I left off on my previous recap while waiting to run my first nighttime run of the relay. I had expected to run my second leg around 7:24 PM on Friday, but with the muddy trails deteriorating more and more by the minute, we were all taking longer to finish our legs than projected.
Wendy and I arrived at the exchange area around 9:50 PM expecting our teammates to come in around 10:15 to 10:30. My teammate Gayle and her running buddy Luci were running the red trail (the longest and most difficult). Considering how muddy the trails had become after our late afternoon rainstorm and that it was now pitch black outside, we weren’t surprised that they were taking longer than we expected.
To kill time and calm my nerves while I waited, I wandered around Ragnar Village taking in the nighttime sights. The area in front of the screen showing which runners were 2/10 of a mile away from the exchange was packed, and at times it was hard to see. Having a larger screen and moving it higher would be a huge help to runners watching for their teammates to arrive.
The stage from the afternoon’s band now had a huge screen in front of it with a movie playing. I didn’t pay close enough attention to figure out which running movie was showing, but it seemed like a fun idea. Had the ground been dry so runners could sit and stretch out their legs while watching, I think more people would have been enjoying it.
I wandered over to the exchange area and envisioned crossing under the arch with my night leg behind me. I normally don’t get anxious about races, but the dark and muddy trail had me slightly stressed, and I just wanted to get out there and run.
Just after 11 PM Gayle and Luci came into the exchange and it was go time! One of the GameFace photographers captured this photo of Gayle helping me put on our team bib while Wendy takes Luci’s bib from her. Once our bibs were snugly fastened, we were off!
Our second and what ended up being our only leg in the dark was Maple Flats, or the green trail. It was 3.5 miles of easy trail and the Ragnar Trail website describes it like this:
You will leave the Ragnar Village on a winding and gently rolling single-track trail. This trail sometimes gets rocky, so watch your footing, but don’t forget to look up and enjoy the views. Single track turns into double track for the rest of the loop. After mile 2, you will cross a small creek and start the slow climb back up to the Ragnar Village. When you start hearing the music know that you are close, this is where all three trails merge and return to the Ragnar Village.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember very much from this run except for the critter running toward me. My headlamp caught the bright eyes of some little dude moving rapidly in my direction. He was on his side of the trail so he didn’t bother me. He was low to the ground and moving quickly, and I have no idea what it was. I can only guess that it might have been a young opossum, or perhaps one of the varmints I described last week. I turned to Wendy to warn her that something was heading her way, and to keep moving.
We encountered a lot more mud than we had on our previous run, but as I mentioned earlier, that wasn’t surprising considering the afternoon rainstorm. We worked hard to remain upright and learned pretty quickly that the sides of the trail were slicker than the middle; however, I was trying hard to avoid deep mud because I was afraid I’d get a shoe sucked off in that mess.
At several points we encountered water. It was hard to determine whether the water was deep or shallow, especially since it was dark and there weren’t a lot of people to watch running through it. When I had no choice but to go through the water, I was probably more cautious than I needed to be.
Eventually we came to the point where the green, yellow, and red trails merged and knew that we were pretty close to the end of our leg. Trail conditions were really bad at this point, and we carefully picked our way up the slippery hill to the electronic mat that signaled our teammates that were were 2/10 of a mile away.
After crossing the mat, trail conditions were a little better as we approached the bridge and made our way to the exchange area. We finished our muddy nighttime run in 1:09:59 (19:59 pace). Our projected pace had been 38:30 (11:00 pace). I’m not sure that I could have maintained an 11:00 pace on a rocky trail in the dark, though, even without the mud.
Nothing was so sweet as seeing Angela and Sarah waiting to assume the responsibility of taking our team bibs on a little run in the dark.
As trail running goes, the course wasn’t that hilly or difficult, but because this was the second of three trail races in less than 24 hours, it wasn’t a walk in the park…
After handing our team bibs off, Wendy and I headed straight to get in line to hose off our legs and shoes so we could get back to our tents and try to get some sleep.
Once back at our tent, I tried my best to be quiet and not wake my tent-mates Gayle and Rachel. I changed into a sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants, set my timer for six hours, climbed into my sleeping bag on my cot, and settled into a surprisingly decent night’s sleep.
I’ll resume my Ragnar Trail Appalachians recap next Monday, and take you on my final run on the red trail. See you then!
Editor’s note: To read Part 4, click here.
- Do you mind running in the dark?
- Do you prefer running with friends or alone?
- Have you ever run a Ragnar Relay or Ragnar Trail, or similar relay?