It wasn’t the traditional road Ragnar, which consists of a team of 12 runners (or 6 for an ultra team) and about 200 miles of running, with vans following each group.
Instead, mine was a trail Ragnar, consisting of an 8 person team (or 4 for an ultra) and about 120 miles of trail running. No van; camping instead!
This version appealed to me because of ‘no van’ part, but now after doing a trail Ragnar, I’m actually more interested in doing a road one. More on that later in this post!
My sister Cresta organized the team (and was the captain.) She ran this trail Ragnar last year and really enjoyed it, so she convinced 3 out of 4 of my sisters to register (4 Wedel girls) and 4 friends (one was Cresta’s sister in law, her sister in law’s neighbor, an old coworker, and then my sister Erin’s friend as well).
Now that Cresta lives in Minnesota, we drove to Wausau together on Thursday evening after work, along with my sister Laurie (who lives in Iowa and drove up to Minneapolis to carpool). Wausau was about a 3 hour drive from Minneapolis; we stopped in Chippewa Falls for dinner at a cute little restaurant called the Farm Store Grille (I was very underdressed- I only packed running clothes!)
We didn’t get to our hotel until about midnight; we quickly crashed in bed. It was nice to sleep in a bed the night before our camp/run experience.
Ragnar determines your team’s start time based on your team’s paces. We were all asked to enter our 10k road pace, and apparently we had some speedy roadsters on our team, so we didn’t start running until 1:30 pm on Friday. Some teams started as early as 9 am on Friday. I believe the campsite in Nine Mile State Park was open for campers to arrive the night before, but I was glad we had the hotel the night before. (I do love my sleep…)
You only have 10 minutes to unload your car at the campgrounds and then the driver has to go to an offsite parking lot and shuttle back to the campground. With 300+ teams, there was no parking at the campground, which made sense. Cresta dropped Laurie and me off with all our bags and we wandered down the walkways of the campground trying to find an open site.
Well, we found one in what appeared to be a good location, away from the porta-potties but still close to the action/start line.
There was a reason it was open…direct sunlight.
This pic is not our campsite, but it gives an idea of the HEAT and sun. Man, it was HOT in Wausau this weekend! I think it would have been a totally different experience had there been cool fall weather instead!
As we started to unpack, we were ROASTING. SO HOT. In fact, I believe records were set for the heat in Wausau. We definitely should have found a shaded site! Rookie mistake.
Anyways, shortly thereafter, my sister Erin and her friend Jen arrived with the 8 person tent. We had originally planned for 2 tents, but we realized not everyone would be sleeping at the same time (someone would always be running and another person would probably be getting ready to run). One big tent was plenty.
Okay- so once we set up our site, we headed down to the main area to watch a safety video and then check in our team. All participants got a cozy tee and a random bag of other goodies (Ragnar temporary tattoos, etc.)
Ragnar Trail Northwoods consisted of three loops, green, yellow, and red. Green was the easiest and shortest (3.25 miles), Yellow was medium difficulty/technical (about 5 miles) and red was the hardest and most technical (and about 7.6 miles long).
Generally each runner was supposed to run each loop once, but of course, no one was really keeping track if you had to switch things around. For example, one of our runners did not want to run the hardest loop in the middle of the night, so she traded with another runner. Additionally the heat was really getting to one of our runners, so I picked up extra mileage as well. I think if we did it totally the way we were supposed to, then each runner would run about 15 miles, but I ended up with closer to 24 miles.
My first red loop was at 3pm…SO hot, but I actually ran my fastest pace here, since I had fresh legs and was excited to be on the beautiful trails.
Cresta had suggested that we put each running outfit in a quart sized Ziploc bag, which was a great idea. Each of my bags had socks, sports bra, shorts, and tank.
My Ragnar Experience:
My second run wasn’t until about 11 pm, so after changing into fresh running clothes (and using a bunch of Wilderness Wipes) I enjoyed a beer and some pizza. There was a taco bar included with registration, but the idea of tacos didn’t sound that great to me. Instead, I paid for some delicious wood-fired pizza at a little stand.
I had hoped to sleep a little bit before my 11 pm run, but who can go to sleep when its 95 degrees and there are hundreds of people talking outside your tent? Not me! I gave up on that idea really quick and hung around the campsite until it was time to run again.
My night run consisted of the green and yellow loops together, for about 8 miles total. Running in the middle of the night on trail was pretty awesome! I mean, I was definitely nervous about falling. For most of the run I was completely alone, which was surprising. All runners were required to use headlamps- I wore this head lamp (so bright!) as well as my knuckle lights and could see pretty well. Occasionally another runner would pass me or I would pass a runner, but not that frequently. This was my favorite part of Ragnar, even though in hindsight it was a bit nuts to be running alone in the dark in the woods, (especially so close to the NYC marathon!)
After the night run, another change of clothes and more Wilderness Wipes, then I really tried to sleep. I managed a few hours of fitful rest (it was hot in the tent) before my third and final run around 8 am. That run was another red loop.
With the red loop being so technical, it was challenging to run it with a tired mind. I think you need to have sharp reactions to run trail like this, and I definitely did not! Fortunately, I didn’t take any bad falls, just slowed my pace to safely finish my final leg of my first Ragner.
23-ish miles of trails, 85 degree heat, full sun, lots of humidity…
I swear, a shower never felt so good! Post-Ragnar shower..amazing.
I was actually pretty sore from all the trails. I think I was using a lot more stabilizing muscles. My ankles were also pretty tight from all the ‘near falls’ along the way.
Will I do another one?
I went into this trail Ragnar thinking Ragnar in general would be a one-and-done for me. But now that it’s over, I actually want to do another one, probably a road one and probably as an ultra team (anyone want to join my team?) It would also be fun to do it in a beautiful location (any suggestions?). Though I really enjoyed the trails, I think I would feel more comfortable truly running especially with a tired mind and body as road running just takes less…thinking.
Our team was pretty awesome- everyone was really easy going and chill. Everyone chipped in with bringing stuff and helping to organize the whole thing, though of course extra props to our captain Cresta who did a lot of the work!
And it was SO much fun to do it with 3 out of 4 of my sisters! It was so special.
I was so proud of my little sister Laurie, who did her FIRST trail run ever on the red loop around 6:30 pm, which meant she was running in the dark for most of it! Very brave. 🙂
The exchange area was ‘fixed’ at this Ragnar vs. a road one.
There was a chip timing map about a 1/4 mile from the finish/exchange point. When your team passed that map, the team name would show up on the screen so you’d be ready to rotate in the next runner.
There were slap bracelets you’d wear for whatever color loop you were running. We also had a shared bib on a waist band that we would have to switch at each exchange as well.
There were a lot of discussions over the weekend about the differences between a trail Ragnar and a road one. Since I have never done a road one, I can’t really speak to it, but the other runners had. They said there wasn’t as much of the ‘team’ feeling as the trail Ragnar because you’re not cheering your runner on from your van. Rather on the trail run, it’s a bit more solo, as you often would head to your run while other runners were sleeping.
They said it was a totally different vibe- a bit more laid back and ‘less smelly’ since everyone isn’t packed into a van!