Friday, February 28, 2014

How to Captain a Ragnar Relay Team

As a follow up to my 2014 Ragnar Relay - REGISTER TODAY…no seriously! post here is a bit more info/advice on how to be a captain, since you registered already right?

Are you a type A organizer and love to be the leader? Well then captaining a Ragnar Relay team is the job for you!  Are you thinking about organizing a Ragnar team but are too scared of the responsibility? Don't be!  I have run Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage for the past 5 years and for 2 of those I was a captain (for both a 12 person and a 6 person team).

And you usually get a pretty cool swag item like this awesome sweatband!

Northwest Passage next year (July 18-19) is dangerously close to selling out so get on that right now!
Team Six Pack With Racks Part II is coming back with only one new runner.  So here are 5 tips to get you started on the process of building your own Ragnar team:

1. Find Some Runners - The biggest "obviously" of the bunch but start asking now.  Ask your friends, your friends friends, your twitter friends,  your co-workers...anyone! Decide if you want to have a 12 or 6 person team and start recruiting. Scared to run with strangers? Don't be, that is honestly the BEST part. In my 5 years running this race I have always ran with complete strangers in my van and it has worked out perfectly every single year.  In fact most years I didn't even meet someone in my van until the day of or before the race!

I knew ONE person in this photo before this race! Northwest Passage 2010
Only knew these ladies "online" before Northwest Passage 2012 with Nuun!
If you are doing a 12 man team I would highly recommend having a trusted friend assist you with things closer to race time like picking up vans, coordinating food, etc.  If you are a team of strangers consider doing a happy hour or 2 before the race to get to know each other, pick your legs, and general team bonding.  It's not necessary but it's nice!

2. The Money Situation - When I captained teams I did not register the team until I had 11 (or 5 for an ultra) runners checks in my hand.  I told my teammates their spot was not secure until they paid and it worked. I couldn't afford to shell out the money up front so this strategy worked well for me. If you have the dough, go ahead and register...I promise you'll find enough runners before race day.  I broke up payment into two chunks: 1) registration fee up front and 2) van rental, gas money, plus a little spending money.  Chunk number 2 was calculated before the race and teammates were required to pay me before the race started.  I knew the price of the van and just over calculated the cost of gas for each van and then put an envelope with cash in each van and told them it was for gas and whatever else they  wanted to use it for.

I will note that the first couple of years I ran Ragnar one person paid for EVERYTHING up front and we paid him back and he admitted that he lost money both years because people didn't end up paying him all the this happens I have no idea but it is the reason I make payment upfront a requirement...I ain't made of money people!

Oh and HEY...someone posted about this exact topic on the Blognar...READ IT!

3. Van Rentals - If you are going to run Northwest Passage just reserve van(s) NOW, seriously, go do it! Especially if you want a 12 or 15 passenger van because even months before there will be NONE to be found in the greater Seattle area.  I've done relays in minivans, 12 passenger vans, and a suburban and you know what...I survived each one.  Is having the room of a 12 passenger van awesome...FOR the price worth it?  You need to decide that with your team.  Our ultra team got hooked up with a Suburban last year and we found it to be more than enough room for us and our stuff and I've already reserved one for us for 2014.  Such a good little planner I am ;).

Mini vans...

to big 'ol 12 passenger vans!
4. Volunteers - Guess what...if any one person on your team lives within 100 miles of any point of the Ragnar race course you have to provide 3 volunteers or pay $120 for each of them.  I know lots of teams that just fork over the money but not this thrifty captain.  Ask family members of runners, friends, even co-workers!  My co-worker and her friend volunteer for my team every year and they absolutely LOVE it! And good ol' Blognar strikes again with more advice on getting volunteers.

5. Food and Stuff - There are lots of other things you need to remember and take in consideration when planning for an overnight relay. Snacks, water, required reflective gear, etc.  As a captain you can choose to go shopping yourself and add it to the money but in my opinion that just creates more work.  I tell my runners to bring minimal snacks and then usually we stop along the way to pick up other stuff as we need it.  12 man teams have time to go out for meals between legs.  If you are running it ultra style encourage your runners to come with all the food they'll need during the race in case stopping is hard to do.   And remember, it really is only about 30 hours...don't overdo it :).

Other things to consider:
  • Do you want a separate driver or will the runners take turns?
  • Do you have a super early start time? Maybe you want to camp or get a hotel near the start line the night before.
  • Do you want team branded shirts? Team shirts/costumes are pretty darn awesome but not required.
  • How will you handle drop outs? Make others run or find a last minute replacement? Once year my team recruited someone 12 hours before we left :).
The Ragnar website is also an awesome resource for more information including:
Question: Any other advice you would like to see about Ragnar? I'm sure there will be many more posts about Ragnar coming up, but let me know if you want to hear about something specific!


Sybil Runs Things said...

After throwing myself a pity party over how frustrating it was to put a team together I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl panties, and registered a team anyways. We are actually so close to being full now! Thanks so much for hooking me up with an awesome teammate, who brought new teammates! We chose a name and I am getting so excited. Thanks for all of your help so far. I am sure I will have many more questions :)

James said...

Thanks for the good list - as a first time captain, I'm nervous... but this put me at ease. Planning works.