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Team Hot Pockets after the race

I was only three months postpartum and running a 12 minute mile when my friend invited me to join the Ragnar Napa Relay Team.  Well, actually, he asked my husband and I told him, “If you’re going, I’m going!”  That meant baby A was going too.  We don’t have family nearby and I have yet to leave my baby overnight with anyone else.  I knew she would be 11 months by then, and I hoped she and I would both be ready for what this would entail.

The main thing I wanted was to not cause her too much distress.  Or any distress at all, really.  She didn’t sign up for this race— I did— and it wasn’t fair to put her in an uncomfortable place.  I wanted to do everything I could to make sure she was comfortable, having fun and not deviating too far from her schedule.  My baby is pretty good about new places, traveling and being around new people, but she does not like to break her routine!

During our down times at the major exchanges, we had plenty of time to play, eat meals and explore.  In the van, the baby definitely was restricted to her car seat more often, and it was perfectly fine during her naps as she sleeps great in the car seat.  At the exchanges, even if we stopped for just five minutes while she was awake, I took her out of the seat and let her play in the grass.  If the van was in motion, I kept her in her seat for safety reasons, and she would nap, play or eat.  Food pouches are fantastic for this!  She could eat in her seat and not make too much of a mess.  We also have sippy cups that use straws and so she can drink them while strapped into the car seat and can’t tip her head back.  We were lucky she was happy drink from a bottle that was cold since there wasn’t any way to heat it up.  She also nursed and had diaper changes at exchanges.  There were a few times when we had to leave the van idling at an exchange while she napped so we could run the air conditioner because the heat index hit 100 degrees outside (but we weren’t the only ones to be hiding from the heat inside the van).

When night fell and the baby went to sleep, I covered her carseat with a blanket so when the van interior lights came on it wouldn’t wake her.  We got to spend half the night at a major exchange sleeping (I just slept in the van with the baby in her carseat) and then during our night runs, she just continued to sleep.  My husband and I did not run adjacent legs, that way when one was running, the other could be totally focused on the baby and not trying to prepare to run or recover from the last one.  I was the first runner in my van, and once I was done I just napped in the back next to the car seat.  The baby had a few short wake ups but the motion of the van usually put her back to sleep.

The only time having her along was difficult was our arrival at the next major exchange.  She woke up at 7am and everyone else in the van went back to sleep and my husband and I had to get up with the baby.  We missed out on some valuable rest before our next legs.  It didn’t seem to hold us back too much and our team finished in the top 10% (32 out of 325).

All in all, though, it really wasn’t very difficult having her along for the ride.  For the baby, it was no different than a long car trip.  For us, we had a little more responsibility, but could focus on running when we needed to.  Also, as a new mom, I was more prepared to jump into action on very little sleep than our other team mates.  I think this would be more difficult with an older baby/toddler, and we were lucky that our little girl was such a trooper.  I hope to do more Ragnar relays in the future and I’m glad to know that I can have my favorite running partner along with me.  My only regret is that I didn’t pick up one of the Ragnar baby onesies at the gear store.  I thought I could buy them online but they were not available there.  Missed my chance!

Here is a summary of some tips for doing a Ragnar Relay with a baby:

1. Keep the baby on schedule to the best of your ability.

2. Don’t run adjacent legs to the other person in charge of baby care.  And you definitely want at least two people on this!

3. Pack everything in one bag that is easy to access in the van.

4. Take the baby out of the car seat as much as possible during exchanges.

5. Make sure the baby is a comfortable temp.  We can tolerate a lot more than their little bodies can handle.  Run the AC or heat if you need to, even when stopped at an exchange.

6. Pouches and sippy cups with straws were key for snacking and drinking while the van was in motion.

7. Cover the car seat at night so the lights don’t wake the baby.