Maybe because I was so focused on logistics, I didn't have the mental capacity to worry about anything else!
Because we would have a campsite to go back to after each leg, I wasn't as concerned with packing light (unlike with a Ragnar road race, where you have to fit everything in a van). Matt's and my limitations were our cars - we both have Minis.
Cyber Monday was the Monday before the race. We took stock of everything we still needed - inflatable camping mats, a strong running flashlight, Hot Hands - and placed an order on Amazon to be delivered to my parents' house, where we planned to spend Thursday night before the race. Alafia River State Park is an hour away from there and staying at my parents' split our drive nicely.
Michelle, Ashley, Josh, Martin, and Darlene drove up to the park late Thursday and set up camp, so for me it was just a matter of getting to the campsite before our start time. Our 8th teammate, Jess, a sorority sister of mine I haven't seen since maybe 2010, was going to meet us after work on Friday.
|Admit it, you're impressed.
We got up around 6am and were out the door at 7am, as planned. We got to the race venue without any issues at all. I was worried lots of teams would be making the trip early in the morning, but when we pulled in there was no wait for gear drop. We parked at gear drop, our teammates came to help us unload, and then I drove to the actual parking lot and that was that!
After getting situated and getting the lay of the land, it was time for our team to head to the start line.
Then, we were off!
When Michelle came in and exchanged with Ashley, she told me she hadn't anticipated how much energy the trails suck up. She had started with the Green Loop but had definitely felt she needed sustenance despite it being "easy." I made a note to pack a gel for my run.
I heard someone call my name and looked around to see a Sub30 buddy! She had recognized me and Matt from my instagram. Seeing another friendly face was a great way to start my morning.
The Red Loop
The Red Loop definitely lived up to its description. There were parts of it that were basically vertical. I was using my hands and all but rock climbing for parts of it. By the time I got through the first mile, I was honestly wondering how I was going to do five more.
|It's hard to get photos that do this trail justice. I didn't even get any pictures of the bridges or vertical rocks!
|All that stopping and starting...
I began eating my gel at mile 3.5 and immediately started to feel a little better. I realized I could only do what I could do, and that was to just keep moving forward.
Around mile 4, the trail evened out a bit and I was able to pick up my pace again and bring it home feeling pretty proud of myself. I was not mad that my watch read 5.7 miles instead of 6.1.
|My knees were SO achey after this run.
|Feeling tired but proud.
The Yellow Loop
|A candid reaction shot.
My second loop was my nighttime loop. The temperature had dropped into the low 50s and was on track to get back into the mid-40s. I was so cold prepping for the run that I ended up overdressing. I assumed I might run the Yellow Loop too slowly to build up a sweat and I decided I'd rather run the risk of overheating than being cold.
|I was hoping the gaiter would make breathing easier, since cold air + asthma = bad news bears.
|Pretty much this was my visibility the entire run. It was amazing.
We finished basically together, congratulated each other, and high-fived.
The Yellow Loop is a nice blend of the more manageable slopes and climbs of the Red Loop and an overall shorter distance. I think that's why I liked it so much. It was just challenging enough!
After finishing, I went back to the tent. Jessie was in her sleeping bag resting up for her 4am run, so I told her to just stay in there so I could wipe down with a Shower Pill and get dressed. I was so hot after my leg that I made the mistake of waiting until I started to cool down to change. I was sweaty, but soon my sweat turned cold and the reality of the 45-degree night set in.
I bundled up on my sleeping mat. I was able to warm up, but our tent was humid from our body heat, so I was warm but damp and uncomfortable. I was also really worried about Matt, who was running the Red Loop in the dark.
I didn't get comfortable enough to sleep until Matt got back. I heard him telling our teammates that he LOVED the Red Loop. It was so fun, like a rollercoaster! He ran the whole thing!
I had to laugh. That's Matt for you! We found out the next day that there were a dozen injuries on the night run on the Red Loop, including a broken leg, so I am relieved that Matt was able to complete it without any problems and have fun doing it.
The Green Loop
However, late night runs always track long. Everyone runs more carefully and therefore more slowly. (Unless you're Matt.) By the time I was up and actually ready to start running, it was 8:30.
|Breakfast of champions while I thawed out by the fire.
|3rd Leg, here I come!
I took walk breaks as needed, especially through the soft sand, and let other runners pass me. I texted the team that I was "dragging" and they were very encouraging, but I just couldn't get it together!
|The Green Loop was mostly grass and meadows with some little paths that ran through the trees.
I was so glad to hand off the bib to Matt at the exchange and officially be DONE.
Jessie was our last runner and she had the Red Loop as her final run. We all donned our Ragnar shirts and kept an eye on our texts so we'd know when she was close so we could run in with her.
|We got in the habit of texting when the trails merged again, which made tracking each other nice and easy!
|As our team name suggests, we did OKAY. We are all okay and our rank is definitely just okay..which is A-OKAY with me!
Ragnar Trail is an entirely different animal than the road race I did in 2014. Being in a van for 24+ hours with the same five people feels more constrictive, of course, but also creates a kind of bond that I think isn't necessarily as strongly forged while camping. We were all able to wander around and do our own things at Ragnar Trail. I'm someone who appreciates alone time, so I really liked that. There was no shortage of team hangout time, but there was also the freedom to go your own way.
|On-site massage therapist? Major perk!
That sounds like a good thing, but depending on how much of a challenge you want, it could feel disappointing.
I don't think I could say which style of Ragnar I prefer. I love aspects of both. I appreciate that the tougher runs (trail) are mitigated by friendlier conditions (camping), especially because we had pretty nice weather (except for the freezing nights). Although I feel physically accomplished and pleasantly sore after this weekend's race, I think I felt more accomplished mentally after Miami-Key West because of the fatigue and mental toll.
I am so glad I took Michelle up on the offer to join her team this year, especially since deferring last year due to still being in a recovery mindset with my CECS. In a way, taking the risk to run a super challenging trail race forced me into another mental stage of recovery. Now I know I can run elevation and uneven terrain without having some kind of relapse.
I'm not actively looking for a marathon yet, but knowing I can complete a trail Ragnar gives me the confidence in my legs to know I can do another marathon when I'm ready to.