Friday, November 14, 2014

Ragnar Trail McDowell Mountain Race Recap

The fabulous Team Ragnar Crüe

I returned from Arizona on Sunday night.  Exhausted and a wee bit sore, yes, but also on a complete high.  This was my first Ragnar Trail Race and it was completely different from the Ragnar Relay I did back in February.  Instead of driving between exchange points to drop off runners and navigating through unknown streets, this time we had a base camp where we stayed for the duration of the race.  There were 3 loops that each runner had to complete, all different lengths and difficulties, and all totally on trails.  Our start time was 10.30am on Friday and we would run non stop until we had all completed each of the 3 loops.  It was fun, adventurous and also very sociable!

The finish line :)
We had a few hiccups initially.  Half of our team got stuck in Rapid City the night before the race due to a technical problem with their aircraft.  The four of us who were luckily already in Arizona started running on schedule and ran alternate loops until the rest of our team arrived later in the day.  It was so wonderful to see them and finish the remainder of the race as a team of AWESOME :)  We were also lucky enough to have logistical help from one of our team member's Mom and Sister who live close by.  We really couldn't have done it without them - from accommodating us and driving us around, to gathering the necessary camping equipment.  A huge thank you Kelly and Vickie! 

Even though we weren't going to camp until the first night of the race, we set up our campsite the night before in the dark.  We had 2 tents, a tarp and an EZ up which is necessary to provide shade in the heat of the day.  We were slightly worried that somebody might walk off with our kit, but when we showed up the next day, it was thankfully intact.  We did forget to bring our cooler of food, but thankfully, Vickie drove it up to our camp later that day.  We decorated our campsite with flashing guitars, candles, an American Flag and some rock stage backdrops.  It looked pretty good! We even had a battery operated karaoke machine - a necessity for a race, right?! 

Not our campsite, but this was the main camping area with hundreds of tents!

The center of activity for the race was called The Village.  That was where the transition tent was situated for swapping the running bib with the timing chip between runners.  The race was cupless which meant that  you had to provide your own water bottles at all times.  It was so hot that hydrating was hugely necessary - a couple of us had to do our long runs in the heat of the day and if you didn't have a water bottle at the halfway point to fill up, you would have been in trouble.   We all saw runners with heat stroke and injuries from falling on the rocky trail.  One of our own girls had a bad fall in the night when she was running the longest trail.  When she came through the transition tent, the lower part of her leg was covered in blood and her hands too.  She fell towards the beginning of her leg, but being the hardcore team member that she is, she kept going and went on to run her other legs too.  Beast Mode!!!  

Dawn with the moon still in the sky

There were all the usual porta potties, nice and clean at the beginning of the race, but gradually becoming more and more stinky and full of unmentionables as the race progressed.  At the village there were also some water stations, a food truck, fire pits with s'mores, Ragnar Store, Jamba Juice, bands, beer tent and even a movie screen.  The lines for food and coffee, however, were ridiculously long and we were grateful for the food and snacks that we'd packed ourselves.  One of my friend's husbands lent us a tiny stove with a tin cup so I was thankfully able to have my usual cup of tea, otherwise I may have whined a little.  At night, the run into the transition tent was lit up with fiery torches - I felt like I was an extra in a movie! 

The Village
The most important things though, of course, were the trails themselves. 

The loops were colored in order of length, red being the longest

Amazing trails! 

There was a shorter loop (which I did in the dead of night so didn't see too much - apart from the mountain lions stalking me in my imagination), a medium length loop which involved ascending a very steep and rocky hill then running down it on the other side, and a long loop that started off with a 2 mile ascent and included a long run along a dry, sandy river bed.  The trails were all rocky and sandy, hilly, and of course, lined with many cacti.  We had been warned to watch our for the legendary jumping cholla - luckily none of our team was tagged by any.  Another runner, however, was more unfortunate:

This cholla really did jump

At night, the light from our headlamps lit the trail and the reflective signs.  Apparently several runners missed some of the signs and got lost, I'm so thankful this didn't happen to any of us.  It's scary enough running on a dark trail in the desert at night, never mind being totally lost!  We could hear coyotes howling and other sounds - which were probably just fairies and unicorns watching out for us...!  The scenery was AMAZING at all times.  AMAZING.  The desert landscape is so beautiful and the mountains majestic.  It really took my breath away at times.  Another bonus was that none of us saw any wildlife other than lizards - no rattlesnakes, javelinas or mountain lions.


So that's my rushed version of events from the race this past weekend.  Some of the photos I took myself and some were taken from the Race Facebook page.  I would love to do another Ragnar Trail Relay, it was an awesome experience that I will never forget.  I was lucky enough to do it with 7 amazing girls that I love dearly and I'm very thankful that my first Trail Relay was with the fabulous Team Ragnar Crüe.  Till next time ladies!!!  

Awful photo, but hey, I'm smiling :)

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