Race Reports

RACE REPORT: Ragnar Trail Cottage Country Sept 8-9

Did I not feel enough soreness to last a lifetime during my last Ragnar? Well, apparently not because I went back for more! Check out my race report for Ragnar Trail Cottage Country!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Before I start, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Sport Chek who sponsored this race for the #ChekSquad team and hooked us up with the best swag a team could ask for! And a big thank you to you, my readers for supporting this amazing brand that supports me!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

The Training

Guys. The third time’s the charm. I swear I’ll train properly for my third Ragnar if I do a third. Hahahaha. But all jokes aside, the last few weeks had been a little hectic with my trip to Jamaica, then my trip to Montreal, and me working pretty much 24/7 between those trips to stay on top of everything. Sadly, I didn’t get to go into the trails much but I was able to get enough runs in that I felt confident enough to run the relay without injury. I had been doing 9K run commutes home and shorter runs inbetween whenever I could.

How Does This Work?

We get a campsite where we can pitch a couple of tents. This was our home base where we can eat, sleep, change, dance the night away and leave our stuff. Then there was the “Village” where the fire pit, merchandise tent, cafeteria, water, coffee, additional bathrooms, and where our exchanges happen. For the relay, we can have 8 runners (or 4 if you want to run an ultra) where you each run a easy (green), medium (yellow), and hard (red) leg and total out to around 24.1K each. The orders of the runs were green, yellow, red, rinse and repeat until you’ve done 24 loops. Easy peasy right? Oh and you get from your start time on Friday until 5PM on Saturday to finish. AKA IT WAS MY FIRST TIME CAMPING OUTSIDE!!!!!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Race Day: Morning

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

My teammate Sherman came and picked me up bright and early at 5:50AM so we could also pick up Matt and Erik and make it to the race site in time for Matt’s 8:30AM volunteer shift (each team must supply a volunteer or pay an extra fee). Our start time wasn’t until 3PM so we were there just a tad bit early but it worked out for us! Camp sites were first come first serve so the three of us staked out what we felt like was the best spot ever. Then we sat there until the rest of the team, Janice, Becky, Juliette, and Tom were scheduled to arrive with all the camping gear.

It was actually a little chilly in the morning once the sun disappeared behind the clouds. Luckily, I had my The North Face Women’s Resolve 2 Shell 2L Jacket (link) on! The photo above was before the clouds… shortly after I had to put on a toque and my mittens on! That probably should have been the first warning signs that the day was going to be a cold one but I HELD ON TO HOPE. Hope that it’d be nice and warm but you know, we ended up being quite cold at night and I’m counting my lucky stars that I had a heavy duty sleeping bag that kept me toasty when the temps dropped to 8C.

See my whole Ragnar packing list here

Anyways, around 10:50AM, the rest of the team arrived and we set up 3 tents, a canopy, a table for food, and enough lawn chairs for all of us! Thank you Janice, Becky, Juliette, and Tom for bringing all of that and additional food for us! I was personally the most helpful one during this period by helping string up solar powered lights onto the canopy so we’d be able to see our camp site at night. Yup, super helpful while everyone else set up the tents 😂

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

After the tents were set up, we went to watch the safety video, checked in, collected our race shirts, and went back to start prepping for our first legs.

  • Tip: double check your division and classification! They had us (team of 4 women and 4 men) in the men’s!

Race Day: The Race

Leg 1 – 7.7km, 1:02:23

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

What I wore:

  • Nike Women’s Run Dri-FIT Knit Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Nike Just Do It leggings
  • Nike Women’s Pro Indy Logo Sports Bra (link)
  • Nathan Moxy 2L Race Vest Hydration Pack (link)
  • Salomon Women’s Speed Cross 4 (link)

The first loop I had was the green loop. This was supposed to be the easiest and I had a ton of nervous energy pent up going in. There was definitely a lot of pacing before my leg started and I was ready to get out there when my loop started. Of course the start of the loop was a hill (check out the elevation up above!) and I was regretting my choice to not do a proper warm up as my calves were hating me the whole way up! So tip, be like Sherman and do a warm up, do not be like Carmy and not warm up! My fueling strategy for this loop was forgetting that I was runner #4 so when runner #3 (Janice) started her loop, I ate a bag of walking tacos (crushed bag of Doritos with taco parts mixed in) with Juliette. So you know, I was totally off to a great start haha. Luckily my stomach didn’t bother me while is why I have a love for trail races as they usually provide chips as fuel and that seems to really work for me 😉 I’m pretty happy that my first leg was the easiest one though as it helped me get my trail running groove back on and gave me a feel of the land. While I heard other runners complaining about the switchbacks in the trails, I absolutely loved the switchbacks! They were fun and I was able to use them to gain momentum as it’s easier running down switchbacks fast than a straight steep downhill (where your knees take some damage!).

When I finished my leg, I was cheered in by my teammates and I immediately went to the tent and went to sleep as I had only slept 2 hours beforehand. There’s a reason why I own two shirts that say Nap Queen on it as I immediately passed out in my sleeping bag burrito. My teammates actually didn’t realize I was in the tent as I had the sleeping bag zipped all the way up and I hadn’t made a peep! So for 3ish-4 hours, they just thought they had lost me in the Village 😂 . Unfortunately, I had woke up because my phone buzzed one too many times inside my sleeping bag and I groggily looked at the text about a teammate of mine being injured!! That woke me right up and I threw on my jacket and stuck my head out of the tent in shock. Sadly, Juliette had hurt her ankle during her red loop (hardest) and medics had to bring her out. I was devastated. It sucks to know that your teammate is hurt and there’s nothing you can physically do to make it better. Then the pit in my stomach formed. My next loop was the red loop. It had already taken out Juliette and earlier in the day, Janice had mentioned how hard it was. My red loop was scheduled to start soon at 1AM and originally Sherman was going to pace me but now that Juliette was out, we needed Sherman to cover a loop, and another teammate to cover another.

Leg 2 – 8.5K, 1:51:35

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

What I’m wore:

  • New Balance Layer Tank (link)
  • New Balance Viz Long Sleeve
  • Nike Women’s Pro Indy Logo Sports Bra (link)
  • Nike Leggings (plain black ones)
  • Nathan Moxy 2L Race Vest Hydration Pack (link)
  • Salomon Women’s Speed Cross 4 (link)
  • Black Diamond Headlamp

It wouldn’t be my first time trail running in the dark. I’ve done my share of night time running and night time trail running but this would be my first time doing a night trail alone. At this point, I started texting my boyfriend and was like “I’M DOING IT ALONE.”

Luckily for me, I was able to borrow my teammate’s flashlight which made me feel slightly better about the run. It was brighter than my headlamp and I was started to worry about tripping (remember how I fell in my last trail relay in 2014? Where I lost a chunk of skin and had a limp for a while? Yeah, still got the scar). When Janice came running in from her leg to pass off the bib to me, I was psyching myself up to do it. Like I start, night trail running wasn’t a stranger to me, so I was just going to have to put on my big girl pants and get my butt out there.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Janice hugged me goodbye as the team cheered me on as I left the exchange area. At first, I was feeling okay. For a short bit, all the legs go up the same path so I was familiar with the section but once I made a turn to the red path, I started feeling nervous.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

I mean just look at the marker!!!!!!! Photo is from Janice’s first leg as it was pitch black by the time I got out there. As I plodded up the first hill (out of so many), I started feeling nervous. FYI, don’t joke about the Blair Witch Project right before a night leg. Once I was alone and it was silent, my mind started running and I did not like where it was heading!

This leg was my most challenging one, not only physically, but mentally. Other than my light source, the trail was pitch black. I was alone and the only other time I wasn’t was when a handful of runners passed me from behind. What threw me off the most was how quiet it was. Like I could hear the other runners’ breathing as they approached. A low, heavy panting. Just what everyone wants to hear in the dark right? RIGHT?! Anyways, the darkness and the silence and starting to take a toll on me. I was extremely uncomfortable with the silence as I’m used to some critter noises while trail running.

I was moving as what I felt like was a snail’s pace as I was very intentional with each and every step to avoid any accidents. The red loop was not the hardest due to just the elevation and the distance but because out of the three, this was the most technical. There were a ton of tree roots, rocks, netting, and other tripping hazards so my eyes were in front of my feet the whole way. Around the 5K mark, I lost it. My mind freaked out on me. Have you watched Release the Hounds on Netflix? What about any horror movie that takes place in the woods? That’s right, the sheer darkness and pure silence broke me. I was tired, it had been an hour already and I felt like I was just not making any progress so I started crying. Yes, I knew it was unreasonable but I couldn’t stop it. No, I didn’t stop running because I wasn’t going to stand there and cry (could you imagine how terrifying that would be for the next runner!?) plus I had to keep moving, my teammates were waiting for me. So I did what every rational person would do while scared in the woods, I called my boyfriend at 2AM (the front pocket on the Nathan hydration pack fits my phone perfectly) and put him on speaker before demanding that he talk to me. While crying to him on the phone, I made him talk about his day, what he ate, and whatever else I could think of so it would take my mind off the serial killer I was sure was hiding behind a tree. When he ran out of things to talk to me about, I made him put on Netflix on the iPad near him and play it loudly so I could hear. SUPER RATIONAL. But hey, there was a guy who ran past me near the end with Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson blasting on his phone speaker so whatever floats our boats. Don’t judge us! I even made H go on the Ragnar website and describe the rest of the leg and distance to me. #boyfriendoftheyear. He did put on Bones on Netflix which is about an anthropologist who helps solve murders with the FBI which may not have been the best choice (re: murders LOL, thanks hun) but I was just happy to not be “alone.” It really meant a lot to me having him on the phone as I didn’t want to make my teammate worry by messaging them,

For the next 4K, H kept me company over the phone despite it being the middle of the night and finally I made it to the exchange point and saw Tom, ready to take my bib and go. Then the Nap Queen went straight to her sleeping bag and slept. It felt so good to have finished and I was so happy I didn’t stop in the woods and give up.

Leg 3 – 7.9K, 1:24

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

What I wore:

  • Salomon Women’s Speed Cross 4 (link)
  • Nike Pro Women’s Indy Cooling Sports Bra (link)
  • Nike Women’s Power Epic Lux Running Crop Tights (link)
  • adidas t-shirt

It was finally morning, the sun was out, and excitement levels were high. We were one our last legs and I was ready to be done so I could dig into my bag of SmartFood popcorn. I could felt the excitement bubbling as I waited for Janice to come back from her final loop – the green loop. We were all so close to being done!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

As Janice came running in, I was ready to give her all the high fives and take off for my leg. The sun was a bit misleading as once I were no longer in sunny tree-less stretch of the yellow loop, I was cold. But despite the weird temperature changes, yellow was my favourite loop! While there were some huge hills, there were a ton of switchbacks and downhills that you got to fly down. It was quite fun running all the downhill switchbacks and as it was less technical, I felt more comfortable being more carefree with my footing. While it wasn’t a fast loop for me (hey, I’m tired!), I tried to keep my feet going. Once I hit my one mile to go mark, I started picking up my pace more. Unfortunately, a few guys did catch up and pass me but with the last 500m, another runner was on a tail and the competitiveness in my kicked in (despite us all agreeing that this would be a fun, non-competitive event hahahahahaha) and I refused to be passed and kicked into a dead sprint.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Finale – 200m

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Matt had a back to back loop (I think his expression says it all haha) as our second last runner and Erik had the honour of heading out to run our very last leg (of course it had to be red. Sorry Erik!). We all went into the tent to greet Matt after his tough loops and to send Erik off!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Of course being the speedster that Erik is, it didn’t take long for us to see him coming in. So all of us went to join him to run him into the finish line as a team.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Post-race thoughts

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

I really do not have enough space to write about how amazing the ChekSquad was for Ragnar. Everyone was so kind and caring. Everyone pitched in when help was needed. Our teammates stepped up to bat when Juliette was injured and Matt ran two back to back legs and Sherman ran an extra leg. We all got along, we helped each other out, we buddied up to go to the bathrooms, and I absolutely loved each and every single member on our team. I had a blast and I would love to be able to do this again with the same team next year!

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

As for the race, I have mixed feelings. When the trails split up, the course was extremely well marked. There would be at least 5 little arrows pointing you the correct way to turn and 1-2 “wrong way” signs on the other path. However, if it was not a split, you just had to trust the path. There were long stretches where I was worried that I was on the wrong path because I didn’t see a marker in a while. The markers were reflective so they worked well in the evening. I would have liked having a volunteer at the split off points though. I was running yellow when a runner asked me which leg I was doing because he had missed the split between yellow and green and he was 1.5K from the split! Sometimes you’re either caught up in excitement or you’re just tired from the event that it’s easy to make mistakes like that and having an extra volunteer there would have made it a lot easier. Also, not that I heard any accusations of cheating but because there is no way to track which loop you’re doing, having a volunteer there would make sure that if you were supposed to run red, you wouldn’t be running green instead.

The loops were all different levels so you would have experienced a variety of trail styles. What I didn’t like about the trail was how the last one mile for each leg was the same. It was the same switchback path and hill which by the third time, I felt mentally drained. It really works your mental game when you have the same mile to run every single time. While for some, it might be comforting to know what’s coming up, I didn’t like the sense of “this again…” it gave me.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

Also, because a couple of us had done Ragnar Niagara, we got an extra medal! Sadly, I heard that some other runners were unable to get their double medals because they ran out! They’ll be getting theirs in the mail but that’s a bit of a bummer.

RACE REPORT: Cottage Country Ragnar Trail Relay Sept 8-9

This paragraph is going to be the same as in my Ragnar Niagara recap as the issue was still on-going. One thing I did not like was that at their Ragnar branded merchandise tent, they only took USD, or Credit/Debit in USD pricing. As a Canadian running a race in Canada, I was not expecting that. Not only was the merchandise more expensive than I thought with the exchange rate, I would be dinged with a service fee on my Visa for using it on USD. Both times I ran into runners who had their credit cards locked by their banks because of the sudden location charge and was unable to get merchandise with their cards!

Overall, I had a great time at the race, being able to hang out with my teammates, having my first camping experience, and eating all the food! Thank you again to Sport Chek for sponsoring our team and thank you to the team for being such an awesome group of humans.

 Let’s Chat: Have you done a relay before? 

 

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Email: carmy@carmyy.com
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