How to Train for your First Ragnar in 11 steps

What is a Ragnar?

Finishing the Red loop

There are two types of Ragnar races. One is a through road relay race, where you get a team and some vans to follow and you relay race from one place to another. For example, there’s one that goes from Long Beach to San Diego. You’ll see these painted white vans chasing after people in costume as they run along.

The other type of Ragnar is like the one I just did in Snowmass. Instead of going from one place to the next, you camp out and do trail loops that all start and end at the same relay station.

Why did I sign up for Ragnar?

I’m usually the one in my group to come up with ridiculous ideas that we end up regretting until a few weeks after they’re over when we realize how badass of an experience it was. This time, however, it was my friend Mal who had the ridiculous idea.

Hey, guys, anyone want to sign up for Ragnar Snowmass and run 14.5 miles above 8,000 feet?

My first response was “hell no”, but then when all my other friends agreed, there was no way I could be the only one not running. So, I venmo’d my money and prayed.

I’m not a great runner at all. I look like I should be, but I’m not. I didn’t run track growing up like some of my friends – did Midwood even have a track team? I didn’t grow up doing things that were difficult – I only really started running a few years ago. I ran for 3 years and got to where I could run without stopping for 6 miles, but I hit a plateau where I couldn’t get any faster, so I decided enough was enough and I switched over to weight training.

Until this. Dammit, I had to start running again. UGH! Fine. Go team “We’ve been tapering for 3 years”.

Training for Ragnar

Step 1

Download a fancy schmancy race training plan. Ragnar has two – one for the seasoned runner, and one for…well….me. So, you download the running plan and schedule some time in your day to start running.

Just keep running…just keep running…

Step 2

Get new running shoes. Seriously. They make a huge difference. I got these Asics, and my friend Laura ended up having the same ones. Apparently she loved them so much, she bought a second pair for the race just in case.

Chris’ new running shoes clearly working out for him

Step 3

Life. Life is really good at getting in the way of your plans. Work, happy hours….things come up that make it hard for the unseasoned runner to go run. Sticking to the training plan was difficult.

Flipping off the mountain I just had to climb

Step 4

Hurt yourself (no, don’t really, this is just how I apparently like to train). Seriously. First, it was my knee. Ran 2 times and my knee basically gave up on me. So I rested, and then loaded it up with KT Tape (Kinesiology tape) which, no joke, has fairy dust. It’s amazing. If you have any pain running, buy KT tape and then youtube how to put it on).

Then, I rolled my ankle, cause I’m really good at that. Luckily it wasn’t a terrible sprain so it felt better after a week or two.

But, then I bruised my heel real bad. Let it heal for a few days, then climbed a mountain, which left me unable to walk on it for 2 weeks. I was pretty worried I did worse than bruise it, but luckily after the 2 weeks it felt good. At that point, I was 2 weeks out from the race and too afraid to injure myself again right before the race, so I figured if I was going to do it, I’d just do it at the race and at least finish…somehow.

We decided to sign up for Ragnar Snowmass in April, and I think from then until the actual race in June I ran about 10-15 times total. Maybe 20 miles total. And, to be fair, I wasn’t the only one on my team that was well undertrained! Don’t get me wrong, my 10-15 times running definitely helped. I probably would have died had I not conditioned myself at all. I also was in relatively good shape, and did a lot of stationary bike while my heel was healing. But, I was still substantially undertrained.

Applying the magical KT tape!

Step 5

Prepare to be passed. Seriously. There are some really badass runners out there. My first leg (the red and hardest loop at 6.7 miles with 1300ft elevation gain), I was only passed by 4 or 5 people. My second leg (the medium 3.8 loop with a little over half that elevation gain), it was probably closer to 10 people. My third (the “easy” loop, although at 4 miles with about 600 feet of gain, it was anything but easy) I think I was only passed by 3 people. And I really was trying my hardest. I walked a lot of the uphills (truth be told, I was pacing a dude on the first leg who jogged the whole way and I managed to keep up with him by speed walking. That’s how steep that crap was.), so that didn’t necessarily help. But I was incredibly impressed how quickly some people were able to run up those hills. Coloradans certainly have an advantage since they live at elevation, but even then…geez.

Short uphill and I was already winded…but at least it made for a cool shot!

Step 6

Just know that you’re not going to sleep much. Seriously. My runs were about 2:30pm, 12:30am and 7am. My boyfriend had to get up at 2am for his 3am loop and I was the terrible girlfriend who stayed in my sleeping bag. Things definitely quiet down at night around camp, but I was still waking up concerned that people might sleep through their legs, so there was no restful sleep. I think I may have slept 3 hours all night. Luckily for us, Ragnar Snowmass had free coffee and hot chocolate at the relay area. They also had awesome free Nuun to keep us hydrated. Thanks, guys!

The view from our campsite
2016-06-03 Ragnar Aspen_105
Nighttime settling in

Step 7

Hide from the sun. We had 4 tents, but during the day it was usually too hot to sit inside the tents. There was absolutely no natural cover on the makeshift campgrounds, so it basically came down to sitting in the sun roasting, or trying our best to set up shop in any small shady spots around our tents that we could find.

2016-06-03 Ragnar Aspen_2

Step 8

Eat. Eat a lot. We brought a bunch of food in a cooler for during the race, and it wasn’t all healthy. Sandwich meats were a great idea and a big hit…but so were the oreos and donuts.

Mmmmm sliced ham

Step 9

Don’t forget to enjoy your surroundings. We not only had an awesome team of people that I was proud to run with, but we were surrounded by beautiful, snow tipped mountains. At the top of the red loop, there was even a sign that told you to stop and look both ways so that you didn’t miss the incredible views!

The view from the top of the red loop – worth it!

Step 10

Stare in shock at the teams that finished in 15 hours, especially the Ultra teams who essentially run what I did, but twice. Our team finished in 25 hours and we were damn proud of that!

2016-06-03 Ragnar Aspen_4
These crazy kids…

Step 11

Feel incredibly proud of making it through all of the above. Once the pain finally passes (and boy was I sore!) and you catch up on some sleep, you can look back and recognize what you accomplished…and there has never been a time where I haven’t felt incredibly proud of myself for doing something difficult. In the moment, it’s pretty miserable. You’re pushing on, you’re fighting your body that just wants to stop….but as I always say, we are capable of so much more than we ever give ourselves credit for. So, go sign up for that thing that you don’t think you can do. Don’t worry if you’ll be the slowest on your team, the fact that you had the courage to do it in the first place is more than so many people will ever do!

Go team!
2016-06-04 Ragnar Aspen_43
The finishers medals are pretty badass multi tools!

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  1. What is KT tape? | Advntur

    […] I started running again after about a 3 year hiatus. A friend convinced our group to sign up for a Ragnar in Colorado, at altitude, which mean I had to train. I’ve never been the best runner, but I was determined to […]

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