Race Report: Ragnar Adirondacks – Saratoga Springs to Lake Placid, New York
Sure I’ll run a Ragnar ultra in the Adirondack Mountains – how hard could it be?!!
I was beyond excited to run my second Ragnar of my life/the year – Ragnar Adirondacks for Team Bondi Bandits. I had run Ragnar Cape Cod in May as a member of a 2-van 12-person team and had an excellent experience so I jumped at the chance to run for Ragnar Relay Series sponsor, Bondi Band. Plus I knew running both Cape Cod and Adirondacks would give me the opportunity to earn the Dock and Dacks medal in addition to the Cape Cod and Adirondacks medals (I am a medal whore).
For those of you not familiar with the Ragnar Relay Series – Ragnar is a “overnight running relay race.” “You and 5 of your crazier friends (for an ultra team) pile into a van and tag team running 200(ish) miles, day and night, relay-style. Only one runner hits the road at a time. Each participants runs three times, with each ultra leg ranging between 8-16 miles.”
If you would have told me I would have found it “fun” and be excited about sleeping (barely) in a van with 5 others and running in the middle of the night in the middle of east bum-fudge, I would have thought you crazy. But I was so super excited to run this race, an ultra no-less, in the mountainous Adirondacks that I conned my pal, Perfectly Goofy Gail into running with me. Also representing Team Bondi Bandits was Lisa Bjerklie, Adam Rice, Jenny Rice @RunningThriver, Tina Garstad @Crantina. Supporting us were Sandy Sawyer, Sales Manager, Bondi Band and our driver – Jay Gruebele.
Our sponsor Bondi Band/Sandy had also secured sponsorship from:
Running All the Races can sometimes be a challenge – especially when you also have to work to support your running habit! My work schedule had me coming directly off a plane from Alabama, with only a few hours home to kiss my family, unpack and repack in order to pick up Gail from the airport and make the 3.5 hour drive up to Lake George, New York. Fate had it that my flights were uneventful, but Gail was stuck in Las Vegas without a flight to Connecticut. Somehow Gail managed to secure a flight into Albany and we celebrated her arrival with a couple of margaritas.
The margaritas helped lessen the pain of trying to find the Lake George hotel in the dark. The alarm and morning came too soon, but since we are seasoned racers, we got out of bed to meet our teammates and pack the van – our home on wheels for the next 36 or so hours.
The race check-in and start was at Saratoga Springs. Here we would check-in as a team, pick up our bibs and packet/”Race Bible,” show our safety gear (vests and lights) and attend a safety briefing. Then at 7:15am we would send Runner #1 (Lisa) off to begin our 200(ish) mile UPHILL relay to Lake Placid (I’m not even remotely kidding – it was uphill all 200 miles see the elevation chart).
It got warm mid-day, but the course was beautiful with fall foliage close to peak. I was Runner 5 and began my 1st Leg at 1:55pm. My leg was a total of 10.19 miles with only a 328-ft elevation gain. Unfortunately, there were a few unsupported legs, no-shoulder, rail-trail, where we couldn’t pull the van over to check on our runners, but Leg 1 for all 6 of us went off without a hitch. Soon it was time for Leg 2 – night running.
I don’t do well without sleep and need a minimum of 2-hours in order to barely function. But I was prepared to sleep as well as one can in a van with my eye-mask, ear-plugs and sleeping bag. I don’t know exactly how much sleep I got, but when it was my time to run, I jumped out of the van and waited for Gail in the exchange. Gail was running only 15 minutes behind schedule and I took off for my 2nd Leg at 3:37am. My leg began in Crown Point, New York. There was nothing out there. I got passed by four runners the beginning of my first leg and then I was all by myself. I heard rustling in the woods, but refused to look keeping my eyes straight on the road and my ears at high alert. It was scary and I was as alone as I could be. I tried to keep positive and tried to keep moving forward. I reached civilization and the town of Port Henry where I would run through the exchange and continue on to finish my 15.75 mile leg (with an elevation gain of 1,732 feet). When I arrived to the exchange to hand off to Runner 6/Tina, I was exhausted, but overjoyed to be out of the silent darkness and safe in the warm inviting van.
During my 15-mile leg, I had figured out we were one of the last teams out on the road. It turns out there were only 11-ultra teams running Adirondacks. Because we were a leg or 2 behind the other teams, Ragnar advised us to double-up running legs together so we could catch up to the other teams and not be all by our lonesome. This suggestion sounded a whole lot better than running by ourselves and we decided that Lisa & Jenny would run Lisa’s leg. We’d have Adam run an easier leg then the nightmare we had originally planned for him and Gail and I would run Tina’s leg of 10.45 miles into the finish. Did I mention it was uphill the entire 10.45 miles into the finish?!!
Misery always loves company and the plan of running together and laughing – okay bitching – about the hills, the heat, everything and anything was made more enjoyable with Tina and Gail by my side (or behind me and in front of me – I don’t know I was delirious from the stupid hills!!!) We made it to the finish line and crossed as a team. The beer at the finish line party never tasted so good!
Would I run Ragnar Adirondacks again? Absolutely – it was a beautiful course and Ragnar throws one heck of an event. Would I run Ragnar Adirondacks as an ULTRA? Hmmmmmmm – I would have to give that great thought. The course is tough. We ran parts of the Ironman Lake Placid course. I think when you run Ragnar as an ultra you can’t have as much fun as you could running half the distance. It’s fun, but a different type of fun. It’s all about the running. My three legs were a total of 36.39 miles. That’s a lot of running without sleep surviving on ClifBars, Krave Jerky and Nuun. It can be done, but I personally rather run less, rest more and enjoy my time with my teammates.
For Tips to running a Ragnar Ultra, see RunAllTheRaces (post uploading shortly). To see highlights of our 200(ish) mile Ragnar Adirondacks race please click on the video below.