Preparing for RAGNAR – Cotton Balls and Vaseline

So TriBoomer and I chatted briefly today and while we’re still short on volunteers, we aren’t short on ingenuity and planning. TriBoomer is putting together an overall project plan that we can follow that will allow us even when we are dead tired to know where and when to run, eat sleep, drive, etc…


For those of you that are new to my blog, you might not have followed all of the antics leading up to Ironman Wisconsin two years ago. I had the pleasure of staying with my teammate Brett “Texafornia” Blankner, his lively wife Emily and their amazing son Kai in the fish room in Madison. The night before the race, Emily, Kai and I went out to mark up the course for JetPack and Texafornia and when we returned to the room, Brett was hunched over the sink mixing all sorts of concoctions that would propel him to victory over his nemesis the following day. Well, Brett is at it again. Make no mistake, Brett is into this race!

So thanks to the wonders of You Tube, Emily was able to send me this video of Brett’s mentor, who is helping him and us to prepare for any eventuality on the RAGNAR course. I think you’ll be quite impressed with what Brett will be prepared to do with some pink cotton balls and a jar of Vaseline…impressed, but if you know Brett, you may not necessarily be surprised.

After watching this, it won’t take you long to see where Brett gets his signature podcasting style from, who films his videos and where he gets his hair cut. I have to admit that I do have a problem with Brett anywhere near Vaseline, cotton balls and pill bottles. As they said in STRIPES, someday this man may save your life, and then again maybe he won’t. Enjoy!

RAGNAR Cometh – If we survive that long

So if you’ve been following our feed on Twitter at you’re now aware that in a little over a week, me and three other endurance freaks are heading out to San Antonio to run the most circuitous route we can find to get to Austin Texas in the RAGNAR Texas Relay. I invite you to check out our blog at

I think all of the team members agree that by the time we actually get to the starting line, the hard part will be over. How can I say this? Well, this process is right up there with Ironman in terms of confusion, mixed messages and frustration. Don’t get me wrong, when you speak to the co-founder, Dan, you get an incredibly reasonable, cool guy, but the people that he has working for him do not seem empowered to apply common sense and over the past few months have done little more that read from scripts and logs, information which we can read for ourselves.

To bring you up to speed, here’s the deal, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, Long Runner Rich called Texafornia Brett and asked, young Padawan, “How would you like to run 200 miles with me?” Texafornia as usual drinking from the marrow of life replied, “Hell, yeah!”. Yours truly, equally an idiot, responded when Brett asked for other idiots to join him. Then Herr Professor Erich jumped into the fun, believing that killing himself by running 200 miles in Texas heat was a better option than facing the other crap in his life. There you have it, the fab four signed up to run 200 miles on October 24th and 25th.

While the other teams have 12 runners, we are hardened endurance athletes so someone decided that we should sign up as an ultra team. But even that wasn’t enough on the suffering scale. Long Runner got special permission for us to register with only four runners when even the ultra teams normally have six. Thankfully, nobody has suggested dropping the team down to two runners because I’m confident that one or more of us would respond with the traditional “Hell, yeah!”

So Long Runner checked with the RAGNAR folks and confirmed we would be running with 4 runners and would be rotating one runner every hour until we were done. Additionally, we received extra good news when we found that the run would only be 182.4 miles, less than the projected 20 miles. What this all meant is that we went about our daily lives running for an hour at a time over and over knowing that on race day, we’d probably run 6 five to six-mile stretches each – challenging but certainly doable.

Here is how RAGNAR describes their race on their RAGNAR home page:

“It’s really quite simple. Get a bunch of friends together (or we can help you find team members who’ll quickly become your friends) and start running.”

No plans, no restrictions and using your common sense? After the recent years under the thumb of North America Sports Ironman Gustappo techniques, we were giddy as school girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.

And then it happened. The RAGNAR Race Bible. Rich received an e-mail about needing to acquire volunteers and telling us that there is a Race Bible. This Race Bible spends most of its content dedicated to the acts that will either create time penalties or disqualifications, and in short, our plan of alternating runners every hour was thrown out the window. According to the Race Bible, we are required to run two prescribed consecutive legs, anywhere between 6 and 16 miles and to rotate on a prescribed basis. Because we only have 4 runners, we still have to rotate as if we have six with two of the four runners filling in for so-called “injured runners”.

What does this all mean?

  • Runner 1: Rich
  • Runner 2: Brett
  • Runner 3: Adam
  • Runner 4: Erich
  • Runner 5: Injured (Rich)
  • Runner 6: Injured (Erich)

Basically what this means is that because we cannot rotate based on four runners, we’ll need to sub in runners for the fake injured/non existent runner positions, which means that our rest periods will be further reduced and runners will be disadvantaged further. To our credit, we did ask the RAGNAR people why this was an issue, in other words, why was this rule in place given that a prudent person would assume that for a recreational activity, a rule is put in place for either safety reasons or to ensure that no team has an unfair advantage. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how this helps safety or how us rotating normally every hour would create an unfair advantage given that we only have four runners to begin with – we’re already at a disadvantage to every other team. To get the answer to this reasonable question, I called the RAGNAR offices. Unfortunately, even though we talked for about twenty minutes, and I phrased the question in multiple ways, the representative had no answer either, only that that’s what she was told to do and she was only following orders. Now that’s excellent customer relations, isn’t it?

Long Runner story short, Rich finally did get a hold of Dan who compromised by allowing us to rotate our runners two legs a piece but still not every hour. I should point out that Long Runner has tried to resign from being our team captain multiple times but we just continue to ignore him.

So there you have it, the rotation and total miles for the 2008 RAGNAR Texas team White Line Fever on October 24th and 25th will be:

  • Runner 1 – 51 miles – Brett
  • Runner 2 – 57 miles – Rich
  • Runner 3 – 42 miles – Erich
  • Runner 4 – 33 miles – Adam

I want to thank my good team members, given my current health issues, for still allowing me to participate, as well as Cindy who really was expecting me to go to Ohio with her for a Halloween party, for doing the same.

I also want to thank TriBoomer who is assumed the roll of den mother by providing us with his superior management skills, his patience and his time driving us all around and tending to our every need. TriBoomer even took the time to sit down with a RAGNAR racing veteran and interviewed him on the ins and outs of this race. I encourage anyone who is interested in doing a relay race to listen to this podcast of Zen and The Art of Triathlon dedicated to TriBoomer’s interview.

Lastly, we’re still going to be disqualified before we ever show up because we don’t have enough volunteers. Scratch that, we don’t have any volunteers. Part of the Race Bible states that we need to supply three volunteers to work shifts doing all sorts of stuff for the event (basically the same kind of thing that hopeful Ironmen/Ironwomen do the year before they actually want to race so they can earn the right to stand in line at 5AM the next morning to sign up to register for the following year’s race). So if you live in or around San Antonio or Austin and want to help us out, we’ll try and find ways to bribe you. I’ll personally make a $100 donation to your favorite legit charity if you come out. No Rick, the “Hollywood Hill’s Apartment for Wayward Strippers”, and the “Hooters School for Mobility” are NOT legit charities.

So it looks like I’m traveling all the way to Texas to do what I originally wanted to do, spend a few hours with good people running in a place I wouldn’t otherwise run. No medal, no recognition, just the knowledge that in 2008, I spent a weekend doing this. And for me, that’s more than enough, especially given that the alternative was going to a Halloween Party in McDonald, Ohio dressed as either a Rooster or Senator Obama.

OK, I’m pushing the trigger on my plane tickets to San Antonio. Wish us luck!

Chicago Marathon Taper Week: Six things you can do to show up ready to race
It’s marathon week for all those thousands of people looking for redemption at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. After last year’s experience it’s only natural that the marathon should have as its named sponsor one of America’s largest financial institutions. Hey at least they’re still profitable based on their latest earnings release.

You already have the tools you need to run a truly amazing race. You’ve trained well, you’ve tapered well, you’ve eaten well. Since you can’t control weather or financial collapse, the focus should be on what you can control. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll show up ready to run your best marathon. Here are a few reminders of what you should do (and what you shouldn’t) during your marathon week.

Behaviors to avoid:
1) Over-eating for comfort. Throw out the candy, clean out the refrigerator and make sure you have a good supply of healthy snacks on hand this week. Nervous eating accompanies nervous energy. Bananas are a particularly good food to have on hand as a nutritional alternative, which will directly benefit your running.

2) Looking for that magic pill by trying something new. The marathon expo can be an entertaining experience with lots of tantalizing products and services, all claiming to guarantee success on Sunday. Don’t buy it. Literally. If you want a souvenir, it’s fine to buy something for use after the marathon. Nothing that you buy at the expo should be used on race day unless you forgot to pack gloves, Body Glide, or nip guards before you left.

3) Losing focus after the race begins. If during the race you find yourself succumbing to your emotions and flying down the first descents, imagine a coach grabbing your collar from behind to gently remind you to hold yourself back. The excitement can be overwhelming. Keep it together.

Even if the love of your life and your soul mate passes you early on, as the saying goes, let them go. Adding a marathon spin to this phrase, you’ll catch them during the last 10K. Focus on running your own race. If someone you are running with or a pace group member goes rogue, suggest once that they should pull back. If they don’t, just let them go. Don’t be too hard on them when you pass them farther along on the course. Focus on your own race and do what you came here to do. Wear and set your own watch!

Behaviors to seek out:
1) Know the course. Spend a few minutes going through all of the available tools such as this interactive course map for this year’s Chicago Marathon. Visualize every mile marker, bridge, water stop and aid station, and where your family and friends will be. By knowing all of these things in advance you will reduce unnecessary anxiety. Notice the camber of the street, the angle of the hills, and the wind on the bridges. Then realize that none of these are any different than the conditions in which you have trained. After you’ve done this, stop thinking. Just let your mind go blank. There’s nothing more for you to think about. You are prepared!

2) Plan your run and run your plan. Maintain discipline and consistency. This is no different than the message you should have received during the first week of your training. Race day is not a time to get creative but it is a time to flexible, tolerant and patient. If you’ve trained with Race with Purpose, you have been trained to Commute, Warm-Up & Race. All that is left is to execute this plan. During this last week, don’t begin to mentally shave seconds off of your Commute Pace to try and hit a specific time goal. Remember, your Commute Pace is the most important pace of the run. Do it right and you will feel strong and empowered as you run your final 10K. Blow it and you will be like any other marathoner out there struggling through an excuse known as “the wall.” Your Commute is run at a pace at which you will run no faster, not a pace that you will try to stay close to. It flexes to keep your effort level constant. If you have been training for a 4-hour goal, you are not going to switch from 9:15′s to 9:00′s on race day. Even a 10 second acceleration of Commute Pace will only serve to guarantee your inability to Race at mile 20. Remind yourself that you are here to Race a 10K. Nothing else matters.

You have trained for this in real conditions, not in a laboratory. You have trained in heat, wind, cold, and rain. There is nothing that you will need to overcome on race day except your own negative thoughts. Turn it positive and you have nothing left to do but succeed.

3) Visualize your success. Every evening before going to sleep, see yourself standing at the start with your teammates. Then visualize yourself smiling and laughing with each other as you run along the course. Who will you look at when you hit the 16-mile marker, realizing that your Warm-Up is about to begin? What will you say to the other members of your running group when you enter the beginning of your 10K feeling strong and race ready?

Look at yourself right now. How do you look as you cross the finish line? Think of how you will answer each of these questions, and then relax and smile to yourself and be content with your preparation.

On race day, you will see all of the same faces that you have met along your journey and some smiling new ones. You have worked extremely hard to get to this point. This race is not your final exam but your victory lap. All of your coaches, teammates, friends, family, and spectators will be out on the course with one purpose: to celebrate your success. This race is your graduation ceremony. You’ve already earned all of the credits.