After making my inaugural Ragnar Trail appearance at Ragnar Trail Atlanta last year, I knew I would be back for more this year. So when Matt B. Davis and fellow GORMR, J.D. Allen tossed out the idea of running it as an ultra team, that part of me that is a little bit masochistic said “YEAH! That sounds like fun!”
After convincing my Ragnar Trail West Virginia teammate, Amy, to fly up from Florida for the event, our team was set. Amy is a seasoned Ragnar veteran who was an old pro at this and between her and I we managed to nail down all the needs and wants for our campsite. (Need? A solid tent to hold out the rain. Want? Pretty pink flower lights. We have girly moments like that).
We arrived at camp and a friend had been kind enough to snag us a prime spot along the yellow trail, right outside of the main exchange tent. With the woods at our back and the trail as our front yard, we had a great location to view the runners and to stop in between legs to grab anything we might need between running back-to-back loops.
The festival area was set up in a central location and the large open field around it quickly began to fill up with tents. I got the team checked in smoothly and the process was pain free and well organized, like most Ragnar events. I somehow managed to get a Women’s Medium tee and originally was ready to burn the joint down until realizing that these shirts ran even smaller than last years’, and while I can normally get away with children’s sizes, in this case, even the medium fit a bit tightly. The new short sleeve tees are soft, same as last year and while I understand the move to the short sleeve, I do know I wear last year’s long sleeve tees on a weekly basis, so I will miss them.
Matt started the team off with the first wave of runners. As he headed out to run the green and yellow loops, I started thinking about getting prepped for my first set. I quickly realized I had somehow misplaced the lid to my camelback pouch and needed to come up with a Plan B. The nuun tent was quick to help though, as they had their deal where you buy two tubes of nuun (My dog ate the strawberry lemonade; it must have been tasty) and they give you a free water bottle. SCORE! Using that as a makeshift handheld, I was finally ready.
The forecast had called for pop-up storms throughout the day, and despite J.D.’s insistence that it was going to be “just sprinkles, you guys!” I found myself facing an incoming cloud front that looked to be a bit more. I made the transition with Matt, exchanged high fives, and set out to run the first set of loops on the red and green trails.
I made it no more than a half mile from camp before it started to rain. The temps had steadily been climbing and the rain helped to keep me from overheating as I trekked through the long 10.5 hike over the granite slabs and hills of the Georgia International Horse Park. I finished the red loop, with teammate J.D. joining me for the green loop, to complete the first of my three legs of running. I stayed conservative, allowing myself to walk the steeper hills and managed to keep my goal pace of 11:00 miles out on the trails.
After some recovery, snacking on all the horrible foods, and getting a much-needed massage from the tents (another perk of Ragnar Trail events is when they include free massages and yoga!), I started thinking about heading out for round two! But those pesky storms started up again, threatening with their ominous clouds and wind gusts. As I predicted to everyone in sight, no more than five minutes after I left the exchange tent, the rain kicked in, much more fervently this time! There’s something so joyous though about running in a warm rain, and since I had thankfully worn a hat to keep it out of my eyes, my trip around the yellow loop proved to be my favorite leg of the entire event. I ran through the flooded trails, across the impromptu creeks, and kicked up mud like it was my job. Despite the heavy downpour, I didn’t see lightning or hear thunder, and since my legs felt really strong, I was actually looking forward to heading back out on the red loop.
It was not meant to be. As I came down the final stretch, there was Amy, waiting to tell me that we were under a two-hour hold and I would be skipping my second trip ‘round the red. It seemed for the best, but was slightly frustrating, nonetheless.
After crash landing in my tent, to dry off and put on warm clothes, I settled in for a brief rest before prepping to go out again in the middle of the night for my third and final set of legs. I probably should have spent some time stretching, rolling out sore muscles, and eating something other than beer and Cheez-its (the only food that I could get to without going out in to the storm). That last set of legs HURT; A painful experience that left me walking more than running and feeling the effects of a chronic hamstring injury that just will not go away. I finished though, managing to build up my pride long enough to run the last quarter mile to the exchange tent, where I happily savored the fact that I was finally done!
I loved the challenge of running this as an ultra team, but do admit that it left me little time to do the things I had loved so much about last year’s event, like making s’mores, meeting new people around the bonfires, and watching a movie under the stars. Perhaps if I were better prepared running wise, I would feel more comfortable doing those things in between legs, but as it was, I was exhausted and just wanted the sleep.
Like all Ragnar events, this one was well organized and ran smoothly, despite the weather issues beyond anyone’s control. Ragnar is not for control freaks. If you like carefully planned downtimes, perfect conditions, and zero surprises, this event is not for you. At Ragnar, you need to be able to roll with the punches, work as a team, and overcome whatever life throws you, because they rarely go exactly as planned. The one thing that does stay the same? You will have as much fun as you want to and make amazing friends along the way.
*Photos By: Jessica Brinks