This is a recap of my first leg of the Ragnar Trail Appalachians relay. If you missed the events that led to our arrival in the mud hole that was Big Bear Lake campground in Bruceton Mills, WV, click HERE.
Leg 1: Red loop, 6.7 miles, 4:30 PM Friday afternoon, nicknamed “Mother of Crack”
Has running through the woods ever made you feel like a gnome? This trail might. This loop is one of our favorites of the entire series and it has it all. The trail snakes through waist high ferns, twists through moss covered boulders, runs alongside and crosses a crystal clear stream, and crosses through a dark creepy swamp. Wow, what more could you ask for! This trail has short sections that are VERY technical and the safest way to get through them is to walk. Most of this trail is single-track but there are some sections of double-track.
Above is the description from the fine folks at Ragnar for the loop I ran first during our trail relay. It was both the longest and toughest loop, and in many ways I was glad to get it out of the way. My team partnered with the Western Loudon MRTT team, and my running buddy for the weekend was Tammie. We definitely had a lot of time to get to know one another during this first loop! Running is one of the best ways to get to know someone, in my opinion.
As runner 6, I saw five of my teammates head out and come back from their first legs of the relay. Each one came back a bit muddier than the last, and I was excited to take my turn. Tammie and I watched the board, waiting for our team numbers to appear so we could enter the transition area, as a torrential downpour slowly dissipated.
When team members were 2/10th from the transition area they ran across a mat that made them show up on the screen. Then the next runner would enter the transition area and get a slap bracelet with the color of the loop they would be running. When their runner came in, they would transfer the bib to the next runner.
When Tammie and I saw Ashburn MRTT and Western Loudon MRTT come up on the screen, we entered the transition area and waited to begin our Ragnar adventure. I was so excited! Carrie and Mariah (Tammie’s daughter) came cruising in, handed their bibs off to us, and off we went!
Right away Tammie and I found ourselves in the woods, surrounded by ferns. It was gorgeous, and it was so green. The trail wasn’t too bad and I was loving being out there running on some new trails in the woods. I think it may have been sprinkling lightly, too. The trail had a mix of small rocks and a few large boulders that we would scramble over, and often have to jump off.
When I was getting ready for my first leg, I kept feeling like I was forgetting something but couldn’t figure out what. Shortly after Tammie and I took off into the woods, I remembered what it was – fuel! Not something I would normally need on a 6-ish mile run, but I knew we would be out there for at least 90 minutes. Tammie was kind enough to share some of her shot blocks, and saved the day for me!
It didn’t take long for us to start encountering some pretty crazy mud. Some of it wouldn’t be deep at all, while other sections would go up to my knees! You never knew what you were going to step into or what rocks were going to be hidden in the mud. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for me to go flying on a short, downhill section. Tammie would soon learn not to panic when I fell, as tripping/falling on trails is already common for me even when it’s not super muddy.
About two miles in, we ran through several sections with rock faces that had us jumping off of large rocks into deep mud holes.
Shortly after this picture was taken Tammie and I were running along when, with a shot of panic, I realized my camera was no longer in my pack! Tammie waited while I back tracked to the spot from my last picture. I had to look around a bit and then amazingly, I reached my hand down in one of the deep mud puddles and found the darn camera! At least four runners had come by while I was looking. Not only was I incredibly lucky to find the thing, I was lucky no one had landed on it when jumping into the mud puddle where it was.
I could not believe I found it but what a relief! For the rest of the weekend my camera stayed in the zipper pocket of my hydration pack between uses. From there, Tammie and I continued on, encountering more and more mud. I fell some more, becoming extremely dirty in the process, but never hurting myself. When I wasn’t falling I was often sliding all over the place. Even Montvale earlier this year, with its pouring rain, wasn’t this bad.
We ran through a swamp where I got stuck up to my knee and literally had to pull my leg out with my hands. I also lost my shoe in the process! It was what I call shoe-sucking mud, and there was a lot of it the rest of the weekend.
Around mile 4 we encountered a long, one mile hill that was very steep towards the end. We also encountered a guy who was supposed to be running the 4.6 mile yellow loop, but had somehow found himself on the red loop with 5.7 miles on his Garmin. He stayed with us until the top of the hill and we told him he should just keep going since there was only 1.5 miles left on our loop to get back to the transition area. Unbelievably, he decided to turn back around and try and find the yellow trail again. I thought he was crazy!
After our big climb, we ran onto a shared trail that both the yellow and red loops used on the way back to Ragnar Village and the transition area. I managed to fall one final time on this sloppy trail, landing on my back and sliding down the hill on my back. What a mess!
Then the green trail joined up with red and yellow. This final section was especially muddy since every runner ran on it every single loop. Tammie and I did our best, and before we knew it we were running across the bridge and back into the transition area! The 6.7 mile loop took us right around two hours to complete. Whew.
Lucky for me they had an area for runners to hose off after each run. The water was icy cold, but that didn’t matter. There were showers, too, with hot water and everything, but I never took advantage of those. What was the point?
Once I made it back to our campsite, I changed into my next set of running clothes and waited until it was my turn again. I grabbed some dinner, provided by Ragnar, with Tammie (penne pasta with veggies and a roll). Then I went shopping and bought a Ragnar Trail glass tumbler and a fridge magnet. Fridge magnets are becoming a race tradition for me…
I hung out with a few of my teammates by the bonfire and watched parts of a documentary about people attempting to run all 14 of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado within 60 hours.
I also walked over to the nearby transition area and watched Gayle and her buddy hand off to Debbie and her buddy. This was about the time my second leg had originally been slated to take place, and I wished I were the one heading out to get my night run done. We were already several hours behind due to torrential downpours and deteriorating trail conditions, on top of it also now being dark.
From there I headed back to camp to try and grab some sleep before my next leg, which was expected to take place around 3 AM….
Have you ever gone off course in a race?
Do you like running with a buddy/group or alone?
When was the last time you can remember being extremely muddy/dirty? Probably not since the Spartan Race… and before that not since childhood!