Running loons on the Cape
March 9, 2018 8:27 PM   Subscribe

So, on a whim, I signed up for the Cape Cod Ragnar relay. I have experience of road races and of the East Coast, but not of Ragnars and not of Massachusetts. Help me minimize my rookie problems...so far, the office Race Bible only covers so many questions (and anyway, the founders are flyover-country yokels like me).

Questions I still have:

1. How on earth do van rentals work when you have half a dozen drivers per van? My team plans to share driving equally; a few veteran Ragnarians say it’s “no big deal” to register the rental under just one name, and I am like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE EFFING KIDDING ME. Can we add five extra drivers to the rental agreement? What if some of them are under 25? Which vehicle should we get?

2. Should we even bother with lodging during the race? Is there any point at all? I love indoor plumbing but I’d rather save my pennies for nicer accommodations before and after.

3. We are an all-women, non-competitive team. Thanks to some last-minute switches, I personally know one other team member, and no one in my van. We are coming from at least five different states... so: Will we really all adore each other by the end? What can I do to not Ruin Everything? Is there a brand of wet wipes that will make me smell nice enough to be popular? What else will help? (Again, we are already quibbling about van rental regulations, and I’ve cemented my reputation as the Uptight One.)

4. If you’ve actually run one of these races, what do you wish you had known? What do you wish other runners had known? What surprised you?

5. Flying in and out of Boston, staying there before and after the race. What do hayseed visitors always get wrong about Boston? About Logan International/Massport/lodging/etc? About the Cape?
posted by armeowda to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (3 answers total)
 
I don't know anything about most of your questions but do know that driving from Boston to the Cape can take a lot longer that it would appear from just looking at a map and that traffic is unpredictable and can be atrocious. I think you would do better to spend the night before in or near Hull- which is not actually on the Cape but well outside Boston, and the night after somewhere on the Cape.
posted by mareli at 5:59 AM on March 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thoughts from my experience running a similar race in Massachusetts a few years ago:

1. How on earth do van rentals work when you have half a dozen drivers per van?

Why do you want to share the driving equally? Six people each getting used to driving an unfamiliar vehicle in an unfamiliar location is going to be annoying. My van had two drivers, which is reasonable from a rental company's perspective and fine for the race logistics. Assuming that the equal sharing is just everybody trying to be nice/fair to each other, explain the the most pleasant experience will likely be if some people generously volunteer to drive and other people generously volunteer not to. Being someone who doesn't drive but does get familiar with the course, who can give intelligent directions to the driver, is also a useful role.

2. Should we even bother with lodging during the race?

No. Bring a sleeping bag and plan to nap in the van or on the ground. The nighttime runner support stations will have indoor sleeping space, so if you'd prefer to sleep on a high school floor you can probably make that happen. The running schedule is such that there isn't time for a solid night's sleep anyway, nevermind driving someplace, checking in and out at weird hours, etc.

3. I personally know one other team member, and no one in my van. We are coming from at least five different states... so: Will we really all adore each other by the end?

I had one close friend in my van, which was wonderful, and the rest were coworkers, so I knew them but not well, and we bonded a little but not all that much. Granted, I'm an introverted person, and since the whole experience of the race is being in intense contact with other people, I didn't really shine socially. If you're a person who likes meeting people, yeah, maybe you'll end up as best friends. You can get into team spirit, shirts/hats/costumes, van decorating, etc. I do have strong memories from it, and I can imagine it being a fun way to get to know people - it's definitely more interesting than meeting people over dinner/drinks. Can you get in your friend's van? We didn't see the people in the other van during the race at all, I don't think, it's just too difficult logistically.

Everybody smells kind of bad - not horrendous, just sweaty unwashed human. There were showers at one of the support stations, and some of my teammates used them, but still, for most of the race, most of the people in the van have recently finished a run, so it's just going to be stale in there. Keep the windows open and think of it like camping.

4. If you’ve actually run one of these races, what do you wish you had known?

We spent most of the actual race dealing with logistics - where to drive to, getting there on time to swap runners, etc. This was complicated by losing two runners - one got ill the night before the race, and another was injured on their first run - plus a third runner had an old injury start causing pain in the later part of the race, which meant a lot of reshuffling, especially since people had fairly different capacities to take on extra mileage. We also spent most of the race actually in the van, driving, which I didn't anticipate (although because my van had 6 runners and the other one only had 4, my van's "off" times were unusually short).

I think we did two sit-down meals - plan out where those will be if you can, keeping dietary restrictions and general runner food pickiness in mind (i.e., I tend to eat lightly before running but other people need a solid meal). Bring extra safety gear and batteries for lights. We had walkie talkies, which is not necessary in an age of cell phones but can be fun (again, it's is kind of like a camping trip).

Think about having downtime after the race. There'll be race-provided tents and food and beer at the end, which we went to, but people were fairly worn down so we didn't stay all that long (also beware drinking - rapidly downing the two free beers I got at the end of the race, coming off 24 hours of running, barely sleeping, and barely eating, and then ~immediately getting into the back of the van for the drive home, made that drive home pretty unpleasant).

It's a funny mix of being in a small van with too many people and then being on your own while you're running. You're not often running "with" other people like you are in a race - I imagine this depends on when your team starts, how fast you run, etc., but in any case, there isn't going to be a pack except at the beginning, so there's more solitude than in a regular race. I was nervous about my night leg, but it was beautiful and crisp and is one of my favorite running experiences.

5. Flying in and out of Boston, staying there before and after the race.

Agreed with marelli, stay in Hull the night before, or as close to it as possible.
posted by orangejenny at 8:43 AM on March 10, 2018


One more piece of Boston-specific advice: you might consider taking the T* south somewhere like Quincy and then renting the vans there. It's not a huge deal, because getting from Logan to the highway isn't the most challenging of Boston's many driving challenges, but it might save you a little hassle and I'd guess it'll be cheaper. And then you'll definitely leave the van in Quincy after the race rather than try to drive (and park!) in Boston while sightseeing, which is not a great way to get around. There's transit, a bike share, cabs, prolific ride sharing, and it's walkable (especially in May, it's a beautiful time of year here).

* There are signs at the airport for the silver line (a bus) which you'd take to South Station and then get on the red line (a subway) towards Braintree. It's free to get on the T at Logan, though to get back to Logan when you leave you'll need to get a ~$2 ticket.
posted by orangejenny at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2018


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