Ragnar Trail: The Social Racing Event

Now that I have my training plan for September pretty much set, I’m anxious to get cracking on it.  This is, in part, a bit of delayed reaction adrenaline from the Ragnar Trail New England Relay I participated in about a week and a half ago.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ragnar events, they are one of the largest relay race organizers in the country.  They have two different types of events:  1.  The original, point to point road relays, consisting of about 200 miles covered by 2 vans and 12 runners over the course of about 30-36 hours, and 2.  Trail relays, consisting of camping at a forested locale (usually – though not always – a state or national park), and rotating between three different trails among 8 runners, and over the course of about 24-30 hours.  My team was running at Northfield Mountain in northeastern Massachussettes.  And, though yes, northeast mountains have lower overall elevations than the west coast, the elevation gains were no joke.  Just look at these elevation profiles!


With the exception of much of the downhill portion of the yellow trail – which had some pretty gnarly steep, technical sections – most of the trails were on wide cross-country ski paths, which made it easier to pick up speed in those sections.  Even so, it was hot, and I was under trained – both for trails and distance – so my times were slower than I would have liked.  I averaged 15-16 minute miles on these trails, and I was really hoping to be more in the 14 minute range.  Overall, however, I was proud of my accomplishment, covering just over 15 really tough trail miles over the course of about 22 hours.  It’s the most distance I’ve ever covered in a less than 24 hour period – on roads or trails – and given that I wasn’t trained up as much as I wanted to be I was impressed with myself and my ability to get it done, and get it done pretty strong.
I knew going into this that I was not as trained as I wanted to be, and I was having a lot of anxiety about the race.  I was worried about running at night (I frequently fall running trails in the DAYLIGHT), I was worried about running in the heat, and I was worried that I was going to significantly slow my team down.  Well, I didn’t fall, I planned properly for hydration, and I didn’t significantly slow my team down.  In fact, running at night was not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.  After I finished, I had such a sense of accomplishment, was reminded how much I really did miss trail running this summer, and I had so much fun with my wonderful team.  I was really glad I knuckled down and stuck with it despite my fears.  However, after I finished it, I declared Ragnar Trail a “One and Done.”
Undertrained? Maybe, but at least I look jacked in this photo! Smiling because this was only trail 1 of 3 for me!
I told my husband that I did not think I would sign up for another Ragnar trail.  I also told him that there were a lot of people who do multiple Ragnars (road and trail) per year.  They travel to them.  They buy additional Ragnar-themed gear.  They are addicts.  I wasn’t judging – we all have our favorite things – merely stating my observation.  C laughed when I told him this.  He pointed out that I certainly have my addictions (half marathons, for example!), and that Ragnar events are far more social than the individual pursuits I have chosen, which he found it ironic given what an extrovert I am. Ragnar Relays being, of course, far more social than pretty much any other racing pursuit just by nature of what they are.
When Ragnar sent out a survey a couple days later, it prompted me to go to the website to take a look at other events.  It seems that the Massachusetts event is especially hilly.  My favorite trail running is, for those of you who are local, similar to what is found at Thacher Park – some hills, but more technical than hilly and have lovely views.  When the hills are too steep and unrelenting it makes it difficult to RUN the trails, and the technical portions make it fun and interesting.  So, maybe I misspoke.  Maybe I would do another Ragnar Trail, depending on the course, just probably not THIS Ragnar Trail.  We’ll see.  As my husband pointed out, after all, I am a social creature.
However, what I really want to do now is tackle a van Ragnar – the traditional, point-to-point relay.  Ragnar Adirondack is in my backyard, but they recently released a new race along the Niagara Escarpment in Canada for next spring, and that one is very tempting indeed …

Gearing up for #FallTraining

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been HOT this summer.  Unrelentingly so.  It has made my typical training schedule almost impossible.  I basically took the month of July off from heavy training, but have forced myself to get out there for August so that I could be somewhat ready to tackle the Ragnar Trail New England Relay this past weekend.
I logged just shy of 75 miles this month, which considering the conditions I am extremely happy with this mileage.  (I ran less than 45 in July, and 65 in June.)  My times have been mud slow, which though understandable given the temperatures and the humidity levels, is not doing me any favors for my PR goal in October.
Ragnar, though leaving me a little broken down and sore this week, has helped to kickstart me a bit in planning my September training.  I have a busy few weeks coming up (including a “tune up” half marathon 2 weeks before the goal race … ironically, this race had a higher registration fee than the goal race, too!), and planning long runs when you have jam packed weekends can be tricky.  My friend Christine at Albany Wayfarer recently wrote about using the Hanson’s Marathon Method to get her mileage high, which includes shorter runs but more of them, as she trains for Philadelphia in November.  While I’m not going to pretend I know the specifics of the training plan, the method gave me an idea.
We have plans to be out of town in a couple of weeks, and immediately following our return is Troy Craft Beer Week (which also coincides with our wedding anniversary!).  I had a thought – what if, perhaps, instead of one 12 mile run and a handful of 3-4 mile runs, I did 2 or 3 8 mile runs peppered with some shorter runs that week?  It’s about 8.5 miles to Troy using the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail … what better way to get in those midweek miles than to run to tasty libations?  Then, keep myself in check by planning a 3-4 mile “wraparound” run the following morning.
I don’t know how I’ll fare with this.  The first half (Adirondack Distance Festival Half Marathon on September 25) is my “tune up” half, so even if I crash and burn that I still have hope for some rest and recovery for a strong run at Hartford on October 8.
Wish me luck!