I love to run and I love to race, but half the reason I come back again and again is the people. The Ragnar Trail Relay was a chance to hang with friends and run a race in a new way. This was Ragnar’s first Trail event of the year and took place on April 4 and 5 near Atlanta, GA. Ragnar asks you to put together a team of 4 or 8 people to cover approximately 120 miles over two days. After running countless obstacle races in recent months, I was looking forward to a chance to enjoy some beautiful trail running without having to crawl under or climb over anything.
My team plus several other teams came together to create our “BadAss Campsite” Thursday night/Friday morning. (Ginormous thanks to Desiree Rincon who put together The Bad Ass Teams, several teams of people from Florida and Georgia, many of whom did not know each other before this event). We decided to camp relatively close to the Ragnar Village. The Village had vendors that took care of participants better than any race I have ever seen. Nuun had a table set up to allow participants to taste some new flavors of their product. The Nuun folks also allowed us to fill our cups and backpacks out of their coolers, essentially making themselves a water stop. I took advantage of this and filed up before every leg. There was even a charging station for cell phones. The Salomon shoe company had a huge set up. They actually let you “test drive” different shoes out on the trail. Peace Tea and Muscle Monster also gave out free beverages to enjoy between laps. I drank several Peace Teas, as they were delicious. I had one sip of the Monster beverage as it was not delicious.
There was a pasta dinner served to us Friday night that really hit the spot. In addition, they lit a bonfire and served s’mores later in the evening, and also showed the documentary, Unbreakable. S’mores and the movie happened during my sleep breaks, but friends that participated told me they enjoyed those activities very much. . On top of all this, The race emcee, Steve Soelberg, kept things moving and made announcements that actually informed and entertained the crowd.
The event organizers made great use of the trails laid out at the Conyers Horse Park. Since this was not a “point to point” race, I had a fear that doing what my friend Cranky calls “Circle Jerks” might make the event boring. That did not happen as the three loops varied in distance and terrain. As an Ultra team, the 4 of us were required to run 3 legs, each requiring 2 loops a piece. The legs would have us cover every loop twice but in a different order. I had decided as the race started that I would be running 50 miles total, rather than just the 30 that were required for my part of the Ultra team. As part of training for a 100 mile race, I thought this would be a good opportunity to run some serious miles, along with hitting a major milestone. A huge plus of the race is that they allow you to run additional loops alone or with friends. I had a friend from another team run with me for my first lap. Then, shortly after my first official leg was finished, I went back out with one of my teammates and ran 2 loops with him. This allowed me to get 18 miles in that flew by and I was well on my way to hitting my goal of 50.
Running at various times in a 24 hour period is also a cool way to keep the loops interesting, For example, I ran the Red Loop twice. The first time was around 6:00pm, where at mile 5, a few us stopped to admire a rainbow. An awesome shared moment amongst trail runners. The 2nd time I ran that loop was at 2:30am. I had just woken up from a nap, it was cold and lonely. I could only see a few feet ahead of me with my headlamp and I heard strange noises I did not recognize. It was a VERY different experience covering the exact same ground.
The event was fantastic from start to finish. Two small notes of what can be improved: One is keeping better track of teammates who are out on the trail. The only timing mat runners cross other than the transition area is 2/10 of a mile before the transition area. . Without any other data point, you have no idea if your teammate is an hour out, a half hour out or anywhere in between. This is especially difficult for the ultra teams attempting to gauge when it’s time to prepare for their next loop. The only other area to be improved was that the catering company ran out of pasta on Friday night. This did not affect me, but affected several others. They attempted to make it up with a free breakfast the following morning, but obviously runners counting on a nice full meal Friday night were disappointed.
The Ragnar Trail Relay was a great opportunity to run outdoors, camp, and socialize. I would highly recommend this event to anyone looking for a new race experience.
ORM did a podcast interview with Tanner Bell of Ragnar Events back in October of 2013.
Matt B. Davis is the author of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs, and is a co-founder of Obstacle Racing Media.
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