Ragnar Relay Trail Experiment Recap

I apologize that it has taken me so long to write this recap. This last week has been crazy busy.

Last weekend I had the great opportunity to go down to Zion National Park and participate in the Ragnar Relay Trail Experiment.

Before this race, I had only done 2 or 3 trail runs and I wasn’t too good. My team and I all went in to this to just have fun.

This race is exactly what it sounds like, an experiment. This race was basically a focus group for Ragnar so they can see what improvements to make before they roll this race out to the entire nation. It’s exactly like a regular Ragnar except you have a base camp and when you’re not running, you hang out at the base camp. There were 3 different trails (easy, medium, and hard) that all started at the same place. You had a team of 8 people instead of 12 people like a regular Ragnar as well. You did have the option of having an ultra team though.

Our team’s name was “Gangnam Style Has Changed My Life”. If you don’t know what Gangnam Style is, go watch this video. It’s a pretty catchy song.

A couple of days before we left, we found out there was going to be a 60% chance of rain on Friday while we were down there. I didn’t think too much of it, which was the wrong thing to do. Haha!

It’s about a 5 hour drive to get to Zion from Salt Lake City. Our start time was 2:00 pm on Friday, so we decided to drive down Thursday night after everyone got off work. We had to take 2 cars down because of all the camping gear we had to take and having seats for everyone.

We pulled out of the driveway about 6:30 pm and were on our way to Zion. I was pretty excited. We stopped in a small town about 2 hours outside of Salt Lake for dinner and then we were on our merry way again. Not for long though. We got a call from the other truck in our group saying they got a notification on their dashboard that they had a flat tire! Crap!!! Off to the side of the road we pulled & thank goodness 2 guys in our group new how to change a tire (not a car we were familiar with). As we’re standing on the side of the freeway watching the guys change the tire, we decided to do the Gangnam Style dance. Haha!

“Hey, sexy ladies…”

We finally got the tire changed and we were on our way again. We had to stop one more time to get gas but then it was a straight shot to Zion National Park.

Because of all of the stops on the way, we didn’t get to Zion National Park until about 12:30 a.m. The race was actually held just a little bit outside of the park at Zion Ponderosa Ranch. When we got there, it was dark and we could see the rain clouds moving in. Let me tell you, in the dark, it is VERY hard to find where you’re supposed to camp.

Finally after driving around for 30 minutes we finally found a campsite. We barely got camp set up and then the skies opened and the rain POURED!!! And it poured some more. And it kept raining. All. Day. Friday. And in to the night.

When we woke up Friday morning, there was hail on the tent. With all this rain, everything turned to mud. No matter what we did, mud was caked on to our shoes.

Khris getting rid of the water on top of the canopy at camp.
This is just a little taste of how much mud we had to deal with.

When it came time to make breakfast (breakfast burritos), pretty sure nobody was too good at using a lighter, but me, so I offered to light the stove. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous that it was going to blow up at me.

I successfully started the stove…and survived!

We had breakfast and got all signed in with Ragnar and before we knew it, it was 2:00 pm and it was time to start. Khris started out the running and he was lucky to not have any rain on his first leg (the green trail).

I decided I wanted to be runner # 6 because then I could get the longest and hardest trail done first (the red trail). Sylvia was runner # 3 and she did the red trail first. I was happy because then she could come back and tell me about the trail.

Where the race took place, it was really nice. They had a hot tub, swimming pool, showers, mini-golf, a restaurant, everything. Super nice. I was kind of mad because after the first 3 people had done their first trail, they all headed to the hot tub to relax. They didn’t come to the start/finish to cheer on the rest of the team or to greet their team member when they got done with their leg.

By the time it was time for me to start running, it was 6:45 p.m. I knew that most of my run was going to be at night. I’d had dinner, I had some gels with me, and I was ready to go. It wasn’t raining yet.

I started off on the red trail and was feeling pretty good. The first mile of the trail was pretty easy, but then it turned in to a single track trail that was AWFUL. You basically had to walk the single track part because it was so narrow it was hard to run it. The single track part of it, I got done with it right before daylight ended.

Then…it got scary. Seriously. It started raining. It started raining hard too. Because we’re out in the mountains running trails, the only direction we had as to where to run was they hung reflective and non-reflective streamers from trees and bushes. My headlamp was starting to go dim. It was starting to go VERY dim.

All of a sudden, I just become VERY aware that I’m out on this trail, it’s raining hard, it’s dark, I can barely see where I’m going, and I’m by myself (because it was a focus group, there were only 44 teams). The anxiety started to creep up. Before I know it, I literally can’t see where I’m going, I’m scared out of my mind, I’m running pretty slow because I don’t want to hurt myself because I can’t see where I’m going. I’m running/walking just hoping that my light catches the reflection from one of the streamers so I know where I’m going.

It rapidly became NO fun. I remember there was one part of the trail where I had to dig my fingers in to the mud and literally pull myself up this hill. It was SO muddy and slippery you couldn’t just run up the hill. The red trail was 7.2 miles long. By the time I got to mile 5, I was in a full blown panic mode. 2 runners had passed me, but I was just trying to keep myself sane. By mile 5, I started pleading with God to get me through this leg of the race. I told God that if he would get me through this leg, then I’d TRY and go back to church. I was just forever pleading with him (and I’m not a religious person). At about mile 5.2, this runner came by me (I think her name was Caprece) and I pleaded with her to stay with me the last 2 miles. Thank God, she grabbed me by the hand and said “come on, let’s go, I’ll stay with you” and we ran walked the rest of the course.

There were parts of this trail where there were puddles of water a good 18 inches deep that there was no way around the puddle, you just had to run through it. My feet were cold and soaking wet. That didn’t make it any more fun.

I wish I had pictures of the trail, but it was darker than a stack of black cats and I was too worried about falling & hurting myself.

Once we got off the trail & back on the dirt road, Caprece and I had no problem picking up speed again, even though it was super muddy and we headed back to the exchange.

Caprece and I ran in to the exchange and I handed off my timing chip to Whitney & off Whitney went. Caprece handed off to her teammate and then we embraced in a HUGE hug. I’ll never forget it. I wish I could get back in contact with Caprece just to thank her.

After I handed off to Whitney, I was just so mad, upset, and emotionally drained. I was just crying and saying “I want to go home”. My poor team didn’t know what to do or how to handle me. They told me to go take a shower & maybe I’d feel better. It took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to do a 7.2 mile trail run.

My entire body was caked in mud. I went and took a shower (I feel so bad for the cleaning ladies who had to clean the showers) and no, I didn’t feel better. I was still upset. I tried to call home to talk to my dad, but he wasn’t home. I tried my dad’s cell phone, but he wasn’t answering. FINALLY, I got a hold of my brother. My brother is awesome. He sat and calmly listened to me and then told me he would try & get a hold of my dad.

Finally, I got a call from my dad. It’s still raining outside, I haven’t had anything to eat, my team has gone up to the restaurant to eat without me, and I’m just ready to GO HOME!!! I was seriously ready to have my dad drive the 5 hours to come pick me up. I was willing to pay for his gas and everything.

I talked to my dad. He was able to talk me off of my proverbial ledge and I was able to calm down. I was able to go up to the restaurant and get some spaghetti and eat a little bit.

At this time, I was mostly just emotionally exhausted. What really & truly saved me though? When I called my dad, he was at Keys on Main. Somehow, my two friends, Brandon and Aron, found out from my dad that I wasn’t doing well at all. Aron got my phone # and texted me. He really talked me down and told me to keep going and just race “my” race and nobody elses.

By this time, I was standing around the campfire with my team (I had sent them text messages while I was eating telling them I was sorry, but that trail just took a huge toll on me) and I had found out that the average time on the red trail was 2 hours and 30 minutes and the trail was a mess. I found out that they had closed down the yellow trail AND the red trail. The only trail open was the green trail.

As we were standing around the campfire, an announcement was made that they wanted us to have fun and with the 2 trails closed down right now, we had an option to just keep running the green trail, or we could suspend all of our runners until morning and we could pick up running in the morning.

I don’t know about anybody else, but after I’ve had a huge panic attack, not only am I emotionally exhausted, but I am physically drained. I went back to the tent and rapidly fell asleep. I didn’t even take my contacts out.

My team ended up going and running the green trail together (kind of wish I’d known) and then they came back and went to bed too.

We woke up Saturday morning and there was NO rain! Hallelujah!!! Everything was starting to dry out. We ended up sending 3 runners out on the red trail and then Jess & I ran the green trail together.

The green trail was still muddy, but nothing like it was the day before. I didn’t get pictures on thisk trail either. 😦 Wish I would have. It took us a little over an hour to do the 3.8 mile green trail, but I had to stop to pee once and then Jess stopped to take pictures too. By this time, it was just about having fun. As long as it wasn’t dark and it wasn’t raining, it was fun.

After the green trail, my body was just starting to ache. I opted to not do the yellow trail. In hind sight, I wish I would have. I heard the trail was absolutely beautiful. It was a hard trail though and it was still pretty muddy. I was afraid I wasn’t going to have fun, so I opted not to.

We finally finished all the trail we were going to do and we picked up our finishers medals. It was great to be done. Then, we all went and chilled in the hot tub. The hot tub was almost TOO hot though. It felt nice to relax though.

Proudly sporting my IRC shirt!

Flexing our muscles at the finish. I think I definitely earned “Idiots Running Club (IRC)” status that weekend.

We decided to stay down there and camp Saturday night too just so we didn’t have to drive back that day. Plus, we wanted to do some hiking on Sunday before we came back (hiking will be a 2nd post).

The Ragnar staff was AWESOME during this race. They made everything very accomdodating and considering it was their first trail race, I think they did a good job. We had a good focus group while we down there and they got alot of our opinions to make it even better.

Overall, would I do this race again? Maybe. I think races like this are geared more towards more experienced trail runners. Next Spring I want to pick up trail running again and attempt to get better at it.

Have you ever done a trail race? Would you do a trail relay race?


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