Bear with me, this is going to be a long post, but I’ve included a ton of pictures to keep you entertained and to distract you from my mediocre writing.
I know this was a few weeks ago now – try over a month, but lets face it…I’ve been pretty spacey lately.
In the running community, Ragnar is a household name. 99% of runners know what you’re talking about when you say Ragnar. In the last year, they started a Trail Relay Series in addition to their road relays.
Before the Ragnar Trail, I had only ever run one relay race. Well, I guess the Colfax Marathon Relay WAS a relay, but not in the same sense. I’m talking the “load a ton of people and their stuff in a couple of vans and run all day and night” type of relay. Two years ago I did the Wild West Relay from Fort Collins, CO to Steamboat Springs, CO with a group of people I had just met. It was a blast!
I had heard the Ragnar company was a great experience and wanted to try one. I finally got my chance and they definitely lived up to the expectations I had from hearing everyone’s positive reviews.
3W Races wanted to sponsor a team to run the road and trail Ragnars here in Colorado and I put my name in the lotto for both, with the Ragnar Trail being my first pick. I guess not that many of us ambassadors wanted to do them, so I got selected for both! The Road is coming up here in august, and a lot of the same people I did the Trail with are returning. (And if you’re in the CO area, follow 3W Races on Facebook because we have four spots to fill! A lot of times we raffle them off on Facebook or if you’re special, I can just ask the race directors, and they’ll probably just say yes! Contact me for more info).
For those of you who have done a regular road relay, the Ragnar Trail was a total different feel. First off, you’re allow to drink. Bonus! (You’re not supposed to in the Road, because you’re driving obviously). Second, it’s like camping with a bunch of running in between.
I love camping, I love running. I love hanging out with good people…..Ragnar Trail was awesome!
We had a total of eight people on the team plus one volunteer. It is mandatory per Ragnar that you provide a volunteer. That person only has one short shift and otherwise are free to do whatever they want. Our lovely volunteer, the wife of one of our team members had to do her shift from 7 to 10, or something like that, and she actually ran the most out of all of us because she ran with the longest loops with two different people did the shortest loop as well.
We started off Friday morning by meeting at a Park and Ride just outside of Denver. We consolidated all of our stuff to fit into two cars, which was harder than you’d think. If you thought you had to bring a lot of stuff for a Road Relay, double that because you have to bring everything you would need for camping as well!
The Colorado Trail Ragnar took place in Snowmass, CO which is about a four-hour drive from Denver. I actually fell asleep in the car (surprise, surprise to everyone who knows me in real life – I’m notorious for falling asleep in car rides over two hours) but I did also coach a boot camp right before meeting up with everyone.
First glimpse at the campsite
We made it to site around noon, and began to stake out our camp spot. The campground was already littered with teams! I had never seen so many tents in one area! We chose our zone, close to the port-o-potties, but not too close. Little by little, we lugged all our gear over and began to pitch our tents.
Home sweet home for the weekend
I was the first runner. Our start time was set for 3pm. After my tent was up, I ate, foamed rolled and watched clouds come and go. At one point it was raining and windy and five minutes later I was sweating just sitting there. As my time to run drew near, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to run in. Finally the sun came out again, and it looked like it would stay that way.
Ready to go!
I got antsy waiting for my time to start so I went down to the “village” to hangout. The whole team eventually met me before it was time to start and cheered me on as I ran on by!
The group waiting to see me off for the start of our race!
I actually ran into a fellow blogger, Amy at Run, Write, Hike. Her team, Supersaurus, was set to start at 2:30 but due to lighting, ended up with our starting wave. Ironically, this is the first time we have met and we both live in the same neighborhood in Denver. As the race director was checking in all the teams and announcing over the PA system who was running, I saw her team name on her bib and introduced myself.
THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO. This was taken by one of RUN/WRITE/HIKE’s friends. But I’m in it! And Amy is the one with her hands in the air!
Full of energy, I tore up the course. I was excited to get on those trails! I had previously had a rough week (read THIS post to find out why) and was really looking forward to that weekend.
The start of the Green Loop
There were three loops total for the Snowmass Ragnar. A 3.3 miler, a 4.1 miler, and a 6.2 mile loop. They are run in that order, Green, Yellow, Red as a team. But, because you have 8 people on your team, everyone runs their own loops in a different order. Mine started with the green 3.3, the red 6.2 and then the yellow 4.1 last.
The Green Loop, 3pm:
Without heavily studying the course profiles (I never do – it psyches me out), I vaguely knew that half of the course would be up and half of it would be down. I was doing a lot of trail training before the Ragnar and felt confident that this would be a challenging, but not too hard, weekend of running.
The green loop starts out on the sidewalk that borders the campsite and the takes you to a road and up into the trails. This particular trail rose up above a local golf course and I could hear some of the golfers cheering us on. The view was incredible as it looked out into the valley. I had a ton of energy, like I said, so I charged up the incline.
The view from the green loop
I kept a nice steady pace for most of it until the few switch backs after about a 1.25 miles. Once you reached the highest point, the decline was the perfect angle to fly down the mountain! And boy did I fly! I had a blast cruising down the trail. The green loop finished nearing the parking lot as it zigged and zagged to the exchange zone.
I passed off the bib (that was our “baton”) to the next runner and was greeted by my team! They said I ran faster that projected! If only I could have been “faster than projected” on ALL the loops!
One of my favorite pictures from the whole weekend. Great camera skills from our team captain…This is my teammate waiting to get the baton from me as you see me running into the exchange zone.
As our runners went out and came back, I relaxed at the campground and chatted with my fellow teammates. With registration you get a free dinner meal ticket and most of us went down together. Don’t get too excited, dinner wasn’t that great but it did refuel me. We ate around 7, leaving me with 3ish hours to digest my huge meal before my next run.
Hanging out around the camp site…found this lovely sign
I was slated to begin the 6.2 mile loop around 10 or 11 pm. I honestly can’t remember. The sun was well over the horizon by then. As per previously mentioned, beer and other alcohol IS permitted. While hanging around, one of my team members and I decided to take advantage of this privilege. I only had three, but at that elevation and my already low tolerance, I may or may not have begun my next loop a little bit tipsy. No shame. I needed the warmth, right?
The Red Loop, ~11pm:
This was the loop I was most nervous for. Not because of the mileage. I was actually most nervous for running at night. When I did that other relay, one of my relay legs was at night as well (as with all relays) and even though it was on a safe, straight road, It was still kinda freaky. With a headlamp on, I got pretty nauseous from the bobbing up and down. Couple that with being on an unfamiliar trail, I needed those beers to not just warm me up, but to also calm my nerves.
The first two-ish miles of the red loop is uphill on a side-walk and then residential roads before you get on the trail. From the village, I could see other runners’ headlamps climbing the mountain side. This loop was a little off balance, with 4 miles being up and 2 being down. Being at night, the run seems longer because you have no idea how much farther you have. But, the course was well marked, and as your staggered on, you looked for reflective course makers in the distance.
Those first two miles weren’t bad, and once you were out of the valley, you could feel the air warm as your climbed up and up. The houses that surrounded the street was incredible and I could see in the lit windows of those million dollar homes, wishing I lived there.
I finally found the dirt trail that went up onto the ridge. During the day, I imagine that you could see the Ragnar Village from the rim. All I could see was the dirt and the brush that was illuminated by my headlamp. Not going to lie, it was definitely a lot more freaky running at night in nature versus a road. But whatever was going on this time, I DID NOT get nauseous and was thankful for that.
My “view” on the red loop
I struggled a lot with this run. The elevation change was hard, the mental part was hard and I just wanted to get to the top. Because I couldn’t see that far in front of me, there was a few times I thought I had reached the summit but was tricked. At one point, I swear I heard some kind of animal growl in the dark, but that gave me a little bit of an adrenaline boost to keep going.
Out of nowhere, I heard a voice. And no, it wasn’t in my head. There was a guy at the top, camping out, to inform me that I was indeed, FINALLY, at the top. I breathed a sigh of relief, and thanked him. Yes, it was all downhill from there. Well, at least the trail was. It didn’t make my run any easier.
What the actual view of the red loop looks like. Photo credit: Team Captain, Marley
While going up, I didn’t have much a problem with this, but going down, the headlamp beam mixed with the kicked up dust really messed with my depth perception and I was constantly feeling like I was stumbling, thinking the ground was closer that it was. The single track trail was also engraved with hardened bike tracks from pervious rains that left my ankles fighting for stability. Other than that, the decline was great, and I wish I was in the daylight to really race down the trail. As I lowered in elevation to the valley again, the temp began to drop simultaneously and it started getting chilly.
I was happy when I could see the village and the tiki torches lining the exchange chute. My hand off person was waiting for me in the coral and I deliriously handed over the bib, beer worn off, and marched right over to the bon fire and s’mores.
Then it was bed time. But I don’t think I got much rest. It wasn’t due to the lack of time, actually I get less than 7 hours on a regular basis, I was used to that. It was mostly due to the cold. I didn’t bring warm enough sleeping gear which is completely my misjudgment. I should know better – I’m a Colorado native. Camping in Colorado, even during the summer, brings some cold nights!
Around 4 or 5am, I woke with a start and could have sworn I heard someone say my name. I peaked out of my tent, thinking one of my teammates was trying to wake me to get me ready for my next leg. There was no one around. I laid back down for a few seconds and realized how cold I was and knew that I was never going to get back to sleep. I knew they’d have the bon fire in the village still going, so I changed into my next set of running clothes, sweats and jacket as quickly as I could inside my sleeping bag – I’m pretty sure that was the hardest challenge of the weekend. I had no idea who was currently running and set out for some coffee, knowing there was free warm beverages for the runners.
I found the caffeine and parked myself in the crowd by the fire. I still didn’t see anyone from my team for a while but finally found our team captain. Worried I had missed my turn, she assured me that there was still two people in front of me, one being on the course and her in line after that.
Not feeling that hungry, but knowing I should eat, I walked around to stay warm and ate some food to prepare. I watched the sun rise, and stripped of my sweats to run my last leg….