Ragnar Trail McDowell Mountain Recap 2014

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Camping
Team: Quinn’s Crew campsite

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run
Ragnar Loop Color Signs

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Transition, Red Loop
Some crazy guy photobombed me before the red loop 🙂

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, red loop, hills
Red loop hills
Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Red Loop
Starting the Red Loop: all smiles 🙂
Photo Credit: Tom Scotney
Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Red Loop
Starting the Red Loop  Photo Credit: Pete Barry

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Dinner
Dinner, pasta, salad, sugar cookies & a huge roll

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.

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Transition, Yellow Loop
They changed the bands for this year – they were different from Zion too.
Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Yellow Loop
In the transition for Yellow Loop in around 11:45pm.

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 & I all bundled up - it was cold for us!!
Sean & I all bundled up – it was cold for us!!

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.

Sean was so sweet to massage my leg for me :)
Sean was so sweet to massage my leg for me 🙂

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.

Sean & I starting the Green Loop

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!

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Green Loop

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

Ragnar, McDowell Mountain, Arizona, Trail Run, Tech shirt
They did the same shirts for this race as Zion, long leave tech tees.

5) Free race photos – always a plus!!

Next up…RnR Las Vegas 5k & Marathon!!


Race Recap: NYC in AZ Half Marathon Nov 2, 2014

As per usual, I’m a little behind on my recaps 🙂 lol, but this was my first of 4 planned races for November.  I signed up for and had targeted the Women’s Half Marathon in Scottsdale way back in January, at the P.F. Chang’s Marathon expo, but unfortunately in late September they sent an email saying that the race was cancelled.  So I took this opportunity to look at other options.  There were 2 here in Phoenix, the 3TV 10K/Half Marathon in Downtown Phoenix or this race, the NYC in AZ Marathon, Half Marathon or 4 miler.  The price was right, it was a smaller race and it incorporated the NYC theme and since Sean was running the New York City Marathon this year and I did last year, I thought it would be a nice way for me to be with him in spirit.

I picked up my packet on Saturday at the Scottsdale Road Runner Sports, which consisted of a pretty nice tech shirt and my bib.  Road Runner was offering 20% off to race registrants, I didn’t really need anything and I had a team meeting for the following week’s Ragnar Trail relay so that gave me an excuse to not buy anything I didn’t really need.

NYC in AZ, Marathon, Half Marathon, 4 Mile, Race Shirt, Bib, November 2, 2014

The race didn’t start until 8:30am, which is pretty late for most races but I think is was a way to start at the same time as the New York City Marathon (or at least one of the waves).  There were 3 different distances available, a marathon (started at 7:30a), a half marathon & a 4 mile race (started at 9a).  The marathon was USATF certified course making it a Boston Qualifier.  All the races were on the New River Trail System starting & ending at Rio Vista Park in Peoria, AZ.

The course was 90% paved trail and then there was a short section that we ran twice that was a nice, canal type trail.  It was a lot hillier than I expected with an elevation gain of 384 and loss of 453.  There weren’t a lot of people in the race, I think it was about 199 total for the 1/2 marathon so after the first few miles there weren’t a lot of other people around, which was good & bad.

It was kinda cool out that morning, high 50s, low 60s, which for us is cool.  I decided to wear my fav lululemon speed shorts and a short sleeve shirt, put on my recently found nike visor, sunglasses and newton fate shoes.  Now that I think about it, this was the longest I’ve worn these shoes, which may have contributed to my calf issue.  I started the race with some minor tightness in my right calf, but as we all know, it can take a few miles for things to loosen up so I didn’t think anything of it and just ran.

NYC in AZ, Marathon, Half Marathon, 4 Mile, Peoria, AZ, Rio Vista, November 2, 2014

I had absolutely no expectations for this race especially after having a horrible long run the week before, that resulted in my walking 8 miles back to the car because of extreme dehydration.  I started the race fast, as we do, running the first 3 miles in 25:43.  It was around this time that the sun came out for a few minutes and it got hot so I slowed down a bit.  I didn’t feel great after the 4th mile so I took a minute to walk and get my heart rate down, eat a probar gummy bite and then started back up again.

Starting the race... Photo from Startline Racing facebook page
Starting the race… Photo from Startline Racing facebook page

A little tangent here – until this year, I was a Galloway runner, I ran/walked every race with strict intervals and did well.  I started running straight in January after a back injury, but I still really think that Galloway is useful and really does work.  I took about 8 short walk breaks during this race, ranging from about 20 seconds to 1 min.  My slowest mile was 9:26 and my fastest was 8:29 even with all the walk breaks.

I PR’d this race even with all those walk breaks by over a minute and I now have 2 sub 2 hour half marathons under my belt :).  Could I have run faster without them?  That’s the question, isn’t it?  I know from having worked with Jeff Galloway that the philosophy is that by taking walk breaks early on, it helps you to recover faster and run stronger.  Without those walk breaks would I have been able to maintain my pace, you know I’m not sure.  But even with those short breaks, I was able to run a 1:57:29 so I must have been doing something right!

Now back to the race, it wasn’t the most exciting of courses, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t horribly scenic.  There weren’t a lot of people so were I was I was practically by myself for most of the race.  I could see 2 people up ahead of me and I kept thinking if I can see them I’m good and I would try to pass them.  I was passed myself around mile 11 and then I picked it up and just kept running, thinking, I was almost there, I could do this.  I was thinking about Kara Goucher, Meb and Sean out there on the streets of New York running my favorite marathon and how if they could run on those cold, windy streets, I could get my butt in gear & finish this half. I managed to pass 3 people who I had chased the entire race and finished strong.


I finished the race, got a few snacks, they had cups for water & gatorade (I think), bananas, oranges, apples, bagels and some sort of protein drink from Core Power.  Which was great for such a small race.

IMG_9826 IMG_9827

I had to head home pretty quickly because I had family in town, but I looked at the results the next day and I was super surprised to see that I come in 3rd in my age group!! I think the closest I’ve ever come to an age group placing was probably 6th place in a 10k.  There were only 17 people in my age group, so it was really small, but it was still pretty exciting to me :).  Maybe that’s the trick, run smaller races 😉 lol.

Next up, Ragnar Trail Relay at the McDowell Mountains.