In fourteen years of running, I have discovered time and again that the first time attempting a new type of race or distance is usually a challenge, and that subsequent attempts at a similar race almost always yield better results. I don’t know why that continues to surprise me.
Last year, I ran my first Ragnar Trail ultra with my awesome teammates in West Virginia. The experience overall was a fun one, but I really struggled with my running throughout that weekend, to the point that I probably would not have attempted another ultra Ragnar Trail without their encouragement. When I discovered that the entire team was up for another race, however, I knew I couldn’t be the one to hold us back. We signed up for Wawayanda Lake, hoping that the closer location and later date would provide us with more ideal conditions. My feelings towards the race vacillated as the date drew closer, but my teammates’ excitement, coupled with our decision to have a “Harry Potter”-themed team eventually won me over, and I went into the race weekend feeling great. Wawayanda definitely did not disappoint. In an attempt to keep this more concise than many of my past posts, I’m going to attempt to break the highs and lows into a bullet-ed list.
- The location was beautiful. The Ragnar village was situated right on the banks of Wawayanda Lake, and teams had the option of camping by the beach or up in the woods. Our team happily chose a spot in the woods, which kept us near the action, but gave us a greater sense of privacy.
- The autumn date allowed us to have beautiful fall foliage and ideal running temps. The cooler weather made it easier to run and comfortable to hang out in the village in sweats in between legs.
- The layout – There was so much space at the race that it made it feel like a much smaller race than WV did. Multiple boards with runner info made it easy to keep track of when your next runner was expected to return. There was also plenty of nearby parking.
- Running with an experienced team made a huge distance. We all had an idea of what to expect, which made the entire experience more relaxed.
- Our team theme – Last year we were too focused on the actual running to pull together much in the way of a theme. This year, we decided we would be “Hogwarts Express” and we went all out. From team shirts, to coordinated hats and scarves, to incredible campsite decorations, our team radiated “Harry Potter” love the whole way through, and it made everything a lot of fun.
- Less daylight – Autumn gave us cooler temperatures, but a lot less daylight as well. That meant that I once again ended up running the two hardest legs at night, as well as the majority of my fourth leg in the growing darkness. It also meant that one of our poor teammates had 4/6 legs in the darkness. In addition to the increased difficulty of this, she was really bummed to have so little running time when she was actually able to enjoy the sights around her.
- Food – All of the pre-race materials advertised a complex food truck schedule for the weekend. We decided to make life easier and take advantage of the multiple offerings, so we brought along less prepared food and more cash this trip. Thursday night’s dinner, while providing small portions, went okay, but things went downhill from there. By Friday evening, it was pretty chaotic. At least one truck didn’t show, others ran out of food, and the lines to get dinner ranged from 30-60 minutes. Many runners we talked to were unable to take advantage of their “free” Friday night dinner, and there was a lot of frustration.
- A lack of consideration from some runners. If I’m going to stereotype, I would say that usually trail runners are a pretty awesome group of people. They tend to have a deep love of running, be respectful of the environment, and be really chill and friendly. The majority of runners at Wawayanda seemed to uphold this, but there were a few teams who really ruined the atmosphere for everyone else. These teams showed no consideration for others, not only talking through the night, but intentionally making noise for no apparent reason other than to be disruptive. It was frustrating to try to get any rest in these conditions.
The above challenges aside, the race was an incredibly positive experience, so much so that it made it hard to return to real life once the weekend was over. Within 24 hours, our team was already researching the next Ragnar Trail that we hope to tackle.