This weekend, I had the honor of running Ragnar Hill Country Ultra on the trails of Flat Rock Ranch with some of the best teammates one could ask for!
I went into this race having NEVER run trails before. EVER. As clumsy and prone to injury I am, I just couldn’t risk injuring myself for a race of this nature when I have my Boston qualifying attempt at Houston coming up next. I’m literally down to the wire and have ZERO time for injury rehab! OK….no, I am not that responsible. Brent banned me from trails! LOL
I picked up teammate Renegade Kelly at the airport on the way to San Antonio and we were off on our adventure!! We met up with Renegades Brent and Tim (and girlfriend, Madison) to eat dinner at a local restaurant that had an ahhhhhhmazing on-tap beer selection! I had difficulty deciding what to pick! After we stuffed ourselves with fabulous food and tasty beer, we went to turn in early for a good night’s sleep.
After breakfast at IHOP on Friday (NO, that is NOT on the metabolic efficiency diet plan!), we were on our way to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort – basically the middle of nowhere! We unloaded all our gear, picked a campsite and went to work setting everything up. We had plenty of time to get things set up and eat lunch in Ragnar village before our check-in and safety briefing. Kelly and I even had time to go shopping in the Ragnar store and score some sweet gear! Afterwards, we all went back to chill at camp until our 3:30 PM team start.
Ragnar Trail runs have 3 loops. The loops must be run in order: Green, Yellow, Red for a team total of 24 loops. Since our team was an ultra team, we decided to run 2 laps back-to-back so that we would only have to go out three times versus six. This would give extra recovery time between laps. Tim was first up for the Green and Yellow loops; I was our second leg and my first outing would be Red and Green loops; Kelly was to be third and Brent was our anchor leg.
Tim is an incredibly fast runner and before we knew it, he was back at transition and it was my turn to go out! The Red loop was supposedly the most difficult, although I think that distinction was mostly due to the fact that the Red loop was the longest at 7.6 miles. I tried to keep my heart rate in check at the beginning, but it was basically impossible. This trail had an overall elevation increase of 958 feet and the biggest part of that was rocky terrain. I was so relieved when I finally passed the 5 mile mark and the trail started going mostly downhill AND I was able to run some flat, even-ish trails – which really helped my pace. I came through transition to my teammates cheering me on and went out immediately to run the Green loop. OH MY-LANTA! The Green loop was easier in ways, but harder in others. I’m not going to lie – I walked up part of the first hill, which was on a stinking gravel road! This trail had more grassy, flat trail in it, but there were also some technical parts that were steeper and more rocky than the Red loop! The temps on the Red loop were fairly warm, but by the time I got on the Green loop the sun was starting to set and I could feel the cooler air in the low-lying areas. It was fun and fast, though, and before I knew it, I was in transition again, handing off to Kelly so she could start our third leg. The only thing that I disliked about this run was having to keep my head down so much to avoid tripping. When I was able to look up, the views were breathtaking. I LOVE the Hill Country!! I was pleased, overall, with my run. I ran the 10.45 miles in 1:52 at a 10:44 pace. I was hoping to run closer to 10:00 pace, but I knew going in that was a lofty goal! Now it was time to try to get some rest and wait on my next leg.
As soon as the sun went down, so did the temps! I had checked the forecast and knew that temps were supposed to get down into the mid 40s, but it seems so much colder when you are actually out in it! I crawled into my sleeping bag and was finally able to get somewhat warm. It seemed as if I had just drifted off to sleep when it was time to get up and get ready for my next leg. My go-to pre-run nutrition since starting on this Metabolic Efficiency journey is UCAN, however, I ate a banana with peanut butter for this outing. By this time, I was FREEZING, because temps were really starting to dip, so I went down to the village to hang out by the camp fire until Tim came in. And before I knew it, I was off on my second leg at 12:04 AM! This leg would be my longest run at around 12.5 miles. I would be running the Yellow loop (which was home to the highest point in the race) and the Red loop (AGAIN). The temps were right in my perfect run zone! I do much better when temps are in the low 40s, plus there was no sun! The Yellow loop was pretty much a continuous climb for the first half of the loop. It was a technical trail but, of course, the cover of darkness made it more difficult. I had to slow down more often than I did on my first leg because I wasn’t willing to risk a bad fall. Every time I came across a rocky ascent or descent, my mantra was: Boston. I made it through the Yellow loop, only tripping on a tree root once but I caught myself with my hands so I felt like I was #winning !! I celebrated too quickly. The Red loop BEAT ME UP! My legs were getting tired from trying to stabilize my feet and body on the uneven terrain and this loop had more (or seemed to have more) tree roots on it. I fell three more times and EVERY TIME was due to tree roots!! I was only passed by the super-ultra-guy-runners and I passed A LOT of people – so many were walking. I came back into transition a little battered and bloody, but I was actually proud of that dirt and blood! This leg was a little slower, but faster than I had anticipated while I was out on the trail. I ran 12.53 miles in 2:25 with an 11:36 average. I wasn’t *as* happy with it, but I was glad that my pace was under 12:00.
After stopping at the medic tent to get my wounds cleaned and antibiotic ointment applied, I grabbed clean clothes and went to find a half-way clean port-o-potty in which to change. Of course, I was dripping with sweat and my body was cooling down and I was shivering. It was SO COLD. So cold, that while I was scrubbing the dried blood off my leg in the port-o-potty, there was STEAM coming off my skin. After I cleaned myself up, I crawled into my sleeping bag and NEVER GOT WARM. I shivered and froze the rest of the night. I was SO MISERABLE. I HATE being cold.
Finally, the sun started to rise and I knew it would soon be time for me to go out for my third and final leg. Kelly and I got up and went on the hunt for coffee. But something was wrong. During my second leg, I could tell my right psoas was overworked and I could feel it when I was on the trail. It was a little cranky when I finished, but I had hoped that some rest would help it. Nope. The more I walked around; the worse it got. Tim was out running, and could come in at any moment. Brent had gone to his car to charge phones and I confided in Kelly that I was really, really scared. She tried to put a positive spin on it, but I knew how my left side felt back in the Spring, how bad it got because I continued to run Ragnar road on it, and how LOOOOONG it took to recover. I DO NOT have any recovery time. We walked back to camp with our coffee and I sat down in a chair and started crying. I was so scared. I felt SO BAD. I didn’t know what to do. I knew that if I ran any of my last 8 miles, that I would be kissing any chance at a BQ goodbye. And I felt that by *not* running my 8 miles, I would be letting my team down. Major bummer. As soon as Kelly realized how concerned that I was, she told me she would run my 8 miles….BOTH loops. I knew I couldn’t let her do that (she still had 10 miles of her own), but she insisted on running my 3. She went to tag off with Tim and I went to find Brent to tell him what was going on. When I filled him in, he asked if I would feel better if he ran my 5 miles…..at this point I was just trying to hold back the tears. I felt so relieved not to be running that last leg because I knew it was the right decision but at the same time I felt so guilty that my teammates had to pick up my slack and yet again, at the same time, my heart was so full because they were willing to do what they could to help me protect my chance at qualifying for Boston.
Kelly was pretty worn out when she got back from last leg (Brent was out running the last 2 loops) so Tim and I packed up camp while she sat and recovered with food, food and more food. We loaded everything up and all we had to do at that point was wait for Brent so we could run the finish in with him! When we ran the finish, I knew that the decision to sit out my last leg was the right call because my psoas was cranky and irritable after running less than .10 mile. Knowing that still didn’t help my ego and my pride deal with the situation – I felt really, really badly about it.
We went to have our picture made with our medals, then got Brent to his car so he could make the trek home. Kelly and I headed to Austin, where we were staying for the night and Tim….Tim had to find his keys before he was able to leave. Thankfully, they had been found and turned in! Before Kelly and I left out, I had to use my medal to do a bit of surgery on my knee…..I had a piece of skin that was hanging and I could not get it off. It is true that Ragnar medals are multi-purpose tools!
We found out on Sunday that we took 7th overall out of all the Ultra teams and 3rd in our division of Mixed -Sub Masters, which was VERY exciting!! Words can’t express the amount of love and admiration I feel for my teammates for stepping up and taking my slack. It STILL causes me to tear up! And the GREAT news is that my psoas isn’t giving me any problems at the moment. I am still struggling with that decision, but I know it was the right one. I’m so thankful that I didn’t suffer a set-back on this journey.
I have been feeling called to the trails for quite some time and this weekend, they stole my heart. I WILL be back on the trails, but they will have to wait until after I run Houston Marathon. Now my only focus is getting ready for that race – with all my rest days aka free time this week, I have had several mini freak-outs! When I start working out again (TOMORROW!!!), I am going to simply focus on each workout and execute it the best that I can.