What is a Ragnar? Run. Camp. Sleep? Repeat.
For those that don’t know what a Ragnar is – let me explain that first. First of all there are two types of Ragnars – Road Relay and Trail Relay. In the road relay a team of 12 runners cover 200-ish miles of running from Point A to Point B, on sidewalks, backroads, bike paths, paved trails and road shoulders. If you want a bigger challenge you can run on a 6-person Ultra Team and conquer 200-ish miles with half the members. In the Trail Relays, a team of 8 (or 4 for Ultra Teams) run relay-style on three different single track loops that start and finish at a Ragnar Village. Teams run day and night until all team members have completed all three trail loops.
I completed a Road Relay in 2017 – Ragnar Tennessee. I had the best time, and could not wait to do it again! But as you know, I prefer trail running over road running, so I added the Trail Relay to my bucket list. In March I searched for the nearest Trail Relay to me and found one in Kentucky. This overnight trail running relay was located at Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area, a hidden gem located close to Fort Knox and outside the city lights of Louisville. It includes views of the Ohio River where you could see clear into Indiana due to it’s uniquely situated location.
The green, yellow, and red loops of this relay would take runners through thick green forests along clear creeks, and the Ohio River. It was described as being technically rocky and lots of tree roots covered with pine needles.
I went to the Facebook Page to see if there was anyone that needed a member for their team and saw that Kyle Gilmore posted needing 3 – 4 members so I told her I was interested. After a few messages back and forth, I had found my team!
Meet My Team – The Kentucky Trailblazers
My team consisted of the following members:
We had members from PA, TN, KY, and VA! When I would tell my friends where I was going and what I was going to do, they would respond with “Really, you are just going to go camping with complete strangers?” And I would respond – “Absolutely!” I really enjoyed meeting everyone and have definitely made friends for life!
Day of Arrival
The race was scheduled for May 11th and 12th at the Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation located in the town of Brandenburg, Kentucky. Kylie lives near the Cincinnati Airport and offered to pick me up if I flew in there, so that is what I did! I arrived Thursday, May 10th around noon, and was met by Kylie and her husband, Rob. We went back to their home and immediately began packing all the camping gear in preparation to head to the Ragnar Village and set up camp. We made it to the camp at approximately 5:30PM. Once we arrived, they allowed us to pull our vehicle up to our campsite and drop off all of our gear. Campsite spots are first come, first served and every team is allotted 300 square feet.
Next we began setting everything up. My teammates really know how to set up a campsite. Here is a list of essentials:
Tents, Sleeping Bags, Pillows, Lamps or Decorative Lights, Table for Food Prep, Chairs, Water Jugs, Coolers for beverages and food, Canopy, Stove, and Decorations!
Pro Tip: We stopped and got beer and I opted for the Truth IPA from Rhinegeist Brewing in Cincinnati – very delish!
Two more of our team members arrived: Tom and Aubrey from Pennsylvania. We helped them get their tent set up. At this point we had 5 of the 8 team members so we went to the Ragnar Tent an watched the mandatory video so we would be cleared to run the next day. They other three team members were scheduled to arrive the next day around noon, as we were not scheduled to start running until 2PM.
The Ragnar Village was really nice, there was even a fire pit with S’mores scheduled to start at 8PM. And let’s be honest, I’M A SUCKER FOR S’MORES!!!
Unfortunately it began thundering and lightening and they did not bring out the chocolate and marshmallows for fear of rain. We sat around our campsite and chatted until around 1030PM before turning in for a good night’s rest. Our team was not scheduled to start running until 2PM the next day.
Day 2 – Race Begins
We all woke up around 7:30AM – it was a beautiful day!
Aubrey and I began preparing breakfast. We scrambled some eggs, cooked some sausage and made breakfast burritos, they were delish!
We still had several hours before we started running so Tom, Aubrey and I decided to take a hike to explore and try to find the Ohio River.
Once we got back from the hike it was lunch time, so we made sandwiches and just relaxed. Shortly after, our other three team members showed up: Steven, Brandon and Lee, all from Tennessee. They went to get registered, and watch the safety video so that we could kick off the run at 2PM.
By this time I had been sitting around since Thursday night and was getting pretty bored, so I asked Aubrey if she minded me tagging along for her first loop scheduled at 5PM and she agreed. She was scheduled to run the yellow loop first and I assumed this would give me enough recovery time before I was scheduled to run that same loop at 8PM. The Yellow Loop was described as “Moderate” but little did I know it was probably the hardest of all three loops due to the elevation gain.
After the run with Aubrey I knew I needed to fuel my body if I was going to make it through that again. I ate a granola bar, orange and a pickle, stretched and rested.
My First Loop – The Yellow Trail
My turn came around 8:15PM I finished in 51 minutes. Overall, the Yellow Trail was a fun run until the last mile and all it’s incline!
We had all received meal tickets to get one free meal from the food trucks that were in the Village. Heather and Rob waited for me to finish my first loop so we could all eat dinner together. However, by the time I finished running, most of the trucks were out of food. We ended up getting Spicy Pork Tacos from the Korean Food Truck and it was really good! I had also missed the opportunity to shower b/c they were only open from 6-10PM, so I just wiped down really good with a wet towel and put on some fresh clothes. After that Heather and I decided to go get S’mores – it was so much fun!!!
I was able to get some good sleep from about 11PM to 2:30AM and then I got up and stretched and got ready for my next loop which began around 3AM.
Day 3 & My Second Loop – The Green Trail
This loop was rated the easiest out of the three loops b/c it was only 3.6 miles, however, I had a lot of anxiety about b/c this was my first time ever running trail in the dark. I kept thinking “what if my head lamp goes out.” It was not as bad as I thought it would be, I finished the Green Loop in 46 minutes.
After this run I went back to the tent and wiped down really good again and changed clothes. The weather was really nice and cool so I was able to cool down my body temperature a lot faster. I just laid outside on a cot and rested until it was time to cook breakfast. We had eggs, sausage and pancakes on Saturday morning. After breakfast I was able to take an hour nap before it got too hot to sleep inside the tent.
I was the last runner to finish and I had the Red Loop – longest loop – 6.9 miles – in the middle of the day when the temperature was at it’s highest – 90 degrees. Everyone that had ran this loop had fallen, seen snakes and talked about how dangerous it was with a very narrow trail running along a ridge next to a stream, so I once again started having anxiety about running this trail. I called Jerry (my husband) and he told me to “Put my big girl panties on and quit crying and just go run!” LOL, he knows just how to motivate me! I started my run around 1:05PM. The Red Loop was the most scenic, I wish I could have ran this one first.
It was miserably hot, but the run was not too bad until the last two miles – it was all uphill! I finished in one hour and 30 minutes – It was an amazing feeling to finally be done! All of my teammates were waiting for me right before the finish line so we could all finish the race together!
After we snagged our medals and took a group photo, we began tearing down our camp to head back to Kylie and Rob’s home for a cookout! My team was amazingly positive, with cheers of “great job” and “you’ve got this,” greeting every member as they finished each loop. Thanks Kentucky Trailblazers – you were awesome!!! Special thanks to Kylie for planning the whole event, offering to pick me up from the airport, providing all camping essentials, and allowing me to stay at their home before flying back to VA.
There are camping trips. There are music festivals. There are trail-running races. And then there are Ragnar Trail Relays – a magical combination of all three. If you have not done one – what are you waiting for?