When I heard that I was selected to receive a spot on Nuun Hydration’s team at Ragnar Colorado, I was over the moon with excitement. I even wrote this post about it.
Everyone knows that I’m Ragnar obsessed. It’s my goal to someday #runalltheragnars. I knew that the scenery would be incredible. I just ran two half marathons in June, and have been training for my fall marathons, so I thought I was in decent shape. It wasn’t until a week or so out that I really started dawning on me that the elevation could be a problem. I did run at 5500 feet a week before Ragnar when I was up in Northern AZ. And I had run the Sedona 10k earlier this year at about 4300 ft. I honestly felt more challenged by the hills than the elevation.
Our team, the Nuunicorns (cute right?) was comprised of 6 guys and 6 girls. I was assigned to van 2. I’ve only been in van 1 in all of my previous Ragnars. It’s my preference, but hey, I was just grateful to be on the team so I can’t complain!
The lineup was:
Runner 1 – Cody (Captain, works for Nuun)
Runner 2 – Alessandra
Runner 3 - Moe
Runner 4 – Christopher
Runner 5 – Meg
Runner 6 – Zach
Runner 7 – Brittany (Captain, works for Nuun)
Runner 8 – ME!
Runner 9 – Ryan
Runner 10 – Kalletta
Runner 11 – Seth
Runner 12 – Caleb
Out of everyone, Ryan was the only one I had met before. I knew he was a super fast runner, and assumed that most of the others would be too. As everyone started arriving, I learned they were all pretty accomplished runners and triathletes from all over the US and Canada. Most of them were new to Ragnar. I was by far the most “seasoned” Ragnarian - and was happy to share my passion and tips with the crew!
I had studied the leg maps and saw that my longest leg was my first one – it was 9.7 miles and started at 10,000 ft elevation near Copper Mountain, Co! The only thing keeping me from having a panic attack about that was that it was mostly downhill. I would lose 2000 ft elevation during that run. Wow!
Nuun generously provided us with all the snacks and supplies we could possibly need for the adventure. Plus tons of Nuun Hydration to power us through, of course! We divided it up between the two vans, and then decorated our vans. The crew really got into it and covered just about every available inch of the vans! Next up was dinner – we got to venture into downtown Denver into Larimer Square. We went to a cool place, Euclid Hall, and had a good time getting to know each other a bit.
Our team start time was 9:15am. Since we were van 2, we didn’t need to be there until 2pm to check in. It was an hour and 40 minute drive up into the mountains to get to the start. I’ve never been past Denver, so it was a new adventure for me! Wow, wow, wow. Stunning scenery everywhere you look. We started at Copper Mountain Resort. Gorgeous!
My first leg started at about 5pm outside of Vail on the Vail Pass Trail. It was about 65-70 degrees when I started. I went on a paved bike path that followed the river. The first .3 mile was a big incline, which felt like a punch in the face - like "Welcome to Colorado, B****". I started feeling tingly when I ran up that hill, like the altitude was kicking my butt. Luckily, within the first mile, the trail started its descent. It was incredible! Naturally I had to make stops to take pictures. How could I not?
This leg went on forever! I only saw a handful of people the whole time. Not much of an opportunity for “kills”. In fact, at about 5 miles the trail crossed the freeway and had this little offshoot with no arrows pointing the right way. It seemed logical that I made the right choice and was going the right way, but it was disconcerting that I didn’t see anyone for a long time and there was no signage to give me reassurance. I considered texting my van to tell them I may have made a wrong turn, but I finally had someone come near me on the trail and it gave me the confidence boost I needed. I finally made it to the finish only to find out that the van went to the wrong exchange! I had to wait about 10-15 minutes for them to show up.
When I finished, it was almost dusk, so the temperature started dropping off. I was immediately chilly and had trouble warming up. I was too cold to even get out of the van the next few exchanges to cheer on teammates. I had made the mistake of not getting off all my wet layers right away (the sports bra was a challenge to discreetly take off). That kept the chill in and made me miserable for awhile.
We finally finished our first round and were anxious to get some shuteye. We slept at the major exchange we’d be starting at. Most of us chose to sleep on the gym floor. Not awesome, but it was great to stretch out for a bit. I was hoping I was delirious when Caleb announced around 1am that we had to be back down in 25 minutes to start again. Nope. True.
My next leg started around 3am. It was about 50 degrees. My route was again going to be on a paved bike path next to a river in Glenwood Canyon. I was hoping it would be lit, but it wasn’t. Pitch dark. Thank goodness for my knuckle lights! It was 4.7 miles, for the most part pretty flat. Really deserted. I didn’t see that many people, but I did get two official kills on that leg. I would have LOVED to see this route in the daytime.
After that run, I was smarter and I made sure I got fully changed into warm dry clothes. We unfortunately got lost while trying to pick up our runner – the navigation had us going in circles even though we were so close we could feel it.
Once we picked our last runner up, it was on to breakfast in Carbondale. We found an incredibly quaint place with great coffee and charm. It was just what we needed! We had made up some good time during our night runs and were starting to close the gap a bit.
We headed out to the next exchange where a few people decided to rest, but once the sun is up that is just about impossible for me. They combined legs due to construction, so I would be running it with our captain Brittany. The sun was really warming things up. It was only 2.6 miles – but by then my legs were just shredded from all the downhill miles I did the day before.
It started out on the Rio Grande trail, then crossed a bridge and all of a sudden there was this horrendously steep dirt section that I had to hike up. I was feeling light headed and I couldn’t keep up with Brittany, so I just powered through it on my own. I just can’t explain the difficulty that the elevation was causing – It sapped all my energy, and I lost the will to push myself any further. There were some great rolling hills, which honestly felt better, and then the run was finally up and I was done with all my legs!
We got through the last 4 runners who had some pretty tough legs. It was getting HOT and we were going right into the sun. I’m so impressed with how everyone handled the heat and elevation. Only ¼ of the runners were “locals” from Colorado. Then our captain got a text message regarding bears! Being sighted in the area! Holy crap. Runners were really struggling as it was, and now this! One of our fast runners, Ryan, was doing all the additional mileage he could. He even got up and ran 10 miles the morning of Ragnar, before his legs started. He offered to run some extra legs just for funsies and accompanied Caleb on the last leg of the race, which is an extremely challenging 8.5 mile trail with uneven terrain up and over snowmass.
The finish area was really cool at the ski resort. We hung out and waited for them to finish. As usual for Ragnar, I didn’t get to spend barely any time with the other van, which is always such a bummer. There were some really cool people in that group, I wish I could have gotten to know them better.
Finally we finished and got our finisher medals. We had a 4 hour drive back to Denver, so there was no time to waste. Some of the time was passed listening to boy bands from the 90’s – which the rest of the crew knew the words to with incredible detail. It was entertaining, anyway…
This was a unique Ragnar experience for me; and a very humbling one. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Team Nuun and appreciated the amazing opportunity to connect with fellow ambassadors and to experience running in the mountains. However, I was the oldest and slowest. I was 15-20 years older than the majority of the other runners. I have MAD respect for the fast runners and accomplished athletes on my team. While many of them boasted about their kills, I was happy to just be getting through my challenging runs with the elevation. I noticed when we were parked at the finish that someone had drawn a turtle near my name that was on the side of the van. That was “cute”, but it honestly didn’t make me feel very good.
Nuun’s customers and athletes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities – I’m glad that Nuun recognizes that and offers the everyday midpack runner these types of opportunities. Thank you again Nuun for allowing me this experience and for keeping me well hydrated :)
Cheers to another Ragnar adventure completed!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!