The ABC’s of Ragnar Relay Niagara

Hold My Beer and Watch This participated in the Ragnar Relay Niagara back in June, and I am terribly behind on doing a recap. I’ve drafted, edited, redrafted, pic-collaged, and all of that is just sitting on my desktop waiting to be finished and published. Well, I am tired of that post, so I decided to go in a different direction, and thus present….



Compression shorts and compression socks are mandatory for me for Ragnar. I have no issues with the mileage I need to cover, but when you are breaking those miles up into three segments, and your recovery time is spent in the cramped and uncomfortable quarters of a van, it’s hard for your legs to feel fresh. I wore Aspaeris Pivot Shorts for my first two runs and between runs and like the way they fit and stay in place.


Bananas are a staple in our Ragnar vans, but this year we found ourselves doing an inflatable banana reconnaissance mission in leg 2.

Banana Rescue

**it should be noted that the banana did not belong to our team, and we returned it to its team at the next major exchange. Our team is Hold My BEER and Watch This, not Hold My BANANA and Watch This, which honestly would probably get us kicked out of Canada for going by, although it would be awesome, with a lot of “That’s what she said”-related conversations…


This was my first experience crossing a border by car, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was a slow process, but went smoothly once we reached the attendant. Don’t tell anyone, but I neglected to mention that I had beer and some liquor in my car each of the four times I crossed through…

alternates: compression, conversion van, chicken (as in rubber chicken, which we never do a relay race without)

Chicken Collage


On leg 25, less than a mile from exchange 25, there is a drawbridge that runners cross. Of course, Knicki was unfortunate enough to get stuck waiting for it. What’s funny is, the drawbridge attendant gave runners that got stuck waiting a pool inflatable.

Alternates: Drive, because we drove very, very far! Mike and I drove a little more than five hours together to get to Niagara Falls, where we met up with Pat and his family to drive another two hours to the hotel we were all staying at the night before the start. The drive there was brutal, because it stormed much of the way, and then suddenly about 20 minutes outside of Buffalo it began to clear. Crazy!


From prior experience, I told the rest of my van-mates that for this particular relay, if there was a particular food that they needed to bring it themselves, which was in part due to limitations to what we can bring across the border. In previous relays, we wound up with all sorts of extra food that took up space in the van and wasn’t necessary. There are places to stop and eat a meal and/or restock supplies, so the limited amount of food being brought was all-in-all a good move for us. If I were to provide a must-have food list for others, I would say bananas, grapes and apples, PB, and maybe some granola bars to have just in case.  Everything else you can manage without, or buy one at a time in a grocery or convenience store along the way. I definitely found myself making smarter choices during the relay than I do most other times, basically thinking about what I could eat that would fuel me but still be convenient. We found an awesome pita place that also had smoothies, and I was well set for a long time after that. Along the way we stopped in a Walmart and I picked up a tuna lunch kit, which was a great (and understandably odd) breakfast Saturday morning.

Alternates: exchange – you’ll see at least 18 of them!


To be able to pack for a Ragnar, in the days leading up to it I look at the weather forecast almost as much as my emails. With our trusty time estimates spreadsheet I was able to pack my three run outfits based on what the forecast was for a particular window of time. It’s not a perfect system, but it made my packing a lot less complicated.

Outfit planning Heading

Alternates: food, flat (the course was extremely flat!)


Due to some unexpected family circumstances, our team found itself one runner short in van 1, and Mike took on the challenge of running both his own and the Ghost runner (nicknamed Ghosty) legs. In the course of two days, he ran more than 30 miles.

Alternates: GPS (you cannot do a Ragnar Relay without a GPS in your van) and Guinness, because when I wasn’t running I was wearing a pair of Guinness capri-length sweatpants


The Ragnar Hangover is real, and it’s no joke. It’s been four months since the run and I still judge vans I see on the road for their Ragnar-worthiness. Conversion vans get bonus points, and really new conversion vans are drool-worthy. Our team’s Facebook group converses frequently about what our next event will be, deliberating the pros and cons of all of them, along with the logistics.


For the hundreds of serious, type-A races I’ve done, I consider relays to be my fun runs. It’s impulsive, and a bit intimidating, to jump in and sign up for one, because you are counting on 11 other people to commit, and you’re also betting on each van to survive the race without major conflicts. Sure, you have personality clashes, and everyone winds up needing some alone time, but ultimately the two days you spend with your team contribute to so many great memories, and awesome running stories.


Slacker here! Ragnar Relay Niagara took place in June, which was a great time to visit and see this region of Ontario.  The weather was fantastic and nothing was too crowded.

Knuckle Lights

Ragnar requires that during night-time hours, all participants wear reflective vests and that active runners wear a headlamp and a flashing light in the back. Back in 2011, when we ran our first Ragnar, our captain bought a set of Knuckle Lights for each van. Not only were we beaming light from our head, your visibility is broadened by the Knuckle Lights. Contoured to wrap around your knuckles, these lights extend your visibility greatly and are comfortable to wear. For this Ragnar, Knuckle Lights provided us with a couple new sets of lights, and in exchange we were more than happy to put a Knuckle Light magnet on each van and talk up these awesome gadgets to other runners on the course.

Alternates: Kelli, because seriously, she’s badass. Also, Kilometers (311 of them, because it’s Canada…) and kills, which I had ZERO!

Lake Ontario

A number of the legs of this course traveled roads and pathways along Lake Ontario. The Lake is huge, and the views were breathtaking at times. I particularly enjoyed being able to see sunset and sunrise on it.

Alternates: Lost, because unfortunately we did have a lost runner. Knicki got off course during leg 13 and managed to tack on an extra two miles for her leg.


Mike is The Man, because he ran as two people.

Night Running

Every Ragnar I’ve done I’ve had at least one, if not two, runs that fall in night-time hours. After each, I proclaim how much I love running at night, and vow that when I get home I will incorporate more night-time training runs into my schedule. Until the last few weeks, I hadn’t been out for a night-time run since Ragnar Niagara. As the days are shorter and the temps are still relatively pleasant, I’m thoroughly enjoying giving my reflective vest, Knuckle Lights and strobe light some use.

Alternates: Nuun, which I had in my hand held water bottle for every run; New York, because after finishing, most of the team traveled over the border to New York and shared a house for the night, with a ton of pizza, beer and story-telling.

O Canada

The Great White North is so close to us, but so different. I truly enjoyed the hospitality and overwhelming pleasantness of (nearly) all of the Canadian people we came across before, during and after the run. It also was pretty flattering to be carded at a bar/restaurant in Canada, where the legal drinking age is 19 – yeah, that happened to this 34-year-old!

Pellet Gun

Something that our team had discussed prior to our Ragnar Pennsylvania runs was some uneasiness for running through the city of Reading, especially in the timeframe that we were. Our fears were unwarranted, and we made it through Reading with no issues in either year of that relay. Fast forward to leg 23, with Kelli running through a part of Toronto that we learned the hard way was a little seedy. During her leg, Kelli witnessed another Ragnar runner being harassed and apparently robbed by some teenagers. To get them to stop, she (along with Eric who ran with her because it was night-time hours) began yelling, which led the teens to approach her and Eric. At some point one of the kids pulled out a pellet gun, which he shot, hitting Kelli in the nose. The cops arrived soon after and Kelly’s injury was nothing to stop her from being able to run. Luckily Rob’s leg immediately after Kelly’s was short, so he finished up hers and went on through his to meet up with those of us in Van 1 while we waited at exchange 24. Several write ups about the race included a mention of the incident so we are now infamous in Canada.

Kelli in the cop car GIF

Quiet Time

When you are in a van with five other people for potentially 30 hours, it’s inevitable that someone (or multiple someones) will get on your nerves. As the designated van captain, I am usually navigator, so it’s hard to filter out everyone and zone out. At 4am, when Knicki was on leg 25 we opted to drive to the next exchange and set the alarm to nap for an hour, which was glorious.  Knicki’s leg was labeled no van support so she knew we would not be out on the course with her.


The last thing you want to deal with anytime you run is chaffing. RunGuard worked excellently in preventing chaffing for all of us!


From our past experience doing Ragnars, we know that it’s not difficult to find the time to freshen up between legs, however not every major exchange offers showers. For Ragnar Niagara, it was outlined in the Race Bible that there were no showers available at any exchanges for runners. Shower Pill was generous enough to provide our team with product we could use. After my first leg, I cleaned up and changed in a Wal-Mart bathroom. After my second, a hotel lobby bathroom. And after my third, another hotel lobby bathroom. By the second time I was also sticking my head under the faucet and doing a hair rinse. Shower Pill was a God-send for all of us and was so easy and convenient.

Alternates: sponsors, which you’ll notice I’ve called out for each letter. Our team is so grateful to all of them!

Hold My Beer and Watch This product supporters

Hold My Beer and Watch This product supporters

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons are as common in Canada as Dunkin Donuts here (at least on the East Coast, sorry West Coast-ers), with a more extensive menu. I made sure to buy some Tim-Bits (donut holes) to bring home with me.

Alternates: Turtle, which I saw on my first leg; Toronto Blue Jays, which Mike and I went to see Monday, and were amazed by how empty the stadium was


During downtime at major exchanges, particularly during the day, it’s not unusual to chat with other runners. While waiting at exchange 12, Mike and I wound up talking with members of a team made up entirely of employees of U-Line, the box/packing supply company. It impressed me that the company not only covered the expense of registration and vans, but of travel for all the team members (based in all parts of the U.S.), and whatever costs they incurred during the run. Major props to U-Line!


No Ragnar (or race in general), could happen without Volunteers providing support. We greatly appreciate all the hard work these folks did!

Alternates: van, because a badass van can make the team.


TLC sang that we shouldn’t go chasing waterfalls, but in this case that’s what we were doing! The finish line was picturesque, on the Canadian side of the falls with an excellent view of the American and Canadian falls.


Because honestly, I cannot come up with ANYTHING starting with X that could relate to Ragnar, and I like to get the word Xanadu in my head so that the song comes up too 🙂


In the weeks leading up to Ragnar, I did a weekly Yoga 101 series and had become very pleased with the level of my practice, and how I felt from doing some sun salutations and downward dogs. After my second leg, I knew my body needed a reset, so before hopping back in the van I took a few minutes to work through some downward dogs, pigeon poses, forward folds and a quick inversion against a lamppost. This was all along the sideline of a soccer game being played, so I’m sure the other runners at the exchange and the guys playing soccer had to have been amused if they saw what I was doing. But hey, you do what you gotta do to get through 200 miles.


I went through more than a half dozen gallon size Ziploc bags in packing for Ragnar.  Three were for my run outfits (one bag for each to make it quick and easy to find when I change – and then throw the dirty outfit into the empty), one for sun and bug care, one for medical needs (pain killers, stomach stuff, etc), one for my personal toiletries, one for my Nuun stash and one for on the run nutrition needs.

Toiletries and van supplies

So that’s my ABC’s – if you were writing this post what are some of your ABC’s for Ragnar, or if you haven’t done a Ragnar, another big race you’ve done??


2 thoughts on “The ABC’s of Ragnar Relay Niagara

  1. Pingback: Kim’s Super-Awesome Ragnar Relay Recap Roundup | Too Slow for Oranges

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