Our team members changed a lot up until the last week before the race. In the end, I knew 2 of the team members: Nelly, who was an acquaintance from graduate school, and Megan from Nuun. Being the extrovert that I am, I was pretty excited to have a team of strangers that I could get to know! In the end, our team was half bloggers, and half Nelly’s friends! We had Megan, Nelly, Sophia, Margot, Sarita, Lee, MacKenzie, and I! What a great team!
The Ragnar Trail series works a little differently than the Ragnar road series. Unlike the road series, where you move from one destination to another, for the trail series, teams stay put in Ragnar Village, a camping area where teams are welcome to sleep the night before, the night of, and the night after the race. The race consists of 3 different trail loops, which each team member must run. When you’re not running, you can hang out in Ragnar Village, cheering, playing games, socializing, or sleeping. They even had a live band performing, which was really great.
For the race weekend, I met Margot at the Reno airport, and we had a great time chatting on our ride to Sierra at Tahoe resort (where the race was to take place). We also stopped at a grocery store, where I picked up food to make my favorite camping meals.
When we got to the resort, we met our team members, and found out that we would be sleeping in tiny tents with our new friends. I was a little nervous about this smushed-tenting until I got to know my tent-mates, Sarita and Lee. They were really welcoming and kind, so I thought close quarters with them would be just fine. I also discovered that there was a burn ban in place, so I was not going to be allowed to make my camp meals! I was so sad…and concerned about what I was going to eat! Thankfully, the first meal was provided to us as part of our race entry.
The first evening, I felt a little lonely and out of my element. All of the girls on my team seemed nice, but I didn’t really know them, and I kinda felt lost. I wasn’t sure if this trip was going to be worth it. I helped Megan out at the Nuun tent a bit, and chatted with people when I could.
I was runner number 8 for team Nuun Hydration, which meant that I was the last runner. I was excited about this, because it meant that I would be able to run the team into victory in my final leg!!!
My time to run didn’t roll around until around 10pm the first evening of the race. I was running Loop #2, which I had been told was the hardest leg of the race. Runner #2 from my team had fallen on the trail in the daylight, which scared me because I was going to run it at night, when it would be harder for me to see! Ack! More importantly, I’ve never run in the dark without a friend or Ada the Dog along, so I was scared! In fact, I was SUPER scared because dark woods freak me out more than dark streets. I reasoned that if I was a rapist, I would definitely choose to go in the woods at night during a trail race, because I would be guaranteed a nice woman runner prey (such as myself) would come by!
As I was waiting for Nelly to come in to the transition area, I debated what to do. Would I feel better if I silently told myself that it would be okay, or would I feel better if I voiced my concerns to the women around me? In the end, I decided to ask the girls around me if they were afraid. Talking with them made me feel better, as they were also scared, so at least I wasn’t alone in my fear!
When Nelly came in, she suggested that I bring a flashlight with me. I didn’t want to take the flashlight, because I had a headlamp on, which I thought would suffice, and I was carrying a water bottle with Nuun, so adding a flashlight to the mix would just be more to carry. In the end, I listened to her advice.
I headed off running, and within the first few yards, only one thought was in my head, “What is wrong with me???” Everything felt off. I was too slow. I was too hot. I was too tired. I had to pee. My hands were full. My race number was in the way. I couldn’t get faster. My headlamp was bouncing around like a jack rabbit!
I reached for my headlamp to adjust in, when WHUMP, I fell flat on my face! AAAH! I wasn’t badly hurt, my hand was just a tiny bit cut, but I was annoyed! Why was this such a struggle???
I uncomfortably ran a little farther, and then hid behind a bush to pee. I couldn’t see any headlamps anywhere, so I figured I was okay. I then ran some more, and quickly realized that the trail was going up. And up. And up. After my experience at Wild Woman the weekend before, I knew that it was best to walk on the hills. So I walked. And walked. And walked. I felt like I was walking forever! The hill never seemed to end! Every once in awhile, I hit some flats and jogged a little, but soon enough, I’d hit a hill again. Every time I jogged, my headlamp bounced around on my face, making me dizzy and disoriented.
Eventually, I pulled my headlamp down around my waist. Ah, much better! I was finally done with the hills, and hit some trails. This is where the fun began! I was no longer miserable! I sped up, taking quick short steps, and weaving my way along the trail. I felt like I belonged to the Tarahumara tribe from Born to Run! It was a blast! A few times, I stepped on some uneven ground and nearly rolled my ankle/fell. At times, I also hit some smooth rock that wasn’t as safe to go fast on. Besides those few times, I felt like I was flying! It was so fun! …And then I hit an uphill road again. Back to walking. I felt awful about walking, because I knew that with the speed that my team was going, there was no way that we were going to finish the race on time. I felt horrible, but I couldn’t go any faster! The altitude was getting to me! There was just nothing that I could do! Feeling sad and miserable, I pulled into the exchange, and handed off to Mackenzie.
S’mores ingredients had been set out, and some of my team members were up watching running movies. I ate some s’mores, stretched, and got ready for bed. When I got back to my tent, I realized a problem: Sophia had brought me a sleeping bag, but she was now asleep in her tent! I didn’t want to wake her, so I climbed into my tent and tried to sleep under a sheet and a tiny fleece blanket that I had brought along. It was cold and miserable. After Sarita left for her run, I stole her sleeping bag and slept for a little bit. I’d estimate I got around 3 hours of sleep that night.
The next morning, I woke and ate a banana and Rice Krispies with soy milk for breakfast. Mackenzie hadn’t been feeling well, and asked me if I would run her leg for her. I promised her the day before (prior to running my night leg) that I would run for her if needed. After experiencing the difficulty of the night leg, I was terrified. I told her that I’d run it for her, but I was SCARED!
About 2 hours later, Mackenzie decided that she felt well enough to run. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with any news in my life before! I was so relieved!
It was painfully obvious by morning that we were absolutely, 100% not going to be done with the race on time. The race coordinators made an announcement that over half of the teams were in the same boat as us! Their solution was to have us double up by having 2-3 team members on a leg at the time. As I was waiting in the transition tent to run loop #1, they said that if anyone was going to run loop #1, they should go get the other team members that were slated to run loop #1 at some point that day in order to run as well. It was definitely pretty chaotic, but I went and gathered Megan and Sophia. The poor girls were not prepared to run and had just finished eating breakfast pastries!
Meanwhile, while I had some empathy for them, I was ECSTATIC that I didn’t have to go back out on that tough course all alone! I had a great time running with Sophia and Megan! It made the race so much more fun! We handed off to Nelly, Mackenzie, and Margot. I then had a little break before my last leg. I probably should have fueled…and I did sip on Nuun. But I wasn’t hungry, and I felt kind of lightheaded. Definitely not the way I wanted to feel right before running…but running is just one foot in front of the other, so all would be fine, right?
Soon enough, it was time for Sarita, Lee, and I to run the last leg. It was loop #3, and I was excited because it involved riding a chairlift up the mountain, and I was anticipating some pretty views! In general on this run, I felt pretty weak! I was hot, under fueled, and suffering in the elevation. However, my favorite moment of the race happened on the chairlift! Neither Sarita nor Lee had ever ridden a chairlift, so it was like being with a kid on Christmas! They were so scared and excited. They insisted that we keep the safety bar down for the entire ride, and squealed when I tried to lift it! It was just so funny. At the top, we stopped for some photos. Then, we were off running. It was pretty fun to see the different strengths of these women. Sarita was slow and unsure on the downhills, but as soon as we would hit a hill going up, she’d charge forward like a little warrior. Lee and I sped along on flats and downhills, but crawled up the hills. We got to challenge and encourage one another the whole time.
It felt like a rather long run, but we had fun chatting and stopping for photos. Eventually, we were at the finish! Some of our team greeted us to run through the finish with us. Then Sarita got her first ever race medal! She was so excited!
After the race, our team enjoyed some take-out from a local restaurant. Margot, Megan, and Sophia headed home, and I was left with the 626 girls. (All of us have lived in the Pasadena area at some point, and have 626 phone numbers). Anyway, this is when things got super ridiculous and fun. I have no idea what was going on. I think we were all just tired and loopy, but there was a lot of laughter, and soon enough, we were sleeping away in our tents. (By this time, I had gained a sleeping bag, which was much appreciated!)
On Sunday and Monday, I enjoyed some relaxation time with Mackenzie, Nelly, and Sarita. I spent a little time on the lake, spent a little time reading, enjoyed a nice dinner, and wished that I could live in Tahoe. It was a nice little mini vacation.
In the end, despite feeling out of my element on that first night, I ended up having a great time on this trip! The women on my team had such a positive attitude and we really enjoyed ourselves. We were seriously so gross and sweaty and smelly, but without showers. But we suffered through with smiles on our faces! The course was the toughest course I have ever seen on a race. It was insane. I would totally do it again.
When it comes down to it, Ragnar Trails is a very different experience than Ragnar road. I actually missed bonding with van-mates, but enjoyed stinky tent-camping and Ragnar Village.
A huge thank you to Nuun for hosting us!
So…what do you think? Could you survive a few nights of sweat-tastic running followed by sleeping in very close quarters? (It was pretty much the best time ever).