In May, eight NATHAN employees came up with the crazy goal of running So Cal Trail Ragnar in November. No biggie, right?! Our group consisted of some avid runners, like our SVP Jay, who can take on a trail like no one’s business and Louis, our Tech Rep who is on the run almost daily. But our group also consisted of people like me, who would run on a treadmill for the exercise aspect of running but never considered myself a runner. And trails? Let’s just say to this day I haven’t had a trail run that I haven’t fallen on.
From May until November, we all had our own training plans. A group of us set a goal for running three times a week and calling it our Lady Trail runs. We all had our own goals – ranging from not walking on our miles to hitting certain splits and times. But the overall goal we all had was supporting and encouraging each other.
In the few weeks leading up to Ragnar, the office vibes were great. Everyone talking about our last few training runs and with the time change, we all wanted to try out our night gear to prepare for our middle of the night loop at Ragnar. Emotions ranged from nervousness to excitement. Personally, I had never ran more than 6 miles before and knew I had to run an 8 mile loop at Ragnar with incline, and I was honestly terrified.
Ragnar finally came and there was no turning back. We all headed up to Los Coyotes and trekked up the mountain with all our gear packed. When we finally arrived and unpacked at about 8am, it all started hitting us that there is no going back now.
My first loop was the Red Loop. Being the team captain, I purposefully planned for running the hardest loop first to get it out of the way. Whether that was a smart decision or a horrible one is still up in the air. The Red Loop was the most challenging physical and mental thing I have ever done in my life. Not only was it challenging to breath in the mountain elevation (something none of us trained for) but the incline of this loop was something that I did not expect. We had done our share of hill training, but nothing to this extent. It was literally 3 miles straight uphill, with 2 miles downhill (which you think would be easy, but is actually really hard on your knees and hips) followed by finishing the loop with another uphill shot.
I’m not going to lie, I cried on the loop. I thought about finishing and I cried because I was only 3.5 miles in and in so much pain. I had fallen twice, I had gotten lost and I did not think my legs could take one more uphill switchback. But I kept pushing on. I thought about my team waiting for me and how long I have been training for this and the sense of accomplishment I will feel when it was all over. When I crossed the finish line, my two friends Carol and Lezlee, who I had been training with, were there waiting for me with open arms. I hugged them and cried some more as I slowly walked to sit down.
I was so sick after the Red Loop that I laid down as Lezlee gave me banana chips and electrolytes that I tried to nibble on. I didn’t know if eating would make me less nauseous or more nauseous. I ended up falling asleep on my cot with banana chips in one hand and a bottle of electrolytes in the other.
My second loop was the Yellow Loop in the night, which was my favorite loop. It was still extremely challenging, but it was an experience to use my night gear and be all bundled up on and in a sense, completely alone in the dark. My favorite experience was being at the top of a hill and looking out onto the mountain and only being able to see other runners’ headlamps glowing. It was beautiful!
Since our team wasn’t going to finish in time, we got paired up on our last 3 loops. To what was a full circle moment, I was paired with Lezlee who I had been training with to run our Green Loop. At this point, I had pulled something in my thigh, and we ended up just walking the whole loop and reflecting on our experience. We were just proud that we were going to cross that finish line and that we pushed through the end!
My favorite part of the whole experience was our last runner, Jay, finishing his Red Loop. He came down the hill to all of us waiting for him and cheering. We then all ran/limped our way behind him to the finish line and finished as a team. It was definitely an emotional final push!
The challenging part with Ragnar is that you don’t know when each person is going to end their loop and when to calculate when you are running next. Especially with the incline and elevation, someone you think might do a loop in 30 minutes ends up taking an hour. So yes, you can sleep… but it’s not a restful sleep as you are anxiously awaiting your next run. Plus, you want to be there to cheer on your teammates as they experience their challenging loops.
Another difficult part was the nighttime cold. Being from Orange County, CA… I don’t think any of us were really prepared for how cold it was. Carol and I ended up sleeping in my car - turning on the heat for 10 minutes to warm up, shutting off the car and then waiting until the cold woke us up again.
Besides the challenges of Ragnar, it was an experience I will never forget. I really bonded with my teammates and pushed myself physically to limits I never thought I ever would have done before. I think it’s safe to say that our whole team is so proud of each other, ourselves, and our company for encouraging all of us to experience this journey. We all consider ourselves runners now :)
As some closing thoughts, I talked to some of my teammates and got their feedback on some of the highs and lows on their experience, as well as some tips for those of you who are preparing to run a Ragnar Trail yourselves!
- What was the best part of your Ragnar experience?
- Hanging with my 7 other teammates and seeing all the NATHAN product and fans at the event was amazing.
- Comradery with my coworkers and training beforehand with my friends made the experience very special.
- Sense of community, the runners on the trail and around camp were so supportive at any pace or stage of the event.
- The feeling after, it motivated me to do more, and I felt stronger and empowered.
- Seeing my running-mates make it back from conquering his/her loop!
- The comradery of the team and the support we expressed for each other.
- The best part was getting to know everyone on my team better by encouraging each other to push our personal limits. While also maintaining humility with the experience.
- What was the most challenging part of your experience?
- The timing of when I was running… to prepare for it and the timing of my food intake.
- Balancing sleep and nutrition, remembering to drink enough water and fueling your muscles before and after each of your runs.
- Napping between races. Also powering through the hills.
- Feeling like I wasn’t prepared enough.
- The hills and altitude were more challenging than anticipated.
- The most challenging part was bouncing back after my first green loop, where I got sick on the trail and had to stop for a few minutes.
- Staying patient through the cold while running-mates conquered their loop.
- Incline and elevation. I felt that no matter how much I trained, I didn’t prepare myself for that many hills or realize how difficult it would be to run in elevation when I wasn’t used to it.
- What was the most unexpected part of your experience?
- The managing the sleep component and the cold at night.
- The hills again, and how cold it was at night. It felt impossible to sleep.
- Learning how difficult it is to run trails at high elevations and that there is a specific technique to running in the mountains efficiently.
- How difficult it really was.
- How much eating is something you have to stay on top of.
- Running through the night can really deter your intuition and hunger for food.
- How connected I felt to my coworkers.
- Not knowing how long the loop was truly going to take you to complete it.
- What is a tip for someone running their first Ragnar?
- Hydrate a lot with electrolytes prior and during the race and plan on eating enough.
- BRING LAYERS AND BLANKETS. It’s so cold. Also, make sure you’re eating enough and bring fuel on your loops.
- Over pack on clothing and warm items. Those nights get cold.
- Have fun with it. There is really no pressure to be the fastest person there so just run your run!
- Pack for both hot and cold weather, bring lots of socks, make sure you have footwear you feel comfortable running and hiking in, and show up early to preview your first few loops so you know what to expect and are able to visualize how to approach the climbing portions.
- Train, train, and train with your gear.
- Pack the proper nutrition for each leg and recovery as well as cold weather.
- Don’t forget to bring a Buff or multifunctional headwear for dust and cold air.
- Describe your experience in 3 words.
- Go For It.
- Enduring. Profound.
- Exhausting. Unforgettable.
- Challenging. Exciting.
- Accomplished. Emotional.
- It’s too hard to pick 3 words. :)
- Exhausting. Empowering.