Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ready for Ragnar: A different kind of preparation

Preparation for road races is usually pretty straightforward.

You get your training runs in, carb up with pasta and get a good night's rest before the big day. Items to bring for the race are also simple: shorts, running shoes, socks and a favorite running shirt for the basics; mp3 player, energy bars and Vaseline if you're feeling ambitious.

I still get nervous before races from time to time, particularly if it's a challenging distance or a type of race I've never done before. But for the most part, the preparation aspect of it is second nature to me. After running in a decent variety of them, I know what to expect on race day and I know how to prepare for it.

Well, at least I USUALLY know what to expect. Ragnar Relays, which kicks off its Minnesota race tomorrow morning, is the exception to that predictability. 

As mentioned in previous post, I'll be running in a relay team that I was directed to through a coworker. I know what time we're leaving for Winona, which legs of the relay I'll be running, which van I'm in and roughly what times I'll be running at thanks to a handy spreadsheet put together by our team captain. Thanks to a checklist on the Ragnar's website, I also know what kind of equipment to bring (never had to pack reflective vests and head lamps for a race before).

Beyond that, I really don't know what's going to happen. To be honest, aside from my first marathon, this is probably the most nervous I've been before a race.

Strangely enough, the nervousness has nothing to do with the actual running. I feel like I'm pretty well prepared for my relay legs. I haven't logged the same kind of training miles I've done in the past, but I've been in a pretty consistent running routine for about  2 months now, averaging 20-25 miles a week, doing a lot of hill workouts and getting in weekly long runs of 7-9 miles.

No, most of my anxiousness is rooted in the non-running aspects of Ragnar. I've never done a relay race of any kind before, so I'm curious to see how the exchange point works between two legs of the relay. Is it like the hand off of a relay run for track? Is there a specific point where the hand off needs to be made? 

I've also never been in a race that requires me to run on multiple occasions, so it'll be interesting to see what myself and other people on the team do with their down time between the runs. Since the race is about 36 hours long, I assume we'll be sleeping at some point, but when? And for how long? And how many of us at a time?

Speaking of the team, I haven't really had time to get acquainted with the other runners in my group. I've only met my team members once...and it was for about 20 minutes during my dinner break from work. Aside from that, I don't really know anybody on the team aside from the occasional correspondence on Facebook. 

Much of the unfamiliarity is due to the solitary nature of running. Unlike the other teams I've been a part of (basketball, football, rowing, etc.), running isn't really a sport that requires a set practice time with other teammates. 

You don't need to run through plays like you do for football, and you don't have to work on rhythm and timing with others like you do for rowing. Heck, you don't even need a partner to play catch with like you do for baseball or someone to return your serve like you do in tennis.

If you're inclined to do so, you can train for a road race entirely on your own time. And when you have an odd work schedule like me, the majority of your training runs end up being solo affairs.

Consequently, it'll feel a little weird at first riding in a van with a bunch of complete strangers. I'm not sure where everyone else is at for preparation and I'm also uncertain as to how seriously everyone else is taking the run. To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn't even be able to put a name on the faces of everyone riding in my van.

However, the nervousness tends to subside when I remember one simple fact: Most of the other people in the van are probably thinking the same thing.

Nobody on the team really knows me at all either. And aside from a couple Ragnar veterans in the bunch, most of us are participating in the event for the first time. It's going to be a new experience for all parties involved; not just me.

With that in mind, I'm ridiculously excited for the race to get underway. My van likely won't have the same initial rapport of some team van rides, but I'm sure we'll have fun.

And since our team is apparently wearing pink wigs for the race, I'm sure we'll look ridiculous as well.


Since I've finally gotten around to syncing Twitter up to my phone, I plan on tweeting updates throughout the race. Be sure to check in on it!

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