Tag Archives: Ragnar

Gear Review & Packing List for Ragnar Trail New England

My patriotic folding chair (and table) for our American Gladiators-themed team!

The chair and table (and sit-pad, tarp, & decorative flags), that served us well at the Ragnar Trail New England.

The last weekend in June I ran my first Ragnar Trail in Massachusetts (“Ragnar Trail New England”) – you can find my expectations and initial packing list here and my race recap/review here.  This post will focus on the gear.

 

Overall, my team pretty much packed the right stuff.  With a little tweaking I think we would have been totally set.  For an updated packing list in PDF form, click here.  For details and thoughts on the items from the original list, see below.

 

Original Packing List for Ragnar Trail New England:  New Comments in Italics

Clothing – Put each running leg outfit in separate labeled Ziploc bag – You do this so (a) in case it starts floating around camp, everyone knows whose stuff it is, (b) you know which bag to grab for which loop, and (c) you can stuff your gross, sweaty gear back into the bag and seal it up until you get home to deal with that mess.

  • Running shirts & bottoms – 3 each – Yep, not much to note on this.  I guess you could re-wear items but that could be kinda gross/uncomfortable especially if you sweat a lot.
  • Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair – If they’ll have a Salomon demo tent (and they probably will), one pair is fine, because you can always check out a demo pair in case yours get too wet or muddy to use.
  • Running socks – 3 to 4 pairs – Definitely bring extra socks especially if you ever end up wearing your socks with sandals in the wet grass…
  • Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each – Yes.
  • Hat/visor – 1 or 2 hats – One hat was fine for me but if it had been really cold I might have used a beanie at night.
  • One comfy non-running shirt (for in-between runs) – One shirt was fine, plus you’ll get the race t-shirt when you check in.
  • One pair non-running bottoms (for in-between runs) – e.g. sweats or yoga pants – I wore both my silly American flag leggings and some thin, long jogger pants at night and was still a bit chilly, so if you tend to get cold make sure to bring some cozy sweatpants or long underwear or something for night.  If you run both hot and cold, toss in a pair of shorts for daytime, too.
  • One pair non-running (shower) shoes – Didn’t need shower shoes for New England because there were no showers, but was definitely nice to have a pair of slides to wear between runs.  I like these from Crocs – comfy and lightweight for packing.
  • Warm jacket and/or sweatshirt – A definite must for the chilly night.  I wore both my thin sweatshirt and a lined windbreaker at night.
  • Rain jacket/windbreaker – I wore a thin rain jacket in the rain while we set up camp.  Glad I had it and even more glad I didn’t need it much over the weekend.
  • Costume items & team shirts! – I LOVED our matching team shirts.  Our Runner #6 made an awesome logo out of the American Gladiators logo and our shirts were bright and cheery and looked great together in a group.  Just like for the road Ragnar, I think team shirts are totally worth it, even if they are kinda spendy for a small custom order (I paid $30 for my cotton shirt, I think the tech shirts were a similar price).  We used logosoftwear.com to make our shirts this time.

Running Gear (required)

  • 70+ lumen headlamp (one with a red filter saves your nightvision) – 1 (or more) w/ fresh batteries – I’d say go 120-150 lumen, with 100% fresh batteries (yes, take out whatever batteries you have in there, even if you think they’re good, and swap them out with new ones, and check that sh*t), and carry fresh spare batteries that you have also tested to make sure they work.  Then also carry a backup headlamp that you have also tested with fresh batteries.  And then maybe carry one additional backup for fun.  I used this Princeton Tec 70 Lumen Byte headlamp that I got for only $15 from Amazon which was ok when it had good batteries (it features a red mode, regular mode, and bright mode and takes 2 AAA batteries – it would make a good backup if not your main lamp).  My teammate tried both the Black Diamond Spot 130 lumen headlamp (currently $32 at Amazon) and the Fenix HL23 150 lumen headlamp (currently $35 at Amazon), and he preferred the latter (as it was simpler to use, takes only one AA battery, and “seemed more reliable,” although it doesn’t seem to have a red mode).
  • Cup/bottle for hot & cold beverages (Ragnar Trail is cupless) – 2 – I only really used the one large water bottle I brought and didn’t use my insulated bottle for hot beverages.  I’m not a coffee drinker but I also heard they actually did have cups for the coffee anyway.  Next time I’d just pack one bottle but bring additional beverages like water, Gatorade or Zero Vitamin Water, and some beer and/or whiskey.  They gave out free Nuun water in the village but they used the Ragnar hose water to make it, so it still tasted bad.

Personal Running Accessories

  • Hydration backpack/handheld bottle/water belt/SPI belt – I wore my hydration backpack on every loop (my favorite Nathan Zeal 2-liter – highly adjustable, almost no bounce, and nice big pockets on the front to stash your phone and gels and whatever else you want to tuck away during your run), but most people didn’t carry any water even on the longest 6.5 mile loop.  I’d say do whatever you’re used to and you probably know yourself and whether you’d feel more comfortable carrying water or not.  I needed it because I’m a thirsty person and I’m slow, so even on the shortest loop I was out there for 45 minutes (and almost 2 hours on the longest loop, and one water stop over 2 hours wasn’t going to cut it for me).
  • Watch or GPS – Some of my teammates didn’t have a watch, but since the miles weren’t marked on the trails it was reallyreally great to know how far you had gone out there, especially since .2 miles felt like 2 miles sometimes.  The only downside was looking at your watch every 5 minutes and realizing you’ve gone like .1 miles.  I’m still using and enjoying my Garmin 620, although I almost never wear the heart rate monitor anymore.  
  • Sunglasses – More crucial for walking around camp and the village than for running the shaded trails, actually!
  • Buff or headband for ears – Never needed it but glad I brought it, but they also had two different vendors handing out free buffs in the Village, so you might be able to snag a free one (or two).
  • Gaiters – Surprisingly did not need these!  I didn’t get any rocks in my shoes at all – actually got more rocks in my shoes during the Deadwood Mickelson “Trail” Marathon.  If you don’t already own gaiters, don’t buy them for just this race.
  • Tall compression socks/calf sleeves (for brush) – Did not need these, either!  They would be fine for recovery but you don’t need them to protect your legs on the trail.  Again, don’t buy them just for this race if you don’t want to.
  • Hair ties/hairbands – Yep.
  • Gloves – Didn’t need these but glad I had them just in case. 
  • Road ID – in case of emergency – Wore mine on my shoe but forgot to swap them to my demo shoes.  Luckily our Captain entered any critical allergy info for the team so if one of us had gone down someone probably would have gotten that info.  Nevertheless, try to have ID on you especially if you do have allergies or a medical condition.
  • Additional handheld lights/headlamps – YES.  See above comments on my newfound headlamp obsession.
  • iPod & headphones (discouraged on trail) – Never used except when sleeping in camp (my trick is to sleep with in-ear headphones plugged into my phone to dampen the noise around me and so my alarm will wake me but not my teammates.  One teammate who runs with headphones ended up taking his off shortly into his run, preferring to concentrate on the trail instead.
  • Cell Phone – pre-programmed with teammates numbers & photos of course maps – I carried my phone on all three loops, mostly to take pictures.  Never needed it for an emergency and there were always plenty of other runners around so if someone did need help it would have been easy to get.  There’s decent service around on the trails and at the Village, so definitely bring your phone in general to camp.

Personal Miscellaneous

  • Toiletries – toothbrush & paste, hairbrush, etc. – Yep.
  • Sunblock & Chapstick with SPF – Yep.
  • Body Glide/anti-chafe – Although not strictly necessary for short runs like this, I almost always wear anti-chafe on my toes and I like to have it in case some weird thing starts bugging me.  I now use three different anti-chafe products depending on the area of body and my mood (anti-chafe being like a runner’s makeup…) – Ruby’s Lube (mild ingredients that smell herby), Sportslick (smells a little like coconut oil although there’s no coconut in it), and the unfortunately branded Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder Gel (smells like nothing to me and disappears on skin but still does a good job of protecting sensitive spots).  
  • Towel or Chawel – I ended up not using my Chawel this time, changing inside the tent instead.  I guess I’m glad I had the “most massively useful thing” in the universe, but for Ragnar New England, it wasn’t strictly necessary.
  • Ear Plugs & Sleeping Mask – I didn’t use mine but teammates used theirs.  Good to have and small to pack.
  • Headphones – Again, only used while sleeping, but was very helpful for that.
  • Any medicine you need – Yep.
  • Prescription Glasses/Contacts – Yep.
  • Food & Drinks – special stuff for you (e.g. Gels, electrolytes, chocolate, etc.) – Yep.
  • Cash – small bills – Yep.  I bought one Boloco bowl and a Ragnar merch hat, using cash for former and credit for latter.  

Camping Gear

  • Tent(s) – enough for team, 1 big or a couple smaller – It was really nice to have one big tent  you could stand up in (and where most of us slept at one point or another) and two smaller tents, especially dedicating one of the smaller tents for our gear and for changing (to isolate the funk to one tent).  We got our big tent (Coleman Montana 8) on an Amazon Deal of the Day, but I’d recommend it even at the higher price because of the awesome “screen door” style door that opened and shut without zipping (perfect for frequent, fast, noiseless entries and exits).
  • Tarp – for under tent or as a rug – We used about 3-4 tarps for our campsite – under each tent and for the front of the changing tent so you could walk around without your shoes.
  • Sun Shade (if available) or Umbrella – I read so many bad reviews online for various pop-up canopies I didn’t buy one, but luckily someone on our team was able to borrow one from a friend (so I’m not sure what brand it was) – but it worked great!  It was key for a sun-phobic like me to have a shady place to sit.  See if you can borrow one from someone you know and if not, I think it’s a worthwhile team expense (divided by 8 people it’ll probably only cost $10-15 per person).
  • Camp Chairs & Table – I read that having a chair was important for a Ragnar Trail event and I’d agree – our team brought 2-3 “high” or normal chairs and 2-3 “low” lightweight, portable camping chairs, and they were all almost constantly in use (the normal chairs were more favored).  I got this chair because of our USA theme and it was cheery and pretty comfy, plus it had two drink holder cups which was useful.  If I didn’t need or want a theme chair, and was willing to spend extra money, I might get a chair like this one or this one with a mesh bottom (because the rain and sweaty bottoms made the canvas chairs a little damp).  This $20 chair also has mesh but only in the back, not solving the damp bottom problem.  Having a table was also really nice, even the tiny camping table that I brought, although having a bigger table or a second table would have been nice, too.  
  • Sleeping Bag or Blanket & a Pad/air mattress – Definitely needed a sleeping bag or blanket at night (I used my old 15-degree down bag that seems to have lost its loft – any bag or blanket will do, though).  And it’s always nice to have a sleeping pad for comfort and warmth – I used a Therm-a-rest Z-Lite Sol because it’s pretty cheap ($25 for the small folding one, $20 for the regular size Ridgerest rolling one), doesn’t need inflating, and doesn’t make noise as you shift around (that an inflated mattress sometimes does).
  • Small pillow/inflatable camping pillow – I used my old Cocoon Air-Core pillow but I recommend spending a few extra bucks for the Sea to Summit Aeros ultralight pillow (also available at REI and EMS) as it’s so incredibly compact you can bring it on airplane flights for extra lumbar support or to use while traveling if the hotel pillows are terrible.  If you’ll never go camping again, just bring a small regular pillow from home or a pillowcase and stuff your clothes into a ball.
So tiny yet surprisingly comfortable!

So tiny yet surprisingly comfortable!

Additional Items – One “Kit” per Team

  • Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs, unscented – Definitely nice to have a bunch of baby wipes for “showering.”
  • Bug Spray – We brought, we used, but I didn’t see a lot of bugs – huzzah!
  • First Aid Kit (e.g. bandaids, antibacterial cream, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto, Imodium, allergy meds, tweezers, scissors, cough drops, moleskin, Vaseline, rubber gloves, tampons) – We brought and we used the scissors probably more than anything.
  • Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle – I used this religiously after every gross porta-potty visit, so to me it’s a definite must.
  • Trash bags – a few – We used one bag before we did our check-in (when you get 2 trash bags – one for regular trash and one for recycling).
  • Extra Ziploc bags – I think someone needed one once.  
  • Snacks for the group – e.g. bananas, apples, nuts, jerky, cheese, chips, cookies, candy, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB&J, bagels, etc. & gum – I was throughly impressed with the quantity and quality of snacks my team brought, especially considering we did NOT stop at a grocery store on the way!  We had macadamia nuts, chocolate covered mangos, beef jerky, wasabi peas, no-bake cookies, Pop Tarts (I didn’t even bring them!), Reeces Pieces, and other stuff I can’t even remember.  Definitely bring a bunch of fun snacks because half the time the snacking is the entertainment.
  • Drinks – Gatorade or electrolyte drink mix, several gallon jugs of water – We did not bring water and that’s the one big thing I wish we had brought.  The “potable” water provided by Ragnar tasted like water from a dirty inflatable pool and while nobody got sick from it, it was not conducive to wanting to hydrate.  We used some free bottled water from the Village until it ran out, then we just drank the gross water.
  • Portable external battery/solar charger for phones & charging cables – I used my external battery charger (Anker Astro, $18 at Amazon) (only had to use it once near the end) and it was great.  My teammate frequented the Goal Zero charging station in the Village multiple times to keep her phone above 80% just about the entire time.
  • Camera – One team member brought an SLR camera, which was nice.  The rest of us used our phones like millennials.  😉
  • Cards/Games – Another team member brought an awesome selection of games.  We played a couple games and I think it was worthwhile to bring, but next time I’d make more of an effort to play even more.
  • Bluetooth speaker/radio – We had two and we barely used them because Ragnar played music most of the day – I’m moving this to the “optional” section.
  • Decorations for campsite – We had some (paltry) decorations and while we weren’t the absolute least decorated campsite, we were in the bottom third I’d say – not for lack of effort on our part, but because other teams went over the top with some awesome decorations.  We were jealous.  Next time we will have more…
  • Village Schedule & Trail Maps – They post the Village schedule in the Village, and you can also pull it up on your phone, but it was nice to have it printed out.
  • Team pace sheet with ETAs – Definite must.  Definitely use this version and make an effort to try to accurately estimate your times so you’re not waiting around the village worrying that your runner is dead on the trail.  Overall we were slower than we expected because the trails were pretty tough.  Don’t forget a pen!

Optional – Can Skip if $ or Space is Tight

  • Yoga Mat – No one on our team did yoga that weekend.
  • Cooler with ice – Would be nice if filled with drinks.  Our small soft-sided cooler actually kept some ice frozen the entire weekend.  Get ice at the hotel if you don’t need a lot of it.
  • Paper Towels – 1 roll – We actually used our paper towels quite a bit – I’m moving this to the “bring” section.
  • Dry shampoo – One team member (a dude!) brought “Not Your Mother’s” Clean Freak Dry Shampoo, used it a lot, and swore by it.  One other teammate with long hair also used it and got complimented on her hair.  I didn’t try it but I’d give it a “thumbs up” from reputation.
  • Glow sticks – Meh.  I picked up several of these on the trail as trash the next morning, so I’m taking this off the list since they basically just turn into trail trash (and this is why we can’t have nice things).
  • Additional flashlight(s) or Lantern – One of my teammates brought a lantern and it was GREAT.  Really nice to have light at our campsite hang-out area.  I’m bumping this item up to the “bring” section.
  • Massage stick/Foam roller – Someone brought one and used it a bit, but I didn’t.  Optional.
  • Colgate Wisp one-time use toothbrushesI used mine and it was great, but can use regular toothbrush too, of course.
  • Toilet paper and/or Kleenex – We actually did need to use our roll of TP during the porta-potty-pocalypse, so I’d say this is a “bring.”
  • Duct and/or Scotch Tape – Didn’t bring, maybe kinda wanted tape at one point (to stick up our schedule and decorations) but we made do without.  Optional.
  • Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – Didn’t bring.
  • Camping stove (not allowed in many locations) – Didn’t bring although we saw a TON of grills (and smelled their burgers and stuff).  If you’re into this, I’d say bring, but I definitely would not have been willing to take on cooking and cleaning duties (and making sure food didn’t spoil, etc.).
  • Bike(s) – I saw one dude riding around on a bike, but for New England they’re not necessary because the campsite wasn’t all that big and the Village was up a hill you probably wouldn’t want to bike up anyway.

 

One random item not on the original list that I’m including as optional on the updated list – reflective markers or tent stake lights.  Our tent stakes/lines got kicked several times by people walking past our campsite during the night, disturbing several people (especially those sleeping near the tent walls), so it would have been good to have the lines marked with reflective cord or stickers or electric tea lights or something.

 

Again, my updated, unannotated, one-page packing list for Ragnar Trail in PDF format is here.  My packing list for Ragnar road races is here.  I hope to do Ragnar Cape Cod next year, so I expect to update my road packing list again after that.  I’m like Sisyphus with these packing lists and I can’t stop!

 

What do you consider essential gear for a relay race or a camping trip?  When’s your next Ragnar?  How do you feel about camping?  Share in the comments!

Race Recap – Ragnar Trail New England, June 26-27, 2015

Team American Raginators found the finish!

Team American Raginators found the finish!

There is so much to say about my first Ragnar Trail experience!  In a nutshell, there were great times (hanging out with my team) and terrible times (red loop!) and gross times (porta-potty-pocalypse), but overall it was a wonderful, memorable weekend, and I’d totally do it again.

 

I’m going to break this recap into two posts:  the race and the gear.  This post is about the race.  For my expectations for Ragnar Trail New England, you can see my post here.

 

A few things I wanted to highlight for those you might run Ragnar Trail New England in the future:

  • Overall the course was much more difficult than I expected.  My ears popped on every loop, even though I was simply walking uphill.  And while I walked most of the course, I was also totally un-trained (not just under-trained – not trained at all on trails or hills).  However, I was not the only person to complain about how steep the trails were (one woman on the course was muttering, “If I wanted to HIKE a relay, I would have signed up to HIKE…”).   Forewarned is forearmed.
  • Most of the course is shady.  I never needed gaiters on my shoes or compression socks to protect my legs, but there was some tricky single-track and I’m glad I had trail shoes with good traction.  It was a little slippery from the recent rain but it could have been much worse, too, so be prepared for anything and take care not to fall.  (Rumor has it several runners were injured out on the trails.)
  • It wasn’t too crowded on the trails but there were several times on each loop I had to make way for a runner coming through (remember I’m slow), and even a couple times I passed some people who had to step aside, so definitely be aware out there.
  • I was amazed at how few bugs there were (I was expecting a bug bonanza).  We all used a little bug spray but I didn’t get bitten at all (didn’t even see any mosquitos) and I think I escaped all the ticks, too.
  • It’s all about the team – I lucked out and landed on a team full of “good folk” and some of the funniest people I could have hoped for (and to me being funny is basically the best thing you can be).
  • “Retrospectively Pleasurable” was the most spot-on team name in a sea of awesome pun-filled team names this weekend.
  • And while this isn’t the gear post – make sure you have a good headlamp!  Ragnar recommends 70+ lumens but I’d say go 150+.  And bring your own water to camp (if not on the trail itself).

 

The Village fire pit, finishing chute and exchange tent before the race.

The Village fire pit, finishing chute and exchange tent before the race.

 

Setting Up Camp – “It’s not free, it’s included,” & “Volunteer is Latin for someone doing something they don’t want to do, for free.”

 

We drove up to the Hampton Inn at Greenfield on Thursday night before the race, checking in a little before midnight and getting varying amounts of sleep.  The hotel was clean and quiet and had a decent free breakfast (cold cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, bagels, eggs and potatoes, juice, some fruit, etc.).  There were tons of other Ragnar teams staying at the hotel as well.  If you plan on running this race, reserve your hotel room early!

 

I got ice from the hotel machine for our small soft-sided cooler, then our team headed off to the campsite about 25 minutes away.  Getting ice from the hotel was great, but we didn’t pack any drinks so there wasn’t much we needed to keep cold.  Since the potable water provided by Ragnar was only just (as in, it tasted like really bad hose/pool/chlorine water that even Nuun couldn’t fix), I’d definitely recommend bringing large jugs of water (and while you’re at it, a couple of beers or a small bottle of Fireball or something to celebrate with post-race).  There were some jugs of store-bought water in the village, but they quickly ran out.

The campsite, mess tent, and parking lot at Ragnar Trail New England.  The Village is behind me.

The campsite, mess tent, and parking lot at Ragnar Trail New England at 9:20 am. The Village is behind me. 

We arrived a little after 7 am and there were already a fair number of campsites set up (some people admitted to arriving before the official opening time, but there was no need – there was plenty of space all morning and campsites only got kinda crowded late morning/afternoon).  Our wonderful team volunteer and non-runner went off to her shift showing the safety video, and we got down to setting up camp.

 

It was raining when we arrived, but luckily not too hard and it quickly stopped.  It didn’t start raining hard again until the drive home – we seriously lucked out on weather, and I can only imagine how miserable it would have been to run and sleep and exist for 30+ hours in the rain.  We set up camp quite close to our van, which was great since we didn’t have to carry our stuff too far.  We also were close to the “mess hall” tent and not far from a couple tall trees that provided some shade later in the day.  Our site wasn’t the farthest from the village, but it wasn’t the closest, either – I think it was pretty Goldilocks, although I was a little sick of the walk to and from the village by the end of the weekend.  Luckily we were not near the porta potties, especially considering they got full by Friday afternoon and over half had to be shut down until the pumping company could come the next morning.  Shudder.

 

Porta-potty-pocalypse indeed.  Trust me, you do not want to see the inside of these things.

Porta-potty-pocalypse indeed. Trust me, you do not want to see the inside of these things.

At any rate, we laid out our tarps and put two smaller tents on one side and our large tent on the other side, with a pop-up canopy between them.  It was actually a perfect set-up, allowing us lots of privacy and shade (the canopy, borrowed from a friend, was crucial).  We used one tent for gear and changing and the other two tents for sleeping, which was also a good idea since the gear/changing tent got kinda funky and I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep in that funk.

 

Our campsite - canopy flanked by tents.

Our campsite – canopy flanked by tents.

 

And then we waited!  We couldn’t check in until 11:30 am, two hours before our start time of 1:30 pm, so we snacked and took pictures and played Cards Against Humanity and just hung out.  I grew increasingly nervous but didn’t have too much time to brood since after check-in I had to change into my running tights and we all had to watch the safety video and get up to the start line in the village.  I was runner #1, so my loop order was Green, Red, and Yellow.

This would be the last time I'd be able to jump for several days.

This would be the last time I’d be able to jump like that for several days.

#1 – Green Loop – 3.5 miles – “Don’t go out too fast!”

 

Before my first loop, still clean and happy.

In the Village before my first loop, still clean and happy.

Teams had been running since 10 am so the Village was pretty hopping by the time our team started.  The announcer announced the team names for the 1:30 start time and we were off!  Half the group tried to run into the woods the wrong way, but we were quickly pointed in the right direction and started our race.

 

Ragnar mostly schedules the teams based on speed, starting the slower teams earlier so they have time to finish, but that doesn’t mean everyone starting at 1:30 was going to be my pace, especially considering how pace can vary within a team.  Unfortunately I wasn’t thinking about that so I took off after the pack, getting swept up in the excitement and trying to keep up with them.  Instant regret!!!  I basically winded myself in less than .3 miles and struggled to catch my breath for the rest of the loop (even while just walking!).

 

So much uphill on the Green Loop...

So much uphill on the Green Loop…

 

The green loop was 3.5 miles total, but the first half was entirely uphill and the second half was pretty much downhill.  There was a lot of fire road and not a lot of single-track, but that didn’t make the uphill much easier.  Luckily on the second half I hooked up with another runner and we chatted the rest of the way back (chatting being my favorite thing ever).  Most of the second half of the green was actually the part where the three loops converged and shared the last 1.5 miles back to the exchange.  It was mostly shady and the single-track portion was a little muddy but not as wet as I had feared, but there were a fair number of rocks and tree roots and logs and things (“technical” things) so you constantly had to watch your footing.  I didn’t realize how many problems this would cause me on my next loop in the dark, but I’d soon find out…

 

To help you estimate how long this course might take you:  It took me about 45 minutes to finish the Green Loop, or about a 13 minute-per-mile pace, which is what I had estimated and hoped for (I’m not really sure what my road 10K pace is at this point, but let’s pretend it’s 11 min/mile).  I’d definitely recommend using a pace chart like THIS instead of the more compact “road” pace chart like this – overall our team’s individual paces greatly varied depending on the loop, time of day, and number of prior loops/accumulating fatigue, with much more variation than for a road relay race.

 

When I handed off the race belt to my teammate, I yelled after him, “don’t go out too fast!” but I wasn’t sure if he heard me or not.  He later told me he did, but he still went out too fast.  It was interesting how everyone came back with different info on the loops – I knew I couldn’t entirely trust our best runners to see the loops with my back-of-the-packer eyes, but I still tried to collect any info on any of the loops I could get.  I still was not prepared, mentally or physically, for the devil’s path (aka the Red Loop) next.

Sunset over camp

Sunset over camp.

#2 – Red Loop – 6.5 miles – “[This] course is bullsh*t.”

 

I started the Red Loop at about 9:30 pm, an hour past sunset.  I had heard from teammates who had already run the loop that the second hill was not nearly bad as the first hill and overall it wasn’t a killer loop.  I don’t know what loop they were running, but this loop was horrific.  There was a lot of technical single-track uphill that turned into a fire road with an uphill so steep I was pushing on my legs to get up the hill and I even then I had to come to a dead stop a few times to catch my breath.  Catch my breath walking at sea level?  Yes.  Am I that out of shape?  Maybe.  But it was also a tough course.

 

The Red/Yellow loop split at night - much more festive in person but just as dark.

The Red/Yellow loop split at night – much more festive in person but just as dark.

About 1 mile in a guy blew past me, saying something about how the noises in the dark woods were freaking him out.  I told him not to worry about bears, but to remember that the police had only caught one of the escaped murderers so far.  He yelled back to me, “How do you know I’m not one of them?” and kept on running.  That moment was probably the most fun I had on the red loop.

 

About 2 miles in I started having trouble with my headlamp.  It was getting very very dim, so I finally decided to switch out the batteries with fresh ones my teammate had given me.  Unfortunately, those batteries were completely dead, so now I was super tired and only had my backup headlamps (those mini ones I love so much for camping or road running turn out not to be bright enough for trail running).  I put one on my head and one on my hand and even then I could barely see.  I was frustrated, tired, and cursing everything at this point.  Since I had done the first two miles at 24 minute-per-mile pace when I had estimated a 16 minute pace, I didn’t want my teammates to worry and wait for me forever at the finish, so I texted them that I was going a lot slower and that my headlamp had died so it was going to be awhile.  This turned out to be a big mistake, since it made my teammates worry even more (although they knew I had backup lights and I didn’t say I needed help, just that I was going to be late).

 

Around mile 3.5 or so I hooked up with three other women running the same loop and I used their light and camaraderie to help me finish the course.  We finally hit the downhill around mile 4 and it was pretty narrow and technical.  The other women had great lights and they were still stumbling a lot and one even fell (she said it was the second time she fell that night but luckily she was ok both times).  Those women were the best thing to happen to me out there – it would have taken me another hour to finish without them.

 

Then my phone started blowing up.  I didn’t know it at the time, but one of my teammates had actually run out into the night to try to find me and give me a new headlamp, so he was calling me over and over.  To me, it was just super annoying to have my phone ringing every 30 seconds when I was trying to run a narrow, rocky path downhill, especially when I’d answer and say “stop calling me, I can’t talk right now!” because I had to keep up with the women or lose my source of light (and inspiration).  I guess reception wasn’t great because he never heard me pick up and say stop calling (and he might not have realized how many times he called, either).  I definitely feel bad for the miscommunication and I appreciate what he was trying to do, but at the time I was just really annoyed at the calls and later felt guilty that someone put themselves at risk in the dark for me when I didn’t need or ask for help.

 

But, lessons learned – communication is key and so is a really good headlamp.  And I really hope no hard feelings on either side of this – except for right after I finished the loop we didn’t really talk about it again, so if you’re reading this Runner 3, sorry about the confusion and my pissy mood after the loop from hell, and thanks for your efforts.  I think Runner 2 really put it best when he texted from the Red Loop, “course is bullsh*t.”  And then a mile later, “still bs.”  Indeed it was, Runner 2, indeed it was.

 

I finished in 1:53, or a 17:20 pace, which means I really picked it up at the end to make up for those first two miles (but not entirely made up, putting my team another 10 minutes behind schedule).  I was really glad to have that over with, and while I remember really hating trail running at that point, the hate is fading and I’m ready to do it again (with reduced expectations and a better headlamp).

 

Misty morning at Ragnar Trail New England.

Misty morning at Ragnar Trail New England.

 

#3 – Yellow Loop – 4.8 miles – “It’s a lie, yellow is the easiest loop!”

 

I started Yellow Loop at about 6:30 am, so it was already light out (sunrise was 5:09 am) and the fog that enveloped the camp had mostly cleared.  I had gotten a couple decent hours of sleep, but was cold even with my sleeping pad, bag liner, and 32-degree sleeping bag (and tights and jacket), so it wasn’t the best sleep, but I was awake and ready to finish my last leg.

 

I went out easy (aka power-walking), knowing that the first mile or so was the same as the red loop, but the yellow quickly veered to the left and kept going up and up on single-track.  Luckily the entire loop was less than 5 miles, so pretty soon I was at the top of the hill and heading back down for the rest of the course.  It was almost all single-track down and pretty run-able, even for me, although “trashing my quads” kept running through my head (and I really did end up trashing them as I was sore for days afterwards).

 

Some of the downhill on the yellow loop.  Watch your footing!

Some of the downhill on the yellow loop. Watch your footing!

I ran the last couple miles about as fast as I could, and I still only finished in 1:15 or a 15:45 pace, even though I felt like I was flying.  As I came into the exchange chute the final time, I yelled out “it’s a lie, yellow is the easiest loop,” because I really felt that it was, now that I could compare the three.  It had the most downhill and I actually kinda enjoyed it, and it was a really nice way to finish especially after the bullsh*t red loop.

Lies, all lies.  No chocolate here, my friend.

Lies, all lies. No chocolate here, my friend.

The Village Activities – Yoga, Pasta, S’mores, Massage?

 

My first of 2 Boloco bowls, and my second to last of such bowls for many months to come.  (Team captain in background, already exhausted by all of us.)

My first of 2 Boloco bowls, and my second to last of such bowls for many months to come. (Team captain in background, already exhausted by all of us.)

I skipped the yoga and massage (mixed reviews on the free massage, but there was typically a line and the massages themselves were very short), missed the s’mores due to my running schedule, but did eat the “pasta dinner” which was actually just another Boloco burrito bowl.  Those bowls were good (you could choose to include rice, lettuce, beans, chicken, beef, corn, salsa, guac, sour cream, cheese) but I ate two in about 3 hours (late lunch and early dinner) and then never wanted to look at another Boloco bowl again.  Some of my teammates bought the breakfast bowl and they said it had eggs and bacon but tasted just like the other bowls, so I’m kinda glad I skipped it.

The s'mores I missed.  Photo credit to Julia, our lovely volunteer & honorary teammate.

The s’mores I missed. Photo credit to Julia, our lovely volunteer & honorary teammate.

There were also more vendors than I expected in the village, hawking everything from massage sticks and bondi bands, to smoothies, weird herbal poisons recovery shots, and beer, plus there was a huge Ragnar merch tent.  They also had the promised Goal Zero charging station (frequently used by one of my teammates who was able to keep her phone fully charged all weekend) and the Salomon demo tent from which I was able to demo their Sense Pro trail runner (in exchange for my ID) for the weekend.  I ended up wearing them for my first two loops but switched to my old Salomons for my last loop, but it was actually my old shoes that gave me fresh new blisters on my toes from all the slamming downhill, so I might buy a pair of the Sense Pro (they fit like a glove!), even though I hate trail running.  😉

 

How did the Ragnar Trail Relay compare to a Ragnar Road Relay?

 

You can wear silly costumes and photobomb at both Ragnars!

You can wear silly costumes and photobomb at both Ragnars!

The trail beat up my body like nothing else.  I was more sore for several days after this trail relay (that was only a total of 14.8 miles) than I am from a marathon.  Needless to say, it was a lot harder on the body than the road Ragnar, even if you run more miles on the road (I ran 18 miles for my first and only Ragnar Road and I don’t remember being very sore).

 

You also have less downtime at a trail relay since it’s a smaller team and there’s no “on” van and “off” van.  Even though for the road relay we had to drive to the next location and meet our runner, there was always a big chunk of time our van was “off” that allowed us to physically and mentally take a break.  Here at the camp the longest time “off” was when you just finished running, but the only time I wasn’t cheering for or taking pictures of our team at the exchanges was during the overnight portion.  I couldn’t even count how many times I walked up and down the hill separating our campsite from the village – it definitely added more than a few miles to my legs, and I didn’t even think we were that far away!

 

Watching and waiting for your team name to pop up on the monitors was the most popular activity in the Village.

Watching and waiting for your team name to pop up on the monitors was the most popular activity in the Village.

As expected, there was a lot of waiting around the monitors at the village – that is, when they were working.  They had a chip mat .2 miles from the exchange point that would post your team name on a flatscreen TV so you could send your next runner into the tent to get the colored loop bracelet and wait for the bib handoff.  At some point the monitors went down and you just had to wait to see your runner coming (based on how long you thought it would take him or her to run the loop).  Shortly after that they started announcing the teams as they passed the chip mat (it was the computer monitors that were down, not the chip timing mats), then they switched to writing the team’s number on a clipboard they held up for the crowd to see, and then finally they got the monitors working again.  None of it was a big deal, but it definitely made having a good pace sheet and some idea of when your runner was coming even more important.

 

 

One of the many exchanges made in the tent during our first Ragnar Trail.

One of the many exchanges made during our team’s first Ragnar Trail.

Our team finished in 26:07:22.  The overall winners finished in a blistering 15:20:42 (although second place was a distant 17:59:23 and the first mixed division (half men, half women) finished in 18:24:16).  The teams who started the final wave at 5:00 pm on Friday tore out of the chute like puppies on cocaine.  The announcer even said, “Ok, we get it, you’re fast,” but the runners were long gone by then.  God bless you fast folks; someday I hope to Freaky Friday body swap with you.

The front and back of the shirt and medal.  #BestMedalEver

The front and back of the shirt and medal. #BestMedalEver

I’ll update my packing list and let you know my thoughts on gear for Ragnar Trail in my next post.  Would I do another Ragnar Trail?  Definitely.  Do I prefer Ragnar Road or Trail?  If I don’t have to drive (either because we have a volunteer driver or other team members drive), I’d prefer road, but my feelings towards trail running might change if/when I get better at it.  Plus I really do like that crazy sharp multitool medal.

Have you ever run a trail relay?  Do you prefer Ragnar road relay or the trail relays?  And for my teammates – what did I forget to mention about the weekend?  Share in the comments!

Expectations & Packing List for Ragnar Trail New England

Just some of the stuff I'll be bringing to Ragnar Trail New England this weekend.

Just some of the stuff I’ll be bringing to Ragnar Trail New England this weekend.

My first trail Ragnar relay is only a few days away, and once again instead of actually training on trails, I’ve focused on what to pack.  For my first Ragnar Relay I put together an extensive packing list, then revised that list after the race, finding many of the things I brought unnecessary and excessive.  Since this is a camping and trail race, and thus has all sorts of different gear involved, I expect to do the exact same thing again.  I’m nothing if not consistent.

 

For those not familiar with Ragnar, in a nutshell it’s a relay race series.  The “traditional” Ragnar Relay is run with teams of 12 (6 for ultra) split into two vans, covering about 200 miles along open roads.  The trail Ragnars are a newer offshoot.  They’re run on trails (naturally), with teams of only 8 (4 for ultra), and have a “home base” or what they call a “village,” with all exchanges happening in one single location.  That means every team camps in one large area and no one has to worry about driving or getting to the next exchange.

 

Each Ragnar trail race varies, but they all have three loops ranging in difficulty (coded as green, yellow, and red), and everyone runs the same three loops, just in different order.  For Ragnar Trail New England, the loops are 3.5, 4.8, and 6.5 miles long, but cover quite a bit of elevation (e.g. 800 feet in 2 miles!) and sound reasonably technical (especially compared to the Mickelson “Trail” Marathon).  Our team of 8 expects to finish the 118 miles in about 24 hours, give or take a couple hours.  In comparison, our team of 12 finished 197 miles on the road in about 30.5 hours for Ragnar Adirondacks.  I don’t consider either of my Ragnar teams “competitive” in the running sense, mostly because they allowed me to be on them (I’m the slowest runner on the team – gotta be number 1 in something!).

 

Thanks to a lot of dedicated bloggers, there’s a lot of info out there on various Ragnar Trail races, but since this is the first Ragnar at this particular location, there are no reviews on this specific race.  But from skimming many pages of various blogs and the Ragnar website itself, here are some expectations and tips I’ve culled together –

  • Campsites can fill up fast, so I’m glad our volunteer shift is early so our team is “forced” to get there to set up.  Each team is limited to 300 square feet of camping space (or about 17’x17′ feet), which should be plenty, I hope!  One person recommended getting a site that’s easy to see and that’s not too far from the exchange location, but others indicated it’s just a matter of preference in terms of which spot you choose.
  • We will be camping on grass, not a parking lot like some of the other Ragnar Trail races (e.g. Tahoe).
  • Ragnar promises a bonfire, s’mores, and a pasta dinner on Friday night (although most say it’s not a great dinner).  There will be a beer garden (5 pm to 10 pm on Friday and 11 am to 4 pm on Saturday), various yoga sessions, and a movie Friday night (although probably played without sound).  It also looks like there will be lunch and breakfast available for sale, which is great news since I don’t think our team is bringing a camp stove.
  • Most of the trail reviews indicate that Salomon provides shoes to demo, which is great in case your shoes get wet, but it’s unclear if this location will have shoes available.
  • Also unclear if there will be paid shower facilities available – the race bible (“Trail Guide“) says to check the Village page, but the Village page for New England doesn’t say anything about showers (or shoe demos).
  • Some say it can be difficult to know when the next runner is coming in, since they’re out alone on a trail and there’s no way to see or track them (except for the chip mat .2 miles from the exchange).  I also think trail running is in general more variable than road running, so I expect to wait around at the exchange more than for a road Ragnar.
  • At the exchange, you pass the race belt with the number and chip, not the slap bracelet – the bracelets are color coded for the trail you’re about to run, they’re not the baton as in a Ragnar road race.
  • A single headlamp can give you tunnel vision, especially in the fog, so handheld points of light can be helpful.  The Knuckle Lights don’t appeal to me (too bulky seeming and one-use seeming) so I’m going to wear two ultra-compact Petzl E+LITE headlamps on my knuckles instead (I absolutely love that mini headlamp, by the way).
  • Most race recaps make the Ragnar Trail races sound a lot more chill than the road races – no rushing around to find your runner, no need to drive, your team is all in one location, etc.  It sounds like it’s a lot of hanging around with some running thrown in, which sounds pretty perfect to me.
  • Weather forecast for Northfield, MA, calls for highs in mid-70s to lows in mid-50s, with some showers on Friday.  Not too bad, I hope!

Concerns

My patriotic folding chair (and table) for our American Gladiators-themed team!

My patriotic folding chair (and table) for our American Gladiators-themed team!

I do have a couple worries about this race – the first involves food (as most of my worries do).  I’m sure we’ll have plenty of snacks but I’m a big fan of hot meals, too.  For the road relay we were able to have a couple normal meals at restaurants during the weekend.  While we’re supposed to get a pasta dinner on Friday, most reviews said it was pretty lackluster and that the lines for the other food can be incredibly long.  I’m not worried about going hungry, it’s just that I don’t want to do my typical thing and eat chips and candy and Pop Tarts for the entire weekend (or do I…?).

 

My second worry is about the bathrooms, since we’ll have to use the same porta potties for the entire weekend.  I’ve seen porta potties get preeeeeeeety gross even in the 30 minutes of use before a race, so I don’t want to dwell on how gross they’ll be after two days, but I do.  I do dwell.

 

My final worry is just the general anxiety of never having done something like this before.  Will we all fit into one van with all our junk?  Will our tent work out?  Will any of us get any sleep?  How will we carry all our stuff to our campsite?  Will I get bitten by a tick with Lyme disease?  Will they run out of beer before I decide to have one?  Will I be able to maintain even a 14-minute pace on those intense trails?  Will my teammates like me???  It helps me articulate my fears on the interwebs because I think Google is working on some new AI that will prevent bad things from happening as long as I blog about them.  (Will I die alone covered in ticks in a dirty porta potty?  Google please get on preventing that!)

 

Logistics

Our team will be driving up from NYC to Massachusetts in a big van on Thursday night, staying at the nearby Hampton Inn, then getting to the campsite relatively early on Friday morning to set up and cover our volunteer shift (every non-ultra team has to cover one 3-hour volunteer shift or pay $120).  There’s a “Big Y” grocery store right across from the hotel, so we might hit that up for snacks and drinks.  I’ll be sure to grab a box of Pop Tarts or two.

 

The race location is at Northfield Mountain, which is a little over 2 hours west of Boston or 3.5 hours north of New York City.  Camping there for the race is only allowed from Friday morning to Saturday at 6 pm, when everything has to be cleared out.  I already anticipate an exhausted (and sticky) drive back on Saturday night and wonder if we shouldn’t have tried staying a night in the area, but with so many people it’s hard to coordinate (and I know people wanted to get back home to do things and to save money).

 

Overall, I’m definitely excited for this race, as I looooved my first Ragnar, although I know this one will be different.  Oh, and the packing list?  Yeah, you can find a PDF of that here!  I’ll be sure to update it with comments after the race.  In the meantime, I’d like to highlight one particular item – a small portable external battery charger for your cell phone (that’s otherwise sure to die on the trail).  I like this one from Amazon – it’s only $18, it’s pretty dang small, it holds its charge well, and it can re-charge my iPhone over 3 full times.  Or you can get a little one like this for ten bucks – always handy to have in your bag.  Everything else is pretty self-explanatory, but feel free to contact me with any questions.  I used this awesomely helpful website to make our team’s pace sheet.

 

Have you ever run a Ragnar Trail?  Do you like to go camping?  Do you think Sasquatch lives only on the West Coast or does he occasionally venture East?  Share in the comments!

Ragnar Adirondacks start for Where's the Finish

Updated Ragnar Relay Packing List and Tips (now with PDF!)

Ragnar Adirondacks start for Where's the Finish

Ragnar Adirondacks 2013 Starting Area, when all our clothes were clean.

After finishing my first Ragnar Relay (Ragnar Adirondacks, September 27-28, 2013 – find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, and recaps of Leg 1, Leg 2, and Leg 3), I emerged with some strong opinions on my original Ragnar packing list.  My number one thought was that it was way too much stuff.  We barely touched any of the stuff in the “essential” van kits, and a couple items I didn’t emphasize turned out to be pretty important.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

 

There were some good tips in the original post.  Definitely pack your running outfits in separate gallon zip-lock baggies and write LEG 1, 2, & 3 and your name with a sharpie on each bag.  Definitely put your sweaty clothes back in the bag (baking soda optional – Van 1 used a lot of baking soda but Van 2 didn’t touch the stuff) and then you can zip it up and toss it in the back – since it’s labeled you’ll be able to easily claim it later.

 

I want to emphasize that Van 1 used different items than Van 2, and even within the same van we used/needed/liked different items, which brings me to my number 2 lesson – you don’t become a different person during Ragnar.  If you like or don’t like a certain food or article of clothing, that’s not going to change just because you’re doing an overnight relay.  If you never spray your shoes with sneaker spray, you probably don’t need to start now (despite the cramped van, it didn’t really get that smelly).  If you think moleskin is too thick and you never use it, you won’t suddenly use it this weekend.  All of these packing items are suggestions only, and the list is more inclusive than exclusive so it gives you ideas of what you might want, but ultimately all you need are running shoes and clothes – the rest is gravy.

 

Now here’s my updated annotated packing list for Ragnar Relay!  Clean PDF version is here. [Comments added post-race are in brackets in bold italics.]

Clothing

  • Running shirts – 3 at most and remember, you will be getting a tech (short sleeve) Ragnar shirt at the starting line, so you could count it as one shirt that you don’t have to pack [In general your clothing should be as bright and reflective as possible – it’s not only safer to wear bright clothing on open roads, but it’s also easier for your teammates to spot you.]
  • Running bottoms – 3
  • Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair [I packed only 1 pair because I knew it wouldn’t rain, and I’m glad I only had 1 pair to deal with, but if there might be rain, pack 2.]
  • Running socks – 3 pair [I’d say bring one additional pair to wear between legs, too – especially if it will be cold at night.]
  • Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each [I went through more clean underwear this weekend than I thought I would, so definitely pack enough.  Also, I kept my clean underwear in my “between legs” bag instead of my “running legs” bags – it was easier organizationally this way since then I didn’t have to dip into both “between” and “running” bags to get fresh clothing post run(s).]
  • Hat/visor for rain or sun (the bill of the hat/visor also helps keep the headlamp from falling down) – 1 or 2 hats, depending on how much you sweat [2 hats worked well for me, one bright one for day and reflective one for night.]
  • Non-running shirt to wear in-between runs in the van – 1 or 2 comfy shirts (can always wear the next running shirt, too) [1 shirt for between legs was fine – I’d put on the same shirt after each leg and it didn’t get wet or gross by the end.]
  • Non-running bottoms to wear in-between runs in the van – something comfy like sweats or yoga pants [I wore the same pair of capri pants between each leg, which was fine.]
  • Non-running shoes – something to air out your feet and that you can be comfortable in and shower in [I wore slip-on crocs, not flip flops so I didn’t have anything between my toes, which allowed me to go barefoot or wear socks when it was cold – they worked perfectly.]
  • Warm jacket or sweatshirt – it will be cool at night [DEFINITELY bring something warm for cool-weather Ragnars – I wore both my sweatshirt and quilted jacket for almost every minute I wasn’t running, and I wished I had an additional jacket or a warmer one, but I’m also a person who hates to be cold.]
  • Rain jacket/windbreaker [I didn’t bring a rain jacket because I knew it wouldn’t rain and I knew I wouldn’t wear it.]
  • Costume items – anything fun you want to run in or cheer in! [Even though it was a little bulky to pack, I’m glad I had my costume, and many other runners ran the entire race in tutus and such, which was cute.]

Safety Gear (required) – check that all work and batteries are good [and take all gear for a test run – even if you look foolish testing it in the daytime, you’ll want it to be comfy during Ragnar]

  • Headlamp – strongly recommended to have your own, sharing headlamps is gross (they get sweaty) – you can get a small, lightweight one for $6 with shipping, or a more substantial one for $19, or the first one I linked which has a red filter for night-vision, at $29 [A good strong headlamp was helpful – I’d say don’t cheap out on this item.  They also seemed to sell them at the start, so if you do forget yours they might be available on-course, but don’t count on it.]
  • Tail light/blinking lights, if you have them – I found the best little light called the Vizlet LED by Amphipod – they’re only 10 bucks each on Amazon, very lightweight, and can clip-on anywhere [The Vizlets were fantastic, very visible and very lightweight – worth getting several of them.]
  • Reflective vest for night running – I got a cheap one and also this fancier one with a small single pocket in the front [The “fancy” one was a nightmare of choking and chafing, but I had leant my cheaper one to another runner, so I was stuck with my nightmare.  Definitely test your gear!]

Running Accessories – Keep in one separate Ziploc bag with night safety gear for easy of finding in van before each run [Yes!  Definitely keep all your accessories in one place – it was much easier for me to access those little items all in one spot and not spread out across my “leg” bags or general bag.]

  • Handheld water bottle/water belt/Camelbak/SPI belt – whatever you normally use when running [It was essential for me to have my Camelbak on my longer legs.]
  • Watch or GPS [My Garmin kept its charge for the whole race, but I’d sometimes forget to turn it on in time, so my distances and times were a little off.]
  • Road ID – for your shoe, in case of emergency
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties/hairbands
  • Ipod & headphones [I’d say only use these if you absolutely must.  Only one runner in our van used headphones, and she only used them in one ear.  The roads aren’t closed to traffic, and it’s helpful to be as alert and aware of your surroundings as possible.  Also, relays like Hood to Coast prohibit them.]
  • Phone numbers of all teammates & maps of your legs of the run – in a small ziplock bag, a “must carry” when running (other people sometimes remove course markings and runners get lost, so reviewing your segments and having little maps to carry with you are an excellent idea) [I carried this but luckily never had to use it, but another runner on my team did, so definitely better to carry this small item for peace of mind.]
  • Cell Phone – see above – you should pre-program your teammates numbers into the phone, and you can photograph or screenshot the legs of your run – but hard copies are advised in case your phone dies [My phone almost never got service so I used it as a camera instead of a phone – it wouldn’t have helped me get rescued, but at least when they found my body they could have enjoyed some pictures of scenery.]
  • Cash – small bills (in general people said to have a decent amount of cash in small bills for food and drinks and random stuff you’ll want to buy at kiosks and stuff along and at the end of the course) [The $3 I spent for bathrooms and sleeping was maybe the best $3 I’ve ever spent.]

Miscellaneous

  • Cell phone – yeah, don’t forget this
  • Cell phone car charger & cords [Our van oddly came with a USB port, so we actually didn’t use the chargers very much, but you still should have at least one dual charger available and don’t forget the charging cables.]
  • Water bottle – something you can refill from the van’s large water supply (so you don’t have a million empty bottles floating around) – this is my favorite water bottle for refilling and tossing in my purse as the locking mechanism is very secure, but it also pops open easily and has an easy drinking spout (no wide mouth to splash you, no straw to get dirty).  [Definitely used my bottle a lot, refilling it from the gallon jugs of water we bought at the grocery store.]
  • Camera – can have one “team camera” [Should have used it more.]
  • Body Glide/anti-chafe – I like Blue Steel Sports [Should have used it more.  Ouch.]
  • Toiletries – your standard travel toiletries, pared down to a minimum (toothbrush & paste, small soap & small shampoo, etc.) [I only used my toothbrush & paste, since I didn’t take a shower until the end.]
  • Sunblock – see my post for more on sunblocks [I used a lot of sunblock.]
  • Chapstick with SPF [Yes.]
  • Deodorant [No.  I only used it before and after my showers – didn’t need it within reach in the van.]
  • Towel – for showering and also to sit on in van (so the seats aren’t gross) [CHAWEL!  Skip the standard towel and bring a Chawel instead.  This turned out to be an essential item for me, allowing me to change in the van between legs and get into clean, dry clothes quickly.]
  • Ear plugs & Sleeping Mask – highly recommended if you want to get any sleep at all [Yes to mask but I used my marshmallow headphones as ear plugs instead, so I could set my phone alarm and wake up without waking everyone else.]
  • Small pillow – inflatable camping pillow? [Inflatable worked well for me since I didn’t want a bulky pillow in the van, but you may or may not want a traditional pillow.]
  • Small blanket or compressed sleeping bag [More important than I realized.  My sleeping bag and AIR MATTRESS allowed me a couple good hours of sleep in the gym instead of struggling in the van.  Even a warm blanket would have worked either in our out of the van.  Give some thought to your sleeping items.]
  • Any medicine you need
  • Any prescription glasses/contacts you need
  • Food & Drinks – specific stuff you’ll need, e.g. GUs/gels/sport chews, special snacks, special protein powders or electrolyte tabs, etc. and any special snacks you’ll want (e.g. for me it’s Pop Tarts & Bonk Breaker bars) [I didn’t eat as much of this as I thought I would, plus they give you some gel and chews at the start, and I forgot to eat my chews during my long leg, so I had to take most of it home again.]

Optional

  • Compression socks/calf sleeves/arm sleeves/tights for recovery [I got the Ragnar compression socks and they were great – some compression socks are too tight and uncomfortable for me, but Pro-Compression’s socks were comfy for many hours.]
  • Buff or headband if your ears get cold/are sensitive [I wore my reflective buff around my neck for both night runs and my reflective headband around my ears for my night/morning run.]
  • Running gloves – probably won’t be that cold, but if you get cold hands easily, toss ’em in there [I ended up wearing gloves between runs when I was cold.]
  • Swim suit – not sure if there will be an opportunity, but if there is an ice bath or hot tub available, you’ll be glad you have it [I couldn’t have been paid enough to use the gross hotel pool.  HOWEVER, for those very shy folks, someone mentioned that the shower situation at the schools was just a giant open room, and they would have felt more comfortable if they could shower in a swimsuit.  So if you’re a nevernude, definitely toss in a pair of denim cutoffs.]
  • Dry shampoo [Skip it.  Didn’t touch the stuff.]
  • Glow sticks/fun stuff [Surprisingly didn’t use the glow sticks because I had enough LED items – I did buy a last minute Halloween flashing pumpkin necklace that I enjoyed, plus some of those “finger lasers” that worked well as mini-flashlights in the back of the van – you can get 40 of them at Amazon for under 8 dollars.]
  • Any additional reflectors or LED bracelets you might have – I got this LED slap bracelet which is quite bright (brighter than the Nite Ize slap bracelet) [This was great – wearing a colored light at night (that’s not red or white) can help your team spot you when every other runner looks the same.]
  • Jumper cables [Did not bring and luckily did not need.]
  • Car power converter [Did not end up using, but if you have a water boiler or Christmas lights or other things that need a traditional outlet, you’d need it.]

Kit for Van – One Kit per Van (so everyone doesn’t have to bring everything, also helps with organization – amounts below are per van)

  • Race bible in binder – 1 per van required [Required and used a lot to navigate – we actually used the written directions more than the GPS.]
  • GPS unit – another tip I heard was to pre-program all the exchange points into the GPS so you can just select them when it’s time to find your runner (could be very helpful when you’re tired at night) – the locations can be found at the Ragnar website under each leg [We never programmed in the exchange points, and actually used the GPS very little during the actual race, preferring instead to follow the Race Bible and roadsigns.]
  • First Aid Kit for blisters, cuts, etc. (include Vaseline, instant ice packs, rubber gloves, bandaids and antibacterial cream/spray, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, tums, immodium, tweezers, scissors, day time cold medicine, cough drops, moleskin, tampons/pads) [We didn’t use a single item in the first aid kit besides one instant ice pack and the scissors to open a package of Chomps – but I guess I’m glad we had it.]
  • Safety pins – several [Ragnar provided safety pins for the bibs at the start, so these weren’t needed.]
  • Flashlight – 2 handheld [Didn’t use the flashlights – used the internal van lights and headlamps/finger lasers instead.]
  • Colgate Whisp one-time use toothbrushes (no water required) [Used a couple of these but mostly just used the sinks with real toothbrushes at the major exchanges.]
  • Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle [Used this quite a bit.]
  • Toilet paper – 1 roll [Neither van use this at all – all the porta potties were well-stocked.]
  • Kleenex – 1 box (especially handy if it might be cold outside and warm inside, which always makes my nose runny) [Used a few tissues, but could have just used the baby wipes, so I’d skip both the TP and the Kleenex next time.]
  • Trash bags – 1 box (for trash, ground cover, emergency poncho, etc.) [Used a few for the final clean up, but mostly used the same grocery bag as a small trash bag during the race.]
  • Ziploc bags – 1 box quart & 1 box gallon [Used a few of these, but not that many.]
  • Sharpie marker [Didn’t use – a pen would have been better, and luckily we had a few pens floating around.]
  • Duct tape – 1 roll [Didn’t use, don’t bother bringing.  A roll of scotch tape would have been nice to put up a couple decorations I had, but it wasn’t a big loss, either.]
  • Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – 1 can (optional) [Didn’t use.]
  • Baking soda – 1 box [Van 1 used but Van 2 did not.  Personally, I’d bring again.]
  • Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs per van, unscented – for on-the-go “showers” and general freshening up, cleaning hands, etc. [Definitely used these – almost finished two full containers.  A must.]
  • Bug spray – 1 bottle [There were tiny annoying bugs at some of the exchanges, but nothing that would have been deterred by spray – so we didn’t use.]
  • Febreeze – 1 bottle (optional) [Didn’t use until the drive back – but even then it wasn’t really necessary – so I’d say skip it.]
  • Van window markers/decorations/sidewalk chalk [A definite yes on the Loew Cornell Simply Art window markers, and a pass on the Crayola kind because they’re not very good.  We only had one pack of the Loew markers and we shared between vans, which was fine (the white and yellow colors showed up best on the tinted windows).  We forgot to use the sidewalk chalk but next time I’d definitely use it.]
  • The Stick (massage stick)/Foam roller [We used the Stick a bit but never the foam roller – there was never a time I wanted to set up on the ground and roll, although I did see some other teams doing it.  If you know you’ll use it, then bring it, but I shouldn’t have because I’m not a foam rolling fanatic.]
  • Snacks for the group – bananas, apples, nuts, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB and J, etc. & gum [We ate a lot in the van, but not what we expected – we didn’t touch the PB&J and bread but Van 2 made several sandwiches.  We guzzled down a lot of chips and chocolate and made a second stop to buy more of those things.  I ate several apples, several granola bars, and one banana but no one else in my van did.  We finished almost an entire loaf of cranberry walnut bread.  The Nilla Wafers, Oreos, and peanut M&Ms and other chocolate candies were popular all around.  Having gum was nice.]
  • Drinks – powdered sports drink mix, water (purchase water on the road) [Van 1 bought 6 gallon jugs of water and used about 5 of them during the race – but that was with perfect cool weather, so if it was hot we definitely would have drank more (they did have water at the major exchanges, but it was easier to just refill in the van).  We bought a few individual bottles of Gatorade and some people drank them but I stuck with water and Nuun, which I got at Exchange 6.]
  • Soft-sided cooler – for semi-perishable foods (optional) [We had a couple mini soft coolers and didn’t use them at all.  Skip.]
  • Water cooler – very optional, if someone already has one you can fill with ice and water and use it to refill bottles (otherwise can just pour from gallon jugs) [We didn’t have coolers and just used jugs, which was totally fine.  If you’re doing a “hot weather” Ragnar, ice would have been nice, but ours was so cold we didn’t miss it.]
  • Cups & paper towels – 1 roll towels, a few cups [It was a good idea to have a roll of paper towels, especially for van clean-up.  We only used a couple cups and could have done without if we didn’t have.]

 

Should Have Been on The List or I Things I Wish I Had

  • Chawel.  Yes, you could make one yourself by sewing together two thin towels, but let’s face it, you’re never going to get around to doing that, plus it’s bound to be bulkier than their “sport” version which also has a nifty little pocket and elastic strap.  I swear I do not work for the Chawel company and am not getting compensated for what I say about them.
  • Warmer jacket.
  • Air mattress or foam pad for sleeping.
  • Team Shirts – It was really nice to have team shirts at the end, and it’s a nice souvenir (the team voted on what kind of shirt to get, and we ended up with soft cotton shirts with a small team logo – very easy to wear again and very comfy).  We used Custom Ink for printing and for about 13 shirts each shirt was about $14.
  • Jambox bluetooth radio – I brought mine and we used it on the drive up and also to cheer our runner.  It was a good thing, although obviously not essential.
  • Walkie Talkies or a Phone that Worked – People tell me there’s no such thing as a walkie talkie that works over miles and mountains, so basically I want more cell phone towers to be built, because not having a working phone was an inconvenience to me but would have been a major problem if everyone in the van had Sprint as their service provider.
  • Painter’s Tape for decorating the vans
  • Personalized Magnets for tagging other vans
  • A fun team name and theme – We had a great name/theme.  Breaking Ragnar got photographed a lot, because Breaking Bad is a popular show and the finale was the same weekend as the race.  Plus Runner 4 ran in his tighty whities and green button-down the entire race, while still managing to knock out 7:30 miles, and who doesn’t want to take a picture of that?  I also had fun handing out little baggies of “blue meth” candy to other runners and volunteers, who always said a polite “thank you” even if they had no idea what I was giving them.  We’re already joking about our team name and theme for our next relay race, so if you haven’t decided on a team name yet, I urge you to pick something with multiple “fun” possibilities.
  • Crepe Paper (maybe…) – to make a fake “finishing tape” for everyone’s last legs.
  • A special food and/or beverage for the finish line – We saw one team with multiple bottles of wine at the finish, and while I didn’t want wine after the relay, something special would have been nice to share with the whole team, like a cake or even sparkling juice.  Others on my team wanted cocktails, though, so that’s always a thought, too.  Yes, you have the pizza and beer, but they ran out of pizza so we had to wait, and the beer lines were endless.

 

Clean, unannotated, one-page version of the Ragnar Packing List in PDF is here.

 

And that’s all I’ll say on Ragnar ADK for a while, I promise!  I can’t wait for my next relay race, but first I have a couple marathons scheduled (yikes).

 

Have you run Ragnar?  What packing or other tips do you have?  Share in the comments!

Breaking Bad costumes at Ragnar Relay

Race Recap – Ragnar ADK Leg 3 & The Final Five Lessons

Team Breaking Ragnar found the finish of Ragnar ADK

Team Breaking Ragnar found the finish of Ragnar ADK!

Now I know why so many people break their Ragnar recap into three parts.  You can read my two “on the road” posts here and here, my leg 1 recap here, and my leg 2 recap here.  For good measure, here’s my original Ragnar packing list, but I expect to update that later this week.

 

When I last left you, it was 3:00 am in a dark high school gymnasium, and I had suddenly woken up feeling oddly alert and refreshed.  I tried to go back to sleep but wasn’t getting any traction on that, so I decided to pack up early, change, and head out to the van.  My phone hadn’t gotten service in many, many hours, so there was no way to communicate with my team (and vice versa), but I wasn’t too worried since they basically knew where I was, plus I knew I’d be ready in time.

 

As quietly as possible, but still with an audible hiss, I deflated my air mattress and pillow and crammed my sleeping bag into its stuff-sack.  Just as I was finishing gathering my things and about to leave the gym, I noticed someone going around with a headlamp checking on people.  He approached me with a whisper, and I realized it was Runner 6 looking for me.  “Oh no,” I said, “Am I late?”  “No, but we have to go,” he said.  We hustled out of the dark and mostly empty gym and I asked him if I should head straight to the van or if I had time to change in the bathroom.  He said I had time to change, so I quickly put on my running gear and hightailed it to the van.  I learned that Runners 1, 3, 4, and 6 all slept (or tried to sleep) in the van, while only Runners 2 and 5 slept inside (I specifically brought my sleeping gear so I could free up space in the van for those who didn’t own air mattresses or sleeping bags).  They said it got really cold in the van, and Runner 6 only slept about 30 minutes.  Lesson #11 – Bring something comfy to sleep in or on (if you don’t have an air mattress, a cheap pool float can work in a pinch), and sleep outside the van if possible.  And even if you plan to sleep in the van, bring a warm sleeping bag or blanket.  I heard Van 2 all slept in the van, just sitting upright in the seats instead of lying on the benches, and I don’t know how they did it.

 

We didn’t have much time to make it to the next exchange, plus it was dark and foggy.  We made a wrong turn out of the school but quickly turned ourselves around and headed to Major Exchange 24.  We drove past a surprising number of runners on legs 19 to 24, and I did not envy their nighttime fog run.  At this point we were definitely late and our first runner needed to use the bathroom before her run.  We tried to tell her not to worry, that it didn’t matter if there were a few minutes between handoffs, that we obviously weren’t going for time, but it was a little stressful anyway.  We finally made it to the exchange and Runner 12 was already there, but we learned he had only been waiting for about 2 minutes, so it wasn’t that bad.  That turned out to be the only real “mistake” we made during the weekend, which was so minor I was surprised we emerged so unscathed.  For a team full of newbies, I expected a lot worse.

 

Runner 1 was not terribly excited for her final leg, but she took off like a champ.  We leapfrogged her several times to check that she was ok, and we all noticed her leg was fairly hilly.  I was up next, and since it was my shortest leg at only 4 miles, I decided not to wear my Camelbak and instead requested my van to meet me at mile 2 with water.  I still had to wear all my night safety gear since it was still dark (and well before 7:30 am which Ragnar considered “morning” when we didn’t have to wear the vests anymore), and before I knew it Runner 1 was passing me the bracelet.

 

sunrise Ragnar ADK for Where's the Finish

Sunrise during leg 26 of Ragnar ADK

My final leg started on a dirt road, which was surprisingly treacherous in the pitch dark, but I was rewarded with an early morning sunrise, which I stopped to photograph.  Only one runner passed me on this leg (not because I was suddenly fast – it was oddly deserted both in front of and behind me), and she said something philosophical about how we had to enjoy these miles since it was our last leg.  I turned off the dirt road and onto the highway and pushed my legs as fast as they would go.  I felt like I was flying!  Turns out I was running at a 10:30 pace.  I tried to pick it up even more, and ultimately averaged about 10 minute miles for my last leg, which was fast for me.

 

Where's the finish Ragnar ADK

My stretch of empty road during my final leg of Ragnar ADK

At mile 2 my van was there with water and cowbell, and I dumped some warm weather items on them, guzzled my water, and took off again.  I only stopped for one other photo op, and I tried not to leave much in the tank as I made a few more turns into town.  When I got to the exchange, Runner 3 wasn’t quite ready for me yet.  But a few seconds later he took the bracelet and started his final leg, too.  It was really, really nice to be done running, as the pressure was off, and I promptly ate two frosted blueberry pop tarts (my first of the weekend), an apple, multiple chocolates, a granola bar, salt & vinegar chips, grape-flavored Nuun, and some other stuff I can’t even remember.  I was hungry but also not worried about making myself sick anymore.  Huzzah to eating lots of junk food without hesitation!

 

Where's the Finish at Ragnar ADK

Beautiful scenery while waiting for Runner 5

It took us until the final leg to realize we all should have been cheering for each other more (unfortunately legs 27 & 28 were “no van support” legs which meant we weren’t allowed to stop and cheer, although many, many teams seemed to break that rule).  We did a slightly better job of cheering for Runner 5 and a much better job for Runner 6, when we finally broke out the Jambox bluetooth radio and orange safety flags and danced and cheered for him along his final 8 miles.  We should have been doing exactly that every chance we got, and I know if we ever do another Rangar together we will be a much more cheer-oriented team (not that we didn’t cheer – we did cheer our own runners, plus we rang the cowbell for many other teams’ runners, but we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have).  The cheering isn’t only good for the runner – it was a lot of fun and probably the highlight for me of the final leg.  With the perfect weather we had, we definitely had no excuse.  Lesson #12 – Just like taking photos, cheer more than you think you should, and be ridiculous when you do so.
We lucked out with perfect weather for the whole weekend – temps in the 40s to low 70s, overcast on Friday and sunny on Saturday.  It was a bit chillier than any of us expected, so next time I’d bring an even warmer jacket to wear between legs, but otherwise I was pretty good clothing-wise (I wore long-sleeved shirts for all three of my legs, but I like to be warm when I run).  Lesson #13 – Don’t overpack, but make sure to bring something warm for those chilly nights and mornings.

 

Checking off the final box on Van 1 for Breaking Ragnar

Runner 6 checking off the final box on Van 1 for Breaking Ragnar

And seemingly just like that, we reached Major Exchange 30 and the end of Van 1’s running!  When we met up with Van 2 they were making the same jokes we were about offering to sell their final leg to the highest bidder, and some of them were nervous about a hilly course ahead, but they all ended up flying through their legs despite the hot sun (and they had some really gorgeous scenery during that section, too).  While they were running we headed to Country Bear Diner to get some breakfast.  Unlike the last place we went, Country Bear had some seriously delicious food.  I’m still dreaming of their thick-cut French toast (it had a slight sweet crust on it that made it extra crazy good).  It’s a small diner, and we split up to eat (sitting in separate groups of 3), but I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area.  Plus it’s right on the running route so you can watch fellow Ragnarians run by as you pour the syrup on your stack of pancakes and sip coffee with cream.  Lesson #14 – Say yes to Country Bear.

 

Breaking Bad costumes at Ragnar Relay

Runners 2, 4, and 3 with serious faces in our “Breaking Ragnar” costumes at the finish (photo credit Runner 6)

After breakfast my van-mates really wanted to check into the hotel for showers before we headed to the finish.  I was worried we’d be late but they insisted we could quickly shower and be there.  So the three girls went to one of the rooms and the three boys went to the other, and we all showered as quickly as possible.  All three girls were finished while the second boy was still in the shower.  What were they doing in there?  Shaving their legs?  Deep conditioning their hair?  Luckily, despite the high-maintenance boys, we got to the finish line in time to take a few photos and sit in the shade while Van 2 made their way to the end.  We all wore our team t-shirts except for Runner 4 who was back in his Walter White/Heisenberg costume (and I was wearing a yellow hazmat suit, blue gloves, and gas mask and goggles on my head). Runner 3 wore a rubber chemistry vest and blue gloves, but he didn’t strip down to his underwear, much to everyone’s disappointment (ok, maybe not his girlfriend’s disappointment).

 

Van 2 arrived and soon after we spotted Runner 12 coming down the road.  The 11 of us gathered together so we could run with Runner 12 across the finish line as a team.  We whooped and cheered, ran down the grassy hill and under the inflatable arch, and finished our first ever Ragnar.  Right after we finished we got our medals and our picture taken by the professional photographer (you get one free photo as a team), and as we posed several other runners stopped to take our picture, too.  I’m sure it was because we were all so good-looking…

 

Enjoying our hard-earned pizza and beer at the finish

Enjoying our hard-earned pizza and beer at the finish

After some milling about, we entered the beer area to redeem our beer coupons (each bib got you one beer for $1, and regular beers were available for $4) and eat our pizza (1 free pizza per van), but we didn’t stay long.  Soon we headed back to the hotel to shower (again) and nap (for most… I was way too amped up to sleep and never felt all that tired until Monday afternoon).  In the parking lot of the hotel we met Van 1 of Herd O Turtles, including blogger Jen is Green, which was super exciting for me because I had read her blog in preparation for this race!  Later our team tried to get dinner as a group but every restaurant in town was full, so we ended up getting Subway and eating leftovers from the van.  Lesson #15 – If you think you’ll want a hot meal at the end, make reservations in town early.  I was totally fine with PB&J since we didn’t eat any during the actual race.

 

The next morning we cleaned the paint off our vans and had a team brunch at the ADK Cafe (super-excellent despite slow service and their running out of lots of food, including hashbrowns!  But the giant portions and great food made up for it) before driving back down to the city and returning the vans that served us so well.  It was definitely a letdown for me to be done, and when I got home and watched the Breaking Bad finale that night, I was doubly sad for two awesome things ending in one weekend.  But just as there will most definitely be other TV shows in my future, I think there will be other Ragnar Relays, too.

And that concludes our first Ragnar Relay!  Stay tuned for an updated packing list including all the items we used, didn’t use, and weren’t included on the list but should be on there (cough cough Chawel cough cough), because the 50,000 words I’ve already written about this race is not enough.

 

For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1Leg 2, and Leg 3,  my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

Team Breaking Ragnar at Exchange 6

Race Recap – Ragnar ADK Leg 2 & Five More Lessons

Team Breaking Ragnar at Exchange 6

Team Breaking Ragnar all smiles at Exchange 6

After Van 1 collectively finished our first leg (read the leg 1 recap here, plus on the road posts here and here) we relaxed a bit at Exchange 6 by enjoying free granola, stretching in the grass, and using the indoor toilets and sinks (where once again I realized just how amazing indoor plumbing and fresh running water can be).  But pretty soon we headed out to Major Exchange 12 at Million Dollar Beach on Lake George to make sure we knew where to go, and also to get a real lunch with time to digest.  We expected the next exchange to be at 6:00 or 6:30, but since we were already 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we thought Van 2 might knock off even more time, we wanted to make sure to be there early.

 

Ragnar Relay ADK Lake George

Our first view of Lake George through our “Better Call Saul” decorated window

Pulling up to Lake George we were greeted with even more beautiful scenery.  We were also greeted by the sight of dozens of people in sleeping bags dotting the lawn and beach.  We all wondered how they could possibly sleep now, after only one leg and in the early afternoon, and I still don’t quite get it, since our van started on the early side and we weren’t remotely sleepy yet, but maybe they were all jetlagged Australians (just kidding – I didn’t hear a foreign accent during the entire race).  After making sure we knew where the exchange was, we pulled back out of the lot and drove into town for lunch.

 

Adirondack Pub & Brewery at Lake George during Ragnar ADK

Breaking Ragnar Van 1 chowing down between legs 1 and 2

We circled a few blocks before choosing Adirondack Pub & Brewery, which I can wholeheartedly not recommend if you’re in town to eat and not drink.  The service was terribly slow and the food was anti-delicious (and my standards were pretty low at that point), plus the amount of chicken on the chicken sandwich and chicken salad was literally laughable (I wish I took a picture of the tiny half-puck of chicken on Runner 3’s sandwich – it was about half the size of an iphone 4 and able to be hidden by a strip of bacon).  That’s not to say I didn’t scarf down a huge amount of food, and I don’t think my van-mates were quite as disappointed as I was, so you can take my review with a grain of salt (if there is any left after I tried to drown my food in it to make it palatable).  Lesson #6 – Don’t eat at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery.

 

Lake George Million Dollar Beach Ragnar ADK

Lake George’s “Million Dollar Beach” with lots of sleepy runners

Immediately after lunch we drove back to exchange 12 and slipped into a food coma in the van.  Two of our runners fell asleep.  I didn’t fall asleep but I also didn’t want to move because I was full, it was warm in the van, and it was cold outside.  But I forced myself out of the soporific van to look at the beautiful beach, take a few pictures, and to enjoy the bathrooms and sinks again.  They had showers available but I had no desire to take one, plus I would be running again so soon it seemed pointless.  I changed into my running gear and was nervous and slightly dreading my next 8 mile leg in the dark.

 

This is the exchange where I spotted the disco ball van (Team “Roadside Dance Bandits”), which was decorated with lots and lots of tape.  Before the race I had spent a considerable amount of time searching Google to see what kinds of markers could be used on van/car paint (versus just the windows) as there were many photos online of Ragnar vans that had decorated doors and hoods as well as windows.  I never found a brand that advertised itself as safe for car paint, and we ultimately used Loew Cornell Simply Art Window Markers (which worked well, but you really have to push and squeeze hard to get the paint out, but not too hard or it will drip) and Crayola Washable Window Markers (which my team said basically didn’t show up) on the windows only.  However, I do think it would have been fine to use the Loew markers on the van’s painted surfaces, but we didn’t risk it.  Also, it all washed off surprisingly easily with water and paper towels (no special cleaner needed), so if you do decorate your van with those markers you won’t have to worry too much about washing it off the next day.

 

Ragnar ADK disco van

I forgot to ask how long it took them to do this

At any rate, upon seeing this beautifully decorated disco ball, I literally chased after the van to ask them what they used for the shiny disco ball and also for the other colorful decorations.  The driver told me they had been doing Ragnar for years and they always used – wait for it – DUCT TAPE.  I asked him if he was just trying to trick me into putting duct tape onto my car, but he swore it left no mark and didn’t harm the paint.  He told me team Kings of Neon used it to decorate their van, too.  I thanked him and went back to my van to report, but there’s still no way I’d use duct tape on a rental van’s paint.  Painter’s tape, however, I’d use, and I think next time I’d definitely pack a roll or two of that for decoration.

 

Also, now is a good time to mention tagging – it’s basically when another team puts something on your van without you realizing, usually drawing or writing something with window markers or putting personalized magnets on your car.  By the end of the race, we had several window decorations and a tidy pile of magnets, and not once did we actually see anyone do it.  Our Van 2 would wash off any tags they got, but we left all of ours on, partially because they were clever (Kings of Neon drew a periodic table Neon symbol with a crown, sticking with our Breaking Ragnar theme, and someone else wrote #RunnersHigh on our van, also sticking with our theme) and partially because we thought someone else on our own team drew them.  Lesson #7 – Next time I do Ragnar, in addition to the Loew markers, I’m bringing painter’s tape and (hopefully) getting some cool team magnets printed up to tag other vans.

We kept getting text updates from our Van 2 and pretty soon they arrived and we all gathered at the exchange point to bring in Runner 12 and send off Runner 1.  Van 2 seemed in high spirits and was waiting for their runner with a bag of Oreos, explaining that they developed a system where the runner going two slots after the runner coming in would “pamper” the arriving runner with whatever he or she requested.  Runner 12 requested that Oreo cookies be waiting for him at his exchanges.  Another requested a certain jacket and bottle of Gatorade. I thought it was a great idea, but Van 1 never implemented it, partially because we didn’t have a driver so we were spread a little thinner than Van 2.

 

A little more on our Van 1 versus Van 2 – Van 2 was all co-workers who we had met only briefly (or not at all) during a few team meetups this summer.  Van 1 was filled with basically strangers all connected by our Team Captain, Runner 6.  Van 2 had a driver who made them hot coffee and ramen in the middle of the night using his camping stove.  Van 1 was driven by Runner 1 and Runner 6, with the majority of navigation by Runners 1, 6, 3 and 4.  Runner 2 basically just sat in the back wearing her Chawel.  Surprisingly, I think both van experiences worked out well and everyone had a great time.  I do think the race was significantly more difficult for our driving runners, especially our captain Runner 6, who only got about 30 minutes of sleep the entire weekend.  I would never had been able to do this race without the organization and driving by the other runners, so I’m super grateful to them for that.  (I mean, I have a driver’s license, but haven’t owned a car in 13 years and have never driven a giant 12-passenger van through narrow parking lots filled with other runners milling about and driving giant vans for the first time, too.)

 

At any rate, our first runner was off again on her second leg which took her through the town and up and down a bunch of hills for 4 miles to Exchange 13, where I was anxiously waiting, wearing every kind of reflective and flashing device known to mankind (besides the required reflective vest, headlamp, and tail light, I had a fully reflective hat, two additional blinking Vizlet LED lights, additional hat light (which I can’t recommend enough – it’s so small and light and for 7 bucks gave me peace of mind about seeing past my brim and backup in case my headlamp died), a “finger light,” and a flashing blue LED armband – my team told me they could see me coming a mile away, and I was definitely a lot easier to recognize in the dark, when we quickly learned that every runner looks the same).  Lesson #8 – If you want your team to recognize you, wear additional lights, especially ones with colors other than red or white.

 

While I was warming up I noticed my knee was hurting, and I was pretty sure it was going to bother me during my run.  Moments later Runner 1 handed the slap bracelet to me, and I was off, flashing and blinking in the early twilight.  The beginning of my second leg did not start well at all.  The first section was downhill, and my knee was definitely hurting.  My reflective vest was also a major headache, sliding around over my Camelbak and riding up to choke and chafe me.  I struggled with it for several minutes before finally giving up, tucking my buff into my shirt as much as possible to limit the chafing, and tried to ignore the vest as well as work through the knee pain.  Lesson #9 – Despite my standard joke about “everything new on race day,” definitely test your reflective vest before Ragnar, even if you feel like a total dork wearing it during a daytime run (especially dorky if you have to wear it over a hydration backpack to test it properly).  Eight miles of being choked and chafed were my punishment for not testing the dang thing.

 

I stopped to walk several times, quickly getting passed twice, the second time by a guy in a flashing cowboy hat who asked if I was ok.  I told him it was just knee pain and I’d be fine.  Eventually I started running again, and at some point around about one mile my knee felt better.  I also noticed I was gaining on the cowboy, and pretty soon I had caught up to him.  Somehow we started chatting and running together.  I told him about my knee pain and he told me about his ankle pain.  We were going at about the same pace and it had gotten pretty dark at this point, so we basically started running together.

 

The miles slowly ticked by.  His van (Team “We thought this was a 5K”) leapfrogged and cheered for him many times over the 8 miles.  (My favorite was after many miles of running together his van shouted “don’t let her pass you!”)  We chatted nonstop, and while my knee felt better, his ankle just kept getting worse and worse.  Eventually he had to stop to take a walk break, and then the walk breaks grew more frequent and longer.  My knee felt fine at this point and he told me I could go on without him, but I stuck by his side for a couple of reasons.  One, it was kind of a fun, unique experience to run and chat with a stranger wearing a flashing LED cowboy hat.  Where else but at Ragnar would I ever have a chance to do that?  Two, I was a little worried about him and wanted to keep him going.  I wasn’t seriously concerned for his safety or well-being, and his team seemed to be staying on top of him really well, but I do think my inane chatter helped keep his mind off his ankle.  And three, his company was helping me, too.  It was dark, and not terribly scenic, and there were still a lot of cars on the road so it wasn’t relaxing, and my team was AWOL (they drove past me once on the way to the exchange, and later I learned they had gone to the grocery store for chips and chocolate – after my run, eating M&Ms in the back of the van, I weighed moral support against chocolate, and it was a close call).  Eight miles is a long time to be running for me (especially at our slow pace), so it was nice to have some company.  And really, I was never doing this race to shave off a few minutes of my time – it was always for the experience, and for fun, and this was both.

 

So I ran with the cowboy for about 7 of the 8 miles, walking up a lot of the big hill at the end (and getting passed by a lot of runners, all of whom were swearing under their breath at that freaking hill), until we eventually crested the hill and saw the exchange point.  We were no more than 20 feet away from the exchange when suddenly he pulled up in a limp.  I still stuck with him, and after almost an hour and a half of running, we reached exchange 13 together.

 

The other runners said their night runs were really special – beautiful, quiet, nature and star-filled experiences.  My night run on leg 14 was not like that, but I’m glad it was what it was.  (Lesson #10 – Be open to whatever your individual legs might throw at you.)  After that, our runners quickly knocked out their second legs and suddenly we were on our Runner 6.  Legs 15 through 19 were “no van support” legs, plus they were during “quiet hours,” so there wasn’t a lot of cheering or anything our van could do.  We drove ahead to Major Exchange 18 at the middle school to get some rest and/or hot food for dinner (they had a spaghetti dinner that looked delicious but I skipped it to get some sleep in the gym).  I felt terribly guilty not staying up to cheer the end of Runner 6’s second leg, but I knew he’d have Van 2 there to cheer, and I thought I could serve the team better by getting some rest than knocking myself out to stay awake all night.

 

Bathroom showers and sleep for $3 at Ragnar ADK exchange 12

So much promised for only $3…

So a little after midnight I paid $3 for access to the indoor bathrooms (skipping the shower again because my priority was sleep if I could get it), brushed my teeth, and went into the very dark, less crowded gym.  I found a good spot on the floor, blew up my air mattress & air pillow, set up my sleeping bag, set my alarm on my phone for 3:45 am (using my earphones as ear plugs and as a way to wake me up without disturbing others), put on my eyeshade, and tried to relax myself to sleep.  Eventually I did fall asleep, waking up once because I was freezing on top of my sleeping bag so I climbed inside.  I fell asleep again until 3 am when I suddenly awoke, completely alert and wide awake without my alarm.

 

And that concludes leg 2.  One leg left!  Onward to Leg 3!

 

For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1Leg 2, and Leg 3,  my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

Runner 1 using my Chawel

Race Recap – Ragnar ADK Leg 1 & the First Five Lessons

Breaking Ragnar Van 2

Team Breaking Ragnar’s Van #2 decoration

I’m finally back at home, with two loads of smelly, wet laundry agitating in the basement, and ready to start “officially” recapping my experience at Ragnar Adirondacks.

 

The journey started with my commute to Jersey City to get the vans our captain had reserved (he did good research and scouting many weeks ago to find the best deals on the vans and hotels).  I took the subway to midtown, then had to go aboveground (or at least I thought I did) to get to the PATH train to NJ, then had to walk from the PATH stop through an office complex and a mall before reaching Dollar.  I was carrying multiple heavy bags (including all my running clothes and supplies, plus half the van kit, plus extra food and gifts, plus costume items) which I had to set down to rest my hands occasionally.  By the time I arrived, I was literally soaked with sweat.  There went my idea to be fresh for at least part of the van ride!  First lesson learned – I should have taken a cab or car service to the rental car.  I don’t know why I forgot this was an option, and I did take a car back on Sunday night.

 

After a quick stop at the grocery store (to get apples, bananas, nuts, chips, goldfish crackers, PB&J, bread, Nilla Wafers, water and Gatorade), we hit the road around 7:30 or 8.  After another quick stop on the highway for dinner (to eat in the van), we reached the hotel in Saratoga Springs around 11:30 pm.  I showered before bed so I could start the race as clean as possible, and set up my morning items so I could quickly get dressed and ready and out the door before 6:30 am.  Van 2 met us in the lobby to send us off, and the hotel had a surprisingly good free breakfast spread where most of us grabbed something (oatmeal, muffins, bagels and bananas) before Van 1 went to the start (had to get there by 7 am for check-in and the safety briefing before our 8 am start time).

 

Ragnar Relay start ADK

Listening to safety briefing at RagnarADK start

The starting area was well-organized and not very crowded, since all the teams start in waves (I think starting at 6 am and throughout the afternoon).  We checked in by showing we had the required safety gear, listened to the safety announcements  and picked up our supplies:  bibs (each runner had to wear the team’s number, one bib per runner for the whole race, so you had to re-pin after each leg), ID number sticker for the van, Ragnar shirts (very nice short sleeved technical t-shirts with the Ragnar logo and no sponsor logos), and a bag of goodies (shot blocks, gels, mini Clif bars, sponsor headbands, a cowbell (which got a LOT of use) and Ragnar stickers and temporary tattoos for the team).  They also had free apples and bananas and were selling all sorts of Ragnar merchandise in a giant inflatable tent.

 

We had a choice of three starting times based on our predicted pace and we chose 8 am, which I thought was a great time to start.  Before the race, each team member has to enter their expected average pace per mile online and Ragnar provides a pace calculator (excel sheet) so you’ll know approximately when each runner will hit each exchange.  Our team estimated a bit high, not accounting for the unexpected adrenaline and race-day excitement that made us all run faster than anticipated, so we hit the first major exchange 30 minutes earlier than expected, and ultimately finished three hours earlier than scheduled.  Luckily we didn’t fall outside any of the exchange times, so we were not penalized and “held back” for running too fast.  But lesson #2 – definitely try to be accurate in your projected times, and don’t underestimate yourself or the effect race-day will have on your body.

 

Ragnar Relay ADK start

Ragnar ADK’s inflatable (and inflated) starting line

The whole check-in process took a little longer than expected, and we were a bit scatterbrained that morning, so we almost sent off our first runner without her bib number.  Lesson #3 – especially if it’s your first Ragnar, give yourself as much time as you’ll need to get organized and comfortable at the start, including building in time to visit the porta-potties, get bibs pinned on, take some pictures, browse the store if you’re interested in that kind of thing, even getting yourself and the van organized.  I felt like our team was a bit rushed and disorganized from the start until my first leg was done (I was the second runner, and I told my team I would carry my own water and didn’t need support for my first 6 mile leg, and told them to take that time to decorate the van, get organized and settled, and relax a little).  Even with that, the first six legs flew by in a rush, and I felt like there was no downtime while our van was “on.”

 

Breaking Ragnar Relay ADK exchange 1

Runner 1 handing off to Runner 2 at the first exchange of Ragnar ADK, photo credit @ry_guy23

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.  Our first runner took off (after a brief delay when the generators died and the inflatable arch started to collapse at the starting line), and Van 1 took off after her.  We cheered as we drove past her, then pulled over further down the road to give her water and cheer her again.  Then we went to the first exchange and I got ready to run.  I had enough time to visit the porta potties and do some dynamic stretching, but before I knew it, runner 1 was streaking into the exchange, and I was off.  I never got used to the exchanges during the race – no matter how prepared I thought I was to run, they always caught me a little off-guard.  When you train, you decide when you’re ready to start running, and in a normal race, you have an anticipated clock time start, but in a relay it just depends on how long it takes the other runner to run their leg, and whatever moment they are ready to hand off, you have to be ready to go.  I know all that is obvious, but I was surprised how it kind of unsettled me, and definitely made the race-day adrenaline flow for longer than a typical race.

 

Also, a side note on the porta potties – I had read that there would be a porta pottie at each minor exchange and more at the major exchanges (“major exchanges” being the ones where Van 1 hands off to Van 2 and vice versa), but there were always at least 4 porta potties at each minor exchange and a bank of them at the major exchanges (and/or indoor toliets), and while there were often lines, the potties themselves were generally well-kept – they always had toilet paper and often had hand sanitizer dispensers inside.  That’s not to say that by the end of the race, I wasn’t fully sick of using them, but it also wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

 

Runner 1 using my Chawel

Loaning my Chawel for Runner 1 to use.

Also, I had a weird idea that people would use the porta potties to change inside, but I don’t think anyone ever did, and I certainly did not.  Before the race I even looked into buying a pop-up changing tent, but they seemed bulky, difficult to re-fold, and still had to be used outside of the van.  Instead, I brought a last-minute item I discovered from another blog – the CHAWEL.  The nice folks at Chawel were able to ship it to me before I left on Thursday, and I’d say it was the number one item I was glad to have during Ragnar (besides the essentials of running shoes and clothes).  It’s basically fabric sewn together with a small opening at the top for your head, so you can hide your body and change underneath it (they also advertise it as a makeshift sleeping bag, neck pillow, and of course traditional drying towel).  I used the “sport” version, which came down past my calves and worked exceedingly well to change inside, and rolled up into a surprisingly small package.  The fabric wasn’t particularly soft and didn’t seem super absorbant, so I’m not sure how nice of a towel it would have been after a shower, but it was a lifesaver in that it let me change in the van between legs (especially since I always had to jump into the van right after running, and inevitably I’d be soaked and gross, but I’d throw on the Chawel, peel off my wet compression gear, change into dry clothes, and feel like a new person).  Also, it made my van laugh every time I said the word “Chawel.”  Lesson #4 – Get yourself a Chawel.

 

Hay sprayer during Rangar ADK

This hay sprayer enchanted me for some reason.

My first leg passed without incident – the shoulder was a bit narrow and cracked in some places, and of course the road was open to traffic, but I never felt unsafe.  Many of the other team vans that drove past would cheer me on, and that helped tremendously.  There were sections of private construction and one weird hay-spraying machine I stopped to photograph, but for the most part it was a beautiful run right along Lake Saratoga.  I stopped twice to take pictures (which involved fishing my phone out of my SPI belt, taking off the plastic baggie, taking the photo, putting it back in the baggie, then back into the belt), which my team was later horrified to find out.  I was the slowest runner in the van by far, so to me it didn’t matter that I’d stop to take pictures.  I’m not sure if they were horrified because it ultimately meant they’d have to wait even longer for me to finish, or just that they would never penalize themselves by having to stop, thus couldn’t imagine why I’d do such a thing to myself.  Either way, they made fun of me, and the only leg I didn’t take pictures during was my second leg, only because it was mostly in the dark.  And even then, I regret not taking even more pictures, both during my legs and between.  Lesson #5 – Take even more photos than you’ll think are interesting.  Force your teammates to smile and pose if necessary.  You’ll be glad you did.

In no time at all we reached major exchange 6 and met up with Van 2.  They were there with their decorated van, looking very comfortable and refreshed, while we were already in the thick of things.  They kept asking us what to expect, or if there was anything they should know, which was funny because suddenly Van 1 was full of battle-tested experts. Our runner 6 soon arrived and handed off to runner 7 (for a punishing 9 mile first leg), with Van 2 chasing after him, while Van 1 now had a break for about 5 hours.  At this point I still had cell service so I posted my first “update from the road”, but soon thereafter my phone was worthless until basically the end of the race at Lake Placid.

 

And that brings us to the end of leg 1!  Two more legs to go!  Continue to Leg 2!

 

For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1Leg 2, and Leg 3,  my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

Finished Ragnar ADK – Update on the Finish from the Road

Where's the finish of Ragnar ADK

Found the finish of Ragnar ADK

Team Breaking Ragnar just finished our first Ragnar relay, and boy are our arms tired. Some brief thoughts before I pass out (more from a peanut M&M coma than fatigue right now).

 

  • It wasn’t as exhausting as I thought it would be. Granted, I never had to drive or do any heavy navigating (forever bless my teammates hearts for doing those jobs), but right now, after running 18 miles over 31 hours, I’m fairly amped up, and even when I had to wake up at 3 am to get ready to run again (after closing my eyes after midnight), I wasn’t groggy or feeling too terribly bad. It might all hit me tomorrow after I do get some sleep tonight, but for now I feel surprisingly great.
  • I never wanted to take a shower. I thought my skin would be literally itching for one, but I never was dying for a shower. I always changed immediately after my runs (using the magical “Chawel” changing towel – more on that in future posts), and I used a lot of baby wipes, but once I was in dry clothes I felt refreshed and had no desire to subject myself to school gym showers between running legs. Since van 1 has finished, however, I have already taken two showers and noticed some pretty bad chafing/skin irritation on my neck and arms, so I’m not sure if that’s only from my ill-fitting reflective vest (which rubbed my neck) and heat rash from the Breaking Bad-themed yellow hazmat suit I wore at the finish (very, very, very warm and 100% not breathable) or if it was a lack-of-shower thing, but the next time I do a Ragnar without those two things I’ll find out!
  • I already want to do another Ragnar. I had such a good time this weekend running, cheering for my team and other teams, eating junk food, seeing beautiful scenery, and chatting the ear off my van-mates, plus learning so much about how to more comfortably do a Ragnar (including the fact that 70% of the “must pack” items were totally unnecessary – I’ll tell you which ones in a future post), that I’m ready to sign up for my next one today. We’ll see what the real damage was to my body tomorrow, so it might just be a temporary insanity sleep-deprived desire right now, but I really loved (almost) every minute of it. Now if I can just convince the rest of my team…
  • The race was extremely well-organized and all the volunteers and staff deserve a standing ovation while we can still give them one. It has yet again raised the bar on my race expectations and standards, so good luck to future marathons – I’ll be judging how you organize a measly 26.2 miles (compared to almost 200) with an even more critical eye now.
  • I’m so glad we had a fun theme for our team – it totally made my weekend to see people taking pictures of our van (and our underwear-clad Walter White) and smile and laugh (and very occasionally squeal with delight) as we passed out bags of “blue meth.” Not everyone got it, of course, but making even a few people happier and even more excited for Sunday’s finale was great. And if there were an individual prize for costume at RagnarADK, it would have to go to our Walt. Three legs (including the toughest “Ragnar” hill leg) in the same button-down and underwear and he didn’t even smell bad. Magic, I tell ya.
  • I don’t think I had any cell service for about 80% or more of the course. The best for RagnarADK seemed to be Verizon, followed by T-Mobile, then AT&T, and then very distantly in a “my phone only works as a camera” type way, was my carrier, Sprint. All too often, none of our phones worked. Obviously it’ll depend on where you do your Ragnar, but I’d make sure your team has people with multiple carriers (including one of each kind in each van), or invest in some incredibly high-powered walkie-talkies that work over miles instead of line-of-sight. I had no way to communicate with my team for basically the entire race, but luckily other people were able to coordinate between vans, otherwise exchanges would have been chaos (our estimated times were way off). And luckily I never had an accident or needed to call in anything during my runs, because again my phone only worked as a camera (which I did use, stopping to take pictures during my legs, much to the chagrin of my van-mates).

 

Ok, this was supposed to be brief but as you can see I’m clearly still on a sugar high, but I’ll close things off for now. I’ll do a full race recap later, plus an update to the essential packing list and other tips and advice for those running a Ragnar. Till then, I’ll just say I’ve had more fun this weekend than I expected or hoped, and I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow with locked knees, covered in a rash. Because that would cut into my Ragnar-running time.

 

For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1Leg 2, and Leg 3,  my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

 

Want to run the next Ragnar with me? Share in the comments!

Ragnar ADK – Update from the Road

Ragnar ADK Starting line

Ragnar ADK Starting Line

Van 1 of team Breaking Ragnar just finished our first leg(s) and have successfully handed off to Van 2. Some quick thoughts about my first leg and the experience so far –

  • Time is flying – I thought there would be downtime between runners but basically we just race to support the runner and then the next exchange.
  • Everyone is running their legs faster than anticipated because we’re all so excited
  • It’s beautiful up here this time of year
  • Road kill smells really really bad up close
  • Other teams are very friendly and overall it’s been a lot of fun so far
  • It’s a constant battle to keep the van clean/organized
  • Radio stations in upstate NY tend to be all country
  • I thought I’d want a shower by now but baby wipes and changing into clean clothes has made shower dreams distant. But ask me after my second leg.
  • It’s about 50/50 on people who know the show (or rather details about the show) – but those who do seem to love our theme and especially our very brave runner who is running all his legs as Walt White/Heisenberg in tighty-whities, green button down, and glasses

More to come later!

 

For all my Ragnar ADK coverage, find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, recaps of Leg 1Leg 2, and Leg 3,  my original Ragnar packing list, and my updated Ragnar Packing List.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

Breaking Bad Ragnar cookies - burned bear, logo periodic table, blue crystal meth

Ragnar on my Mind

Breaking Bad Ragnar cookies - burned bear, logo periodic table, blue crystal meth

Cookies for team Breaking Ragnar!  Don’t worry, team, there are more cookies not pictured.

In less than two days I’ll be in a van heading up to Saratoga Springs for Ragnar Relay Adirondacks.  It’s the first Ragnar for everyone on our team, so we can only imagine what lies ahead of us…  If it’s like what other blogs say, there will be lots of fun, lots of sore muscles, very little sleep, and always something unexpected.

 

I think I have the packing part pretty much down (not overpacking is the hardest part), so today I’ve been baking (or to keep with the theme I should say “cooking”) in preparation for the race – I wanted to make themed cookies for the team, and you can see them above (my baking, much like my running, isn’t perfect but usually gets me there).  I’m probably not the only person this week making Breaking Bad cookies for Sunday’s finale, but I am probably the only person making BReaking RAgnar cookies.

 

I also filled over 150 little baggies with “blue meth” (actually blue raspberry flavored rock candy) for our team to pass out to volunteers and other runners.  I hope the show is as ubiquitous as it seems, otherwise we’ll be getting a lot of weird looks as we give out our drug candy.

 

Tomorrow I have my last scheduled run before the race, and I suppose I should just try to get a lot of sleep over the next two days, but I’m already keyed up.  Mainlining sugar cookies and royal icing today probably didn’t help.  Although I’m starting to think royal icing might just be the perfect running food, since it’s just pasteurized egg whites (protein) and sugar (sucrose, which wikipedia tells me becomes fructose and glucose in the body).  I’ll let you know the next time I drink a bottle during a run.

 

Have you every run an overnight relay race?  Share any advice or tips in the comments!