Monday, June 6, 2011

How to Ragnar, Pt. 1

If you know me at all, you've heard me talk about Ragnar like it's my only passion. If you don't know me, let me enlighten you to the amazing race that is the Ragnar Relay.

Ragnar Relays are a roughly 200 mile team relay race. A team of 12 or 6 (ultra) completes the race in under 36 hours. We run through the night with the support of our friends, teammates, and the kindness of the small towns that we visit.

Ragnar currently has 15 races across the country, ranging from Napa Valley to Washington, DC.

I've been lucky enough to complete three of them: DC (Cumberland, MD to the National Harbor), Florida Keys (Miami to Key West), and New England (Yale to Harvard). I'll be taking on PA (Lancaster to Mt. Pocono) and TN (Chattanooga to Nashville) this year too.

I am even more lucky to be a part of the Ragnar Brigade, a volunteer staff of Ragnar runners in the DC area who attend race expos, running clubs, and other events to tell people about the Ragnar experience. I got pretty cool swag out of the deal (Chadd will tell you I almost never take off my Ragnar brigade jacket). Part of that position also includes the amazing opportunity to work as SWAT (our safety/volunteer coordinators on the race) for the DC race this year.

Now that you have my background with Ragnar, I'm going to tell you about how to run a Ragnar. I'm in the middle of working on a Captain's Bible to share with other captains, especially first time Captains.

The first time I was introduced to Ragnar was a little over a year ago. Some guy at an expo asked me to hear him out about Ragnar, I said no thanks and he said as I walked away "Hey, hear me out. Or are you too chicken to do it?" ...if you know me, you know those were the magic words. I turned around on a dime and in about a month, I had about a half team and signed us up. I am ever grateful to whoever it was who shouted me down at the Cherry Blossom expo.

Of the three Ragnars I've done, I've captained two of them. Of the remainder, my co-captain and I have agreed to co-captain all of them. That's another blog post for another day, but, lesson one:

How to Form a Team
The scariest part of being a captain is plunking down your credit card to pay for a team before you have 11 other people to run with you. In reality, it's actually the easiest part.

Ragnar 1 (DC):
I sent out an email to about 20 people, praying that half of them would say yes. Instead, I had 3. I almost called it off. I waited for a week or two, emailed out a few more times, twittered, begged, but no one wanted to take the challenge. I am forever grateful to FJ, Pete, and Katie for taking the chance and saying yes up front.

But don't worry. That happens to everyone. The next step was using the Ragnar Facebook Page. Since my DC race, they've added discussion boards per race where you can search for runners. I found my co-captain, Brannon, and Kevan, Sandeep, Rachel, and her friends there. A friend I had originally emailed also sent my email on to a friend of his who joined our team. Jason is an accomplished cyclist and runner and we were so fortunate to add him to our team. Just keep asking people to ask their friends.

There's another resource for teams--when you form your team, you can check a box on the Ragnar team page that says you are looking for runners. That actually may have been how we found Rachel. Anyone looking to join a team is given a link to contact the captain about a place on the team.

By the time Brannon and I had finished DC, we'd heard from a number of our friends that they were really interested in joining our team. Most people are worried about that first time (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID...sorry) but when you do it once, people suddenly realize that what seems impossible is actually quite possible. Our little PSA Ragnar video (made by Bran) didn't hurt either:

Brannon captained our Keys team and filled it pretty quickly with her friends. People had heard the good word and were 100% in.

New England:
We sent out emails again and within 2 weeks, we'd filled a team. This time, we both took over a van. Filling my van was pretty easy. A mutual friend of Katie and mine (Sarah) had seen us run two and wanted in. One of her friends from Boston (where she grew up) joined us (Kristen), then one of the other Brigade members (and one of my newest dear friends) Justin opted in when I posted on the Brigade facebook page and brought one of his DC teammates (Ayla) into our race. Our Iron Man/Gazelle/Bambino, FJ, has promised to be with me for every race (and for this we are all so grateful). My van was full within days, Brannon's van was full almost as fast.

My New England van immediately re-signed (you guys are my Seal Team Six) and over the past two weeks, people I've reached out to over the past few races have started asking. Seems like 4th time is a charm. We'll likely be experimenting with the feasibility of a dual team--signing two teams with four vans and doing a _____ vs ______ theme (my current favorite is pirates v. ninjas)

- Build 1 email you can forward again and again and again with the following information:

  • What is a Ragnar
  • When and where is the Ragnar
  • How a Ragnar works
  • How much the registration fee is and a rough estimate of other costs (between 130-250 pending on if you travel to the race and how much stuff you have lying around...if you have a 12 passenger van, you are waaaay ahead of the game)
  • When you need to know if they are in or out (ask for a definite "no", too)
  • Ask them to invite friends
- Build a second email for people who have said yes. When you're ready to pull the trigger, you can do one of two things:

  • Pre-collect money (we suggest paypal!) from all your participants so you can immediately wipe the transaction off of your credit card
  • Pay then collect monies via PayPal (this works best when you register without a full team)
To determine who gets on the team and what spot, we've done the "first paid, first pick" method. Brannon and I believe in taking the legs that no one else wants. We typically split up one of us in each van, usually with people who have said "I'm scared, but I love you, I need to be in your van." And then we take the 6th spot. This has lead to some intense pain and many miles, but if you're not willing to take the worst leg of the bunch, then I don't suggest you captain a Ragnar team.

The second email you send to people who have paid should give them an outline of info you'll need:
- What position they'd like to have or if they're more concerned about who they're with (van selection)
- What their t-shirt size is
- Cell phone number
- Travel arrangements (if necessary)
- If they have any sweet hook-ups (AAA, costco, status with a car rental company, etc.)
- Their pace (if you care)

Your email should also tell them how to log-on, accept the invitation, and SIGN THE WAIVER. It'll make your life much easier if you're not running around trying to track down people who have paid, but haven't accepted their invitation.

I recommend starting a shared google document for this (excel) and keeping track.

Next post on dock:
Logistics, Part II: Travel, major expenses, major responsibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment