The laughs generated by the awesome comments I received after yesterday’s post were much-needed. I wasn’t soliciting an outpouring of support but you guys sure know how to make a girl feel loved!! Thank you!!
I’ve been eager to share what went down at Ragnar Trail Zion! I was really blessed to be able to travel down early, get acclimated to the higher elevation, enjoy some sunshine and dry weather, and spend time with my dear friend and her sister. St. George, Utah, is really beautiful and I was so grateful to have a fantastic place to stay so close to the relay site. I was very well cared for!!
On Friday morning I drove from St. George to the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. The drive forces you to literally drive 11 miles through Zion. I was really bummed about that. NOT! It is unbelievably gorgeous!! I took my time and made sure to stop for a few pics en route.
The drive through Zion.
Such a gorgeous trip!
Just after you exit the park, you turn off the highway and travel about 6 or so miles up into the hills basically overlooking Zion. My original plan was to pull into the off-site parking and just take my bags with me on the shuttle to the site but I missed the turn and drove right to the ranch. They were asking people to unload and then drive 4 miles back down to park for the weekend.
When I parked to unload, I realized I had no idea where to look for my team… how would I find a group of 7 people I’d never met before among approximately 3000 people and what seemed like about 3000 campsites too? To compound that, I had no cell service where I was at. I had no choice but to get out, leave the car, and wander around until I *hopefully* found my team.
Camp at Ragnar Trail Zion!
I started down the road and got maybe 20 feet when I noticed a group of people unloading a car. One of the guys caught my eye. Now I’ve spent weeks interacting with my fellow Nuun Ambassador, George, but I’d never met him in person. From the pictures I’d seen on-line, the guy unloading camping gear seemed to fit George’s likeness. I asked “you’re not George, are you”? To which he replied yes!! What are the odds that we’d arrive at the same time and park within just a few short feet of each other?!?
After introductions, we carried the gear to where another team member had already set up camp complete with two tents, a canopy, a heater to stay warm when temps dropped overnight, chairs, coolers, you name it! But it gets better! Shortly after we arrived, a couple drove up on a golf cart. Another team member and her husband. As it turns out, they had rented a cabin on-site so that her husband could stay there with their 6-year-old grandson, whose dad was also on the team.
Immediately, they offered to allow us to park our cars at the cabin so that we wouldn’t have to bother with the shuttle. Sweet! They also then offered to allow us to use the cabin to shower, sleep, cook/eat or do laundry. What??? Here I was thinking I’d be “roughing it” all weekend. When we got there, which was maybe a quarter of a mile from our campsite, I realized the “cabin” is actually a log house with 3.5 baths, 3 bedrooms and sleeps 11. We were hooked up!!!!
Our first runner started at 2 PM. The camp “village” was buzzing with people and energy. Teams gathered there to send off their runners or hang out while waiting until a runner returned and it was time to switch. That is one of the unique things I really loved about the event. All team members start and finish at the same spot and run loops. It is very different from a traditional relay where you are in a van and drive point-to-point to exchange runners. It was fun to be able to hang out with all members of the team as opposed to just the teammates in your van.
The trail map.
This pattern would continue through the night and wrap up sometime early afternoon on Saturday. At least a week before the event, I started hearing reports that the weather forecast was not looking favorable for the weekend. On Friday afternoon, while it was overcast with some sun breaks, there was a nasty wind and a threat of thunder and lightning. The wind gusts were wicked! Since it is essentially a desert-like climate, it is very dry. Every time the wind would pick up you’d have to turn your back and bury your head in your shirt to avoid getting a mouthful of dirt. Had that been the worst of it, the event would have carried on flawlessly.
I ran my first leg in the early evening and it was a lot of fun! Very treacherous terrain though. The trails are mainly used by equestrians although some were wider to accommodate ATV’s. Either way, a little tricky to navigate. I was sucking air and felt parched but was overall pleased with my time on the 3.1 mile loop which was rated easy. Our estimated pace, as a team, was 11 minute miles. I ran the “green” loop in 30:22, averaging a 9:48 pace.
The calm before the storm.
Running aside, what was most concerning was the 100% chance of rain forecasted to reach us around 2 AM. Right around the time I’d be on the trail again. Good times. I believe I started running around 1:45 AM on the “red” loop. This loop, rated the hardest of all three, is 8.6 miles with steep hilly sections and what I heard where fantastic views… none of which I got to enjoy because it was pitch black!
As I was waiting for the runner ahead of me to return, the sprinkles started. Over the course of the hour and 43 minutes I was on the course, the rain steadily increased until it was pretty much dumping buckets. Just before mile four I rolled my ankle. Another mile or two later I fell. A mile after that I fell again. It was brutal out there!!! Despite using the headlamp and a small flashlight, my depth perception was way off. I felt like I was drunk. Not the greatest run ever. Bruised and sore, I got back before the weather took another turn for the worse finishing with a 12:20 average pace.
I was freezing the minute I finished, as was the teammate who finished before me, so we hightailed it over to the cabin to shower, get warm, eat, and hopefully catch a nap before we’d be up for round three. We were absolutely soaked, muddy, and miserable and SUPER grateful that we had solution. My heart truly felt for the thousands of people stuck with no option but to wait it out inside a tent!
Around 5 AM we laid down to grab a couple of hours of sleep. When we awoke just a few short hours later, we couldn’t believe the news we were hearing!!! While I was laying there half awake, I decided to check out updates on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. What I discovered was quite a shock. The ambassador rep from Nuun Hydration was at the event and had just posted a group picture of her team in big puffy winter jackets surrounded by SNOW! Lots and lots of it!! I jumped up out of bed and sure enough, a good two inches had fallen in the 2.5 hours I had been asleep. Her caption with the picture read: “SNOW just canceled Ragnar Trail Zion!”
This was NOT in the forecast!
Not sure what was happening back at camp, we didn’t know what to think! Finally our team members began to filter back over to the cabin to relayed the news that indeed, the event had been called due to the snow.
Canceled. Over. Done.
Our final runner on the course was on the same loop I had finished a few hours earlier. While it was light outside, the snow made it nearly impossible to see the trail or the markers meant to help guide us. The poor girl was out there for about 2.5 hours and frozen when she got back!! While it was disappointing that we couldn’t finish what we set off to do, I think the Ragnar team made a good call in cancelling the remainder of the race.
Before and after.
My plan all along was to stay the night after the event was over and camp out with my team. I was a little concerned about traveling back if the conditions worsened but I really wanted to stay. Plus, we had a toasty warm and cozy cabin to stay in complete with a few bottles of wine. I’m a sucker for wine, you know? ; )
And a sucker for the front porch!
I’m so glad I waited it out. The snow melted off later in the afternoon with some mild flurries off and on all evening. I had such a fantastic time bonding with my team while sitting around a propane heater watching it snow. We made the very best of the situation and I think that memory will stay with me longer than the one of the cancelled event.
Team bonding post-relay.
Sunday morning we woke to blue sky! I began making my way back to St. George but took my time, again stopping several times for pictures and little walks along the Virgin River.
The Virgin River in Zion.
That view is awe-inspiring!
I fell in love with the sweet little town at the entrance to the park, Sringdale, Utah. It’s a quaint tourist town with lots of cute shops, restaurants, and kindred nature-loving spirits. I had to stop for a snack and took a short walk around town before the final stretch of the drive back.
Such a great group of people!!
Team Captain George and I before departing.
I would not change a single thing about my journey, the race, or my time there. Everything happens for a reason and I feel so very blessed to have been extended the invite and the opportunity to actually go. I met some fantastic people whom I hope to cross paths with again in the future. I got to spend time with a my friend and I got to experience the vast beauty of Zion. It was such a wonderful trip!!!
Rumor has it that the cabin has already been reserved for next year…