When you think of people who do Ragnar races, do you think of people who are new to the sport? Um, probably not. You probably think of diehard crazy runners that do this stuff in their sleep. Well as a NON trail runner, I signed up for a Ragnar Trail race and I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking!
I’ve only run a few trail races in my running career this far, and the number of times I trained on a trail I can count on one hand. Yet here I was, all signed up to run 3 loops totaling 15.6 miles of rugged terrain, during the daytime and overnight.
I became obsessed with all things Ragnar after my experience running Ragnar del Sol last February. That’s one of the road races where you ride around in a van with your team. The trail series has you camping in one spot with your team and running a variety of color coded loops of varying difficulty.
I once again signed up to run with strangers (I knew one girl) and mentally prepared myself for the adventure. Actually, I was so busy over the summer training for a full marathon next month that I pushed to the side any worry about doing this race. My one goal: not to get hurt.
I am in complete awe of trail runners. They are so light on their feet and fly down these rocky technical sections with ease; whereas I slow down like an old granny and shuffle really slowly so I don’t fall. They aren’t intimidated by any type of terrain, and seem to thrive on inclines, declines and miniscule singletrack trail. I want to be one of those people, they make it look so easy.
So there I was at Ragnar. My team was part of a group of 3 teams that all knew each other. We all had a large campsite and had good camaraderie. I really enjoyed the setting of the village of tents and how everyone was so excited to be there
The village itself was pretty cool. It was like a little city popped up overnight. Every team had its own theme and fun name. There was a gift shop, mess hall, bonfires with smores and hot chocolate; they even showed a movie at night. But the one constant was the running. At any given moment, you had one runner from your team out on the course doing one of the 3 loops. It was kind of exciting when you’d head out on one of these loops, the course was so doggone pretty.
My first loop was yellow, rated "hard" and 4.8 miles I honestly did not know what to expect, I hadn’t read up much on the course itself. It was hard. There was a staggered start, our team started fairly early since we were slow. My leg was at 10:30 in the morning. Within 5 minutes I was starting this climb that was way tougher than I expected. It just kept going. Then there would be a big drop. I’m like “where is the runnable section going to be?” After about at mile or so it finally leveled off enough that I could run and not have to do my safety shuffle. Lots of up and down. Tougher than I expected. Was super happy to finish that 4.8 section in under an hour.
Then it was the longest wait EVER until my next loop. Like I said, our team was slow. One of our runners hurt her hamstring so she took even longer. As a result, my second loop came at around 9pm or so. It got really warm in the daytime (mid 80’s with direct sun) but by 5pm when the sun was setting, it dropped down to 55. It was pitch dark when I ran the nighttime leg. There was a thick blanket of stars which I could barely take my eyes off of. Thank the lord my night leg was the green one (rated EASY) and it was pretty FLAT. I could run the whole thing - 4.1 miles. It was chilly but pretty. My phone was pretty much out of juice and my garmin wasn’t cooperating so I just had to let go of worrying about how much farther I had to go.
Came back and tried to sleep, that didn’t work very well. It was so cold and still noisy with runners coming in and out. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and sat with some of the other teammates in our area. The only good thing about us running so far behind was that my final leg which was originally scheduled for around 3am was now taking place at 830, in broad daylight, hooray! It was great to see the sunrise on the mountain.
I headed out for my final loop with WAY too many layers on from nighttime. Honest to God, I had 2 pairs of pants on, a long sleeved shirt and 2 jackets, plus gloves. Within 5 minutes I was regretting not taking more off before I left. The route started out the same as my overnight loop, and then took a detour heading up the side of a mountain. I started walking intermittently, it was just too steep to run. This was rockier than the other loops. It was also the longest, 6.6 miles. This trail was singletrack for the first half of the race. It was hard when people wanted to pass you.
So there I was, breaking into a light jog down a slightly rocky section, thinking to myself how lucky I was that I hadn’t gotten hurt out on the course at all. And that’s when it happened. All of a sudden I was on the ground, the wind knocked out of me. I was facing the other way on the trail, and felt a little dizzy and disoriented all of a sudden. My right ankle was jacked and so was my left knee. I was only 2.5 miles into my 6.6 mile run. I made myself get up and I felt pretty awful. I left out a big groan (no one was around) and told myself I’m going to have to walk the remaining 4 miles to the finish, like it or not. I felt like I was going at a snails pace, hobbling along. I’d have to shuffle to the side to let the occasional runner pass. The last few miles were pretty flat and scenic. I was actually kind of pissed that I didn’t get to enjoy running on that trail. Instead, I did the walk of shame. I took me nearly 2 hours to go that 6.6 miles, I could have ran a half marathon in that same amount of time. At least I was able to finish!
I made it back to camp, got some breakfast and headed to the medical tent. They gave me ice for my sprained ankle and cleaned up my knee gash. The rest of the morning was spent elevating my leg and celebrating with my team while we waited for our final runner. Beer and shots were flowing! Then it was time to bring in our runner and cross the finish line as a team. i even earned a special double medal for doing both AZ Ragnars! So, while you may not see me at any more trail races any time soon, I enjoyed the experience as a whole, it has a cool vibe. I’m still on the DL from my fall, but I hope to be back at it very soon!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!