Monday, February 21, 2011

RAGNAR intrigue

I have to admit, I've always enjoyed watching relay races.

I don't know if it's the teamwork, the camaraderie, or the logistics of the hand-off, but relays have a certain drama to them that makes them absolutely riveting. On my high school track & field team, the 4x400 meter relay was usually the last event of the day, and also the one that drew the largest audience.

I've always wanted to do a relay of some sort. Alas, while in track & field, my skills lent themselves to the throwing ring. Likewise, rowing -- my main physical activity in college -- isn't exactly a sport known for relay races. (I would guess the hand-off sequence in a rowing relay would probably involve a lot of near-boat crashes)

I've been in my fair share of road races and triathlons, but none involved doing any sort of relay. It's not that I don't have an interest in doing a relay (obviously). I've just found it to be less hassle to worry about my own workouts instead of trying to coordinate with other people. Anyone who has ever done a group project in class knows what it's like to have lagging members who don't contribute.

However, zero contribution -- and for that matter, racing solo -- isn't an option for something like RAGNAR Relays.

RAGNAR is a nationwide series of relay races featuring distances of roughly 200 miles. The Minnesota version of it is a 24-hour, 192-mile race from Winona to St. Paul that will take place August 19-20. Relay teams can be of either six or 12 people, with each person required to run three "legs" of the race. For the 12-person team, distances for each leg range from 3-8 miles, with teammates swapping in and out of vans throughout the day.

I first heard about RAGNAR a couple of years ago when I talked to a friend who ran it and described it as being like "a slumber party without sleep ... or showers." Needless to say, I was interested almost immediately.

Since I've raced just about every distance I would want to do on my own (I have no interest in ultramarathons ... at least not yet), I have made it my goal to compete in RAGNAR this year. At this point, I'm looking for more of a unique experience than a personal best racing time. RAGNAR seems like the kind of race that would be challenging, but at the same time a lot of fun because it's a shared experience that a group can look back on fondly as something they achieved together.

Of course, competing in RAGNAR is a very different goal than, say, running Grandma's Marathon. For one thing, I need to train for doing several small runs in a day rather than one long run. Another issue: I need to find 11 other people to run with. In my experience, unless it involves free money or food, 11 people is never an easy amount to round up.

I plan on setting up a relay team in two ways: gauging interest from friends, and using the RAGNAR website's team finder feature to make my presence known to other runners. My hope is to have a team set up by the early deadline in May and worry about the training aspects of the race over the summer.

In the meantime, if readers have any advice to give me about RAGNAR (i.e. training ideas, van rentals, stuff to bring, good hotels in Winona and St. Paul, etc.), it would be greatly appreciated.

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