Team Toes To Trail began training to run Ragnar Snowmass in January, approximately 6 months before the race. At the time, I had just started to run consistently again after having an achilles injury. This was a difficult commitment to make since I wasn’t sure how my achilles was going to respond as I started increasing mileage. I figured I had 6 months to sort it all out so I got some new shoes and hoped for the best.
Our Ragnar team started meeting for runs every Sunday morning. It was bitter cold the first few months. I remember waking up shivering, not wanting to go outside, putting on a lot of layers, and still feeling deathly cold when we started running. There were times I had on too many layers, but it was worth it just to get me out the door. If it weren’t for my warm clothes I wouldn’t ever leave my house. I hate being cold.
The runs started off short and at an easy pace. As the weeks went by we started running longer, and faster. Some weeks there were only a few of us and other weeks we had a huge group that extended beyond the members of our Ragnar team. Training for Ragnar filled a void. I’ve grown accustomed to running with other people, in fact I prefer it. I spent all of high school, college, and some years beyond that as a member of a running team. If I wasn’t on a team I always had a core group of people to train with. It can get quite lonely when you suddenly don’t have that. Training for Ragnar provided me with that team aspect I was missing.
Fast forward to June and we were ready to go! We knew the course (we went to Snowmass a few weeks prior to the race to run the red loop), we had team shirts, lots of camping gear, and I had a huge jar of salsa. We were prepared!
We left on Thursday night after everyone was done work. We set up our campsite, then the temperature dropped a lot, and I realized how cold it was going to be. It was frigid. We climbed into our tents and fell asleep only to be woken up in the middle of the night because sprinklers were going off. It was problematic for most of the other campsites, but we were just lucky to be overly prepared and to not have placed our tents super close to the sprinklers.
When we woke up Friday morning we had breakfast and waited around until noon when our team would start running. As we waiting it got extremely hot, at least I didn’t need gloves anymore. We had an 8 person team and I was our 7th leg so I had a long time to wait before I would actually get to run, and it was still super hot when I ran. Hot is better than cold though.
I ran the green loop first. This was the easiest loop and the loop I hated the most. This was also the loop where I yelled at an official for telling me stop running so he could let the traffic go through the race course–that isn’t how that works and he needed to learn that you do not stop people running a race. Also, I messed up my watch and had no idea what my time or pace was this whole run. Other than that I just ran this loop as best as I could. Of all of the loops, I felt the worst running this one. I don’t remember a lot about it, just that at one point the runners coming off the hill intersected with the runners going up the hill and that somehow I ended up next to the chute and not in the shoot as I was finishing.
Our team was crushing it and everyone was running way faster than we predicted, which was great! I ended up running the red loop about 2 hours ahead of when I originally thought I’d be running, around midnight. I tried to sleep between the green loop and the red loop but I was so cold it wasn’t really possible to get any good sleep. For a while Phil wasn’t in the tent because he was out running and I helped myself to his sleeping bag after putting on every piece of clothing I brought with me. I do not like being cold. When I got up to go run I was still freezing. The red loop was the longest loop, close to 7 miles. I set out with a headlamp, a flashlight, and my hydration pack. Last year at Ragnar Zion my flashlight burned out when I was running the red loop in the dark and I regretted not bringing water. This year I was preparing for the worst. The first half of the red loop was entirely uphill with the the first 2ish miles on a paved road. I was determined to run the entire way up this never ending hill, and I did until I got onto the trail and had about half a mile of uphill left. At that point a guy in pink shorts ran by me, effortlessly, and I shut down. Our team was entered in the cross-fit division and we were winning that division up until the guy in the pink shorts passed me. I am not exaggerating, I think he was running 7 minute mile pace up this enormous hill. Anyway, I stopped running for a brief moment and then I told myself to suck it up and try to chase the guy down. I never caught him. Then, something scurried across the trail and I screamed and jumped into the air–it was a baby mouse! As I approached the downhill portion of the red loop I began passing even more people that I had passed on the uphill portion. I have jingle bells on my pack to scare off wildlife (also so I can sing Christmas carols while I run) and someone made a comment about Santa and reindeer running on the trail. I was extremely motivated by this comment because I love Christmas. It was also so cold that it felt like Christmas. I was thrilled that my flashlight and my headlamp were both still shinning bright as I neared the end of the red loop. When I finished I was freezing and tired. I should have eaten some kind of dinner or hearty snack but I didn’t. I just went immediately back into my freezing cold sleeping bag.
Before I ran the yellow loop I didn’t get a lot of warm sleep. Phil was being annoying and waking me up constantly, fearing I’d miss the race. He was done running all of his loops at that point since he was the first leg in our rotation. This annoyed me even more, I just wanted to be warm and done. I tried to eat nutella and rice cakes but my nutella was frozen and I couldn’t get it out of the jar. As I made my way over to the exchange zone area I shivered the entire time. I tried to get warm by the fire and it wasn’t working. When I finally started out on the yellow loop it was early morning so the sun was rising, making this my favorite loop. I felt like I was flying the entire time even though I wasn’t running that fast. I was passing people constantly and enjoying the sunshine because it was making me warm.
Team Toes To Trail placed 14th overall and 3rd in the cross-fit division! As excited as I am that we did so well, I am more excited that we became a team. Having a group of people to train with has made such a huge difference for me. Ragnar may be over, but Team Toes To Trail is continuing on!