use it while we were on our way to the next exchange.
8. Foam Roller. While not as convenient to use as the stick, a foam roller is a good option for targeting larger muscle groups.
9. A yoga mat. A yoga mat is nice to have for foam rolling or resting between legs.
10. Kindle. OK, this is non-running gear, but you probably will have some down time while the other van is running, and you might want a Kindle or other e-reader to pass the time without draining your phone battery, especially if you can’t sleep but you’re vanmates can ….
8 Things To Buy For Ragnar
My Amazon Prime account paid for itself in the days leading up to Ragnar. Here are a few things I bought that I’d buy again.
1. Window Paint Markers. For decorating your van.
2. ShowerPill Body Wipes. For wiping off sweaty arms and legs.
3. Facial wipes. For wiping off sweaty faces.
5. Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches. I do not believe in masking pain and running through injuries, but for Ragnar sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Since my friends was battling Achilles tendonitis, we had some of these on hand just in case.
6. KT Tape. I recently discovered how awesome KT Tape can be. I didn’t have this with my last year but definitely will have some in our van this year. And it is available in Ragnar orange!
7. First Aid Kit. I think Ragnar requires each van to have a first aid kit but it’s a good idea even if they don’t check. Make sure yours is well-stocked with things to address common running injuries–small bandages, blister bandages, neosporin, etc.
8. Cigarette lighter chargers. Many rental vans have USB ports for charging phones and Garmins, but with 6 runners in a van, we were glad to have multiple re-charging options.
5 Things About Packing For Ragnar
1. Organize your gear in gallon size zipper bags. For each leg, I had a bag with the gear I would need for that leg and a bag with comfy clothes to wear before the next leg. I also had a bag for my nighttime accessories (head lamp, reflective vest, tail light).
2. Bring a full outfit for every leg. You probably will want to change from head-to-toe between legs, so pack a full outfit for each leg.
3. Bring options for changes in the weather. Even if the forecast is sunny and warm, pack a light jacket in case of rain. On the other hand, if you’re expecting it to be cool, pack one lighter top in case it’s warmer than usual for your midday run.
4. Bring toiletries and a towel. We knew there would be showers at one of the major exchanges, and it was the best $1 ever spent!
5. Pack compactly. While its tempting to over-pack for every possible scenario, remember that you will be sharing a van with 5 other teammates and won’t have anywhere to unpack. We used gym bags that could fit under the seats and that worked well.
7 Things About Fueling For Ragnar
1. Bring fuel you are used to. You know the rule about not trying anything new on race day? It goes triple for Ragnar, when you will be running three legs and sharing a van with 5 others for 36 hours.
2. Bring food to share. Yes, you should bring your own fuel, but it’s also nice to have food to share. We had a crazy amount of bananas and every brand of bar to satisfy the craving of the moment.
3. Bring salty food. The one thing we wish we had more of was salt. I think we had a tin or two of nuts, but we really would have loved a bag or two of corn chips.
4. Bring sports drinks. Here again you should stick with what your body is used to, but we had a cooler full of Gatorade and lots of Nuun. The more flavor options the better, since you will get tired of your usual favorite after the first day.
5. Bring drinking water. Bring more water than you think you’ll need–at least six 16 oz bottles per person.
6. Bring extra water. We used extra water for washing our faces, rinsing off scraped knees, and even washing off the van at the end.
7. Take a break for real food. We were lucky to be able to find a sit-down restaurant for dinner, a Starbucks for breakfast, and a deli for lunch. The extra logistics were worth it to get “real” food, sit down at a real table, and use indoor plumbing!
5 Things About Preparing For Ragnar
1. Trust the Ragnar pace calculator. As part of the registration process, Ragnar asks for a 10K finish time to estimate how long each leg will take and help you figure out when your van should be where. Don’t worry if you don’t think your 10K time reflects how you think you will be running Ragnar. They have a magic formula that takes that time, adjusts it for the estimated difficulty of each leg, and sprinkles it with magic Ragnar fairy dust to come up with estimates that turn out to be incredibly on target.
2. Plan a team meeting. We didn’t do this, but having a team meeting before Ragnar would have eliminated most of the anxiety about doing Ragnar with people I didn’t know. We did fine coordinating everything by email, but it would have been nice to get to know the Van 1 runners a bit more.
3. Print out extra copies of the leg maps. Ragnar will give one Ragmag with all of the course information and legs maps to each van, but it was nice to have extra copies to psych ourselves up for our next legs and help figure out the directions to the next exchange. Some people make fancy books for each runner, but we just printed off extra copies and kept them safe in gallon zipper bags.
4. Consider lodging needs and options. Our team had an early start, so our Van 1 runners stayed in a hotel close to the start. My friend had a friend who lived near our last major exchange, so we were lucky to have a basement to crash in for a few hours of sleep (or for a shower and foam rolling like I opted for).
5. Plan to meet at the finish line. The weather was horrible for our finish, with pouring rain during the last few legs, so the Van 1 runners just went home and let us collect their medals for them. Maybe that’s one reason they all decided to do Ragnar again this year as an ultra team. I know I would have liked to have the whole team together for the finish line picture.
So, are you excited to run a Ragnar Relay now?
If you want to read more about my Ragnar experiences, check out the posts shown below: