Sunday, August 14, 2016

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Relay Appalachians WV

Jen.  She talked me into this, and because of her strength, I completed the race.
Last year in June I ran as part of an 8-person team in the Ragnar Trail Relay Appalachians WV.  There were a few problems, which you can read about here.  I knew that I had to go back and take the whammy off the race, so when the organizers moved the race to August (to avoid the monsoons) I took that as a sign. With Jen's encouragement, I formed an ultra team, the Mudtastic Muthas.

Leigh.  So strong and steady. She is tiny but fierce.

Joy.  She gutted out 29 miles with almost no training.  What a badass!

Ragnar Trail Relays are a bit different than other relay races, and they are especially different from their road relays.  There are three loops: Green (3.5 miles, easy), Yellow (4.5 miles, medium difficulty), and Red (6.5 miles, also called Mother of Crack.  I kid you not.), and each team member takes turns running one of the loops until every team member has run each loop.  We signed up as a 4-member ultra team, so we had to run every loop twice.  We decided to do it by combining loops; for example, my schedule was as follows:

Leg 1: 9:30 AM.  Green + Yellow. 8 miles.

Wait for Joy, Leigh, and Jen to complete two loops each.

Leg 2: 7:30 PM.  Red + Green. 10 miles.

Wait for team members to rotate through the loops.

Leg 3: 8:00 AM. Yellow + Red. 11 miles.

Trail runners know that it takes longer to run trails, especially at night, and especially when there are lots of hills, and boy, were there hills.  So. Many. Hills. In theory we were all supposed to have trained for this, but life got in the way, and none of us felt as prepared as we could have been.  I was pretty confident after my Burning River Relay last week, but I soon learned that this was hubris.

I continued my tradition of idiocy by getting us lost on the way to the campsite.  Just like last year.  We didn't make it there until 9:30 PM, but luckily Jen and Leigh had staked out a good site for us.  They helped us pitch my GINORMOUS tent (which got us a few smirks from the people camping around us).  I don't care.  I love my tent palace.

My tent is the green one.  It looks smaller here, but believe me,  it's the Taj Majal of tents!

We drank a quick beer and then got to bed.  I had the first leg at 8:30 AM, and I wanted to be fresh for it.  At 7:30 AM the skies opened up, and the evil poured down, exactly like last year.  Freaking Ragnar.  Freaking West Virginia.  The storms delayed the race start times by a half hour, and then I managed to delay our start time by another half hour because I was required to watch the safety video before I left.  GRRRRR. (That is my bear impression.)

The first leg (Green + Yellow) was muggy but manageable.  I felt relaxed, and I was really glad that the trail wasn't trashed from the rain.  Running through riverbeds and knee-deep, sucking mud was not my idea of safety last year.  This year is gonna be GREAT, I thought.

My second leg (Red + Green) was at night, and I was really looking forward to it.  I purposely tried to schedule myself for the night run on the Red Loop because I was so horrible and freaked-out about it last year.  I even bought a new headlamp and knuckle lights.  For one glorious moment my knuckle lights lit up the trail, and then they dimmed to a faint glow so I STILL couldn't see a damn thing.  GRRRRR. Getting through the Green Loop that night took everything I had.  And then I had the melt-down.  After handing off my belt to Joy, I told Jen and Leigh (who were kind enough to see me in and send off Joy), "That's it.  I'm done.  I don't know why I thought I could do this.  I can't.  I'm not trained.  I'm not doing my last leg.  I can't.  You guys don't have to even do this anymore.  I'm sorry I brought you into this."

Ok, at least I didn't cry.  I was pretty negative, though.  Jen and Leigh just smiled and told me to stretch out, hydrate, and go to sleep.  They were kind enough to assure me that I didn't drag them there; they were crazy enough to sign up on their own. After they went to bed, I went to the bonfire and ate a smore, watched some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, cocooned myself in a hammock, and thought about my life.  Then I went back to the tent, changed, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

When Leigh woke me to tell me that Jen had left for her leg, I felt better.  I decided that if I didn't finish the race I would never forgive myself.  I reminded myself why I wanted to run this. I decided that I was going to finish and be a badass ultra runner. I ate some breakfast and let it digest, and when Jen came back in, I was waiting for her.

The last leg was hard.  And miserable. And pretty awful.  I had decided to run without music, so it took everything I had to keep the Voices at bay. I fell once, and my Garmin crapped out, but I did it.  I finished the relay.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm pleased that I finished the relay.  On a side note, look at the woman over my shoulder.  
Most disgusting photo-bomb ever.

When I left the transition tent, I walked to the nearest shady area (the Salomon's tent), and I burst into tears.  Relief? Pain? Exhaustion? Dehydration?  Yes to all of them.  Then I hosed off, changed my clothes, and ate some food.

Here are some thoughts on the race itself:

Good: Kudos to Ragnar for making some changes to the race.  August was hot, but it was better than the cold rains of June.  Also, the catering company did a great job, and there was plenty of decent coffee and hot chocolate for the whole race. This time the portapotties were emptied sooner, and we never ran out of water.  These were all deal-breakers for me, and Ragnar fixed the problems.

Sign in the middle of Ragnar Village

Better: We all agreed that finishing each loop by running through the ultra-runners' tent city was the best part of each run.  The runners there cheered on every single runner at any time, day or night.  It was really uplifting.  During my last loop, a whole line of ultra runners were handing out shots just before the finish.  I didn't indulge because I didn't want to throw up on one of those kind people.  There was another tent-full of runners who were handing out beer to finishers just before the chute.  I didn't take that either, but I wish I had.  Honestly, the thought of running through the ultra-village was what kept me going each time at the end.  They were awesome!

Also, apparently there was a fabulous laser show in the pine forest on the Yellow Loop at night.  I missed that, but Joy and Leigh said it was cool.

The Pine Forest of the Yellow Loop during the day.  Imagine this at night with a laser show and a disco ball.

Best: The best part is that I met my goals, and I did it with my friends.  Thank you Jen, Joy, and Leigh for running this race with me.  Thank you for encouraging me, and thank you for putting up with my bullshit.  I promise I will never ask you to do this again.  I've scratched that itch.

We are the Mudtastic Muthas, and we ROCK!!!

Now I'm going to find something even tougher and scarier for us to do.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm thinking of something tougher and scarier to do.

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