Run. Camp. Sleep? Repeat.
I think Ragnar got it right with their slogan for the Ragnar Trail Relay Series. Plenty of excellent trail running, camping out with friends and very little sleep repeated several times over the course of the day and night at beautiful Vail Lake in Temecula, CA made for a great time. And there were s’mores! Plenty of complimentary s’mores to munch on while cheering on your team mates. Besides the beautiful venue, excellent trails and a well-executed event it doesn’t get much better than s’mores!
This was my first Ragnar Relay event and I was excited to lead my team of eight newbies. Our team, Snow White & The Seven Weeples, was one of six Weeple Army teams once again showing a strong presence as always at road races, trail races and OCRs across the nation.
The Trail Series differs from the traditional Ragnar Relay in that it takes place in one location rather than moving from point A to point B. Each Trail Relay consists of three challenging and scenic trail loops beginning and ending at the same point, the Ragnar Village. Teams will run relay style, rotating through all three loops (each runner runs three times).
Teams consist of 8 or 4 runners and will run a total of 120 miles. The race takes an average of 22 hours to complete. Teams will begin in staggered start times between 10 am and 7 pm on the Friday. You will run with your team through the night under a star-lit sky. Teams will finish on Saturday between 9 am and 4 pm. When you’re not running, you’ll be busy cheering on your teammates and soaking up the party atmosphere at Ragnar Village!
Our team kicked off at 10:30AM on Friday under beautiful skies. I was the third runner on our team and by the time I set off on the Red Loop at about 1:00PM the sun was hanging high and heating up the course. Red Loop was a 3.9 mile circuit with some challenging elevation gains, steep hills and a bit of technical single track. I ran hard and surprised myself at how strong I felt on the hills and how much I was able to power up most of them! Returning to the Ragnar Village Start/Finish area is certainly a highlight of every loop but I think more so in daylight when teams are not yet sleep-deprived and the bib hand-off tent is buzzing with energy!
I ran my second loop under a clear, starry night around 7:30PM. This was the Yellow Loop estimated to be about 6+ miles of mostly flat ground. I loved running this loop at night! Again, I found myself running at a hard clip and was able to enjoy a fair amount of solitude though it was somewhat reassuring to come across another runner. I could have run this loop twice! I actually took my only spill of the race on this loop on a section that lacked any kind of hazards…except for a loose a branch on the ground. I tucked, rolled and came back up without missing a step!
Getting sleep during a Ragnar seems to be a lost cause. There’s just too much going on – music, a film, complimentary dinner by Ragnar, s’mores, bonfires and, oc course, hanging out with friends at the campsite. Even the light drizzle that came down sometime after midnight did not seem to dampen the spirit of the racers or the energy at the Village. Runners came and went, bibs were handed off, teammates were cheered on. All around us the bobbing and flickering of headlamps could be seen dotting the hills and trails way off in the distance. Really a beautiful sight.
My final leg was the Green Loop which I ran shortly after the light rain stopped. I pushed hard and handed off the bib to my teammate at about 3:30AM.
Our team finished at about 8:30AM on Saturday morning.
This was a top-notch race! Well-planned and executed. The staff and volunteers at the Village and on the course were awesome. It was especially encouraging to come around the bend of a dark and lonely trail in the early hours of the morning only to be met by the enthusiastic cheering of volunteers.
I was especially impressed by the eco-friendly practices of Ragnar and the partnerships with green friendly vendors and organizations. I’ve never met a port-a-potty I liked but I think I am now in love with the units provided by EcoCommode. These guys provide composting port-a-potties that are a clean, sustainable and a natural alternative to traditional port-a-potties. Their zero impact units are almost odor free (from human waste and the chemicals used in traditional portable bathroom units) and a real pleasure to use. Trust me on this one.
I also had a chance to chat with the cool folks over at the Leave No Trace tent, TJ and Pat Breezely. Leave No Trace is an organization that teaches people of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program used on public lands. TJ and Pat were super friendly and had a lot of useful information available on how to enjoy the outdoors while minimizing our impact. Please check out these guys and consider supporting their mission…I did! And I picked up some sweet Smartwool socks and a handy, reusable stainless steel cup.
This was my first Ragnar and I am definitely signing up for another Trail Ragnar and excited to try out my first road Ragnar. And did I mention the sweet medal?
Check out the upcoming Ragnar events near you!
Ragnar Relay Series schedule click here.
Ragnar Trail Relay Series schedule click here.
Ruck On. Stay Muddy.