Yesterday I left off my Ragnar Trail Appalachians WV recap just as our team captain and first runner Gayle came running into the exchange chute ready to hand off our team bib to me for my first leg. Due to the extremely muddy conditions, Ragnar had moved everyone’s start times up one hour.
With the new start time, I anticipated starting my run at 12:06 PM on Friday. Gayle came in pretty close to her expected time and I was on my way by 12:15 PM. With my GoPro in one hand, and my hydration pack in the other, Gayle had to help me get my bib fastened so I could be on my way.
I turned to run out of the chute just as Wendy asked if I were Deb. For safety reasons during our overnight legs, our MRTT team buddied up with another local MRTT team. Wendy and I were paired up, but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet until the beginning of our first leg. Ragnar agreed to give both teams the same start time, and the only self-imposed caveat was that running buddies had to stay together at all times. Wendy and I were a perfect pair, and had a great time getting to know each other during our runs. Neither had to stop to wait for the other to catch up; however, Wendy was kind enough to put up with my occasional photo stops.
Wendy and I both had the same goal of finishing the event uninjured given the trail conditions, but had the trail not been so mud covered, I think we still would have been very well matched with our faster trail paces.
Our very first leg was the Big Pine Trail, or the yellow trail. It was 4.6 miles of moderate trail and the Ragnar Trail website describes it like this:
This single-track loop is a classic Appalachian wooded trail where you will encounter some fantastic views. Near mile 2, you will come to a large grove of towering pine trees, the namesake of this trail. Enjoy the soft cushion of pine needles. You will encounter a steep drop as you hug a contour line for half-a-mile before climbing back up for another run through the pine. The trail then rollercoasters along the edge of the 600’ escarpment of the Briery Mountains. Enjoy the view through the trees.
The ferns and trees were absolutely gorgeous, and about a mile into our run the sun broke through just enough to cast an eerie foggy glow.
We ran past our first of several sections of mountain laurel, and while I wanted to run looking all around at Mother Nature’s beauty, I didn’t dare take my eyes from the path in front of me. Even though the trail conditions were only starting to deteriorate, roots, rocks, and patches of mud were just waiting to catch us by surprise and take us down hard.
Yet despite those quickly deteriorating trail conditions, we were able to run more consistently through the yellow trail than the green or the red.
Trails throughout the event were well marked with arrows in the color of the trail, and during the night little blue lights on the clothespins lit up to guide us.
One of my favorite photos of the weekend is this one where I stopped to snap a quick picture of this little sign. Wendy took advantage of our break to stretch her back, and it wasn’t until I uploaded my pictures that I realized that I’d captured many different stories in one snap of my GoPro.
Our first really serious encounter with mud occurred a little later in our yellow trail run. Once we approached the section where the green, yellow, and red trails merged, the mud was deeper and more slippery from the heavier foot traffic.
Crossing the infamous bridge was a great feeling, knowing that we were just seconds from completing our first leg of Ragnar Trail Appalachians, and with each subsequent crossing I looked forward to handing off our team bib to Angela, runner number three.
Wendy and I finished and came into the exchange chute in 1:04:58 (14:07 pace). Our projected pace had been 50:36 (11:00 pace) which I’m very confident we could have run if the trail had been dry. Taking longer than anticipated was a trend that would continue throughout the race, and each rainstorm made everyone’s times even longer.
As trail running goes, the course wasn’t that hilly or difficult, but because this was the first of three trail races in less than 24 hours, Wendy and I made sure to walk up the super steep hills.
After finishing my leg, I stopped in the Ragnar merchandise tent to see what was available; because everyone shops immediately after racing. I picked out a cute pink tank and then got caught in a downpour on my way back to our campsite.
We all huddled under our canopy until the storm passed, but while sitting with my brand new tank on my lap, I jumped up and dumped my top into the mud when a wall of water came rushing off the canopy and down the back of my chair and neck.
This is what our living room, kitchen, and dining room floor looked like the whole time we were there. Yes, this is under the protective canopy, and it actually got far worse as we got more rain, and more boots and running shoes sloshed through the space.
After the rain let up, Wendy and I got a picture together since we hadn’t out on the trail. Having just met her, I was hesitant to request a selfie during our run!
Dinner Friday night was served by Ragnar. Gayle, Erin, Angela and I ate on the earlier side since we all had another leg to run in the next few hours. Our dinner was a tasty penne pasta with veggies and red sauce, a salad, rolls, lemonade, and a cookie for dessert.
After dinner I took some more pictures of our campsite with the additional water and mud collecting after our mid-afternoon rainstorm.
While waiting to start my second leg, I wondered around Ragnar Village snapping a few pictures before it got dark. Between rain storms, runners placed their soggy shoes on the side of the fire pit to dry out. Unfortunately, several storms popped up suddenly catching runners off-guard, and soaking their shoes a second and third time.
As I walked around the village, music played on stage. I stopped to take in my surroundings and enjoy the people watching opportunity, and believe me, Ragnar races have great people watching opportunities!
Before heading back to camp to rest up a little more before my second leg, I stopped by the exchange area and nervously wished that I were finishing up my night run already.
Tomorrow I’ll be focusing on Wednesday Word on the blog, but with this week’s word being “annoying,” there might be a mention of something we had a lot of during our Ragnar Trail weekend.
I’ll resume my Ragnar Trail Appalachians recaps on Thursday, and take you on my second run on the green trail during the middle of the night. See you then!
Editor’s note: To read Part 3, click here.
- Do you prefer to run first thing in the morning, later in the day, or at night?
- Have you ever run a Ragnar Relay or Ragnar Trail, or similar relay?
- Do you enjoy people watching, or are you oblivious to others around you?