This past weekend, I finished my third year of Ragnar Relay, Cape Cod. We run from Hull to P-Town, just shy of 190 miles as a team of 12.
6 people per van, 2 vans per team. You go from person 1 to person 12, three times – and by the end, you’ll have run three times and anything from 15 to 25 (or more!) miles.
You start Friday morning, you finish Saturday afternoon – and yes, you run all night.
This isn’t my review of the 2017 Cape Cod Ragnar. You can find that here. This is my thoughts, feelings and guidance from several Ragnarians on how to best enjoy and experience Ragnar – especially if this is your first time as a team captain.
Because it is entirely possible to do it all wrong – and that will ruin your experience.
There are three things that will make, or break, your first Ragnar Experience.
- Your ability.
- Your attitude.
- Your team captain (or if thats you, how you act as team captain).
Lets start out with the LEAST important one. Ability. Ragnar Relay is a running race, so you should be capable of running – however, it’s not necessarily competitive, so it doesn’t particularly matter how fast you run. What is important though, is that you are aware and honest about how fast you run. Ragnar will base your team start on the average running pace of the team, and your team mates will base their arrival at your exchanges on how fast they expect you to complete the leg. So if you run 11min/miles, put your time down as such – rather than pretending you are quicker, or getting in your own head and claiming you suck and run slower. Also, a team full of power walkers needs to know and prepare for a longer time on the course, than a team of hyper fast, competitive athletes. Be honest with yourself and your team.
Lets move onto the most important – your attitude. Because this, and this alone is what will ruin your experience. You are going to be running three times. You are going to be hot and sweaty. You will not sleep much (or at all) and you will be in a van – potentially a small cramped minivan. How do you react to that situation? If you react poorly to stress, you should be aware. Do you get grumpy when you’re sleepy? Let people around you know. Do you get confrontational with people under duress? Skip Ragnar all together! Ideally, you want to be relaxed, roll with the punches, enjoy the experience.
Team Captain is the toughest job of the lot. It starts well before the race weekend, ensuring everyone is on the same page, assigning legs, dropping and adding runners to your teams roster and communicating like it’s your job (hint: it is!). Then, on race weekend you have two vans and 11 other tired, stressed, sweaty runners to keep moving and motivating and on track. How you communicate with your team, or how you communicate with your captain will change your entire experience. Remember that there WILL be drama along the way, and you can respond to it well, or you can let it get to you and ruin your weekend. People will run late. There will be traffic. People won’t sleep. Someone will get an injury. There will be challenges.
For Ragnar 2017, we had 8 teams made up primarily of New England Spahtens and our friends. From a really competitive and fast mens team, to an experienced team of NES Ninja’s to several totally new teams, and new team captains. I asked them to give me their guidance – what lessons did they learn this year?
“If your runner doesn’t care to carry a cell phone while running, they should at least have the phone number for someone in their van on their person to call with any issues.” – Jessica Wohlen, Team NES Ninja’s
Jess is one of the most experienced Ragnar captains out there, and our team gelled well. Even so, we found ourselves losing 20 minutes when a sign wasn’t in place and we went to the wrong exchange. Our runner didn’t carry a phone, or have anyones numbers – and ultimately, shit happens. We backtracked, got our next runner out, and moved on with no drama.
“Leave your sh*tty attitude outside of the van in Hull somewhere.” – Sara Norman, Team Shut Up And Run
Wether it’s because of lack of sleep, or things not going “right”, or the weather, or injuries – so many things can work against you and bring out the worst side of people’s personalities. Always remember to take a deep breath, think before you speak and trust your captain! They want the same thing you do, and they generally have a plan to follow.
“Communication is key. I asked for a volunteer van captain and kept in a text communication all race. Every time a runner came in and out the Time was texted to me and we kept up the Google time doc. Checking in with the other van captain helped them feel supported too.” – Shaina Brooks, Team Wicked Unicorn Snack Masters
Communicate, communicate, communicate. About everything – how you feel, how fast you are, what you need – between vans you should communicate start and finish times of every leg, pacing, injuries, problems – the road to a bad experience is paved with the lack of communication!
“Be honest with team. We have had some replacements over the years and as long as you let everyone know where you are it’s fine. Don’t tell everyone your fine when your not and don’t fudge your pace.” – Scott Sweeney, NES Mens Team
Scott has captained the very successful, *very* competitive (and damned fast!) Mens team for four years, and the key – communication! If he can keep those guys pointing in the right direction, and on track – listen to his advice and be honest about your pace, your injuries and anything else going on, and trust that your captain will keep things moving along.
“When the captain posts ALL of the Ragnar documents and updates and details and advises you that you need to participate in the group chats, none of it is an option.” Margaret Hatch, Team Loch NES Monsters
You are ALL there for the same reasons. Know your legs. Know your timing. Know the rules and safety regulations. Read the race bible and talk to your captain if you have questions. Ragnar HQ do an amazing job bringing info down to team captains, so they will probably have the answers for you! We always have a Facebook Group for our whole team, and group txt chats for each van – with a Captain in one, and a co-captain in the other – it’s a solid way to stay in touch!
“Don’t over pack. Holy Christ the amount of things that came into my van that I said we wouldn’t need…” – Niki Leonard, Team OCR Rehab
It doesn’t matter how much you think you need, you don’t. I packed light, and still overpacked. The van has limited space and when you’re “that guy/gal” with FAR TOO MUCH stuff, it’s a pain for everyone, and you’ll never find all your stuff.
“Learn about your team. Get to know their personalities and quirks. That is a huge factor in grouping together the vans.” – Nicole Elizabeth, Team Worst Pace Scenario
How your van “gels” will make or break your experience – find your people, find your tribe!
Lets wrap this up with the best advice of all. Your own attitude will make or break your experience, and as a Captain you have to handle everyone else’s attitudes. Check a bad attitude at the start line, relax and go with the flow.
Do you have advice from your Ragnar experience? Want to leave your own review? Our Community Reviews are right here