Blue Ridge Marathon – 3 months to go!

Today I’m hosting a link up with some of the other official bloggers for the Blue Ridge Marathon. We’re all doing different distances and I thought it would be fun to see where everyone is at now that we have 3 months of training left. So keep coming back and check out the links below as others add their updates on how they are progressing on their training.

Until a few weeks ago, I was missing my weekly mileage pretty significantly. Lots of reasons why this is true – holidays, away from home, just getting back home, cold, work, etc, etc, etc. But, I officially started a new training group on January 12 and am definitely back on track. My weeks now include speed work on Tuesdays, tempo runs on Thursdays, long runs on Saturdays and shorter recovery runs on Sundays and Wednesdays. I still need to incorporate some strength training and core work, but I’ll definitely be adding that in as well.

After signing up for the Blue Ridge Marathon, I started thinking about a plan to join Marathon Maniacs. I’m already a member of Half Fanatics and would love to achieve Double Agent status this year. I’ve been working on a plan to qualify by doing 3 marathons in 90 days (Bronze Level), but as of this week, I’ve got a new plan…

Yes, it’s official – I’ll be joining the ranks of 59 other people who will be doing a marathon before the marathon. I plan to start my first marathon at 1:00 am and run the marathon course mostly self-supported, finishing in time to start my second marathon at 7:30am. Given the drastic increase in mileage and elevation, I’ve spent the last few days research how I should update my training plan for this race, including adding a new race in March to test out my legs on the trails at the Whitewater Center here in Charlotte.

52.4 miles and over 14k feet of elevation change! 

I mentioned this plan to a few people in my running group yesterday and got several “you’re crazy” responses, which might be true, but a lot of people just want to know more about it. There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with people who will continue to push you beyond what you think you can do! Already the group has shown incredible support in the training runs and I’m excited for the journey and now I’ve got 3 months to prepare myself to run twice as far as I’ve ever run before…

7 weeks in:

  • Total mileage: 103.8
  • Expected mileage: 124



First Light half marathon – Mobile, AL (2017)

After my “fun” trip from Jackson to Mobile, I headed to the expo for the First Light full / half. It was a small expo, but I got my bib, shirt and a special handmade plaque for doing the back-to-back half marathons. Race morning was cold! It was 24 degrees, but the weather app said it felt like 14. It was really easy to get parking close to the start line and I killed some time waiting in my car since it was so cold. I had long pants, compression socks, t-shirt, windbreaker, buff, hat, gloves and some hot hands and it was still cold at the start! As I got out of my car and started my walk to the start line, someone passed me on the street and said, “Go get ’em girl, go get ’em baby!” I told him thanks and made my way the two blocks to the start line ready to embrace the cold!

There were a ton of people from Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and the 50 states clubs who were in town attempting the same back-to-back that I did – this is a really popular back-to-back trip for those groups since the races are so close together and there is even a bus you can sign up for to transport you between the two races. I opted not to do the bus this time, but if I decide to attempt this one again, I may do that to get to meet some more people.

The race itself was pretty small, with just over 900 finishers between the two races. The course itself winds through downtown Mobile and takes you past beautiful houses and the quintessential moss covered trees. Around mile 2, we went past the Magnolia Cemetery and it was really pretty seeing the sun come up across all the gravestones and trees.

It was nice when the sun was out, warming up all the runners. The course itself was really flat with only a few small hills in some of the neighborhoods. Based on my Garmin, the overall elevation only went from 10′ to 33′ so super flat!

Around mile 8, the half and full marathon split off from each other and there were several people who were holding huge signs directing runners to the right course. I had to take a picture of the couple holding the sign for the half marathon – who could say no to taking pictures while wearing a dress in 20-something degree weather?

Through the middle of the race I was leap-frogging with a group of kids (maybe middle school, but definitely young) and at one point I heard one of them say “I can’t wait until we finish this race, we’re going to get so much food!” – he certainly has the heart of a runner with that statement! I laughed when I heard that and told him, “Yes we will!” I ended up getting and staying ahead of the boys shortly after the half marathon split, so I’m not sure if they were able to get all the food they wanted, but the finish line food was pretty good – it was a hot meal of rice, beans, corn bread and some other food with lots of hot chocolate and coffee available for everyone too.

After a few more miles of tree-lined residential streets, we headed back into downtown Mobile and past a lot of buildings that had graffiti designs across the sides of the buildings, we soon came upon the last street where we could see the finish line in the distance. There were mile markers throughout the course, but as we got close to the finish, they marked the 13 mile mark on the street in chalk – only .1 to go!

This wasn’t a very fast race for me, but I had fun just taking everything in and listening to the other runners. I ended up finishing in 2:21:08 and headed to get some of that good food at the finish line festival. Even though the Mississippi Blues race was cancelled, the race director for the First Light race decided to go ahead and give out the back-to-back medals for anyone who had registered for both – that medal has the race logo and state outline on each side, one for each race with the middle part spinning.

The race medal and back-to-back plaque were both hand decorated by local Alabama residents who are part of the L’Arche Mobile Thomas B. Barnett Activity Center. The back of the plaque has a picture of the artist as well as a short story about her and some background on the activity center. Each year there is a different design for the race sticker (lower left, same as the design on the shirt) which is designed by a member of the community. It’s a really cool way to bring the local community into a race that brings in people from all across the country and even the world, as the winner of the marathon was from London!

I was definitely disappointed to only come away with one race finish after this weekend, but I wholly understand why it happened and the weather in the south is very unpredictable in the winter – it went from high’s in the low 20’s in Charlotte on Saturday / Sunday to a high of almost 70 by the end of the week – crazy!  I’ll keep this duo on my radar and may try to head back to do the official back-to-back in the future, but I’m not 100% set on that yet, so time will tell which will be my first “official” Mississippi race!

Mississippi Blues half marathon – Jackson, MS (2017)

Is it an official DNS (did not start) if the race was cancelled due to weather? Probably… but, with the winter storm that hit the east coast this past weekend, there wasn’t much to be done other than cancel the race. As it turns out, Mississippi gets snow like Charlotte gets snow, which is to say, it comes in the form of ice.

I flew into Mobile Thursday night and rented a car so that I could wander around Mississippi and Alabama for the weekend. I spent Thursday night in Wiggins, MS with the intention of checking out De Soto National Forest on Friday and I did head to Airey Lake for a short walk. It was raining and quite cold, so I didn’t venture too far, but the fog coming off the lake was beautiful!

Some of the trail had wooden bridges along the path to help people over swampy land, but with the additional rain, the boards were nice and slick!

From De Soto, I headed to the expo in Jackson and then on to Vicksburg (more photos coming soon) to wander around a bit before heading back to Jackson in the late afternoon. By the time I started heading back the rain had turned into sleet / ice balls and traffic had slowed down considerably. I passed one tractor trailer accident that has blocked the entire other side of the interstate because it was jackknifed across the road. By the time it got to the hotel, the ice was starting to pile up a bit, so I attempted to order take out online and was promptly called and told they weren’t delivering because of the weather. Luckily the pizza place was only a few blocks away, so I slowly made my way over there and successfully made it back to the hotel without sliding anywhere.

Just after 10:00 p.m. we got an email from the race director letting us know that the race was cancelled due to the icy conditions. it was definitely disappointing, but checking out the road conditions in the morning made it easy to see they made the right decision. There was some confusion on the Facebook page about earning our medals through a virtual race, and there are still rumors that this might still be the case, but the RD did offer anyone who still needed to pick up their packet or wanted to pick up their medal could come downtown and pick them up on Saturday morning.

I attempted to do a treadmill run Saturday morning to make up some of the mileage I would be missing and ambitiously set it up for an hour, but quit after 2 miles because running on a treadmill is so boring! I’d rather brave the weather later in January during one of my scheduled training runs to do my redemption / virtual MS Blues half than do it on the treadmill! After my two miles, I packed up my stuff and hit the road just after 9:00 a.m. and headed downtown. Google maps didn’t know what the Jackson Arts Center was, but I headed to the Convention Center and then walked a bit before I found other runners and was able to figure out where to go. The sidewalks and streets were extremely icy and certainly unsafe for runners and cars to try to share the road, but it was very quiet downtown, so I took a little bit of time to wander around and take a few pictures.


I saw the courthouse on my drive in and thought it was a really cool-looking building.

This medal is super awesome and I will “earn” it with a virtual half soon enough, but I’ve also heard that this same design will be used next year since it will still be the 10th anniversary of the race given this year’s cancellation.

A little after 10:00 a.m. I started my trek out of town towards Mobile, AL to head to the First Light expo and was concerned it would end up being a 5 hour drive instead of just 3 with how slow it was going in the beginning. Going over 20 mph was very limited, but the only trouble I had was merging from one interstate to another. I was behind a tractor trailer truck and the road we were on was just pure ice, but luckily the other interstate was much more clear – unfortunately this meant making a turn on the ice. I gave the tractor trailer plenty of space and he started to jackknife a bit but was able to straighten out and get on his way. I did a little bit of sliding getting onto the other interstate, but otherwise didn’t have much trouble. It took about 30 minutes before the majority of the ice turned to slush and just wet roads and shortly thereafter the roads were bare and there was barely a trace of ice on even the sides of the road.

So, the good news is that the First Light race didn’t seem to be impacted at all from the winter storm, but they did offer a discount to anyone who was planning to run the Mississippi Blues race who wanted to add their race due to the cancellation. It’s great to see the cooperation between the races!

Ring in 2017 17k – Rock Hill, SC (2017)

I signed up for this race on a whim after a friend told me about another race hosted by the Rock Hill Striders and since it was at the Anne Springs Close Greenway, I figured it would be a great way to kick off the new year. The weather was in the high 30’s and rainy with the rain expected to last most of the day, so I knew it would be a cold morning. I ended up overdressed so I took off my lightweight rain jacket after a couple of miles and didn’t really notice the rain since we were in the middle of the woods for the entire race. The race was pretty low-key with runners congregating under a pavilion (with an awesome fire to huddle around) where volunteers checked us in, gave us our bibs, a race bag and bells! I loved the idea of the bells and they worked much better than when I tried to sew bells onto my hula skirt as part of my Hawaiian Santa outfit a few years ago. The next time I want to make some noise on a run, I’ll be sure to break these out again.

We started out at the Rush Pavilion and headed down to do the full School Loop then back around the Grist Mill back up Muscadine trail and around Lake Haigler for a good 10.5 miles. When I first got to the venue and went to pick up my packet, I talked to one of the greenway workers who told me I was hardcore for running in the rain and cold. Certainly put a smile on my face to start the day!

I loved the trail directional signs around the course. 

During the opening remarks the RD told us that part of our loop would take us past the millstone and while he didn’t know what would happen if we didn’t touch it when we ran past, but why risk it. Makes sense to me.

I love the tunnels on the School Loop!
When I finally made it to the Haigler Lake loop, I was excited to be almost done!
The geese didn’t seem to care that it was a cold and rainy day.
I was one of the last runners to come in, but I really enjoyed this race. It was a tough one to start off the year given the lack of training I did over the holidays, but it was a good kick in the butt to get started on more serious training for my April marathon. Plus, I was able to kick off Ragnar’s annual January 30-day challenge by spending a few hours outside which was really nice.

Spoiler alert: I’ve already broken the streak, but I’m catching up by doing two on some days.

After the race I got some food, warmed up by the fire and talked with the RD about the Rock Hill Striders race series. They’ve got a 50k, half marathon and a 12-hour race all at the greenway, so even if I can’t run any more of their races, I definitely want to get involved where I can.

Official time: 2:18:21

2016: Best 9 pictures

So this is more of an Instagram thing, but I had such a tough time narrowing down by top 9 pictures this year that I thought sharing them here along with some details would be a good idea, so here we go!

Apologies to Beth for cropping her out of this picture on Instagram, but alas, 9 pictures in a square means even smaller square pictures… We took this picture after we ran the Asheville half marathon together and it was the first of my back-to-back weekends in 2016 where I ran a half marathon on Saturday followed by a marathon on Sunday. Beth ran with me for the half and we took tons of pictures and just had fun running around in our St. Patty’s day attire. When I signed up for this race in 2015, people told me I was nuts, but I had a lot of fun doing both races and this only further embedded the idea of running an ultra in 2016.

In September I was able to visit Washington state for the Ragnar Trail Cascades race and we actually drove through the Cascades on our way to the race venue. This was just at a rest stop but had such amazing scenery that we actually stopped on the way to the race and the way back! Someone asked me if this picture was from another country because they couldn’t believe how blue the water was and I’ve certainly never seen anything like it.

In June, I got to meet Scott Hamilton who I’ve now had the opportunity to hear speak twice. I grew up watching figure skating and loved Scott Hamilton for the crazy songs he skated to and his infamous backflips. He is a terrific public speaker and has quite an amazing story about how he got into skating, leaving home to pursue skating full time and his “hobby for collecting life threatening illnesses.” Scott was a great speaker and was extremely willing to talk with anyone who wanted to chat – he even hung out in the hotel lobby as he was waiting for his ride and talked to our attendees the day after his speech. During his second speech with our company this year, Scott revealed that he just found out that his brain tumor had come back for a third time and I wish him all the best in his battle going forward. It was hard not to catch the optimism that he exuded from the stage and his positive attitude was very inspiring!

In July I took on my hardest marathon to date, running from the town of Boone to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. I’ve run The Bear for the last 4 years which is the kick-off to the annual Highland Games and originally I had planned to run this race for the fifth year and was part of the group that managed to shut down the registration site when it went live in February. After an hour trying to make the site work, I went over to the marathon signup and it was still open.. so I did the next logical thing and registered for the marathon instead! My first marathon was through the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and now I’ve done the one through Appalachian State’s campus too. I didn’t do as much training as I should have for this race and it definitely hurt, but I was able to do (most of) my lap around the track in front of everyone who had come to watch the Highland Games. I was met about 3/4 of the way around the track by the official timers who stopped me to give me my medal as they ushered everyone off the track for the games to begin.

In August, I was recognized by my company with a Values Award. It’s a competitive award where people are nominated by their coworkers and winners are chosen by a committee based on their daily behaviors and performance. It was an amazing experience to hear my accomplishments read aloud in front of my entire company, going on stage to get a picture with our CEO and COO, and being given an award. I’ve been with the company almost 9 years (!) now and I was really touched by all of the people who came up to me at the dinner to congratulate me or sent me emails afterwards.

In October, I got to check off one of my bucket list races by doing the Cane Field Classic. I found this race on one of the “top race lists” a few years ago, but the timing wasn’t right until last year. They offer a machete to anyone who completes all 3 race distances: 1 mile followed by 4 miles followed by 2 miles through the cane fields. The 2016 medal was a little less machete and a little more Rambo knife, but is still makes an impressive addition to my medal collection. I made a long weekend out of the trip and got to see a ton of different places in Louisiana, from Baton Rouge to Lafayette and down to New Orleans. It was a gorgeous weekend to get out an explore and I love using races as an excuse to explore somewhere new!

In October, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with a great group of people who have adopted me into their running group. It wasn’t a great marathon for me, having to walk a lot due to some unexplained headaches, but the atmosphere was really good. This was my first big marathon, with 30,000 people running the marathon and while it was a little crowded at times, it was great to see everyone on that journey. Immediately after the race, many of these people said this would be their last marathon, but I’ve decided to officially join their run group this month and I’ve heard a few of them got into the Chicago Marathon for this year, so I guess only time will tell how many more races we’ll be able to run together!

Team 3 Y’alls and a Yinz made it 2/3 of the way through Ragnar Carolinas before the race was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew. Our team survived pretty well through the rain and mud, but it just wasn’t to be this year. I’ve already committed to coming back and finishing the race in 2017 and I think at least a few of my teammates will be right there with me at the starting line in October. Our “team Dad,” Ben, was a huge help for our team, reminding us to eat and drink after our runs and helping to MacGyver our canopy to keep the rain out as much as possible. We ended up in 5th place overall in the ultra division and 2nd in the mixed division, so I’m excited to see what we could do in the full race. I’m also still very tempted to try to put together an all-female ultra team, but it may not be in the cards for this race.

This is the Ragnar SWAT (Sweaty, Wet And Tired) crew at the end of the Ragnar Trail Cascades race. This was my third race volunteering with Ragnar last year, but my first being around for the team picture at the end (the Loop Managers are always out on the course at this time). I’ve had so much fun meeting all of these people and can’t wait to kick off the 2017 season volunteering at Ragnar Trail Kentuckiana in April.

So those were my top 9 photos of 2016. This was a really hard exercise for me! I picked and replaced at least 20 pictures before finally coming up with these 9, but I think it encompasses my year really well. You can see my best 9 from 2015 here.

2016 by the numbers

This year saw the most races I’ve ever done in a year for a total of 209.6 race miles in 23 races!

  • 3 5ks
  • 2 4-milers
  • 1 combo trail run (7 miles total)
  • 1 10-miler
  • 3 trail relays
  • 10 half marathons
  • 3 marathons
  • 3 weekends with more than one race
  • 4 times volunteering at trail races 

I attempted my first ultra in 2016, but was thwarted by Hurricane Matthew at Ragnar Carolinas – 3 y’alls and a yinz is already planning to come back together in 2017 to take on this race again. With 7 trail runs this year, I’m definitely starting to prefer my races on the trails, but in going for a race in each state, I know I’ll still be doing some road races too.

This was a rough year for my dogs, with both of them having to have knee surgery to repair a torn CCL and meniscus – on opposite legs and surgeries 6 months apart. Rehab for these injuries meant no stairs for 12+ weeks each time and confinement to the living room for both dogs, and because they have to be where I’m at, that meant almost exclusively living on the first floor of my house for 7 months this year. Luckily both came through their surgeries very well and are back out walking and hiking with me.

Can you guess which one is my happy puppy?

No PR’s this year, but I did have 4 top 10 age group placements, including 2nd place at the Run Run Rudolph 5k in December.

4,104,755 steps (or 1,943 miles) based on my fitbit (Jan-Mar) and Garmin (Mar-Dec) and I beat last year’s total mileage by 40 miles. Next year I’ll once again go for the years in mileage and see if I can finally make it over the 2,000 mile mark and try to hit 2,017 miles in 2017.

I raced in 3 new states: Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada and I had 3 opportunities to volunteer with Ragnar, traveling to Georgia, Massachusetts and Washington. I’ll be back with Ragnar at the Kentuckiana race in April and 2017 will be starting off with 2 new states this coming weekend which means by next week, I’ll be halfway through my 50 states running (plus DC)!

Here’s to kicking off a new year!

Want to see how the last few years compare? Check out 20132014 and 2015.

Training through the holidays

It’s always hard to keep training on track when your normal routine is disrupted, and the holidays are a great example of this. Technically I started my Blue Ridge Marathon training plan the week of December 4, mostly because I already had Ragnar Trail Alafia on the calendar, but after that race, I promptly had a big old goose egg the following week. I was traveling at the beginning of the week and then trying to get everything ready to visit family for Christmas, so running fell to the end of my to do list.

This week has been a little bit better – I was able to do a short run on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on Sunday to start off the week. I’ve hiked sections of the trail, so I wanted to get out and see what it would be like to run on them, but winter weather has a habit of putting you on your heels. There was snow left over from last week, Saturday brought a mix of rain and snow and Sunday was warm, slightly rainy and had even more melt-off. I knew the trails would be sloppy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the trail turning into a stream and mid-shin high standing water where the trails flattened out!

Over the river and through the woods!
This section required an off-trail detour, but I loved the colors of the leaves trapped under barely frozen ice.

Shortly after that detour, I turned around and headed across Route 30 to see if the other side of the trail would be any better, and at first it was. The woods were foggy with misty / rainy precipitation and it was beautiful, but eventually I ran into another major section of unpassable standing water and figured it was probably in my best interest to take my wet feet back home to get warm.

So, Sunday I only managed just over 3 miles on the trails, but I took yesterday off of work so that I could get some shopping done and made sure to keep some time for myself in the morning to get in a 5 mile run on the Great Allegheny Passage. Again, it was just around 32 degrees when I started, so I bundled up (maybe not as much as I should have) and headed out. I didn’t think about the fact that I was in the mountains and even though the sun had been up for almost 2 hours, that didn’t necessarily mean it would be above the tree line on the trail I was on.

The beginning of the trail

The trail is extremely flat and I had originally hoped to run to the Pinkerton tunnel and back, but the online maps didn’t quite line up with the actual mileage of the trails, so it would have been close to an 18 mile run to hit the tunnel and come back which was a lot more than I was interested in doing, so I just did a short 2.5 miles out and then back again instead.

My turnaround point

After I turned around, I took a quick detour off-trail to see the Cassellman River up close before heading back up to the trail to finish my run.

I did actually see two other people out on the trail as I was finishing up my run, but they were much better dressed for their winter walk – heading out in full winter jackets, scarves, gloves and hats. Really the only thing I missed on this run was my buff to take some of the chill out of the air I was breathing and better protect my neck from the wind, but I had my gloves and headband on and I did cheat and use a hand warmer for the run, but for the most part it worked out pretty well.

I didn’t feel great on this run – my legs just weren’t having it. I’m not sure if it was because it was so cold out or because it was just an off day, but I still got out there for some mileage, so I’m calling it a win!

Looking for some training help for the Blue Ridge Marathon?
The Blue Ridge Marathon and Fleet Feet Roanoke are offering two virtual training options tailored to help you conquer America’s Toughest Marathon (or half)!

  • Virtual half marathon plan: A 14-week program starting on January 16
  • Virtual marathon plan: A 16-week program starting on January 2
You can use the code TRAINSMART to save $5 off of either training program.

The fine print…
I am an ambassador for the Blue Ridge Marathon, so I have been given a free entry to the race of my choice (I’m doing the marathon) in return for promoting their events. I get emailed all kinds of details about specials for the race, including race discounts (use BRMFRIENDS to get 15% off), training runs, merchandise and other things runners might find beneficial. I will occasionally post on here or my Instagram account if there are things I think others may benefit from. I’ve never done this race before, but I’m looking forward to the challenge in April and will do a formal race recap (the good, the bad and the ugly) when I finish. 

Ragnar Trail Alafia part 3 – Lithia, FL (2016)

AKA the one with all the pictures

After my second leg, I took another nap for a few hours before it started to get pretty warm in the tent and I heard my other teammates up and about in camp, so I got up and we found out that our team would have to double-up on our loops so I would end up running with our captain’s 63-year-old uncle. He had never done a race like this and typically runs on the road, but he seemed to have a lot of fun running with us.

The Red loop was the longest loop coming in at 5.9 miles and we had heard from everyone that it was pretty tough with lots of steep up and down hills and that it felt like a roller coaster. I was really excited to run this loop and would love to try it on fresh legs at full speed at some point, but I was able to get a ton of pictures from the loop and it makes me wish I could have seen the others in the daylight as well!

 Jairo running next to the water early in the loop
 So much green in the water… I kept looking for alligators, but didn’t see any
 The super heavy Red loop totem! 
One of the many bridges on the Red loop
The bridges were pretty much my only complaint about this course – the slats were made for bikes, so they were just far enough apart that you had to make sure to step on them correctly so that you didn’t stick a toe down in between them. I noticed this a lot more on the Yellow loop, probably because it was my first loop and I was running it in the dark, but while the bridges were definitely stable enough to run across, I tended to walk or at least slow way down to make sure I wouldn’t take a tumble and hurt myself.
Here comes the monster hill!
Here’s the view from the top of the hill looking down across the switchbacks
Banked curves for the bikes, flatter trail for the runners
Looking back on the beautiful single track trail
So many hills on this course means you get previews of what is coming up next
Eventually the course opens up to more expansive views
After 5.9 miles, we joined the rest of our team and donned our holiday gear to cross under the arches as a team and get our medals. Team No Moe’ Hills was officially finished!

Ragnar Trail Alafia part 2 – Lithia, FL (2016)

Let’s rewind a few hours because I realized I forgot one of the best stories from my first night at Ragnar Alafia. When I was at the Ragnar Carolinas race getting ready to start my second set of legs, there was a contest where 12 people picked an egg and all but one of them was hard boiled – the “winner” was the one who smashed the raw egg on their head. So, when I heard the announcer  lining up participants, I went over to watch, but when he only had a couple people who wanted to participate, I jumped in. This time there were going to be two winners and each person picked their egg one at a time. When the woman beside me heard what the contest was, she tried to opt out, but the crowd cheered her on to stay in the game and she switched sides with me so that I would go first. I was probably about the 6th or 7th person in line and within the first few people there was a winner, but soon it was my turn and I got to choose my egg, so I picked one and promptly smashed it on my forehead to win a Nathan Neutron Fire 115-lumen headlamp!

After my egg smashing fun, I did manage to get about 4.5 hours of sleep before I got up around 4:00am and started to get ready for my second loop in the dark. I started around 5:20am on the Green loop. In a typical Ragnar race, the Green loop is shorter than all of the other loops and “easiest,” though on trails “easy” is a very relative term. For this race, all three loops were around that 5 mile mark and the Green loop was actually longer than the Yellow loop at 5.4 miles. This was a flatter course than the Yellow loop, so I was able to keep a better pace for most of the loop with the exception of parts of mile 4 where the trail turned into a beach!

The sand was extremely hard to run through, so I walked most of that section until I was able to get onto more solid ground, but luckily it wasn’t too long of a section. The Green loop had a lot more exposed areas, so I was glad I ran this in the dark as I’m sure this loop got hot in the sun. As I finished my loop the sun was starting to come up and I wish I knew what the loops looked like to find a good place to take a sunrise picture, but the sun coming up over the Village ended up being a pretty nice view too.

Next up will be the Red loop where I finally got to run in the daylight, so of course, I took a ton of pictures!

Miss part 1? Check it out here.

Ragnar Trail Alafia part 1 – Lithia, FL (2016)

 I was headed to Orlando for a work conference and knew I had to take advantage of being in the area to try out the first year of Ragnar Trail Alafia. I was a little worried about the weather considering that last year during our conference, it was in the 80’s during the day, but this time, there was more concern about being cold and rainy! There was some rain Thursday night and early Friday morning, but we missed the majority of it and had really great weather on Friday. My team started at 9:00 am and I was our last runner so that I would be able to make it on time for my legs since I wasn’t going to leave Orlando until at least noon and then had an hour and a half drive to the park. After stopping for some extra food for our team, I finally met my teammates around 2:00 pm on Friday afternoon. I only knew one person on the team (our captain) and many of the teammates were meeting each other for the first time at the event. At least one person had never run trails before and only three of us had done a Ragnar before and knew what to expect with the three loops, but everyone came into it excited and ready to try it out.

My original starting time was somewhere around 4:00 pm, but I ended up starting at 6:00 pm, so my first leg was on the Yellow loop in the dark. After Ragnar Carolinas, I decided that even though my headlamp was definitely bright enough to use on its own, I would take my knuckle light along too for some extra visibility. I didn’t make it too far onto the loop before I took a tumble. I’m still not sure what I tripped over, but considering how clumsy I am, I’m surprised that this was my first true trail fall – I’ve stumbled before, but never fully hit the ground. After I jumped back to my feet, I kept running. I passed a few people here and there and went past two women who were on the side of the trail around 2.5 miles into the 4.5 mile loop and didn’t make it too far away from them when I heard one of them say “I guess we’ll just turn around” so I stopped and asked them if they needed a light. They said they did, so I gave them my knuckle light and my team number and just told them to turn it into the staff working at the transition tent and I would get it from them later. I was happy to help fellow runners and glad that they wouldn’t have to turn around when they were halfway done already.

I promise it wasn’t nearly as scary as it looked

I felt good running the Yellow loop and it was a lot of fun, even if I couldn’t really see much of the scenery around me. There were a lot of people on the course (with over 300 teams, you’re never really alone) and I passed 9 people on my first loop, coming in just under 52 minutes before handing off to our captain to start the rotation over again.After I finished, I hit up one of the food trucks that was serving rice, beans and steak – there was also an option for chicken, but apparently that was in high demand as there were several people in front of me waiting for chicken when they announced that there was a steak option ready, so I jumped at that and it was delicious! I really like the food truck options at the Ragnar races. They’ve used them in several races I’ve done lately and it gives so many more options that I think it’s great for runners to be able to choose what they want without having to bring a bunch of food in addition to all their other gear.

After dinner, I hung out with some of the Ragnar staff and got to watch them brand one of the leather sheaths for the medals. It’s pretty impressive in the dark with the Ragnar logo glowing in the fire, though it was harder to figure out whether the logo actually transferred correctly.

This was a fun race to do to see all of the Ragnar staff I met over the year – since they all live in Salt Lake City, everyone wanted to come to Florida for the nice weather in December. Little did they know that it would be in the 40’s overnight! Since I knew it was going to be colder at night for this race, I had to show off my new outfit to keep me warm – a fleece cat onesie. It was pretty ridiculous, but it had pockets, “paws” to go over my hands and kept me warm, so I’m counting it as a win!

I knew my next leg wouldn’t be until at least 4:00 am, so I made myself stay up for awhile so that I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night and it seemed to work pretty well. Next up was the Green loop!