Ragnar Wasatch Back is this week! I’m feeling alternatively ready and not ready. Between the cold that knocked me out for ten days at the end of May, various kid- and husband-related things that messed with my schedule, and my vacation, I haven’t put in as many miles as I perhaps should have. I did run every day on my trip, but all but one of the runs was on sand. I’ve been really sore after the runs I’ve done at home, readjusting to hitting the actual pavement.
Plus I need new shoes, and I’ve decided that the blister-risk from my old ones is less than the blister-and-these-aren’t-quite-right risk of new ones.
And I haven’t found anything cute to wear.
That last one is weighing on me. It’s probably silly. But I like to wear something new at a race. And I’ve looked everywhere, at all my usual shopping spots, but I’ve got nothing. Probably this is the universe telling me to buck up and wear something I already own. It just feels a little bit sad.
I’ve been meaning to put together a list of things that are good to bring to a relay race like Ragnar. A checklist of stuff you won’t find in the race bible, but things I’ve been glad I had. Or wished I had!
- A blanket. I’m putting this on the top because it might just be the most important thing. The first time I ran Ragnar I thought, I have my sleeping bag, that’s all I’ll need. And I did use it when we slept for a few hours at one of the exchanges. But during the random times I wanted to get some sleep in the van, it was harder to fall asleep without a blanket. Plus, when you are getting in and out of the van for the night legs, it’s nice to have to throw around yourself.
- Three different sets of running clothes. Even sports bra and undies. Nay—especially running bra. To me, there’s nothing more miserable than sitting around in a sweat-damp sports bra. It invariably gives me the shivers, even if I’m standing outside in the sun. Plus it just starts to feel…icky. It is amazing how much cleaner you feel just putting on clean, dry clothes.
- Something salty to snack on. I’m sort of picky about what I eat at Ragnar (also, when I eat…I stop putting anything but water into my body three hours before my next run, and then I stop drinking two hours before; this helps me to avoid honey bucket stops when I’m running, as well as an unhappy belly) because I don’t want to get an upset stomach. I bring nuts, protein bars and shakes, and something chocolate. The first year, that was all I brought. But I’ve learned you need some salt. So: cheese slices. Cheezit crackers. Deli meat.
- The closest thing you can get to your usual post-run meal. When I finish running, I make myself a protein shake with frozen fruit, milk, protein powder, and a dash of orange juice. (The OJ is essential! It cuts in the sweetness of the fruit and balances the flavor of the protein powder, which to me is sometimes overwhelming.) As I can’t pack my Blendtek in the Ragnar van, instead I just buy some Muscle Milk protein shakes. My body expects that boost of protein after working hard, and especially knowing that I’m going to make it work hard again really, really soon, I make sure it gets it.
- A finish-line snack. This is especially important if you are runner 11, because you’ll finish your last leg and then go to the finish line. Where you’ll wait for your last runner. Where you’ll be pretty exhausted. Despite whatever fuel I take in during that last run, my blood sugar is always low, and I’ve always felt like crap at the finish line. This year I’m going to make sure I have something to keep snacking on while we are waiting, in the hope that I don’t feel shaky and nauseous and dizzy.
- Running fuel. I like Cliff Bloks. You will get some sort of running fuel in your goodie bag; the past two Ragnars, they’ve included some Double Expresso Clif Shots. Those happen to be the only Shots I can stomach (because they taste and feel more like caramel, whereas the others feel like fruit-flavored snot to me), so I felt lucky! But don’t count on the goodie bag. Bring what you usually use, and then use them. You’ll be asking a lot of your body. Give it something back. Eat early in your run and eat often.
- Flip flops or some other non-running-shoe shoes. Between each leg, I like to give my sweaty shoes a chance to dry out and my feet to breathe. Plus, if you have flip flops on, you can be barefoot in the van and then just slip them on when you go out to swap runners.
- A headband. Or two. Or even three. You’ll likely be running in the heat, and the best thing I’ve found to cool myself off is the wet headband. At every water table, I grab two waters, one for me to drink, the other to douse my headband in. Ahhh!
- Comfy clothes. Especially after your night run, it is so nice to slip into something comfortable and loose. Bring a jacket and sweats—or a long, stretchy skirt. I know, a skirt at a race? But it gives you a surprising lift to feel a little bit pretty, even when you’re stinky and have that crusty residue of sweat everywhere.
- First aid stuff. Take it from me: do not rely on the first aid tent. (I’m still annoyed at how rude, condescending, and careless the medic was at the first aid tent I went to after my fall last year. Aside from the fact that he pushed my no-one-calls-me-a-wimp buttons, he did not clean out my wounds like he should have, and by the time I got to a different tent with actual kind people in it, they couldn’t get all of the dirt out, so my scars are extra-ugly.) Bring bandages, neo, gauze, medical tape, and athletic tape. An entire roll of athletic tape, just in case. The first aid tents sometimes run out of stuff.
Have you run a relay race before? What do you bring that you couldn’t live without?