I think it was about two years ago, I was sitting at my desk at an old job when I got the email announcing Ragnar Relay’s newest adventure, Ragnar Trails! I had already completed a my first regular Ragnar Relay and at the time was signed up for my second (which I’ve since completed)
I immediately said “I want to do this!” and then realized the closest one was about 8 hours away in the Appalachian mountains. womp womp! Not sure that would work, at least not anytime soon.
Fast forward two years and I found myself with a sudden freedom… an open calendar… AND a much closer Ragnar Trail event. They now had one in Atlanta. Only problem was, I couldn’t convince any of my running buddies to sign up. It wasn’t that anyone was afraid it’s just that their schedules were just already full. So I waited.. and eventually wrote on the Facebook event wall that I was looking for a team. Doing that, I managed to find a team fairly quickly. I also surprisingly convinced a friend of a friend of a friend, Genn, who was also from the North Florida area, to sign up!
Basically I signed up with a team full of strangers for a race I’ve never done in another state. There’s nothing that could go wrong here… (actually nothing DID go wrong. phew!)
I sent in my registration fee to the team captain, Desiree, which was $135. Our group was actually made up of 3 or 4 ultra teams and one ‘slacker’ team. The slacker team was made up of lower distance runners (me!) as well as some of those that were unfortunately injured and couldn’t commit to a full ultra distance race.
After all the expenses that go into a regular road Ragnar, I found it hard to believe that registration was really my ONLY predicted hard cost. There were no requirements of vans to rent, no hotels, etc. It was so incredibly simple, it seemed TOO easy.
As for extra gear (aside from shoes and other typical running stuff), I just needed a good headlamp. No vest, no red blinking lights. I already had a good headlamp from the regular Ragnar events, so I was set. In addition, I had my two Knuckle Lights. If sasquatch was out there, I was going to find ‘em.
The only other cost to anticipate was the cost of gas from Jacksonville to Atlanta and back. Genn and I decided to just split this. Every time I had to fill up, she gave me some cash. It was pretty simple.
Overall, the drive from Jacksonville to the race took 4 hours. Our team was issued a starting time of Friday at 2 pm, so Genn and I decided to drive up on Thursday after work. We left Jacksonville around 6ish, and checked into the hotel around 11 or so. Yes, I know I said there were no hotels, BUT we decided to fork over the extra cash for a hotel the night before the race to get in a good nights rest before the race began. This was a really good idea.
For those of you that might be considering this race, there is a hotel RIGHT across the street from the race. When I say right across the street, I mean, one of the courses runs right past it and another one runs around it. I HIGHLY recommend if your team is planning on staying more than one night to all chip in $10 per teammate to get a room together. You don’t need to actually stay there, but having a place to relax, shower, change and shit in peace would be fantastic at times. Plus if there was in climate weather, you would have a break from that as well. It is close enough that you COULD stay in the hotel instead of camping and compete in the race without much of an issue.
The next morning we woke up early to get setup at camp. A few of our teammates had arrived Thursday afternoon to stake out our camp site area. Ragnar did not assign our campsite but rather let everyone setup where ever they wanted. We were encouraged to be minimalist with our space requirements to ensure all teams had adequate space, but from what I could tell, this wasn’t an issue at all.
When we first pulled up, there was a parking lot for us to pull our car over to the side and unload all our stuff. We then left our stuff sitting there, drove our car to the parking lot about a mile away and took the shuttle back. Genn and her son hung out by our stuff while I dealt with the car which worked well. I honestly don’t think anyone would have touched our things if Genn hadn’t been there anyways.
Our site was fairly easy to locate. Our team had previously setup a Facebook page for everyone to easily communicate through prior to the event. When they setup camp on Thursday, they posted a picture of some of the tents to help us try and locate them which really helped.
First thing I noticed was were were pretty close to the portalet area. Thank god. There’s nothing worse than waking up in your tent in the middle of the night and having to painfully pee with no clue of where the bathrooms area (hello Ginnie springs!). I had no plans on drinking during my stay, so I didn’t anticipate this really being an issue, but you never know! I have heard from other teams though, that it’s possible to setup camp TOO close to the portalet’s and all you hear all night long is the doors slamming shut over and over. Eeesh. That WOULD be pretty bad.
When you arrive, they have an area for you to drop your gear. So you drop it off in the grass on the right, then go park your car in a lot about a mile away. Then there’s a shuttle to bring you back or you can just walk. It works fairly well to get you in and unpacked quickly.
Once we dragged all our stuff to our campsite, we began setting up our tents. It was a this point everything got crazy windy and putting up a tent became a bit of a challenge. To keep my tent from flying away, I threw all my stuff (cot, bags, cooler, drybox) inside my tent and finished setting it up.
We were predicting some pretty nasty weather overnight, so I had stopped at Home Depot on our way out of Jacksonville to pick up this sexy blue tarp. I went for the size bigger than I thought I needed which turned out to be a fantastic idea. This tarp ended up being the exact size of my tent so I could actually stake it down with the tent to prevent it from blowing away.
I really liked how this tent used orange tape to mark their strings. Helped keep everyone from tripping over it the entire time.
Ragnar Trail strongly preaches sustainability so they discourage plastic disposable water bottles. As a result, they provide a water station (aka hose sticking out of the ground). I was a little hesitant that this water was going to be nasty, but surprisingly it tasted fine. Plus, Nuun was onsite with free unlimited samples. I just filled my bottle up halfway with water and halfway with Nuun and was set! Bottoms up!
The Runner Village
After getting everything setup, it was time to check out the runner village. First stop, the starting/finish line. The course was setup in a big loop, so the start and finish line were the same thing.
To make things more exciting, they were also filming to make a highlight video for the race. Ooooh!
Here’s the video they ended up using. You can see me right in the beginning in the blue shirt. (I was the first runner so I got to start the race! Yes, I filled the start. It was pretty cool!)
Here’s the video I shot through the starting corral.
Lots of people liked to crowd around this area to meet up with their teammates and check in on the action. It was also where they were giving a safety briefing every hour or so. I think I ended up hearing the safety briefing in full about 7 times throughout the day. (It was over a loudspeaker which we could easily hear from our camp as well)
Our team started at 2pm (I was the first runner), so we all gathered around at 1pm to hear our personal safety briefing. I snapped this quick pic with two of my teammates, Seren and Elizabeth.
Here’s how Ragnar Trail works. A regular team has 8 runners. Each runner is assigned a running position. You always run in that order. Each person runs three legs. Each leg is a different loop of the course, either green, yellow or red so each runner gets to run each loop of the course. (In regular Ragnar, no one runs the same legs). I was runner #1, so the order I was running in was green leg first, then red leg and then yellow leg.
Ultra teams would just combine legs, so the first runner runs runner #1 and runner #2’s legs back to back. They just run into the exchange tent and keep on running right through.
Next to the starting line, is the runner exchange area which looks like this on the inside. Here you get your bib number from the previous runner and a slap bracelet identifying which leg you are running.
Yeah, haven’t we ALL said this during a race at some point? Loved this shirt.
They also had a fire pit which becomes town hall for all announcements throughout the day. At night they lit the bonfire and passed out s’mores to everyone.
They even had bikes setup you could hop on after a run to help flush the lactic acid out of your legs. I LOOOOVED that they had these and definitely took advantage of them.
There were several merchandise tents setup including Salomon who let anyone that wanted to borrow a pair of shoes to run in. They had a variety of shoes and sizes available. You just signed up and could take a pair out for a test run for your next leg.
I don’t like running in any shoes other than mine. I didn’t want to end up with crazy blisters or hurt feet, so I passed on this one.
Another VERY popular tent was the Oberto Beef Jerky tent. Every time I walked by they handed me more bags of beef jerky. Even better they were holding an Instagram contest which I ended up winning giving me a free 3 months supply of beef jerky!
Being a “green” race, they also ran everything off of solar power.
Including a cell phone charging station! This was a huge lifesaver. The race was in some sort of cell phone battery suck zone. I burned through my entire mophie block and a second smaller charger in a day. True, I’m on my phone a lot, but that was ridiculous. The line ended up being 3-4 hours long towards the end of the first day. They eventually had to close up shop because the sun went down and they were running out of solar power for the booth.
One tip if you find yourself in a similar situation, set your phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it. This definitely helps to conserve the phones battery.
Steve the event announcer kept everyone informed and entertained throughout the day! I loved the music he played so I much he shared his Spotify playlists with me.
As the first runner, my order of legs was Green, Red and Yellow. I ran the Green around 2pm Friday. Then the red around 10pm Friday evening and the Yellow the following morning around 7 am. Our team kept fairly consistent time with each of the legs of my run exactly 8 hours a part. Just long enough for me to fully tighten back up before I had to head back out again!
Here are some pictures along the way that I took. Green was first so I have tons. Red was at night so there weren’t many opportunities for photos. My phone was dead by the next morning for Yellow, so I grabbed some pictures from Ragnar and my teammates for that.
The finish line!
In between the green and red leg, I went to the tent to get the free vegetarian pasta dinner. (I HIGHLY recommend passing on this if you ever do the race. It was kinda gross and cold by the time I got it)
When I was walking back to our camping area… this happened.
Then this happened:
Yup. Double rainbow all the way across the sky!
Here’s a pic from someone that ran the red leg during the day. We ran several portions on this slate rock. Tough leg!
Once I finally finished the red leg (which took me forever), I took advantage of the bikes to flush my legs out and the free sd’’mores! They were also showing a movie, which I missed because my leg was right in the middle of it. I’ve tried to find the movie online somewhere since, but haven’t been able to.
One of the ultra teams in our group. Eduardo, Robert, Robbie & someone I don’t know. Robert and Robbie are actually from Jacksonville and in PRS with me. This was cool because I’ve seen both of them several times since the race now.
Eduardo and I became friends since this race and even ended up joining a team for Ragnar Trails WVG a few months later!