Darby Ranger Run Race Report
First off, thanks to 4th RTB’s cadre and candidates for putting on a great run. I had a blast!
Race details: the Ranger School Cadre at Camp Darby (Ft. Benning, GA) did an amazing job organizing, arranging, and manning this event. They provided a race brief at 8:30 AM, including a power point that covered aid stations, possible hazards along the course (rough terrain, poisonous insects and snakes), and what to do in case of a problem or injury (largely: stay on the course, and wait for cadre/support staff to come to you), and a reminder to the Ranger Instructors running the race to not use any short cuts.
The course: incredibly well marked. Seriously, to get lost you’d have to willfully leave the course. Orange cones, ropes to guide through confusing parts, and people at every major turn and intersection. I don’t care how far into zombie mode you may have gotten, you could not get lost on this course.
Aid Stations: Frequent, well-manned, and well supplied. At a minimum, there was a Ranger Cadre and a Ranger candidate (Ranger school student) at every aid station, with plenty of water, and a trash can a good distance down the course. Two of the aid stations had gels for the 30k course. I brought my own, but that’s a solid indicator of just how thoroughly this race was planned. While the student volunteers were a bit subdued (quiet) but helpful, the Cadre gave a lot of grins and thumbs up to the racers. Also, another great move were the porta johns at several aid stations.
The Race: I don’t have the exact number of racers for the 30k, but it appeared to be 40, give or take. Quite a few were obviously military, and several were Rangers (among the most elite and fit soldiers in the U.S. military). About half were civilians. One lady was running the 30k in tribute to her brother, a Ranger who had died in combat about a decade before, while her mother did the 5k. Also, saw Mike Edwards, who was doing the race as a gear check for the North Face Endurance Atlanta 50k next weekend. Mike did very well today, on a tough course.
The race start was an artillery simulator (an Army training device that gives a loud whistle before it bursts loudly), and we were off. The first half mile was over a clay trail/road (military definition of road: you can fit a vehicle on it, therefore it is a road). Then we reached the highway. About 1.5 miles of road running, with rolling hills got everyone warmed up very well.
At two miles, the course turned onto a dirt road, with a solid uphill. Here’s where the race got interesting. Around mile three, we turned onto another ‘military road’ which was mostly clay. Easy running on that until about mile 4, where we turned onto another dirt/sand road and an aid station. The aid station was at the base of what was probably the worst hill on the road. Loose sand the whole way up, for about three quarters of a mile (best guess, I wasn’t paying much attention to my Garmin. I was focusing on getting to the top of the hill).
Shortly after clearing the hill, we reached another aid station and turn. Down hill on loose sand. I took as much advantage of the downhill as I could, but the loose sand wore everyone down. At the bottom of the hill, at the 5 mile mark, we got a bit of a reward: a beautiful lake to the right. We turned again, with another aid station, and followed the lake’s edge for a while, into more hills.
Followed the course on the dirt road for a while, hit another aid station at the 8 mile mark, and turned on to a paved road with an uphill. I was pacing off a couple that had passed me at mile four or so, and continued doing that until the next turn, at mile 9. Another loose sand downhill until mile ten. Passed the couple and picked another runner ahead of me. Lots of loose sand uphills from mile ten.
Remember that uphill from mile 4? Yeah, the course took us back down that. Would have been great, but all me or the guy who’d caught me could think was please let there be a turn. It was another long hill from the bottom. With an aid station at the bottom, there was a turn onto a more rolling uphill. We caught the guy I’d been pacing at the aid station (mile 14), and started up the hill. Around mile fifteen, the course turned onto the only single track section on the course. By then I was alone, and the single track was a long uphill, which I mostly walked. Another Ranger Cadre was waiting at the top to indicated the next leg. He gave me a grin, which was a great help. A quarter mile or so later, I reached the next leg, which was the highway back toward Camp Darby. Another Ranger candidate waited there, pointing back onto the clay path, and asked if there were more people behind me. I told him there were, and started down the clay.
Coming down the clay, I checked my Garmin, and wondered where the next leg was. I was close to 16 miles, which meant another 2.6 miles for 30k. Instead, I crossed the finish line, at 16.15 miles. Several of the 30k racers were at the finish area, hydrating and munching on Surgex bars provided by the race staff. We compared Garmin results. Seems the 30k course was a bit short. Oh, well.
I spent a few minutes recovering, then headed to my car, dropped off my MP3 player, and headed to the Darby Queen obstacle course. I started in between a couple of groups, so I was on my own for the first quarter of the course. Ran where I was clear of people, walked where I wasn’t. The Ranger Cadre were great throughout the obstacle course. I had trouble with the horizontal ladder, and the ‘monkey bar’ portion of the Tarzan obstacle. The rest were pretty easy. Planning to increase my strength training and upper body for next year’s event.
Here’s a video of the Darby Queen obstacle course. Keep in mind, we were not a bunch of stressed out Ranger Candidates getting yelled at while we were doing it. Seriously, the Ranger cadre were great, and enjoyed observing everyone, along with giving pointers and tips.
Can’t wait for next year!