Ragnar Trail AZ

This past weekend was a blur!  I was lucky enough to be able to run Ragnar trail AZ at McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Fountain Hills with several of my close running buddies.

I volunteered to help with set up Thursday night, including setting up the tent and claiming stake to an area for our team.  We signed up to be in the larger campsite lovingly known as “Aravaipa Land”, which includes some additional benefits such as more campsite space per team, communal hang out space, cooking equipment, etc.  25 teams were signed up to be in the roped off area, and teams were expected to send at least one person per team to help with set up.

Ragnar trail is a bit different than most races.  It’s a relay trail race, completed with a team of 8 runners who take turns running different legs of the relay.  In this particular race, each runner goes three times running a red loop (6.7 miles with a large hill), yellow loop (technical loop of about 4.8 miles) and the green loop (an easy, nearly flat 4.1 miles). The race starts on Friday and runners take turns running until all three runners have run all three legs sometime Saturday.

Thursday night was most certainly an adventure.  While waiting to get to the gear drop area, a giant dark cloud rolled in and moments later the rain started.  It took another 10 minutes or so to get to the gear drop.  The volunteer instructed me to leave my stuff on the ground and go park my car.  I explained that I was alone, and it was raining, so they permitted me to move my items to the tents, which we were told were already up and waiting.

I ran my first load of supplies over to the campsite, and quickly discovered that there were no tents up.  One staff member from Aravaipa was busy trying to set up the tents alone and in the rain.  Another camper/runner and I helped set up all the tents, as the rain steadily increased in intensity, and lightening came closer and closer. I ran back to the car, and grabbed the rest of my stuff, and just in time.

The real storm started, as me and my new camping neighbor, Jack, bunkered down in the closest tents.  The first tent I ducked into did not yet have the rain fly up, so it was not any help.  I popped into the next tent, where Jack was waiting out the downpour.  After maybe 20 minutes or so, the rain slowed to a normal rain, we continued to finish setting up the rest of the tents.

Around this time, several of my teammates showed up and we unloaded their gear.  When we were done, we headed over to check our team in and watch the required safety video.  As it started, another team member arrived, and I went to help her unload as well.

The weather seemed to level off for a bit, and we were able to organize the tent and get set up for bed.  That’s when the adventure began.  Gale force winds started, and it felt like we were sleeping inside a parachute someone was violently shaking all night long.  At some point, we fell asleep for an hour or two, and when we woke up, it was still and completely silent.  It was very eerie.

We got up, and evaluated the damage to the campground.  Many tents were blown over, collapsed and flattened and nearly every tent’s stakes had been ripped from the ground. Before long, more and more teams started to arrive and the Ragnar village came to life.

I was runner 2, meaning my first leg was just before 11am.  The weather seemed to be clear, however it was extremely humid out.  My first loop was yellow, the technical loop, and I was already exhausted from lack of sleep the night before.  It was super hot, and the humidity was completely unexpected as we live in the desert, but I was glad to get it out of the way.

After this loop, I realized that I was started to seriously chafe in a very bad area.  I still had 2 runs left, so I went to go purchase some anti-chafing stuff from the 2Toms vendor I had seen earlier.  The table was completely cleared off and shut down, so I went to the Ragnar tent as they have race essentials for sale as well.  Nope, not a thing.  I felt slightly defeated, and all the additional walking was not helping the chafing situation.  Someone mentioned seeing the Squirrel’s Nut Butter display on one of the tents in the Team RWB area, so we went exploring.  I found Tommy, and he said he was out but there was some I could use in the RWB community tent.  After applying, I instantly felt better and within an hour, the soreness was gone and the chafed area was healed.  I instantly became a lifelong fan of Squirrel’s Nut Butter.

My next loop was not until evening, around 8pm.  The green loop is known as the easiest, as it is the shortest and nearly flat (as far as trails go).  I found it boring, and hard to get momentum as it was slightly uphill or flat with no hills.  It felt longer to me than the other 2 loops.

I returned from my run, and wanted to get some sleep in, but as with any Ragnar race, that is a very difficult task.  I tried foam ear plugs, and got about an hour of sleep until the ear plugs fell out.  Then, I moved on to the sticky, swimmer style ear plugs, and got another hour or so of sleep, until those fell out as well.  I gave up at this point, and headed out of the tent to start waking up as there were 2 runners until my final leg.

The last leg was the the best.  The red loop takes you up and along the ridge line of the scenic trail, and I hit it just in time to watch the sun rise.  This trail goes up a large and steady hill for about a mile and a half, then levels off for a bit and has an amazing descent to the Pemberton trail.  The last part was long, and after the sun came up, it heated up quickly.  I was glad to be done early in the morning.

Ragnar is always full of adventures.  People are tired and exhausted.  Emotions run high.  Our team had no arguments, no tension, no grumpiness.  It was a relaxed, and quite enjoyable experience.  Can’t wait to do it again next time!

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