Ragnar Relay is one of the most adventurous, fun, ridiculous running ideas ever concocted! It’s one of those events that make you wonder - “Who the heck would do such a thing?”; but if by any crazy chance you do it, you are hooked for life.
Our shiny and sharp medals[/caption]
I’ve had the pleasure of running two Ragnars before, in Florida, in 2013 and 2014. It’s a road race from Key Biscayne (Miami) to Key West - 199 miles! It took a team of 12 people to cover it, and 30+ hours of non-stop running. The way a relay works is, you let a runner start, drive to meet him at the pre-designated organized stop, where another runner takes over for a few miles, and so on until all 12 runners go three times! You all gang up to cover the last few meters of the race and cross the finish line together. It’s ridiculously fun…
My first Ragnar in 2013 with Zensah[/caption]
Second Ragnar in 2014 with Fitletic[/caption]
After having immense success with road races, Ragnar developed trail versions of the same. I had been itching to run a Ragnar this year as well, and I found a team that was looking for runners online. Yes, I teamed up with 6 people I had never met before (with my husband, I do know that guy), and we embarked on this adventure together. That is something I love about Ragnar, and running in general - it can be a very team sport, believe it or not. Ragnar in particular separates itself from other races because it’s not really a race - you rarely compete with others, and aren’t really chasing the first spot, but rather cheer and scream and support others as much as possible. Running and screaming go really well together, as I have learned!
Dusty Ragnar Village[/caption]
Start/Finish Line + Transition Area[/caption]
The big, huge advantage of doing trail Ragnar is that you get to be in the same place for the whole event (I.E. Ragnar Village). Regular Road Ragnar means driving from one stop to another while your half of the team is running (the team splits in 6 and 6 runners, two vans), and you only get a slight break when the other van is running to stretch your legs, and get a few hours of shut-eye, if you are lucky. Running in Florida was specially gruesome, because although it takes place in January/February, it’s hot and humid enough to sweat the whole time, not only while running. There is only one shower stop the whole way, and not all of your team mates will take advantage of it! By the time you are done, you are all a bit tired, cranky, maybe injured or in pain.. It’s all in good fun, but by no means for the faint of heart.
Imagine this as the view on your run..[/caption]
Ragnar Relay trail Tahoe exceeded my expectations in many ways. Tahoe forest is insanely beautiful… it was an experience in itself. I had never visited Tahoe before, being that I’m a Californian for only a few months now, and all I can say is - it deserves the fame it gets! I can not find enough adjectives to describe the majestic trails I had the pleasure of running, and the mesmerizing views, well deserved once you climbed to the top. All I can say is - it’s a scenic race well worth doing in all regards!
I will say this, IT WAS HARD!!! Yes, caps, bold and three exclamation marks kinda hard. Way, way harder than I thought it will be. Why? For the following reasons:
- Elevation (up to 7,500 feet)
- Hilly terrain - lots of walking
- Decently technical trails (rocks, dirt, roots, wood chips, you name it, we ran it)
- Running at night in pitch black darkness (it was a new moon this year)
My first run was on the easiest, green loop of 3.2 miles, with relatively easy terrain, and it took me by complete surprise. I was gasping for air in the first half a mile. We arrived at noonish (it was about a 3-3.5h drive), and I took off as the first runner for our team, Earth, Wind and Fiber, at 3pm. I only had 3h to acclimate, and in retrospect that was most certainly not enough. Now I understand why Scott Jurek would camp and run a course for a few days before a race (that is an ultramarathon runner if you are not familiar with the name, and no, I’m in no way comparing myself to him or Ragnar to an ultra). I finished the loop in whopping 38 minutes! Not even my first ever 5k was that slow (actually, it was 29 minutes, almost 10m faster). I was almost freaking out!
Ready to Run the Night[/caption]
My second run began around midnight, on the hardest or red loop, of 7.5m. We were decently behind schedule, because we all put in our road 10k times to estimate our finish time, and boy were we dead off. It was pitch pitch black, and I ran with a head lamp and a flash light in my hand - which was of great help, only that it moves a lot as you are swinging your arms, so one can get dizzy or distracted by the light. It was probably the most fun run in a long time. One thing I must emphasize, and I feel like runners of overnight races just don’t mention it enough, that is night can be scary. Call me a woos, and I am one, but there were times I was alone on the trail, with dense forest right and left, no moonlight, and all kinds of thoughts start to pop up. Everyone joked about the bears during the day, and I chuckled thinking I love animals and nature and am not afraid of it; however, when you are alone in the dark the mind plays some tricks on you. Other than that, it was nice and fresh, and I got adjusted to the altitude a bit better so I felt well on the run. The trail was pretty hilly - a runner on the team warned me the first 3 miles are basically an incline. I ran walked it, coming to an even ground thinking I was finally done with the uphills, and right then the biggest uphill hit. I walked a decent amount, ran as fast as I could on the down hills, considering the dark rocky conditions, and finished it in 1:39 (according to the Garmin, it might have been 2-3m slower).
After I finished, I ‘showered’ with the outside hose and set by the fire pit in the center of Ragnar village. It was one of the best experiences. I went to change, grabbed some snacks (yes, at 1:30am), and walked back just in time to greet Acyuta, my husband from his run. We just had a blast chatting, partying by the fire in the middle of the night.
The third run rolled in around 8-8:30am. The cold night turned into a decently hot morning, reminding me of the first hot and heavy run. As I took off, on the middle, yellow loop of 5.6m, my legs felt heavy as rocks. Unfortunately, the yellow and red loop start the same for a 1-1.5m, and the yellow loop continued with the inclines for a decent amount of time. Some argued it was harder than the red. One great benefit was experiencing it during day time, and the views were magnificent! I had so much fun, finished pounding in 1:10, and was so happy to be done with the race all together.
Ragnar village also provided us with free yoga classes, which felt amazing and a little hard after all that hill running. Imagine my happiness when I discovered a Smoothie Station! I treated myself to a green deliciousness after my last run.
Can you tell just how dusty it was?[/caption]
As I was the 1st runner, there were 7 more to go after me after I finished. We were so over time, Ragnar organization had to double up the last round of runners in order to finish in time - not just for our team, to be clear! Many many other runners had to double up as well. Our team captain ran last, it was also her birthday, and we all met her before the finish to cross together. All in good fun and excitement!
We stayed an extra night, camping in the same place. Our team left, and my husband, our fellow runner and ride Nate, and I stayed behind. We went to the nearest lake (not Tahoe, a smaller one), and took a dip - the first official bath of the weekend. It was cold and awesome! We found a Thai restaurant and enjoyed our first warm and complete meal of the weekend as well, and headed back to the camp to enjoy a sleepy night.
Some runners already beat us to the swim[/caption]
The next morning we packed up and headed to Lake Tahoe, which is about a 30m drive from Soda Springs, the area of Ragnar Village. The experience was beyond words….So here are some pictures to express this nature’s wonder. I of course took some nice yoga pictures in the beautiful environment.
And then there was Lake Tahoe…[/caption]
One thing I love about California is finding healthy foods in tiny, gas-station type shops on the road. We had an amazing breakfast of almond milk mocha, green juice and a green wrap before heading back home.