Mushroom Cap 1/2 Marathon Relay

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Mushroom Cap Half Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Once upon a time, way back in the cold of February, I registered for the Mushroom Cap Half Marathon in Kennett Square, PA.

My dear friends, Rachel and Katie also registered and we were excited for our (affectionately dubbed) Meatball Road Trip 2019. You might remember Meatball Road Trips from years past!

Bird-in-Hand 2018

We had a late start to spring, summer showed up in a hurry, and before I knew it, it was SeptemberOctober. I’ve been consistent with running and cross-training but not following any particular training plan. More-so, I’ve been doing what’s comfortable mileage wise and pace wise. My focus is feeling good during runs… and I HAVE.

My longer training runs have been landing between 4-6 miles. I have a 10k in Atlantic City next week and I think I’ve been focusing more on that than the 13.1 lurking just a few weeks later.

Can I push through a half marathon? Yes, I know that I can. But I’m trying to run smart and pushing through 13.1 miles isn’t smart.

Earlier this week we received a check-in email from the Mushroom Cap Half race management which said the following:

If you had planned to run the half marathon but life got in the way of training or maybe your running more that you ever imagined and want to tackle the half,  you can transfer your registration between events.

Do you picture me nodding my head at all of this? YES, YES, and more YES!

I knew Rachel wasn’t feeling the half marathon distance either so I ran the idea of switching to the relay option by her. We both jumped on RunSignUp. Rachel created the team and transferred her registration. I transferred mine and now we are officially the Meatball Mullet Crew!

I’ve never done a half marathon relay before so I’m really looking forward to the experience. I feel a lot more confident taking on the shorter distance and while I’m bummed that we won’t be running together, I know Rachel will be waiting for me at the exchange.

Haven’t registered yet? Let’s make sure you save some money when you do – use code “BRMushroom19” for $10 off!

Have you ever done a half marathon relay before? Any tips for me?

All I want for Christmas…is a runcation.

Today’s the day.  People all over the United States are engaging in the frantic nocturnal scramble for commerce.  There will be some running involved, hopefully no running over.  Maybe a little kickboxing.  Some deep breathing exercises.  All in the effort to save a little cash.  And believe me, I need to save a little cash!  This year, I’ve spent more money on runcation and race entry fees than any other non-essential expense.  Quicken showed me this cute little pie chart and the category of “Race Expense” was the third biggest piece, right after “Mortgage” and “Household”.

I don’t how this happened, I had a race budget!  But you know, after SoCal Ragnar, I had to do Napa so I could get that double medal.  And all my friends were running in Washington, I couldn’t let them have fun without me.  And I had to do the Wine and Dine after Tink, because of that Coast to Coast medal.  And there was no way I was going to run in Disneyworld and not take my kids to other happiest place on earth.  Oh, and after experiencing the awesomeness of the ROC race in San Diego, I just had to do it again in Anaheim.  And so the story goes.  I have a hard time saying no to races and when I do say no, I’m green with envy when I see my running mates posting pics on facebook!

This year, I don’t want a lot for Christmas.  There is just one thing I need…are you hearing Mariah Carey yet?  All I want for Christmas is to race!  So here it is, my Runcation Christmas List.

1. Any East Coast Ragnar or any Trail – I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now.  And I’m dying to get the Scoot Chicks in a van.  D.C., Cape Cod, and Ontario are high on my list, but really any of them would be amazing.  The trail race is a new series.  Instead of a van, you camp and the race trails loop out from the camp site.  It’s a different kind of relay but I’m anxious to take it on!

2. E.T. Full Moon Midnight Half-Marathon – Sci-Fi is kind of my thing.  Just ask my X-Files and Star Wars ringtones.  This course runs along Highway 375, which was named Extraterrestrial Highway by the federal government, in the Nevada desert in the middle of the night.  Oh, and did I mention it borders Area 51?  The whole idea of this race gives me chills.

3. Spartan Sprint – It seems like everyone I know loves these races.  And I love dirt and I love adventure so I think I might love this race.  Of course, I also think I’ll need to beef up before I attempt something like this.  My upper body strength sucks.  So push-ups, here I come.

4. Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon – It’s pretty simple…music is awesome, running is awesome, running to music is double awesome.  The best part about this race series is that it is EVERYWHERE.  Madrid, Scotland, Ireland…oh, how I dream of the day I can run in a foreign country!  I might have to settle for L.A. this year, but one of these days…

5. Challenge Nation – This is the Ultimate Urban Scavenger Hunt and like a lot of these races, it’s everywhere.  I can’t think of a better way to explore a city I’ve never been to before.  It’s part physical, part mental, and a whole lot of adventure.  The race part is a 5k and there’s prize money to be won. If I can’t be on Amazing Race, then I’ll gladly settle for this!

6. John Muir Trail –  This isn’t a race but it’s top on my list of things I must do before I die.  The trail is 211 miles long and runs from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney in California.  It’s a hike, you carry your stuff on your back and sleep in a tent.  No showers, no bathrooms, just me and the Sierra Nevada Mountains…and probably some other people because I can’t see myself doing this alone.

Relay! It will be fun!

Guess what time it is?  I’ll give you a hint.  It starts with an R and ends with AGNAR!  That’s right, boys and girls, Ragnar Northwest Passage is just around the corner and in just one short month, I’ll be trekking up north again to participate in the relay series in Napa.  I know what you’re thinking: This chick can’t possibly be writing another post about Ragnar.  I mean, what is she, like an ambassador or something?

Actually, yes, I am.

But rest assure!  This is not a Ragnar post.  Relay, it’s not.  (Hehe)

I’ve participated in many Rag- I mean, relay races and I’ve realized over the years that there is a specific recipe for putting together a successful relay team.  Relay racing requires tons of, ahem, leg work, in order to produce a smooth racing experience for all.  When I first started putting these teams together I made lots of mistakes.  But I had an incredible mentor who answered all my questions and told me all the tricks.  So that’s what I’m here to do today, my friends.  Help me, help you relay!

Get Yo Peeps in Line

First things first, you need runners.  Recruit, recruit, recruit!  Almost everyone knows someone who races nowadays. Luckily, Facebook is making it easier and easier to find runners.  You know all those annoying gym updates?  Call them out!  Oh, you ran 5 miles on the treadmill today at the gym?  Have I got a race for you!  I’ve used all types of social media to find runners for my teams, I even know someone who used dating sites to find runners.  How’s that for a first date?  Sometimes the best teammates are the people you’ve never met before.  Eventually, you’ll have an entire network of relay runners that you can call upon to fill a team.  And this video will be really hilarious…

After you’ve gotten people to agree to it, make them pay.  Always, always get their registration ahead of time.  Many people will commit, but these races are freaking expensive!  I always require the registration fee to hold a spot on the team.  Give them a deadline.  If they don’t pay, they don’t play.  Allow yourself plenty of time to find replacements.

The infamous "Friendship Contract"

The infamous “Friendship Contract”

The Early Bird Gets a Great Deal

Most races give a discount if you register early.  Relay races are no different.  If you can do so financially, register your team even if you haven’t filled all the spots before the price goes up.  Take advantage of those discounts.  Some races partner with different vendors, hotels, car rental places, custom t-shirt printers, and offer discounts if you book with those facilities.  Secure your before/after race lodging and vans far in advance.  Most companies will just require a credit card number to hold the reservation, but won’t charge until the deed is done.  Don’t wait until the last minute, because those facilities fill up quick.  Order your t-shirts/costumes early so you don’t have to rush deliver.  Take advantage of cutting costs where ever you can and make sure all your teammates have an idea of what their share of the cost is going to be.

Book early!  You don't want to be stuck in the dreaded minivan!

Book early! You don’t want to be stuck in the dreaded minivan!

Train

Training for a relay race is really no different from training for any long distance race. It’s important to keep in mind that you may be running in different climates, elevations, terrains, and clothing than you’re used to. It’s also important to keep in mind that you will be running on very little sleep and during the middle of the night in the dark.  Running with a headlamp is awkward.  So is running in a ninja mask or fish nets.  Practice!  Try to simulate these changes in your training runs.  I like to run this mountain circuit by my house because it incorporates many of the changes I could encounter in my relay runs.  Sometimes, the runs have already been mapped on programs like MapMyRun or Strava. Check it out on Google Maps. If you’re racing close to home, go to the streets you’ll be running.  I’ve found that incorporating other strength training activities, like weights and core work, into my training regime will increase my stamina and endurance.   And if all else fails, search for a relay training schedule  online and follow it!  Ragnar provides this Training Guide on their site.

Boxing is one of my non-running training exercises!

Boxing is one of my non-running training exercises!

Communicate

I send out many detailed emails during the months leading up to a relay race.  It’s important that everyone’s on the same page.  As a captain, I find it’s easier to come up with a plan and ask for input rather than asking for input then coming up with the plan.  It’s easier to make allowances once you have a base.  Facebook groups or group emails are a great way to get all the information to everyone efficiently.  It also allows for an open dialogue so everyone feels they have a voice in the team.

Initially, I make sure that everyone is aware of the costs and that the registration is non-refundable.  Injury happens!  And sometimes just days before the race.  At that point, your team just needs an able body and you might be willing to make allowances for costs to get someone to run.  In this case, it would be up to the injured teammate to get the registration money directly from the replacement runner.  I split all the costs between the teammates equally…van, food, shirts, gas, hotels…etc.  I do one big Costco shopping trip and give each van a stock of supplies.  This is what works for me.  Come up with a policy for handling costs and then implement it.  The important part is to make sure everyone is aware of your policy before anything happens.  You don’t want to lose friends because of cost issues but you don’t want to fund everyone’s race either.

Assigning legs and runner positions is also important to communicate early in the game.  I ask for each teammate to give me their top 3 choices and then I assign positions based on pace and preference.  I make it clear that you might not get the position you want, but that everything is carefully calculated and assigned for a reason.  Usually, I have no problem accommodating within those top 3 choices.

Lastly, logistics and travel plans!  Many times, runners are traveling from out of state and will need a place to stay before or after the race.  Have this discussion early so people can travel together or room together, if possible.  Some people prefer to do things on their own, which is fine too, just make sure you have that discussion so everyone is aware of what to expect.

Slumber Parties with new friends are the best!

Slumber Parties with new friends are the best!

Calculate

The pacing calculator will be your best friend.  I print out all the maps for the race and calculate the projected times for running based on the individual runners pace and distance of their run.  Not good at math? Relax!  Ragnar has a pacing calculator that does this for you!  Before I figured this out, I made my own Excel spreadsheet that is now highly unnecessary.  Remember to allow for elevation, weather, and fatigue in the later runs.  Encourage each runner to be very honest about their 10k pace.  If one runner is off by just one minute, it throws the projections off by hours.  The projections are so incredibly important in making sure your next runner is ready to take off when your active runner comes into that exchange.  Nothing’s worse than getting to the exchange after running your heart out and not having your team there to support you.  It has happened to us all at one time or another…the van gets lost, there’s traffic, someone needs a Starbucks…those projections help you make conservative decisions when it comes to how you spend your travel/down time.   So what will you do with those extra minutes…

Checking the time!  Are we on pace?

Checking the time! Are we on pace?

Support Your Runners

Many times during the race it will be up to the team to support the active runner.  This could be with water, Gatorade, GU, first aid, messages on the sidewalk with chalk, music, bullhorn shenanigans, cowbell, scissors for cutting off pants…whatever your runner needs, it’s the teams job to get it to them.  This is a team effort and knowing that your team has most definitely got your back is a huge reassurance.  Seeing my teammates on the side of the road ready to give me water and a cheer literally MAKES me keep running. Bask in the cowbell!  Throw your arms up in victory when you hear that honk!  And make sure that you offer that to all the other runners out on the course.  That unity is the most satisfying aspect of a relay race.  Complete strangers will offer you, without hesitation, a hug or a cold towel or a granola bar, and it will be the best damn granola bar of your life.

Just make sure to pass on the kindness to the next runner.

support

Are you considering a relay?  Any specific questions or concerns?  Ask in the comments and I’ll set your relay fears at ease!

So, have you heard of Ragnar?

I like to run.  I like to run with friends.  But when it comes to spending over thirty hours in two vans with eleven other sweaty, smelly, exhausted runners, all while covering almost two hundred miles…I AM AN ADDICT.

The Ragnar Relay Series takes the solitary sport of running and turns it into a team event.  Basically it goes down like this: a team of twelve rents two vans and takes turns leapfrogging through a two hundred mile course over two days.  Each runner takes on three legs of the race and each leg is about 5-7 miles long. Run. Sleep. Repeat.  Crazy, right?  YES!  What are you waiting for?  Being a Ragnar Ambassador, I’ve spoken with lots of people about Ragnar.  And I’ve heard lots of excuses.

My Mantra

Excuse #1 – I’m not ready for a Ragnar.

I am not a fast runner. I’m not an athlete.  I average a 13 minute mile.  I wear a size 14.  I am not “ready” for Ragnar.  But this April, I will complete my sixth race.  I am the slowest runner on my team but I am consistent.  I do my best, run my miles, and I contribute like everyone else.  If I can do this, anyone can.  I never in a million years thought I’d be able to run something like Ragnar.  But I did.  Five times.  And so can you.

Napa 2011

Excuse #2 – I can’t afford it.

Yeah, it’s expensive.  Especially if you have to travel.  But think of it this way: Ragnar is a  great way to see the rest of country.  There are Ragnar Relays all over the United States and one in Canada.  Ragnar also just started the Trail Series, where you run trails instead of streets and camp instead of drive from one exchange to the next.  How much would you spend to go sightseeing in your favorite city?  And how much of that city would you actually get to see?  I’ve raced in Washington, Las Vegas, Southern California, Napa Valley, and I am just dying to get on an East Coast team.  Turn your race into a runcation and see the country like you’ve never seen it before.

The Start Line at Las Vegas 2012. I had no idea Vegas could be so cold!

Taking time to enjoy the scenery in Washington.

On the beach in San Diego 2011

Excuse #3 – I don’t have 11 friends who run.

Really, you only need 5.  Each team of 12 is split into two vans.  While Van 1 runs, Van 2 is resting and vice versa.  If you can fill one van, chances are you can find someone else who can fill the other.  You can also find runners on the Ragnar site who are looking to fill those spots.  Our team, N.W.A, Ninjas with Attitude has had literally dozens of members. It’s a great way to make new friends from across the globe.

Las Vegas 2012

Northwest Passage 2012

SoCal 2012

Excuse #4 – I like to compete on my own and I need a challenge.

This is probably the best thing about Ragnar.  It’s designed for all fitness levels.  Do you want twenty miles on 3 hours of sleep?  We have a leg for you!  Do you want hills at one in the morning?  We have a leg for you too!  Do you want it all?  If you eat marathons for breakfast, you can join or create an Ultra team.  Instead of 12 people, you run with 6.  That means you can run like 50 miles over two days on very little sleep.  How’s that for a challenge?

Ultra Team Risky Business. They ran the whole thing in their UNDERWEAR. That’s hardcore!

While other’s slept, we ran!

So now that I’ve killed your excuses, here’s the one BIG reason why you should run Ragnar.  You become part of a community.  There are teams that compete for time and there are teams that run dressed in drag.  It doesn’t matter.  We’re all running the same course and it’s all about personal goals.  We’re in this together.  When you cross that finish line with your team, it doesn’t matter if you were the fastest or the slowest, if you puked or cried, you finished.  You’re a Ragnarian.

We represent!

Double medals, baby!

If you want more information, click the link to www.ragnarrelay.com.  There are videos, maps, blogs, stories and all kinds of good fun.  Find your Ragnar and I’ll see you on the course.  You might not see me, though.  Because I’m a ninja.