Enjoy Your Time In The Van

A Guest Blog Post By Karl Rysted


Karl is one of the athletes I coach, and he is racing this weekend in the Wild Rogue Relay. He shares the emotions, community, struggles, and memories of racing a relay. I certainly want to do a relay one day, until then, I will cheer on Karl!

Waiting is hard and like anything that’s hard, requires practice. I was fortunate to have my Dad take me fishing often when I was growing up. Among other things, it gave me patience. Life moves a lot faster now than it did back then and everyone expects instant gratification from their smartphone and so on. As runners, we have our gadgets to give us instant feedback on pace, cadence, HR, etc. So if we expect to have any patience in these times, it requires even more practice than it used to, and yet the opportunities are slipping away.

As a runner, I’m grateful to have been in long distance relays as part of a team several times. Hood to Coast is the most famous of that type of event, but we haven’t done that one. Some have been Ragnar Relays, which are pretty well known among runners, but I’ve also been in smaller, independent ones like the Wild Rogue Relay in southern Oregon where I’m running on a masters team June 16-17 for the second year in a row.

The pattern is the same: run, eat, run, sleep (maybe), eat, run, not necessarily in that order, and your team will probably cover about 200 miles. You run three times unless you’re short one of the 12-team members or you have an “ultra” team of six. If you have a regular sized team, you will be in two vans. Your van could be on duty in the middle of the night so sleep is a big maybe. There’s a long time between your runs, especially when you consider the time when your van is off duty.

Here are some observations, and as a runner, you will understand this easily. It’s common to have a variety of unpleasant physical and emotional responses: you can get stiff because you have very little warm up or cool down, tired and cranky during the night, and maybe that little habit of your teammate that seemed funny at first is getting pretty annoying. Maybe the funky smell of the van is starting to get to you! You just want to get out and run. After all, that’s why you flew across the country, right?

Running can just be a fun hobby, or we can let it teach us things about the rest of our lives. Maybe you fell in love once but that relationship is gone. Now you know love is coming your way again but it’s hard to wait. Maybe you want to BQ and you’re a 4 hour marathoner like me. Be patient and think about athletes like Neely. Their Olympic dreams and goals are on a 4-year cycle. So just relax, be patient and enjoy your time with your friends in the van.

My dream is to be on a team with Neely someday!

An earlier version of this appeared in “The Landrunner,” April, 2013, newsletter of the Oklahoma City Running Club.