Monday, November 23, 2015

Ragnar Hill Country

Back in August, I got a text from a friend asking if I’d join their team of eight in October to run the Ragnar Trail Relay. My first thought was that she had the wrong number because this team wasn’t just runners, they were fast runners. On a good day my pace is 10:00, and they run like 7:00 or something crazy like that. I replied by telling her that I was not that fast, but she said that pace doesn’t matter and they were looking for fun peeps to hang out with. Then I thought, hey, I am fun to be around, so with that I accepted and joined the team. 

I was both excited and scared. Not only was I running with new people, but Ragnar is a trail run and camping was involved—both of which I’ve never done. Here‘s a description of the run from the Ragnar website:

Teams of 8 or 4 will conquer a series of three loops while taking in the natural scenic beauty of the surrounding area. The runner friendly single-track winds through groves of Texas Live Oak, over classic Hill Country limestone shelves, around granite boulders, prickly pear cactus, and yucca plants on its way to the ridgelines that look back onto Ragnar Village and the rolling Hill Country. This is classic Hill Country and some of the best trail running you will find in the Lone Star State.

Our team, called Team Pearadise, went on a nighttime practice run at the Memorial Park trails. The run was great, and we discovered lots of critters, like roaches, spiders, an owl, and a snake. Oh my! I quickly learned that my regular running shoes were not going to cut it and I needed some trail running shoes. If you ever plan on doing a trail run, here are a few things you’ll need:

Trail running shoes
Hydration pack (like a Camelbak)
Gaiters, to keep debris from entering your shoes (like these:

When race weekend arrived in October, so did the weather. Hurricane Patricia was hitting Mexico, and we were getting the dirty side of the storm, meaning LOTS of rain for us. It rained the whole drive to Comfort, Texas. Luckily, we had time to stop by Starbucks for some coffee and Buccee's for some snacks.
Once we arrived and the rained stopped, we set up camp, checked in, and grabbed some lunch. There are three loops we were supposed to run. The green loop was 3 miles and was considered the easiest of the three. The yellow loop was 5 miles and the red loop was 7.7, and these were labeled as the hard ones. Here is what they looked like.
 I was running the fourth leg of our relay team, and my first loop was called Creekside Trail (the green one). The run was a bit hilly, but not too bad. I kept my pace slow since my ankle rolled a couple of times. I was also alone for some of the run, which made me nervous. They had clear markers to tell you where to go, but at one point I didn’t see anyone at all. Then I heard someone from behind and thought, great, I’m not lost. I turned around and saw this guy with full-on Viking makeup who scared the crap out of me! Turned out that Viking man was a cool dude from east Texas, and he ran with me for the rest of the trail. At the finish, our team’s next runner was waiting at transition. I gave her my bracelet and she took off.

My next run wasn’t scheduled until after midnight, so I had a lot of time to hang out at our home base and explore the campgrounds. It was nice taking a break and getting to hang with my team. 
As midnight came, it was time to prepare to run my second leg (7.7 miles) called Buckeye Canyon—the red leg and the hard one. But I was lucky that our team volunteer, who we called MacGyver Mike, agreed to run with me. Since we were running at night, we had to wear our headlamps. 
The Ragnar website didn’t lie when it said this trail was hard. Not only were we running in the dark, on hilly, mostly one-lane trails, but it also started to rain, which made it muddy and slippery. We did pretty well for the first 3 miles, but then after lots of ankle turns and slipping and sliding, we decided to make the rest of the run a walk. It took us 2:23 to complete the trail, but we made the best of it and more importantly we came out with nothing broken!

So I came back to our base camp thinking I was going to sleep, but that wasn’t happening. The rain and wind started coming down hard. It was blinding, and at one point we had to hold our canopy down. The temperature also was dropping, so we lowered our canopy, lit a lantern, broke out our emergency blankets, and hunkered down.   

The next morning, it was time for me to run my last leg of the race. The raid had slowed to a light mist, so I put on a poncho on and hit the trail. Note to self: NEVER run with a poncho! It was not only making me hot but also sloshing around and making it hard to hear runners who were trying to pass me. I eventually took it off and put it in my backpack. This trail was 5 miles, and it was called Pipeline Hill Trail. It was very hilly and slippery, but the nice thing was that I was able to enjoy the scenery. I even ran into some cows!

To sum up, even with the hurricane-like storm, we had a great time at the Ragnar Trail Run. The trails were clearly marked so you wouldn’t get lost. And even if you did, there’s an app for that—Ragnar has an app you can download that will alert your teammates if you get lost (thankfully, we didn’t have to use it). And speaking of teammates, remember how I mentioned earlier that I was nervous running with these guys? Well, I made some new friends on our awesome adventure. We were there to have fun, and fun is what we had.

Workout song of the week:  Somethin’ Bad, Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood

Inspiration quote of the week:  If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.—African Proverb