Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 Ragnar Trail Appalachians West Virginia Ultra Race Report

Ragnar Trail Appalachians was held at Big Bear Lake Camplands in West Virginia.  This was our second year doing Ragnar Trail at this location.  This year I joined an Ultra team with 4 friends, and we also had a second team of 8.

  We traveled to Big Bear Lake Camplands on Thursday, the night before the race.  We arrived a few minutes before they started letting people into the camping area so they held everybody in a parking lot.  In the parking lot they came around and charged each car $20 for parking.  The previous year there was no charge for parking, so I was surprised that they started charging for parking and how much they charged, it seemed a little steep.  There were quite a few people so we sat in traffic for about 30 minutes before we got to the check in point.

At the check in point we gave our team name "Fit N Fun Life" and they gave us a parking pass.  Each team got one parking pass to park on site, and other vehicles had to park in a lot outside of the campground and had to catch the shuttle to get to the camp sites.

First we found where we wanted to set up our campsite, and started setting up our canopy and tents.

My daughter was pretty happy we were done setting up, because it took awhile!

We also held a few extra sites for a few of our friend's teams.  It is a good thing we got there early, if not it would have been difficult to get multiple sites together.

After getting the campsite setup I walked down to the village to get checked in.  First you have to watch a safety video before they will let you check your team in.

The video process is pretty quick and painless, followed by a hand stamp to show I watched the video.  Now I was able go and check in.  I checked in my "Fit N Fun Life" team, and received our bib "number 4".  They gave us our goody bag, meal tickets, and tickets to pick up our shirts.  The goody bag contained our bib belt, a bunch of Kind Bars, Hot Shots, ttickers, and temporary tattoos.

After getting both teams checked in we headed back to the campsite to get some shuteye before the next day.  That ended up being a pretty good idea seeing as you don't get much sleep during the race.

The next morning the race began.  Our 8 person team started off at 10:30 am.

Our Ultra team didn't get to start until 1:00 pm.  I was the first to go, and we decided to do two loops each time.  My first run was the Green Loop and the Yellow Loop.  So I entered the transition area and got my Green band.  Then off we went.

The Green Loop is the shortest, around 3.5 miles.  There are a few small hills but it is pretty technical in the beginning, with lots of rocks.  This is a fun loop in the day light, but a little tougher at night.

For my second loop as an Ultra Team I passed through the transition area only slowing down to switch my band from my Green to the Yellow band and headed back out on the trail.

The Yellow trail is my favorite, it is definitely the most scenic.  It is approximately 4.5 miles long.  Last year I ran it in the dark, so this year it was great to see in the light.  The trail winds through a pine field.

After finishing the Yellow Loop I handed the Bib off to my teammate and he headed back out to do the Red Loop then the Green Loop.

I got a chance to take a little rest before I got back out on the trail.  I didn't bother with changing or getting cleaned up, I figured I would be back out on the trail soon enough.

I know I am very photogenic when trying to sleep.

After a little break it was time to get ready to go back out, my next lap would be Red into Green.  When I went back out for Red it was starting to get a little darker in the woods, so I decided maybe I should take my head lamp.

I was able to get through most of the Red Loop before I needed the head lamp.  The Red Loop has a few larger hills and takes a little longer.  It is about 6.5 miles.  

After finishing up the the Red Loop I continued onto the Green Loop, it was definitely more difficult in the dark.

After finishing the Green Loop and handing off my bib, I headed back to camp to get some food and take a little rest.  As for food they had pizza all night that could be purchased and they gave each of us a ticket for a free meal.  We packed mostly cold cuts and PBJ.

When I got back to the village, they had s'mores and movies playing on the side of a truck trailer.  They also had places to sit in EMO hammocks, lounge chairs and gear setup by REI.

Next would be my two longest loops, Yellow into the Red Loop.  This took me through most of the night and it started getting light as I finished up my Red Loop.  After coming back to the transition tent I handed off my bib, and I was finished.  Now all I had to do is wait for my team to finish up.

After our last runner finished up we walked over and picked up our medals.

This year they were sporks.  It looks like they made the change so you would be able to take them on a plane.  The previous year they were a multi-tool and we were told not to take them on a plane.  

After finishing they have a photographer taking photos.  Then we went back to the camp site and started taking everything down and waiting for our other team to finish up.

I love the Ragnar races, they are some of the most complicated races out there.  But the relay setup is so organized and thought out that it goes very smoothly.  The staff is amazing and 8 person teams each have to have a member volunteer for a few hours during the race, so lots of the volunteers are racers too.

I highly recommend these races, they are different than a lot of the other races out there.  It is a great family event, and a great place to hang out with your friends.  Because it is a loop course you always come back to the village, and get to go to your camp site between loops.

After getting home and looking at the results, I found out that we placed 3rd in our division (Open Male).  This was mainly due to my teammates, they were extremely fast.  They even made up for me going a little slower due to a previous race I was still recovering from.

Here is some of the gear that I used.

Headlamp Black Diamond Storm
Salomon Adv Skin 12 set
Brooks Caldera
Darn Tough Socks

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 Western Reserves Racing Burning River 100 Mile Race Review

The Burning River 100 "BR100" is held by Western Reserves Racing.  They hold several different races during this event.  There are 5 options for running this event, 100 mile solo, 50 mile, 50 mile back half, 100 mile 4 person relay, and 100 mile 8 person relay.

I chose to do the 100 mile solo event and this is my race review.  This was my first 100 mile ultra marathon.  Before this my longest race was the Oil Creek 100k.

We decided to travel out the night before and stay at the Cuyahoga Falls Sharaton Suites.  This was the location of the packet pickup and the finishline.  We knew we were in the right place when we started seeing signs for the BR100.

We arrived a few hours early and we were able to check in, so we walked around the hotel a little.  Off the back of the hotel you can see the falls.

After walking around the hotel a little it was time for packet pickup to open, so we walked down and picked up my packet.  The packet pickup was very smooth.

Western Reserves Racing also sells Crew shirts.  You can order them in different colors, so it is easy to spot your team/crew when you enter the aid stations.  They were picked up at packet pickup.  If you didn't order a specific color, you could buy a black one there.

The shirts are all very good quality, and the long sleeve 100 miler tech shirt is the best I have gotten from any race.  We also picked up the pacer bibs for my crew/pacers, they each had to sign up online.  It is free for the pacers, but they needed to sign the online waiver.  

A few hours later they held the first Rules Meeting in the lobby area outside of the packet pickup room.  At the meeting they went over the rules and answered any questions that runners had.  One thing that they stressed was they wanted to see people finish and they would try to do what they could to help the runners achieve that goal.  As far as the rules, they seemed pretty simple, stay on the course, if you get off course get back on at the same place, and do it under your own power.

After the meeting I figured it might be a good idea to go get a little shut eye before morning.

There were buses that left the hotel at 2:30 a.m. to take the 100 mile runners to the start point.  I was lucky enough to have my crew that drove me to the start point.

The start point was at Squire's Castle.

 We were there a little early so we had a chance to walk around the castle for a little before the start of the race.

It was nice to have my daughter there to send me off on my journey.

The race started at 4:00 a.m., in a field in front of the castle.  First the national anthem was sung and then they sent us off.

The first 11.5 miles was on the road, which worked well to spread everyone out.  The first aid station was 6.7 miles in.  This was a water only aid station on the side of the road.

The next aid station was Polo Fields, this was the first aid station that had crew access.  To this point I was making pretty good time, I knew I was going a little fast, but I thought it would be a good idea to get a few miles out of the way before the sun came out and it started to warm up.

It was great to see my daughter at each of the crew aid stations.  I am so happy that I had such a great team supporting me.  I could have never done it without them.

After this aid station we finally started to hit some trails.  The next section was Bridle/Horse Trails. Throughout the race the trails were a good combination of roads, bridle trails, crushed limestone, and single track.  Here is some video of the trails. (sorry it is so long, but you can skip through it.)

After getting through a few more aid stations, I finally got to the 50 mile point.  This is where I could start running with my pacers.  I was very happy about that as I know I was slowing down.

At Boston Mills I met with my crew, got some water and food and was back on the trail with my wife.  She would be pacing me for the next 16.5 miles.

It was great to get back out on the trails with somebody that was fresh, and it was nice to have somebody to talk to.  I think it was great for them too, to get out and see the trails, and experience the ultra.  As it was said in the rules meeting, the pacers are runners too and had access to the aid stations and everything else the same as the runners, so it was a good way for them to try it out.

This section was pretty difficult, mainly one section that was a long gravel trail beside a road.  It was out in the open and the sun was beating on us.  When I got to the 2nd aid station I think I may have been getting a little nauseous, but after chugging a bunch of water I was feeling pretty good again.  After this section I started carrying an extra bottle in my pack so I had 3 instead of just 2. 

The end of the section with my wife we started pushing a little quicker pace.  This was not due to time, but we didn't have our head lamps and it was getting dark pretty quick, especially in the woods.  Luckily we made it to the Ledges aid station before it was too dark.

Next Sheena was up and we had 9.6 miles to cover.  We needed our head lamps as soon as we entered the woods.  The night was nice and cool, you could even see your breath in a few places.

The aid stations are some of the best, and helped everyone keep going throughout the night.

The volunteers are amazing, and extremely helpful, always ready to help out when you enter the aid stations.

After a few more miles of hills and technical trails, we were looped back to Pine Hollow Aid station.  Here is were I picked up Kathy to help me through the next 16.1 miles.  This was one of the few times I sat down for a minute.  It was nice but even after just a few minutes the stiffness starts to set in a little.  Best just to keep moving.

At this point I may have been thinking what the heck am I doing, but there was no time for that and we had to get back on the trail.

Even moving through the trails at night, they were marked very well.  I think you would have had to try very hard to get off course.

These sections were mostly trail, with hills, and more roots and rocks.  Just an FYI, Ohio is not flat; there seems to be a never ending supply of small rolling hills.  (The last 9.6 miles really messed with me)

From Botzum  Parking aid station to Memorial Parkway aid station you travel down the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.  This was fairly flat, and I believe it was hard packed crushed limestone, but my memory was a little foggy at this point.  Regardless, with Sheena's help we were able to make good time on this section.

When I made it to the final aid station, Memorial Parkway, I met up with my wife and she finished off the last 4.2 miles with me.

Now back to how the last 9.6 miles mess with you.  When following the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail for 5.4 miles, I just kept thinking this is great, a nice easy stroll to the finish line.  I was quite wrong.  After leaving Memorial Parkway aid station, we started up the road with a nice sized hill.  After a little we were back on the trails with more hills.  There were even quite a few stairs over the final hills.  At this point stairs were not my friend.  I think the final 4.2 miles were designed to figure out how much you really wanted it.

Once we got off the trail we started up the hill on the streets and sidewalks toward the finish by HiHo Brewing Company in Cuyahoga Falls.

It was great to be able to cross the finish line with my daughter.

28 hours and 20 minutes later I was ready to be done.

After finishing I could see the hotel down the road a little, but I was very happy that my crew had the car parked close.  I was happy to take a ride the last block or so.

In conclusion, this is a great race, very organized and well planned out.  I would highly recommend it to anyone, there are also a lot of options if you don't quite feel up to 100 miles.

I would also like to say again, that if you plan to do a race like this and you can have pacers and a crew, do it.  It will make the time much more enjoyable.  

Thanks again Jessica, Sheena, Kathy, and Emma.  They didn't get much sleep and were always there when I needed them.  Thanks again!!

Here is some of the gear that I used.

Headlamp Black Diamond Storm
Salomon Adv Skin 12 set
Brooks Caldera
Darn Tough Socks

See More at: Fit N Fun.Life