Mar 15, 2023

Ragnar Trail Arizona

Ragnar Trail has been on my bucket list for a long time and I was finally able to fulfill that dream some time back. It was definitely the hardest thing I had done so far and also the most physically demanding. Although it was a trail running event, for me it was more than just about running- it was about camaraderie, friendship, spending time outdoors, taking on new challenges, finding heroes and finally creating memories and stories to tell. This blog is about sharing some of those stories.

Ragnar Arizona trail was an overnight trail relay race to be completed in 24 hours. It was hosted byFitLab,Inc at Mount McDowell Regional Park in Scottsdale, Arizona. The heart and soul of this event was the “Ragnar Village”- an area for runners to congregate as well as vendors selling an array of products including running gear, food and beer. There was also a bonfire for runners to congregate at night, display monitors for teams to keep track of their runners, live dj and the race Start and Finish line. Few yards from the village was the giant campsite where 2000 plus runners had set up their tents for the duration of the event. It was a carnival like atmosphere. The word Ragnar in Danish means “Warrior”. And we were nothing short of warriors ready to conquer some of the most difficult terrain under the starry Arizona desert sky or the blazing sun beating down.

Our team arrived at the event on a rainy Thursday afternoon. After choosing our campsite, we unpacked and set up our tents including our make shift kitchen. It was going to be our home for the next 48 hours. Our team captain Kevin and his wife Suzanne were gracious enough to set up our makeshift kitchen and prepared dinner for the night. We had an early dinner and retired to our individual tents for the night.

The next morning I woke up around 6 am and caught the beautiful Arizona sunrise over the Sonoran desert while sipping on a hot cup of Darjeeling tea which I had brought from India. Breakfast was a team effort after which the whole team decided to go on a reconnaissance tour of the trails. The race started around 3pm for our team and Suzzanne was the first one to go out. We all cheered as she took off from the start line. For the next several hours we all hung out at the finish line (which was also the start line) cheering on as Kevin, Dawn, Stephanie, Carolyn B, Carolyn W and Greg (not in the particular order) started and finished their first loop. Around 8 pm, it was my turn to run the first loop. It was around 6.6 miles and the hardest of the 3 loops. It was dark and the only visible light was from my headlamp and the tiny red lights guiding the course. There was no sound except for my own breathing under the clear starry Arizona sky. It was so peaceful but eerie. After about a mile of flat terrain, the course started going up the hill and the trail got narrow and full of loose rocks and pebbles. I focused on the trail to make sure I did not trip and fall. However, God had other plans and at one point my shoes got caught in a small piece of rock jutting out causing me to fall with my left knee hitting the ground. I slowly got up and started running again while making sure there was no injury to my knee- however, I could sense the blood trickling down the knee. I kept running and soon reached the top of the hill after which it was flying downhill run towards the finish line.

Having completed my first loop, I handed over the baton to Larry and headed back to my tent to change and close my eyes for couple of hours before my second loop at 3 am. I hardly got any sleep as my body temperature was elevated after that run and pretty soon I was running my second loop which was 4.5 miles long with moderate difficulty. The loop got over uneventful with except for a few pricks from cactus thorns along the way. By the end of the second loop my body was  beaten down due to lack of sleep and also missing out on dinner the night before. After returning to my tent and getting out of the sweaty gear, it was time again to catch few hours of sleep before my third and last loop. All of a sudden I was missing my bed, my home and my family. Soon, I drifted away to sleep, reminiscing about the last 8 hours and what an incredible experience it had been so far.

One of my team mates woke me up in the and it was time to get ready for my last loop of 4.1 miles which was the easiest. The time was approximately 9am and the strong Arizona sun was already beating down. Tired and dehydrated, I could sense how hard this last loop was going to be and honestly did not want to run it. However, the thought of the whole team counting on me got me walking towards the start line for the final run.

Honestly, not sure how I finished that loop. It had boiled down to Mind over Body and the Mind won. It felt like the last 6 miles of a marathon- so close yet so far. The Body wanted to give up but the Mind kept saying that we could do it. As I kept pushing forward, all of a sudden the sound of the live music from Ragnar Village came drifting in the air telling me that I was close. There was a big resurgence of energy in my body and I started racing towards the finish line. While touching the finish line, there was only one thought that came to my mind-I can now proudly call myself a Ragnarian!!