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Ragnar Trail Vail Lake - Run

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Vail Lake, California
United States
50F / 10C
Total Time = 18h 29m 38s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

I did a Ragnar road race (Socal) in 2012 and had a pretty good time, though I did it with a team I didn't know and didn't have too much in common with. Shortly after that, I told some of my friends that we should consider putting together a team sometime in the future. Then I got injured and was out of running for about a year.

Earlier this year, Ragnar announced that they were putting together a trail series, and I instantly thought, "How cool! You get to hang out with your whole team the entire time [as opposed to just the half that's in your van] and chill around a campfire!" I still wasn't back into running, but we put together a team....made up of four of us who knew one another, and four we found on various facebook running/tri groups.

Ironically, though the race was in California, we seemed to have a bit of a Texas theme going on. Two of us currently live in TX, one recently moved from TX back to CA, one was born in TX, another had lived there, and another grew up in Tennessee, but said "ya'll", so he can be an honorary Texan, I suppose ;) [I don't say "ya'll" and I'm one of the people who lives in TX!].

Anyways, I flew in on Thursday night, crashed at Chris and Jen's place, and then we got up in the morning to drive down to Temecula (a couple hours). We got to the parking lot, unloaded our stuff (we packed fairly light in comparison to most other teams), and waited for the shuttle to transport us from the lot to the site. Had we known it was less than a mile, we probably would have just walked....and did just walk on the way back after the race.

At this point, it was sunny, fairly warm, but windy. I was in one of those moods where I seemed to have a very narrow comfort range....too hot with the jacket, too cold without. Eventually, it was just cold, so I needed the jacket!!

We set up camp (since this wasn't a backpacking trip, I unstrapped the hiking poles from my backpack right before we were leaving in the morning, without realizing that the tent requires the poles to hold it up! Had to scavenge for wood to hold the tent up....woops!), and waited for the rest of our teammates to arrive. Everyone showed up and though we didn't know half of them, we ended up having a really fun team that meshed well with one another.
Event warmup:

Ragnar asks each team to give their open 10k pace such that they can start you earlier or later in the day, depending on your relative pace. We had some quick people on our team, so we started at 3:30pm on Friday (first teams started at 10am, last group set out at 4:30pm). This, of course, meant that we'd all be running two of our legs in the middle of the night!

I'd been having some issues with my hamstring leading up to the race, so before I left for CA on Thursday, I got into my chiropractor and had him do some ART and hopefully get me into a good place to run some of the race. He suggested I do something to warm up my legs before running....even if it was as minimal as finding some hot water and holding it against my leg or standing in front of the fire. Luckily for me, they actually had bikes set up on trainers (which were being used to generate power to charge people's phones -- pretty cool idea!), so I got on for about 10 minutes prior to each of my legs. That worked out quite nicely.

Coming into the race, I had told myself, "Be smart, cap each run to 30 minutes max....just walk the rest." Of course, I'm an idiot and didn't do that! But in my defense, I would have frozen on the first leg if I'd walked half way through....and I was just having way too much freaking fun on the second and third legs to consider walking! I won't be taking for granted that I got lucky and didn't injure myself....will be scaling back to less than 15mpw and building from there.
  • 18h 29m 38s
  • 117.6 miles
  • 09m 26s  min/mile

First Leg: Yellow Loop (6.03 miles, 1:06:45)

I was runner 5 of 8 on our team. My first leg started just after 6:30pm and it was already pitch black and cold at that point. I wore shorts, a tank, a long-sleeved tech tee, and a beanie for this leg. My first run was the long, "easy" (flat-ish) run. Runner 4 came in and I took off. I settled into a manageable pace and started watching people blow by me. It didn't matter, I didn't have another gear to kick it into, so I didn't even bother to try to keep up or, I had a plan -- run easy, walk after 30 minutes of running. I started warming up and the sweat started flowing.....things were feeling decent. And then the sweat stopped and I started to get cold. By that time, I knew there was no way I would allow myself to stop and walk for half of the leg....I was cold and I was running -- if I walked, I'd probably turn into a popsicle! And yeah, it was probably high-40's or low-50's at that point....I'm just a weenie about being cold!

I finally finished after what felt like an eternity. I had already told our team that we would not be competitive because they let me on the team, knowing full well that I had an injury and not a ton of run volume....but it didn't change the fact that I did feel bad that sooooooooo many people passed me. Oh well, suck it up, buttercup.

After I finished my first leg, I ate dinner (Ragnar provided salad, pasta, a roll, and a cookie -- nothing special, but it was nice to not have to plan for our own dinner). Then I crashed for a couple hours.

Second Leg: Green Loop (3.44 miles, 41:57)

After how poorly I felt the first leg went and the fact that I'd only slept a couple hours (and don't have a lot of run training under the belt currently), I was really not looking forward to my second leg. And if things couldn't get any worse, it started drizzling. Great -- dark, cold, wet, running....ugh, how many things could we pile on to make this worse??

After warming up on the bike for a bit, our runner came in, and I headed out. The green loop is much more technical than the yellow loop....lots of steep ups and downs. As it turns out, this apparently caters well to my abilities. While I'm not very fast on the flats, I'm really not much slower on the steep uphills....and that meant I was blowing past people! I never pass people during the run leg of races....certainly not when it's a run-only race....and here I was, blowing by tons of people. It felt so good and I was having soooooooo much fun. Screw the cold, screw the dark, screw the rain -- this was fun!!! Oh, and screw the idea that you're only running for 30 minutes....hell no, this is way too much fun!!

I made it back and handed the bib off to the next runner. I figured I had a few hours before I needed to be up again, so I went back to the tent, changed into some dry clothes, and crashed for a few hours. I got up a little earlier than I really needed to so I could help get another runner off for his leg, but before that, we decided to each make a s'more (you know, for fuel). Mmmmm :)

Third leg: Red Loop (3.82 miles, 41:23)

After how much fun I had on the green loop, I was actually really looking forward to this leg. Not only was it another technical leg, but it was finally light out! By this time, I figured I could ditch the long sleeves, beanie, and gloves -- just perfect!

Shortly after leaving Ragnar village, the hills started....and the trend of passing people while running up the hills continued. This leg was relentless -- at one point, you'd go up a long-ish hill, have a short flat or maybe a tiny downhill, and then run smack into another long-ish hill....this continued for a while. I ran up the uphills as long as I could (at some point, a number of them were too steep to actuallly run, so I just hiked up as quickly as I could). It was soooooo tempting to keep walking on the flat or slight downhills, but I told myself to just keep going.

Toward the end, a guy passed me on a downhill (not a strength of mine) and we exchanged some "good jobs" to one another....hit another uphill and I passed him....downhill and he passed me....flat for a bit and we just stayed steady....and then something happened. We were within half a mile of the finish and something in me said, "Give it everything you've got -- just go for it!" So I did....I blew past him and he yelled out some words of encouragement and I just kept going. I can't remember the last time I ran this fast (it really probably wasn't that fast, but it felt fast for someone who took a year off of running!). I crossed the finish line, handed off the bib to the next runner, and was on the biggest runner's high I've ever had. What a freaking blast!!!

So the flat, "easy", long leg -- hated it. I think a lot of this is mental and has to do with the fact that my current "long" run is only about 40 minutes, so knowing I had well over an hour of running ahead of me was intimidating.

The technical legs -- loved them (especially when I finally got to run in the light!). I think this means that I may be a stronger runner (in comparison) on the technical legs than on the flat legs. I really enjoyed the trail aspect of this, and based on what I've learned about myself, I think I'm going to look into some trail races for next year!
What would you do differently?:

Would have been ideal to have more run volume built up before the race, but there's not a lot I could have done about it this time around.
Post race
Warm down:

After each leg, I took a few minutes to stretch by the fire, change into dry clothes, eat something, and crash (well, except for the last sleeping after that one)

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Limited run volume, running trails at night, colder weather

Event comments:

Ragnar puts on good races, but this one has some kinks to work out. They promised us bottomless coffee and hot chocolate throughout the entire event and I didn't get a single cup. Every time I went there, the (rude) lady said, "Nope, we're out and we don't know when we'll be getting more." Seriously, how hard is it to provide hot water?? This was a source of frustration for many people -- it was cold and all we wanted was something warm to drink.

Somehow, the managed to keep the s'mores coming throughout the entire race, but couldn't figure out hot water??

Also, this is a cupless race, so if you wanted anything to drink (on the course or off), you had to have a refillable cup / bottle. I didn't stop at any of the aid stations on the course, but they were there (unmanned).

The shuttle access between the campsite and parking lot was a bit of a cluster as well -- not nearly enough for the number of people they were trying to cater to. Not a huge deal as it was less than a mile, but a minor annoyance.

I'm sure Ragnar will work these out in the events to come.

Last updated: 2013-10-09 12:00 AM
18:29:38 | 117.6 miles | 09m 26s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Good
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5]

2013-11-21 3:54 PM

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Houston, Texas
Subject: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake

2013-11-21 4:59 PM
in reply to: #4902724

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PEI, Canada
Subject: RE: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake

Awesome!  Sounds like fun!

2013-11-21 7:31 PM
in reply to: #4902724

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Subject: RE: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake

I love reading about the progression you went through on this race.  Your final minutes of your final run gave me goosebumps!  That's awesome.  Your injury is a real freakin bummer, Nicole, but it sounds like you are truly gaining on it and your swim and bike sound very, very solid.  I'm excited to see how your progression goes this winter, especially now that you're into consistent running.  I think you're going to have a fast season :)

2013-11-21 9:52 PM
in reply to: #4902724

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Subject: RE: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake
Great job! Sounds like you need to find more uphill races.
2013-11-22 8:02 AM
in reply to: #4902724

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake

Awesome job, it sounds like a good time, all around. Except the coffee part. but especially the fun on the technical portions.

Congratulations on a race well run!

2013-11-25 9:02 AM
in reply to: cdban66

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South Windsor, CT
Subject: RE: Ragnar Trail Vail Lake
Great job, Nicole! That was fun to read and I know from personal experience that these Ragnar Races have so much to tell...

It must be great to have to take a year off from running and go out and finish and do well at a Ragnar. These are unique in the physical challenge and even moreso with a fairly recent injury leading to a lack of training. Congrats on finishing and I'm very glad that you are back at it!

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