26 April 2015

Ragnar Trail Relay - Zion 2015

After snow-mageddon struck Ragnar Zion in 2014 and cut the race experience short, I decided to run it again this year.  I joined a team set up by two of my teammates from last year and made plans for the trip.

This year, I was once again with a group of primarily obstacle course racers who do a lot of traveling for Spartan races.  However, we lucked out by having a trail runner latch onto our team who volunteered as our cook and who also happened to be a river guide in Utah and a decent chef over a gas grill.  Bonus!

Leading up to the event, we used Facebook to plan the trip. As we got to the final week, weather became the primary focus.  The forecast was all over the place - snow, rain, sunny, hot, cold, you name it.

Finally, it was time to head to the race.  I took a couple of days off from work and got on the road shortly after noon.  With the time change, I arrived in Ponderosa Ranch slightly after 4 PM and went directly to our reserved campsites.  Our team captain reserved two adjoining campsites which was great because they were on the hill overlooking the main camping area and were close to the restrooms and showers.  Because they were a little farther away from the start line and the running routes, they were also a bit quieter.

home sweet home
Once I got to the campsite, I unloaded my car and set up my tent. My vintage (18-20 years old) two man tent is perfect for these trips. It has enough room for my air mattress and my dufflebag of gear. It is also easy for me to set up by itself.  Unfortunately, there is one drawback to it which I will get to later. After my tent was set up, I took my car down to the remote parking site and caught the shuttle back to the campground.  Once I got back to the campsite, I got some reading in and helped other team members unload their cars as they arrived.  I also hiked the shorter of the three loops while waiting for dinner.  Dinner was awesome with grilled salmon and asparagus.  After dinner, I went to bed and got a great night of sleep.

On race morning, I got up and had pancakes with my team and then went down to check out the Ragnar store (bought a tech jacket) and the sponsor/expo tents that were set up.  Our start time was 11:30 so at about 10:45, we went to the start area to watch the safety video.  There was some sort of technical glitch going on so by the time they finally got the video started, our first runner had to head to the start line before it was finished.  The rest of us hurried out of the tent to see him off.  After that, I had about five hours to kill before my route.  During that time, I ate lunch, charged my phone at the Goal Zero station, got some more reading done and finally donned my running gear.  During this time, it was intermittently raining and while I was waiting at the start line for the hand off of the bib, a little hail came down.

the official map
Finally, I got my bib and was off to the races.  I was scheduled to run the red route first.  The course was a lot different from last year.  It started out with a bit of fire road running with a small amount of single track for the first two miles before moving to a long single track section on the western side of the loop that provided an awesome view of Zion National Park. After that section, it was back to fire roads and single track that followed the roads for most of the rest of the course.  With about a mile to go, the course followed some horse trails that I rode horses on the previous summer.  Finally, it joined the yellow loop for a short single track section and about one third of a mile of dirt road back to the transition area.  On a plus side, the finish for the red and yellow loops did not have the same finish on a tough series of switchbacks that the green loop did this year and that all three loops had last year. During the run, it rained for most of the loop and there was a small section on the single track on the western side where some light hail came down. On a side note, my Altra's did alright for most of the course but did not do a great job with shedding mud in the damper sections of the loop.

After the loop was done, I handed off my bib and headed back to camp.  Once there, I grabbed my shower kit and change of clothes and headed to the shower.  After my shower, I did some first aid on one of my toes that lost some skin and was bothering me a lot on the run (not certain what I did - woke up with a flap of skin hanging off it that morning).  By the time I got out of the shower, it was raining pretty heavy and the temperature was dropping so I bundled up and went over to the cafeteria area for my spaghetti dinner.  I managed to grab a seat inside and spent the next hour talking with racers from different teams while enjoying my dinner.  Finally, it was time to step back out into the rain and hustle back to camp.

I was scheduled to run again around 1 AM so I laid down to catch a little nap.  At 10:30 PM the race director announced that the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and the race was going to be suspended for three hours.  They also began sending 4x4s out to pull all the runners off the courses at that time. At about midnight, our runner who was out on the course made it back to camp,  He was picked up around 11:15 about two miles from the finish of the red loop and was in the vehicle that was picking up other runners until about 11:50.  Most of us were up so we enjoyed some of the leftover soup from our lunch and cooked some s'mores as we waited for the course to open back up. At 1 AM, the race director came across the PA system to announce that all runners were back to the campsite and that the race was suspended until 6:30 AM.  At that point, I went to bed.

As I laid in bed, a few things happened.  First, I realized that my old tent had finally developed a small leak which perfectly allowed water to drip onto my forehead. Not fun! Next, campsites around us were being flooded out due to people not putting down ground covers under their tents, setting their tents up in drainage areas, etc.  These people were scrambling to pack their gear into their vehicles and many of them were rolling out that evening.  This made for a lot of noise and the last time I checked my watch was around 3 AM so I definitely was not getting much sleep.

Saturday morning at 6:30 AM
At 5:30, I heard somebody's alarm going off at a neighboring campsite so I laid in my comfy and warm mummy bag while listening to the rain.  At 6 AM, the PA system came online and an announcement was made that the race was basically over. Details were given for picking up medals and the shuttles to the remote parking were starting earlier than originally planned.  Teams that wanted to brave the course still could but eight legs were taken off the relay which means that no teams would be able to complete all 24 legs. One of my team members was also awake and moving around so he and I went down to check out the start area.  It wasn't as bad as last year but it was still pretty messy, not to mention cold. We went back to the camp and huddled up.  The consensus decision was that there was no reason to go back out on the course so we broke camp, got our vehicles and got out of there.  We did get our medals

2015 medal and 2014/15 SNOMG medal
I have mixed feelings on this race.  Ragnar Trail Relays seem like a great idea with having three trails that come back to a central campsite where we can rest.  However, this particular one has had issues with weather three of the last four years and has been cut short the last two.  I highly doubt that I will be back for this particular one unless it moves to a different time of the year. It was a lot of money spent for a 7.8 mile trail run.

Next up - Tri/Du/Run For Your Cause Duathlon on May 9th

No comments: