Sleep is overrated. This is something you learn in Ragnar Relays. You can actually get by and run on a lot less sleep than you think. You can also run on adrenaline for a long time when needed. It is very difficult to get more than an hour of consistent sleep during a Ragnar Relay and it is best to do a little planning and preparation for sleeping prior to the race. There are usually designated sleep spots at major exchanges. These can be the best option for most people. Others pay for hotel rooms and sleep in actual beds. I have gone the hotel route and while it was comfortable, it didn’t seem worth it for 3 hours when you could have more time if you didn’t waste time driving to and from the hotel.
Next option is sleeping at the designated major exchanges. Ragnar has a strict rule about not sleeping in the parking lots unless in the van. This is for safety so you do not get run over by other tired drivers. I have seen people almost run over. They usually provide an area that is grass, field, or inside where they prefer people to sleep. I have tried multiple ways to sleep and still haven’t found the perfect option. I have tried hammock (sometimes hard to find a place to hang), blow up mattress or pool floaty (takes time to blow up), inflatable hammock (good but once again have to inflate), sleeping bag on a tarp (not as comfy but totally doable), and in the van (can get crowded). Each way has pros and cons and it’s really up to you for your own comfort.
During the sleeping portion, it is really important to set a couple alarms and to be in contact with the other van so you know when you need to be ready to run next. Last thing you want to do is search all over a field for your other runners in the dark.
Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition is an important part of any race training and race day. With a 24-32 hour race, nutrition becomes even more important to plan for. During a Ragnar relay you are going to have to plan out food and snacks. It is important to know your body ahead of time and how long before your run you should eat food. I personally like to eat a few hours before a run to give my body time to digest the food. I also like to eat pretty soon after I run. Taking this into account I look at approximately when I am scheduled to run and then decide what time I need to eat. Then I make sure I have something for after I finish to eat. We usually plan to eat a “real meal” while the other van is running their legs. This gives us time to use a real bathroom and sit for a while.
We try to bring snacks in the van to give us something to eat while we are driving and running. Our go to snacks are usually peanut butter pretzels, fruit, nuts, fruit snacks, and red vines. You should know what your body can function on and plan for those snacks. Some teams do a Costco run before the race and stock up for the whole team while other teams rely on individual members to provide their own snacks.
It is also important to know if you will need nutrition during your legs and how much you will need. This is an individual preference. It is important to run that distance prior to the race so you know what you will need. Personally anything over 4 miles I eat during my run. So any Ragnar leg that is longer than 4 miles I bring some form of nutrition (I prefer fruit snacks or gu chomps).
Hydration is another very important factor in a Ragnar Relay. We usually buy a few huge jugs of water for each van that way each person can fill their individual water bottle. We also grab a few pounds of ice to keep everything cold. It is important to remember to drink water throughout the whole race. Like nutrition you should know if you will need water on your leg. When it is hot, it is a good idea to bring water even on shorter legs. As your body is running on little sleep and odd eating schedule, hydrating is very important especially in the heat. I have a hydration pack for longer runs and a hand held for shorter runs. I suggest bringing some form of electrolyte replacement as well. If it is hot than I will bring in during my runs as well. Otherwise I drink it after each leg to help my body recover. (I prefer nuun as my electrolyte). Remember you will be running on tired legs later so do everything you can to recover from each run.
Safety during any race is very important. Before starting your Ragnar Relay you have to watch their safety video. It is super cheesy but good information. Ragnar requires runners to wear a reflective vest, front facing light, and rear blinking light during all night time hours usually 630pm-630amish. It is important to look at your night legs and see if it will be in a rural area. In these area it is important to have bright headlamp so you can see where you are running.
It is important to be seen as many times you will be running on the side of the road or in sketchy areas. Brighter colors, extra lights, and reflective gear are always helpful at night. Make sure to keep your eyes open for anything that could be dangerous. If you feel weird running through a park in the dark, bring some pepper spray or have someone run with you. Better to be safe than have a problem!
During the day make sure you are always looking where you are going and look out for cars. Do not cross the road when the light is red, it’s not worth it. I have seen so many people almost get hit when running across the street during Ragnars.