Monday, April 29, 2013

Ragnar Zion - The Running

Yesterday, I focused on the overall experience of Ragnar Zion.

Now, let's talk about the running. Before I get into the details, let me just say. Trail running is HARD! Probably even harder considering I did zero training on trails on top of the fact that I hadn't run period in about three weeks.

Warning: This is kind of lengthy.

Here's a look at the overall course map.

Click for a larger view

Every runner runs each of the legs. The order you run them in depends on which number runner you are. I was runner #6, so I ran Red, Yellow, then Green.

I was really excited to run them in this order, because then I'd be saving the easiest loop for last when I would be the most tired. Yay! :-)

The Red Loop
This was the longest loop, but relatively flat compared to the other two loops. It took you on service roads and paths that were like narrow, little trenches.

I really had to pee when I went to the exchange for the pass off. Luckily, he wasn't in yet, so I asked the volunteer where the nearest port-a-potty was. I ran there, peed, and ran back with plenty of time. Unfortunately, I was WAY out of breath by the time I got back to the transition tent. I winded myself going to the port-a-potty, how am I going to survive 7+ miles?

I took off around 7:20 p.m. The first mile was a kind of pure, agonizing hell. I was having trouble breathing, and I couldn't find my rhythm. I think I even had to walk now and then. Probably around mile 2.5 I really started to feel good. I felt confident and sure-footed and felt like I was running at a pretty decent pace. Around mile 3, there was a water stop set up. Even though I was running with a Camelbak, I still stopped for a little cold refreshment.

The loop met up at the water stop again around mile 5. By this time, it was starting to get dark, so I strapped on my headlamp.

The view off the side of the trail - just before sunset.

The rest of the loop went all right. I mean it was definitely tough and definitely dark and I was definitely ready to be finished when I got back to the transition tent, but when it was all over, I thought it was a great run. :) I think it took me about 1h 45min for this 7.5 mile loop. That may seem very slow, but remember this was trail running. In fact, I finished about 10 or so minutes before my team expected me. Luckily I didn't have to wait that long to pass off the baton.

The Yellow Loop
This was by far the most challenging loop. Just look at that elevation profile. I basically climbed a mountain. IN THE DARK! I started this loop around 4 or so in the morning. Wellllll before sunrise. I didn't mind doing the hardest loop in the dark. More of an excuse to go slow. :-)

Unfortunately, I upset my right knee a bit during my first leg. It was irritated for most of my rest between legs, so I didn't really have high hopes for this leg. Sore knee + dark + crazy-ass hills = SLOW run. I have no idea how long it took me, but slightly longer than expected.

I think I'm just about the weirdest runner because I hate running downhill. I'd much rather deal with the exhaustion of running/walking uphill. In fact, I really think I might actually be able to get up a hill faster than I can get down one. Running downhill just plain hurts me. Either my knees or shins or both.

Needless to say, this loop was mostly walked. Both downhill and uphill.

But it was the dark. Yeah, I totally blame the dark. :)

After my run, and the sun came up, I hit up one of the massage tents. He thought it was probably some IT band irritation that was causing my knee pain and, in addition to great massage and stretching, he gave me some tips to stretch on my own and prepare for my final leg. He also taped my knee to help provide additional relief.

The Green Loop
Oh, how I was looking forward to this leg. It was going to be the easiest. It was going to be sunny and WARM. Oh yes!

And then the first mile and a half was pure hell. All downhill. My knee was absolutely killing me. Shots of pain with nearly every fricking downhill step. Agony. I had to go so slow.

But every time the trail flattened out or went to a slight uphill, I tried to give it my all. I knew I had a LOT of time to make up after my super slow downhill start.

All-in-all, this loop still took me around 50 min, I think, but I finished super strong. I was running so hard that I didn't even notice my teammates on the side of the trail. I was booking it. Crossing into the transition tent, I really had to fight back the tears. Hardcore. It look awhile for me to catch my breath and make my way back to my team while we waited for our last two runners.

Since our team was running a bit late, they let us run the final three loops simultaneously. We were all very grateful to be finished. Unfortunately, I've got no pictures of us finishing yet. Hopefully one of my teammates will post one soon, and I'll share it then.

Before I go, I need to share one more tidbit about the running.

Seeing these signs was bittersweet. On one hand, it meant only 1/2 mile to go. On the other, it was a hellacious 1/2 mile of crazy uphill switchbacks. Every loop ended the same. Enduring this. 3 times.

It was called Pure Evil, Hell's Gate, Recurring Nightmare, Deja Vu, Devil's Escalator. None of which really do it justice. Even some of the elites had to walk up this section. At least that's what I tell myself.

Each leg had its own challenges, and there were definitely times when I didn't want to continue and really had to push myself. During the Green Trail I really had to give myself a pep talk. Mostly because I wanted it to be my strongest, and I was so tempted to walk.

I ran all three loops without music or a watch mostly because my phone was dead pretty much the whole time, so I could just relax and really enjoy the running. I'm kind of bummed that so much of my running was in the dark. I think I would have like enjoying the scenery a bit more. Of course, that might have just frustrated me more that I didn't pack a camera.

Now that all is said and done, I'm so happy I got to join Hot on the Trails at Ragnar Zion! I really challenged myself and that just plain feels good!

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  1. Wow. Sounds really awesome. I don't think I would survive too long running at suchh a high elevation - where I live, it's only about 300 ft. Congrats to you, though! Totally awesome.

    1. Thanks so much, Betsy! I'm really surprised I did as well as I did. :)

  2. Congrats on a great race! That sounds VERY hard! I hate that your knee was giving you so much trouble. I've never done a trail run, and have been thinking lately that I would like to try it!

    1. You should totally try it! I think with some practice it would get easier for me, but I'm just not very confident right now. I do wish there were some trails closer to me.

  3. You are brave! Not only running the trail but in the dark. Without having practice on trails. I'm truly impressed! I don't think I would have survived!

  4. I'm running this year but have never done a trail you remember much about the process of getting the people and their gear to the camp sites? And maybe how long a trip from spring dell to Zion ponderosa might take? A few of us are concerned with the unknown if this event.... Any thing would help :)

    1. Hi Lauren! I know it's down to crunch time, so hopefully you get this comment. :-)

      When you get to Zion Ponderosa, you'll park on a road, and there will be shuttles with flatbed trailers that you can load your gear on to take you to where the camp sites are. At the dropoff, I'd suggest having one person stay with the gear while the others stake out a site. It's basically a big open field and you just set up camp anywhere. Once you have chosen a spot, you'll have to carry everything over and set up camp. Hopefully that's helpful.

      I'm not really sure where Spring Dell is, so I can't tell you how far it would be from Zion Ponderosa.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at