Tag Archives: Ragnar Pennsylvania

Tips for Running a Ragnar Relay

22 Jun

Today I thought it would be fun to list out all the do’s and don’ts that I learned while running my first Ragnar Relay! You can check out my other Ragnar posts here.

Communication Tips

Download WhatsApp and get the rest of your teammates to do the same. You can create groups for your whole team and a group for each van. It makes communication during the race super simplified because everyone is in the same place.  Plus you can share photos along the way! As a bonus it doesn’t need a cell phone plan to work.

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Time stamp your texts. When texting the team about your runners statuses, always include a written time stamp. “Sarah started leg 3 at 10:04am”.  Sometimes cell phone reception can be spotty, so it assures everyone is on the same page, even if the texts arrive late.

What To Pack

Gallon Ziplocs are key. Pack each outfit that you plan to run in and stick it all in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Throw in an action wipe and anything else you’ll want access to for your post-run change. After your leg, grab the ziploc for your next leg and you’ll have a clean change of clothes and everything you need in one place. Put your sweaty clothes in the ziploc and zip them up to contain the smell. I swear, our van smelled totally fine for the entire race because we all store our gross clothes this way!  Also, leave this bag out in your seat so you can get to it easily while the van is moving. I didn’t do this and had to sit in my sweaty clothes longer than I wanted to sometimes.

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Pack toilet paper. Seriously. Ragnar’s port-a-potties were some of the cleanest I have experienced but you don’t want to end up in a situation where you have no access to toilet paper. It also doubles as a wipe for cleaning off window chalk if it rains!

Don’t forget a change of clothes for the ride home. The key here is comfy clothes. Think sweats and a comfy shirt. Anything that will make it more pleasant to be exhausted and in need of a shower for a little longer.

Pack a bunch of running options. I didn’t think I would need a long-sleeved shirt to run in June in Pennsylvania, but it was exactly what I needed for running the night leg. Options, options, options. I recommend having a variety of shorts and leggings too in case you end up chafing and need something that fits differently. Ladies, a fresh sports bra for each run is key.

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Pack layers. Along with the last tip, also bring some comfortable clothes you can layer over your running clothes for sleeping and hanging out in the van.  Comfort is key.

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Gear bag. If you are the last runner (runner 12), pack a bag of things you want your teammates to bring to the finish line for you. I was so glad that one of my teammates brought me my protein drink so I didn’t crash after my last leg. The rest of your team has been done for a while, so they have already recovered and will be ready to do all the things, and you want to be able to enjoy it with them.


Check Out Local Restaurants!  Remember, you’ll have a good 6-8 hours between your van’s running shifts so you’ll have plenty of time to eat a real meal at a real restaurant! You don’t have to survive on peanut butter, bananas and gus. Yelp will be your friend!

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Gym Showers!!! My van had planned to take advantage of a 1-day pass at a gym along the route to get a nice shower after our second leg. It didn’t end up working out because our runners were taking less time than planned but I am definitely tucking this tip away for a future Ragnar. Especially if it’s super humid!

Brush Your Teeth.  Make sure your toothbrush and toothpaste is easily accessible and use a public restroom to freshen up.  It goes a long way.

Have Fun!

TrainI felt prepared going into Ragnar since I had done three simulation weekends where I ran three runs in 24 hours. I had less to stress about on race weekend because I knew I could handle it.

Take a bazillion photos. More than you think you need. I made sure to get a photo before and after every one of my runs and am so glad I did.  At 3am I wasn’t feeling it, but I’m glad I did it anyhow, because I love looking at the photos now.

Have a mascot. It may seem silly, but having a mascot made for a fun distraction and team camaraderie. It also created more opportunities for photos (see last tip)!

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Take the pace pressure off of you.  Ragnar will estimate your leg times based on your 10k pace, elevation and the amount of exhaustion they expect you to feel (so your third leg will generally be estimated as your slowest pace). Our team found that they accounted for plenty of time and we finished well before the cut off. So, try not to stress about pace. Remember, your team is in this together, and slow or fast you will get to the finish.  Enjoy your time running one of the coolest races.

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All posts Ragnar related: Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 1Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 2Ragnar Pennslyvania Leg 3Ragnar SWAT Volunteer Q&A



Ragnar SWAT Volunteer Q&A – with my Dad!

20 Jun

Today I thought it would be fun to get a volunteer’s perspective of a Ragnar Relay race!

If any teammate lives within 80 miles of the Ragnar race, the team is expected to fill 3 volunteers spots – either by paying a fee (that is donated to a charity who provides volunteers), or by getting 3 people to sign up as a volunteer, or 1 person to sign up as a SWAT Super volunteer! When we found out about the requirement I immediately thought of my dad, who loves to run and loves to give back to the running community. We totally lucked out that he qualified as a SWAT volunteer (due to his past race organization experience) and I got to see him as I finished my first leg!  I asked him to participate in a Q&A to give you an idea of what is involved in volunteering for a Ragnar Relay. Thanks Dad! (Side note, if you want to read all of my Ragnar Pennsylvania recaps and posts they’re all located here.)  


How many races have you done?

30+ half marathons, four fulls, and numerous 5K & 10K local races.

Bird In Hand Half Marathon with Bart Yasso

What’s your favorite distance?

Half marathons; good for my body type and personality.  Plus anyone – with a bit of training – can finish a half marathon and meet their race goal. I love to see the finishers with that look of satisfaction of their faces.

Why did you agree to be a SWAT volunteer?

My daughter Rebecca had signed up for a Ragnar team and as part of the registration process, they needed to supply some volunteers. I’ve worked a few races before and enjoyed the experience plus it was a chance for me to see my daughter and her friends run in an ultra relay race.

What was the application process like?

It was a pretty rigorous application process. I filled out a fairly detailed on-line questionnaire to apply to be a SWAT (Sweaty, Wet and Tired) super volunteer to manage one of the exchanges. Followed up by a 30-minute telephone interview with a few tough questions.

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What exchange point were you at, how much time did you spend there and what did you have to coordinate?

I was the manager for Major Exchange 12 (the 1/3 way point) where the vans converged to transition from one van to the next. My volunteers coordinated parking (the biggest challenge), tracked times for the finishing runners, and directed the next runner to their next leg. Plus we had a Medical tent. It was a long day for me – 9:30 AM to 11:00 PM.

What was the best part?

Seeing the enthusiasm of the runners for their team mates. The look of satisfaction (and relief) on the runner’s faces as they crossed the exchange point. And for me personally, to see my daughter Rebecca run up the last hill prior to the exchange point.

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What was the most difficult thing about being a SWAT volunteer?

As a major exchange manager, it was a super long day on my feet to make sure all was going smoothly. My Garmin had me walking over 12 miles 🙂 Other than that, it was super cool to be a volunteer. Ragnar did a great job with the organization; the runners were super cool, friendly, polite, and gracious.

What was the strangest thing that happened?

Our Exchange was set up on school property so we had a built-in cheering section of elementary school children and later in the day the runners were able to watch several little league baseball games as they waited for their runner to finish the leg.

What was your favorite team that you saw come through?

My daughers team – Runnersaurus Rex of course!

Any creative mascots/team names/outfits/van decorations?

Several vans had inflatable fish or animals strapped to their roofs. The ‘smiling shark’ was one of my favorites.

Would you volunteer for Ragnar again?


Would you ever run as part of a Ragnar team?

If my knee ever heals up to 100%! There’s a lot of road shoulders to run on.


All posts Ragnar related: Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 1Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 2Ragnar Pennslyvania Leg 3Tips for Running a Ragnar Relay


Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 3

16 Jun

Last we left off my team had attempted to sleep and we were making our way to our last major exchange point!  By this point we had all completed 2 of our 3 legs and were excited to run our last leg, but also tired.

Saturday morning was the hardest point of the race for me because I just did not feel like running for a third time. In addition, Van 1 was doing amazing on their last legs and coming in way ahead of the estimated times which meant that in Van 2 we had less time to get breakfast and hang out than we expected.  I also felt a ton of pressure because everyone was doing so well. It may sound silly but since I was the last runner, I was so worried that I was going to let the team down and run my last (and longest) leg super slowly and bring the team down.  In addition, I was feeling the pressure of having my longest leg as my last one and being the one that literally gets team Runnersaurus Rex across the finish line.  Add in general tiredness/lack of sleep and being crammed in a van for over 24 hours at this point, it was the lowest point of the weekend for me mentally. I even shed a few tears in a Dunkin’ Donuts that morning while waiting for an egg sandwich. But, the beauty of Ragnar is that you have your team there and you are all in it together. My team members were amazing and supportive and helped me to relieve some of the pressure from myself. By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around and I was waiting for Day to run in to hand me the slap bracelet for the last time I was feeling nervous but good.

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And my team was there for me during that last leg when I needed them.

Ragnar PA Leg 3 (7)Ragnar PA Leg 3 (8)That is what Ragnar is all about.

I decided early on that I was going to enjoy the opportunity to run Leg 36 of Ragnar Pennsylvania, and I was going to run when I wanted to and walk up any crazy hills, and I did just that.  This leg was categorized as “very hard” like my first leg but I found it to be a lot easier.  The energy on the course from the other runners and the passing vans was amazing since we were nearing the finish. Everyone was excited and in a great mood. Vans often stopped to cheer everyone on.

As we wove through the Poconos by a sparkling lake, I knew I had to stop for a selfie. I was feeling good and having a lot of fun, and knew I would regret not stopping for a photo capturing the moment.

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Ragnar had estimated I would be finishing this leg in a 13:00 average pace due to tiredness and course elevation, so I was thrilled to see I was coming in faster than that, just like the rest of my team did.

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As you can tell from my pace, there were two sizable hills but I really enjoyed just walking them, taking everything in, and enjoying my last moments on the Ragnar course alone.

In the last mile I caught up to a group of 3 men who were walking – one was also carrying an American flag. They were so sweet and kind, and the one guy told me to keep going and stay strong. In that moment I was so grateful to have the opportunity to run my last leg on that course, at that time. The running community is really the best.

As I neared the finish line and could hear the music I was so excited to finish my 8.5 mile leg and see my whole team!!! They joined me for the last .1 or so and we all crossed the finish line together.  It was great!

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(Kudos to Ragnar for the FREE RACE PHOTOS!!!)  Team Runnersaurus Rex completed Ragnar Pennsylvania! 204ish miles!! 🙂

One last photo with Nick the Dinosaur…

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No kill goes uncounted:

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So thrilled to check off that last checkbox!!

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Van 2 represent!!! Notice our awesome driver! 🙂

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Ragnar Pennsylvania was a truely unforgettable experience. It had its ups and downs but I will absolutely be doing another Ragnar (or 2…) in the future.

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This post concludes my last race recap from Ragnar Pennsylvania but stay tuned because I have a few more Ragnar related posts coming up next week!!! One of them is a special guest Q&A that you won’t want to miss!


All posts Ragnar related: Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 1Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 2Tips for Running a Ragnar Relay, Ragnar SWAT Volunteer Q&A

Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 2

15 Jun

When we last left off my van (van 2) was eating dinner before heading to major exchange point 18. If you’re totally lost, I recommend reading my Leg 1 recap where I explain some of the Ragnar basics.

Since we went to dinner right after my hot 7.8 mile leg my appetite was pretty non-existent. So, I ordered a cup of soup and a huge Caesar salad that I boxed up to take in the van to munch on over the next few hours (since I wouldn’t be running again until 2 or 3 am).

It typically takes a team around 36 hours to complete a Ragnar relay which means many runners end up running in the dark of night! While it means your sleep may be a bit limited, it also means that you get to run in a place you’d never get to run, at a time of the night you would never run! For my van, it meant we ran from around 10pm until 3am.

We drove to exchange 18 and rested as we could while waiting for the last runner of van 1 to come in.  Ragnar PA Leg 2 (1)

From there we played leap-frog with our runners and cheered them on as they ran through the night. Seeing all of the runners out was a true testiment to the importance of reflective gear, and the safety requirements Ragnar has for night time hours.  Ragnar requires everyone to wear reflective vests anytime they are outside of the van during night time hours.  They also require all runners to have a headlamp and a blinking tail light. This meant that the runners were practically illuminated and easy to see as we drove by.  It was really a cool sight, though nothing that could be easily captured in a photo.

My 2nd leg (Leg 24 of the race) started at 2:30 am. Ragnar PA Leg 2 (2)

I had all the safety gear, plus a flashlight and ran in a long sleeved shirt since it had cooled down quite a bit and was in the mid-50s.

My nighttime leg started on a bike path before heading through the town of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. It was a short “easy” leg, so I knew I wanted to push my pace as much as possible.

Ragnar Leg 2 Splits

The course was pretty much flat. There were a few hills but nothing to write home about.  There were runners pretty much around me the entire time which made me feel safe. I was thrilled to see a 10:22 average pace when I entered the exchange point.

After attempting to nap after my second leg, I woke up and marked off my 1 kill and checked off my leg on the van.

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(Note the “Pajamas.” Ha)

I’ll see you tomorrow for my Leg 3!


All posts Ragnar related: Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 1Ragnar Pennslyvania Leg 3Tips for Running a Ragnar Relay, Ragnar SWAT Volunteer Q&A

Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 1

14 Jun

Buckle up because this is part one of my three-part Ragnar Pennsylvania Race Recap!! Ragnar has been a long time bucket list item for me and I was lucky enough to be part of the Runnersaurus Rex team with a bunch of my friends (and a few strangers too) and help cover 200ish miles on June 2nd and 3rd.  The race started in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and ended in Poconos Mountains, Pennsylvania.

In case you don’t know much about Ragnar, it is typically a 12- person relay (though some teams choose to run it as a 6-person ultra team– CRAZY). The 12-person teams are broken into two vans, and each runner is responsible for running 3 of the 36 legs. I was runner 12, which put me in van 2 (with runners 7-11), and meant that I ran legs 12, 24 and 36. Hopefully that makes sense. 🙂

Most of our team members could leave from central Pennsylvania, so we decided to rent the vans from a local rental place, and left around 5pm on Thursday the 1st. We drove directly to the packet pickup in Lancaster and were able to watch the safety video, have our night-time running gear checked and get our bibs and shirts.  By this time it was around 8pm and everyone was understandably hangry. A few folks were super tired so they headed to the hotel while a bunch of us grabbed dinner at a pizza place called Luca.

Ragnar PA Dinner

Full and tired we went to the hotel and fell asleep.

Van 1 had a 6:15am start time on Friday morning. In Van 2, we decided to get up early too and walk to get coffee and then to the start to cheer on runner 1 (Jen)!

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We also got a pre-race photo with everyone! 🙂

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The excitement was real!!

After seeing Van 1 off we went back to the hotel to decorate our van before heading to breakfast. Since we weren’t running until noonish we had plenty of time to eat a full brunch and digest before our first runner would have to start.

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We loved checking out local restaurants as we made our way through Pennsylvania.

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After brunch we headed to Exchange 6 – also know as the first “major exchange” (any exchange where you exchange runners in different vans is considered a major exchange). We spent some time shopping (because, Ragnar gear is amazing!!), hydrating, port-a-pottying, cheering on the last runner from van 1 as she finished and cheering on our first runner as she started. It was GO TIME for van 2!!!

For the next 4 hours we played leap-frog as the runners from van 2 ran their first legs. I was the last runner for our van (and the last runner overall) so I had a bit of a wait.

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It was a ton of fun to get out of our vans and cheer our runners on as we made our way through Lancaster.

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I started to get pretty nervous as my time came closer and closer — those pre-race nerves apparently happen in Ragnar too!  The temperature kept climbing into the mid 70s, so I knew this was going to be the hottest temperature I had run in this year, which added to my anxiousness.  I decided to run with a hat, sunglasses and handheld water bottle to manage the heat and sun as best as possible.

While waiting for Runner 11 (Day) to hand off the slap bracelet to me I got a photo with our mascot – Nick the T-Rex.  We handed him off to every incoming runner so that he made the trip across the state with us!

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Day came in right at 4pm and I was off on my first leg of Ragnar!!

My first leg was 7.8ish miles and had a STEEP 400 ft climb at the end.

Ragnar Leg 1 Elevation

I ran the first 4 miles under an 11-minute pace but slowed down considerably as the elevation started to get trickier. Ragnar Leg 1 Splits

My leg had a bunch of rolling hills, and was super scenic as we ran through the Amish countryside. I kept track of my “kills” like a good Ragnarian (the number of people that you pass) and was happy to get 9 of them.

Ragnar described my first leg as “very hard” and luckily I really had no pace goals for Ragnar at all. With how wicked that hill was, and how warm it was outside, I was just happy to get the mileage done and check off my first leg.  I drank almost my entire water bottle by the time I got to the exchange point to hand the slap bracelet off to Jen.

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One of the coolest parts about finishing my first leg was seeing my Dad, who was volunteering as a SWAT volunteer at Exchange 12. I’ll be writing more about his experience as a SWAT volunteer in a future post.

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I was pretty spent after my first leg, but still had the energy to mark my kills and check off my leg on the van. 🙂

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I chugged some protein powder and a bottle of Nuun as we drove to a restaurant to get dinner.

Since this is long enough, I’ll end part 1 of my recaps here. Leg 2 will be up tomorrrow!

All posts Ragnar related: Ragnar Pennsylvania Leg 2Ragnar Pennslyvania Leg 3Tips for Running a Ragnar Relay, Ragnar SWAT Volunteer Q&A