I picked a pretty epic race for my return from injury and over a year of no races at all. I ran a total of 12.2 miles for one of the hardest long distance relays, in one of the most beautiful places in the country. Though I battled exhaustion, allergies, humiliation by altitude, and runner’s trots, it was a great experience. Nuun Hydration put together a team of rad runners, of which I was the last, runner #12, the caboose. This is Ragnar Wasatch Back, the good and bad, from my point of view.
What is it like to be runner #12 at Ragnar Wasatch Back? I know the legs of a long distance relay change often. However, I would’ve loved to get some details from former #12s about Wasatch Back. So I will share what I experienced in case anyone else can benefit from it.
LEG 12 | 9:42 PM | 2.0 Miles of Trail
I was running under a ski lift and across the paths of what will be ski runs when the snow returns. So I was running in and out of tree coverage. The start of this leg was on an uneven dirt path riddled with large and partially buried rocks and stones. Not enough to require trail shoes, in my opinion, but certainly enough to keep your attention.
In the second mile, I stayed in the trees and descended toward what sounded like a river. The trail was easy running, mostly packed dirt with a few roots and rocks but not bad at all. Keep in mind I ran this at night and could only see what my headlamp allowed. There were a few points on the trail where it split and I had to look up to see which route was blocked off (usually some kind of tape across it) and which was open. It wasn’t hard to figure out.
I did eventually cross water over a little bridge, ran out of the trees and onto the road behind the lodge, and back toward where I started. I only saw one other runner, and he passed me right at the end. Oh well.
This started on gravel road (not my favorite), and eventually dumped out onto a small country road with barely a foot’s breadth of paved shoulder outside of the white line. Fortunately most cars were courteous enough to give runners a wide berth.
This leg is super runnable and I wish that I had felt stronger and able to run it fast. Had this leg been in Ragnar SoCal at a lower elevation, I would have been able too! It rolls as it gains elevation so it doesn’t feel like a hard climb.
The views are great, being in a valley of farms with rolling hills surrounding you in the distance. The aid stations were excellent and the volunteers, super friendly.
Madness. Exchange 35 was in the same high school field as the Finish Line. It wasn’t easy to find. Also, I hadn’t heard that this leg had been changed from a 2.8 mile run to a 3.6 mile run, until I was 2.5 miles into the run…”One Mile To Go sign? What?!”
The start of the run is along a dirt/gravel road that skirts the base of the “Park City” hill. It’s like a giant mound of earth that springs up out of nowhere, with a single track trail that slants up the front side. It felt quite steep going up the first stretch, which is in full view of everyone in the field below. You can just imagine your team trying to spot you as you ascend to see how well you’re doing.
I power hiked the majority of ascent, passing 3 people before I got to the top. Then it was time to run down the back side of the hill, and that was an absolute blast of twisty, turny single track. Several turns on the trail were back-to-back 180 degree turns in the tall bushy trees, which was fun to zig-zag through. There are roots and rocks to watch out for, but I was totally comfortable bombing down that trail and passed another 9 people in the process.
The trail dumped out to a gravel road, which lead to a street in the neighborhood behind the school. A turn or two in the neighborhood, then a run across a field and onto school grounds again, brought me to the finish arches. Total kills for this leg: 12!
They are sponsors of the Ragnar Series and get a free team to fill with whomever they choose. I love that I got to do this race as an ambassador. I love that they provided ALL THE NUUN tablets we needed and more, and that Megan handled the logistics of the race and that we decided to be “Nuunjas”, even if we didn’t end up getting a good costume together in time.
Runners came from Washington, Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, New Jersey, Utah, Oregon and California. There is no one who knew everyone on the team and quite a few who had never met anyone else before. Even so, everyone was polite and out to have fun, so our team got along great and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these rad runners! A lot of times running with strangers is better than running with friends for long distance relays.
Northern Utah is crazy beautiful. The mountains, the big skies, the aspen groves, the rolling fields with baby sheep and cows, the rivers and reservoirs – all gorgeous. I left even more convinced that I belong in the mountains and even more determined to move to the mountains.
I’ve heard this relay can get hot but we were concerned about possible rain and thunderstorms. For those of us in Van 2, we only had some sprinkles at the beginning, a mildly cold night, and a hot, but manageable, afternoon. This was far better than the rainstorm of Napa or the sizzling heat of SoCal.
I wanted to be runner #12 because the leg descriptions said that the first and last legs would be on trails. Even though the first trail was in complete dark, it was a fun, blair-witchy kind of experience to run over the river and through the woods. Running downhill on single track for a portion of my first and last leg was definitely the highlight of running for me.
Wearing A Bib
I haven’t put a race number on in a long time, so it felt good to pin on 1032 and know that I was running in a race.
Well, “happy” may be an overstatement but, my feet are no worse for the wear after the relay! My problem foot did feel uncomfortable during my middle leg (6.5 miles), and I admit I was concerned about it, but it wasn’t painful, so I count that as a win. I did wrap it up with an Arctic Ease cold compress, which Katie introduced me too. It was awesome and helped calm my foot.
When runner #7 said she shouldn’t do her last leg of 4.1 miles, the other 4 runners in our van decided to split it up between them. They all had really hard legs to do still and no one felt capable of taking her entire 4.1 miles in addition to their final legs. But they all felt okay with doing one mile a piece, even though this is specifically against the rules. So yes, we got a violation, but we were not a competitive team anyway and they had so much fun making a mini relay with in a relay. The energy in our van multiplied exponentially which was amazingly helpful for getting us through the final stretch.
Our later start time (12:30) meant that we didn’t see many other runners or vans at the exchanges, and it made for a very lonely start to the relay. No one to pass, no one to cheer for, no teams to “compete” with. We felt anxious but it worked out in the end.
I haven’t been above 6,000 feet in a long time and certainly not running at that elevation. I knew it would be hard to run in the mountains and it was. Heavy breathing psychs me out when I run so that was a mental battle the entire time for me. I did my best to stay hydrated and fueled, but for the majority of the relay I felt tired and heavy.
As I suspected, being the last runner to go was not my cup of tea. The fact that two of my legs went NOWHERE (see the next point) didn’t help. While the others celebrated being “almost done” and settling into rest mode, I was still preparing to run and thinking to myself, “I still have to run!” I was not a fan of waiting and not being able to relax.
My first and last leg both started and ended in the same place. They were basically little out-and-backs of 2 to 3 miles helping the team go nowhere. It was like the race organizers just needed to add mileage to the race and said, “How about we just send a runner on a little wild goose chase for a few miles?” It took the wind out of my sails because I wasn’t advancing my team further down the road or toward the finish line. The runs felt pointless. We were all already AT the finish line, and they had to sit and wait for me to run a few token miles before we could officially finish. Bah.
There were a few little things that made the relay unnecessarily complicated. It was common for us to pull into the parking for an exchange and then not know where the exchange actually was. This was the most frustrating for the last exchange when it was all in the same field as the finish line and the crowds of people made it impossible to see what was going on. I was anxious to get to the exchange and I couldn’t find it! Not cool. Also, the “Rag Mag” had some pretty bad directions for the vans. Being navigator for this relay was a lot more challenging than the previous relays.
Not that this is an excuse, but between my womanly issues, my allergies, and a long morning of body deciding to cleanse itself…I felt pretty uncomfortable most of this relay. All of this is pretty common for a long distance relay, though.
Thanks Nuun Hydration!
Major thanks to Nuun for letting us running junkies get out there, slap a few Nuun tats on our arms and thighs, and run through the mountains! Bar far the hardest relay I’ve done, but so worth it.
What about you?
- Did you run Ragnar Wasatch Back? How did you like it?
- Have you ever tried a long distance relay?
- Would you join a team of strangers?
- Have you tried Nuun Hydration?