What I wish I had known: 21 Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay Newbie Tips

A 200-ish Mile Relay Adventure

In 2014, a group of awesome friends and I completed the Reach the Beach (RTB) Ragnar Relay from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach, NH. We competed as a five person freestyle ultra team and finished the 207 mile race in 34 hours. It was an exciting, pavement pounding experience, even for our group of loyal trail runners.

Reach the Beach Ragnar

If you’re thinking about grabbing a few, or several, of your besties and signing up for Reach the Beach, here are a few newbie tips for you (thank you to my team for helping me compile this list):

*Note: This post was originally written in 2014. While the race details have changed a bit since then, these tips can still come in handy for this overnight running adventure or any long-distance relay.

 About Reach the Beach Relay

The current version of the 200+ mile Reach the Beach Ragnar relay starts in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire and ends in Hampton Beach, NH. In 2022, the relay takes place in September.

The course shows off New England in autumn, and goes from mountains to beach. It is billed as the East Coast’s oldest running relay.

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21 Newbie Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay Tips

1.  Pack pens.  

If you show up at the registration desk without your signed waivers, you’ll get little sympathy at the registration desk. Sign ’em in advance, racers!  You’ll also find pens useful for scribbling your teammates’ names down next to their assigned relay legs in the detailed Ragnar Race Guide–and later crossing those names and replacing them with teammates who want to run MORE legs because they want to amass more mileage.

2. Pack the Foam Roller.

Because rolling at transition areas mid-race hurts so good. If you need a foam roller suggestion, here’s a good roller that you’ll use well after the glory of RTB racing is over.

3.  Ditch the sleeping bag, maybe.  

If you’re on a small team (think one vehicle), you probably won’t have much time for sleeping, especially if you’re switching runners at every transition area and they aren’t “running through,” so ditch the bag and pack light. See number four below.

4.  Sleep is for the weak.  

Well, kind of.  Again, if you’re running on a team smaller than the popular size of 12, don’t expect to get much sleep. Larger teams have much more downtime, so it may be feasible to actually sleep.  My team was able to sneak in micronaps, at best. So, if you’re hoping to sleep lots, put together a big team (or a team with runners who are willing to run through multiple legs) or make sure you have a team of super fast runners so you can get home and back to your own bed fast.

5.  Be flexible.  

Your teammates will appreciate you more and you’ll have a better overall experience if you’re flexible, accommodating and willing to roll with it all–whether in the form of flexibility to rotate assigned legs, swapping drivers, or figuring out where to eat.

6.  Like your teammates.  

Sure, you can put together a random team of people who are excited about doing a lengthy relay race and love to run and have a great Ragnar experience.  However, that approach may work great for larger teams, but if you’re a small team, you’ll probably want to make sure you at least like each other well enough to tolerate each other and the range of emotions that pop up over 24+ hours.

7.  Protect your nipples!  

Need I say more? A little FYI, you can actually buy nipple protectors. They look like little stickers — or bandaids.

8.  Have no expectations.  

If you don’t like road racing to begin with, don’t expect you’ll fall in love with road racing along the way. If you love trail racing, don’t expect that you’ll naturally love road racing. Don’t expect you’ll find wonderful, warm, compassionate volunteers at every stage or at every hour.  You might find crotchety ones at 5:30 a.m, but then again, you might also meet the sweetest, kindest ones in the middle of the night directing van traffic in a parking lot.  

Don’t expect to be annoyed by all road racers or their habits like constant spitting (is that just for show, anyway?).  They might surprise you with their praise or appreciation, maybe even in the form of gifting you a plastic coin. Don’t expect to find comforts at the finish line.  You might find a huge table of food, massages and beverages, or you might not.

9.  Prepare for Port-a-Potty Lines.  

No public urination means waiting in lines, sometimes l-o-n-g lines.  No ifs, ands, or buts. BYOTP (toilet paper), just in case.

10. Bring food and snacks.  

Stock your vehicle with a cooler and goodies.  While big teams with two vans may have time for stops, dining out and Starbucks, small Ultra teams may not.  Bring lots of your favorite race snacks and drinks, like water and hydration beverages, and keep your fingers crossed that you’ll find a place along the route to grab real food at some point.

11.  Drink.  

Stay hydrated.  As tempting as chugging beer may be, drink lots of water and then more of it. Pack lots of water, especially since you won’t find stocked, free aid stations like in other races.

12.  Bring cash.  

If you want food or drink on the course at transition areas, you’ll need cash.  You can buy food such as a yummy breakfast at the fire department’s big annual fundraiser breakfast.

13.  Don’t Bring Any Food You Ever Want to Eat Again.  

Love, love, love Beef Jerky?  Well, you might want to leave it at home this race.  Unless you know your body extremely well under relay race circumstances mixed with sleep deprivation, don’t be surprised if you find your stomach feeling a little squirrely at some point during the race.  The last thing you might want is to develop an aversion to your favorite food.

14. Don’t Let Your Friends Quit When They Realize the Whole Thing Sucks.  

If, or when actually, you or your teammates start thinking about quitting because the race blows at the moment, hold on ’cause this too shall pass.  Everything is temporary and this race is too. It’s only a matter of hours until you’ll have a finishers medal (hopefully the right one) proudly strung around your neck.

15. Try Not To Get Caught Up in Who Passes You.  

When the 91 year old grandmother or guy who sounds like he is breathing so hard that he might not make it another step, blows past you on a “very hard” leg and says, “keep it up, you’re almost there, hang in there,” take it in stride.  They are offering you support and encouragement. They’ve been there before, too. It’s not a judgment about you or your abilities.

16.  Santa’s Got Your Number.  

And as my teammate witnessed first hand, he’s a surly bastard when he doesn’t get respect.  You’ll get coal–or worse, a penalty against your team–when you don’t listen to Santa’s safety rules.

17.  Take Out Your Earbuds.  

At least one of them, not just so you can stay safe on the roads, but so you can hear all the kind things runners will say to you along the way.  You may even meet some really nice new road runner buddies.

18.  Drive Safely.  

If it’s your turn to drive at night, drive slowly and exercise lots of caution around runners.  Sleep deprivation and driving don’t mix well.

19.  Decorate Your Vehicle.  

Get in the team race spirit and get creative. Buy window glass markers. Buy battery operated LED Lights. Like Fairy lights. Make magnets with your team name that you can put on your vehicle (and on other vans–as this is part of the Reach the Beach fun)!

20.  Add Up Your Pennies.  

There’s a lot of expense that goes into the race, from race registration fee to the cost of printing magnets to plaster on team vehicles.  At the end of the day, make sure you really want to do the Ragnar race. Otherwise, consider using the money the race will cost toward an incredible weekend hotel suite and beer with your favorite friends.

21.  Start Planning Your Next Event ASAP.  

Once the race is done, get planning your next race as soon as your friends will let you! Once your legs are recovered, you’ll be excited at the prospect of your next adventure on your calendar!

What are your Newbie Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay tips? Share it in a comment below.

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