Ragnar Trail races are uniquely styled relay races where a team on runners take turns running legs on mountain trails. I was asked to fill in for a missing runner last minute, and had only a day and a half to prepare.
Getting to the race location was rather straight forward. Simply drive to McDowell Mountain Park, enter the gate, pay the parking fee (which was waived for volunteers), and follow the volunteers until you are directed to park. The fee for parking was $6, the normal park entrance fee, and was good for the entire length of the race weekend. I was given a slip as proof of payment, so that I was able to leave and return if needed.
I was one of the later arrivals, so I did have to drive about 5 miles past the race venue headquarters, also known as the "village". There were shuttle vans set up to transport racers and supporters to the village, and I only had to walk about 25 yards or so with my supplies to catch the shuttle. The shuttle van brought me all the way to the campsite, and I didn't have to walk very far to find the rest of my team.
Racers are able to camp on the grounds for free for the race nights, and the rest of my team arrived to set up the camp site early. An overflow camping area was also available across the road, to ensure that all racers were allotted a camping space.
The race began in waves, starting at 9am on Friday morning. 2 different team options were available, regular and ultra. The regular team consisted of 8 runners and the ultra team consisted of 4 runners (each ultra team member would run twice the distance of the regular team members). I was on a regular team, full of people I had never met before, and they were amazing.
Only one runner per team is out running at any given time, so there is quite a bit of down time between legs. For example, I ran one leg around midnight and the next was not until 10:00am the next morning. Between legs, runners hang out at the camp site, eat food, drink, relax, and attempt to sleep before it it time to run again.
As I was a last minute fill in runner, I only ran 2 of the 3 legs. The shorter, easier leg was completed earlier in the day before I was able to arrive. I ran the longest loop (6.6 miles) right around midnight. It was a longer leg, but not technical and started with a moderate incline. The next leg I ran was just shy of 5 miles and started in the mid-morning heat. It was a much more technical loop, with lots of potential slipping points.
I ran just under 12 miles, which would have been around 15.5 miles with the third loop.
This experience was a life-changing event, and the event support was amazing! Ragnar realized the shirts they had ordered were running very small, and worked hard to ensure that all runners received shirts that fit. They provided dinner for all runners on Friday night, as well as smores and hot chocolate. The event was a cup free experience, and trash/recycling/compost containers were available throughout the venue. There were a large amount of porta potties, which were cleaned multiple times during the weekend.
In addition, there were vendors set up in the village, as well as many different giveaways. Food was also available for purchase, and large communal fire pits were also available for campers. Everything about this event was wonderful. It was hot and cold, it was exhausting and fun, it was a challenge and completely amazing all at once. I highly recommend Ragnar Trail AZ to everyone!