October 8, 2013

Ragnar DC Packing List

After going through several blogs, Google searches, and running club meetings, I pieced together a very detailed and comprehensive Ragnar packing list. And after wrapping up Ragnar DC 2013 (click here for race report), I decided to share it with the blog audience since others may have the same questions. Feel free to print out and use as your Ragnar checklist; note that this packing list is for the DC race, so adjust for your local race's temperature and weather.

Runner Packing List

  1. Duffel bag or backpack. Bags with frames, suitcases, and roller bags are harder to pack in vans.
  2. Three (3) sets of running clothes (important to have dry socks, shorts, shirts etc for smell and chafing); possibly pack an additional set if space allows. I had to pick up an additional leg in DC and it was nice to have that extra set.
  3. Running shoes; two pairs if preferred. Due to humidity and sweating in DC, I rotated two pairs of my standard training shoe. 
  4. Visor/hat/headband. Again, if humid or raining, a second hat or head covering is a good idea. My hat was soaked in sweat on the first 9-mile leg and never dried out; thankfully I had back-up options.
  5. Sunglasses (for running and driving)
  6. Cold weather gear: running sleeves, running gloves, light beanie (may not be needed in all locations)
  7. Flip-flops or sandals to rest feet between runs
  8. Dry clothes/compression for relaxing between runs and sleeping.
  9. Lightweight jacket, windbreaker, or rain jacket
  10. Toilet paper (porta potties will run out)
  11. Baby wipes (the portable shower)
  12. Body Glide or other anti-chafing products
  13. Sunblock, bug spray
  14. Hydration handheld/belt/etc. I ran the 9-mile legs with no support, so I carried a Salomon hydration backpack. On shorter runs around 5 miles, my team carried Nathan Quick Draw handhelds.
  15. Race belt. Avoid the pins and attach your bib to a race belt to easily switch between running outfits for each leg.
  16. Beach towel to sit on, dry off, cover up to change outside. Go with the beach towel over a regular towel, it's easier to change under and covers an entire van seat.
  17. Gallon ziploc bags or trash bags to separate clean and dirty clothes. Pack each set of running clothes in its own bag, return dirty clothes to that bag and seal.
  18. Sleeping bag/pillow/eye mask/ear plugs. Whatever you need to sleep (for two hours). To cut down on gear, I left out the pillow and stuffed my sleeping bag sack with clean clothes, a jacket, and clean towel for a pillow.
  19. Car chargers or extra batteries for cell phone, GPS, headlamp, etc.
  20. Toothbrush, toothpaste, other personal sundries
  21. Planned meals (food, snacks) - see separate food section.  
  22. Map and route information for your assigned legs. Fold up and carry with you on course. 

Van / Team Packing List

  1. Two (2) copies of the Ragnar Race Bible / Ragmag
  2. List of team phone numbers for contacting and texting between vans. 
  3. Cooler(s) for drinks and ice for personal use. We carried one in the back of the van and one between the driver and front seat passenger.
  4. Team hydration/snacks. Each of our vans carried a couple cases of water and Gatorade, and a few pastries, to supplement runners' personal food.
  5. Flashlight for van. Small flashlight for reading Ragmag and navigating.
  6. First aid kit (Tums, band aids, antibiotic cream, alcohol preps, gauze, NSAIDs, vaseline, nail clippers, tape)
  7. Duct tape or electrical tape. Fixes backpacks, handhelds, shoes, everything.
  8. Swiss Army knife or multitool
  9. Tarp or ground covering. We used our tarp for covering the ground when sleeping, foam rolling on, or just sitting when changing shoes in the morning dew.
  10. Foam roller or Stick. If possible, pack a smaller foam roller since the three-foot versions just take more space.
  11. GPS/maps. Every smartphone has a GPS app, but it was nice to have a standalone Garmin GPS unit so we didn't have to keep switching phones or burning iPhone batteries.
  12. Power strip. If you have an adapter, it's nice to have a power strip to charge several devices at once. Some rental vans also have USB connections for charging devices.
  13. Trash can or trash bags for van. You'd be surprised how many banana peels, water bottles, and bar wrappers a van of runners can produce.
  14. Cameras
  15. Required Ragnar safety equipment: reflective vests, headlamps, rear LED lights 
Sample 27-Hour Food Menu

A lot of blogs cover general Ragnar packing lists, but few tackle the food area. As with all running nutrition, it's very dependent on your personal preferences and what works for you. I saw some runners who ate the pasta, BBQ, and pancakes offered at major exchanges and were fine. I know one runner who said they can never eat much during Ragnar and went most of the 27 hours with just snacking. So there you have it, you can eat a lot, you can eat nothing, and it may work for you.

If you've read my blog previously, you know I'm a strict advocate of not experimenting during race day. So I stuck with foods I'm used to eating before races; I tried to treat each major leg as a training run and follow my usual prep and recovery eating and drinking. That said, it is hard to time the meals right, and I ended up eating too close to one leg (burp). And I packed too much food.
  1. General Snacking: Through the race we kept a bag of pretzel nuggets between the front seats. Since I drove most of the way I pretty much always had a hand in there. Also snacked on some cheese sticks and mini Babybel cheese when I found my way to the back cooler. Due to the heat and humidity, we were constantly hydrating when in the van. 
  2. Leg 1 "Lunch": Snacked on banana and Clif Bar through early team legs, ate peanut butter & honey sandwich two hours before running. Half sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks 30 minutes before leg.
  3. Leg 1 Nutrition (9 miles): Honey stinger gel. ~30 oz Nuun water in hydration backpack (hot and humid 92 degrees).
  4. Leg 1 Recovery: Chocolate milk, coconut juice.
  5. Exchange "Dinner" (Friday PM): Two small sandwiches of bread roll, salami, cheese slice, and cream cheese. Clif Bar. Banana chips.
  6. Leg 2a Nutrition: Picked up extra 5.0 mile leg from dropped runner on short notice. Had time for a half sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks before, carried 20 oz Nuun water in handheld Nathan Quick Draw.
  7. Leg 2b "Breakfast" (Sat 12:30a): Same as leg 1 lunch. Banana, Clif Bar, PB & honey sandwich.
  8. Leg 2b Nutrition (9.2 miles): Honey stinger gel. ~30 oz Nuun water in hydration backpack.
  9. Leg 2b Recovery: Chocolate milk, coconut juice.
  10. Leg 3  "Breakfast" (Sat 6:00a): Dry cereal, banana.
  11. Leg 3 Nutrition: Short leg, hydration handheld only.
  12. Leg 3 Recovery: Beer. Beer. Beer.
Not Necessary (in my opinion)

  1. Tent/sleeping pad. Yes, sleeping in a tent would be more comfortable than sleeping outside, but at least in DC 2013, there was an abundance of comfortable grass areas and available van benches; adding six sleeping pads and a tent would've been too much for the van as it was. Some of us slept, or tried, under the stars; others caught their z's in the van. Obviously this depends greatly on temperature, weather, and location; DC was hot and humid in 2013.
  2. Entertainment. Bring a small paperback if you're easily bored. But between team camaraderie, laughing, and cheering, no one on our team had time to pull out their books, iPads, etc.
  3. A dedicated driver. I initially thought it was a mistake to not have dedicated drivers who were not runners, but it really didn't impact us. In fact, we found it very helpful to have the extra space in the van by not having a driver, their gear, etc. This depends on your team composition of course; we had a couple people who enjoyed driving and didn't need much sleep.
  4. Shower. Seriously, those of us who took extensive baby wipe baths after each leg smelled the same at the end of the day as those who waited in line at the exchange and took a shower.
  5. A functioning federal government! DC Ragnar was a blast and overcame all obstacles, including the federal government shutdown which results in a rerouted leg 11 and doubling up on the three final legs.

General Logistics / Tips

  1. Driver rotation. As we didn't have a dedicated driver, we set our rotation with the next runner driving and the last runner navigating; for example, for leg 2 we had the leg 1 runner navigating and the leg 3 runner driving. This allowed the prior runner to sit in the front seat, rehydrate, cool down, and stretch out. And the next runner up used the driving leg to hydrate, wake up, etc. 
  2. Have the van stop at or at least visually inspect each major intersection. On legs with easy access and van support, have the van stop at major intersections, especially in the dark, to help runners stay on course. And if you're not able to pull over safely, at least have your navigator inspect the intersection to make sure it's clear for the runner. There was a tricky turn or two, and one of them had a sign knocked over, so by anticipating issues we were able to drive back and warn our runner. 
  3. We kept a running text message session between a couple contacts in van 1 and van 2. As we got closer to exchanges, one van started texting when each runner started their leg, and the other van texted where they were located in the parking lot or exchange. It's very important to maintain communication and update the resting van on the current pace; you don't want the active van to have a runner get to an exchange point and the other van still be in their sleeping bags.
  4. Bring a cowbell and keep the windows down cheering for other teams. Our team got ahead of pace and didn't see too many vans, but the ones we did weren't too outgoing. Cheer for other runners, give them a wave, and enjoy the camaraderie. Especially on the overnight legs, it was a real boost to get a honk, a wave, and some encouragement.