Ragnar Trail Wawayanda Lake 2018

I finally participated in my first trail Ragnar and oh my gosh was it fun!! I still think both types are unique experiences and fun in their own chaotic ways so you should at least try both, but the trail Ragnars are just so much more chill.. Also TRAILS 😍

So just like most of our road Ragnars (because my team is awesome) we started out the night before camping! Mild disappointment at the fact that the sites were provided by Ragnar and therefore we had to listen to their rules of no fires, but I GUESS it was safer that a bunch of sleep deprived crazies didn’t have fire 🙄😂 I got there really late that Thursday night and went to sleep almost immediately.. after scarfing down some food since Captain Dad said I should eat something. That’s one of the best things about the trail version, you can bring a camping grill and tons of food and snacks since you don’t have to shove it all into a car. I ate like a freaking queen that weekend! You can definitely stop and get food during the road ones (when you have time), but I prefer eating foods I’m used to whenever I want. They also had food trucks at certain times!

Race morning we woke up way earlier than our start time, watched the safety video (it’s a different one for trails!), and picked up our Salomons! The trail Ragnar are sponsored by Salomon and you can rent a pair of their shoes to test! The area was still really wet from the recent rain and I only had one pair of trail sneakers so I decided to give them a try and have to wear wet shoes at least one less time. I would highly recommend renting some! It’s free and they just take your license until you give them back.

I ended up taking the spot of 8th and final runner so I had A TON of time to kill. We hung out, ate, and overall just kinda camped. It was really fun not being split up or having to worry about driving. They also have “the village” which hosts tons of contests and activities! At night they have movies, fire, and smores. One of our teammates won the scavenger hunt and got a free pair of Salomons! And at one point I ended up in an inflatable ball race!

img_20181005_175557

Team Rocket caught Pikachu!

We also won greenest campsite and got 50% off our next Ragnar registration!

Now back to the race.. It’s kind of weird how the bracelets and bibs are the opposite of the road relays. You have one bib per team that gets handed off at the transition, but you don’t hand off the snap bracelet since you get your own for each lap that is the color of your loop. You may think it seems silly but by Saturday you’ll be glad you have a bracelet to remind you exactly what you’re doing 🤪 The transition also has a screen that will display your team name when your runner only has 0.25 left so that’s really neat!

As last runner I had yellow, green, red for loop order, (green being the shortest and red the longest). I would be running yellow and green in the dark, but that also meant I got to run the longest in the daylight, which was what I wanted. You don’t need vests for the trail ones so I got ready to run with just my headlamp. Make sure you know how to use your headlamp and that it’s set properly! I had mine set to red light while in camp and didn’t know how to get it to white so I ended up swapping with a teammate AS I was running to enter the trails. I’m so glad she was there because there’s no way you could navigate out there without light. It was hard enough with light! The trails were very technical at points and at others they were really muddy. The yellow trail was labeled super well though so other than being worried about falling it was really chill running through the woods at night. I really enjoyed it!

I actually enjoyed it so much that when a teammate didn’t think she could do her yellow loop I took it. My second yellow loop was also at night and super nice! The only issue was I felt like I twisted my ankle a bit.

img_20181006_025127_535

What? Ghastly is evolving!

After another long wait I had my green loop. The green loop had a lot of road to start (like I think it was the entire first mile) and I don’t know if it was that combined with twisting my ankle or just my knee being bad to begin with but it started KILLING me. I did a decent amount of speed walking because running motion hurt too much. I’m not sure if they didn’t put out as many signs on the green loop or I was just moving so much slower but I kept thinking I had missed turns. The combo of road, pain, and worry made me HATE the green loop. I would have absolutely swapped it for another yellow. Once I finished it I tried my best to fill my next wait with stretches in hopes of not being in pain for my final loop.

img_20181005_151014031_hdr

Team Rocket Recovery Area

Red loop rolled around in the morning and I got ready to end the race! My knee felt decent but in the end it went pretty quickly downhill. It hurt so I wasn’t picking my feet up enough causing me to keep tripping and making it hurt more. It was a pretty awful cycle. But at least it was through the woods during the day so I could see all the prettiness! I felt bad I must have slowed my team down insane amounts, but I tried my best to speedwalk, hop/skip, and jog to the finish!

img_20181006_115208

img_0857

Team Rocket Blasting Off Again!

Ragnar Pennsylvania 2018

After the Reach The Beach Ragnar I had almost entirely positive things to say so when part of my team asked me to join them on another Ragnar adventure I couldn’t sign up fast enough. While I still had an AMAZING time, I wouldn’t exactly be recommending the Ragnar Pennsylvania to anyone and was glad the person I recruited had run a Ragnar previously, as I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I knowingly signed them up for what was to come.

As is custom with Ragnars, multiple people dropped out in the weeks before the race, leaving my team short. We ran with 9 last time, which was a fun challenge, but this time we had multiple teammates new to running that we didn’t want to dump a 4th leg on. I was thrilled when my Instagram friend Lauren answered what I thought was a far fetched invite to run around Pennsylvania with 9 strangers. With her, we ended up with a team of 10 so only 6 of us had to take on the 4th leg. I found I still really enjoyed the rotation caused by not having a full team so everyone got to hangout with everyone, instead of just your van of 6 out of 12. Though the fourth legs of both of my Ragnars were very short legs (3 & 4 miles) and my worst by significant amounts. I want to say sleeping in the van both times is what killed me so if you’re also crazy enough to take on a fourth leg I would recommend having a means of sleep that isn’t crunched inside a van.

Like the previous Ragnar, we rented campsites for the nights before and after the race, which I would highly recommend! It’s cheaper (since you’re already spending a decent amount on the race) and bonding with your team by the campfire is pretty sweet. The night before the race we saw multiple horses and buggies traveling around our campground and I was starting to get excited for the rolling farmlands the course was sure to offer.

Leg 1

We woke up bright and early to head to the start where I would be sending us off for the first leg of our adventure! It was really neat being the first leg since you actually start at the same time as all the teams in your time slot. The track kid in me kicked in and without really thinking about it I decided I was coming in first.. Until 2 seconds in when we hit the highway. Not long stretches of highway either, this was highway with tons of intersections and on ramps that required you to click the cross sign buttons. I stayed behind the other guy who seemed to have the idea of being first, following him as he zigged and zagged across intersections, through traffic at least 7 times in the first 1.5 mile stretch. We changed direction so often I can only imagine he had done some research into the course in order to traverse it this quickly. There was absolutely no way I would have felt safe navigating it at a decent running pace without him in the lead. The rest was more of a residential neighborhood, but I just couldn’t believe they started us in the middle of roads I would never run on for training, without having blocked anything off to cars.

Even though I ended up in second, I arrived at the exchange feeling victorious.. only to find no one from my team there. As I looked around in my confusion, a volunteer asked if my team was supposed to be here. When I replied, “yes”, her response of, “oh that’s been happening all day” was a pretty good indicator of what the rest of this race was to be like. It was honestly crazy how many more times we got lost on the way to exchanges during PA than RTB when we had no cell reception for 90% of RTB and almost always had it in PA. RTB had ample signage for not only runners but also separate ones for vans. For this race, the signage was lacking for runners and non-existent for vans.

My team arrived a few minutes later and I hopped in the van to be carted around for the whirlwind of cheering the next few hours were to be. We quickly found that the roads of Pennsylvania were nothing like those of RTB. Almost the entire route in New Hampshire had road shoulders wide enough for multiple of the large Ragnar vans to pull of in. In PA you were lucky if there was any road shoulder at all. This made cheering significantly less of a thing since you couldn’t just pull over and hangout and instead had to pull into random peoples’ driveways, hoping they wouldn’t mind you staying just long enough to cheer on your runner.

Leg 11

Three of us jumped out at the exchange and watched as the van sped back in the direction it has just come from. I started to stretch and get ready for my next leg with no real idea of when it might start. It was too hot to sit on the pavement and I moved into the grass. I put my cellphone in my FlipBelt, something I hadn’t though I would need to during a daytime leg. After a few minutes we got word they had found our lost runner. He had run a mile off course but was back on track now. In the end, lost runners seemed like a relatively common occurrence. During one of Lauren’s legs she came to a fork in the road with no sign of which way to take. She texted us that she was lost with a runner from another team as well.

I don’t remember much of the actual leg except it was more winding roads with no shoulder, very sunny with no shade, and VERY hot. I was pretty much reduced to a pile of salt by the end of it.

Leg 21

While I found this night leg significantly less terrifying than my night leg in RTB, this one was definitely filled a with way more actual danger. The entire thing was along a high traffic highway winding through the mountains. While they put safety cones out to help, the shoulder was still barely wide enough for passing people and was paved in two separate strips of different heights. The leg started on an rather steep incline that lasted for 3 agonizing miles, then sent you screaming back down almost all the elevation you just climbed in the next 2.5ish. It’s honestly a wonder I didn’t kill myself as I rocketed down the mountain at the insane pace the decline demanded with the blur of the woods directly to my left, cars to my right, and darkness before me. After hearing about/seeing my teammates’ legs I want to say this was one of the most well taken care of legs, when it really could have been one of the least. There were a number of signs informing you to keep straight when you literally had no other choice if you didn’t plan on running off into the woods. AND there was a water stop when it was the middle of the nice cool night. Not only did I not need water (and would have KILLED for it to be out on one of my day legs instead), but it was also pushed way back off the road in a completely unlit little truck stop, which I wasn’t about to be stopping at even if I had needed it. Everything was going smoothly until I hit the first and only possible turn. It was an intersection with another highway and as I was getting closer I could see cars zooming through it. As I tried to look both ways while still moving, I didn’t see a pothole in front of me and stepped into it with one side of my foot, twisting my ankle and throwing myself into the intersection in front of a car. Luckily, it had been a super courteous driver that had seen me coming from further down the road and slowed their pace to a crawl/stop to let me pass without breaking my stride. After a few seconds of pain making me think I was going to have to call my team to pick me up, my ankle seemed good enough to at least finish up this leg. As I slowly sped up to a jog again I hit part of the highway that had tons of large loose rocks scattered on the pavement and I thought to myself it was kind of funny I had already fallen because if I hadn’t I definitely would have now. I ended up able to finish my leg back at a decent pace, iced my ankle immediately, and had no further issues with it!

The End

My last leg was uneventful, just rougher than 3.5 miles should ever be. I felt so bad for my teammates who had longer runs out in the heat that day and didn’t even have the option of a sketchy water stop. Even though we got lost on the way to the finish line, the last leg was a decently long and uphill one so we were able to cross the finish as a team this time!

5b2674716f55a1e37bb3240e

They even played the Pokemon theme song as we crossed!!

Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend Ragnar Pennsylvania, especially with Reach The Beach (and possibly other great locations) being decently close. Having only run the two myself, I wasn’t sure if it was PA being exceptionally bad or RTB being exceptionally good, but from my other teammates experiences it sounded like a little bit of both. The roads of New Hampshire seem to almost be made for these activities with their seemingly infinite shouldered roads for people to pull off to hike or site see. The roads we ran on in Pennsylvania were mostly almost the exact opposite. There was also a notable lack of the covered bridges and horses and buggies that the race claimed covered our route. RTB was not only much safer, but also way more scenic. It was also an AMAZING experience to have locals at almost every transition participating in the event and providing food, amenities, and friendliness not because they have to but because they genuinely enjoy it. (I guess this is a more specific RTB perk.) So it seems in the end I’m once again recommending everyone run Ragnar Reach The Beach 😂

New Tips!

  1. Print out the leg information and put all the pages into a binder for organization!
  2. Wear more lights than they say! Reflective stuff is great when a car’s headlights are pointed at you so they can reflect, but at intersections when they aren’t you might as well not have any reflective gear on. A single head lamp and tail light are just one little point of light on each side of you.
  3. Put your clothes for each leg in a Ziploc bag to keep them separated, dry, and you can vacuum seal them to take up less space!
  4. Bring swimwear (or extra clothes) and a towel! You never know what lake or river you might pass with time for a dip!

Ragnar Reach the Beach Tips

If you enjoy the adventures of misadventure like me you will love this race! I personally loved it so much I might go so far as to say everyone should get to experience this at least once. To me it was an extreme throwback to track meets. You’re having insane amounts of fun but also stuck for what feels like forever waiting for your race. You have the anxiety of having a general idea of when to warm up but don’t know exactly when your race check in will be called (the runner before you gets there). You go through every possible phase of excited, hungry, tired, overtired, and many other emotions/states with a huge group of your friends there to support you. It’s the perfect mash of testing yourself physically and mentally while also having a freaking blast!

Normal teams are 12 man and use 2 vans each with 6 people. You are going to be “stuck” with the people in your van for the next 24 hours, but really won’t be seeing much of the other van group (only at major transitions). From what other normal teams were saying it sounded like you’d be pretty safe to not really even know the group in the other van. If you are still dedicated to getting 12 people that actually have some connection to one another (like my team was) then you are in for a treat because getting 12 people to coordinate is quite the task. My team ended up being a team of 9 due to last minute injuries. With 9 people instead of 12 we had to get creative and ended up making 3 groups of 3 which then rotated about the vans such that two teams would be in the active van, and one would be in the benched van. The teams rotated so all groups got to hangout with the others at multiple points. I really liked this setup since I then got to spend time getting to know everyone instead of just the 5 others in my one van like a normal team would. The only real issue was we all had to take on a fourth leg. (Each person only does three legs on normal teams.)

TIPS:

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Meet Strangers!
I was a sub for one of the injuries and my friend who was the sole link I had to everyone else was another injury who had to dropout so I didn’t actually know anyone in the end. Even without really knowing anyone on my team I had an AMAZING time. Granted they just seemed to be a very welcoming and friendly group of people overall, but that seems to be the type of people this race draws so I wouldn’t be afraid to give making new friends a shot! The community as a whole was amazing and other teams cheered on/helped each other constantly during the race.

2. Expect The Unexpected!
Now even if you do happen to have 12 reliable friends, you still have to deal with pacing and other surprises, so don’t think everything will go perfectly as planned. Unless you’ve done the race before almost all legs are going to come with some unpredictable surprises.

4. Rate The Legs Yourself!
Since our team was still shuffling things around last minute we had relied on Ragnar’s leg ratings. One of my most important tips would be not to listen to their leg ratings. I’m still not sure what formula they used for their calculations but it never seemed to match what our runners reported afterwards.

Leg 1: Hard
This leg was one of the most extreme examples of what we thought of as a terrible rating. It was only listed as “Hard” when “Very Hard” was the highest difficulty. THIS LEG WAS LITERALLY STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN A SKI MOUNTAIN. It was only a mile, but the incline was so steep not a single runner could run it. It had to be walked. As we were waiting for our team’s runner to complete it one of the other runners who already did stumbled over to us quite literally foaming at the mouth and in complete delirium of having just run it mumbled (almost to himself sounding like he was traumatized), “You can’t run up the mountain! You just can’t!”. It was like a scene out of a pirate movie where the crazy guy is warning you of the treasure’s curse. Not only did it sound insanely awful to get up, but then you have to run back down this insanely steep mountain trying not to destroy your knees. I honestly think the leg sounds silly to be in a running race since you can’t physically run it and that it clearly sounded like the absolute hardest leg of the race.

Leg 7: Hard
My first leg! Not only was it the first leg so I was fresh, but it was also pretty much down hill. It was absolutely my easiest leg, but for some reason was rated as “Hard”.

Leg 34: Easy
It was a shorter leg, but much hillier than my first AND it was my 4th. Although it would normally only be someone’s 3rd leg it still was much harder after multiple other runs and so many hours having passed from the race’s start.

Those were just some examples of the difficulty rating not aligning with how it felt and my thought process as to how to rate legs.

My recommendation for making your own ratings:

a. Thinking about elevation!! I’m not sure if it was just because it was a New Hampshire Ragnar or what but even the flatter legs were decently hilly.

b. Think about how much you’ve done before this leg.

4. Have A Game Plan For Night Runs!
I run at night a decent amount so I thought nothing of it when I found out I had a 6.5 mile leg around midnight. A few other teammates had said they didn’t love their night leg but I had mostly attributed that to them having never run at night. I started off really confident but almost immediately decided SHIT WAS WAY TOO SPOOKY. After passing 2 runners and some awesome locals throwing a party to cheer on runners at the very beginning there was NO ONE. No runners, no vans, no houses, no lights. It was literally only me and my headlamp on the middle of a forest. To make things even spookier it was crazy foggy so I was only able to see about 3 feet in front of me. (Another runner on my team said he actually ran out into an intersection and only saw he was there once he got to the center.) After seeing no signs of this being part of a race course for multiple miles I became pretty convinced I had missed a turn sign in the fog. I messaged my team to possibly leap frog me but they were distracted with trying to get to the transition safely themselves and didn’t see until later. Eventually the route met a town and I felt much better for the end. I would recommend planning to leap frog, buddy up, or keep tabs on night runners.

5. Check Up On Your Runner!
The course was very well marked for a 200 mile race through roads that couldn’t be blocked off, but there were still a few points where people got lost. I had to shout at a runner during one of my legs to take a turn, we had to drive after another team’s runner to redirect him, and our own runner ran some extra due to a wrong turn. You aren’t allowed to follow your runner too closely due to the roads being open still, but check up on them when you can! Also to cheer them and others on!!

6. Bring cash!
Many of the transitions have lots of delicious food/snacks made by volunteers and while it’s mostly free, they take donations. I was pleasantly surprised they even took care of the Celiacs and multiple stops had specialized, homemade gluten free foods (like cookies and soup)! The volunteers are also some of the nicest people you will ever meet so you’ll definitely want to donate!

7. Bring lots of water!
Reach the Beach tries to be Eco friendly and not use cups so bringing your own water is your best bet.

8. Be there for your runner!
It is the most heartbreaking thing to see a runner coming in, giving it all they’ve got, only too have their next teammate not be there.

9. Snap bracelet are hard!
Most of the hand offs where people tried to actually snap the bracelet on the next runner failed. It’s not a super big deal until you start getting to the end and are too tired/delirious to find/bend over and pick up the runaway snap bracelet.

10. Get ready for the finish!
You are supposed to join your last runner in the shoot. While we didn’t have the normal van situation/schedule so we probably cut down on time even further, it still seems like a challenge to get your whole team to the finish before the runner gets there. The last leg of Reach the Beach was only 4 miles and the railed off part of the shoot was decently long so we didn’t get into it in time and just ran alongside it.

IMG_20170916_162852

Ragnar was an insanely amazing time and I actually am hoping to run it again with the same group! I hope these tidbits will help you with your Ragnar or make you want to run one if you somehow didn’t already!