Pics from Ragnar Relay & why I’ll likely never do an overnight relay again

Yeah, I’m being honest in the title. Though I “survived” the relay and even had my fair share of rewarding/silly/grateful moments, I don’t think I’ll do another overnight relay in the future. I’ll get to those reasons in a moment, but let’s look at some pictures, shall we?

(Yeah, yeah, it’s been 3 weeks since the race … I’m really stretching out this Ragnar series.)

Proof that I was there …

Here’s van #1 at the start line (in the rain). From left, that’s Juan, Brianne, Karl, me, Jesi and Ajay.

ragnar van 1

Downpour!

Cheering our runner on & being really conscientious about the safety flags at the same time:

ragnar flags

Safety first.

Around midnight on the course:

at night

We’re giddy … or sleep deprived.

Jesi passes the slap bracelet to me, and I head out on my last run:

bracelet exchange

I look happier than I remember about running leg #3.

A really lovely moment where I’m missing my bed and hating my sweaty hair:

sleepy ragnar

“I want to get out of this van NOW.”

With the whole team at the finish line:

finish line

DONE!

I’ve come to notice that I’m smiling in most of the Ragnar pics, so you’d think I enjoyed the experience. To be sure, there were enjoyable moments, and it’s a confidence boost to realize I’m capable of running great (for me) times on tired legs, little sleep and questionable meals.

I was also really impressed by my van mates. I didn’t know the people in van #1 very well going into this, but they were super positive, supportive and nice (not even a little grouchy!) the whole time. Observing their attitudes definitely lifted my spirits.

With that being said, here’s why I’ll likely never do another overnight relay:

  1. It jacked up my knees. If you remember, I stopped running for a few years not too long ago because of an IT band injury. It’s taken quite a few months – and really smart training – to get my knees and hips right again. But by leg 3 of the relay, I could feel scary tightness in my IT band, and since the race, I’ve been dealing with knee pain all over again. (It’s definitely not as severe as before, but it’s there.) I’m not blaming the relay entirely, but I am blaming the lack of recovery time. Even though you’ve got 8 or so hours to rest between legs, it’s not enough time (for me) to be properly recovered. I stretched as much as I could, but we were always hopping back into the van, and I never had enough time to stretch, foam roll or ice. And even though my distances weren’t that long, I ran them hard so I needed that recovery. (To be clear, I think some folks have enough of a running base to do a relay without injury, but I don’t think it’s that smart for recreational runners, now that I’ve experienced it.)
  2. I like to get sleep. Some people get super energized when they throw off their sleep schedules, like the unexpectedness of it is fun. Anything could happen. Sorry, friends. I’m not one of those people. I’m at my best when I’ve gotten a good night’s rest. And while I’m not opposed to missing sleep for something super wonderful, I have decided not to count an overnight relay in that super wonderful category at this time in my life. A friend’s going-away party? Yes. A midnight swimming session in the lake? Probably. Dancing to my favorite music? Okay. Running after not showering for over 24 hours? Sorry, no.
  3. There are other ways I like to bond. I feel like I’m going to get flak from runners who love relays, but I’m not really buying the ohmygod-this-is-the-best-way-to-bond-with-people business. Nothing against my van mates, and maybe I would have felt more sentimental about the bonding experience if I’d been good friends with them from the beginning, but I can think of a bunch of other ways we could have gotten to know each other better.
  4. It’s pricey as hell. Beyond all the other reasons – which I think are disputable in one way or another, or under different circumstances – this one is the real clincher. When I added up all the money I spent on motels (we stayed in one the night before the race and another the night after), vans & gas (split among the team), snacks, meals, beer and registration fee, I could have taken a weekend getaway to the beach for the same cost. And we did the race on a budget. Like, shared beds at the motels and rented minivans instead of the enormous vans and all that. But, even then, costs added up, and I would’ve rather taken a vacation. :)

I don’t mean to sound anti-relay (or maybe I do?), and I am glad that I had the experience, but I think I’ll stick to one-and-done races in the future. Of course, you’ll have to tell me to eat my words if you find me signing up for another relay next year.

Until then, I’ll be icing and foam rolling and attacking IT band recovery like it’s my job …

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Ragnar Relay approaches

Friday: nothin’ (Anybody got a trick for working out on Fridays? I barely ever do it.)

Saturday: 13 miles on the treadmill!! (The exclamation points are not excitement, but shock. Can’t believe I did my long run on the treadmill.)

Sunday: rest day (included some major river floatin’)

Monday: 3 miles (planned to do 4, but was in a super rush) + kickball

I’ve been so focused on meeting my marathon training mileages (and falling a little short) that I’ve nearly forgotten all about the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage, coming up in 10 days. 10 days!

This is my first relay, and I’ve got to admit … it’s been kind of a pain in the butt thus far. My team’s a hodgepodge of nice folks, with varying degrees of running ability and commitment. We’ve had runners drop out and no-show to our team meetings, and it’s just sort of become a logistical circus more than anything else.

I want to go into it with an open mind, but can you tell I’m little more than lukewarm on the whole thing?

I’m runner #3 so I’ll be doing legs 3, 15 and 27, which break down like this:

  1. Leg 3: 8.2 miles, virtually uphill the whole time (eek)
  2. Leg 15: 3.5 miles, all flat (phew)
  3. Leg 27: 4 miles, gentle hills with a long downhill at the end

It’s a total of 15.7 miles, and it’s a pretty good runner position (I think it’d be super challenging to be runners 10, 11 and 12 and have to get excited for your last run, when everyone else is done). I have no idea when I’ll be running … I should probably do some estimations to figure that out. The first leg will likely be early enough in the day (around 10 am) that it won’t be too terribly hot. (The race is on Whidbey Island, so hopefully it’ll be breezy anyway.)

If either of my other runs are in the middle of the night, I imagine I’ll run them really fast to get the heck out of the dark. :) Crossing my fingers I’ll be able to pace with another runner in the night so I’m not out in the middle of nowhere alone. And maybe I won’t have to worry about this at all. Again, need to sit down and do some estimations.

I’m actually thinking a lot more about all the surrounding issues, not the runs themselves. Namely, how will I react to being stuck in a van with people for over 24 hours, on little sleep, no shower and too much caffeine? (Remind me why I signed up for this?)

It’s a good exercise in patience and positivity, right?

Or, er, it’ll prepare me mentally for running a marathon.

Whatever the case, I’m signed on and I’m not dropping out, so it’s full speed ahead.