When my team from last year asked if I wanted to run Ragnar Trail McDowell Mountain again, the answer was a resounding YES! Last year was my very first time camping and surprisingly it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting and throw in a few runs, friends, food and it was a great time. And after our experience in Zion, this would be a piece of cake because the odds of snow in Phoenix in November, pretty darn slim – lol.
We had a small planning meeting the weekend before the race, basically just to discuss who was arriving when and bringing what. 5 members of our 8 person team went over on Thursday evening to stake out our spot, set up camp and stay over that night. One of the new things that Ragnar did this year was limit the number of cars that each team could have come into the park to 2 so we had to definitely coordinate a bit. By bringing almost all our stuff over the night before that made it a lot easier for those of us that couldn’t arrive until Friday morning.
6 of us came back from last year, one of our team mates ended up with a torn quad muscle I think and then we were actually short one last year. 2 of our teammates from Zion came to join us at McDowell Mountain to make up Quinn’s Crew.
They changed the course slightly, the legs were green, 3.1 miles, yellow, 4 miles (I’m pretty sure this was the exact same course as last year) and then red was 8.4 miles. I was runner number 6 so I started with red in mid afternoon, yellow in the dark around midnight and finished up with green early morning for a total 15.5 miles.
I was going into this race with a minor injury, my right lower calf was super tight, to the point I was feeling pain just walking around so I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to go. I took 3 days off from running before the relay to see if it would help and the pain seemed to subside. We weren’t running the relay for time, we just wanted to have fun so I figured even if it took me a bit longer than anticipated it would be ok.
Last year we started around 1pm and the next morning they told us that we weren’t going to finish in time so we had to double or triple up to run 2 last laps. They gave us our medals but officially we had a DNF, which didn’t matter to me, I ran my 3 loops, had a great time and got my medal :). This year we did what we did in Zion and put slower times so we could start earlier in the day on Friday. So we started at 10am with runner #1 which meant that as runner #6, I ran my first and longest leg at the hottest part of the day just like last year even though I was runner #3 last year.
I was a bit nervous before starting my first leg, I ended up going out way too fast and then when I hit the hills, my leg was not happy and started to lock up, huge burnt toast moment. I ended up walking/hiking a lot of miles 2 & 3, texting with Sean a little too, letting him know how my leg was doing, as he was going to be coming over to support me & my team. After that uphill, very rocky, technical section, I was able to run a little especially on the downhill, except a few very rocky areas.
I hit the water station around mile 5ish, refilled my bottle and then continued on my way. It was probably just a few minutes and I saw a girl coming back the wrong way, I asked her if she was ok and she said there was someone up ahead that wasn’t doing well. I kept running before coming across a young girl and a guy sitting with her. The guy asked if she could have a little of my water so I gave her some and a few probar gummies too. She looked to be about 15 or so and didn’t have any water with her which wasn’t super smart because it was probably about 85 out but felt a lot warmer. I think either a volunteer or a medic came up on a bike and said that they would assist her further so I went on my way.
I managed to do pretty well until there was a section of dry sandy river bed. I walked more of this than I would have liked but considering my leg being iffy, it was ok. And then not too much further and we were close to the finish. I did my best to finish strong, handed off the bib to Joseph and then limped back to the tent, my tight calf muscle caused my shin to start pulling as well which was quite bothersome.
I didn’t feel great after finishing that loop but had to eat something so I got a smoothie from a Jamba Juice booth, drank that and then took a 2 hour nap – I guess that leg wore me out a lot more than I thought it did. After waking up, we decided to walk down to see about getting some dinner. Well at that point it was about 6:30ish and the line was ridiculous. It was practically wrapped around the whole transition area. I personally think that if they were splitting the camp sites in half, they should have had 2 mess halls as well to accommodate all the runners. This is definitely an area Ragnar needs to address.
So Pete & I headed back up to camp and waited until later to get dinner. When we did finally get it, it was a semi decent pasta, an ok salad – I know ice berg is cheap but it is by far the worse lettuce out there for you – I’m not a fan, a huge sandwich sized bun and a cookie. If we ever do this again, we already discussed we are bringing our own food and cooking out or something instead of eating their mediocre food.
I went back to camp and ended up sleeping for a few more hours while Sean drove over. My leg was really bothering me, it was super painful to even walk back and forth to the camp, I wasn’t sure how my second loop was going to go, because in my opinion of the 3 loops, the yellow is the most technical. But when I finally got out there, I just took it one step at a time, I actually felt a little better once I started to run so that was a plus, it was cold, but not super cold. I was happy I had my hat, but I didn’t feel like I needed gloves. I don’t have any photos of this leg, but it was fun, it has a few steeper hills and a decent amount of downhill, some of which was really steep and rocky, I just slowed down over this section and enjoyed my run. Even though it’s the most technical, I like running the yellow loop, it was my favorite of the 3.
When I finished I called Sean and he was almost there so I headed back to camp to change and then wait for him. By the time I was done, he was there!! So we headed back to camp and attempted to sleep a little, it was getting cold and there was a full moon that was sooooo bright. We slept decently, one of the great things about a Ragnar Trail race, you can actually sleep :), but were awakened about 5:30a by the campers next to us who were making coffee. Not long after this the campground started rousing and we walked down to the port-a-potties and to Sean’s car to get him some warmer clothes. We were wrapped up like mummies but having a great time.
Sean massaged my leg for a while with icy hot and then we were ready to run. By that point, it was getting hot!! I was freezing one minute and sweating in my tank top the next.
We walked up to the transition area and went out on my last loop, green, 3.1 miles. We started out fine, but I’ll be honest, there was a lot of small hills and sand so I ended up walking a lot of the run, Sean ran while I walked next to him, which worked out great :). It was hot but it gave Sean a chance to finally experience running some Arizona trails, especially since this is the same/similar course as the Javalina Jundred which was actually the weekend before.
We finished strong, I joke, that by looking at me, you would have no idea I walked 60% of the course but it was fun and we did it together. We were done!
There were still 2 more runners for our group before we finished so we got some more Jamba Juice and then headed back to camp where we changed again, I got some more massage before heading down to get some real food. The line wasn’t too long so we thought it would be a quick in and out. But NO, that was so not the case. We got a hamburger, a pork sandwich & fries and ended up waiting almost an hour for both, in the hot sun. It was horrible, the food truck was just handing out orders in no apparent order even though they asked us our names when we ordered. It was clear they had no clue how to handle a large group of people. Definitely a fail and definitely not photo worthy!! When I finally got my burger, it was pink inside, it was edible, I just like having my hamburgers well done.
All in all it was a great race, good friends, running, nice weather, although it did get both really hot & really cold, which is totally normal for the desert lol. I would totally run this relay again.
I did however have a few other notes on things that changed from the year before.
1) The free coffee wasn’t free the whole time like it was in the past – it was $2 until apparently 7am, which no one really knew about. The hot chocolate however was free the whole time.
2) They let about 150 additional teams run, which is great, however, it made it so that parking became a huge issue as we got closer to the event. We were fortunate that our team was able to come over on Thursday evening but if we had all had to come on Friday it could have been an issue. If you run this race, definitely try to come over and set up camp on Thursday, it will make a HUGE difference!
3) Last year they had the environmentally friendly port a potties with saw dust & candles that were really nice, this year we had the traditional, gross, plastic ones, which they did clean periodically throughout the event, but still the other ones were a nice touch and went along with the natural/green theme of the event.
4) They allowed teams to start earlier on Friday, the first start was at 10am vs 12pm last year. This gave us a good buffer to get finished without having to worry
5) Nice long sleeve tech shirts in both men’s & women’s cuts
5) Free race photos – always a plus!!
Next up…RnR Las Vegas 5k & Marathon!!