A few weeks ago I endured what is called Reach the Beach, a Ragnar Relay race. Essentially, the race is 203 miles, from Bretton Woods to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. It is typically completed with teams of anywhere from 6-12 people, but if you are like one of my beast coworkers you can get it done with 4. Insane.
My team, American Thunder, pretty much crushed the race, with a time of 29 hours and 24 minutes. One of the things I heard a lot of, when I told people about the race, was how crazy we were- to run through the night (15-22 miles per person), not sleep, live in a van, and exclusively use port-o-john’s for like a full 48 hours.
Well, you kind of have to have the mindset that you’ll be fine with whatever happens and embrace the uphills.
I thought it was fun as hell.
So, to sort of guide you along, I’m going to talk about some key points that can help you complete this race... or any other crazy event you might want to choose. Maybe you’ll even be able to apply them right now.
Start training now.
Essentially, one of the most important things you can do, is establish a somewhat decent aerobic base. To simplify things, all this means is that you can get physically active without feeling like you are going to die in the very near future.
Start small here. It can literally be walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes, keeping your heart rate nice and low. Today, many programs are solely focused on getting people into crazy high intensities - and to be honest - you’ve got to lay the foundation before you can build the house. Once you get comfortable there, you can start to progress.
This low intensity stuff might be boring and uncool, but it helps with overall cardiovascular health, manage stress, and fat metabolism. Personally, I like all of those.
If you establish a solid aerobic base, then you can really push yourself come race time, as well as when you really start to train.
There is a delicate balance between being physically fit and strong, and being so bound up you can’t wash your feet in the shower. Being able to throw weight around is awesome, but not at the expense of your overall mobility and joint structure. I learned that the hard way in my last post: (PSSSST). Be smart in your approach. Warm up. Lift. Cool down. Address weak links.
For long endurance races, this is important. Those weak areas might not show themselves on a day to day, but come race time with a heck more volume and intensity, they might show up as an injury. Let’s avoid that and find some balance.
Utilize simple nutrition concepts.
When you are in the van, I would suggest you remove all complications from your nutrition plan ahead of time. For example, you do not want to be measuring out macros or eating things you’ve never had before. Stick to stuff you know, but also stuff you can get down if you aren’t feeling too hot.
Have a backup plan for when you aren’t able to get in what you want. I think something that helped my overall energy levels was making sure we had tons of highly digestible carbs to snack on; things like pretzels, cereals, powdered drink mix, etc. Sometimes there wasn’t enough time or space to have a full meal, but that ensured the calories were still coming in after each leg. Here are some other tips:
Eat as soon as possible after each leg for maximum energy replacement.
Hydrate often! Need to keep those joints loose as well as avoid cramping.
Have some solid sources of protein after each leg if you have more than 3-4 hours to spare.
Stay away from stuff that is heavy in fat content if your leg is within 1-2 hours.
Leave some in the tank.
Especially for your first leg. The thing is, when you run hard, your heart race spikes to beyond what we would call an aerobic zone. That’s totally fine, but sustained effort at these paces not only can have an impact on your energy stores, but also puts a beating on your neurological system.
Thinking long term here; this can be vital to when you start to get really tired from not sleeping. Some of my paces were pretty solid, but I’ll admit I think I ran too hard for my first leg.
When you are tired, weird stuff happens to your body. I think I saw a cow wink at me during my night leg. But, I can’t be sure- it was dark and I hadn’t quite dialed in the angle of my headlamp.
In any case, I think the point I’m trying to make is that you’ve got to save some of that brain power for the end of the race. Once you’re there, you can go all out and run like Evan from Superbad.
Build an awesome team.
Can’t say it enough; the people around you are the people that support you, help you grow, help you push yourself, and make you who you are. Jim Rohn reminds us that, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
So whether you are about to destroy Reach the Beach, working towards a squat PR, or simply trying to lose those summer L-B’s; I think it’s incredibly valuable to have people around you that support who you are and what your life goals are. That way, when faced with adversity or struggle (such as body glide application), you have people that have the ability to bring you back to center.
203 miles is a long way, but you’d be surprised how fast they go when you’re running them with great people.
All the best,