I am finishing up unpacking and cleaning up from another “epic” Ragnar Trail McDowell Mountain with the Kilty Pleasures team. Again, wow, what a fun weekend. I am just so glad that I said I would join this team at the last minute.
Hilary and Jessica flew in late Thursday night. Some of our teammates were already out in the desert setting up our campsite but by the time I got my car loaded up and was on the road, I realized that I would barely make it to the airport on time, much less all the way out to the mountains and back. It was great to see those 2 again and we had a nice dinner before heading back to my house to get our final sleep prior to our early wake-up for the race.
We left my house around 6am and drove out past Fountain Hills, AZ to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park – the same location as Ragnar Trail last year. This year they had flipped the campsites around and the Ragnar Village tents, etc. were on the north side of the highway and so our Kilty Pleasure compound was set up over there since we had managed to secure some premium land. Each team is allotted a chalked out square on the parking lot dirt but since we had 4 teams running, our area was quite a bit larger than most. There were some really funny groups this year – the team that kept their bras hanging outside their tents was next to us again – I think they all put their bra on over their running stuff before heading out on their loops. There was a band of knights(?) that marched together in fake chainmail and even had fake horse hoof clapping sounds when they walked…they had flags and a whole “production” as they walked through camp. And there was an Oktoberfest team down the way too – their whole team wore lederhosen and carried a ham over their shoulder (they may have even ran with the ham?) So funny.
It was better this year arriving at camp because we knew 80% of the people already and it was not quite so awkward. Last year the only person we knew was our Ragnar Solemate co-captain, John Hulsey, and he was the one that had recruited us to run with the Kilty team. This year, John wasn’t even there – but we were more than comfortable with everyone. They truly are a great and welcoming group. We had about 6-8 Kilty “virgins” which were introduced and one of them was immediately indoctrinated into the group by agreeing to put on one of the girls pink kilts and run into the neighboring groups tent area and dance for them. It was hilarious and really got us into the spirit quickly.
For some reason, we didn’t have to attend the safety briefing this year so it was a bit more relaxed for that reason too. Around 10 am we put our kilts on and headed down to the Ragnar exchange tent to see our first group of 4 runners off on the first loop. I was running with 3 others as the 3rd team – so we had about 2 1/2 hours until we were scheduled to run.
Back at the tent village we all just hung out, ate from tables filled with snacks, bagels, and drank from coolers filled with beer. We had about 30+ camp chairs set up under the 4 pop-up tents. It was a beautiful day too – all of the rain and cold weather earlier in the week had disappeared.
When it was time, the 4 of us – Kat, Amanda, Lupe (new to the team this year and just so awesome!) and I went down to the exchange tent. This year the support from the rest of the team was amazing. I think at least 75% of the team walked down, beer in hand, to the village to cheer for the incoming runners and to send off the next group. It was really nice to hear that as we were on the course. It wasn’t a really long walk, but it did require a bit of effort – particularly on tired legs.
Our first loop was the long, red loop. This year it was about 6.6 miles (last year it was 8+). It was warm but I appreciated doing it at the beginning of the race and not the end, like last year. There were pretty tough hills at the beginning of the run and we walked up most of them. My group leader likes to run in 2:1 intervals so we stuck to that when it was practical. I was able to keep up with the group with no issues (on this loop, anyway). The downhill sections were really fun. Amanda and I have pretty long legs so we went to the front of the pack for these sections.
After the first run, we had a nice long break. I probably drank 4 beers back in the Kilty compound and just enjoyed hanging out. A bunch of us went to get our pasta dinner back in the village, which was pretty good this year.
After the sun went down it got cold. Really cold. This year we could have small propane fire pits at our camp site so that helped a lot. For my night run, I wore compression tights under my kilt and really layered up. I was wearing my Camelback for water and it has all kinds of pockets to hold my stuff if I needed to peel off layers. We went out for the more technical 4.85 mile Yellow loop around 9pm. We are required to have headlamps on the course and I wish I had paid more attention to this detail. I had one, but I just grabbed a couple from our house and then just picked one of them as I headed over to the village.
Well, it sure wasn’t very bright. I think last year we had almost a full moon with lots of natural light – it seemed really dark this year and my fairly dim headlamp wasn’t helping. Well, not even 1/4 mile into the course, my toe caught on a rock that was sticking up in the path and I went flying – landing on the side of my body, including my face. I was already coughing and dealing with a runny nose and getting all of the trail up in my face was awful. It scared the crap out of me, frankly, because I wasn’t expecting to fall on a flat surface like that. I was a little bruised up but because I had so many layers and gloves on, nothing got scraped up – thank God! My teammates came back to help pick me up and dust me off. The rest of the run totally sucked. I couldn’t breathe at all from the dust that was kicked up and the cold air. I had taken my inhaler but it didn’t seem to be helping. I was completely freaked out about falling because the downhills were steep and it was really hard to see with my crappy headlamp. Lupe had a nice bright one and she ran behind me but I am so much taller than her and my body cast a huge shadow in front of me. I took my headlamp off and ended up carrying it so I could direct the light a bit better. So, needless to say, the yellow loop was incredibly slow and awful. I wish I could have enjoyed the beautiful peaceful desert like last year. I just wanted to go to bed.
We finally finished up that leg and I was actually crying in the dark as we walked back to the tents. My throat was almost completely closed off and I had lost my voice. I was super sweaty but freezing cold too. I haven’t been that miserable in a long time. After I sucked on some cough drops to open up my throat a little and changed into my warm, dry clothes I felt much better. I had brought a cot to sleep on this year and bundled up and I actually got a pretty good night of sleep … almost TOO good … because around 5 am I woke up hearing one of the guys walking around the tents calling for me, Lupe and Kat. He said the group before us was on the course and would be coming in soon. What?!?! In my sleepy stupor I stumbled to the tent flap to question him. I had not set any kind of alarm before I fell asleep (which was stupid) and I had been so miserable that I didn’t have any of my clothes set out or anything – and it was pitch dark in our tent with 2 other runners still sleeping. I was freaking out. All I could find were my still slightly damp running tights from the night before, my kilt!, and a couple of other random running tops. It was still really cold and dark out. I dumped my entire toiletries bag on my bed to find my inhaler because I didn’t want to be without that. In my rush to get out of the tent and down to the exchange, I forgot to grab my phone and a ponytail holder. I was a hot mess – actually 3 out of the 4 of us were completely out of sorts. We stopped at the port-a-potties on the way down because we had not even had time to go to the bathroom yet. As I was coming
out of there I completely lost the rest of my team – I went running into the exchange tent even though our team names weren’t on the board yet because I thought maybe they had left (which I should know they would never do). After I realized they weren’t in there, I left the tent and found them – and then the guy that had woke us all up sheepishly apologized because he realized he was way off … the team ahead of us was on the 6+ mile course and was going to be a while. Wow, did we give him sh*t for that. At this point, we
really didn’t have time to go back to our tents to get our stuff – or brush our teeth, which at this point, was our major complaint. The sun was starting to come up and so, realizing that we didn’t need our headlamps, I resorted to using it (the elastic strap) to tie my hair back. Good God. It was a nice run though, although we were all fairly uncomfortable due to the multiple items that we didn’t have with us (like sunglasses because the sun was now incredibly bright). The final loop for us, the green loop, is known to be the easiest – and it was. It was only about 4.1 miles and fairly flat. It was pretty with the sunrise in the desert, although none of us had our phone on us to capture it. So, overall we ran close to 15.5 miles over the 3 loops (red, yellow then green) in a little less than 24 hours. We finished with some team photos and changing into some dry clothes. They were serving a big breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns in the village and “real” food never tasted so good.
It was awesome to be done early and we enjoyed just hanging out with the team after we finished tearing down our tent and packing up our stuff. Paul brought my oldest, Sarah, out to the campsite because Sarah was doing some Ragnar volunteer hours for another team. When the last group was about to come in, we all walked up as a team to run in all
together – my favorite part of Ragnar! I brought my selfie stick to the finish and got some fun photos. Afterwards we were given our medals and took some team photos. The medals this year are like weapons – they have a knife edge on one side and are pretty sharp. They have all sorts of “tools” on them too – a saw, bottle opener, etc. Neat, but dangerous.
We finished loading up and then waited a few minutes for Sarah to finish her volunteer duties. The drive home was only about 30 minutes and the hot shower felt amazing! After we cleaned up, we got back in the car and drove down to Chandler to meet up with the team for beers and more food. We all cleaned up nicely! I enjoyed this too because I got to talk with Mike, Will, and William at the table and I had not really had a chance to get to know them due to our running schedules – and the fact that there were 32 of us out there.
Hilary and Jessica flew home on Sunday afternoon and life is slowly returning back to normal. Most of the “Kilties” spent Monday on Facebook looking through newly uploaded pictures and missing our friends and the experience. I didn’t know if the fun and re-energizing feelings I got last year at Ragnar Trail could be repeated but, I learned, it could. In the words of one of our teammates who was almost forced to participate this weekend by her boyfriend … “I get it now”.