I’ve dreamed of running a Reach the Beach for years, literally years! Even after reading several recaps of Ragnar races, I really didn’t know what to expect. While it was just as fun as I had hoped, a lot of thing suprised me! Like how much time you have between runs, and how fast it goes. Like how much comradery it creates, completely exemplified when you wait for your last runner to cross the finish as a team. While I will recap later, here are a few, okay more than a few things, I learned as an RTB Virgin and will take with me for the next time.
Three Things I Didn’t Expect at RTB
The Speed! I consider myself an average runner and I consider most of my teammates FAST runners, however, we finished pretty far down the list, okay 18th from last! I had no idea that most RTBers are such fast runners and pretty experienced. I thought it was all fun and games, and while it is fun and friendly, I wasn’t mentally prepared to be one of the slowest teams. It was a little disappointing, but mainly because I wasn’t expecting it. I still had a BLAST.
The Costumes and Team Themes I didn’t realize most teams would decorate their vans! Seeing all the different vans was awesome, there was some funny things on those vehicles! Plus people use mini lights and blow ups to add to the festivity. The best part about the team themes was being able to identify vans at the different transition areas. It was almost like you got to know them. Costumes weren’t too big in this relay, which was fine with me. But they are fun too. If I do this again, I’ll know to pick a theme that you can do a lot with! You’ll see lots of van pics in my next few posts.
What a Difference Your Van Order Makes: There is actually two things that I didn’t realize about the vans. The first was that you only really hang with your van. We saw van 2 a few times, but not for more than a few minutes until the finish. I loved my van and we had a great time. It was great getting to know people I hadn’t met before and our personalities and love of van dancing were totally in sync. I was really happy I was in van one because we got to start right away, ran at relatively normal hours, no 2 or 3 AM runs and finished first, so we could relax at the beach. While van two also had a blast, they did have it tougher physically.
Top 5 for RTB Planning:
These are things I didn’t think of, not things that are pretty obviously, like bring running shoes and three race outfits.
1.) When picking your legs, look at the elevation, not just the distance and rating level. RTBs leg descriptions are really just the distance and whether it’s easy, moderate or hard. These terms are very subjective, and turned out to be a little off in many of our opinions. It was silly, but I didn’t look at elevation until I saw the course map in the car, the elevation change in the course was what really determined the level of difficulty. My first leg was definitely the hardest because the elevation changed almost 300 feet, even though it was half downhill, the 2.1 miles uphill killed me! Since all my legs were relatively short, I was fine, but had I had a long last leg, the elevation would have made a big difference. As I mentioned about legs 1-6 are at more normal times.
2.) Read the Race Handbook Early. There is a lot of information that will help you prepare in advance and not be scrambling at the end to find blinking lights, headlamps and places to put your earbuds since you can’t put them in your ear. I actually used a mini binder clip to pin them to my shoulder strap. Even acronyms were useful to know, for example: TA, transition area (for transition between runners) and VTA (vehicle transition area). I also learned, and was shocked that, teams could have as few as 4 people! Ultra teams were 4-6 and regular teams were 8-12! Some people ran over 40 miles!Our handbook was 48 pages, so there are bound to be a few things that you might not think of yourself!
3.) Consider a Driver: Our drivers made our trip! They were so much fun that I couldn’t have imagined our experience without them. But besides being kickass people, they gave us a little break between legs. Driving a 12 passenger van is actually a pretty formidable task and when you are nervous, a little carsick and exhausted, driving is another element to throw on. I think having a driver made me much more comfortable in our safety and allowed us to better support each other as runners. Some people think that driving yourself is part of the experience, but I was fine missing that part–and not just because my lisence is expired.
4.) Pack Warm Clothes. During our downtime and at night, I really didn’t have too many warm options. Once my two hoodies were wet or sweaty, I was pretty much out of luck for sleeping for the second two nights. It got colder than I expected and a pair of sweatpants would have been clutch!
5.) Buy Lots of Purrell and Baby Wipes: You’ll want these always on hand. While none of my portapotties ran out of paper, many ran out of sanitizer.
RTB Things to Know: Van Life, Eating, Keeping Body and Soul Together.
Don’t Fear the Dark: I was really worried about the night running. I was afraid of being alone, disoriented, and lost, but my night run was actually my favorite. What I didn’t realize was that your van doesn’t leave your side for more than a mile. In fact, most teams hopscotch, so they let you run half a mile, pass you (cheer a bit) drive another half mile and stop to see you. They continue this pattern for the whole night portion so you know you see them at least every 5 minutes!
While there were a couple points were it was so dark that I couldn’t see for a a minute, the headlight and blinking lights were enough to help me see the signs and keep me on course. The dark helped me focus and my body turned into a machine on a mission to complete the path to the finish. Night was actually pretty exhilarating.
Don’t Worry About Getting Lost:
The course has arrows all over it, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. Occasionally, I wasn’t 100% sure exactly where to go for a second, but it was 95% of the course perfectly clear. Plus, you never go too long without seeing another van, your van or another runner, so you won’t run for miles without realizing your mistake if you do step off course.
Bring More Water than You Think You Need
This isn’t a normal race with water stations every mile. We went through 24 water bottles in the first six hours. If I had longer legs, a fuelbelt or camelbak would have been great. There was NO SHADE on our course and it was HOT! I definitely got a little dehydrated and should have had a water bottle ready for the end of each leg. Water is at least as important as food, and personally, when I am dehydrated, I tend to eat instead or drink.
Plan Your Food
There was far more eating than running and while I love eating, sometimes my choices weren’t the best. While we had plenty of snacks and a wide variety of options, running in heat, being in a car for 36 hours and not sleeping takes a toll on the tummy. Most of us felt a little stomach pain at one point or another. I think I should have actually planned a few options for between meals in the van, so I wasn’t randomly grabbing what I thought would taste good and was more eating for fuel and tummy comfort. You can see my list of food eaten at the end, clearly I was missing veggies for almost 72 hours. In the moment, I just wanted carbs, but I think I would have felt even more awesome by the end if I had veggie juice, more fruit, whole wheat options and some nuts for protein. Maybe even some prepared veggie grain dishes! If I had been a little more intentionally, my choices might have been better.
Don’t Fear the Running
I say this as someone who had pretty mild legs, 5.98, 5.67 and 2.7, but everyone managed the running just fine. I was really scared about being exhausted the last leg and too sore to run, which is why I picked a super short final leg. You are sore the last leg, but it’s managable for sure. Running three times was actually easier than running them all at once because you have SO MUCH rest in between–4-6 hours. It’s not that much more than your normal running routine.
Keep Your **it Together
I am definitely kind of disaster in my regular life, but keeping my stuff organized in the van was virtually impossible. I was always looking for stuff or trying to access things that were under seats I couldn’t reach. I tried to keep my stuff in one area of the van, but I moved so much that it was futile. Next time, I will have an extra bag that I can keep things I need all the time in, like my phone, that doesn’t take up too much room so I don’t have to shove it under the seat. My duffel and backpack were so big that it was a pain to dig through them and pull them in and out from under the seat. Honestly, I don’t know exactly how I would organize better, but I will figure it out before I do it again. I spent more time looking for things and losing things than I did running.
Life In The Van, You Can Sleep Later
I was worried about the no sleep thing, but I had nothing to worry about. I only slept for 15 minutes from the time our van started to the time our van finished. Adrenaline is so high that you really don’t even feel that tired. It hits once your legs are all over, but by then, it’s okay. I was in good spirits and high energy the whole time, even with no sleep.When you are in the van, you are cheering everyone on, super excited for them, eating, nervous about your run, running, charing your phone, cheering for your van mates,taking pictures, meeting the other van to hand off, finding food, cleaning out the van, changing for the next leg, dancing to Call Me Maybe (this is actually a leg in itself) and starting the process over again times three. Life in the van is busy,busier than I expected, the downtime is actually fairly action packed, so you won’t get bored. All the stimulation kept me from feeling the tired until the race was over. Then I could sleep.
There are so many more things I could talk about, but I am sure you’ve had enough! It was like nothing I had ever done. There were so many things I was nervous about, but really enjoyed the entire experience!
What does one eat when they are up for 40 hours straight and running at all hours of the day and night? Here’s a look at my food intake over the three day period!
RTB Eats: The Fourth Leg
PB and J sandwich
veggie wrap+ half an oatmeal raisin cookie
3 bites mac and cheese
1/2 veggie burger and fries
a bite of scrambled eggs
oj small glass
Before First Leg
1/2 cherry fig 16 rabbits bar
a few pb pretzels
white chocolate chip cranberry cookie
handful bunny chow
hummus and pita
half a chicken parm sandwich with fries
Breakfast and snacks before first run
2 kasha tlc bars honey almond
brown rice cake with pb
boloco veggie bowl with lettuce brown rice broccoli cheese guar sour cream mango salsa, regular salsa and hot sauce with a few food should feel good multigrain chips
1/2 naked orange carrot juice
3 swedish fish
Very late dinner
1/2 a large grilled chicken sandwich with fries
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