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Ragnar Trail Relay at Vail Lake


Moms Gone Running – Ragnar Trail Relay Vail Lake November 15-16, 2013

A few months ago my friend Cheryl asked me if I wanted to join her team for the Ragnar Trail Relay at Vail Lake. I had never participated in a Ragnar before, but it has been one of my “bucket list” items since I first learned about the overnight relay races through my cousins. Since I have been training for a half-marathon in January anyhow I thought it was a great time to add in an event. I’ve never really done much trail running, but it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Well, there was this…


And there was this…


But the view from the top was amazing if you happened to get to run it in daylight instead of the middle of the night, in the rain!


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ragnar Trail Relays, you assemble a team of 8 runners, you each run 3 legs (at Vail Lake they were 3.4, 3.9, & 6.1 miles) for a team total of 107.2 miles. We started at 10:30 am on Friday Nov 15th and our last runner came in around 9:30 am Saturday Nov 16th. We ran in the heat of the day, we ran in the cold and rain during the night & wee hours of the morning – we camped, but we didn’t really get much sleep. The adrenaline was high and the excitement & fun in the atmosphere was palpable. There is nothing quite like it.


Night time image of the finish line

Now that it’s over, the thing that resonates with me more than anything is that we did it! We did something REALLY hard. We’re a group of moms – we’re not super athletes. We are all runners – some more experienced than others – but none of us had done anything quite like this. Some had run the So Cal Ragnar street race, but none of us are experience trail runners. Climbing up the back of a mountain – 500 ft up in 1/2 a mile; navigating unfamiliar and technical trails in the dark & in the rain; next to no sleep for 24 hours; running 3 different trails within 16 hours – this isn’t something you can fully prepare for. The sense of accomplishment is, to me, one of the most important take-aways from this experience.


Finishing my first leg – the hardest 3.4 miles I have EVER run.

I’m a mom of six kids – yes six! – and I have found that in today’s society – especially here in “the OC” – most kids have it pretty easy. They have a lot given to them and they don’t really have to work hard. Everyone who plays on the soccer team gets a trophy, all the kids who come to school everyday get an award, Mom & Dad buy just about anything their kids ask for, letter grades aren’t even given out in elementary school anymore – if you completed the assignment you get credit, whether it’s done correctly or not. Not to mention that many families have maids & gardeners so kids don’t have to clean their rooms or pull weeds & mow the lawn like we did growing up. How are our kids supposed to learn the value of hard work and that they CAN do HARD things?


Having FUN while doing something HARD!

I am so grateful for this amazing experience that I shared with 7 other wonderful women. I learned a lot about myself and I have a bond with these women that couldn’t have been forged without this experience. Now, to find a way to give my children a similar experience where they can learn that they can do hard things and where they can find that sense of accomplishment after doing something really hard, but fun too!


We finished!

Julie is an OC Supermom to six beautiful children in Orange County. She is an editor with Astraea Press, active in the community and enjoys running in her free time.
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  1. This is my first ragnar trail, im concerned over running at night. Getting lost or injured? I usually run on the street n during the day? Any advice

    • Hi Maggie. We will have Julie answer your question shortly

    • This was my first Ragnar ever! I was also worried about those things. The best thing you can do to prepare is to run trails once a week – trail running is different than road. You really have to pay attention to where you are stepping so you don’t trip or twist an ankle. Before you run at night you should get a headlamp. I got mine online for about $20 and it’s 100 lumens. I never run at night alone, so hopefully you can train with a teammate. I didn’t really train at night much – I’d start early morning before the sun was up or finish an evening run right after the sun went down. It’s also good to do a morning run followed by an evening run in the same day a few weeks before the event – to get used to running multiple times in a day.

      Don’t worry about getting lost or running at night too much – the trails are marked well with reflective markers. As long as you’re paying attention (which you should be) you won’t have a problem staying on the trail. Chances are you will come across other runners while you are out. There are several teams running & everyone is running the same 3 loops – so it’s uncommon to run an entire leg without coming across other runners. They also have volunteers positioned at a few points on the yellow & red trails to make sure that you go the right direction. The running community – and especially the Ragnar running community – is typically friendly & helpful so should you have a problem, someone will help you out. Just be smart- pay attention to where you’re stepping, listen to your body, and realize that when you run trail you are going to walk at times – and that’s ok. Don’t expect to keep your road race pace. Expect to add 30 -90 secs per mile on average. But more than anything – have fun!! It’s a great experience and while trail races are tough – they are fun and the sense of accomplishment is great. Best of luck!

      • Julie
        thank you for your advice, I am relieved to hear that the trails are not that dangerous. Im getting a headlamp that has strong power.

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