It’s funny how you can evolve from a novice to an expert in 34 hours. Oh I’m not talking about things like becoming a doctor or a scientist. I’m talking about something much more important. I am now an expert in what you need to pack for a Ragnar Relay. (Doctors and scientists! Stay calm! My tongue is firmly in my cheek here.)
When I was planning what I was bringing, I Googled around a little, got some great ideas from other sites, and from that made my own list. I think I packed pretty well. I wasn’t missing anything vital, and (unlike my usual packing) I managed not to bring a lot of extra and unnecessary items. There were a few things that I would consider essential, and I highly recommend that you add them to your own packing list.
Action Wipes – It sounds funny (unless and until you’ve done a Ragnar Relay) but the first item I would add to the Essential list is Action Wipes. It doesn’t take much explanation though, when you imagine six people in a van for 30-plus hours without a place to shower. Oh, and they’re doing a lot of running too. It could have been really bad but Action Wipes saved the day. Yes, you could bring baby wipes, but Action Wipes are much bigger, thicker, and smell like eucalyptus and tea tree oil, not baby powder. Plus they are all natural, contain no alcohol or parabens, and they don’t test on animals.
Sunscreen – Two of my runs were in the afternoon, making a good sunscreen a huge necessity. I had received some samples from Kinesys only two days before the race, including their spray-on Performance Sunscreen, which has 30 SPF and is very water and sweat proof. Carrie brought along the same sunscreen. I love how easy it is to apply, and because it is oil free you don’t even feel it on your skin. It is also free of alcohol, parabens, and paba, plus it is cruelty free and vegan. I sprayed it on early in the day, then added a little more before my runs, and I was fully protected through the event.
X2Performance – One of the most challenging aspects of running a Ragnar Relay is that you are fueling yourself with different food than you’re used to. Instead of a normal breakfast and lunch, instead we ate fruit, bars, trail mix, and other portable food. That, combined with running three times in a 12 hour time frame can make it difficult to find the sustained energy needed and hard to recover between each run. That was where X2Peformance stepped up and provided me with the boost that I needed. I tried to take a bottle about a half hour before each run. I feel like it helped me perform and recover quickly. I felt so good during each run, and my last run was my fastest!
Lights and More Lights – Because a night leg is inevitable, Ragnar requires that each team member wear a reflective vest from 6:30 pm to 6:30 am (times changes depending on area/time of year), plus each runner must wear a headlamp and rear taillight. I went above and beyond that though, and I’m glad that I did because it is really dark out there when you’re running pretty much solo at 4:00 in the morning. I used both my Knuckle Lights and my Halo Belt, and I was able to light up the night in front of me.
Electrolytes – All that running and sweating takes a lot out of you…literally. Even more so if your Ragnar Race takes place in warm weather. You will be losing a lot of salt and other electrolytes that need to be replaced to help your recovery (and recovery is essential if you have to run again in six hours or so). I have been using InRefresh Electrolyes from Ignite Naturals for a while now. I carried a bottle during my run and drank another bottle when I was finished to help with rehydration. I also brought some coconut water, something I crave when I’m dehydrated, and drank that after my first two runs.
While the above items were essential, there were a few things that were almost as important, and that I will definitely make sure that I bring on my next Ragnar (yes, there will be a next Ragnar, right #DirrtyDozen?).
Sleeping Bag and Pillow – Yes, a blanket would work (and take up less precious space), but a sleeping bag is warmer, can double as a pillow when it is rolled up, and looks pretty sexy when you wander around Oceanside wrapped up in it at 2:00 in the morning. It also leaves open the option of sleeping outside, which in retrospect, after my van-sleeping backache, sounds like a pretty good idea.
Trail Mix – We had fruit, bagels, peanut butter sandwiches, and bars, but the bag of trail mix that I picked up at Trader Joes was pretty popular. It had some dried cranberries, a variety of nuts, and it filled me up much better than anything else.
Charging Cables/Spare Batteries – I’m not sure if it was because we were mostly all bloggers, but keeping our phones charged was an ongoing challenge, which wasn’t helped by the van having one outlet that didn’t work. I did bring an extra battery for my Note, but that’s not an option for an iPhone. If you have a multi-outlet plug, bring it! Someone brought a charger that had two outlets and they were both in use constantly.
Zip Lock Bags – This was recommended by a few people and it is such a great idea. Pack each of your running outfits, including anything that you will need for that leg (nutrition, map, lights, etc), in its own separate zip lock bag. It is so easy to pull out when it is time to get ready, plus you have a handy airtight place to put your
stinky used running clothes when you’re done with your leg.
Medications – Don’t forget this if you take daily medications. I made sure to have my asthma meds and inhaler, some NSAIDs, and my migraine pills (thank goodness because I did wake up with a headache after my first van-sleep!).
Non-Running Comfy Sneakers – I brought a pair of flip flops as most suggested, but because it was chilly during the evening and nighttime hours, my old pair of Nike Frees were my go-to rest-time shoe. They were comfortable and kept my feet warm, but I could still walk around in them. I did appreciated the flip flops when we were done though, so bring along a pair of those too.
Things I Brought but Didn’t Use
Because of space considerations I tried to pack light, but there were a few things that I brought that I never used (doesn’t mean that you won’t though, just sayin’).
Foam Roller – I probably should have used it, but I didn’t. I did see Carrie rolling though.
Laminated Leg Maps – I was extra prepared and, because I have access to a laminator at work, made a laminated copy of each leg map that I could carry with me. Fortunately I didn’t need it because the course was well marked for the most part. I still think it was a good idea, though.
Fuel Gels – While I carried gels during each run, I never felt the need to use them, probably because I was eating enough between runs (hurray for trail mix!).
Headphones – I thought it would be vital to listen to music (or my book) as I ran, but after I started I decided I just wanted to enjoy the experience, communicate with other runners, and not shut out the traffic/ambient sounds (especially during that nighttime run).
Things I’d Do Differently
While I was pretty happy overall with what I brought and how I packed, the one change I might make would be the bag that I brought. My husband lent me his Ironman backpack, which was great. It is huge, has a zillion pockets, and can carry everything needed. It is even expandable. The problem was that it was too big and had too many pockets. In the van, frequently in the dark, I couldn’t find what I was looking for half the time, in spite of most of my supplies being in separate zip lock bags. I think that I would try two smaller bags, one dedicated to my run clothes and supplies, the other to my food, recovery supplies, and off-run clothes.
I also wouldn’t worry too much about the food that I brought, at least in our case. Amy, our captain, did a big Costco run the night before and stocked up on most food items. If you have special needs (like my vegan ones), that is one thing, but if not, the group shop is enough.
My Complete Packing List
- 3 short sleeve or sleeveless running shirts. We had two team shirts for the first and third legs, and I used the third shirt as a top layer for my night run.
- One long sleeve/base layer shirt for the night run.
- 3 sports bras
- 2 pairs running shorts, one pair running capris.
- 3 pairs running socks
- 2 pairs compression sleeves
- One pair running shoes (that worked for me, some choose to bring two pairs)
- Sweat pants
- Warm Hoodie
- 2 pairs underwear and one regular bra
- Running Cap – I don’t usually wear one, but after my first run, with no shower or brush, I just wanted to cover up my hair.
- Watch cap – I used it for my night run. It kept my head and ears nice and warm, plus made wearing a headlamp much more comfortable.
- Comfy but warm shoes
- Flip flops
- Phone (which also served as my camera and music player).
- Charger and extra battery
- Reflective Vest
- Headlamp (though I couldn’t figure out how to change the battery and I ended up borrowing Jamie’s).
- Halo Belt
- Knuckle Lights
- Handheld hydration bottle
- GPS Watch
- Race Number Belt
- Foam Roller/Ball
- Sleeping Bag
- Action Wipes
- Body Glide
- Leg Maps – laminated.
- Ziploc Bags (packed as mentioned above for each leg, plus other personal items like toothbrush, gum, toothpaste were packed in separate bags.
- A stash of Clif Bars
- Coconut water
- Ignite Naturals
- Reload Gel
- Trail Mix
Things that Others Brought/Shopped for
- First Aid Kit
- Ice Packs
- Fruit (bananas and apples)
- Quest Bars (not vegan, but others enjoyed)
- Toilet Paper
- Taillight – A few people brought a taillight (just one is needed for each van, so I borrowed run for my nighttime leg).
- Amy made a notebook for each van than contained the Ragnar Bible, leg maps, time estimates, and more. It was essential. We used it constantly.
- Van Decorating Supplies
I hope this list will help you plan and pack for your Ragnar Relay. If you have any suggestions that I missed, please let me know in the comments.
A few disclosures: This post contains affiliate links. I received the Halo Belt and Kinesys Sunscreen in return for my honest review. I am an ambassador for X2Performance and received compensation as part of a sponsored campaign. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. I am an Ignite Athlete and receive a discount when I purchase their products. All opinions are my own. Everything that I chose to use for the Ragnar Relay was selected because of I was confident in the product.