Wednesday, December 8, 2021

2021 Ragnar Trail Florida Recap

So this one time, a random person posted on the Ragnar Life FB group looking for teammates for the Ragnar Trail Florida race.  I happened to be free that weekend, so I asked Husband if I could desert him for the weekend to go run and he said it was fine.  Literally, our team name was Jerry, Amber, and a Bunch of Randos... and I was a rando.

So here's some background info.  My first ever trail run was Ragnar Sunset NoVA.  I didn't realize it was 100% trail running.  I just knew I wanted to do a Ragnar.  Between that race and Trail FL, I went trail running a grand total of ONE time.  I did do a trail walk that one time and I even bought trail running shoes that I broke in on said walk.  Otherwise, I was maintaining my regular gym schedule and hoping for the best.  BUT I had the shoes!


So it was finally race weekend and after working through the morning and dealing with absolute fuckary, we finally headed out the door to DCA.  Teh German had committed to bringing me to the airport and we were 15 minutes into the 45 minute trip when he informed me that we HAD to get gas before the airport.

That says "10 miles to empty"

Me: Why didn't you say you needed gas?  We could have taken my car.
Husband: I didn't know I needed gas.
This is fair since he rarely goes anywhere these days and if he does go somewhere, it's usually on the motorcycle... I just tried to keep my face quiet and searched for the nearest gas station on the beltway.

We got gas, got back on the beltway, made it to DCA, made it through security, found something breakfasty for lunch with an adult beverage, then headed to my gate to wait.  At some point the week before the race, I had arranged a ride with someone from the airport but during the morning, one of my teammates said they would pick me up from the airport instead and since I had embraced #TeamStrangers, I just went with it.  I just needed to get to the site, it didn't matter how.

Turns out, it did.  Actually, it didn't matter how, it mattered the circumstances.

When my plane landed in Tampa and I turned my phone on and received texts from the person who had said they'd give me a ride saying that they were doing things and I could ride with someone else they knew.  At which point, the struggle started.  I'm a control freak by nature so the plan being changed the day of had my anxiety pinging.  Changing my plans for me while I'm unavailable to have a say really had me on high... I was texting my people and explaining the situation and telling myself that this weekend was about "riding the rollercoaster" and being flexible and meeting strangers and just being cool.  Yall, I'm not that cool.  A stranger telling me that they aren't going to do what they said and that I could ride with even more distant strangers was apparently my limit.  Yet, I rode the rollercoaster.  I managed not to be a bitch to this person who had "so graciously" planned an alternative option for me.

I finally got the contact info for the new stranger I'd be hitching a ride with and met them at their baggage claim.  This individual was a man, so I was trying to be cool with being uncomfortable with a strange man in a car for an hour.  He did end up being very nice, but I appreciated that there was a woman with him when I met them at the baggage claim.  Then when we got to the rental car area, there was another woman waiting on us as well.  So it was fine, but lawdt there was anxiety.  

We all recapped how we ultimately ended up together and, thankfully, these women agreed with me that my situation was cause for anxiety.  #Validation.  So the wait for the rental car took a LONG time, but we finally got the car then headed to Walmart to pick up snacks and dinner at Subway, then to Total Wine for essentials, then we finally headed to Alafia River State Park, home of the Ragnar Trail FL race.

I texted my team when I arrived around 7 and eventually someone came through the field yelling my name; a very drunk person who was my teammate.  The individual who had changed my plans for me.  I'm still trying to be cool.  Telling myself they had good intentions.  Blah blah.  After getting my crap from the car, my teammate led me to our Glamping site.

Real quick helpful info:
Glamping = your camping equipment is provided and set up by Ragnar.
Camping = your camping equipment is provided and set up by you.
The Village = the main communal area of the race where the transition zone/start-finish line, big campfires, smores, vendors, recovery area (stretching/leg sleeve rental), medic tent, DJ, and food trucks were.

Because we were in a very grassy area and I had a 40lb huge ass suitcase and I didn't know where I was going but knew I didn't want to have to carry this suitcase the entire length of the race in the dark, I stopped at one of the Glamping sites and asked if I could pass through their tent.  Yall, you would have thought I asked to borrow their great-grandma's special china.  Someone yelled back, "Would you ask someone to walk through their living room?!"  Drunk teammate was like, "Wow, you don't have to be rude."  Someone else said, "I don't think you'll fit through the table."  I was like, "Making things fit is my life skill.  But whatever."  We start to trek around behind the tent and (it's dark) so I tripped over the cord that was staked into the ground from the tent and someone yelled, "WTF ASSHOLE?!"  At which point my drunken escort got SUPER pissed at being called an asshole and hissed at the people talking inside the tent, "We can STILL HEAR YOU, ASSHOLES!"  It was a whole thing which was kinda comical after the fact, but definitely not in the Ragnar spirit of them to make us stumble around in the dark.

We did finally make it to our tent site anddddddddd drunk teammate was my tentmate.  You can imagine my excitement.  I started to get my stuff settled/unpacked what I needed/find a place for my stuff.  There wasn't anyone else at the tent, which was fine.  I eventually headed out to where people were gathered in the Glamping area and made friends with a lady dressed in a Rudolph onesie, which I explained was fitting since I had a Bumble onesie I needed to put on!  #InstantFriends.  I met a few more of my teammates and hung out with NewFriend, who happened to be at the Glamping site next to us, conveniently enough.  Eventually, I put on my onesie and headed to the Village for smores.

Teaching Rudolph how to perfectly toast marshmallows.

Around 7:30-8, we watched drunk teammate get escorted to our tent to be put to bed.  I was hopeful she'd sleep through the night.  After meeting a few more of my teammates, it was eventually time for bed.  While we were in FL and the temperature was ~50°F, I ended up sleeping in what I wore during the day + a hoodie + the Bumble onesie, all inside my sleeping bag with little icicle toes.  Did not like.

In the middle of the night tentmate had to pee and she ended up tripping over my cot, waking me up.  Then tripped over my water bottle when she came back so I struggled to get back to sleep since I was freezing.  


The daylight came so soon.  At some point before the middle of the night interruptions, I heard our last 2 teammates arrive and go to bed, so the whole team was finally together.

While I look peaceful, my sleeps did not feel peaceful on a cot, in the cold.

Since we had team shirts made and we didn't start till 11 10, we gathered at the village to get some group photos before we started, because once we started, we'd always be short one person and after the race we're all bedraggled looking.

Sometimes, you gotta give Santa a blowjob to show your teammates who they are really dealing with.

After hanging out at the village for a while, it was agreed on that we'd start at 10 since we wanted to be done early.  The schedule estimator was wonky and I never saw it, so I just trusted that it was something I wasn't in control of, so come what may.  We also ended up having 2 people double up for all their loops since they were walking.

Red Loop (Leg #1)

Eventually, it was my turn to run!  I was runner 6 and that's a LOT time to wait to start.  With a regular race, you get started at start time.. with a relay, you have to wait until it's your turn and there are few things more anxiety inducing than that.  

Ready for leg 1.

This was the board in the transition zone to communicate any hazards/things to be aware of to outgoing runners.

My team cheering me on as I started my first leg!

My first leg was the Red loop, which was the most difficult loop.  I wasn't sad to be getting this beast out of the way first AND in the daylight.  The red trail was black diamond mountain bike trails and we were running them backwards. #Adventures

I knew I needed to take it slow because I had the Kiawah Half Marathon the weekend following Ragnar Trail FL and I didn't need to be injured for that race.  With that in mind, I took it easy, I stopped to take photos and appreciate the scenery since I couldn't really appreciate the scenery while running since I was staring at the ground trying not to trip over roots/etc.  I also pulled out my inner Bestie and took photos of ALL the signs just for her. 

Fun fact, I tripped and fell within the first mile.  I was fine.

The only time I wore the band for a loop.  Oops.

And in true Megan fashion, I recorded that video because I thought running through the ferns was SOO cool and I ended the video and then tripped over a root.  Fortunately, the fall is NOT part of the video, but there was definitely a FUCK! yelled and an oof when I went down.  I banged up my knee a bit, though no blood.

Which leads me to my next photo, these fantastic volunteers at the water station who HEARD ME FALL (and yell/cuss, of course).  The dude was nice enough to dust some of the dirt/leaves/sand off of me when I came up for water.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I ran on.  I also made it a point at this event to get photos WITH the support people.  They are the unsung heroes of events like this and without them my good time wouldn't be possible.

Holy fucking Florida. Ugh.  Why is it so hot in December? Haaattteeeee.

Originally supposed to be 6.1 miles, but a half mile was cut off due to shitty trails before the race even started, so only 5.6 miles.. Maybe my tumble got me an extra .3 miles?  Or shitty reception?

Post Red Loop

After I passed off to the next person, I headed back to the tent to cool down, ice my knee, to have my post-workout shake, and wipe off/change...

Found this little friend (a frog) while pulling out my next outfit.

As I was about to start stripping off my clothes, our neighbors started playing Goodbye Earl by the [Dixie] Chicks and I SPRINTED to their tent to start the most EPIC karaoke session in the history of man.  There is video somewhere, but I feel like these photos do it justice.. and also fully show why our neighbors were so awesome.

After several songs, I finally headed back to my tent to wipe down and change clothes and put on my onesie before it started getting too chilly.  I headed to the Village to grab bbq for dinner from a food truck, made a few smores (only a few since they had run out of long sticks the first night and all they had was kabob skewers and the fire was too hot for such short sticks and I didn't bring my usual roasting stick #badlifechoice), then headed back to the tent for a nap since leg 2 was my middle of the night run.  Best thing was that now I had 2 pairs of dirty socks, so I doubled up for my nap to help ward off icicle toes.

So much holiday spirit!

My tentmate was 2 runners ahead of me, so usually when she left for her legs, I would wake up and start getting ready slowly.  When it was closer to run time and she had finished her leg, I would get up and go pee and head to the Village to for pass off.

Me + teammate

Keep me warm fire!

Yellow Loop (Leg #2)

Leg 2 was in the dark and yellow loop = medium difficulty.  For me, yellow loop was my favorite, despite the dark.  When I set off, I ended up finding someone who was going about my pace (a little slower actually, but that was fine for me since it was dark and I needed to be careful.  I tripped a few times but didn't fall...  We ran the entire loop together, which was fantastic since he was carrying a maglite and my chest light ended up being so dim it was useless (and this is why rechargable lights suckkkk).  I still had my headlamp, which was a last minute add-on to my packing list, but it was darkkkkk, so #grateful for my running buddy.  It was also super foggy and then the cloud your breath made just made more fog.  You could see the water particles in the air from the lights and it was cool, but also 150% humidity is never my idea of a good time.

Took this during the day since it was right beside the red loop totem.

Nope, ain't got no slap bracelet.

STRONGLY disagree.

Within a half mile of the finish line, I tripped on a root and bit it.  Thankfully, it was like sliding to homebase since the ground was sandy and covered in pine needles.

Me and my running buddy, Jim, with my photobombing teammates.

Ragnar said 4.3 miles... and the tracker started late due to no reception.

After my loop, I cooled down for a little while and had my shake and chatted with some people at the Glamping firepit and had a tea (to get warm).  Eventually, I got cold enough to need my onesie, which meant having to pee before putting it on, but once I put it on, I knew it was bedtime.  So I peed, headed back to the tent to take the most excruciating wipes bath ever (it was cold, I was sweaty, and those wipes were COLLLLLDDD in all my sensitive bits, mkay), put on my run 3 outfit, a hoodie, a cap (it's my sleepin' cap yall, I just need a gown to go with it!), and Bumble.. doubling up on socks did NOT eliminate icicle toes, which sucked, but I was tired so I did eventually go to sleep.


I wasn't sure what time my next leg would be and I kinda wanted to catch the sunrise, so I rolled out early to make sure I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there.  I was actually way early, so I hung out and brushed my teeth and went to the Village to see what was going on there.

Selfies with Greg, a Rangar legend.

Selfies with the race director!

Even though I had wiped down, I still looked like a child of the Dust Bowl.

Green Loop (Leg #3)

Eventually, it was almost my time to run.  I tried to stay warm under this heat lamp, but really I just wanted to get the show on the road and get this race DUN.  I had heard that the green loop was the most pretty and it was.  Instead of mountain bike trails, we were on horse trails.  Thankfully, the green loop was also the easiest.. KINDA.  The most technical part of the green loop was the sand and a fallen tree... andddd because I often run without regard to signage in the most direct path... I ended up missing a turn, with someone else because we were chatting, and we ran the ENTIRE DISTANCE of the worst sandpit and then halfway back up it to catch where we missed the turn.  So.Much.SAND. UGH.

Praise be to the heatlamp.

Trail conditions were about the same.

Dat spanish moss

Part of the regular camping area that you could see from the green loop.

Ran for a short bit with this dude who was wearing The Bear shirt, a race that takes place near Home, Home (NC).  We talked about my desire to run the Asheville Half, but also my lack of desire to run all dem hills.

The sign says: Mud happens.

Megan Teh Stallion comin' at cha.

Other than the sand pit, this fallen tree was the most technical part of the green loop.

Definitely had to get a selfie with this water station crew, since 2 of them were my teammates!! 

The last half of the loop took a bit longer because I was socializing and missed a turn, oops, but also because I found one of our neighbors from the Sunset NoVA race and we ran together for a little while.  She ended up tripping and going down pretty hard so our group walked for a bit since the trail was single file, but eventually when the trail got wider, I ran on.

Ragnar said 5.5 miles.  A missed turn made it 5.9 miles.

And just like that... my race was complete!  While waiting in the food truck line (which took half my fucking life), I acquired a bag of marshmallows, that I ultimately "accidentally" left behind because my bag was already overweight with the shopping spree I went on... Oops.

Not the best chicken and waffles, but for someone with race standards (I was fucking starving, kthx), it did the job.


I was our 2nd to last runner so after our last runner came in, we gathered our medals and headed to the trailer for some team photos.  There was some finish line drama where the last guy wouldn't stop and put on his team shirt and then cross the finish line with all of us, so we had to re-cross the finish line.  It was fucked up and shitty, but whatever.

Of course, selfies with the support team!

So here's the mushy part of this post...

I've been running since a dare in 2014.  I've got 2 medal racks and plenty of credit card statements to prove it.  But after that first race, I've stuck to my comfort zone for the most part.  I stick to road races.  Sunset NoVA was the FIRST time I'd ever accidentally-intentionally did a trail race.  Road New England was the first time I'd done a relay (not to mention the choosing to spend intimate time with strangers part).  But Trail Florida was really stepping outside all of my comfort zones.

Not only was it a trail race, but I was also 100% completely with strangers.  I had met a few individuals there long enough to call them an acquaintance and recognize them in a crowd (thanks social media!), but none of MY people were there with me/for me.  Also, I had barely any cell signal, which made my people feel even further away.  On my first loop, my audiobook wouldn't play, so I gave it up and just ran in silence (weeeeirrrdd).  By my 2nd loop, I didn't even bother with an earbud.  By loop 3 I realized that the way my bras sound against my shirts is like miracas being turned (not shaken, just turned).

Ragnar races have taken me out of my comfort zone into a whole new world that I love.  I'm meeting new people who are perfect candidates for my running gang that I've started forming.  There are no strangers at a Ragnar (except those assholes who wouldn't let me cross through their tent) and awkward moments are as awkward as you let them be.  Also, this is my first non-medal medal (it's wood with a Husband-approved multi-tool inside).  Well, with the exception of that weird rubbery runDisney 5k on from Princess weekend.  

Running Ragnar races has challenged me to embrace strangers in a new way, as potential friends instead of people who I'd rather not be hanging around, kthx.  This is helping me be a nicer, more empathetic person.  With strangers, you don't know their story, you don't know what they are going through RIGHT NOW, and so, for me, I approach strangers as I would want to be, open-heartedly, nonjudgmentally, and willing to learn from the experience, be it good or bad.. and often with Ragnar strangers, I feel like this is how I am also met. 


It would take 3 scrubs to get those toes clean...
And that is ALL from running shoes.

Part of the agreement for employee discounted Glamping was that we'd tear down our own campsite.  With that complete, we started to head out.  My driver set off towards "power plant manatees".  He explained that the last time he ran the race, they went to this power plant that discharged hot/warm water into the bay, which attracted the manatees.  So essentially we went manatee watching.

There were also stingrays.

Unfortunately, the wind was making the water super cloudy so we couldn't see a lot and we only ended up actually seeing 2 manatees.  It was better than 0.

After the manatees, we headed to the AirBnB, which wasn't ready yet because the previous renters had been a disaster and the cleaning lady was still there.  Felt pretty bad for her, tbh.  So while she finished up, we went to a Puerto Rican place down the street for dinner and it was delicious.

After dinner, we headed back to the AirBnB, showered in the water trinkle (seriously, there was barely ANY water pressure at this place) and hung out for the rest of the evening.

By Saturday evening, I was able to use a percussion massager on my calves (after doing Chad the Saturday prior).


I woke up Sunday morning and caught up on my screen time and found a place for breakfast and started texting to see if anyone else was awake.  We ended up at a restaurant called Mom's Place and it was everything I knew we needed.  The food was simple and delicious and they had real sweet tea (of which I had no less than 5 cups).

After breakfast, we headed back to the AirBnB to hang out and pack and ultimately head back to the airport.  I also took another shower because after you've been without a shower for almost 3 days, there is no such thing as too many showers.  There was some drama about getting to the airport, someone trying to change existing plans but we managed to get through it and everyone got to the airport/their preferred destination and it was fine.

I made it home at my scheduled time and we (Husband and I) had Afghan for dinner with my teammate and his wife since we were on the same flight home.

All in all, a very fabulous weekend!


I know we did the sappy thing already.. butttttttt....

Let's talk about the hardest thing.
Dealing with complete strangers was hard.
Not having my people with me was hard.
Running 15 miles of trails was hard.
Being tired/hungry was hard.
Being in a situation that very much mirrored the "worst weekend in September" was the hardest thing.

You see, when I was raped, I spent the evening at a party with mostly strangers.  We were drinking Mountain Dew energy drinks with vodka.  I had a good time.  I was drunk, so it was agreed we'd all sleep at the house we were at, because you don't drink and drive.  I went to sleep, drunk, in an unfamiliar bed alone.  Yet, there were drunk strangers in the next room.  I woke up to someone, one of the people I barely knew at the party, on top of me.  

There was a LOT of drinking going on around me.  I was in an unfamiliar place with people I didn't know.  I had met maybe 5 total people of the hundreds-thousands of people in the park for the event before, ever.  I wouldn't even say I knew these people, I had met them and we had once exchanged pleasantries and social media and carried on.  So I definitely didn't drink much.  I had one or two seltzers, but that was it.

As I've gotten older (and wiser?), I've stopped drinking as much because I just don't enjoy it.  In fact, it's rare that I do actually drink and when I do, I have to be in the "right" setting/group of people.  Usually though, I just claim that I'm cheap or I don't like beer/wine and end up being the DD, which isn't always the most enjoyable of situations either, TBH. 

Sometimes, things don't click into focus until they are in progress and this situation was one of them.  I had put myself in this situation, again, because I wanted to have a good time.  This time didn't end like the "worst weekend in September" but once that cloud passed over, it was difficult to shake it, I'll be honest.  So when I saw the "do hard things" medal, I almost started crying right then.  This time, I didn't realize I was doing the hardest thing until I was IN IT.  I don't often give myself much credit, but I am proud of me for this.  For dealing with the strangers and the unfamiliar situation and the drinking and the energy drinks.  Yes, I definitely used running as the excuse not to drink, but I can also say no one tried to push me to drink either, which was a relief. 

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