Ragnar

What I Learned From My First Ragnar Relay

Hi everyone!  It’s been a week since coming home to Anchorage, but I’m still riding my rocky mountain high from my very first Ragnar Relay in Colorado!

IMG_6172-0So proud that I earned this medal!

While I already recapped my race experience (check out part 1 and part 2 if you missed them!), there’s still so much that I haven’t covered yet.  Mostly, how I got across that finish line in one piece!  I was really nervous going into my first Ragnar experience, so here’s what I learned for my next one:

  • Van 1 is definitely the place to be – I was runner #2,  and my legs happened at approximately 8:30 am, 9:00 pm, and 7:00 am.  None of my legs were super hot, and all of them were at “normal” times of the day for running.  I didn’t have to worry about running in the middle of the night (although some of my van mates did so I was still awake for that) and I had plenty of time between runs to recover.  I don’t think I could ever run a Ragnar in van #2 because they’ve got the late afternoon and middle of the night legs – but if that’s your type of thing go for it!

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  • Pack carefully – I did some research on the best way to pack for the trip and I would highly recommend this strategy to all future Ragnar runners:  pre-plan each of your race outfits and store them in labeled freezer bags.  This helps you find everything you need really quickly even in the middle of the night, and it gives you a place to store your smelly wet running clothes after you’re done with them.  I did this with all 3 race outfits, as well as 2 outfits for the in-between times and an outfit for our drive home after the race.  But I actually didn’t end up needing the in-between outfits at all because after each leg I ended up just changing into my running outfit for the next leg.  As long as you have a clean set of clothes for each leg of the race (including new socks and underwear), as well as a hoodie and sweatpants for the night/early morning hours and a clean outfit for after the race, you should be good!  Overpacking takes up more room in the van, so pack as little as you can while making sure you’ll be as comfortable as possible while running and resting.

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  • Recovery isn’t as hard as it sounds – Because I race frequently, I knew that racing can sometimes be hard to recover from – but I also have created routines and strategies for recovering from running hard.  I knew that I needed to go into this race with all of my best recovery skills because I was going to mostly be recovering in a cramped van with 6 other girls.  And what I did actually worked at keeping me feeling pretty good over the course of 24 hours!  I felt pretty hungry and tired by the time runner #6 was finishing up, but overall it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.  After each run, I did the following:
    • Immediately drank water and Nuun
    • Refueled with chocolate milk and a bagel
    • After cooling down, I wiped off with cleansing wipes and changed into a new outfit to stay as dry and clean as possible.
    • After a few hours, I ate a Honey Stinger waffle
    • At every other exchange point I used my roller stick to roll out my legs
    • I ate two major meals during the race and they were both pretty carb heavy and plain (cheese pizza, and a waffle with bacon) so my stomach felt fine
  • Sleep is overrated – Napping is where it’s at!  I didn’t nap during the day, but I did start napping around midnight and managed to get some real, uninterrupted sleep from 1:00 am to 5:00 am while van #2 was running.  And while I was pretty tired on day 2, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Although I did go to bed as soon as I was done eating dinner!
  • Running at night is the best part – If you’ve never run at night before, it can be pretty scary, especially if there’s any kind of crazy wildlife out there.   But getting to run in cool weather under the stars felt amazing!  I loved that I could see the blinking lights of runners off in the distance guiding me on where to go, and also that I couldn’t see the hills that were coming my way.  I just blissfully ran along, occasionally looking up at the stars.  If this still sounds scary to you, know that you can run with another person at night (I did, but not by choice!) without a penalty.

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  • Leg #3 isn’t that hard – I was certain that by leg #3 I’d be zombie-walking my way through my 5.1 miles, but I actually ended up feeling really great (you know, minus the giant hills and lack of elevation).  In my last mile I was flying downhill at top speed staring at giant mountains and gorgeous scenery, and it was probably the best mile of the entire race! I think that the adrenaline of being almost done really helped carry me through my exhaustion and lack of sleep to get to the finish line.

IMG_6149I’m done!

  • That post-race shower will be the best shower of your life – Seriously.  It was amazing.
  • Team spirit is everything – From planning your race name to picking out silly outfits to decorating your van, team spirit is super high at Ragnar! And it extends past the silly pictures and fun hashtags to the more serious side of running a multi day relay.  No matter how tired you are, how hard your leg is, and how little energy you have left, your teammates will be there cheering you on to the finish.  That’s the best part of Ragnar – you’re not running alone!
  • You enter as strangers, but leave as friends – Once I realized I’d be in Colorado for a work conference the day before a Ragnar Relay, I knew I had to run it.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a team!  But after checking out the Ragnar Colorado Facebook page and contacting a few teams who needed another runner, I found an all-female team with my chosen leg available.  I was crazy nervous going into this race knowing no one else on the team, but we all got along really well and had a blast!  I learned so much about running from those girls, and I’m hoping I can run more Ragnars with them in the future!

Ragnar Van 1 Finish

For me, Ragnar Colorado was 14.9 miles of hills, high elevation, and unknown challenges.  But after over 24 hours of racing I learned that I could conquer anything that Ragnar threw my way.  There was never a spot where I felt sick (although I did get super hungry while waiting for my van mates to finish running), and the elevation didn’t totally knock me out.  I even finished strong after only 4 hours of sleep.  And once I was done running, I wanted to do it all over again!  If you’re on the fence about running a Ragnar and have the opportunity to join a team, DO IT!

If you could run any Ragnar, what would it be?   Now that the newest Ragnar location has been revealed, who wants to run Ragnar Hawaii with me next October?

15 thoughts on “What I Learned From My First Ragnar Relay

  1. These are good tips to know! My best running friend and I are hoping to do our first Ragnar next year (location still TBD), I am already making notes on how to pack and recover and you brought up some good points. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It all depends on your assigned start time. I was Van 1 Runner 1 and def had a leg at 2am. 🙂 just sayin, it may not be the same as what u expect next time. Different race, different group, different paces, different start time, everything can change. Every ragnar is unique. Congrats ragnarian!

      1. Totally agree! I remember stressing about which leg to choose (there were 3 left when I joined the team) so figured that putting my run times and our start time would help others choose. I think the best thing is to be prepared for anything!

  2. I think your Ragnar experience may have convinced me to try one in the near future 🙂 So smart to bring a rolling stick! That would be my best friend on the road.

    1. Haha nope! I think peak running times are different for everyone, and honestly most times I’d prefer to run at van #2 times as well – except that it was so hot by that time of day that I don’t think I could have handled it in Colorado. Plus running at 3 am is personally too much for me!

  3. Loved your post BUT I must respectfully disagree with just one part (and many others may second this).
    Van 2 also has its advantages-and they are BIG.
    #1) When you’re done- you’re DONE, no need to wait hours and hours before the other team comes in sitting around in your sweaty stank.
    #2) Post start time breakfast! When Van 1 is out Van 2 goes out and carbs up!! *WAFFLES*!!!
    #3) The late/night runs are the coolest!! (both literally and figuratively) If you just wanted to run during the day, go do any normal race, silly!
    #4) Runner #12 is THE coolest position (IMHO) bringing the team in at the end is ten times better than finishing a regular race.
    GO RAGNARIANS!

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