I spent the past weekend in Wausau, WI for Ragnar Trail Northwoods 2017. This was the second year for team What the Hill!?, which made planning and packing much easier. I wasn’t nervous about any part of the adventure this year.
The weekend started on Thursday, when we headed out of the Twin Cities toward Wausau. We arrived in line for the gear drop-off at 5:00 and the line was already much longer than it was the previous year at the same time. Apparently, everyone wanted to get there early this year! But, a friendly team ahead of us in line offered us jello shots made of Fireball and fresh, organic cider from an apple orchard; obviously, we couldn’t pass this up!
Once we reached the entrance, we were given ten minutes to throw our gear out of the vehicle and send our driver to the off-site parking location. There were four of us in our vehicle, so it didn’t take long to get everything out and moved to our campsite. This year, we chose approximately the same spot as last year, since we liked it so well.
Just as we got all of our stuff to the campsite, our second vehicle containing three more teammates arrived. We sent one teammate down with a wagon to help move gear, while the remaining two started setting up camp. Again, once we had all the gear to the site, the third vehicle and last teammate arrived; we were able to send someone to help her move gear while everyone else continued setting up camp. Good timing by all. After the tents were set up, we visited a bit, explored Race Village, watched the safety video, and checked in for the weekend.
On Friday morning, I was able to score a vanilla latte from the coffee food truck, thanks to a teammate who was already in line and willing to take my order. I was very glad things happened this way, since the free coffee was not available that early AND they had a broken burner, so it took a lot longer to get coffee than expected. This is my ONLY complaint about the entire weekend.
Our team had a 9:30 am start, so once we sent our first runner off, I started getting ready to run since I was runner #3. As with any Ragnar, there is a lot of downtime. However, we spent less time waiting for our runners in Race Village this year; since we knew what to expect, our time projections were much more accurate. As I probably mentioned in last year’s post, I prefer trail Ragnar to the road events because you get time to rest, relax, stretch, and visit with people between legs.
My first run was the Red Loop, which is a very technical, eight mile loop. My run started just before noon, so it was already hot and humid (temps were in the high 80’s all weekend, with humidity over 60%). This year, I actually enjoyed this loop that I loathed last year. Though, everything is easier when you aren’t working with a bum ankle. While I still had to walk through the most technical portions (hello, boulder fields!), I felt strong and confident throughout, and beat last year’s time on this loop by 15 minutes.
Next up for me was the Yellow Loop, which I started just before 10:00 pm. This is the loop that I fell on last year and twisted my ankle, but I now knew better than to take my eyes off the trail while my feet were still moving. It felt like I was flying through this 5 mile loop, which is full of roots and moguls. I LOVED every second of it! Ragnar night runs are awesome. And, again, I was faster than last year. The adrenaline was pumping when I finished and it took quite a while before I was settled down enough to take a snooze. I ended up staying up a few extra hours, visiting with teammates and enjoying a beer and wood-fired pepperoni pizza at 1:00 am. Of course, this meant I got less sleep than last year, but it was completely worth it.
The Green Loop was my last run, which was Saturday morning around 10:00 am. It was already getting hot and humid, but at least this was only 3.3 miles. This loop has roots and rocks, though not as technical as the other two loops. I think the challenge in this one is that it’s narrow enough that you’re getting brushed by plants and leaves in many spots, and it has a lot of tight turns. Also, at the time of day that I was running, there wasn’t any shade and the breeze didn’t get through. All things considered, this is my least favorite loop, which I realize is strange to say given that it’s the shortest.
I had SO much fun this year. While I had a great time last year, too, it was much easier and enjoyable not having a rolled ankle that I had to baby throughout. I loved every second of the trails this year, even the hardest portions. I cannot wait to do it again next year.
Knowing what to expect when it came to the camping and the trails, we were able to pare down the amount of gear we brought, which was nice. All of our preparations and training served us well because we didn’t have any injuries on the team, we had all of the gear we needed without bringing too much, and we had more than enough food options to keep everyone happy. Even with the heat, this year ran smoothly. Team What the Hill!? is looking forward to being back at Ragnar Trail Northwoods next year. Though, we are hoping for cooler fall weather!
Have you run a Ragnar Trail?