In August 2016, three of my friends and I formed a Ragnar team, named The Dudes Abide Racing Team, for the Ultra - Open Category.
We took on the Ragnar Trail - Appalachian WV course during a blazing 90+ degree weekend. We arrived with our bathrobes, our sandals, and our white russians (made out of UCAN). The "dudes" were ready to run. We ended up running the fastest time any 4 man ultra team has ever run for that course, finishing our 120+ miles in just over 20 hours. I learned a lot that weekend about the challenges that a Ragnar Trail event can present and weaknesses it reveals in fitness, and I find it very interesting from a training standpoint that CrossFitters will be a division now. Many aspects of a CrossFitter's constantly varied training will set them up to do well with the Ragnar Trails, however, what I think is more interesting are the weaknesses Ragnar Trail events could reveal for many CrossFitter's due to the longer time domains that will be experienced; bringing along with it, the repetitive demand for elasticity that is the nature of running.
Running with the sunrise during the last day of the Ragnar
Here are some general weaknesses I think Ragnar Trails will reveal in CrossFitters:
#1 - RS.RE.RS. - running strength, running endurance, running skill
#2 - Gear Game - performance apparel, socks, and shoes
Going out there and hoping for the best is one approach, one of which I think many CrossFitters will take because their training is designed to keep them physically fit across a broad set of skills, and not specifically preparing for a Ragnar will put their current state of well rounded-ness to the test. This is the approach I took during my first trail Ragnar when I was part of an 8 person team. Depending on the size of your team, either 2, 4, or 8 of you will be sharing 120+ miles running around some mountain. With that amount of volume in repetition ahead of you, a little specificity shouldn't seem like a deal breaker in training. While I did not mind participating in the event without specifically preparing for it, I walked away understanding a few things about RS.RE.RS that I could work into my training without making it specific to a trail Ragnar.
Running Strength - increase trunk, ankle, & foot strength.
Pretty simple ancillary training concepts here:
1. Weightlifting barefoot or in ultra minimal shoes.
2. Single leg lifts and overhead unilateral carries.
3. To really tax the trunk, ankles, and feet, try overhead unilateral carries barefoot on the TRUEFORM RUNNER.
Running Endurance - increase ability to use fat as fuel
- Incorporate longer time domains in running workouts on the TRUEFORM RUNNER or outside. Twenty+ minutes of running without exceeding ventilatory threshold (the pace at which you begin huffing and puffing ). To remain at a pace below ventilatory threshold, try running while only breathing comfortably through your nose, even if this means slowing down to walk/run. Try adding this breathing technique to all of your daily WOD training in the weeks/months leading up to your Ragnar.
Running Skill - increase body awareness and elasticity. Spend time running for the sake of feeling how variances in body position affect your ability to absorb shock as well as create forward propulsion. There is no better man made environment to hone this body awareness then on a TRUEFORM RUNNER due to its engineered shape. Furthermore try adding barefoot skipping, hopping, leaping, bounding, backwards running to your time on or off the TRUEFORM to engage more balance and coordination to your skill training.
before and after running a 120+ mile relay trail race
CrossFitters love them some weaknesses because it presents them a challenge to begin improving upon, which they ultimately want to turn into another strength in their lifestyle and training. CrossFitters also love them some gear!
Sorry to say it, but Reebok and Nike "box" apparel won't cut it here on Ragnar trail events. Gear to set you up for a great experience at Ragnar Trail is really simple - gear that will help prevent chaffing and help you remain springy.
Apparel - XOSKIN - without question the best base layer apparel I have ever worn. Chafe - free ever since I began wearing it 2 years ago.
and INJINJI socks - the separated toe slots help prevent blistering and also do not cause any restrictive pressure against the forefoot during running.
Shoes - Ragnar Trail events terrain suck the springiness out of you, especially the Appalachian, WV course. The weight of shoes are a huge part of remaining light and springy on your feet. My go to light weight trail shoes come from VIVOBAREFOOT, VIBRAM, and INOV8. If you are not yet able to run in ultra minimal shoes; INOV8, ALTRA RUNNING, and MERRELL RUNNING shoes will provide lightweight cushioned trail running shoes. I highly recommend you go to a specialty shoe store that carries some of these brands to get properly fit versus ordering online, most likely getting a pair shoes that doesn't fit correctly. If visiting a store isn't possible, look up sizing information on the company websites and then call some specialty shoes stores that carry these brands, ask them about sizing in regards to your FOOT size and get their recommendation on size.
For more learning on shoes watch our shoe video with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and read this PDF on selecting healthy running shoes.
And for further learning in training running endurance, strength, and skill visit our blog and training video pages!
Go get you some Ragnar Trail events, CrossFit!