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Ragnar Relay Q&A

by Meghann on January 12, 2012

I know I’ve said it on here over a dozen times already, but Ragnar Relay was seriously one of the most well-organized races I’ve ever ran. Major props to the race directors and hundreds of volunteers that made this event a success.

In case you missed my recaps:

Since I’ve received so many questions about my experience with the race, I thought I’d do a question and answer post. These are questions I’ve received via Facebook, Twitter, and in comments. Please let me know below if you have any others to add to the list!

How did you find your team?

Derek and I lucked out that our friend Nate (Callie’s husband) was a member of a well established team that had done a couple of Ragnar Races already and had a waiting list open to potential new team members. We added our names to the waiting list back in February and in March were told a couple of spots had opened up. We wasted no time sending our portions of the registration fees to our fearless group leader and signing our names on the dotted line for the January 2012 race (a full 9 months away!).

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Signing up with Nate’s team was the best decision we ever made. We were quickly introduced to the group leaders (KellyAnn and Jim), who were both Ragnar pros and two of the most organized people I have ever met. They took charge with group email chains, Facebook group invites, and mass text messages of keeping everyone in the loop. I love how they took control. In a group as large as 12 people, you really need a leader to be the one making decisions, otherwise you’ll get 45 emails going back and forth trying to approve a t-shirt (oh, I do NOT miss working in an office). Just tell me what the shirt is going to be and be done with it. That’s my motto.

KellyAnn even sent out questionnaires taking polls on who had what supplies on hand, then followed up with individual emails letting us what other supplies we were required to purchase and bring. Direct and easy. She also booked van rentals, made hotel reservations, set up the post-relay festivities, and just asked everyone for their portion of everything. Again, direct and easy.

Without KellyAnn or Jim as the team leaders, who knows what our experience would have been leading up to race day, but thanks to them it was a smooth one. I bow down to their organization and know that I could never have done what they did without wanting to pull my hair out. On top of organizing the team for the Miami to Key West Relay, they also just ran (and lead a team) a Ragnar in Napa Vally. Yeah, they ROCK.

If you’re goal is to run a Ragnar Race (or any other relay race) and are lucky enough to find a well established team that knows what they’re doing, I recommend it ten times over. Seriously. Leave it to the pros.

What if I don’t know anyone else who belongs to a relay team, how can I find a team then?

We lucked out with ours, but there are tons of other ways to find one. Check out the Ragnar Relay Facebook page (or what ever overnight relay)  or follow the hashtag leading up to the race. There are always TONS of teams looking for new members, especially in the weeks leading up to the event.

My friend Raffi also informed me that her website (digitalrunning.com) is in the business of connecting runners with Ragnar Teams. They’re currently organizing Ragnar teams all over the country, so check it out!

Did you know everyone on your team?

Prior to last Friday the only member of We Ran With Your Mom Last Night that Derek and I knew really well was Nate. We had met KellyAnn and Jim once before and sent a ton of emails/ tweets/ Facebook messages back and forth, but had never spent longer than a couple of hours with them.

When we piled into van 2 on Friday morning it was a quick introduction of this is so-and-so and this is so-and-so. A couple of the girls in our van had been on the team in the years prior and already knew each other well, while the other girl had done Ragnar Relays before, but this was her first year with our team. It was a van of mixed strangers and it didn’t take longer than a few minutes for all of us to be completely comfortable with each other. You have to be if you’re going to be stuck in a van together for 48 hrs!

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It really helps to be laid back during a relay like this and all of us were. There was never any fighting and never any bitching, but there were a ton of laughs. You have to have a good sense of humor for this race and you can’t be shy. The van is going to smell, you’re going to smell, and – by the end – you’re going to be peeing on the side of the road without a care in the world.

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I was really happy to have Derek on the team with me and have him in the same van, but if he had opted out i think I would have been fine in a van of strangers on my own. Don’t let not knowing anyone hold you back.

What advice do you have as far as what to take with you besides the obvious (clothes, shoes, etc). In other words, what do you wish you would have had or VERY glad you did have.

Here’s the post covering what I packed. I received a lot of advice leading up to the race on what to take and what not to take and I was thankful for all of it because it ended up being perfect. Without all of the advice I probably would have been screwed.

I will say that I wish my van would have communicated a little better on what we were all bringing. We really only needed one pack of baby wipes for the van (we had three and I ended up leaving my full pack of baby wipes in Key West because I couldn’t carry it on the plane) and one jar of peanut butter and bread ( I think we ended up with three of each?).

As far as snacks go, I was sick of trail mix by the end. I wish I had brought more salty eats like sandwich meat or something. We were smart by stopping for real meals after all of our legs. That was probably the smartest thing we did.

Clothes-wise, I was happy to have all three outfits already packed away in separate ziploc bags. It really did make each outfit easy to grab instead of digging through all of my stuff. It was also nice to immediately put the smelly clothes back in. I lived in my PINK sweatpants between each leg. My flip flops unfortunately broke before we left Miami, so I wish I had brought another pair.

Some teams went all out with sleeping bags, blow-up mattresses, hammocks (yes, hammocks), personal coffee makers (people were plugging coffee makers outside the gym at the high school), grills, and about a million other things that just took up a lot of space and really weren’t needed. We were fine sleeping in the van and drinking the crappy coffee provided. I say less is more with these races. I didn’t even bring a pillow and was fine with just my towel to rest my head on and my blanket to wrap myself up in when needed. I never even pulled out my laptop, ipad, book, or magazines once during the trip. We sort of entertained ourselves.

I did wish I had the disposal toothbrushes that already have toothpaste on it. Those would have been nice!

Do you think the experience would have been as much fun if you ran a different location? (i.e., NY, or MA?)

Yes, I think it would be! I’m a little spoiled with the Miami to Key West route we had, but EVERYONE I know that has done an overnight relay has LOVED them.

How were the night legs?

Gah. I didn’t have any. This is a fact I thought I would be happy with because I’m not a big evening runner and the idea of running XX amount of miles at 2:00am with only 2-3 hours of sleep is not an appealing one, but everyone RAVED about their night runs. They loved them and those legs were my fellow teammates’ favorites.

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To be fair the night runs were some of the more beautiful and interesting legs of the whole course. After nightfall our first van of runners enjoyed some somewhat scary, but equally as exciting legs through the everglades, then our van took over just as we were going over some pretty cool bridges and had some very pretty views of the moon over the ocean. The night runs were also much cooler temp wise than the awful heat of the sunny day legs.

If I did this race again I would request some night runs just for the experience.

Was your stomach thrown off by all the running and junk food?

I’m very lucky. I have a stomach of steel. I ate a ton of food my body wasn’t used to (donuts, Chili’s, cheap Domino’s pizza, etc) and was fine. None of my other team members seemed very concerned with what they were eating or when. I actually thought this weekend would be an all out snackfest, but I’m pretty sure I ate more than anyone else in the van. Most of my teammates would have a piece of bread with peanut butter before their leg, then wait until the last runner (me!) was done for a real meal.

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I helped myself to the bag of homemade trail mix, cookies, and chips throughout the race and had some almond butter and bread before my leg and a Gatorade right after. I grew tired of the snacks really quickly and was so thankful we stopped for real meals along the way. Totally worth stopping for real meals when you do these.

Who drove the vans?

We all took turns. Some teams had designated drivers, but we were fine just switching off. Another person would have taken up extra space and I’m sure they would have been just as tired and wanting rest too.

I’m curious how much Ragnar cost with travel, rental vans, etc.

As I mentioned above – and will continue to mention over and over again – our team leaders were AMAZING and so well organized. They’re also VERY trusting and paid for everything up front and just told us what we owed at the end.

The registration fee for one 12-person Ragnar Relay Team is $1200 or $100 a person. Derek and I paid that up front, way back in March.

Registration: $100

The van rentals, shirts, and hotel stuff was all fronted by our leaders. A couple of days before race day she sent Derek and I a total of $262 each that we then repaid her via PayPal. Our total was a bit more because we stayed in the hotel until Tuesday, I think everyone else was $100 less.

Van/Shirts/Hotel: $262

Gas was on a per-van basis. One person volunteered to put all the gas on their card and the deal was we would all split it up at the end. I still haven’t heard a total from that person, but the other van had a total of $34, so I’ll just round up from there.

Gas: $40

Plane ticket home (SOOOOOO worth it!): $59

So, not including food, our total came to roughly $361 each.

Considering that’s about how much my plane ticket + registration fee will be for Flying Pig in May, I’d say this was comparable to any other out of town race. We’re just lucky we didn’t have to travel anywhere crazy before the initial race start.

This post is LONG and I could probably keep rambling on with what I learned. If you have any other questions please leave them below and I’ll try my best to answer them as they come in!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

lol sounds expensive, but I guess for that long of a race and such great organization it’s worth it if you can afford it!
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2 Krissy January 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I am totally sold! Sounds AMAZING! I have to do this!

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3 CaitlinHTP January 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

cheaper than i thought it would be – you’re right, you can EASILY drop $500 on any out of town race experience.
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4 CaitlinHTP January 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm

but i still dont think i could do this… i don’t think i could sleep in van. i would be a total zombie by the end. lol!

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5 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

This is one of those things that looks fun but I think I’d be a miserable human being after that much time in a van and no bed or shower! haha
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6 Heather @ Run Eat Play January 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thanks for all the tips! There’s a Rangor Relay in Chicago this summer and it would be so awesome to do!

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7 Erin January 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I did the Madison to Chicago Ragnar in 2011 and it was a blast. There were a few points when I thought “why am I doing this???” but afterward I was so glad I did. Even though I only managed about 90 minutes of sleep the entire time. It’s kind of like a marathon in that you learn what your body is truly capable of! You can read my recap here: http://eri-thon.blogspot.com/2011/06/madison-to-chicago-ragnar-relay-race.html
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8 Holly January 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I think this race sounds amazing and you have motivated me to try to get on a team for the DC Ragnar this September. Thanks for the advice!

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9 Colleen January 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Great breakdown on the basics.
You have your own visa commercial to tell your future kids: “12 sticky runners in 2 vans for 48 hours, 200 miles in Florida’s heat, $361 in registration/transportation/etc, a wedding proposal at the end = priceless”

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10 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife January 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm

That does sound expensive–thanks for breaking it all down! but it does seem like an AWESOME experience :) How fun!

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11 abbi January 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Overall, my Ragnar experience was expensive, but we did it as an ultra and also had to pay in lieu of volunteers. You are right about the disposable toothbrushes! Someone on our team brought those and were wonderful…they may or may not be a picture of me with a toothbrush in one hand and a plastic cup of wine in the other. I did one of the 2 AM shifts, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, my legs seemed to work!
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12 Erin January 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Nice summary! I agree about stopping for food. The one mistake we made was not stopping for “real” meals along the way. Seriously, the cheap cafeteria hamburger I bought at our second major exchange point was the best thing I’d ever eaten after subsisting on Clif bars and bagels all day.

Your comment about the toothbrush made me wonder. I *think* I brushed my teeth once. Maybe.

I do recall that the first time I used a real restroom after using port-a-potties for 24+ hours I almost forgot to flush!
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13 Chelsea January 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I’m definetly going to look into doing my own Ragnar!

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14 Kelley January 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm

After my wedding… Ragnar was probably the best weekend of my life. And I only knew one person on my team. It was AWESOME! I’m already dreaming of the next one I want to do. Here’s my recap of the So Cal Ragnar if anyone is interested: http://kelocity.com/2011/04/17/race-recap-the-socal-ragnar-relay/
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15 Allison January 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Sounds like a totally awesome experience and you’ve sparked my interest! Would be tons of fun to get a group of friends to do it :D

How did y’all choose what segments of the run you’d each do?!
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16 Kathy January 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Another awesome post…and I didn’t feel it was so long..ha!
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17 Whitney @ Whit's Kitchen January 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

We have something sort of similar to Ragnar here in Lexington, KY called the Bourbon Chase. Unfortunately it’s in the fall and it’s almost always cold and rainy. I am looking at your photos and jealous of the warmth and sun you have! It’s totally snowing here right now!
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18 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama January 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Thanks for the info! I’ve been thinking about running a relay here in NH that starts in the mountains and ends up at the beach. Reading your posts about Ragnar has really got me motivated in finding a team.
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19 Army Amy* January 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I never even knew races like this existed! Now I’m really eager to see if there’s one in my area!*
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20 Deva @ Deva by Definition January 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

you are totally going to be in my area in May! I’m running the Flying Pig half and cannot wait! It will be my first long race and I am SO excited.
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21 Heather January 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm

thanks for the tips! so excited for my relay in feb! I appreciate you taking the time to write all this out!
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22 Emily January 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the info.

And I can’t WAIT till May! I am two weeks into my training plan (well, will be after tomorrow’s long run) and I am excited and nervous for my first marathon!
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23 Sloane @ My Life in Florida January 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm

This race looks like so much fun!! Do you think you guys will do it again next year? I wish I would have known about it. I just recently moved to South Florida. Thank you for posting this!!

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24 Robin January 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

I did my first relay in September in NH. I didn’t know one person on my team going into the race and now I have 11 ladies that I look up to and can’t wait to run with again next year. I had a night leg and loved it but my body hated it after. If you ever do a race up here, I highly recommend a sleeping bag, we were freezing at night! Thanks for the recap. My relay I participated in, was one of my favorite races last year and I love reminding myself of it.
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25 Jenna January 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

I also ran Ragnar Key West!!! So glad you enjoyed it! It was my teams 2nd (we did NY last May). It was such an amazing time!!

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26 Jenna January 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I just realized, you guys were “following” my team on Twitter, we were RunShank Redemption!!

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27 Jordan May 14, 2013 at 12:28 am

Thinking of doing a Ragnar Relay soon. This post was super helpful, especially the cost breakdown. I thought it would be a lot more!

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28 Chad September 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I was hooked after my first Ragnar in 2011. Just signed up for #5 as Ultra team captain (again). Having done 4 Ragnar’s (2 regular & 2 Ultra)….if I had to pick one word……EPIC!

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