The New England Ragnar Relay was not only my first trail race, but my first “ultra” race. I’m hesitant to call it an ultra outright since it wasn’t like I ran for 7 hours straight, though I did run 30 miles. It was one of my favorite races I’ve been to, both as a spectator and as a runner. It helped that we had 5-6 teams all camping together that were all November Project tribe members and/or part of The Breakfast Club, two of the most rad workout groups in all of Boston. We had a killer time, and the amount of support each person there with us had for everyone was incredible. I don’t think I could have made it through this race without those guys.
The Ragnar had the option of either an 8 person regular team or a 4 person ultra team. There were 3 loops (Green, Yellow, and Red) that each member did once if you were a regular team, and twice if you were an ultra team. The teams started on Friday with the slowest first, since everyone has to finish by 6PM on Saturday. The great part of this course was that each loop started from the same place, which had not only a sweet fire pit, but was also where the race expo tents were that sold socks, shoes, watches, foam rollers, etc. There was even a massage tent and a grassy knoll they had free yoga on! Just beyond this area was the camping site, so everyone was super close to the race start. We set up camp pretty much equidistant from the bathrooms and the starting area, and had a pretty sweet setup. My teammate Erica brought an 8-person tent, Matt and I brought a tiny 2-person backpacking tent, and another teammate Dan brought a tent that everyone in our group could use as a changing area. As the day went by, more and more November Project folks came and set up camp with us, so we ended up having a huge area for tents and a nice area in the middle we set up chairs and tables with snacks/hydration/beer.
The course was laid out as 3 loops – Green, Yellow, and Red. The Green loop was 3.5 miles, the Yellow was 4.8, and the Red was 6.5. My team was a 4 person team, so we each did all of the loops twice. Our team consisted of some amazing runners – all of them (besides me) are seasoned ultra runners. Our first runner was Sam Goresh (an ultra running maniac/photographer extraordinaire), then me, then Erica Holt (badass runner/mediocre wall jumper/MILF), and Dan Jones (so hardcore he ran his first loop in jeans for 20 bucks). We had to run the loops in order and had decided to double up, so Sam started with Green –> Yellow, then I did Red –> Green, then Erica did Yellow –> Red… you get the idea.
My first loop was around 5:30pm, and it was HOT. I definitely felt like I had to prove myself since everyone on my team was way more experienced than me, so I completely gunned it (for me) on the Red loop. Around mile 2 I just thought to myself “what the F*#^ did I sign up for?!” I was 100% not prepared for the amount of elevation gain this course had, and I’m pretty sure my teammates were in the same boat. After finishing the Red I looped right around on Green, which felt like heaven compared to that Red. The beginning of all the loops were pretty steep, but Green was the shortest and least hilly of the three.
I finished the first full loop (10.1 miles) in about 1:57:00 and actually ended up having the fastest time on the Red loop on my team! When I got back to camp, there was a Lime-A-Rita waiting for me and they were serving Boloco for dinner. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of painful post-Chipotle runs before, but this was the second worst food experience of my life (beat only by food poisoning). Multiple people in our group felt nauseous almost the entire rest of our time there, and I was unfortunately one of them. Almost minutes after I finished my burrito bowl I thought I was going to die, so I went to lay down in the tent and get some shut eye. I ended up sleeping for only about an hour, and then tried to rest for another few hours, with a few much needed bathroom breaks.
Once I finally gave up on the idea of sleep, I sat around with the other NPers just waiting for my next loop. I knew I needed some food in my system if I had any hope of finishing my next loop, which was not only the longest with the most elevation gain, it was also in the middle of the night. At one point Matt was literally feeding me bread while I sat in my sleeping bag in a lawn chair, moaning in pain. It wasn’t pretty. Somehow, I managed to keep down some bread and went up to the start to wait for Sam to come back in from her run.
I set out on the Yellow loop in the pitch black, feeling like a big old bag of garbage, at 2:12AM. About .25 miles in, this magical potion called adrenaline took over and I was feeling like new. I inhaled some Chomps and Gu while I knew I could stomach them, and soldiered on. It was my first nighttime trail running experience, and it definitely made me feel like a complete badass. The rest of Yellow is all a blur – possibly from it being dark, and possibly from my excitement over not having to poop in the woods. I texted Matt an update at the end of that loop and he actually came out on my Red loop with me to help me through it. He knew of my past Red loop struggle bus experience and wanted to make sure I was in good shape, since I was running this loop at around 3:00/3:30AM, after only getting an hour of sleep. I finished the whole loop (11.2 miles) in about 2 hours and 45 minutes – we ended just as the birds started to chirp and the sun was starting to wake up.
As soon as I finished my second loop, the nausea returned in full force. I laid in the tent with my eyes closed for about 2 hours, but sleep was out of the question. I was not in good spirits, and anyone who didn’t know me before was probably wondering who the hell dragged the whiny girl with a sad, pathetic stomach to this race. In the morning we found out that basically our team had started too late and been too slow to be able to finish the race in time going at the rate we were going. Luckily, instead of DNFing after putting all this work in, they said we could double up on our runs. So starting with our last loops after Sam, we all got to run in pairs to finish out the race. At this point Erica was also feeling pretty terrible, and had some stomach issues on her run after I tagged her in at sunrise, so we were very grateful to have a teammate out there with us.
Erica and I pushed each other (AKA she pushed me – damn that girl can power hike) and then I had Dan lifting my spirits and fantasizing about Shake Shack with me on my very last loop.
Once I had finished my loops, all that was left to do was to wait for Erica to finish her last Red, and she totally nailed it. When she came in, we ran over the finish as a team and celebrated before packing up and heading back home. I passed out the entire car ride home, and Matt and I fell asleep on the couch around 8PM, then transferred to the bed at 11, where we proceeded to sleep like rocks until 8AM (which is the latest I think I’ve ever seen Matt sleep in).
Despite the Burrito Bowl Incident of 2015, I am completely thrilled with how we did and how I pushed through my most difficult race so far. I can’t wait to do another Ragnar Trail in the future, but I am certain I will never eat at Boloco ever again. Thank God for Chipotle, right?
Loop 1: https://www.strava.com/activities/334359969
Loop 2: https://www.strava.com/activities/334360042
Loop 3: https://www.strava.com/activities/334360056
Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2
2XU Compression Socks
Nathan HPL 020 Hydration Vest
Garmin Forerunner 620
Photo Credit: Samantha Alyn Goresh
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