This past weekend I ran my first Ragnar Trail Relay (which was also my first trail race). This particular race was in the mountains of Northfield, MA, just about two hours outside of Boston. I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy the trails, but significantly less sure that I was going to enjoy the "camping overnight" aspect. That ended up being totally accurate. I really don't like camping! The only relief is that I couldn't actually sleep that much anyway, so my back could only hurt so much. My team also forgot the cover to our canopy. And the fuel for our camp stove... luckily b.good was there with food that we could buy and I was definitely grateful for the breakfast sandwich Saturday morning. Speaking of teams and being prepared...
If you do one of these, definitely make sure you are with a team that you feel like you can count on. The team that I was on was definitely not prepared and I'm not just talking about forgetting to bring things. One of my teammates was wearing shoes that had no support and a hole in the sole... he rolled his ankle in the first loop and couldn't do the rest of the trail. Another teammate hadn't run more than 3 miles in years and only ran on a track. Another one only runs occasionally and was not prepared for the 7 miles. The lack of preparedness led to us not actually finishing. We were going to try to make up the injured guy's legs, but then I also said that I would take the long leg for the woman who didn't run distances. We fell behind and the most I can say is that everyone who could run, finished their 3 legs. Whatever, let's talk about the actual running!
The trails were awesome. They were super clearly marked, so it was pretty hard to get lost, even at night. Like most New England trails, there were tons of roots and rocks, so I did have to be careful. And even being careful, I still rolled my ankle a bit (not to the point of injury, just mild frustration) and I fell on my face once while I was running down a hill. Even with all that, the runs were awesome because everyone was so positive and supportive. Anyone who runs by would say "awesome job!" or "keep it up!". The struggle on these hills was definitely real, so it was nice to hear that as I'm going up a hill that would never end. Also, almost everyone I talked to walked up every single hill. It wasn't really worth the effort expended to be 1 minute faster up each of them.
My first run was at 8pm on Friday and was the 7.3 mile loop. That was my most potentially fatal run and I'm still surprised I didn't hurt myself given the amount I tripped. Even with that, it was still one of my best runs. After that, I stretched and attempted to get some sleep. I got up around 4am to prep for my next run (which ended up starting at 5:20am). That was the yellow loop: 4.9 miles. The time and temp made it feel the best out of all the runs, but my time was the worst. I think the lack of sleep made the hill at the beginning feel just a bit worse. At this point, we had talked subs and I was going to sub my green for another red. However, I really wanted to experience the green. When one of my teammates asked for a running buddy on her green leg, I happily volunteered. The green leg was pretty fun! It was nice and short and had a solid downhill for the second mile, which made it just fly by. By the time I got to my second red loop an hour after finishing the green loop, it was almost 10F warmer and even the shade of the woods couldn't stop me from sweating. Running the red loop in the daylight gave me a more accurate comparison to the other loops... the second time running it, I barely tripped at all. I think if I had run red as the sun was rising, I could have had a pretty excellent time.
As is, I feel pretty good with my performance. I also feel like I would probably do an ultra team if I were to do this again. While having time in between the runs was nice (stretching helped recovery SO MUCH), the 6-8 hours between legs (had I just done the ones I was supposed to do) was way too much. I would also buy some more camping equipment so I didn't end up sleeping on the ground. Definitely a fun environment and well organized, so I would recommend Ragnar events to others without hesitation.