my constant vigilance paid off!
(and so did my propane heater!)
after a hiatus in 2020 because 2020, we were back for ragnar trail wisconsin 2021. and i was prepared. after the cold year, i knew that i did NOT want to be cold again because that sucks. sure, running in the cold is something everyone’s like, yeah! so much better than running in the heat! but when you’re tenting, you don’t get to go into your warm house and take a warm shower after your cold run. personally, i’d rather run in the hot during ragnar trail at that point.
BUT i had been monitoring the weather and what do you know, it was going to get down to the 40s at night, and no way was i gonna deal with that noise. so i bought a propane heater to go on top of a 20 lb propane tank.
it was a lifesaver both nights. best purchase for ragnar.
i also packed plenty of layers and what i thought was more clothes than i needed, but better to be safe than sorry.
so off i went thursday around 11, picked up jane, and we headed out to wausau, which is in the middle of wisconsin. we got into line right at 4 p.m., and once the line started moving, we were moving pretty quickly. got in, unloaded, and i took the car to parking while jane hauled our crap down to our campsite.
we hung out for a bit until liz, doug, and quinn showed up with the tents, and then we were really able to set up camp in earnest.
that night it was just us five, but we got to test out the new heater and managed to remember why we brought so many layers. it’s no fun being cold at camp! i managed to get a decent amount of sleep, though i ended up waking up every 2 hours or so to roll over and had to get up once to use the porta-loo to pee (it was 4 a.m.- no way was i holding it). (also, hydration is KEY the day before race day, so i wasn’t surprised i had to get up in the middle of the night to pee.)
then it was race day…
liz was set to start the first loop at 9:40 a.m., which seemed awfully early for our fast-ish team, but we took it. matt left early so he could get to camp before his loop, and our remaining two teammembers were on the way to be there a little later in the day.
i decided to opt for a later loop than i normally do, because i wanted to do the red (read: hard) loop in the daylight. that loop has been an arch nemesis in the past when i fell and sprained my ankle right at the beginning of the loop. in the past, i ran it during sunrise, which was nice, but our timing was weird, so i chose runner 5 this year.
oh, so fresh, so ready to take on a run. the yellow loop has always been 5.5 miles, but only this year did they figure that out. it’d always been advertised as 4.5 miles, and every time i ran it i wondering, how is my running time so slow? it’s my first run, on fresh, pampered legs, with trail running that i’ve been killing lately. so, imagine my happiness when it’s actually a MILE LONGER. (well, not happy because of that extra mile; just happy because my time isn’t abysmal.)
the yellow loop is probably the least hazardous of the loops – fewer roots and not as many rocks. there are a lot of switchbacks and some minor slopes to run up, but overall, it’s a pleasant route. they did a little rerouting and i didn’t have to deal with the bridge that i fell off three years ago.
it was about 70º when i went out, which was nearly perfect for me. i was able to wear a tank and shorts and not sweat too badly during my run.
here i am: a vision in sherbert.
note my knees! i was so worried. i decided to see what happened on the yellow loop to figure out the other two. i taped the crap out of them and wrapped the right one. after my run, they weren’t horrible, but they weren’t too happy. i stopped at the medic tent and grabbed a bag of ice. after stretching and icing, i decided to give the next loop a go.
they yellow loop was the best as far as weather and speediness. i was booking it at the end. i finished 5.5 miles in 1:07, which i right about where i expect that to be.
time for a break! i ate some food, drank a lot of electrolytes (which, i think, saved me), and then we lived through a big rainstorm. liz was running during the rain, and with the rain, the temps dropped. i had to figure out what to wear in the night at 50º-ish degrees. trying to figure out what to wear to run in anything 40s and 50s is the worst. ugh.
i ended up taking off on my red loop around 10:45 after matt came in a little later than i’d expected from his red. that red loop is just a beast. anyway, i ended up wearing a long-sleeved wool shirt, a poly tank, a poly tshirt, and then a pullover poly long sleeved 3/4 zip that i had just purchased! good call on that. i also pulled on a brace over my long pants on the one knee and then slipped a knee wrap on the other one.
off i went into the cold on the green loop.
THEY SAY the green loop is only 3.35 miles.
THEY SAID it used to be 3 miles.
we think they’re wrong. i ran that whole dang loop, and there’s no way i’m running a 14.5-minute mile running all the time. that’s about where i was at when i first started running! plus, that loop always seems to go on and on, and i run 3 miles ALL THE TIME. it’s my minimum mileage these days.
i think the green loop is closer to 4 than 3 miles. but whatever.
i have no pics because it was dead dark out, but there were some pretty awesome lit-up arches that matt managed to sort of get a pic of!
i was expecting a lot of puddles on the loop since it had rained, and doug gave good advice to just run through the puddles that were there to avoid the mud. i think a lot of them had been soaked up but there were still some that i had to just splash through. good thing i brought two pairs of shoes.
the coolest thing about the green loop was that i was pacing a dude. i asked him a couple times if he wanted to get past me, and he said nope, he was good. the trails through the woods on ragnar are single-file bike trails, so when you really get in there, it’s hard to pass without moving over/stopping. and since i am a slowbie, i end up doing that quite a bit. so, pacing someone in the woods is actually pretty cool. it forced me to just keep on running, which also kept me warm.
i finished up red in 48 minutes. totally closer to 4 miles than 3. i ended up getting done a little bit quicker than expected, and i must have just missed quinn in the transition list. i waited for maybe 5 minutes, then i had to go. i was going to get chilled. i hung my bib on a rack for times like this, took a glance at people watching screens and didn’t see her. so i went back and told the dude on deck about quinn, and he went to take a look. meanwhile, she responded to a text i sent her, and she got going about 15 mins later.
and THANK GOD FOR THAT HEATER. holy cats, what a phenomenal investment. i ran (yes, ran) back to the tent, changed into my wool under layer shirt, wool sweater, down vest, wool socks, two pairs of pants, and fleece jacket and then camped out in front of the heater for about 30 minutes while i ate some oatmeal, cheese, and some protein, then drank more electrolytes, chatted with a semicolon aficionado teammate, stretched, and then decided to call it and try to sleep.
surprisingly, my knees weren’t screaming at me too badly. so i was gonna do the red loop.
i maybe got 3-4 hours of sleep after crawling into my 400 layers of warmth in my sleeping bag. the unfortunate thing about that was that my pillow got damp from my sweaty head, so every time i rolled over, my face was on chilly wet pillow until it warmed up. yuck-o.
and in and out went teammates on their runs. liz got up and came back, jane got up and came back. but i slept, and that was a good thing. this was probably my best year for sleep. (although, i was lying there thinking, what am i doing? i could be at home, in my bed, in my warm house, and be comfortable. why am i doing this?)
i woke up to go pee at 5:30ish (again). there’s always a bit of hum during the night because the relay is constant, so there are people out and about. the moon was bright enough overhead to not need a headlamp to see, and on my way back, i saw a shooting star. the stars in general were great.
(the portapotties were also pretty great this year. clean, well-ventilated, and emptied often. TP was always stocked.)
when i got back, liz had come back from her last run, and jane was awake, so i just stayed awake. i wasn’t feeling too bad. dressing myself was going to be a different matter!
i was going to, once again, be running at the low-temp time of the day. fortunately, it didn’t get as cold as expected, and it was a whopping 43º instead of 39º. i didn’t realize that i was going to be running this early, so i hadn’t packed the right pants for cold weather, so instead, i wore my long shorts and my calf compression socks. wool tank, wool shirt, long sleeved poly shirt, and a short sleeved poly shirt. i wore liz’s ragnar cap, which i think actually helped quite a bit.
time for the last loop. the red loop is not only the longest, but possibly the most treacherous. there are sections of giant boulders and small rocks and middling rocks on the path that you have to hop your way through. then there are sections of roots and roots and more roots sticking out of the dirt path. and, if you’re like me, you don’t pick your feet up well enough, and the toes of your shoes just catch the edge of the root.
but first, the red loops starts out nice. a wide, open, grassy path where you can warm up, get your bearings, think you’re doing great. there are a couple of long, slopey hills that are more work than you want them to be, but generally they are followed by a nice downhill. then BAM. we enter the single-file forest rock city.
this is pretty tame.
there are two bridges on the red loop, and i walked both of them. they were full of mud from the trail. and if the roots were too much, i walked that too. i tried to run through the rocks; generally, the rocks were better for me than the roots. maybe because they were obvious? i’m not sure. but the last leg of single file dangerousness was rooty rooty rooty.
also not too bad. this pic courtesy of matt!!
but after you get through the roots sent from hell, you get back into wide-open grassy paths where you get a little too confident in your running.
side story! so quinn was telling us about her fall on her first run, where she landed on her face. she was describing it and said, “you know when you trip and you throw your hands back like this?” and he demonstrated by throwing her arms along her sides and backwards, like reverse superman.
in my head, i was thinking, “i don’t do that. i throw my hands forward to stop the fall what is she talking about.”
so i am just rolling out into wide-open plains for running, and i do NOT constant vigilance, and i trip over something. and i THROW MY ARMS BACK TO COUNTER BALANCE. in my head, i’m not thinking about the possible trip and fall of this, but rather, WHAT??? QUINN WAS RIGHT!!!
(i did manage to pull out of that fall, though my lower back did a LOT of work to prevent that.)
and when i told the others about this? they all said that they, too, were skeptical of quinn’s arm position, and liz actually had the same experience that i did! so, that’s the side story. and the closest i came to injury.
the final slopey section is about a mile or so long, but it’s nice because you aren’t hemmed in by trees and switchbacked trails. there’s more freedom in the run, and you can lengthen your stride. there’s a GIANT HILL that you basically just power walk up, cuz ain’t no one gonn run up that thing.
and then you come into the final stretch where all three loops’ runners converge, run through a short leg in the woods, and come out to cheers in the transition tent.
then i was DONE!!
i finished up the red loop, 6.75 miles through rocky, rooty mess, in 1:33. and that was with a lot of walking through obstacles!
we had three more runners after me, and then we got our medals and pics.
matt did the volunteer shift while the rest of us packed up and hauled everything over to the drop site. by the time we were done, almost 2 p.m., nearly all the teams had finished up. it was probably the earliest that i’d ever seen us finish up our relay – i think in the hot year (2017?) we didn’t finish the last runner til almost 3 p.m.
then it was time to get out. i was tired, needed a shower, and also needed food. liz, jane, doug, quinn, and i stopped in wausau for lunch, then it was time to head out.
i got home at 9 p.m., took a shower, threw my sweaty clothes in the wash, then promptly passed out. i slept 11 hours last night. and, weirdly enough, all that running seemed to have healed my knee issues?? what the heck.
til next year, ragnar!