Ragnar Trail Atlanta Race Recap

3rd Relay Race
1st Trail Race

I often pinch myself when I get the opportunity to run races like this. When Nuun offered me the chance to captain a team for the Ragnar Trail Atlanta race, I couldn’t pass it up. Who cares that I’d never set foot on a trail before? Luckily, Abby and I had time to train for a few weekends. I didn’t love it, but would obviously do the race.

The Background:

I’ve been lucky enough to do Hood to Coast and Bourbon Chase, but not a regular Ragnar. So, I have my experience with van relays. This, however, is not a van relay. It’s a trail relay. How does that work? You camp. Oh yeah, never done that either.

A van relay usually has 2 vans and you drive the 200 miles. The trail covers around 120 miles and only has 8 teammates (4 if you decide to go Ultra). You basically run, eat, sleep in a tent and repeat. It’s much more social than a van relay.how-it-works-largeSo, you setup a campsite (along with all of the other teams) and then you each rotate out running the green, yellow, and red legs of the race. This gives you plenty of time to hang out with your team, hang out at the exchange area, and meet other teams.

The many camp sites
exchange area
exchange area

Your team start is based on the 10K road race pace of your team. Our team (will get to that soon) consisted of some pretty speedy road ladies, so our start time was 3:30pm on Friday. The race started at 11 and last runners out were at 4 or 5.

We had two teammates scout out a spot for our campsite on Thursday and they marked it off (we chose to be further away from the exchange area to get more quiet time). The rest of us arrived on Friday around lunchtime. This gave us plenty of time to get checked in and get settled (bad weather was supposed to be coming). We brought 2 tailgating style/open tents: one for hanging out and one for food and supplies. We also had 4 other sleeping tents: one to keep our gear in and the others for sleeping (camping fyi-If you don’t have camping gear and can’t find any to borrow, REI lets you rent gear).IMG_6401

Our Team:

Thanks to Jesica for the awesome runner collage in order of how we ran.  Each link to the runner has their recap if you want to check it out, too. Meet team Electrolit. Our name in honor of the new Nuun Energy line and bright colors to match the name. ragnarteam

Abby: my good friend and new(er) to racing. First trail event, first relay.

Lisa: blogger friend from TN, just completed all 50 states, veteran relay racer AND Ragnar Trail Alum

Sarah: works with Lisa in TN, runner, veteran relay racer

Elisabeth: local Atl running blogger (we had never met!), veteran relay racer

Jesica: local Atl running blogger, veteran relay racer

Laura: Nuun employee, runner, veteran relay racer

Katie: local Atl running blogger, veteran relay racer

Before the race, we had an opportunity for a couple of pretty awesome group photos. And yes, I JUMPED.IMG_6405

We sent Abby on her way, and I knew I had a few hours before I was set to run my first leg. It started to rain a bit, but then stopped. We were VERY lucky considering weather.com predicted thunderstorms.IMG_0345

Green Loop River Trail 3.8 Miles (shortest and easiest trails to run on)

I watched the computer screen waiting to see Team Electrolits across the board to know to get in the exchange. Your bib is your timing chip-so you have to take off the belt/bib at the exchange and give it to your next runner. There is a timing mat a little ways out (can’t remember the distance) from the exchange area that is used to let you know when to get in the exchange chute. The TV screens let you know when your runner was on their way. IMG_0348

My first leg was the green leg. I was the last runner on our team for Friday that didn’t HAVE to run with a headlamp. passed off to me around 6pm at the exchange and I was off. I was obviously excited. Abby had just finished the green leg and told me to haul it for the first mile. It was easy. And I did.

IMG_0354 063

I hit the actual trail part for the next two miles. I was warned that the bridges that I had to cross had big gaps and if you didn’t hit them just right your shoe would get stuck. I walked all the bridges. But OMG, I was having so.much.fun. I was free, I was fast, I don’t know why I didn’t like trails before.

part of the green loop
part of the green loop

The last .8 was flat and fast and as I turned in 2 girls told me to pass the guy I was coming up on, so I did for the fun of it. I told him I had to chick him and apologized. 🙂 IMG_0358Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 9.55.48 PMScreen shot 2014-04-11 at 9.59.36 PM

I couldn’t eat the pasta dinner, but I came prepared with a veggie burger and quinoa. That was my dinner along with some fruit. I had plenty of time to hang out before my next run so we cheered on our teammates and I worked the Nuun tent while Laura was out running her legs.IMG_6396

The dreary weather ending up bringing out amazing views…

Ragnar had live music until it was dark, then they showed a movie, and had smores (another thing I was dying for but couldn’t have). I told yall, they did it right. I decided not to sleep until after my second leg and somehow the time flew by.

Red Loop Granite Slabs Trail 6.7 miles

Yeah, that loop that I blogged about being hard? I somehow ended up running this one in the middle of the night. Luckily, Abby came back super pumped because even though it was dark, it was the EXACT area we had been training on. She felt really comfortable out there. Sarah passed off to me at 12:46pm (yay for garmin stats). I used my headlamp (purchased off the Clymb website and was only $30 for 70 lumen) and my knuckle lights on my run.

The first 2 miles were open and easy. I took advantage and ran as fast as I could. Once we hit the trails, my eyes played tricks on me. It was hard for me to focus on the roots but somehow I stayed on my feet and never fell. I definitely had to walk up 2 of the biggest hills (Lisa had warned to do so to save my legs) and I ended up having to walk on some of rocks. A few seconds wasn’t worth falling (I have too many races coming up to get hurt).

I did manage to pass some people, and some people passed me. It was fairly even. What I love about trail running is how nice everyone is. So many “good jobs” and people actually stopped and moved over to let other runners pass (I did the same). I enjoyed the run, but was honestly ready to be done. Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 10.28.49 PM Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 10.28.37 PM

I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich and headed to the tent for a couple of hours of sleep. I was pretty restless. I typically sleep with a sound machine at home, so under the starry night I could hear a kid screaming for its parent, people snoring, a volunteer telling people which direction to go, and my teammates getting ready/coming in for their legs. I maybe got 3 hours on and off?

I got up when Abby came back from her last leg and we got the giggles. It was early, but we were so entertained by her Ragnar hair. Business in the front, party in the back.IMG_6419 IMG_6420I decided to get up and grab a boiled egg and coffee before my run, hit the bathrooms, and stretch. I’m glad I got up when I did…otherwise I would’ve missed this.

IMG_6421Yellow Loop Olympic Trail 4.6 miles

My run started a few minutes before 8. The sun was coming up and it was gorgeous out. A little chilly, but perfect to run in the woods.  From what I had heard, yellow was actually the hardest loop.

From the start, I could tell my legs were tired. But like most of my runs lately, I was just so happy to be out there. This run was a bit more spiritual for me. I know that sounds crazy, but with the anniversary of my hip surgery, the beauty of the day and just overall happiness where my life is at the moment, I did a lot of reflecting. It kept my mind busy, because the course part kinda sucked.

There were a ton of twists and turns and I could never really get in a good groove. Right when I would setting into a good pace/stride, I would hit a sharp turn and start over. That basically sums up the entire run. I did stop to get a picture of the course. One thing I will say, I don’t think you could ever get lost on a Ragnar Trail race. They were incredibly well marked with these little signs. If you went the wrong way, a big X made sure to let you know.IMG_6423I was so happy to make it into the finish and pass it off to Elisabeth. I survived. All three legs without a fall, with decent pace, and had SO MUCH FUN!

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 11.08.39 PM Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 11.08.31 PM

I went back to our camp area, ate a bigger breakfast of scrambled eggs (thank goodness for Lisa’s grill) and changed clothes for the rest of the day and got ready to cheer on the rest of my teammates and help out at the Nuun tent.

One of my favorite things to watch was the ATL Track Club Kilometer Kids event. Katie (and Lindsays) girls ran their own relay and it was adorable. Seeing how excited these kids were to run and earn their medal was inspiring!IMG_6428The morning seemed to go by pretty fast, and before we knew it, we were waiting at the finish line for Katie to come in.IMG_6429She came in event faster than we expected; and just like that Team Electrolits were done.IMG_0279


Preliminary results have us winning our division. Talk about amazing. We will know on 4/15. We finished in 20:54.IMG_6431IMG_0182

The Bling:

Love the shirt and the medal. It’s a wooden medal with leather detail.IMG_4899picstitchOverall:

I can’t really give you a list of pro’s and con’s for this race because it’s all pros. I was so worried at the details of how it would all work, but Ragnar had local meetings with info, web conferences, and plenty of emails keeping us in the loop. They have a suggested packing list that was very helpful.  We created a google doc spreadsheet and everyone signed up for what they could bring, and I assigned everyone a food/snack item. It worked out really well.

Ragnar had the food options (I would still bring plenty of your own), entertainment, surprisingly clean port-o-potties, showers for a charity donation (I didn’t see the point), Solomon trail shoes to try out during the race (I was glad to have my own-they ran out of sizes), and plenty of gear to buy at the Ragnar “store” if you forgot something. There was a phone charging (solar) station, but it stayed full the entire time I was there. We had a portable phone charger (highly recommend) and I only had to charge once.

Ragnar posted a video to sum up the event…and it really does explain it and cover it well.
Final Thoughts:

I love a relay. I love a trail relay even more. If I could do every single one of the Ragnar Trail events, I would. THAT tells you how much fun it was. I can’t thank Nuun and my teammates enough for such a fun 24(ish) hours.IMG_6434

Each relay brings it’s own set of memories, experiences and friendships. This race was no different. I’m already counting down to a repeat in 2015.

Do you enjoy relays? Any on your schedule this year? Have you tried a Ragnar Trail relay? Have you tried Nuun Energy yet? Do you need me to come run a Ragnar race with you!!?!?

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  • I love this! I’m doing my first Ragnar and first relay in Cape Cod in May (with Lisa!) and I can’t wait! I would’ve never thought I would want to do a trail relay, but after reading all of these recaps, it looks like so much fun! And I’ve sort of fallen in love with trail running lately….this is awesome, great job!

  • Awesome recap. I’m hoping to run Ragnar TN this fall but I would love to do a trail relay at some point. I wonder if we could get a Nuun team for TN? There are several of us southerner ambassadors. I vote you captain.

  • Wow, you guys are fast!!! Congratulations on winning and also on successfully organizing your first trail race as ateam captain! I can only imagine how stressful that must have been at times.

  • Did you find that the trails at the Horse Park are marked well on “regular” days…I am interested in doing some trail runs out there, just for fun, and wanted to know if they were pretty clear or not.

  • So glad you enjoyed your experience- great way to capture it all. I’m in awe that you were able to catch 3 hours of sleep- insanely jealous. I was thinking about what other trail relay options we could do; i know you can rent tents from REI, but there were so much other stuff we brought that I wouldn’t necessarily want to travel on a plane with. It almost seems you would have to know 1 or 2 people that were within driving distance to the relay to help with gear (we had 3 locals for Vail lake that brought the big stuff)

  • I have to admit I’m obsessed with the idea of this trail relay! I have read pretty much all of your team-members recaps and it just seems like so much fun…and this is someone who has yet to run on a trail!

    I’m hoping they’ll add more trail relays and that I can convince some of my runner friends to do one with me!

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