Ragnar Napa Valley Prep

With all of the Hood to Coast chatter on Twitter that started up today, I'm having serious relay envy. I bet I'm not the only one! Hood to Coast is one of my bucket list races, and I really hope it works out next year. Luckily, for now I have Napa Valley Ragnar to look forward to on September 14-15 and it's coming up quickly. I'm the team captain and have been doing my best to figure out all of the relay nuances that come up during planning.

Our team is in good shape at the moment, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed no one needs to drop out. We lost 5 of the original team and then one of the replacements in a short window of time, meaning we had to find a lot of new people who were willing to jump in. Two of the slots were really late and involved paying additional Ragnar fees to sub runners. This really annoyed me - I mean does it really cost Ragnar to sub runners 5 weeks out - but what can you do. I was bummed to lose teammates because they were all so cool and I wanted to get to know them better. Even more sadly, three runners dropped out due to injury.

With the runner switching (hopefully) behind us, we can focus on the fun parts! We have cool shirts on the way thanks to one teammate designing them, we will be deciding how to decorate the van, and we are going on a night run as a team next week with the full moon to test out our night legs.

So far, planning hasn't been too bad. The team started from an email to our run@ work group looking for someone to captain a team; I volunteered because I really wanted to do a relay. We got a list of 12 people plus 2 alternates, collected fees and officially registered the team during the early registration fee time frame. I invited each person to the team via email so they could create a Ragnar account and accept terms and after that I could see them in the team captain list. Our team is mostly a group from work plus 2 additional people.

Next, I booked our 12 person vans using the Ragnar recommended company in San Jose. Note that I booked our vans back in MAY for a September race, and when I called he said they were completely sold out in SF but had a few left in San Jose. My advice to anyone planning a team - book vans early.

We had a team lunch to meet each other and had initial chats about t-shirts, who runs what, and driving, but we had more than enough time before we needed to take any action on those. I read a number of blog posts and articles on planning relays including team organization, delegation, and how to pack in ziploc bags. Hopefully I've found most of the tips by now.

About 7 weeks out we started thinking about shirts, finalizing runner positions, checklists and getting volunteers. Because we live close to the race we have to provide 3 volunteers, and that has been tough going. No one found any friends or family who could do it, and begging other runners at work didn't do any good either. We ended up taking the 'pay for volunteers' option; Ragnar lets you donate to charity and then they recruit volunteers for you.

When we received our start time of 10:30 am a couple of weeks ago, I checked our paces against the relay exchange time slots. We should be we well within the expected windows even with the few teammate changes we made recently.

Our final checklists consist of personal pack list suggestions, van pack lists including things like First Aid kits and coolers, and gathering any and all contact info we could need like personal cell numbers and Ragnar emergency numbers. I'm going to print paper lists of the contact info for each van. I feel quite good about our planning at this stage and I can't wait for the race days to come. My only outstanding question is how to handle nutrition and hydration. As a van? As individuals? BYO(Nuun)? Hopefully we'll work that out at our team lunch tomorrow.

If you have planned/run a relay and see something I missed, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments!


  1. HTC is on my wish list too. Let's get on the same team next year!

  2. So exciting! I have never done a relay before.

  3. We brought community snacks in each van - everyone kind of brought something, and everyone shared. BUT, we ate a fraction of said snacks. Honestly, there just wasn't a ton of down time to be thinking about food.

    Hydration - again, we had a case of van water, but everyone did their own thing - some people just drank the water and added Nuun, some people grabbed gatorade or whatever on the route.

    Eating meals - we only had time once to stop for a meal, after we handed off to van 2 for the first time. But, our second stop was only for about 3 hours, because of the way the legs were - and between travel time, traffic, and getting there at 3am, no one felt like a meal. I'd say, be an opportunist - if you've got some time, either while the other van is running, or someone in your van has a long leg, and you see something that sounds good, EAT IT. You don't know when you'll have a chance again.

    The other BIG suggestion I'd give, is keep a notebook up front with whomever is navigating, and write down what time your runner left, and what they were wearing. We had a fancy spreadsheet that let you update the times they left, their anticipated pace, and gave you an ETA for the next exchange, but as the time went on, our brains kind of communally melted down, and we kept forgetting to log in the spreadsheet when people were leaving. I think a notebook and pen, keeping it super simple, would work just fine, and help prevent panic attacks when you realize you are 10 minutes from the exchange and stopped in traffic and have no idea when your runner set off.

    And HAVE FUN. Seriously, sleep is important, eating is important, but don't forget to enjoy the time with your vanmates, your other van, and the other teams!

    1. this is awesome advice - thank you Heather!

  4. Its a good post. We're starting to work on shirts and stuff now for our Bourbon Chase team. :)

  5. I want to do a relay so bad! So excited for you!!!

  6. Sounds like you have most things covered! I was captain for my Ragnar team one year and from years past found out it was good to get all the money from everyone BEFORE the relay, including money for gas, etc. I just estimated how much we might need in gas money and then put cash in envelopes for each van and told them if they needed more they would have to figure it out themselves. I also made sure a race bible with everyone's cell phone numbers was in each van as well.

    You are going to have SO much fun!!


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