10 dos and don’ts for running a 24-hour relay race

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During Monday morning’s post-race recovery run (ouch), I had plenty of time to reflect back on last weekend’s Hood to Coast experience. It may have been my first relay, but it certainly won’t be my last — so I wanted to share some learnings that I’ll be applying again come Ragnar Napa Valley next month (and hopefully HTC again next year!).

KineticFix’s 10 dos and don’ts of running a 24-hour relay race:

The DOs…

…train, at least a little bit. 

Running takes enough motivation as-is, but factor in lack of sleep, back-to-back runs over varied terrain, little rest between legs, irregular fueling, irregular other things and…well, you get the picture regarding what can go awry if you don’t get in some mileage and/or practice a few two-a-day workouts ahead of time.

…plan well in advance. 

Make your list, and check it twice. I even Googled around for a few last-minute ideas based on veteran runners’ suggestions because, hey, you never know when you’ll need an ice pack at 6am for an injured team member or a dose of stomach medicine for someone who’s feeling wonky before their 2am leg. Check the weather, too!

…invest in Ziploc bags. 

Packing individual outfits into gallon-sized bags makes it easier to get dressed in the middle of the night when your brain is out of commission. And be kind to your van-mates by putting post-run outfits into bags, as well. Don’t think you stink? Take a good whiff as you re-open each bag when home, and let me know if you beg to differ!

…lube up. 

You can thank me later on this one. Even after spraying myself from head to toe with liberal amounts of TriSlide, I still have a few hot spots from my dusty leg 21 where the grit started to grind in between my skin and my clothes. Nothing will stop you in your tracks faster than a blister, so when in doubt, protect any and all sensitive skin.

…trust in yourself and your team.

There’s no way to get through this without an incredible amount of teamwork, so look for opportunities to pitch in, whether it’s driving a few legs, helping to navigate, being in charge of van organization or even hooking up your teammates with a place to crash. You’ll be amazed at what your body can do, and what you can achieve together!

The DON’Ts…

…forget to pace yourself.

This goes for everything across the board — from running to fueling to sleep, etc. You probably won’t even feel your first run, but remember that you’ve got two full cycles of the same in 24+ hours, so treat it like a marathon instead of a sprint in order to finish strong.

…expect to stay organized.

Our running joke was, “Have you seen my…?” And this was in two vans of highly-organized women, so you can imagine the sheer mayhem that goes on in vans with lower levels of OCD. Do your best to keep your own stuff corralled into one or two bags, then make team bags of communal items, such as food, first aid and night gear, to help.

…think you can get by on minimal clothing/gear.

There’s a fine line between bringing excessive amounts of crap into an already-crowded van and having to spend the night shivering in your only cold, wet running outfit. Do yourself a favor and pack one full outfit (complete with socks and underwear) for each leg, plus a spare pair of shoes and an outfit for downtime/after the race.

…ignore the importance of recovery. 

Sure, you’re riding high on adrenaline, but there will be peaks and valleys throughout the race, so avoid digging yourself into a hole at all costs. If you want to run well, you’ve got to double-down on the non-running activities: After each leg, re-fuel with protein, stretch out, change into dry clothes and rest up as much as possible.

…leave home without your sense of humor.

Inevitably, you’ll end up in a situation that’s out of your control. And it’ll happen when you’re low on sleep and not firing on all cylinders. If/when that happens, take a deep breath, take a step back and try to laugh about it. Remember: Any race is a success when you can come out of it with sore legs from running — and sore abs from laughing.

A final 'do?' Get to know the Honey Bucket, your best friend/worst nightmare during the race

A final ‘do?’ Get to know the Honey Bucket, your best friend/worst nightmare during the race

What are your relay dos and don’ts?

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