At the beginning of the year I figured out all my races and devised an execution plan. The original plan involved placing more timed running events earlier in the year and less distance driven races. This left my race calendar with approximately a race every other month starting in March til the middle of June, each race being 12 hour races with the exception of the last one in June which is my big 24 hour race. A few weeks ago the schedule started to change when a friend of mine asked me to join him in his first 50k, a week before my first 12 hour race (details here and here). After running those two races seven days apart I took a week off and began to prepare for my next race in May, another 12 hour nighttime race. A few days of recovery and I suddenly find myself signing up for another race, just a few weeks away, the Double Top 100mile/100k/50k ultramarathon.
Last Monday I started back with my normal running routine, now I had less than a few weeks to prepare for my next 50k. The Atlanta Ragnar Relay was being ran the following weekend, yet I had not signed up or found a team to join as I intended to not participate this year. I ran this race last year, its inaugural year. It was an awesome experience but did not fit into my racing plans for this year (last years recap can be read here). Oddly enough, on Monday I decided I would love to experience another Ragnar Atlanta Trail race and began to look for teams needing last-minute runners. I found one pretty quickly and suddenly my weekend plans changed, I was going back to camp out and run in an eight man relay. My lazy April had now had a relay trail race and a super tough 50k race added.
I took Friday off from work and met up with my seven newest running friends at the International Horse Park in Conyers Georgia. It appeared that there were more runners this year as the available camp grounds were much fuller. We found us a spot and set up our campsite. The first few hours were about gelling and getting to know my new team mates. Eventually the first runner was off and my second Ragnar Trails race had begun. I pulled anchor duty and got to run in slot eight, the final runner for each of the three rotations. I would be running my first two legs at night, but until my first run I had time to hang out, eat and just chill.
The day turned to evening and the first storms for the days began to hit. These storms would continue off and on, ranging from half an hour to an hour. As the night moved in and it got dark out, the seventh runner got set to go. Suddenly the storms got violent, increasing in intensity, adding lightning. At this point the Ragnar Race officials put an hour hold on the race, meaning that the seventh runner would skip this rotation and in an hour I would start running. Unfortunately the lightning continued and the hold lasted for another hour, skipping my rotation.
After two hours the hold was lifted and out first runner started the second rotation. Both me and runner seven decided we would still run our missed legs unofficially. So I headed out onto the yellow trail or the medium route. The rain had turned the trail into a muddy mess. Eventually I finished the trail and got back to my tent for some sleep. As I made my way back to our campsite, I realized the entire place was now a giant soupy mess… the areas around the Ragnar Tents, the areas between camps, basically every spot of ground was now covered in pools of muddy water and red muddy ground everywhere. Some campsites were flooded, but luckily our site was just a giant mud pit.
Around sunrise I finally got to run my first official Ragnar leg my easy trail leg. Most of this trail proved uneventful, yet the mud made easy sections a bit challenging. When I got back I went to sleep for an hour and then I was back up again. We were on track to finish by six and were not required to double up our legs. I spent the remainder of my day getting my stuff ready to go home and hanging out waiting to run the last leg for our team, the red loop or difficult loop. As the sixth person went out we found out we could double up the seventh and eighth runners and finish a bit earlier. This meant we would leave at the same time for different trails. I would finally get to run the red trail!
Eventually I headed out on my final lap, a trail I had not run the previous year. The difficulty in this trail was mostly its length, an 6.8 mile loop. Nothing too challenging for me on most days but the sun started beating down and I found myself fighting hydration issues. Additionally, I had tried to fuel throughout the race, but half way through this loop I ran out of all energy. Because of the rain the trail consisted of several large pond crossings that sometimes went well above the ankle and up to the middle of the calf, leaving my legs covered in mud. I pushed and fought myself and eventually made it to the point where my team mates joined me in crossing the finish line.
We chatted for bit, got a photograph taken and then began the business of packing up our camp site and preparing to head home. I was hoping to be faster this year but my legs were still not fully recovered from the previous weeks exploits and fuelling challenges combined with newly found sunlight and hydration issues added additional complexity to this race. The mud oozed out of everything and covered everything. Overall I love this race and I am glad I got a chance to race this race a second year. I loved my new team mates and hope I will get to race with them another year. Now I must focus on the races coming up including the technical 50k in another two weeks I just signed up for.
Til next time.