This past weekend I went up to Zion with some of my running buddies to run the Ragnar Trail Relay. We did the McDowell Mountain Relay last year and so when one of my running buddies told us about a team that was looking for runners, we jumped at it.
A little burnt toast moment that almost ruined my trip, the day before I was to leave, I woke up with an issue in my back. I have had a lot of back issues throughout the year, but this was different, it got tighter and tighter all day when I was at work, everytime I went to get up from my ball chair, I felt worse and worse. So off I went to see my PT, Charlie, at Cadence Physical Therapy and he helped manipulate my back to get it back to somewhat normal. But how would I feel on the trails…
I was a part of 2 teams and as luck would have it the captain of the other team, Robin, had reserved 2 cabins way back in November for the race so not only would we be running the relay, we wouldn’t have to camp! Win win in my book. (McDowell Mountain was my very first time camping and while it wasn’t bad, there is no way I’m turning down a cabin with a real bed and a shower!)
We stayed in cabins 501 & 502, which was called the Overlook Mountain Home at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. I unfortunately didn’t get any pics of the cabin but you can find information about the resort & the various cabins/mountain homes here. Personally I would so recommend renting a cabin.
The drive from Phoenix to Zion was about 6.5 hours and except for the last bit in the dark, it was a pretty easy drive. I’ve really not been out of the Phoenix area since I moved here about 2.5 years ago so it was nice to see some different parts of Arizona.
The only complaint I have, and this is because my phone is attached to my hand, lol, I wasn’t able to access the internet, text or email during my time in Zion. I seriously have my phone no less than 2 feet from me all day long, mostly due to my job, but also because it’s habit and not being connected was so making me crazy – LOL!! Eventually I just went with it and said, I guess I’m not meant to do anything today & chilled out 🙂
Waking up the next morning to this beautiful, crisp morning.
My cabin mates were overachievers who thought to bring all sorts of fun extras with them so we were able to start the day with our normal green smoothies, score! Thank you Margaret & Wendy for being so awesome and bringing the Vitamix with them!!
We had a really early start time 9:30am, because at McDowell Mountain we started late and were a little slower than we thought so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time, especially since the elevation was significantly higher than in Phoenix. So we ate up and headed down to our camp site to hang out before our safety meeting.
All teams have to go to the safety meeting which goes over the trails, the different color and shaped signs to look for, what to do if you get hurt, if your runner takes longer than you expect, if there is lightning, etc. etc.. There wasn’t anything mentioned about snow or rain. Although I did hear later in the day that they added a little something I had mentioned to the director of the yellow loop about how it seemed like the signs were really far apart in some areas. They added that some of the signs were really close together when you could have other options and far apart when the trail was clear. They also mentioned about using headlights starting 2 hours before sunset for safety and that they would be adding blinking lights to the signs when it got dark.
They told us about how we would be getting different wrist bands, green, yellow & red for our different legs and we would also have one bib for the entire team that we hand off after each leg. So after all this, we were off.
I was Runner 5, I didn’t really care what leg I did but it’s hard to wait around. When you do a regular race, you wait around, but just for a bit, this was for hours so it was a bit difficult in terms of what to eat before going out. I have a lot of problems with race nutrition when I’m doing a standard style race, but I eat relatively normally for relays. Weird. I wasn’t nervous for the relay like I am for regular races :).
Finally it was my turn, I got the bib from Mandy and headed out for my first leg, the Yellow Loop, 4.6 miles with a 600+ ft elevation change.
I started out running thru camp for the first mile, then the second mile was pretty much a hill the whole way, I actually walked most of this mile, I didn’t train properly, after the Rome Marathon, I was recovering and just not real motivated so I wasn’t really well trained for hills, but since this was just for fun, I was listening to my body and my heart rate was out of control high so walking it was. The trail was a lot different than those in AZ. It was a lot softer than our trails and sandy in a lot of spots. The last photo above was pretty much all sand and the single-track trail was practically on the edge.
I didn’t get any pictures of the other part of the trail as mile 3 was a great single track downhill (red somewhat packed sand). It was so much fun, although you had to really watch your step. I cruised down this part. A part of mile 3 linked up to the Red Loop and then both loops (actually all 3 loops) would finish on the same section. The section at the end, was another uphill trail with numerous switchbacks, pretty steep, I walked this section too until we came up to another part of the camp. Towards the end of this loop, the wind had picked up so much that I actually had to walk for a min to be able to cover my mouth and nose (I have asthma and dust isn’t a good thing :)). I finished this loop in about 56 min (11:13, 18:30, 10:10, 11:39, 10:14 last .50) handed the bib off to Wendy and went to chill for about 8 hours before my next leg.
I was pleasantly surprised that I had no back pain during this leg or my next. I could still feel the stiffness when getting up from sitting, laying down, etc. but nothing while running. Yea!!
And off to dinner we went…
Ragnar provides dinner for the runners on day 1 as part of the registration fee so we headed over to the Mess Hall and chowed down.
I didn’t mind the dinner for the most part. I thought the veggies were awesome – really flavorful and the pasta was al dente. I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce, but I ate it :). The bread was good, but I could only eat a few bites around the edges because it was still frozen inside. I normally wouldn’t eat cookies, but I was hungry and it was peanut butter so I figured a little protein LOL.
After dinner we headed back to cabin, where I took a 2 hour nap and just hung out while waiting for my next loop, which would be around 11:30pm. We weren’t exactly sure how long it would take the runner before me to run the Red Loop (8.2 miles) so I went down around 10:30p to wait, because I didn’t want to miss him. They had TVs with the team names & numbers coming up when your teammate was 2/10s away from the finish.
My second loop was the Green loop which as just over 3 miles. I unfortunately don’t have any photos because it was pitch black out and even though I had a light, it was super dark and I didn’t want to break or lose my phone. Besides I’m not sure if the photos would have come out in the dark.
I really enjoyed this loop, although it was sooo dark that I really just went super slow because they had mentioned that there was a super steep downhill section with loose rocks and I did not want to fall. I really didn’t think that down hill was that bad and compared to some of the trails I’ve done here, it wasn’t bad. I think my headlamp was dying though because I had a hard time seeing, or maybe that’s because my contacts were dirty, I don’t know, but I thought it was super hard to see.
Again, you ended up at the same uphill switchbacks, again I walked this section and then then ran when I got to the top. This leg I finished in 36 mins (11:55, 11:36, 12:22, final .02 8:41). I could have gone faster, but again since it was so dark, I just wanted to be safe.
I again handed the bib off to Wendy, told her to be careful since it was so dark and then headed up to the cabin to get some sleep. I figured I had about 8 hours until my next run, so I took a shower and set my alarm for 6:30am so I could get some food before heading out for my next loop, which I was estimating at around 10am. I woke up and went downstairs, saw Joan, who told me that Margaret, runner 2 had just left and they expected her back around 7:15a when Joan would go do the next leg. I got a small bowl of cereal and then went back to bed, setting my alarm for 7:30a.
I was awakened to a lot of talking and so I got up to see what was going on and this was what awaited me…
Seriously, I think my mouth dropped open and I was like WHAT? Are you kidding me? I seriously haven’t seen snow in years, I can’t even tell you the last time. I live in the south for a reason and snow is one of those reasons :).
As we were all taking photos and commenting on what was going on, one of our volunteers, Maryanne contacted another of my teammates and told them that Ragnar had called the race. Only one problem, one of our runners and one of the runners for our other team were still on the course. Margaret, runner 2 was not only on the course, she was also wearing capri pants and vibram five finger shoes. John was in shorts and just regular running shoes. We were incredibly worried about both of them and wanted to do something, but and for good reason, Ragnar wasn’t letting anyone extra out on the course to look for people. So we waited and finally John came back to the cabin and then about an hour later (3.5 hours after going out) Margaret was back as well. Thank you Lord!
After they were both back safe and sound we went down to the camp site to start breaking things down. We ended up getting everything back up to Wendy’s truck and then the cabin in 2 trips.
It was a mess, snow, mud, water, but we managed to get it all back up there and then most of decided to head home in case the weather continued to get worse.
It was a big surprise waking up on Saturday morning to the snow and not exactly how we expected our 2nd Ragnar Trail Relay to go, but I think in the end we all had a great time and really enjoyed the event. I know that we were all so relieved when both John & Margaret finished their loops and while the rest of us weren’t able to finish our last legs, I know that they made the right call for the safety of the runners. I would not have wanted to be out there in those conditions and I hope that no one was seriously hurt while out there when the weather turned bad.
While we didn’t officially finish, we were still awarded our medals and I can now add Utah as my 8th state that I have run a race in. (I did run my last 8.2 mile loop Sunday morning back in Phoenix, it was on the road and much flatter, but I felt like I needed to do it – if nothing else for myself.)
All in all I really enjoyed this weekend and I’m looking forward to McDowell Mountain again in the fall!
Have you ever run a race that was cancelled due to weather? And if so what happened?