Friday, June 20, 2014

Ragnar Trail WV Recap: Part 2

The storm is over.
If you missed Part 1 of my Ragnar Trail WV recap, read it here.

Just before 8pm, Stuart was released into the wild to run the Red loop.  His goal was to be back in a hour and a half, so I got myself ready and hoped I'd have some daylight left for my run.  Stuart was back within his goal time, but I was out of daylight.

Friday, 9:23pm.  I headed into the woods to run the Green loop.  Luckily, the Green was the shortest loop, 3.5 miles.

First, I have to tell this story....

Before we started running on Friday morning, we all had to attend a safety briefing where were we told what to do in case of a wild animal encounter: bears, mountain lions, etc.  We were told to make a lot of noise and "get big", spread our arms out and make ourselves appear as big as possible.

When Sarah came out of the woods after her first leg, she told us that she was startled by a noise nearby and she "got big"....then a chipmunk ran out of the ferns and crossed the path in front of her.

Oh, how we laughed.  We teased her all afternoon (all in good fun, not maliciously).  Sarah got big on a chipmunk.  I had tears.

Fast forward to 9:23pm.  I'm on the Green loop, scared to death and praying that I don't get eaten by a bear.  I ran along, randomly clapping and humming "Let it Go" to hopefully scare the bears away.  I saw something move on the edge of my headlamp light.  I panicked, let out a little shriek and "got big".  I moved the light over to see what was moving: a fern blowing in the breeze.  I laughed hysterically and couldn't wait to get out of the woods to tell Sarah.

I ended up joining two other ladies running the Green loop.  It was nice to not be alone and three headlamps are better than one.  The Green loop was very rocky and there was one stream crossing with strategically placed boulders to jump across.  I found myself wishing I could see it.  I'll bet it was pretty.

Around mile 3, I tripped on a rock and went down.  Luckily, I fell on soft ground, but dammit, I had mud on my hands.

Damn nature.

My running buddies stopped, made sure I was OK, then we continued through the woods.  Soon I found myself crossing the bridge and passing our team bib to Sarah.  Before she left for the Yellow loop, I told her the fern story so she could laugh at me.

Leg 2: Green Loop
3.5 miles

By this time, it was after 11pm and I was sweaty, cold and exhausted.  I went back to camp, changed my clothes, climbed into my sleeping bag and passed out for a while.  I heard Sarah come in, change and lay down next to me.  Then Kate came in, changed and laid down in between Sarah and I.  When Andrea came in around 3am, I got up and gave her my spot on the air mattress.

I wandered around the village and found other teammates in time to see Kerri take off for the Green loop, then Stuart head out for the Yellow loop and then it was my turn.

Saturday, 8:07am.  I took the team bib from Stu and took off for the Red loop: the longest and most challenging loop.  I estimated that it would take me about 2 hours, depending on the severity of the mud and Sarah said she'd start watching for me around an hour and fifty minutes to be safe.

By this time, about a thousand other runners had been on the trail before me and with all of the rain the day before, it was pretty muddy in some areas.  The Red loop is the most technical of the three with lots of rocks and roots to jump and several large, mossy boulders to climb over.

I had so much fun with this one.  I chatted with a ton of people; some ended up passing me, some were passed by me.  I never stuck with the same person for long and I smiled and laughed (mostly at myself) for this entire run.

I slipped in the mud and fell twice and once I had to touch a mossy boulder to climb down from a larger boulder.  There I was.  Touching the damn nature.  Smiling.

(Although, if I'm honest, I did let out a little "Ew!" when I touched the squishy, spongy moss.)

Mile 4 was entirely uphill.  About 400 feet of climb.  I was so thankful for my Wednesday morning hill repeats.  I ran a lot of this hill, some of it wasn't runnable because it was too steep and some because it was too muddy.  I swore a lot on this hill and then the trail started to level out and I felt triumphant.
Photo taken and owned by Stuart.

Soon after, I came across the One Mile To Go sign, checked my time and got a little nervous.  One hour and 24 minutes had passed.  I told Sarah to watch for me at one hour and 50 minutes.  Whoops.

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about.  When I got to the bridge...

Side note: the ramps and bridge were a bitch to run after that Red loop.  My calves and hips were about done, thank you very much.

...I could hear Sarah, Terri and Josh cheering for me.  They were ready.

Leg 3: Red Loop
6.7 miles
Get a load of that hill from mile 3.5 to 5.3ish.

Our team ended up doubling up runners for the rest of the legs so we could finish in time.  Everything was thrown off a bit because of the lightning delay.

I think it was around 2pm --but I could be wrong.  Honestly, I have no idea what time it was-- when our last runner came through and we all ran across the bridge together to the finish.

We stopped on the bridge for this photo-op then ran down to get our medals.

Team Dolls and Balls about to finish!
Photo taken and owned by Tory.
The medals were not metal at all.  They're made of wood and leather, completely different from the Ragnar Road medals, which were metal bottle openers, but the wood and leather work with the naturey theme of the weekend.

I love it.
I knew this weekend would be fun.  With my friends, it would be pretty impossible to not have fun.  I was a little concerned that I'd feel whiny about the damn nature, but it was an absolute blast.  You can read this recap and it's obvious that I had a good time, but really, you have no idea unless you've done it.

I've been asked if I liked the road or trail Ragnar better and, honestly, I can't decide.  Before last weekend, it would have been a no brainer.  Of course I like roads better.  I'm a road girl!  Now, the line is a bit fuzzy.

I like different things about both:
I like that my feet stay where I put them on the road.
I like that the whole team camps together on the trail, we're not split up in two vans.
I like the road because some of the surroundings are absolutely breathtaking.
I like the trail because some of the surroundings are absolutely breathtaking.
I like running past our team van with my friends cheering on the road.
I like the physical and mental adventure of climbing over rocks and jumping over roots and staying upright in the mud on the trail.

I like spending the weekend with my friends in (too) close quarters, running at all hours on any terrain.

There will be another Ragnar Relay in my life...probably many more.  I don't know when and I don't know (or care) where, but I'm so not done with this relay thing.

"8 friends, 3 trails, 1 billion stars, unforgettable stories."
We didn't have the 1 billion stars, but we've got more than enough stories to make up for it.

Special thanks to:
~ Team Dolls and Balls - Andrea, Josh, Stuart, Kerri, Terri, Sarah and Kate, the people on the team can make or break the weekend.  Thanks for making mine.
~ Our volunteer Tory - pregnant, flooded tent, sleeping in a van...there was a lot to scowl about this weekend and you never lost your smile.  Thanks for being awesome.
~ The love of my life - not only do you take days off work to hang out with our ladies so I can do my crazy running thing, you remind me to pack the cowbell to scare the bears away.  You, darling husband, are a special breed of amazing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ragnar Trail WV Recap: Part 1

This past weekend was the Ragnar Trail Relay in West Virginia.  I knew it would be fun...I was pretty sure it would be fun, but I had a few concerns.

I don't like nature.

That's not totally true.  I like nature as long as it doesn't touch me.  I had a feeling that I would be assaulted by nature this weekend.  Plants...bugs...with a possibility of spider webs...and bears.  Hold me.

Porta potties.

I hate them.  "Normal" runners see porta potties as some kind of oasis.  Not this girl.  I gag and have to pull my shirt over my face so I can breathe my own stink instead of fecal fumes.  I'm most certainly not a "normal" runner.

Clearly this trail running relay was not my idea.  After our road Ragnar in 2012, my friend, Andrea, said she wanted to try a trail Ragnar.

Sure...why not?  (insert nervous giggle here)

Our team left comfy, familiar Columbus, Ohio on Thursday afternoon and headed toward bear-infested Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

We arrived at the campground as it was getting dark and we rushed to set up the tents before we lost all of the daylight.  We spent the rest of the evening sitting around a lantern (because we weren't allowed to have individual campfires) eating junk food.  We all went to bed around midnight loaded up with sugar and excitement for our runs the next day.

Our three legs at Ragnar Trail WV: Green Loop, Yellow Loop and Red Loop.
Photo from the RagnarTrailWV website.
Our team start time was 10:30am on Friday. Since we were up with the sun...

Side note: room darkening, sound-proof tents would be great.

...we did some exploring in the Ragnar Village...not to mention a little shopping in the Ragnar store.

Team Dolls and Balls
Photo owned by Kate.

Finally, 10:30am rolled around.

Stuart was our first runner.  I was second.  I had a little self-talk.
          Nature will touch you.  
          This is not your biggest problem.  
          Watch out for bears.  
          Good chat.

Friday, 11:12am.  Go time.  My first leg was the Yellow loop.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  When I got into the woods, the trail ran through ferns.  Some as high as my shoulders.  They touched me and I whined a little, but there was so much to look at and "ooh" and "aah" over, there was minimal whining.

The ground was so soft and cushy.
I made a friend in the woods.  Those who know me in person are not surprised by this.  She was ahead of me but running backward thinking that she missed a turn somewhere.  My new friend, Teresa, and I ran together from that point on.  I stopped to take a picture when we got into the pine trees and she told me that she was glad I did.  Otherwise she wouldn't have even noticed the beauty around her.

Teresa and I chatted as we ran through the woods toward the village.  There were hills and lots of rocks to avoid tripping over.  It was a grand adventure.

Just before we entered the village, we had to run up a steep ramp, across a narrow bridge and down a steep ramp on the other side.  Ragnar is so kind to our legs. (sarcasm)

Teresa and I running down the ramp after crossing the bridge.
Photo taken and owned by Stuart.

Another teammate, Josh, was standing near the bottom of the ramp and caught me crossing the finish line.

Photo owned by Josh.
 Who knew I'd come out of the woods smiling?

"That was so fun!" I told Sarah, our runner #3, as I handed her our team race bib.

As I said them, I couldn't believe they were coming out of my mouth.  And that I meant them.

The Yellow loop was so. much. fun.

I high-fived Teresa, thanked her for the company and we took a selfie.  (Of course we did.)

Leg 1: Yellow Loop
4.6 miles

I knew we had a couple of hours before Sarah finished with the Red loop so I walked to our campsite to change my clothes, have a snack and relax for a while.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking back and forth between our tent and the Village watching and cheering for our runners finishing and cheering while sending our next runners into the woods.

After Sarah, it was Kate's turn, then Andrea's.  While we waited for Andrea to return, the sky grew dark.  The Ragnar announcer came over the speakers warning that heavy rain was a threat.  The wind started to blow and huge raindrops started to fall just before Andrea came across the bridge.  Terri took off for the woods and the rest of us made it to the dining tent right before the sky let loose.  Terri couldn't have been more than half of a mile away when the thunder and lightning started.

Tory, Stuart, Josh and Kerri ran to our campsite to close up the tent windows and put all of our stuff under the EZ Up to attempt to keep it dry while Kate, Andrea, Sarah and I waited in the dining tent near the finish line.  We assumed that Terri would be sent back because of lightning.  It soon became clear that was an incorrect assumption.

The wind was blowing.  It was raining sideways.  Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled.  It was scary.  We were all worried about Terri in the woods.  We told ourselves that she was probably safer there, sheltered by the trees, than we were in the tent.

Two hours later, Terri emerged from the woods soaking wet and smiling.  Luckily, the weather didn't seem near as severe in the woods as it was for us.

By then, we'd been put on a 2 hour lightning hold so our next two runners, Josh and Kerri would have to skip their legs and Stuart wasn't allowed to run until 8pm.  It was dinner time and kind of nice that we all got to eat together.

This is a good place to stop.  I'll finish up our Ragnar adventure later this week.

Have you ever run a Ragnar Relay?  Road or trails?  I've now done both.  I like different things about each and I'd do either again.  In a heartbeat.
Who's with me?  (insert eyebrow waggle)