Ragnar Tahoe Trail Relay 2013 recap

Although Brian and I have put together and led roughly 15 Ragnar Relay teams of strangers, the Ragnar in Tahoe help a lot of new adventure for us.

First: we brought 2 running buddies from home along with us
2nd: It was the first TRAIL relay we did, instead of a road relay
3rd: I hadn’t been to Lake Tahoe before. That’s not entirely true, I went when I was about 3 years old.

Flying to California from Florida can be grueling. We flew from Florida to TN, to CO, to Reno and then drove to the CA side of Tahoe about 75 mins away from the airport. But we had 2 friends from Florida on our flights, and HGTV to watch on Southwest Airlines. Lots of House Hunters was viewed while we were in the air!

And when we landed, we were treated to some gorgeous views!

viewOn the way from the Reno airport to the race resort, we stopped at Wal Mart for supplies and Subway for dinner. Much of our supplies came in huge duffles on the plane with us, but there are usually last minute purchases of water, sunscreen, fruit and granola bars – things that don’t fly well.

What does fly well are lawn games, which we purchased to make our campsite a little more fun, perhaps even drawing other teams around to hang out and play. We discovered that Dan L. calls “Ladder Golf” — wait for it — Grandpa’s Balls!

The race was held at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort. There were tall pines and ski lifts and lots of steep hills. About 2 weeks before the event, the resort received permission to blast an area of their property with dynamite. It was the area all of the teams were meant to camp on, so we were moved to camping on an asphalt parking lot. Sure, the was gravely and hard – but it kept the bugs out of our food and the bees and rattlesnakes were much further away! I see a definite plus in that! I think I came home with just ONE bug bite.

Teams for this relay consist of 8 people. There are 3 trails, and everyone runs all 3 trails. There is one exchange points that all teams use to pass off the team belt/number/bib, and while your runner is on course you can hang at the camp site, talk, eat, sleep, etc. We always inform our teammates that bringing earplugs and eyemasks are a good idea, because you never know when you’ll be able to catch a few ZZzzs.

Ragnar Tahoe Trail team shirtWe thought the concept of running and camping and hanging out was so desirable, we actually purchased 2 teams. We got 12 members easily, but had trouble after that. We named the teams TaHoes and TaBros. (T-shirt art above) 2 of the TaBros agreed to run double to make up for the missing team members.

The 3 trails were:
Green: 2.7 miles
Yellow: 6.7 miles with a LOT of steep uphill climb in high altitude
Red: a .5 mile run to a ski lift, up to the very top of the mountain, and 7+ miles down to the base.

So runner 1 runs green, runner 2 runs yellow, runner 3 runs red, then back to green again – but this time it’s runner 4… and so on until everyone does all 3 loops. It’s like 117 miles or something like that. Whatever it is, it’s shorter than the average 200 mile Ragnar Relay on roads.

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley reunion

Uncorked! reunion

We had friends at this Relay! Some of our Ragnar Napa team members were there: Laura, Wendy, Patrick and Chris. Michelle and Maria from that team were on our TaHoes & TaBros team, so we had a mini reunion. 2 of our Del Sol Ragstars team members were there: Shannon and Maia. Cheryl from our TN team was there with her husband in great Doc from Back to the Future shirts. Plus with Brian (and Maria) from that team on our TaHoes & TaBros team, and Dan C from our Shave the Whales Northwest Passage team, and Ben from TN – it was a little nutty with who knew who.

Our other TaHoes & TaBros may be seen here.

While we were picking up extras at Wal Mart, our first 2 team mates to arrive at the campsite, who drove up from their home in CA, texted us and warned us that it was thunderstorming. It was about 6pm. Luckily, by the time we drove up there it was 9:30pm, and the rain had stopped. The darkness didn’t make it easy to find 2 strangers with a tent in the dark, however, so I drove a minivan up and down the campsites saying, “Tahoes? Tabros? And Tahoes here?” Later Megan from Nuun said she heard me and it was cracking her up!

But we found our team, and unloaded our gear, and pitched our tents and inflated our air mattresses. Yes, if that makes us cheaters, than we cheated! We also strung colored LED lights (nondenominational holiday lights in primary colors), so the other van and Friday arrivers would be able to find us easily.

campsitenightN3357We hung out talking in our team shelter much too late, but it was great to get to know each other. Plus we had a 1pm start time and a 1:30pm start time, so we could have slept in. I almost did, but I had to get up to use the bathroom at one point. I found the port a potties, and realized the clear sky and huge moon shed so much light I didn’t even need my head lamp. That was cool!

Potable Water at Ragnar

how we got our water

9am was about the time people were awake for real, finding potable water, brushing teeth, and eventually heading down to the Ragnar “Village” where there were corporate sponsor booths, the Mess Hall tent for eating, the major exchange/start line/finish line, and people. Fit, sweaty people. The weather probably got up to about 80 degrees and down to about 54 degrees, so it was warm in terms of running weather the whole weekend.

We played some games and shared some food. I chatted with the DJ like I always do. I even found a quiet spot on the trail before any of the teams started to do some Yoga.

Raffi trail yogaThe poor DJ had to repeat the same safety briefing almost every half hour from 11am-2pm on Friday until every start time heard it. Usually volunteers do that, but since everything was more compact and he had a microphone, it kind of made sense. Most of his schpiel explained the signs on the roads and reminded us to “Leave only footprints, take only pictures” – pick up your trash people!

Ragnar trail signsdanger93030

ragnar safety briefing

Listening to the Safety Briefing

Dan at start Ragnar TahoeDan L. was our first runner out (above). We cheered on our starters, and as people hung out near the exchange point, there was almost always someone coming by to cheer for. Different runners have different paces, and all the teams had staggered start times, so at any moment you could grab a cowbell and go high five someone finishing their leg.

I found a team called “Bros and Tahoes” and got my photo with one of their shirts.

otherbros130726_133932Our first downer was when one of our runner came in from the steep, uphill yellow leg and was totally out of breath. We took her to the medical tent, and after firing a lot of questions they basically told her she should eat more, drink more, actually drink the water she carried on the trail with her, and slow down a bit because of the altitude. Everyone was saying the yellow leg was tactical and sadistic, but I think everyone but her would do it again.

Friday evening rolled around, and I overheard a staff member say they didn’t have people to bus tables as the dinner rush started. (Free pasta dinner for everyone!) I told him I would volunteer for 2 hours if he gave me plastic gloves. So for 2 hours I reminded everyone at dinner that the dishes could all go in the compost bin, and I cleared plates for those who looked like they should be post-race sitting. I guess it was mid-race sitting. The food was pretty good. The salad probably should have had the dressing on the side and the pasta could have been whole wheat, since they knew this was a generally healthy crowd, but oh well. I was a good girl and skipped the cookies, I have 3 pounds to lose from my May vacation.

smores tableAround 10pm I helped out again, this time at the s’mores table. There were 3 firepits, and TONS of marshmallows (including vegan), graham crackers (including organic) and Hershey bars. TONS. I hung out there for about an hour helping, and came back from 5am-8am to do it again because no one else was. I could have slept in, but I decided talking to people would be more fun, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Ragnar Smores

Craziness at the s’mores table

One by one our runners took on all 3 trails. At one point Michelle and I were going to walk the yellow trail with a Ragnar staff member – Michelle so she could fulfill her yellow trail leg, and the other 2 of us to get photos and pick up trash, but Michelle wasn’t right by the exchange when the runner before her came in, and Brian was afraid we’d get in trouble, so he went on the yellow course again for her! Meanwhile, Ragnar decided it was a better time to pick up the staff pizza lunch instead of taking trail photos, so I helped pick up pizzas instead. For a moment there, we had the best smelling van in the city! And they even let me have a slice 🙂

As Saturday wore on and the yellow trail took its toll, Ragnar allowed teams who were dropping behind to double and TRIPLE up their runners on the course. They extended the finish from 4pm to 6pm.

By 4pm Saturday, we had one runner left on the course. Some teams had left, others were organizing dinner and camping another night. We started packing everything up at our camp site so after our finish line photos we could drive on to a hotel for showers and a hot meal.

finish0727_172931After our fun photos, we drove back into Reno and had rooms booked at the Casino Fandango. Brian found this place online and told us it would be kitschy fun. And it WAS! Hot pink lighting, and band on a stage 15 feet off the ground, carpet covered with a pattern of rainforest leaves, and a volcano room of nickle slots around a fake mountain! It was right next to our Marriott hotel, so we all took and hour to clean up and then met at the casino.

the lights were much more bubblegum pink than this

the lights were much more bubblegum pink than this

There was a steakhouse in the back, and most of the team wanted to eat there. We practically had the place to ourselves! The food was excellent. I had creamy mushroom risotto and asparagus, and a few bites of Brian’s chocolate ganache cake. Most people ordered the filet mignon.


Then there was some gambling… Brian C and Monica stayed the latest and bet the highest, mostly at the Blackjack tables. My husband and I played video poker and video blackjack and came up $44 ahead in the end!

And then we slept. and slept. and woke up to ANOTHER hot shower. Because hot showers rock. And as I checked my Facebook on my phone, I saw that a teammate posted that she was walking across the street to IHOP, and a bunch of us ended up there. Then we returned the rental cars and went off to the airport. Where Brian realized he couldn’t find his phone and ran back to the rental car area. Where they had already turned in our cars. So 2 teammates who didn’t have flights for 5 hours went to fill out a report while we went through security. And then to the bathroom, which is where it dawned on me to CALL Brian’s phone. And it was in his backpack all along! Mini drama at the airport.

Our flight home was Reno to Chicago and Chicago to Tampa, arriving at 12:20 Midnightish Florida time. In Chicago we wolfed down a quick meal (turkey burger with swiss and an orange) and on the 2nd flight I sat next to someone leaving Blogher who is putting together a site of blogging experts to give advice to bloggers on the business end of blogging. We talked about web the whole flight home while Brian watched more House Hunters next to me.

14 runners, countless smores, 3 nights, over 117 miles, a zillion stars and 8 little bags of peanuts later I came HOME! Where I was promptly greeted by a Wendy hug!! and then I slept for a long, long time!



4 Replies to “Ragnar Tahoe Trail Relay 2013 recap”

  1. Lindsay says:

    how fun! i think this was their first trail one, right? hopefully they can fix the kinks for next time. i think i’d like the central-location setup and ‘camp’ – especially for you guys who spend so much time driving 190 miles 🙂

    (mmm s’mores)

  2. "Q" says:

    I’m doing Vail Lake this Friday. How was terrain in Lake Tahoe. What were your times like? Congrats on finishing!

    • RunningBetty says:

      It was very very hard. Rocky, steep, lots of walking even from the die-hards. They had to start doubling up runners on the same team because they thought tens of teams would not finish by the time Ragnar needed to be off property. They got a lot of feedback, and hopefully took it all into consideration.
      The camping aspect and being around all the teams was great! The smores, group dinner, live music… it really was wonderful. Don’t forget whichever tool you use to roll your legs out! We brought a pop-up shelter for the team to hang out in with tarps on the ground, and everyone pitched their tents around that. An air mattress was a great idea too!

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