While sitting in the airport on my way to the Ragnar Napa Valley Relay, I was told several times how crazy I was for doing relay races. “You don’t really survive and I don’t know why anyone would put that stress on their bodies.” – random grumpy guy next to me. Well, good news, buddy…you totally can survive. There are definitely tricks of the trade and I’ve got a few up my sleeve 😉
Whether it’s a Ragnar or another relay race, there’s something hilariously fun about constantly driving around in a decorated van with a team of 12 people who are all decked out in costumes, munching on a smorgasboard of food and goodies, keeping the windows down for the smell, cheering on teammates and other runners, pulling to the side of the road to sleep for 2.4 hours and having energy to all cross the finish line at the same time.
Sounds a bit tricky, eh? Well, it’s somewhat easier than you think. Trust me. It’s totally doable! And there are great things about relay races – meeting new people & making new friends, traveling to new places, seeing new things, discovering new tricks/treats for your next running adventure and, if you’re planning on more races, it can be good for training.
So how to survive the lack of sleep and running on and off for 24 hours and be able to walk the next day? I’ve done a few Ragnar in my day (5 total-my favorites are the trail relays! Try them out). Here’s my 10 all-emcompasing tips I always share about relay races:
- Before you go, do your research. Become familiar with which legs you’ll be running. Know the distance. Know the elevation changes. Know if you’re running on pavement or dirt trails. Mentally prepare yourself for however long, short or strenuous your legs will be.
- Do a pre-run shake out & post-run stretching. Regardless of what time it is. It could be hot or cold, windy or rainy. You might be running 9 miles or 2. It doesn’t matter-warm your body up and cool it down (and don’t eat too close to when you run).
- Get out of the car any time you can! Take the chance to stretch your legs and body. Move around when you wait at the runner exchange. Don’t be sedentary and stay crammed in the car until it’s your turn to run. No bueno.
- Share your goodies. Letting others eat your frozen banana-peanut butter bites is, strangely enough, a great way to bond. They might love them and it could start a running recipe exchange. By trying things everyone brings (a pot-luck of goodies), you’ll find things that you bring that others like and things others bring that you like and you might be surprised if you find yourself sick of the food that you brought.
- Sore? Tired? Hungry? SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. So please, don’t whine. Do something about it! There will be food in the car – eat it. There will be jackets/pillows – take a nap on one. There will be moments to stop – get out and stretch. Duh.
- Cheer on your team (and other runners). You never know when all that one person needs is a little encouragement from a random car passing by. You might hit your own mental wall and need some motivation from others!
- Take care of your team! Be aware if runners need more hydration, pain killers, gu or other things to munch on. If the weather changes, ask if the want their visor, jacket or more water. One of the BEST things that my team did for me during a 4 mile 2,000ft elevation climb in 99 degree weather – toss a spray bottle filled with ice water out the window. I spent that 45 minutes constantly squirting myself and other runners with cold water. Couldn’t have survived without them!
- TAKE WIPES. 24 hours of stinky runners crammed into a car-they’re a portable shower. Just trust me on this one. Remember, even liquid awesome can smell bad.
- Take pictures. Take them of your car decorations, the entire team at the starting and finish lines, runners smiling (or not) during their legs, people sleeping, strange things that happen, the scenery that you drive past, team members making funny shapes…anything and everything. Beautiful scenery (there’s tons on the Ragnar-pretty sure they do that on purpose). It’ll be more fun 🙂
- If you’re not having fun AT ALL, you’re doing it wrong. Though there is a competitive air that comes with any race-Ragnar included-one of the greatest things about the Ragnar though is that it can be an absolute party. Seriously.
Love the new scenery-there are some absolutely beautiful running paths on the Ragnar. Embrace the craziness. Have massive amounts of fun. Run your own race. Own that 24+ hour relay like a total boss.
So, good people of the running world – keep calm and Ragnar on #fistpump