When a client of mine, Lisa Sullivan, asked me to run a relay race with her from Miami to Key West, I laughed. She knew how much I don’t enjoy running long distances so why was she asking me to run a 200 mile relay race from Miami to Key West?? The team needed a total of 12 people. She already had seven people, six of which were friends of hers from Florida. But she needed five more so she asked me to recruit some folks. The other five would end up being myself, Molly Vicchrilli, Michelle Strickland, and Tiffany & Scott Bowerman, all from Pro Performance. We would also take along Tim Vicchrilli and Joe Agan as van support. It started out as a good excuse for a short vacation to a warm beautiful place in the middle of winter…….but ended up being much more.

Lessons Learned from Ragnar……

1 – Pack your race essentials separate from “play” clothes. This makes race days much easier. Have race clothes, shoes, socks, hydration bottles, garmins, body glide, snacks, etc. packed in nice little bags that you can grab at a moments notice. Put “play” clothes for after the race in a separate bag.
2 – Bring lots of body wipes……no need to explain this further.
3 – Pack one cooler with water, coconut water, gatorade, or whatever you like to drink for running. Then pack another cooler with food. Fruit, granola bars, sandwich stuff etc……things that are quick and easy to eat on the run and that provide carbs. You’re gonna need the boost. A race like this is not the time to be worried about “leaning” up.
4 – Pack compfy pants and shirt to put on between your races. You do not want to ride in sweaty race clothes until it’s time for you to race again. Again, no further explanation necessary.
5 – Use body glide on high friction areas…..arm pits, thighs, feet…….if you don’t……ouch
6 – Eat a really good meal after your first leg…’ll probably be the last good meal until the race is over. Then snack when you can and rest when you can.
7 – Recruit teammates who will be supportive of everyone and who will be fun company on a long stinky van ride.
8 – Be prepared for all kinds of weather……HOT, rain, COLD, wind…….
9 – Pack headlamps, lighted running vests, reflective clothing for night runs.
10 – Download a “walkie-talkie” app on your phone and keep your phone on you during all of your runs. Runners can and do get lost. Plus your teammates can talk you through those long night runs.
11 – Time for stretching is pretty much non-existent so don’t push too hard on your early runs. You will be tight from not being able to cool down after each leg and going straight to riding in a van. Take muscle rub, foam rollers and therapy balls to massage sore muscles in the van.
12 – While I was a little sore in my calves after the race was over, it proved how good my strength training program really is. I only logged a total of 8 miles for the month of January (ZERO miles for the months of October, November and December due to a stress fracture in my left foot)……my focus stayed on my strength training program vs a cardio/running only training plan. And while I didn’t set any pace records, my legs and body were strong enough to bust out 3 separate races of this relay without injury. Now looking back, I would add in more training runs if I decide to do this again so I can set faster pace times on race day, but I still strongly believe in my strength training and saw first hand how my training got me through.
13- Recruit two “van support” crew members!! A driver and a navigator are probably the most valuable piece of the puzzle, not only to make the relay a success, but a fun experience as well. Our van support guys, Tim Vicchrilli and Joe Agan, made this trip possible. You guys have no idea how much I appreciate you being patient with us when we were physically and mentally exhausted. Or how good the sandwiches you made us tasted when we had burned through every last calorie from the meal before. Or how you made us smile after a long hot race by keeping our drinks cold and waiting at the finish line. And how you didn’t sleep either……because you were more concerned that the runners get their rest……I love you guys and am so thankful for everything you did for us.

Van 1 Runners Lisa, Michelle, Me, Tiffany, Molly and Scott

Van 1 Runners Michelle, Lisa, Me, Tiffany and Molly with our driver Tim Vicchrilli

Van 1 Runners Michelle, Lisa, Me, Tiffany and Molly with Support Crew Member Joe Agan

And last but not least…….number 14…….watching those around me shine! Let me try to explain what I mean…..not sure if my use of the English language will suffice but I’ll do my best. Let me paint you a picture……

Eight people, eight people’s luggage, running gear, bags of food and two coolers packed in a van. Drive from Atlanta to Miami. Sleep in hotel room (not very well mind you). Wake up at 4:30 am on a Friday, load everyone into the van and verify that everyone’s racing gear is easy to get to and everything is there, drive to start line, check in, first runner starts at 7:30 am, rush to van, drive to next checkpoint, scarf down a sandwich for breakfast, runner 2 tags up with runner 1 to tackle second leg of the race, rush runner 1 back to van and drive to next exchange to pick up runner 2 and repeat process for runners, 3,4,5, and 6. Then eat……drive to next major exchange while van 2 (runners 7-12) tackle their legs. And then repeat again for 2nd leg……and again for a 3rd leg…..which ultimately ends around lunch or early afternoon on the next day (Saturday) in Key West…..approximately 200 miles away. The only “rest” to speak of was between legs 2 and 3……we finished our 2nd leg around 12:50 am Saturday morning at a high school in Key Largo. They were kind enough to let us shower and eat inside their school. Afterwards, we had an hour + of driving to reach our next major exchange while van 2 ran their second legs. By 3:00 am, we were finally parking the van for some shut eye…..again 8 people…….in one van trying to sleep……. By 4:30/5:00 am everyone is up again and getting geared up to tackle the 3rd and final leg into Key West.


So, how in the world, is it even remotely possible that this could be fun? The answer? The people who I shared the van with. Throughout the night and the next day I realized what was really going on. It wasn’t about how fast each person was. I know this wasn’t it because we had a wide range of running talent……some runners were slow, some moderate and some very fast…..and we were all slowing down by our 3rd and final leg. Yet, all of us had something in common…..we were all there cheering each other on AT EVERY EXCHANGE and even in the van. Instead of trying to sleep through exchanges when it wasn’t their turn, all of my teammates were up and out of the van to cheer on each runner as they finished their race…..and then they were there to cheer on the next runner as they began theirs. Everyone took turns getting the next runner water & snacks before their runs……and they were there waiting again with water and food when runners were feeling weak and exhausted from pushing their bodies beyond their limits. No one really slept. And no one ate like their bodies were use to eating. Yet everyone wore a smile, handed out pats on the back, and picked up their teammates so we could all finish as a team. From pep talks over the walkie-talkie app during runs, to hugs and butt slaps at the finish line, to our awesome van support guys making us sandwiches, we learned a lot about the 8 people in Van 1. We are all team players. We were all there for each other. We all wanted the person next to us to succeed…….and we all did just that. Our prize at the end wasn’t a medal… was some relaxation in Key West with friends over some key lime pie and good seafood. It was getting to know each other better and learning a little more as adults what it means to play on a team. Good memories all around.

It’s so hard to put into words if you weren’t there to share the experience. But the only way I know to describe what I witnessed among my friends and fellow runners, was truly……. without a doubt……human souls on fire.












Vans 1 and 2 after crossing the finish line in Key West

Our prize…..