Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap

April 9, 2014

One of the most powerful things about running is that it keeps surprising me. Even though I’ve been running nearly my entire life, running continues to teach me new things and take me on unexpected adventures where I keep learning about myself and about life.

This past weekend was no different.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta race recap on runladylike.com
Photo source: Ragnar Trail

On Friday and Saturday, I spent 24 hours on one of the most fun and unique running adventures yet. I was fortunate to run the Ragnar Trail Atlanta relay race with 7 other fabulous ladies representing Nuun. During the week leading up to the race, I was admittedly grumbling and complaining a bit to Mr. rUnladylike: Why did I agree to do this race? I haven’t been trail running in ages. Why am I putting myself in a situation where I could get hurt? Why did I sign up for this?

I should have punched myself in the face, because Ragnar Trail Atlanta ended up being an incredible experience that I would not have given up for the world.

The idea behind the race is that teams of 8 people (or 4 people if an ultra distance is preferred) work together to run 130 trail miles over the course of 2 days. I was on a team of 8, and we each were required to run 3 times, including a hard 6.7-mile “red” loop, a moderately hard 4.6-mile “yellow” loop and a moderately hard but shorter 3.8-mile “green” loop. There were 24 total legs between the 8 of us, and we alternated in the order of green, yellow, red until the 8 of us had run all 3 loops. The average finishing time tends to be between 18 and 30 hours. Additionally, there is a base camp where you set up tents and keep your stuff to hang out between running legs, and the Ragnar team had a bonfire, food trucks, smores and a stage for live music to keep things fun and lively. Essentially, you run, sleep in a tent, eat and repeat. Showering and brushing your teeth are optional. *wink*

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Meet Team Electrolits

I arrived at the race site on Friday afternoon to set up and meet my team members. Our starting time was 3:30 p.m.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
This was our campsite. I slept in the pink tent on the left.
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Hanging out at our campsite before Ragnar Trail Atlanta begins
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Team Electrolits: Abby, Elizabeth, Sarah, me, Laura, Katie, Elisabeth and Lisa
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com

We attended a pre-race meeting to learn the ins and outs of the course, course markings, transition/exchange tent and how the weekend would work. And then it was go time.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Abby was our first runner. She was ready to get things started!
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Ragnar Trail Atlanta start and finish line
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
And we’re off. You can see Abby (our first runner) in the orange tank, blue skirt and pink compression socks).

I was runner #6, and I was grateful that the order of my runs started with the hardest loop (red) and kept getting shorter and “easier” over the course of the 24 hours.

Run #1: Red Loop
My first run was at 7:30 p.m. and it was the 6.7-mile hard loop. Right before I took off, there was a beautiful rainbow. I was hoping this was a good sign of things to come.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Photo source: Ragnar Trail

Ragnar Trail describes this loop on their Web site as being like a roller coaster … and it was! I was able to run the first half with daylight and the second half in the dark with a head lamp (major thanks to my teammate Elizabeth from Running For Bling for letting me borrow her head lamp and knuckle lights for all my nighttime runs! This was the first time I’d ever run on trails in the dark!). I kept hearing from others how challenging this loop was, so knowing the first 2 miles were flat and easy, I took off like a bat out of hell to try to make up time on the back-end. My first mile was 7:08 (ouch … too fast) and I settled into the second mile at 8:06. Then the hills started. There were several incredibly steep hills and some challenging terrain that was on a slate rock that was a bit difficult in the dark. I struggled to catch my breath in the later stages of the run since I went out so fast, but was able to finish strong with an average 8:58 pace for the 6.7 miles. My Garmin read 59:45 and the official time was 1:00.

After my first leg, I ate some dinner, changed out of my sweaty clothes and bundled up in a tent to catch a little shut-eye. I was able to fall asleep but it was restless. I probably managed about 3 hours of sleep.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
These were my sleeping quarters for the 24 hours.

Run #2: Yellow Loop
My second run came around 2:30 a.m. With my headlamp and knuckle lights strapped on, I went out for the 4.6-mile yellow loop, which was a complete blast.

IMG_4881

This was the leg that made me fall in love with Ragnar Trail. There was something so exhilarating about running through the woods at night. While I passed many people, you are mostly alone, which adds an additional element of intrigue and excitement. I ran each of the 4.6 miles faster than the first, although I was careful with my footing in the dark. My Garmin read a 9:37 average for this loop (just over 45 minutes), but since I ran 0.1 farther than the marked course, the official pace was 9:55. After the run, I changed, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Chobani and fruit snacks by the bonfire and laid back down in my tent. I didn’t get much sleep between 3:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. but I think simply resting helped.

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
This is a picture of part of the yellow loop during the day. Photo source: Ragnar Trail

Run #3: Green Loop
My final leg – although the “easiest” loop on the course – was by far the hardest for me. I started around 9:20 a.m. and my legs felt tired and dead. It was the first run of all my legs that was entirely in daylight, and it felt like the longest 3.8 miles of my life. I felt like I was running through molasses, but I tried to keep up my pace to finish strong. I ran an 8:30 average pace, coming in around 32 minutes. I was so glad to be done!

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
In the exchange tent taking the race belt from Elisabeth to start my final leg.
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
The green loop
Photo source: Ragnar Trail
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Coming through the finishers shoot on my last leg of Ragnar Trail Atlanta … happy to be done!

After my final leg, there were 2 more runners to finish until our entire team was done. We hung out as a team while we waited for our fellow runners, and at the end, we all ran across the finish line together with our last runner Katie. It was such a blast!

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Waiting for Katie so we could all cross the finish line together.
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Team Electrolits crossing the finish line together after 20 hours and 54 minutes!
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com

Our final time was 20 hours and 54 minutes, and we were the first place women’s team overall (woo hoo!).

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap
Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap on runladylike.com

I would highly recommend a Ragnar Trail race if you’re interested in a trail relay. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure you or your teammates have access to tents and sleeping bags. Having at least 4 tents will be critical, and sleeping bags are better than blankets and pillows which I used. You will also want to have a pop-up tent (like a 10×10) and folding chairs so you and your team can hang out when you’re not in the tents. You will need to arrive early to set them up and be prepared to take them down after the long race. I had none of these things, and I was extremely grateful to my other teammates who provided these items and let me use them.
  • Because you will have at least one run during dark hours, you will need a good head lamp that is at least 70 lumens or more. I was fortunate that my teammates let me borrow theirs. I would also recommend wearing some kind of band around your head to keep it from slipping off your sweaty forehead. You could wear something like a BondiBand or simply some thin ear warmers that you flip up so they don’t cover your ears if it is warm out.
  • Unlike other relay races where you are squished in a van, you can actually rest and get some good sleep at Ragnar Trail since you can sleep in a tent. The base camp provides a really nice setting in between legs.
  • Although there is a cell phone charging station, it is closed during the nighttime hours since it works on solar power, and your phone will die. Be sure to either bring some kind of charging device (there are no outlets or generators) or bring a real camera so you can keep taking pictures.
  • Get ready to be unladylike! You all know I love this part. For 24 hours, your only bathroom option will be a porta potty and you will likely not brush your teeth or shower despite running 3 times. I use baby wipes in between runs to clean up before changing into some warm clothes. Ragnar does offer showers for $10 but I never felt the need to take one since there was only about 5 to 6 hours in between runs for me. Get ready to get dirty and like it.
  • Stomach issues are more likely during any relay race when you are off your normal eating and sleeping schedule. I had them at Hood to Coast last year, and I had some between legs 2 and 3 this year (aka I had to poop in the porta potties 6 times in 5 hours #unladylike). Be mindful of what you eat and try not to get too excited with all the many snacks that will be at your disposal. I tried to eat full meals with protein and carbs, and then consumed Clif Shot Bloks about 30 minutes before legs 2 and 3.
  • The best thing about relays and trail races is that time really doesn’t matter. This is about having fun, and it is a great reprieve to run a race where meeting a specific time is not the focus. Just enjoy the miles. Enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. And have a complete blast! To see more official pictures from the race, click here.

Have you ever run a relay race? Have you run a trail race or Ragnar Trail event? If, so, share your experience. If not, do you have any desire to run one?

Comments

Samantha @ The Faithful Runner
Reply

I want to do a relay, especially a Ragnar, REALLY bad. They don’t offer much where I’m from, but I’m definitely keeping my eye out for one that is close by!
Glad you had such an awesome run!

Jojo @ RunFastEatLots
Reply

I would love to run a relay race someday! Ive been eyeing the Ragnar Trail relay. It looks like so much fun!

Ashley @ Brocblog
Reply

I had no idea that Ragnar Trail races are set up this way! I was peeved with myself for not joining in on the Ragnar SoCal fun this past weekend but now I’m seriously dying to do a trail!

lisa j
Reply

love your recap- i think it captures the essence of the weekend perfectly. When I hone in on the next trail ragnar, I will be incorporating ankle strengthening exercises for the right ankle so some of the runs don’t hurt quite as much. So glad you enjoyed your first trail relay and hopefully more to come in your future 🙂

rUnladylike
Reply

Great point and something I totally forgot to mention Lisa! My ankles were SOOOO sore for 2 days after the race. It is amazing the different muscles you use trail running vs. road running. I’m so glad I got to meet you and I look forward to following your Ragnar journeys! xo

Lexie
Reply

I also ran Ragnar Trail Atlanta & ran the same order you did. I was so glad to get the red loop out of the way first & totally agree that the green (easiest?) loop was by far the toughest…at least it was for me. Tired legs, sleepy, messed up diet, pooping in porta potties & no showers! I loved every minute of it & can’t wait to do it again!!! Congrats on the awesome finish time! Our time was 22:54:00.

Ange @ Cowgirl Runs
Reply

This appeals to me WAY more than a standard Ragnar. I LOVE camping and I think trail running in the dark would be a blast – or I’d scare myself 🙂

Kristen @ Glitter and Dust
Reply

That seriously looks like so much fun! What an awesome group you had and very bright and colorful. I am doing my first relay race this summer (Cascade Lakes Relay) and am really looking forward to the experience (especially running at 2 in the morning).

elizabeth
Reply

so well recapped!! I’m totally “borrowing” your people/brady bunch pics. 🙂 had SO much fun. Already counting down till next year!!!

Karla @ Run, Karla, Run!
Reply

Congrats on your team win! I’ve never done a relay, but everyone I know who has raves about them–especially being on trails at night. From camping and hiking, I’ve experienced that feeling of being alone in the world. Pretty special. Congrats again!

Kat
Reply

I STILL need a Ragnar experience! Way to go girlie espcially the ne Trail race!

rUnladylike
Reply

I think you would really love it, Kat! I definitely recommend! 🙂

Victor Marino
Reply

Congrats on your team nailing first place !! So awesome. And sounds like a total blast.
Great that it is team effort. And as always you have captured the essence of the activity in your writing to motivate fellow runners to participate or try something new..

rUnladylike
Reply

Thank you so much Victor. We should get a team together to do it next year!

EB @ running on E
Reply

Great recap, Jesica! You did a great job capturing the team and weekend !

rUnladylike
Reply

Thank you Elisabeth. It was so great to meet you in real life, and I loved being part of the team with you! xo

Chatter
Reply

Amazing recap of an awesome race. I probably meet you at some point as I hung out and over indulged a bit too much at the nuun tent. Great race and great recap.

rUnladylike
Reply

Thanks so much Chatter 🙂 I love how the running community is such a small world! Hope to officially meet you at an Atlanta race soon 🙂

Kristen
Reply

This looks like SO much fun and I’m super impressed that you guys were the top women’s team!!

Having spent many nights in a tent that looks exactly like that, I am 100% positive that it was a Breast Cancer 3 Day tent in it’s previous life. In fact, this whole experience seems similar to the 3 Day, except with trail running instead of 20 mile walking days!

Leslie @ Triathlete Treats
Reply

Great re-cap!! Looks like you had so much fun!!
I love relays!! I have been wanting to do a trail relay for a while. I am hoping to do one next year!!

rUnladylike
Reply

Leslie,
Knowing how great you are at relays, you would love the Ragnar Trail series. I hope we’ll get to do one together some day! xo

Nicole
Reply

So glad you had a great time! I loved Ragnar trail! And congrats on the win!!

Debbie @ Live from La Quinta
Reply

I didn’t realize that Ragnar Trail was so different! They have one nearby in October, and I was thinking of it in terms of 200 miles point to point.This sounds much better. Actually, you had we when you said one could sleep in tents instead of vans.

Great job on finishing first! I know the time doesn’t really matter and it’s all about the fun, but still, it’s pretty cool to win 🙂

Karen
Reply

You all did amazing! great tips 🙂 I can’t imagine not being able to shower after a sweaty run lol

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