CONQUERING THE RAGNAR BLACK LOOP: A TRAILBLAZING ADVENTURE
Hey Siri, could you please play "Can’t Tell Me Nothing" by Kanye West?
I'm feeling myself right now. Over the weekend, I enjoyed participating in the Ragnar Trail Black Loop event. Let me take you through the journey:
Thursday, I arrived at the picturesque Big Bear Lake in West Virginia, armed with my trusty duffle bag and cozy sleeping bag, all set to hit the trails. This time, I went for the glamping option, which made packing more straightforward. Ragnar covered our glamping needs - they provided spacious tents, comfy cots, chairs, and tables and even ensured we had a steady supply of ice. They had specific water stations and porta-potties designated for us too.
Our camp was a delightful tent village housing 8 of us, forming what I affectionately called "Team Awesome." The heart and soul of our crew was Amber, a true Ragnar enthusiast with a remarkable 20+ Ragnar races under her belt. I've got to say, when you think of badass athletes, Amber's face should pop up. I got introduced to the team through a WhatsApp chat after stepping in for Alexis. All the runners were either internet pals, real-life buddies, or had run together in previous Ragnar events. We shared tips about what to pack and coordinated our arrival times in this lively chat.
Once I settled into my tent space, my excellent running partner Kristin arrived, and I was excited to see her. We'd teamed up last year as well and had a blast. Kristin's calming presence was exactly what I needed to soothe my pre-race jitters. Our mantra was "Slow and steady." After meeting the entire team, I wandered around the camp, grooved to a live band's music, grabbed some delicious food, and nervously prepared myself for Friday's race. As I settled into my sleeping bag, the band's smooth rendition of Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" serenaded me to sleep.
Friday, I woke up excited and eager to hit the trails. I wondered if the song "Tyrone" had worked its calming/nostalgic magic or if I was all geared up for the run. Our Friday was filled with running all three loops with well-deserved breaks in between.
Green loop, about 3.5 miles: Let me tell you, this one was a challenge! Surprisingly, even though it's considered the easiest, it was technically demanding. The narrow path was littered with loose rocks and exposed roots, making it a tricky ride. Struggling to catch my breath, I had to tap into my pranayama training to stay centered and focused.
Yellow loop, around 4.6 miles: This intermediate loop was a whole different story. I felt fantastic! My stride was more open, and I quickly slipped into my groove. Kristin and I must've looked like graceful wild gazelles as we breezed through this loop, feeling and looking absolutely incredible.
Red loop, approximately 6.5 miles: Ah, the night run, our biggest challenge. I was anxious about this one as I hadn't performed well during nighttime runs. I have a sensory processing disorder that makes certain things, like the movement of headlights and knuckle lights, a bit overwhelming for me. Kristin led the way, and with my handheld light, we conquered the red loop, surpassing last year's time. I PR’ed my time by 10 minutes. Oh, and did I mention how excellent Kristin was?
Around mile 5, some debris found its way into my left shoe, wedging under the ball of my foot – exactly where I had a previous injury. With some effort, I managed to get it out, but it was a clear sign that I needed some fancy gaiters to prevent this from happening in the future.
The cumulative distance of all three loops was around 14.6 miles, although some runners' watches marked it as 14.8-15.2 miles. Why the "ish" when talking about mileage, you ask? Well, the trail's conditions can vary widely, making it a bit tricky to pinpoint the exact distance.
Saturday On Saturday, we kicked off at a bright and early 7:30 am, and you know what? My body wasn't feeling half bad. We set two achievable goals for ourselves:
Reach the first water station by the 6-mile mark.
Get to the full aid station by mile 11 before 1:30 pm.
Seemed like pretty reasonable goals, right? Kristin and I started strong for the first 3 miles, even faster than our Friday pace. Despite both of us nursing injuries from the start, they weren't holding us back.
But around miles 5 to 11, things took a different turn for me. Remember that debris in my shoe on the red loop? Well, it had done more damage than I thought. A tiny piece of it had caused an abrasion on the ball of my foot, and with every step, I felt a pang of pain starting at mile 5. Somewhere past mile 6, I lost my left shoe in the mud, leading to more mud and debris entering the shoe. My attempts to clear it weren't very successful.
In that challenging moment, Kristin looked at me calmly and said, "You've got this. Stay composed." Her confidence in me was a lifeline because I seriously contemplated throwing in the towel. The aid station wasn't at mile 6, as we'd thought; it was closer to mile 7. With my foot hurting, my aching right knee, and battling hills that made me want to cry, Kristen's encouragement became my driving force.
At mile 10, we were both limping, but we were still making good time. Our second goal was reaching the full aid station before the 1:30 pm cutoff at mile 11. Somewhere around mile 12 or closer to mile 13, we reached the aid station, still limping but determined.
With sheer grit, Kristin and I conquered the Ragnar black loop in seven and a half hours. And let me tell you, "proud" doesn't even begin to describe how we felt. We absolutely nailed it! I'm beyond thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate in such an incredible race.
So, what's on the horizon for next year? Setting our sights on a new goal is a natural progression. It could be aiming for an even faster time, conquering more challenging terrain, or simply relishing the camaraderie of another Ragnar adventure. Whatever it is, I'm ready to take on the challenge and make it another unforgettable experience.