RUN. CAMP. SLEEP? REPEAT.
120 miles of trail running divided between 8 team members in the Appalachians of West Virginia. Ragnar Trail Relays is a "running and camping adventure that makes testing your limits a team sport". That was what I was doing this past weekend as a member of The Honey Badgers. We arrived at the Ragnar Village and Campsite at Big Bear Lake Campgrounds in WV around 11am on Friday, set up our campsite, mingled with 3,000 other runners (some of which had already started their race) and prepared to for our team's start time at 3 pm. The atmosphere was electric and I felt like a giddy school girl. The race can take anywhere from 18 - 35 hours to complete depending of the speed of our team and the relay legs where divided into 3 "loops" with different distances and each providing their own difficulties and beauty. I joined our first runner for the start as we decided to buddy up on some of the legs (after we got our safety briefing in which we were informed on what to do if we encountered a bear!). At the end of each leg, we crossed a massive bridge (lit at night with tiki torches) and descended into the transition to tent, while being cheered on by those congregating at the campfire, to pass the baton (or slap bracelet in this instance).
Crossing the bridge to enter the transition tent
Game face on!
Teammat Dora and I descending into the transition area
The first leg went great! 3.5 miles down, 116.5 more to go! 10 minutes into the second leg, a thunder and lightning storm descending into our midst and plagued us for hours. Already on the trail, our brave 2nd runner said she "ran for her life" only to emerge with a severely sprained ankle which benched her the rest of the relay. I am not sure how she even finished her 4.6 mile loop with its technical difficulty! She became our biggest cheerer and her spirits stayed high as we picked up her legs of the race and struggled to stop our camp from blowing away.
Our camp pre-storm
Hanging on for dear life! As we clung to our canopy and watched one of our tents flood, we saw many other camp sites upended. One of our tarps literally almost took me away with it! 2 hours of downpour resulted in drenched bags, pillows, sleeping bags, and bodies. I did not pack right for this trip! It was at this exact moment in the picture above that I admitted out loud "OK, so I realize now that I do NOT want to be a contestant on Survivor!". Once the rain stopped, I bought a pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt at the Salomon brand tent (a sponsor of the race) so I could survive the night of shivering. They made a killing on all their "winter" items! Regardless our team kept going!
My teammates provided much needed moral support as we each prepared to head out in the weather, cold, night hours, and mud. (Dora at rundomican.wordpress.com)
We tried to stay as dry as possible during our downtime and grab sleep when we could. I think I logged 3 hours of sleep time.
Preparing for my night leg, staying warm by the fire while waiting for my teammate to descend the bridge into transition area.
Coffee and hot chocolate (and smokes) were served through the night to keep us going.
Shoes drying during the morning hours.
Fellow teammate Jess (paceofme.com) and I getting hyped up for our last leg!
So I had considered myself a trail running amateur, but now believe I am an expert! Anything will seem easy after these technical loops including ferns up to my waist, rocks rocks and more rocks, stream crossing, sliding down rocks on my rear end, hills, and mud up to me knees. The night running was beyond hard where you can't let your eyes leave the little circle of light that your headlamp provides. Trail running requires so much mental focus! However in the daylight hours, I allowed myself to take a few breaks to capture some photos of the breathtaking scenery.
Due to the storm our teams as running 5 hours behind, but we did it! We finished and no medal has ever felt more deserved.
My shoes at the end.
Team Honey Badgers!
18 miles later I am walking like an old person, have dirt caked under my nails that may take days to get out, and I would not trade any of these moments (even the lowest ones!). My teammates are now friends I will always hold dear as this was one of the most epic events of my life! Thank you Salomon for a great experience! It is true what they say in the Ragnar Trail slogan "8 friends, 3 loops, 1 billion stars, unforgettable stories!"
Sign me up for next year!