Ragnar Trail: Cottage Country

Having done Moraine Adventure Relay the past couple years, I am a huge fan of relay style events. I love being part of the team and cheering teammates through their legs. With relay races it’s less about running and more about your team. When it comes down to it, very little of your time is spent running, most of it you’re supporting your teammates or just hanging out and bonding over the shared experiences of the day.

When Ragnar announced their trail event for Barrie I like many others took interest. I liked the idea of it being held all in one location instead of point-to-point like Moraine, very key with a race that takes over 24 hours to complete (Moraine is 10-13 hours). But with saving to buy a condo this fall, I knew I needed to be very frugal with any races I took part in this year. I had already turned down another event that same weekend for that very reason. And with a race already planned for September, I let the idea of Ragnar go.

That is until about a month before the event I was presented with the opportunity to join the Get Out There Magazine team. Naturally I jumped up and down at the chance and was thrilled to join this team of women (and our token male). It was a team pulled together through various friends and acquaintances, on our team of 8 I knew only one other woman and even her not very well. I really like that about our team, the most people anyone knew before this were 2 others so we’d all get to spend the weekend getting to know each other.

21584279_10101887911089561_2051982719_o.jpg

We got together a couple weeks prior to the event to discuss some logistics and our plans for the day. We then kept in contact in a Facebook chat and planned everything out through a Google Sheet. So race morning we were ready!

The race officially began at 9am with our team schedule to start at 10am. Ragnar assigned each team a start time based on average pace times we’d submitted at registration. They had small groups heading out all day long with the fastest teams starting in the evening.

Since we were starting at 10am we wanted to be there early to get our campsite set-up before the race. I carpooled out to Barrie with 2 other ladies, and of course we got stuck in traffic. We’d aimed to be there around 7:30 but got there just after 8. We unloaded our stuff, brought it up to our campsite, then headed over to registration to watch the instructional safety video. Once checked in we headed back to camp and started getting the tents set-up.

Once that was done we headed down to the transition zone to take our team photo and get ready for our start. I was to be our kick off runner and get it all started, I was pretty excited! It was a chilly morning but would be perfect for the run.

Ragnar is set-up with 3 loops, Green (easy), Yellow (medium), and Red (hard), each runner would get to run each loop once for a total of 24km. As the first runner my order was Green, Red, Yellow. So 10am I head out on the green loop with all the other 10am start teams.

The green loop was my favourite, I was able to run every single hill and it was full of flowy single track mountain bike trails, so much fun to run. I ended up running the entire loop with 2 other ladies. We were a silent group focused on the trails and pushing each other to keep going. It wasn’t until the last km when we finally spoke and I learned 1 woman was up here from Tennessee, they’d brought 3 teams with them (whoa!), naturally, Tennessee, trail runners, Barkley is discussed. I learn the other woman is from Toronto and we discuss the upcoming screen of Gary Robbin’s film, Where Dreams Go to Die, which we both got tickets to.

Finishing my lap I hand our bib off to team captain Diana and she heads out on the Yellow loop. The team was all there to cheer me in/Diana off and after we all head back to camp. They’d been busy finishing off the campsite decorations while I was running so everything was all set-up and awesome!

Ragnar had ‘one mile to go’ signs on each of the loops which we started using to warn the team we’d be coming through soon so the next person could get ready.

21534387_10101886765071191_75233807_o.jpg

At 1pm there was free yoga being hosted and we all thought, why not? Well I’ll tell you why not, for someone who only sporadically practices yoga, and does no other strength training, a 1 hour flow class will tire your legs out! By the time my second lap came around at 6:30 (you know red, the hardest one) my legs were feeling the yoga! Suffice it to say my second lap went pretty terribly. It was lots of rolling steep climbs and descents my legs had not interest in running.

The red loop had this plank walk element to it, there was a plank and about a foot and a half drop to the ground. As we knew some of our team members would be running this loop in the dark we warned them of this part so they wouldn’t just step off and crash on their face. So apparently we warned them too well of this drop and they were all expecting they would have to dive off into the abyss. So they laughed at our apparent exageration and we justified it since no one fell on their face!

After I was done my second loop I put on some warm dry clothes then headed to get some dinner which was provided by Ragnar to all participants as part of the entry. Was I ever impressed! A massive spread of chicken parm, pasta, warm veggies, grains, fresh fruit and amazing cookies. They had big pieces of bread too so I made a chicken parm sandwich and made the rest of the team jealous since they failed on the geniusness.

Most of the day and night was spent at camp chatting with teammates. A pleasant surprise was learning many of them were swimmers, and I found out me and Mauro (our token male) knew a lot of the same people. Small world this running community.

At some point I decided I’d try to get some rest. Figuring it would be a restless sleep I didn’t bother setting an alarm. Lindsay was in my tent and she was running right before me so I assumed I’d wake up when she started moving around and all would be good.

Well that didn’t happen.

I ended up getting woken up 30 minutes before I had to run. Alex who ran right before Lindsay was getting her ankle wrapped (she’d twisted it on her leg :() so she was late getting back to camp to warn me. Mauro had tried calling me, my phone was right by my head but I was so dead to the world asleep I didn’t notice. So 30 minutes to go before run time, I throw around all my stuff getting dressed and then trying to locate my water bottle which my headlamp is in. Stumble out of camp run to the bathroom and I’m set to go with a couple minutes to spare before Lindsay comes through.

With a slap to the butt I’m off on my last loop, this one yellow. Being 3:30am I have zero idea what the loop was like. There were some hills, there was some boardwalk. There was an open area which was FREEZING. I took my time as I’m not good with unfamiliar trails in the dark. Nor am I very use to night running without a whole crew of headlamps to help light up the place. When I do solo trail runs in the winter they’re normally early evening so there’s still a slight glow of sun lingering and close to city lights so it’s never completely dark. The first bit of the run was kind of isolating but then I started coming across people and as you get deeper into the trails you start seeing headlamps all over the place of other runner which is kind of really spectacular to see. I would have loved to see a drone shot of the event at night.

The last 1km of each loop was identical as all 3 joined together. I really enjoyed that aspect as you got familiar with the trail it helped you bring in a good final kick. It also had a perfect gentle downhill finish you could really fly down. The end of my second lap was solid for that. For my third less so since it was dark I was less sure of my footing and wasn’t able to kick it up as much as I had hoped.

Done all my laps I ran back over to camp (had to run it was COLD and I was in only a thin sweaty long sleeve). Put on dry clothes and bundled up. My phone was ready to die so I headed back down to the transition area where they had a charging area. While I was there, Patty (the only other one I knew before this event) came down to get her phone charged up before her last loop (she was after Diana). I chatted with her while our phones charged and then sat by the fire for a bit to get warm. By this point the post-run chill had set in. As the sun was rising I cheered Diana in and Patty off and then headed back to camp. The rest of the crew was getting up by this point and we spent the rest of the morning chatting and tearing the campsite down.

When Lindsay was close to being done we all headed down to cheer her in and so we could all run across the finish line together.

We then got out medals, took our team photo, and did the last shot Diana needed for her review for the magazine.

2.jpg

Afterwards we got the cars packed up said our goodbyes to an amazing weekend and headed home.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t really know what to expect going into Ragnar, and I was really blown away by everything. I suppose since they do so many of these all across North America they really have it down pact. But I was still really impressed by how smooth everything was. It was more about the experience and being with your team then running a race and I really enjoy that.

Also they kept the fire going all night and the s’more supplies so I ate about 5000 graham crackers for breakfast and have zero regrets about it.

Huge shout out and thanks to Diana, Alex & Get Out There Magazine for this experience!!

Check out Diana’s video review below from Get Out There Magazine, she does a much better job of summarizing the events than I do!

Advertisements