Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Race #9: Ragnar Trail Relay - WV part I

Pre-race
I wanted to start out this post by explaining a bit of the travel craziness that led up to my participating in this event… As I mentioned here, I was in San Antonio, TX a week before this race started and I spent the entire week working 14+ hour days at a conference for work, with only a couple of nights of more than 5 hours of sleep. On Thursday (June 12), I left San Antonio to travel back east to get to Bruceton Mills, WV by Friday morning to set up our team camp site and watch our team start the race at 11:30am. Those of you on the east coast know that last week was very rainy throughout the week and Thursday included some nasty thunderstorms which reached the whole way to Dallas where my connecting flight was. Luckily, my flight out of San Antonio was only delayed for about 30 minutes, but those who were trying to reach Dallas earlier in the day were on a perpetual delay as the storms hit Dallas. By the time I got to Dallas, my flight to Pittsburgh had an hour delay, which quickly turned into a two hour delay. Did I mention that I didn't leave San Antonio until 6:30pm? I didn't board the flight to Pittsburgh until about 10:30pm, we finally arrived about 2:00am and I got to my hotel in Washington, PA about an hour later. My plan was to get on the road by 8:00am so that I could get to the camp site by about 9:30 and I was only about a 30 minutes off, but considering I got about 4 hours of sleep, I'd say that was pretty good!

Let's get camping!
I was able to drop off my supplies with my teammates and then get my car parked (several miles away) and jumped onto a shuttle to get back up to the main camp ground. By the time I got back up to the rest of my team and we did our introductions, it was time for us to go to the safety briefing and get our first runner on the course. Each runner had to run the three loops and we just rotated through them throughout the race. I was scheduled to be runner #6 which meant I would run the hardest course (Red) first. I really liked the way my race legs were planned, running the longest course first, the easiest course last and the middle course in the middle of the night. As our team started, we were able to talk about each of the legs and try to get an idea of what they would look like when it was our turn to run them. 

Leg #1 - Red Loop
As I was heading toward the transition area to meet runner #5, the clouds which had been hanging around the periphery of the woods started to look more ominous and it shortly began to rain. As I was standing around, starting to get cold, I wondered if I should go back to the camp site and grab a long sleeve shirt… about this time, the wind started to pick up and the tents in the village started blowing around and some started to lose their tops and we could see tents that were struggling to stay upright. My teammate who came with me to the start line decided to head back to our camp site to make sure that everything was staying put. I told him I would be fine and I would meet our incoming runner who was still out on the course. A few minutes later, we saw our first lightning strike and the race coordinators came over the speakers to let us know there would be a one hour delay for every team once the runners who were currently on the course made it back to the transition area AND that we would skip the next leg so that we could stay on track with timing. Unfortunately for me, that meant that my first leg just got eliminated! 

Once my teammate came in, we both headed back to our camp to see how our camp site was faring in the storm. Luckily, our teammates were able to hold down the fort (literally holding down the 10' x 10' tarps!) and all of our tents also survived the wind. Other teams were not so lucky, with many tents, supplies and decorations blowing everywhere. The aftermath of the storm left many teams under water and everyone hoping for sunshine to warm up and dry out everything.

So, no running on Friday the 13th for me. We ended up having a 2 hour delay with 2 runners being skipped because of the lightning. Once it stopped storming, everyone had even more mud to deal with on the trails and throughout the campground. 

Leg #2 - Yellow Loop
Originally, I was scheduled to start my leg around midnight, but with the extra rain we got in the afternoon, everyone had to slow down on the trails and, of course, this was exacerbated by the dark. I ended up starting my run around 2:30am. By the time I ran this course, several of my team members had already run it, so they were able to give me some hints at what to watch out for - the first couple of miles were really muddy and technical with rocks and some drop-offs, but after that, it was flatter and a more packed down trail. 



  • Mile 1 - 15:19
  • Mile 2 - 16:03
  • Mile 3 - 15:14
  • Mile 4 - 12:23
  • Last .45 - 14:16 
My last .45 was probably a bit shorter than what I have listed because I forgot to turn off my Garmin when I finished and ended up walking around a little bit before I remembered to hit the button, but it's close enough.

The beginning of the run was definitely harder than I was expecting and was making me re-think the whole trail running thing, but after I got through the first mile, I felt much better and after looking at the elevation profile again, I can see why I struggled a bit (beyond the obvious mud and darkness). I was able to pick up some speed after mile 2 when I stopped having to climb over random rocks and watch out for the 3 foot drops, but I think I could have gone even faster if I could've seen where I was going! I finished in a little over an hour (1:05:23 on my Garmin) and then headed back to camp to get some sleep. 

In the morning, I wandered around the campground some more to check out the other team's sites and see how bad the water / mud had gotten for the other teams. 



Tune in tomorrow for part II! 

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