Ragnar Trail Richmond-VA

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(From L to R): Heather, Laurie, Jaclyn, Alex, me, Brian C., and Nick. (I think that’s Brian F. behind Nick.)

April 28 & 29, 2017

After sensing the excitement I had after running a Ranger race last year, many members of CrossFit Surmount, the box I used to own, mentioned they’d like to run a race as well. At one time we had more than enough interest for two teams of 8. Uhm, at least Team 1 was able to secure 8 members: Alexandra (Alex), Brian C., Brian F., Heather, Jaclyn, Laurie, Nick, and me. Our number one goal was to have fun, and whilst I can’t collectively speak for all of us I can unequivocally state that I had fun. For the most part.

Before I begin to gather thoughts and compose recollections, I must give a very special thank you to my BBF (Best Brian Friend) Brian F. for agreeing to run the race with us. I’ve known Brian and his wife Danielle since we met the day I ran my first first Umstead Marathon a decade ago. Brian and Dee moved to Brevard a few years ago, and it’s been wonderful spending more time with them.

Back to the team…

As the team captain I carefully chose the order of runners:

  1. Jaclyn — As it was her birthday weekend and I know she likes being one of the first runners in a relay, I assigned her this position. You’re welcome, Jaclyn.
  2. Brian C. — Brian C. can be counted on to run a nice, steady pace. I knew this would help set the stage for later runners. Whilst he’s my LFB (Least Favorite Brian) he’s most BCF (Best Covington Friend).
  3. Laurie — Laurie and Jaclyn are joined at the hip; thus, I couldn’t place the two of them too far apart. I’m pretty sure they spooned as they slept.
  4. Nick — Nick is also a good, consistent runner. I hoped that this would help keep and possibly build momentum.
  5. Heather — Heather is a very strong runner. (She unfortunately sprained her ankle during her very first leg and wasn’t able to run as fast as she normally does.)
  6. Brian F. — I selfishly wanted Brian to run close to the time that I’d be running, that way we’d be able to spend more time together. He is, after all, my BBF.
  7. Alex — Alex is a spitfire! I selfishly wanted a fast runner to pass the bib to me, knowing that she would finish strong and would transition quickly.
  8. Me — I hate running the last leg. However, as the team captain I knew that no one would want to run the last leg. I fell on the proverbial sword. You’re welcome, all.

Our start time was 5:30. I had created a spreadsheet with estimated start and finish times and we modified as needed. As the race progressed we determined that it’d be likely that we’d finish near 3 pm; thus, we’d be running fewer than 24 hours.

This blog will focus on the 3 legs that I ran in order: Yellow, Green, and Red, i.e., moderate, easy, and difficult. I’d rate the three legs as moderate, easy and exceedingly difficult.

But first, Brian and I talked nonstop the entire 5.5-hour ride to the Pocahontas State Park outside of Richmond, VA. Brian was telling me about some road races that he had run and even a race that he won!

Me: You won a race? That’s great?
Brian: Yeah.
Me: How’d you do that? How’d you win a race?
Brian: I had to move away from you before I could win a race.

Ha! This still makes me laugh.

Uhm, I made a very novice mistake. I placed 2 pair of trail shoes at the top of the garage stairs, as I always exit through the garage and I knew this would be a great visual reminder. I packed enough shit to last a week, including food, hydration, and clothing. Brian and I exited through the front door, and it wasn’t until we arrived at the race that I realized I had forgotten shoes. I decided to wear Nobull shoes the first leg and ended up wearing them for all 3 legs. As the trails were quite smooth, this ended up not necessarily being a bad thing. Could I have run faster and more confidently had I worn trail shoes? Perhaps. One will never know.

Yellow Loop – Swift Creek Trail | 5.7 mi.

The Yellow Loop runs parallel to Swift Creek Lake for the first 2.5 miles, crossing mini-bridges, and swooping up and down small contours. Then the trail turns away from the lake and starts the clockwise turn back home. But don’t worry, you’re still in for a few more miles of fun, fast, buffed out single-track before and the loop is done. Just past mile 5 you’ll join up with the Green and Red Loops to kick it back into the Village.

The waiting is the hardest part. Jaclyn began the race at 5:30 and it wasn’t until about 11:30 that I finally got to run. It was still rather warm and was very humid. I wore a headlamp that Brian C. was kind enough to loan me. I loved this course! It had lots of twists and turns, and many hills. Yes, running in the dark slowed me down as I was running in unfamiliar territory. Nonetheless, I ran strong. I did, however, forget to start my watch until about a quarter mile into the run. Dammit. I also didn’t turn off my watch until I had placed the bib on Jaclyn; thus, split times are inaccurate.

I’ve previously mentioned that I have a TomTom Spark 3. To save battery life I don’t have the backlight on whilst running, but by placing and then removing a hand over the face of the watch the backlight shines for a moment. And this happened…

I placed my left hand on the face of the watch (I always wear my watch on my right wrist) and whilst doing so fell to the ground. ‘Twas a hard fall. A very hard fall. I skinned my left shin, thigh, and hip, and both my right and left forearms between wrist and elbow. I immediately stood up and began running. A female runner behind me yelled, “Hey, you forgot your bracelet!” I had hit the ground so forcefully that the snap wrist band had been thrown from my personage. I ran back to her, grabbed the band, thanked her, and was on my merry way. Merry, not gay. Well, perhaps a little gay.

I also had a near fall later in the leg as I unsuccessfully tried to jump over a narrow stream. My foot slipped, both hands touched the ground, but I didn’t fall. I said, “Well, that didn’t go well.” I didn’t realize I had said it aloud until I heard a couple of runners chuckle. Ha!

I passed 51 runners, the 51st as we entered the final sprint to the exchange.

I thoroughly enjoyed this leg!

Time = 51:23; 9 mpm 

Yup, I ran this leg faster than my teammates.

Click here for details.

I attempted to get some sleep before my next leg, but to no avail. Why? Because there were a group of assholes in the tents directly behind us. One male burped loudly and continuously. How loudly? I was wearing ear plugs and had placed a pillow over my head yet every time he belched it sounded like a shot gun was begin fired inside my tent. I then had to listen to him talk to a teammate about his bout with diarrhea. The entire team was talking in their OUTSIDE voices. Yes, we were outside, but we were also in very close quarters. And it was the fucking middle of the night. Doza finally approached them and asked if they’d pipe it down a bit. Fortunately there wasn’t an altercation.

But still I couldn’t sleep. Why, you ask? Because we were positioned behind a line of about 40 porte-potties. Just about every person allowed the door to slam as they exited. BANG BANG bang, BANG BANG bang, BANG BANG bang, BANG BANG bang. Over and over and over.

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I shan’t talk about the smell. Or the sights. Okay, just this one: someone had obviously stood above the toilet to shit, and the seat had a big piece of shit on it. Some people have no regard for others. Some people are assholes. There were quite a few assholes at this particular event.

On a positive note, there were also some very friendly people (who may or may have not shat on a toilet seat). Every runner that I passed moved to the right to allow me to do so. Most said encouraging words, e.g., “Great job!”

Green Loop – Beaver Lake Trail | 4.3 mi.

This Loop leaves the Village along with the Red Loop, and takes you out to the main section of mountain bike trails in the park. After ¾ of a mile, you’ll split right from Red and the single-track adventure begins! The trail has a great flow, leaving you with a fleet feet feel. Around mile 2.5 the trail turns to double-track for a short bit before a quick turn that spits you back onto single-track down to Beaver Lake. For the next mile the trail is pretty constant, offering some great views of the lake. Before you know it, you’ll re-join Red , cross the spillway and climb back up to the Village.

Whilst I hand’t gotten much sleep, as the sun rose I began to feel somewhat energetic. ‘Twas time to run the next leg just before 7. And it was indeed easy! I set a goal to run 8 mpm when the terrain allowed, having been warmed that there was a steep hill at the start of the mile 4. I did so, running 7:57, 7:56, 8:06, and 8:56. I ran the last .3 at a 6:54 mpm pace, and had a very strong finish.

I passed 47 runners.

Click here for details.

Time = 35:31; 8:15 mpm

Yup, I ran this leg faster than my teammates.

There was much talk about how the Yellow leg was more difficult than the Red leg, and that I’d really enjoy the Red leg. As the day progressed the temperature continued to rise. But the time it was my turn to run my and the team’s final leg, the temperature was a very balmy 92º. I was dreading this leg, as it’s exceedingly difficult to run fast in this kind of heat and humidity.

Red Loop – Spillway Trail | 5.4 mi.

The Red Loop takes advantage of some of the park’s great single-track trails. After splitting away from the Green Loop ¾ of a mile in, things take a turn, and another turn, and another. This trail twists and turns so much you may lose your sense of direction. But don’t worry–just follow the course signage and let the joy flow. Before you know it, you’ll meet back up with the Green Loop on your way back to the Village, smile fully intact.

I was exhausted. I had eaten a Paleo kit, a few pieces of bacon, and a hard boiled egg. I stayed hydrated, making sure that my urine was clear. I just wanted the race to be over, as again, the waiting was the hardest part. I also somehow managed to break the toenail of my left middle toe. Dammit. I bandaged it and tried to ignore the pain.

I began my final leg at about 2:10 pm. There was little cloud cover, and there were many exposed sections of the course. ‘Twas fucking hot.

As with the two previous legs, I carried a water bottle. I filled the bottle at the water station just before the start of the race, and as time passed the water got warmer and warmer. I felt like I was drinking boiled water, and my thirst was not at all quenched.

The course had many switchbacks. I usually like running courses with twists and turns, but I felt defeated about midway through the run. Yes, I was passing runners. No, I wasn’t being passed by runners. Nonetheless, I felt very slow and lethargic.

I was getting very overheated, so I poured some water on my head. And it felt like I was taking a hot shower. I could feel myself getting hotter and hotter, and I knew I was getting dehydrated. I began to talk to myself. “Don’t stop. That’s you’re only goal. Just don’t stop. As much as you might want to walk, just don’t stop.”

I did stop, but I’m not counting it as a failure, for I stopped at the water station to fill my now empty bottle. The water was slightly cool, so I poured half of the contents on my head and neck and drank the rest.

I was nonetheless growing more and more weary. As I was running mile 5 I suddenly realized that my eyelids were closing. I once again fell to the ground, this time scraping my right knee and palm. My glasses flew from my head and it took me a few moments to gather myself and retrieve my glasses. The only positive thing that can be said is that I didn’t cry. Likely because I wasn’t hydrated enough to cry.

My shirt, shorts, socks, and shoes were all soaking wet.

Uhm, my splits clearly show deterioration: 8:13, 8:47, 9:25, 9:09, and 10:29.

I had a strong finish. And that’s about it. As I was approaching the finish I thought, “Go directly to the medical tent. Get an IV.” I instead exited and walk to an area with some shade. I felt nauseous and my vision was very cloudy. I knew, however, that my teammates were waiting to celebrate so I eventually forced myself to stand and find them. I pretended that things were much better than they actually were. We had our group picture taken and then folks started to depart. I drank a Harpoon UFO (probably not the best idea) and sat with Alex and Brian as my BBF retrieved the Renegade.

Click here for details.

Time = 51:18; 9:30 mpm

Yup, I ran this leg faster than my teammates.

Brian was a lifesaver, as he drove from Richmond past Greensboro, about 3 of the 5.5 hours. He even allowed me to sleep for an hour. This was for the best, as I was certain that I was going to have to tell him to pull over so I could puke. I also had an empty Sheetz bag at the ready. Yup, I felt that bad.

We did eventually stop at a Sheetz and I forced myself to eat 2 hot dogs and drink a large cream soda. We stopped once again just before I began to drive and I had McDonald’s coffee and fries. Fries! I hadn’t had McDonald’s fries in years! Uhm, they were delicious.

OFFICIAL RESULTS

Finish Time: 21:30:10 
Overall: 13/241
Category (Mixed): 3/98

We came in third place!

A few weeks ago Jeff and I had the following conversation…

Me: I’m running with folks who are in the twenties and thirties, yet I’m in my fifties and will likely be the fastest person on the team. That shouldn’t be the way it is. The younger runners should be the fastest runners.
Jeff: But you’re Paul. You’re not like everyone else. 

I think he was complimenting me. I think.

 

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