5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Ragnar Relay

This past weekend, myself along with 11 #TribeSoleSisters, 4 drivers, and 3 pacers drove to Coburg in order to run the 304km to Niagara Falls as part of the Niagara Ragnar Relay. This was the second time this race has taken place (the first back in 2013) and my first experience with such an event.

file1(1)

Like many runners I kinda read the Race Bible, knew bits and pieces of what this experience would be like, watched the Ragnar “From Fat to Fit” documentary on NetFlix, but until you actually race an event, you don’t totally know what to expect. So rather than doing a lengthy race recap, I though I would share my key learnings of things I wish I had known before I started the race. Because let’s face it, if you follow me on social, you know I had a blast!

file1-1(2)

  1. Bring Food! Now this might seem obvious to you, but we were trying to keep our packing low and we had compiled a list of 24 hours restaurants, so I really didn’t think it was necessary to bring actual meals with us. I did bring bars, gels, Nuun, and other hydration. What I didn’t take into account was the short rely legs, long times in the car, and how speedy our team was. As Van 1 we had to be at the check in point in Coburg for 8am. I didn’t run until 1pm, so we were in the car driving from transition to transition, all caught up in the hype, and all of a sudden it was noon, and I had to race almost 10km without eating since we left TO at 6am. So If I had planned better, had actual food with me, we wouldn’t have been so panicked to find somewhere to eat and I wouldn’t have had 4 sesame bagels with butter and peanut butter from Tim Hortons.
  2. Bring A Pacer. I had a pacer, well two actually, for my 13km leg that started around 10pm. I was thankful for Billy and Brandon because they not only made my run easier by hitting the light buttons ahead of me, throwing out my garbage, and being giants and making me feel like a celebrity as we raced passed (killed in Ragnar terms) 14 other racers, but they also made me push to a pace that I haven’t raced all season, averaging 5:05 per/km over the 13km. Since our team was running for 28 hours straight many relay legs started at 2 or 3am and ran through areas that were a little “sketchy” – Hamilton lift bridge/beach strip area I’m talking to you. I think next time we will make sure we have pacers (aka security, aka wind blockers, aka person cheer leaders on the run) for all runners over the night shift. It definitely brings peace of mind and the social is nice too. file-1(1)
  3. Bring Extra Runner Lights. Each van was required to have two head lamps and two tail lights per runner. We had this, however at about 8pm, when both were mandatory, one of our brand new tail lights broke. Teams without tail lights would receive a time penalty and that isn’t what we wanted, so we eagerly reached out to friends on other times, and gratitude to Trieu Nguyen who had a bag of them and lent us one to race with. So I would suggest having extras in order to avoid the drama.
  4. Bring Attire For All Weather. While I was ready for racing and cheering in the sunny summer heat we’ve been having, I was not prepared for the 3am chill when the weather dropped to single digits and we were cheer along the waterfront with waves actually splashing up on the race path. Sweaters, warm pants, fuzzy socks, a water and wind resistance shell, or even a blanket would’ve been great to have too. Not just warm running gear, but warm cheering gear too. file2(2)
  5. Bring Magnets. So this was a weird Ragnar “thing” we didn’t know about but clearly others did because after the first transition we started “collecting” magnets with other teams names and branding on our van. This was very fun and fun to keep afterwards, but we had no clue it would be happening so didn’t have any to share. A couple notes on what not to do for your magnets: 1. attach a magnet to a bottle cap that will scratch the rental car, 2. instead of using a magnet use a sticker stuck to a rental car, don’t do it. Stick with magnets and make them cute, creative, and connected to your team name and social handle.

We had a blast at this race, and if fun and friendship wasn’t enough the preliminary results (as of May 25th) had us placing top 3 in the Open Women Category, yeah Team Tribe. We worked hard, kept our cool, and placing top 3 just makes it extra sweet.

Follow along  with the fun by searching #TRIBExRAGNAR on Twitter or Instagram. Looking forward to doing this race again, and being that much more prepared.

file2-1

Scotia21K Race Weekend Recap

Last weekend was an awesome experience for our Tribe, and the Toronto running, community. With the support of Canada Running Series (CRS), Run TO Beer and Tribe arranged a bus trip for our crews to have a weekend away racing in Montreal.

All Aboard

At 8am on Friday morning the 40 runners and CRS staff boarded the on route to Montreal. Participants had the option of signing up for bus transportation only, bus and hotel, or bus, hotel, and race. When racing participants could run the 5km or 10km on Saturday and/or the half marathon Sunday. Participants who raced both Saturday and Sunday received a special “spinner” medal (photo at bottom of post). This was the first time CRS had ever created such a medal, and they out did themselves, it’s very cool.

file-9.jpeg

On route we had one stop in Kingston at Sir John’s Public House. Although we had a reservation the pub was not prepared for such a large group (plus they had a second large group booking) which made our lunch for 40 a challenge. We also had many unique dietary requirements which, although the bud said they could accommodate, they put us on a group menu, is the types of foods were limited, which posed another challenge. I ordered a chilly which ended up being delicious. I was very hungry by the time it arrived, so certainly could have used a bigger portion, but it tasted great.

Eventually we were on our way at made it to our hotel, the Novotel Montreal Centre. The hotel processed everyone very quickly and we were all off to our respective rooms for a short break before we reloaded the bus to head over to kit pick up and the shake out run, hosted by Run TO Beer, at the Boutique Endurance.

The Shake Out Run

Boutique Endurance is an amazing running store. Not only do they have all the best names, the varieties of styles, and gadgets and gizmos every runner needs to very extensive. We received our kits and then checked them with the CRS team who shuttled them to the finish location of the shake out run, Ma Brasserie. As always, Run TO Beer had a great team of pacers ensuring that no one was left behind as we ran a simple 5km route through Montreal.

file1-1(1)

Ma Brasserie was a large brewery that had plenty of seating, reasonably quick service, considering they were open to the public and we were a group of 50-ish. They also sold food, so while others were sampling some of the local offerings I had a delicious pre-dinner humus.

file3-2

After a drink, Tribe exited the party early to get some real dinner in us as some of our crew was racing the next day. We randomly found a place close to the hotel called Cibo & Vino and it was perfect! We arrived and the place was empty, we later came to the conclusion that people in Montreal eat very late, and with our race schedule we were having dinner between 6-7pm both nights. Our group of 12 was split between pizzas and pastas. Everything made fresh and just to order.

After dinner I called it a night. Nanc (my sister) and I had the 5km race the next day and I wanted to get in some good stretching and be in bed before 10pm. This is a typical race routine, so I really wanted to stick with it, even being away.

The 5km

The next morning we were up to catch the bus for 7am. The 10km started at 9 and the 5km started at 11. It was going to be  long day of racing and cheering. The bus arrived to the race area in great time, and rather than heading to the start most people stayed warm and cozy on the bus. Eventually we headed to the start. CRS had provided us with VIP passes so we were able to hang out inside an area with seating, drinks, eats, and our own washroom. This was very thoughtful of them and greatly appreciated. They let all the members of our group come in.

After a hour plus of cheering it was mine and Nancy’s turn to race the 5km. We got ready in the VIP area and when we ventured to the start line it started to pour! This wasn’t great, but luckily it eventually let up.

file2-2

The 5km used the same route as the ten and turn around at a fun round about, so you literally just ran in a big circle – which was nice compared to the hair-pin turn I was picturing in our minds.The course was very flat and while the terrain became very wet from the rain and run off we still managed to have lots of fun. Plus how could we not with our Tribe cheer station motivating us to the finish!

file3

This was Nancy’s return to racing this season so we took it easy and had a great time being together. And since I was racing the 21km the next day – and because I love my sister – I didn’t mind.

file-8

After the race we all boarded the bus and returned to the hotel. Everyone took a brief break and around 1:30 reconvened with some of the group joining the Run TO Beer pub crawl that was already in process and the other adventuring through Montreal doing the tourist thing – I did the tourist thing.

file2(1)

We hit up a great boulangerie for lunch, then went to Simons and eventually made our way to Notre Dame. The walking on top of the mornings race was definitely getting to us, so we changed our dinner plans to this little Italian place across the street from our hotel.We met at 6pm and AGAIN we were the only people in the restaurant. With most people racing the next day it was pastas all around. Again the food was amazing and everyone left happy and ready for a night of chilling and stretching before bed – or at least that’s what I did.

The Half Marathon

Saturday morning came very fast. Breakfast was a repeat of the day before which was Allison going to McDonald’s and getting bagels and juice for Nancy and I, along with her own breakfast. Once we arrived to the start line we made our way again to the VIP room. The team stretched and prepared for the race. The weather was amazing. It was already getting close to double digits when we hit the start line.

file-6The 21km course take you through almost every area of Parc Jean Drapeau. This included a loop around the amusement park, circling around the rowing basin, and looping along the Indy track. A very cool experience as this was the location of my Half Iron Man in September. It was fun to relive so many of those memories while running through the space. I think this, along with the heat, led me a few times to get distracted and confused with my pace. I thought I was at different km then I actually was, and the pacing math in my head just wasn’t making sense. It was a great run, fun course with awesome sites, and I certainly am not going to complain about the heat. I didn’t come across any great finishing time. I knew with racing the double this was more about fun and time on my feet. I did reach my goal and I did have lots of fun.

file-6(1)

Following the race we had time in the park to relax while the remainder of the bus tour crew who didn’t race or cheer arrived. We lounged in the sun, explored the biodome, and just enjoyed being outdoors in the great weather.

The trip home was also uneventful which is always nice when traveling. We stopped at a plaza filled with lots of different fast food places to meet everyone’s needs and a few hours later we were back in TO.

This trip was a blast. It was my goal when discussing the idea with CRS was that we would bring our elaborate TribeTour race trips to a more accessible price point. And with their help, and our friends at Run TO Beer, I think we did it.

Next Tribe Tour Seawheeze, and then Barbados! Hope you’ll join us!

 

Race Report: Chilly Half Marathon

On Sunday March 5th I did my first race of the season, the first of 4 half marathons on the schedule, the Chilly Half Marathon.

My training hadn’t been ideal after a week+ with the flu and a couple weeks away from the long run because of work, so personally my expectations weren’t high – my coach on the other hand expected much more and left me with two words as I approached the start line  “be aggressive”. FYI: Me and “aggressive” don’t have a great relationship. I hate having to “sit” in the uncomfortable feeling of a “push” and to do it for up to 2 hours – no thanks! So I really wasn’t excited about what was in store.

file1

My goal pace according to coach was 5:30, the goal pace I set for myself was 5:40. I ran the first 2 km easily. It was FREEZING cold (like seriously why is this race always SO COLD). And when I’d look at my watch my pace was around 5:20, I knew in the end I might be paying for it being to tired, so found myself going between thoughts of slowing back to 5:30 (which I did), and just running at that pace because it felt OK. I kept my eye on my watch and kept trying to slow myself down.

file

There was a head wind after the first turn as we headed back towards downtown Burlington along the beach strip. It was cold and windy and felt tough. The crowds in the downtown area were lively as we made our way along the short rollers. This course is a double out and back with one side being much longer. This has advantages and disadvantages as it’s a long time without any turns of excitement. So good, because it’s quick and easy to know where you are, bad because it’s sometimes boooring.

I started to feel some pain/tightening in my left inner thigh around 12km, then my left glute, and eventually my left ITband. As I haven’t been feeling great my strength training hasn’t been consistent and my little weaknesses are starting to add up. I just kept focusing on my knee lift and keeping my left ankle (the one I sprain all. the. time.) straight, something I’ve been working on with the Runners Academy for the past three weeks. I’ve found recently during my training runs that focusing on better running form is making me faster – because I’m running more effectively, although I need to keep it in mind until it becomes second nature. My plan: whenever my watch would beep for km or I thought of it I’d count myself 30 seconds of a stronger knee left during my stride.

Around 17km I started to slow down (5:39- so not actually as slow as I thought). I got passed by some friends I started with and began regretting the 5:20 at the start thinking it was doing me in. I started doing my numbers like crazy in my mind – knowing I might be close to my 1:55 if I could just get myself back under 5:30. My mind was racing to make this happen. Be Aggressive.

I ran upon this old dude who seemed to be holding a solid 5:25, so tucked in behind him like a shadow and held on and it felt ugly.

My brain kept trying to convince me to slow down – as I mentioned, I am pretty sure I intentionally do everything I can to avoid that uncomfortable spot I need to be in to “be aggressive”.

After two km behind this old dude and only 2 km to the finish I pulled ahead and turned my music on crazy loud to get to the end. I don’t usually run with music – spent 4 years not, but I did in Barbados and it was a good distraction for my brain to disconnect from my body. My finish line jam – click here.

So I grinded out that last km at 5:16 and finished at 1:56 (a 5:30 pace – guess coach knows) – just off my personal best, a time set here in 2013 for my seconded fastest half marathon.

I’m happy with how I raced. I’m glad that I now have an accurate race pace to apply to my training, and I look forward to this upcoming season and finally chasing down that PB.

file2