Tuesday, July 14, 2015

GUEST POST: Ragnar Relays – WHAT? - WHY? - HOW?

Today, we have a special treat and my good friend Alexis is guest starring on the Blog today and bringing you some tips all about Ragnar.  She is set to do her 11th Ragnar as an Ultra at the famed North West Passage!  We are linking up this post with Tuesdays on the Run blog link up with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere.  Take it away Alexis!

Thank you to SD Mom for allowing me a voice here! I would like to talk about Ragnar Relays, but first I’ll do my fundraising pitch, since I am a bit long winded and you might not make it to the end of this blog entry. 
I'll be running my 11th Ragnar Relay in the beautiful Northwest Passage area of Washington on July 17th and 18th. Less than a week away! As part of my experience, I'm fundraising for It Ain't Chemo.  Having lost both my dad and my father-in-law to cancer makes this cause near and dear to my heart. 

It Ain't Chemo is a volunteer run organization with no paid employees. They provide support and comfort items (blankets, chemo hats, books, DVD players, DVDs, and toys for children) to patients undergoing chemo. Some of the services they provide are: meals for patients or their families during treatment, rides to get patients to and from their treatments, and gift cards for gas expenses and food.

This year, I am running as part of an awesome all women's ultra team, so I will be running 33 miles in 6 runs over a period of 24-28 hours. No sleep included. It's the least I can do to help support the great work that It Ain't Chemo accomplishes.

So who am I? I’m Alexis and I run. (I also love to take photographs – you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter). I especially like to run Ragnar Relays (10 and counting.) What is a Ragnar Relay, you might ask? The short answer? It’s a crazy, non-stop, sleepless party in a van while running 200 miles with 11 running friends.  Or, as mentioned above, you run with only 6 total people in one van and call yourself an Ultra team. That way you can run a total of 35ish miles over 6 runs and have absolutely no time for sleep. (That’s what I’ll be doing on July 17th and 18th! Yikes.)

Team Dragnar – Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage - 2014
Why do people do this? Well, I can only speak for myself, and I do it because it’s CRAZY, STUPID FUN! And you run on a TEAM. Nothing compares to running your hardest and leaving it all out there for your TEAM. I love it. I’ve run with my best running friends and I’ve run with total strangers. Both experiences have been amazing and unforgettable. You forge new bonds and strengthen friendships. I have met people at one race only to race with them again at other races. 

Team Invictus Endurance - Ragnar Relay SoCal – 2013

Team Fox in Socks – Ragnar Relay SoCal - 2015
These races are also physically challenging. I love to PUSH myself and see what I can do. It’s not easy to run three times in a day (or 6 times) and figure out food and nutrition, not to mention stretching and rolling and keeping your body ready for the next run. Plus the sleep deprivation factor makes running an extra challenge.

Wasatch Back – 2015      

Las Vegas – 2014         

SoCal – 2015                              
Ragnar Relays also give me an opportunity to TRAVEL – to have a RUNCATION! I love going to new places, seeing new things, meeting new friends, and running new roads and trails.

Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage – 2014       

Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back - 2015
There have been other blogs about what to pack for a Ragnar Relay. See here. Or what to expect for a first timer. See here
So I’d like to share a few of the random things that I have learned.
EAT REAL FOOD – This is very important. You cannot survive on gels and bars alone for 30 hours. Your tummy will rebel against you. Know what your body needs for fuel before, during, and after runs and know when to eat it. This is individual. I know that I can eat a hard-boiled egg, a sweet potato waffle, and some turkey or ham about 2 hours before I run. Or a banana with almond butter about 1 hour before I run. After, I like to eat cherries and jerky. And some potato chips. Bring a cooler in the van. Stock it with good food. It is also possible, depending on the race, to stop for a real meal at a restaurant when your van is not running. (And McDonalds is not a real restaurant, in my opinion.)  

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE – This is also about replenishing your body with hydration that you know works for you. I use Skratch Labs hydration.   It is made with no junk ingredients (only real fruit and no artificial colors or preservatives) and has the right combination of electrolytes. It does not upset my stomach. You must hydrate during these races. It can get hot and you have to run and run and then run again!

CHEER, BE LOUD, and SUPPORTIVE – You are part of a team. Teammates who are not running should meet runners at the exchange, cheer them on, bring water and snacks, or a blanket. Stop along the route (where advisable) and cheer. Cheer for other teams too!  Cheer for the guy running in a Speedo or the girl dressed as Wonder Woman. Cheer for the runner going uphill, during the heat of the day. It makes a difference for them.

DRESS UP – That means get a theme for your team. Get shirts made. Decorate the vans. Anything goes. The crazier you look, the more fun you will have. Walking into the local market to get more water and bananas is more fun dressed in drag. And then try to explain the feathers in the van to the rental agency!

LOGISTICS – VEHICLES – The best vehicles are 12 or 15 passenger vans. I have done Ragnar Relays with vans, large SUVs (Tahoes and the like) and in small SUVs (Forerunners and similar.) Vans offer the most space for you and your gear, especially when you travel further away. Large SUVs are good, and even better when combined with a trailer hitch attachment to carry the coolers. I do not recommend small SUVs, unless you really like who you are running with and enjoy constantly moving bags around to get gear and food.

LOGISTICS – LODGING – If you are running locally, you do not really need a place to stay. You can often get up early enough to get to the start line and then go home after the race. That being said, it’s nice to be able to go to a real house with showers and couches and even just a carpeted floor. You will be able to relax when your van is not running. If you are traveling far away from home, think of renting a house for the team along the route. That way you can stay there before, during, and after. You can end up saving a lot for a team of 12. Hotels get expensive. Plus – you can get a house with a pool or a hot tub.

ENJOY – STUFF HAPPENS – No matter how much you plan. No matter how organized you think your gear may be. Something always happens. The course will change. A teammate will get sick and can’t make it. Someone will get lost. Go with the flow. Be a team player. Smile and enjoy. Enjoy the craziness. Enjoy the camaraderie. Enjoy the sleeplessness. ENJOY! And RUN!

GIVE THANKS – Give thanks to all of the volunteers on the course. They came out in the middle of the night so that you could run. And don’t forget to thank all of your supporters out there that let you do this crazy stuff. If it wasn’t for my husband and my mom and my friends and even my flexible job; I wouldn’t be able to train and travel and run these amazing races.

Eat, drink, be merry, and RUN

Instagram and Twitter @runlxsrun
SD Mom: Hope you loved reading about all of Alexis' adventures with Ragnar and if your heart leads you to donate to her cause, AWESOME!


  1. I'm doing my second Ragnar in October - these are great tips!

    1. Glad you enjoyed them! I haven't run Colorado and would love to. Have fun!

  2. Ragnar has been a dream race of mine for years! I really hope that I can participate at some point because it looks like so much fun with such scenic routes!

    1. I know right? The pictures make it so tempting!

    2. Do it! Have fun! They are the best experience :-)

  3. Thanks for the tips! I'm running my first Ragnar in a month and I'm so excited but also super nervous because I don't know anyone on the team! This definitely helped me feel better though.

    1. Yes! Alexis has done a few pf the Relays with strangers and says she cherished the expetrience!

  4. Wow 11 Ragnars! You are totally bad ass. I love Ragnars and have done 2 looking for my next one. They are addictive

    1. I've met people who have done 20 Ragnars! They are fun and addictive for the thrill ;-)

  5. Wow! More power to you. That is truly impressive. I always thought I'd like to do a Ragnar relay race. But just the "regular one" :)

  6. Ragnars are so impressive! I'd love to try one one day, but the hardest part so far is deciding which one to start with!