Last weekend, I ran in my first Ragnar trail relay and I certainly hope it isn’t my last. It was such a great experience and I wanted to share about it!
So, if you aren’t familiar with how a Ragnar trail relay works, here’s the basic breakdown. You are on a team of 8 total members. There are 3 trails. There is never more than one person on your team running at the same time and when each member of the team has run all 3 trails, the relay is over. I was the 6th runner in the lineup, so I ran the 6th, 14th, and 20th legs.
We left Thursday and somehow managed to fit everything in our vehicles. Thursday night upon arrival, we parked, unloaded our camping gear and carried it to our campsite. Emily and I drove our vehicles to the parking lot where our cars would be during our stay and then were shuttled back to the campsite. It was already nighttime when we arrived, so it made setting up camp a little more difficult, but between the lanterns and headlamps that we brought, we got the job done.
I was so excited for the race the next day that I really just wanted to go to sleep so I could wake up and it be race day! Within a couple of hours, we were all in our tents. I woke up several times during the night being really cold! Unfortunately, this hindered my sleep, but I finally woke up (for what seemed like the tenth time) to daylight! We still had a few hours until our start time (11:00 am), so we walked up to the merchandise store and bought some t-shirts, headbands, and decals. We watched the required safety video, looked around at all the booths that were set up and then headed back to camp. Kelsey and Emily cooked us bacon and pancakes and we had a time of devotion together. I usually wouldn’t want to eat that much when I’m running soon, but I went ahead and ate some since I knew I probably wouldn’t be running until around 3 or 4 that afternoon.
You couldn’t sign in your team until 2 hours before your start time, so at 9am, we signed in and received some snacks, out team bib, t-shirts, and our food tickets for the buffet that was going to be provided that night. The first starting time was at 10am so we watched the first people start running and waited with anticipation for out 11am start time!
I guess I should let all of you who are reading this know that our team, Trailing Tennesseans, was made up of 4 boys, Jerrod, Hank, Michael, and Daniel, and 4 girls, me, Kelsey, Katie, and Chloe. Jerrod was the first runner in our lineup so we all watched him start and then went to the hammock village to relax until he got back.
We were all lying there relaxing and started saying that Jerrod should be back any minute so Katie (the second runner) should probably go get ready to go! We were literally all standing up to walk up to the tent where the runs begin and end when someone looked up and saw Jerrod coming toward the finish! Katie took off running so she would be there when he finished. He handed her the team bib and off she went!
One thing I haven’t really explained is that the 3 trails are of varying lengths and difficulties. The green loop has the easiest terrain and is 3.8 miles. The yellow loop is 4.8 miles and the red loop is 6.7 miles. Both the yellow loop and red loop have more difficult terrain and have a lot more hills than green. Since Jerrod was the first runner, he started with green. Katie was second and did yellow. Michael was third and did red. And then you just continue until all 8 runners have finished all 3 trails.
Now, I have been training for this race since the end of January. I definitely can’t say I 100% did my best in training, but I am satisfied with how hard I worked. I’m not a very fast runner (yet) so my times were not that great, but once again I was satisfied with the results and can’t wait to improve the next time I do a Ragnar trail relay. My first run was the 6.7 mile red loop and I started at approximately 3:30 on Friday afternoon. The first 2 miles started off super easy. The rest of the trail however definitely had it’s difficult spots. I definitely had those moments of “why am I doing this?’ and feeling down on myself for being slower than I would like to be, but then you come to a sign that says one mile left! The last 2 tenths of the last mile is a straightaway to the finish line and our campsite was near there so my teammates were there to cheer me on as I came to the finish. I ran the fastest on all 3 trails during those last 2 tenths of a mile. The adrenaline of the finish line being so close kicks in and it doesn’t matter how tired you felt before that moment.
Between my first and second run, some of us went together to the buffet that was provided. There was salad, vegetables, grilled chicken, pasta with marinara sauce, and dessert. My only complaint about the food is that it wasn’t very warm, but other than that it was good. A couple of hours later, some of us went to the fire pits and made smores with the supplies provided. This is just another thing that makes running a Ragnar so unique to other races. I love that camping and smores were involved. I don’t know of any other race where you get this experience.
My second run was the 4.8 mile yellow loop and I started at approximately midnight. It was completely dark outside so I brought my headlamp with me. My headlamp kept slipping down my forehead, which was driving me crazy! So, I finally took it off and just held it in my hand like a flashlight for the last few miles. Out of the three loops, my average pace was the worst on this one. It had a lot of hills for the first couple of miles, plus I think I just went slower in general because of how dark it was. I did stop dead in my tracks once on this trail because I thought a frog was in my path (I have an irrational fear of frogs), but it turned out to just be a rock. The crisis was averted and I carried on.
We all tried to get some sleep, especially between our second and third runs. I think I managed to get 2-3 hours, but even then I woke up a few times. When I woke up around 5am, I was super nauseated, but thankfully I recovered before my run. Chloe was nauseas, too, but was also feeling better by the time she had to run again. I found out that poor Katie’s headlamp battery died about a mile into the red loop at probably 2 or 3 in the morning. Thankfully, after another mile or so of mostly running in the dark and using her phone’s flashlight a few times, she came across a runner who had brought extra batteries with her. Thank God for answered prayers because Katie was praying that God would help her. And believe me, she needed it because you can’t see anything out there in the woods with no light. Also, Katie, Kelsey, and I were discussing how under any other circumstances, we would be terrified to be running around on a trail in the woods in the middle of the night, but for some reason it wasn’t scary at all. Maybe it was because we knew there were other runners out there on the trail, but it would often be several minutes in between seeing them. Anyways, it’s safe to say that I won’t be running in the woods in the dark again, unless I’m at another Ragnar trail relay.
Around 8am, I ran my last trail. It was the easiest of the three, the 3.8 mile green loop. I felt so exhausted during this one, but my average pace ended up being the best on this one. It was a great feeling crossing the finish line for the third time in under 24 hours. It was a total of 15.3 miles for each runner. While the last couple of runners from our team were doing their runs, we had devotion and packed up the campsite.
When we saw Chloe running in at 11:15am, which was 24 hours and 15 minutes after Jerrod began the relay for our team, we all met her and ran across the finish line together. We received our medals and had our team’s picture taken.
Oh, and I did want to note that originally Eric was supposed to run. He’s on the end on the right in the above picture. But if you look closely, he has a boot on his right foot. He broke his toe and his foot in two places on the Monday of the week of Ragnar. I know he was so disappointed and we felt so bad, but thankfully we were able to find a replacement in Daniel and he did an awesome job! We were glad Eric and his wife, Emily, still came and camped! And Eric even did our team’s volunteer shift for us so that we could all rest if we weren’t running. Each team is required to have one person complete a 3 hour volunteer shift, so Eric directed runners on which way to go from 11pm-2am.
It was a really great experience. Definitely difficult at times, but I would do it all again!