Welcome to a new series on Another Mother Runner: Race Day Essentials.
Today, Jenn Gill, who has run a variety of both trail and road Ragnar relays and is the coach in the Train Like a Mother relay programs, talks us through her favorite gear she uses to run three legs over 24 or so hours.
"Packing for a relay is one of the most stressful things a mother runner can do—well, running-related stress, that is," she says, "With multiple runs, time in between, time in a van or tent, you want to make sure you bring everything you need for the relay adventure without overpacking!"
Here are her top essential items for any road or trail relay:
OUTFITS PACKED IN ZIPLOC BAGS
I always place each outfit for each run in a separate Ziploc bag. This is helpful for a number of reasons:
1) it compresses the clothes and items so they don't take too much space in my gear bag,
2) I can make sure I haven't left any essential item out for each run as pack before the relay
3) I can place the worn, stinky, sweaty clothes back into the Ziploc so my clean clothes aren't corrupted. So I pack 3 Ziplocs for 3 runs and then a 4th with an extra running outfit just in case. I have often needed to run an extra run for an injured teammate or just wanted to run a little extra to see more of the relay course.
My shorts are all from InkNBurn
. They typically sell out of all their designs so these are no longer available, but you can check out their current line here. My favorite running bra is the Handful Adjustable Bra
. I'm not the most well-endowed woman, and it holds me in, doesn't give me uni-boob, and stays put. There are also tons of cute colors.
Run 2 is typically a night or colder temperature run, so I usually bring the most clothes for that run. You never really know how things will be once you're out there. So I have a light long sleeve from Another Mother Runner
as well as a half-zip long sleeve that's a little heavier if it's cooler. If it's not too cold, I wear my usual trucker hat. But if it's cooler, I'll sport a beanie and gloves.
As far as shoes for a relay go, I try to bring only one pair. But sometimes the weather forecast is hideous and I'll bring two. When we did Ragnar Trail Richmond
, we had horrendous thunderstorms, making the trails a big mud pit. Thankfully I knew in advance to bring a second pair of shoes and I just tossed them after the relay.
As you can see, I'm an Altra girl. I love the foot-shape of the shoe as I have bunions and the toe box of Altras really helps my feet move the way they're supposed to without rubbing or causing blisters. My trail shoes are the Altra Olympus 3,
which are the most cushioned and comfortable trail shoe I've ever run in. My road Altras are the Altra Torin 4,
which are super light and comfy.
My socks are from Injinji.
I get blisters on very long runs and the Injinji socks reduce the amount of movement of my foot inside the sock since every toe is kept in place inside its own little toe spot. I originally used them only for long runs, but love their lighter versions for short runs.
Typically, I will put on my next run's clothes after I've finished a run. However, I usually do bring extra items to have for cool weather or sleeping. I love my Sweaty Dirty Happy shirt from REI. Not only is it soft and cuddly, it's very appropriate for the situation. Also, I bring along an extra pair of InknBurn shorts for warmer temps or these Ragnar joggers
for cooler nights.
I sport my Lily Trotters compression socks
for in between runs as well. They're not so tight that I need someone to help me put them on or take them off and they really do help my legs feel good during the relay. They look extra snazzy with my Oofos recovery slides
. Man, I love these slides. They are so much more comfortable than flip flops and help with recovery by reducing the stress those legs and feet feel after running multiple times in two days.
Where do I put all that gear? My go-to gear bag is the Gym Bag from Orange Mud
. This bag fits everything above and even some of my camping gear (sleeping bag, pillow, etc.). It comes with two zippered bags that velcro to the inside of the bag so you don't lose your stuff inside the bag. One is small for toiletries and the other I use for dirty clothes or larger things I want to keep separate from the rest of my stuff. It also has a zippered shoe compartment on the side of the bag.
For both road and trail relays, I keep the things I'll need easy access to in a smaller cinch sack (I have a ton from races). It's really helpful to have my brush, lip balm, wallet, deodorant, lotion, any medications I may need, ginger candies for upset tummies and various wipes for cleaning up right there with me. (I put snacks in here as well, though they're not pictured.) I'll also keep sunglasses and a dry hat for in between runs in this bag too.
HYDRATION PACKS + SPORTS NUTRITION
I bring hydration with me on all relay runs that will be an hour or more. I don't like holding anything in my hand while I run, so I prefer the Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Single Barrel hydration vest
. It's a very light vest with tons of pockets for my phone and snacks if I need them. It also sits up pretty high on your back, so it's cooler than some other hydration packs.
For double-digit runs, I wear the Orange Mud Endurance Pack.
This holds up to 4 liters of stuff: fluids, food, gear, phone, etc. (When I did the Ragnar Leg for Ragnar Napa Valley
(13.1 miles!), this was perfect. It was so hot and there was NO WATER on the course so having this really saved me.)
For those longer runs, I add a few Tailwind hydration mix sticks
to be sure I have some calories as well as electrolytes. I prefer the Naked flavor as I get sick of flavored drinks very quickly.
For shorter runs and in between runs, I opt for Nuun tablets
as they're sugar-free and pack a big electrolyte punch - which is helpful for staying on top of hydration, preventing cramps and headaches throughout the relay. I love the gluten-free waffles from Honey Stinger
, especially the cinnamon flavor as it's light, easy to eat and very yummy
SNACKS FOR THE (LONG) ROAD
Food for any relay is as important as your running gear. For road relays, we stop someplace for coffee/breakfast in the morning of both days and then we'll stop for dinner in the middle of the first day. That's why there isn't any "real food" here. For trail relays, there are usually food trucks at the campground, as well as hot chocolate and coffee both mornings of the relay.
But we do need snacks. I tend to bring items that are shareable and don't need to be cold. (Coolers and ice are really big and take up a lot of space.) My teammates and I try to divvy up the snacks so we have a variety.
Generally, we have popcorn, chips, pretzels and trail mix as well as a variety of bars (such as yummy Rx bars
nd protein bites. I don't love gluten-free bread, so I use rice cakes while relay-ing. I usually bring the single-packets of Justin's Nut Butter
, but we've brought a vat of peanut butter and plastic utensils too. Don't forget your reusable cup for hot/cold beverages. Most relays are cupless now, so you'll need to bring one of your own. I love my Hydroflask tumbler.
LIGHTS + REFLECTIVE GEAR
Road relays typically require you to have reflective gear, headlamps and blinking tail lights for every runner on your team.
I love the Nathan Streak Vest
as it's really light, can fit over tons of clothes, and is approved by most relays. The Nathan LED clip lights
attaches to the back of my vest to be used as a blinking tail light. As for a headlamp, I love my Petzl Tikka headlamp
. It's light and adjustable and the battery life is pretty great (though always bring extra batteries!).
I also bring Knuckle Lights
. These hand-held lights illuminate the ground closer to you, so you have a better idea of the ground in front of you. I have the advanced version; they're rechargeable and super light. I love them!
A TEAM THEME + COSTUME
My Ragnar SoCal team
has been the Unicorn Moms team for the last 6 years. So we just had to have hats, tanks, unicorn leggings and magnets featuring our beautiful unicorn. We'll also decorate our vans; as one of our teammates is an artist and paints beautiful unicorns and rainbows all over our van. We also bring plenty of cowbell and noisemakers to cheer all the runners.
AND THE TEAM...
After months of training and stress (especially when packing in the days before!), your team comes together and it's an experience of a lifetime. The friendships and memories you make while doing a relay are priceless. I hope you have the chance to experience a relay at some point in your mother running career as it's truly different than any other race you may do.
WHAT RELAY GEAR IS A MUST FOR YOU?