So you want to run a Ragnar Relay ULTRA?!?! (A Training Guide)

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As soon as I crossed the finish line at Ragnar Chicago in 2012 I KNEW I would be back. After suffering the heat and chaos of a captaining a 12 person team I also knew in 2013 I would put together a 6 person team and call it a day! So I did what any reasonable runner would do and hired a coach with experience searched the internet for training plans. Though I couldn’t find a Ragnar Ultra specific training plan I did find multiple blogs that suggested one should be in “marathon shape” so I figured I would follow a marathon training plan with some modifications. Since I already had the book “Train Like A Mother” I thought I’d try their “own it” plan. I WILL NOT be re-hashing that plan here. The authors deserve your money so if you are interested in it PLEASE go buy the book. Since I revamped the schedule some and had a few “hiccups” in training you will have to fill in yourself I WILL show you what I did based on my Garmin data (I am also putting myself out there and leaving all the paces, I NEVER claimed to be the fastest). I would also like to mention I am NOT a certified coach/trainer so if you choose to follow any of these suggestions you are doing so at your own risk.
For a video recap of our Ultra adventure head over to Youtube

Training started February 2nd 2013.






Outside of running all these miles I also generally took Monday and Wednesday to strength train. I used a new online library of workouts at mainly because it was founded by a local guy and it gives you the option to customize your workouts.

The other important thing to consider when training for Ragnar Ultra is nutrition. I ate the most of anyone on our team and that left me with the most energy and motivation throughout the journey. Even with only sleeping 1.5 hours.

Pre-Run: Start practicing this RIGHT AWAY. Find out how long before a run you need to eat and what works for you. Choose easily packable/storable foods that give you both carbs and protein. There is NO “right” formula for this just trial and error. If you ALWAYS need coffee/caffeine before a run try to ween yourself from that pre race just in case there is nothing available.

On the run: Practice eating!!! Gels, gummies, pretzels, orange slices, anything. I suggest have 2-3 fuel sources that work for you as you may get tired of using the same one for all 3 legs or one might just seem more appealing at 4am. I found it very helpful during Ragnar to “over eat” on the runs. For example I usually eat about 200 calories on a 10 mile run. Near the end of training I started loading it to 300 – 400 to get my body use to it and also used this plan race day(s). I found over loading just a bit and near the end of each leg to help when I didn’t feel like I could eat right away. It gave me a bit of a window before my system was too depleted.

After the run: : Practice with different recovery drinks find one you could get down even with a bit of stomach distress. Many people experience a bit of nausea when they are sleep deprived. Also make sure it is something portable/storable. During training I pretty much stuck with my Post Long Run beer but since there is NO drinking allowed on the course I used GU Recovery Brew. To be honest I had used it before but NOT in this training cycle so I got lucky it didn’t back fire.

In between the runs: This is hard to practice. Even on days when you do your back to back runs you will still be living your “normal” life with access to “regular” food. Try for at least 2 of those sessions to eat less than you normally would and eat foods you think you will be bringing. The food that CHANGED MY LIFE during the race was turkey on wheat bread. If your stomach can handle it I suggest running pretty soon after a meal as well just incase you forget to eat/ are using that time to sleep and you get stuck trying to get loaded right before a leg. Also try using Imodium or Pepto Bismol a couple of times to see how your body reacts. There was not a single person on our team that did not experience some stomach “issues” these things were a game changer!

Be prepared to do A LOT of laundry and try many different top/bottom combos because you never know what the weather will be so you are going to want many options that have been tested on 10+ mile training runs.

As you see above I did not do any 3x runs. I did a few when I trained for Ragnar as a 12 person but this training cycle I found myself REALLY pressed for finding that “extra” time also you are TRAINING you don’t want to beat your body TOO badly. I found doing a few of the 16-19 mile runs at a faster pace really simulated the pounding I felt in my quads on my last leg.

When possible run at ALL times of the day. Especially if you are nervous about a 3am run start. Find a buddy and find a time to run then. Get to know what the sky looks like, what animal noises are around and get use to the silence (I strongly suggest running your night leg sans headphones, it is a wonderful time to reflect, regroup and visualize your strong finish)

I think that is about it. I will be writing the FULL race recap with some more race day tips like packing and food suggestions soon. Stay in touch through Facebook or Twitter

Other Ragnar Ultra runners: any other training suggestions?

Tighten those laces. Lets RUN!!!


Ragnar Relay Chicago Packing – UPDATE/PICTURES

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>Last week I wrote a pretty extensive post about what I planned to pack for Ragnar Relay Chicago and I have to say I have pretty much stuck to that list. I ran last year as a 12 person team but decided to push myself and go ULTRA or a 6 person team in 2013. So packing this year was easy from the stand point of experience but harder because the ultra thing is un-know and requires a little more planning since we will be running more = more food/water/electrolytes/recovery. I also found myself planning for more issues like blisters and chafing.

The forecast is looking GREAT as of today *knock on wood* Friday – 67 in Lake Mills, WI. I was really only concerned about Friday’s high because I run at NOON. I did get a chance over the weekend to run part of that route and there is a lot of tree cover. Otherwise I run at 9:30pm and 8:30am. With that I began to pack my clothes in GALLON size ziptop bags:


As of right now I am planning to wear:
Leg 1 (12:00pm): Nike Shorts, new balance tank
Leg 2 (9:30pm): Adidas Capris, 2012 WRT Ragnar shirt, possibly arm sleeves
Leg 3 (8:30am): Nike Shorts, Sleeveless champion shirt

Then there is the nutrition! Here is a shot of my $30.00 worth.


I plan on taking either 2 gels and 3 shot blocks or 3 gels per run (about 11 miles each) I may take in a bit more on my night run depending how my nutrition is throughout the day. I will also carry 8oz water and 8oz Nuun.

I had delusions I could pack in a backpack but once I started I realized I’d have to use my duffel again this year. Especially with the possibility of a “chilly” night.


Besides running clothes I have 1 zip up sweatshirt, 1 towel, 1 swim suit, 1 pair of jeans, 2 cotton t-shirts, 2 non running pairs of socks, and 1 non running bra.

I also took care of van wide needs like the first aid kit:
first aid

As well as some extra stuff:

2 things on these pictures: tampons (we ARE in all women’s team) and 1 pair extra laces! Things you may not think about but could really save your team in a pinch!!!

The extra stuff gets packed in last year’s AWESOME bag and a BIG change from last year is the BIG water jug! Which we will just keep adding ice to.

So there you have it! My Ragnar Packing in pictures! What am I missing? What did I list you had not thought about? If you are running please comment with your team name and start time so we can look for you!! Follow our adventure on Facebook and Twitter (#RagnarChi) (#teamWRT) We start at 6am! See you out there!

Tighten those laces! Let’s RUN!


Not Your Average 1/2 Marathon Training Blog

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Picture Source

On our first ever We Run This group run I began talking to few of the women about training for their first 1/2 marathon. That made me realize so many training plans only focus on “run these miles on this day” and MAYBE “at this pace.” This will get you to a successful 1/2 but not always in the most comfortable way.
There is also a plethora of information on nutrition, hydration and gear. This post will be a basic guide for the women running her first 1/2 marathon!
Miles, miles, miles
1. Follow a reputable training plan. Here is one like:

Train Like a Mother (works for non-mothers too)

2. Know that you will likely miss a few runs, life happens. If you make ~80% of your plan you will be good to go! DO NOT however, use this as an excuse to skip a run.
3. Do not try to “make up” miles if you miss a run just move forward in your plan.

Gear, gear, gear
1. You will need to be FITTED for shoes at a local running specialty store (NOT a chain)
2. The shoes may not be cute but your feet will not be cute if you go with the wrong shoes.
3. If you LOVE the shoes after a few long runs buy another pair you will need about 2 for your basic training cycle.
4. Get a good sports bra! Most running stores have employees trained to fit you. Buy 2 right away as well.
5. Get wicking clothes, or don’t. If you start to chaef or blister try wicking clothes as a first solution. TJ MAXX/MARSHALL’S has a great selection.
6. Get good socks. Price matters less then material. Make sure your socks have NO COTTON in them! Running in the cold: splurg on one pair of wool socks, your feet will thank you
7. Figure out if you want to carry water/ nutrition with you, stash it on the route or do several loops back to a homemade “water stop” (we will get to when to eat/drink in a minute)
8. You want to carry your stuff? Handheld, belt, or hyrdation pack is up to you. Try them on but know they will feel different filled and as they get empty as you run.
9. Get/bring ID  I never run without my RoadID
10. Add ons. These are all things that may make running more enjoyable but are not NEEDED:

a running hat (good to keep the sun/rain out of your eyes/not get sunglasses tan lines but if you are not a hat person don’t get one), sunglasses (polarized work great in winter), pepper spray, yac-trax, reflective vest, head lamp/knuclelights

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

1. There is completely opposing schools of thought on nutrition and hydration that someone somewhere has “proven to be the best”  Your first 1/2 is NOT the place to get wrapped up into that.

2. Find out what works for you. Start practicing with different nutrition sources/ electrolyte replacements on your shorter runs so if you run into trouble you aren’t far from home.

3. You don’t HAVE to use the expensive gels, gummy/bars they sell in the running store. Sure they may be easier to carry/consume but they can also take a toll on your pocket-book. Try: fruit snacks, pretzels, orange slices, 1/4 a peanut butter/honey sandwich, etc.

4. Hydrate! For runs lasting less than 1 hr you will be fine using just water. Over that you want to introduce some electrolyte replacement. Liquid formats include: Gatorade, Poweraide (though full of sugar so if you aren’t into that kind of thing you may wat to steer clear) My favorite is Nuun (though sometimes I feel like I am the only female blogger not an offical ambassador yet) Other companies like Nathon and Hammer have replacements along the same line as Nuun as well.  Non-Liquid capsules(taken orally)  are also available if you can’t stomach more than water on the run. they can be found here, here and probably many other places.

5. This is what a typical 13 mile run looks like for me (Female, 29, 147lbs, running ~ 10:15 min miles)

Mile 1 – 1 sip (about  2oz) water

Mile 2 – 1 sip Nuun

Mile 3 – 1 sip water + 1 Gel (I use GU or Hammer)

Mile 4 – 1 sip Nuun

Mile 5 – 1 sip water

Mile 6 – 1 sip Nuun

Mile 7 – 1 sip water + 1 Gel (sometimes I substitute this Gel w/ fruit snacks/ 3 cliff shot blocks)

Mile 8 – 1 sip Nuun

Mile 9 – 1 sip water

Mile 10 – 1 sip Nuun (sometimes I take a Gel sometimes I don’t, depends how the run is going/how my stomach is feeling/how well I fueled before the run)

Mile 11 – 1 sip water

Mile 12- 1 sip Nuun

Mile 13- Beer (after I’m done running of course)


So there you have it. The REST of half marathon training! You train your feet and legs you also need to train your guts!!

Tighten those laces, let’s run!


* I have NOT been paid to mention any of the above products. I am NOT a certified coach or specialist. All the information provided is my opinion, follow it at your own risk.


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the dreaded ice bath

Do you remember the first race you ran when you crossed the finish line sore already, giving the run ALL YOU HAD. You couldn’t sit on the toilet that night and took the elevator to your second floor office. It hurt, bad. You wondered if you would EVER be able to will your muscle fibers to fire quicker than a hobble ever again. The pride you felt pulled you back to training and back to the starting line of a race the same distance. This time again giving it all you had. It hurt the same but not for as long and so you pushed yourself to new distances, new PRs all the while training your body not just to run but to recover!

Runners are always talking about recovery from compression garments to ice baths. Nasty tasting protein drinks to swearing by a post run beer instead (my personal practice). What we seem to forget is how fast we recover from various distances is also a testament of our fitness level and preparation. Remember to not all positive training gains can be seen on your Garmin. Just something to think about…

Tighten those laces, LETS RUN! 


What NOT to do to prepare for a long run!

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All week you know it is coming. You’ve looked at your calendar/training plan a million times. You have confirmed childcare (if you need it), talked a buddy or two to come along, or planned a solo route that will be interesting/safe. You think about it ALL week, your weekend long run.

Whether a “long run” is 6 miles or 26 for you there is no question it takes planning as well as execution of that plan to be successful. How well you do this COULD determine how your long run goes, good, bad or ugly.

This weekend I had a 20 mile training run scheduled for Sunday. For those of you who haven’t been following I am training to run Ragnar Chicago with 5 other women as Team We Run This in June which most conventinal wisdom blogs I have read state it’s best to be in “marathon shape” to run like this. So that is what I am going to do. I haven’t run 20 miles since my first marathon in October 2012. I was more than happy my running buddy replied to my plea on Facebook for company with all or some of this run that she would be there the first 14 miles.

I knew going into this weekend I had a window of 12:30pm – 4:30pm on Sunday to get this run done so that was the plan. I worked Saturday morning until 12pm then the kids and I were off to Madison,WI to see my parents and my little sister who was home from college and most importantly so my mom, sister and I could go see Dessa at the High Noon Saloon!!! She is my favorite artist in the last 3-4 years and it was my 6th or 7th time seeing her but I was still SUPER excited because she always inspires and NEVER disappoints! What I didn’t count on was not getting back to my parent’s house until 1am then getting involved in a serious discussion with my sister until 3am. Since I was solo with the kids it meant a quick 7am wake up step on as they crawled out of bed. 4 hours of sleep! Not to mention pretty bad for you food all day, beer, and whiskey. I ate 1/2 a waffle and some crackers between the 2 hour drive from my parents to my in laws to drop the kids for the day and the 45 min drive from my in laws to my running buddy’s place.

By our 12:30 start I was TIRED, depleted and probably under hydrated. After some last-minute bottle fills we were off. We both agreed to not let our pace get too crazy (as it can because we get to talking and such) and mostly run by feel. I was the only one with a Garmin so I was charged with making sure we didn’t go much under 10mm in the first part no matter how “good” we felt.  We stayed at a conversational pace most of the first part of the run but I felt like I was dragging! Around mile 6.5 I got a weird second wind and shortly after we saw one of those “your speed” trackers and ran to see what we could get it to reach if flashed 11 once and 9 twice that was fun.  Not too long after I started to get in a really bad head space thinking “oh man I am only half way done!” It was nice to have my running buddy there to talk me off the ledge but hard to know I was dropping her in just 3 miles.

My last 6 miles solo I wanted to quit. I hurt and I was getting hungry and it had gotten colder. I made the mistake of not sticking with my plan to change my top into something dry. I think that would have helped my mood. I had a bad foot cramp at mile 18 and wanted to quit. I was back to my car and wanted nothing to do with 2 more miles. I really think this last 6 is where my bad pre-planning bit me. It was only starved off this long thanks to good fueling and good company in the first 14.

Despite poor planning and a rough last haul. Thanks to most of my first 14 going so well I ended with a 20 mile PR at 3:38:xx, which could also be how the wheels fell off… who knows.

I try to not let training take over my life or my life take over training. This time I think my life over took training a bit and I am LUCKY to have done as well as I did. I would like to say I will live and learn or I won’t let this happen again but to be honest I knew exactly what I was doing and I was not sabotaging myself or making excuses. I am attempting to live my life to the fullest and sometimes that means not going according to plan!

Be sure to check out the awesome things We Run This has in store for this summer here!

Tighten those laces – LETS RUN!


Everyday can’t be the BEST day!

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Every day can not be great, if they were we would never appreciate all the great we have! Today (this week/month) have not been great. If you’ve been following along here you know I have been injured in one way or another since about mid November. Nothing major and nothing that has kept me completely out of running for more then a week. More annoying issues than anything. I’ve been trying to stick to running every other day because of my IT Band but had to take 4 days off after hurting my shin last week (link coming soon). It’s been kind of a rollercoaster. Don’t get me wrong though I am VERY grateful that I have been able to run at all as I know not everyone is so lucky!
Aside from injury running HAS been going pretty well. I feel good aerobically and am getting faster slowly. It’s not been too brutal for being December in Wisconsin and I have been very committed to making my workouts outside of running (not something I’ve been the best at in the past).

Unfortunately my running life does not exist in a vacuum. I have a lot of commitments. I work full-time in Social Services, have 2 year old twins, am married, have bills, etc. I am growing less and less fond of my f/t gig and it’s wearing on me…BIG TIME! Which is likely why I’m having less great days lately. A couple of months ago when I set some pretty high goals which you can read more about here I was really committed to a weight loss of ~12lbs in 2 1/2 months because nutrition has always been an area I struggle in (read: I like(LOVE) wine/beer/red meat/fried things/pizza/chocolate) I also started to count calories. This lasted hmmm a week. Then I carbo loaded for a race and it was all kind of down hill from there. I haven’t gained weight but I haven’t really lost any either. I’m still stilling around 150lbs. As I’ve said many times before I am generally happy where I’m at weight wise and clearly don’t mind sharing that number.The goal of being 140lbs by 1/1/12 was really more to push myself. So maybe the goal was just wrong for me in the first place, or maybe just for right now when I am so stressed out and focused on other goals. I’d REALLY like to tone up and have been seeing some of those improvements after re-committing to cross-training/weight training.

No matter what I am here to be REAL with you, admitting I haven’t achieved a goal doesn’t mean I won’t achieve the rest of them. It also doesn’t mean I get to slack off and neither do you. Not every day is a great day but it starts with the potential to be one! You may not like your job, your kids may get in trouble or your car may break down. Though you may have little control over the world around you you CAN control your reaction to it!!! You can also control your run so…

Credit: News Day Laura
Tighten This Laces, LETS RUN!!!!