A Relay Guide for Newbies
guest blog by Lauren Fries

Lauren Fries is one of the newer additions to Oiselle HQ. She enjoys being mistaken for Lauren Fleshman on the Oiselle phone solely on the basis of their shared first name. She runs for Oiselle and you may recognize her from her previous blog installment here. Find her on Twitter @laurenefries or check out her Oiselle athlete profile here.

Until last weekend, I was a relay newbie. All the talk on twitter was about Ragnar, Hood to Coast, Reach the Beach … meanwhile, I was sure it wasn’t for me. As a chronic sleeper, introvert extraordinaire, middle-of-the-pack runner, I thought relays were only for crazy-fast, super-outgoing runners who didn’t mind going all night on caffeine and adrenaline. Turns out that’s not true, and Ragnar: Northwest Passage was a whole lot of fun. I’m not ready to sign up for another anytime soon, but I’ll happily cheer for the many Oiselle birds who are running Hood to Coast in just under a month.

This won’t be a recap of my three relay legs, though you can read those at many of my teammates’ blogs. Here’s a blog post by Andrea introducing the #PartyLikeAFlockstar team. You can also find recaps from Sarah, Ashley, Becky, Andrea, Paulette, Laurel, Sophia, and Julie (Natty, Morena, Nolana, and myself are the only blogless relay runners from this weekend!). You can read about the gritty details of their runs, but I thought I’d do something a little different for my fellow relay newbies. Here are the top 10 things I learned about relays last weekend.

It’s more fun to relay when you’re healthy. I had the misfortune to come down with a cold the day before the race. If I’d been able to breathe through my nose or speak normally without a sore throat, I might have been a happier camper as those long day hours stretched to night. An injured or sick relayer is not as happy as a healthy relayer, so take good care of yourself leading up to the race. If you do happen to come down with a cold, remember: you can’t overdose on Nuun.

Team sports are pretty great after all. After a lifetime of average athletic ability, I’d all but eschewed team sports. Since graduating high school, I hadn’t been on a team until I joined Oiselle about six months ago. I was nervous I’d be the weak link, but that wasn’t the case at all. When a team is relying on you, you run faster, push harder, and feel better at the end. Hearing your team cheer your name on an open road in the middle of nowhere is a great feeling.


van one at the start. these gals were my best friends for 36 hours.

Pace doesn’t matter. At Ragnar there’s no timing chip. You don’t have to wear a watch. The course and all its turns are marked well. Everyone else is running up and down the same hills as you are, so there’s no need to kill yourself pushing the pace in your first leg when you still have two to go. Teammate Julie captured this feeling in her recap – wanting to run fast to do well for your team, but not wanting to rush through and hurry the experience.  

Relaying may bring out your competitive side. I know. I just said pace doesn’t matter. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get a thrill from chasing down that girl whose reflective vest had been taunting me for three miles during my night leg.


sarah's got the roadkill fire in her eyes, while natty demonstrates how to kill 27 (yes, 27!) in one eight-mile leg

Food is your friend. Feeling tired on the run? Have a snack. Starting to get cranky at your teammates? Have a snack. Need a reward because you just climbed 500+ feet of hills in the hot sun over the course of eight miles (yes I did this, thanks for asking)? Have a snack. Snow Goose ice cream at Exchange 17 felt like the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, and bringing banana bread instead of Gu on my second leg made me a much happier runner (see video evidence here). 

It’s actually not that hard to sleep. Everyone tells you that a relay is 24 hours in a van with no sleep, but I didn’t quite find that to be true. As long as you’re not running on an Ultra team (holla to our best buddies #SixPackRack, who placed second in the women’s ultra division!), there are times when your van is waiting while the other van runs. I caught about 5 hours of shuteye split between our three breaks.


van two rocking their singlets with some Oiselle Orange.

People are generally kind to runners. Other than the one dude who tried to run me off the road (rude), everyone I encountered on the course was friendly. People cheered for us on the course and left signs in their front yard with encouraging slogans.

Practice #vanyoga. Jasyoga hooked us up with some sweet #vanyoga moves to abate soreness during the relay. I practiced #legsupthevan when my legs were feeling the burn after my first very hilly, very hot leg. It made all the difference in the world!


Make friends. I was nervous about my last leg. It was only 2.4 miles, and, though hilly, by far the easiest of my three jaunts (the others were the abovementioned hilly 8.5-miler and a flat-as-a-pancake winding-road 6.7-miler). But overnight in a van had wreaked havoc on my head cold. Fortunately I befriended a girl named Erin of the Sparkle Chicks team. We were together right out of our exchange until we slapped bracelets on our teammates at the next one. Having a buddy was invaluable – I told her all about the #RogaRevolution and she shared stories of traveling to France for her husband’s lifeguard competitions. I wasn’t wearing a watch, but I bet those 2.4 miles were the fastest I ran in the relay, just because I had someone to chat with and push me.


#partylikeaflockstar celebrating our third place, women's open division! (yes... I am very tall.)

It’s all about the teammates. It’s a special group of people who can sit in a van together for 36 hours and not want to kill each other. I’m lucky to be here in the Oiselle nest. Sometimes it feels more like a movement than a team.



Atsuko Tamara