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The RAGNAR Trail Relay has come and gone in Arizona, and we’re already planning for next year.  This event is quickly becoming my favorite team adventure.  24+ hours of running, eating, camping and just hanging out with cool people.  If you enjoy running, you gotta gather up your craziest friends and run a RAGNAR Trail Relay.

What is a RAGNAR Relay?  Well, it’s where a team of eight people run through the wilderness for roughly 24 hours, covering 125+ miles.  You run, rest, eat, repeat and try to sneak in a quick nap if possible.  Our first RAGNAR was in 2014 and we had such a blast we couldn’t wait to do it all over again.  Yes, it’s difficult at times.  You’re cold, tired, and sleep deprived… and those are exactly the ingredients necessary for an epic adventure!  This is how it went down…

Jeff and I arrived at McDowell Mountain Park on Thursday–the day before the event.  This was the only way to guarantee we could get two spots close together.  Like last year, we had two teams.  The camping area is marked out on the ground by the RAGNAR staff.  Each team gets cozy in a 17’x17′ patch of desert earth.  It’s basically like Woodstock… or Tent City.  We had collected most of the big gear (tents, awnings, etc.) from the teams earlier that week and were able to set up base-camp in a prime location… close to the porta-potties… but not too close.

Once again, I had decided to camp out instead of drive home and fight the traffic and chaos that usually surrounds big events like this.  The team across the way had a propane fire-ring,  and it was fairly chilly out, so needless to say we became friends quickly.  Teams continued to arrive throughout the evening, and if I was to guess, I’d say by about 9pm the place was 80% full.  After a warm Mountain House Lasagna dinner, I crawled into my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep, thinking about the adventure that lay ahead.

Morning.  It was cold.  Breakfast was oatmeal and that helped beat the chill.  Not long after breakfast, it is time to check in the team.  I’m always amazed how quick the process is.  I’m usually one of the first in line ,but I can tell that they’ve done this before.  I headed back to camp with my armful of T-shirts, stickers and swag-bags (all the race freebies) and wait for the team to show up.

We did a good job of coordinating carpools to minimize the impact of the traffic.  This year seemed to be better than last.  Not sure if the organizers changed something or if was because so many had arrived the night before.  Our crew drove right in to the unloading zone and dropped their gear.  We hauled our bags to camp, which wasn’t far, while the driver went and parked the car and caught a shuttle back to camp.  It seemed to go quick and before we knew it, we were settled in and ready to run!

Our first runner out was new to RAGNAR, new to trail running and was anxious to get on her way.  Erika was amazing!


Once Maria is in the”the zone,” get out of her way.  When she was running, she was all business. 🙂  Eye of the Tiger right there!  Here is a shot of her in front a beautiful porta-potty backdrop.


As you can see here, Julia usually exited the transition area waving to all her fans.  She is adored by all.


When we were not running, we were resting, eating and socializing.  During the day there was a good amount of hanging out just chilling, making sure we were staying hydrated, eating, and prepping for our next runs.

RAGNAR-Camp1At night, things completely changed.  The temperature dropped, we’d each competed at least one run–maybe two–and were starting to wear down.  You tried to grab a nap, but there was a lot of commotion with runners coming and going and sleep was difficult, especially early in the night.  We kept the hot coffee and tea flowing, and it was nice to have a warm meal in our bellies.  We brought a stove for cooking burgers at night and eggs and bacon in the morning, although RAGNAR did provide a free pasta dinner at night.  The JetBoil kept the hot water close at hand for coffee and hot chocolate, which we used a MyJo to brew.  It worked out so well!

Like I said, at night the temperature drops, and it’s perfect for running.  Headlamps came on and the whole landscape seemed to change.  Trail running was a different beast at night.  The shadows played tricks on your mind.  Your focus seemed to sharpen and your eyes and brain quickly interpreted the terrain as you blasted down a winding decent.  Adrenalin was pumping!


Since it’s difficult to take pictures of runners at night… I don’t have many of them, and the ones I do have are not good.

Meanwhile, back at camp, those waiting for their turn to run were piling on layers, trying to stay warm.  Later in the night you are more likely to sleep as things quiet down.  This year, I was able to get in a solid 4 hours starting at about 1am, which is 4 more than I got last year.


Maria is seen here gearing up for her night run.  Most everyone else is trying to sleep. The night runs are my favorite, especially when there is a full moon out.




If you’ve made it though the night, you’ll be treated to a beautiful sunrise.  It starts to warm up quickly, but you likely only have a few hours left in the race.  We tried to get some sort of breakfast going while the last few runners were finishing up.  It’s a good idea to have an experienced runner as your anchor, preferably someone familiar to running in the heat.  That last run is a cooker!

RAGNAR-Ultra-FinishShane was the anchor runner for the Ultra Team.  An Ultra Team only consists of 4 members.  You guessed it!  They run double!  Regular team members run about 15.5 miles total, while an Ultra Team member will run 31 miles.  Yes, it’s a special kind of crazy.  The Type Two Fun Ultra team actually placed 3rd in their division!!!  Well deserved!   These folks are beasts!


Speaking of crazy people… this is Jonathan.  We met in the middle of the night, blasting down the long decent of the Red Loop.  Apparently, his team runs in full lederhosen and seem to have a ham with them.  Great guys having a ton of fun!



Big shout out to the race director and staff!  Not sure how they do it, but they are amazing.  They have to manage a lot of people in a remote location for over 24 hrs.  They are up all night, ensuring everything continues to go smoothly.  This year, like last year, was amazing.  Thank you!


Once the last runner headed out to the trail, we broke camp.  That’s one benefit to being the anchor runner… most everything is done when you get back.  By this time, everyone was anxious to get home to a shower and a comfortable bed.  We grabbed our medals, snapped a picture and hit the road with another successful RAGNAR Trail Relay under our belts.



This is my favorite team event of the year.  We will likely run 3 teams next year, as everyone has friends that want to join.  The more the merrier!  We have such a great group of people and have become great friends (even though I may see some of them only at Ragnar).  We’ll continue to train and encourage each other and prepare for the next one.  November can’t come soon enough!

See you on the trail!!!

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