(All photos courtesy of Heather Gardner/Tribe Fitness)
Ragnar is, like, so hot right now. It’s not just a race. It’s an adventure and an experience that builds (and perhaps also tests) friendships and stretches boundaries.
A group of 12 women ranging three decades in age got together for their first Ragnar recently, putting in a combined 300+ km over 24 hours from Coburg to Niagara and managing to rank as the top all women’s team. Some had known each other for years as members of Toronto run crew Tribe Fitness, while some only made acquaintance as the race began.
For those aspiring to their first Ragnar, the group shares the following lessons.
Don’t think too much…
If your first thought is how difficult it’s going to be to run long distances on little sleep while sharing a van with sweaty and cranky runners, you may not be inclined to hop on board. Instead, Andrea Salin advises, “You never know when or if the opportunity will come again so you need to just jump in then maybe freak out a bit later.”
Recruit those who owe you a favour…
While many Ragnar teams just rotate drivers between then, Anna Kobb says, “…having a designated driver was really nice. In the case of the ‘A team’ van, that driver was my husband, who took a break from driving to run with me for the night leg and to run the final leg with me. I absolutely could not have kept up the intense effort, grinding it out up to Niagara Falls without him.”
Know your strengths…
Team member Damara Nickerson says, “We all have different strengths and interests when it comes to running, so were able to split up the different legs to suit our abilities and preferences. We had so much more fun cheering each other on, knowing we were each playing to our strengths.”
And your weaknesses…
You may love the people you’ll be running with, but you’ve never spent days with them in a van. Kat Peterson says to voice your concerns and needs before your driver turns the key. Kat says, “If you know you’re going to need a nap between midnight and three or you’ll get cranky, tell your van. If you know you need to eat pizza after each leg, tell your van. If you know you can’t stand the smell of pizza in a van, suggest you make a pizza stop instead of getting take out.”
Don’t walk around acting like your sweat don’t stink…
Kat adds that no one likes a smelly runner, so change your damn clothes. This will also prevent you from learning what Angela Valdes did the hard way. “I would definitely pack more non-running clothes and bring a warm sleeping bag! We spent a few hours after our nighttime legs trying to get some sleep on the cold cement floor of the Burlington Central Arena. All I had was a bunch of sweaty clothes to lay on the ground,” Angela recalls with horror. Teammate Alyssa Cheung adds that, “…sitting in a cramped van after running is so much comfier in sweatpants and sandals.”
Running during the night and day is…night and day…
Alyssa remembers her latest leg at 1:30 a.m., finding herself, “…getting startled by my own shadow, footsteps and rustling of the leaves. I think I ran faster than I usually would because I didn’t want to find out the boogeyman was real and living in Oakville.”*
Teammate Kim Bergerson says she, “…just felt completely depleted the whole time. Add to this a wall of wind of 30km/h and you’ve got one hell of a race.” The experience reminded Kim how vital the mental game is in running and that, “The body will go where the mind goes, and knowing that Heather was waiting for me at the finish line just kept me going!”
You might actually enjoy it…
Despite the fatigue, cramped conditions, and vans reeking of pizza, it’s pretty unanimous that the experience made for closer, stronger friendships that will likely last beyond the Ragnar van. Amber Renton admits she was a bit nervous, but in the end, “…had so much fun I’m pretty sure I drove my family crazy talking about it for weeks afterwards. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I’m fortunate for the new friendships I’ve gained!”
Courtney Lundrigan, who put out the initial call on Twitter to form a team, says that despite the challenges of planning this race while still dealing with life’s other obligations, “Ragnar made me fall in love with running all over again, and I have such a renewed love for my running community. “
Kim Agostino found herself amazed at, “…the transformation of our small group of extremely different women, some meeting for the first time, into the supportive, determined and encouraging team we became.”
The team effort and moral support always evens to bring individual runners to their best. As the group came together to complete the final 200 meters together, Allison MIceli felt the moment summarizes, “The vulnerability, grit, determination, emotion, ambition and sheer commitment from each and every one of them allowed us to all give this 110% on the course, along with tirelessly supporting one another when we were not running.”
*It has not been confirmed whether or not the boogeyman lives in Oakville.
For bonus reading, check out team member Heather Gardner’s blog 5 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE MY FIRST RAGNAR RELAY