I recently did a Ragnar Relay race at the end of September. If you’re not familiar, it’s two vans full of twelve runners (six per van) running about 200 miles over two days. You don’t sleep much. You don’t eat great. You run a lot and you get to know some people pretty intimately.
It was amazing.
And I came away with a few life lessons I hope to include in my new routine.
1. Pace yourself. In life and in racing, it’s important to pace yourself. Push and challenge yourself but don’t overdo it, especially if you are still early in the process. Big pushes are for finishing strong.
2. Make self care a given. When I packed for this race, I packed one bag for my running clothes and gear and a backpack with toiletries, first aid, and recovery gear. By making my recovery process part of the overall plan, I made sure to take good care of myself. When I’m not doing a race it’s so easy to let basic care (stretch, wear comfy clothes, massage sore muscles, eat a snack) go by the wayside. Amazingly, I wasn’t in absolute agony after the race. I was sore and tired, of course, but I was back to normal within a week (physically… the sleep deprivation took a little longer). Making self care a non-negotiable aspect of my life, I’ll recover from stress faster too.
3. Show up. Sometimes you just gotta show up. We got to our air bnb at 11pm to the sound of charming church bells in a drizzle that had just calmed down from torrential downpour territory. We clambered in, claimed our beds, took turns so all seven of us could use the bathroom, and were asleep around 11:30 before a 3am wake up call. Except the bells rang all night. Just when you thought they were done, you’d hear a “bongggggg!” We all got about three hours of sleep and woke up pissed at the bells. We arrived at our starting line before 4 and started the race at 5. We weren’t excited but we had to show up even though we didn’t feel our best.
4. Changing doesn’t mean failure. A third of the way through my first leg, a 6.3 miler with a wicked hill, the first nine legs of the race were canceled due to flash flooding and the race was rescheduled to start at leg 10 at 1pm. So at 7:12am, after I was finally heading downhill and felt excited to be really doing this, my van picked me up after only two miles and change. But I still count that leg as legitimate. That uphill climb was hardcore and I handled it! Even though I had to cut my goal short, it was still a success. I still showed up.
5. Ask for help. As we were running our legs, many of us texted the van to request water or a sweatshirt or a snack at the exchange point so we could quickly get what we needed. And the runners in the van always made sure to have these things ready to go. When we take care of each other and feel confident to ask for what we need, everyone does better.
6. Say yes to new experiences. First of all, I said yes to a Ragnar in the first place. But more specifically, I was dozing in the van when my boyfriend (our van driver) popped the door open and said “Caitlin get up. Come with me.” I groggily complained, “Whyyyyy,” and he replied with three very important words: “Baby moo cows.” I was up and moving already, “Baby cows!?” He took me through a barn at the dairy farm where our exchange point was and I got to pet calves in the middle of the night. By “middle of the night,” I mean it may have been 8pm or 2am, I seriously don’t remember. But I got up and said yes to something awesome.
7. Pack extra underwear. ALWAYS.
Now that my “race season” is over for the year, I’m not taking on any races longer than a 5K through 2019. My new “season” is one of low impact. Low impact exercise. Low impact schedule. Low impact social life. Low impact lifestyle. It is time to rest and recover.