Ragnar Relay Tennessee- October 2015

This was my first Ragnar and my second multi-leg relay race.  These races are huge and fairly well-organized.  The swag is great.  The camaraderie with the other runners.  The ridiculousness of each person running 3 times in a 24-36 hour period.  It’s amazing and awful and I’ll probably do a bunch more.

The Tennessee race starts in Chattanooga and finishes in Nashville.  I was in the 2nd van (runners 6-12) so I did not get to experience the main start.  But Ragnar had a great expo and start line set up for all of the van 2 runners.  Aside from long lines for everything from gear to port-a-potties, things ran pretty smoothly.

Tennessee is beautiful in October.  The leaves on the trees have changed.  It’s still warm enough to wear shorts but there is a nice breeze going most of the time.  Running over bridges, through million dollar neighborhoods, near parks and farmland.  It really is one of the prettiest runs/drives that I have ever done.  Which is great because the course is tough.

Tennessee is hilly.  There were some steep elevation changes and very tight shoulders on roads with blind corners.  Ragnar rates legs from easy to very hard.  If your leg is rated as easy or moderate don’t trust it.  Some of the legs that were marked as moderate were running straight uphill.  On the other end, legs marked as very hard didn’t seem any tougher than the moderate to hard legs.  Personally, this doesn’t bother me too much.  As long as I know how far I’m running, I don’t really care if my leg is deemed hard or moderate by someone else.  There are a lot of other factors at play beyond the difficulty of the terrain once you’re past your first leg and your first 8 hours in the van.  If you are a person who cares about these sort of things, there are detailed leg maps and descriptions on the web site.

While things ran pretty smoothly for most of the race, there were a few things that could have been done better.  During the last few legs a lot of runners got lost.  There weren’t volunteers along the course and there were long stretches without markers.  The Ragnar volunteers were very helpful if you told them you lost a runner but this could have been prevented with better course markouts.

The finish is in downtown Nashville on a Saturday night.  Traffic is crazy but there were no police officers or volunteers there to assist the runners of the final leg.  When we were driving through downtown to meet our runner at the finish we couldn’t believe how dangerous it was.  By the time the runners are on their final leg they are exhausted and their judgement isn’t the best.  It isn’t ideal for people in this condition to run through the crowded streets of a major city without support.

There is no reserved parking for the race in downtown Nashville.  You will have to find a place to park your 2 vans in order to go to the finish.  Parking will cost $10-$30 per vehicle depending on how far you are willing to walk.  When each team pays $1000+ to run a race, parking should be included.  If Ragnar can’t do this they should have the finish outside of the city so that parking isn’t an issue.  It took our team a while to find a parking space so we did not get to see our runner cross the finish line.

Tips for teams:

Decide ahead of time who is or isn’t driving.  If there are some people who aren’t comfortable driving the van or if the person who rented the van isn’t comfortable with anyone besides them and their sister driving, you should work that out ahead of time.  Also how much each person will owe for gas and van rental and when you expect to receive that money should all be determined before the race.

Embrace your theme and get silly.  Have custom shirts made.  Decorate your van together.  Decide who is bringing what and where you are meeting.  Sometimes the only thing that keeps you sane when you’re taping up your feet and suffering from sleep deprivation is a funny hat and the attention that it will bring.

What is your normal eating schedule?  Do you eat one big meal a day?  Will you be living off granola bars all weekend.  This is a big one because if you think you’re eating three meals a day and your teammates are fine with power bars and gatorade things could get tense.  You have 8-12 hours between legs so even if you and your teammates aren’t in 100% agreement there is plenty of time to accommodate everyone’s needs.  Don’t assume.  Have this discussion ahead of time.

Pick a central location to meet before the race so that van 1 and van 2 people can get to know each other.  Encourage everyone to stay at the same hotel or near each other if they are in the same van.  This will make things easier both before and after the race.  If you are flying into the city don’t assume that your van-mates are going to be okay playing taxi driver.  Ask ahead of time or make arrangements for your own transportation.

Leave your tiara at home.  If you’re used to a full face of make up every morning, a heated toilet seat and a hot bath every night this is going to be a tough weekend for you.  You will be sleeping in the van, in the grass and on the floor of a gym or church.  You will be using port-a-potties for 90% of your bathroom needs.  There will be no less than a dozen people within earshot of the port-a-potties at all times.  If nature calls and there is a long line you will have to squat behind a bush or a large truck or risk missing your leg or wetting yourself.  If you’ve never been camping before this might be tough for you.  But I promise that but after 12 hours of granola bars, gatorade and running you will be forced to adapt.

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