This may go down in history as one of the most spur-of-the-moment race decisions I’ve ever made. A friend of one of my TIR teammates needed a few legs picked up at Ragnar Trail Hill Country due to late drop-outs and injuries. Apparently if you ask me to run an overnight relay two hours away in middle-of-nowhere Texas with 12 hours notice, I will have no problem saying yes.
I ran Hill Country its inaugural year in 2014 so I knew what I was getting myself into. I almost signed up with a team earlier this year but decided due to my clumsiness it wouldn’t be in my best interest to run a trail race so close to Indy Monumental. But at this point my registration had been downgraded from the full to the half so running Hill Country seemed like a good idea.
I initially committed to picking up the 7.5 mile Red Loop late Friday night and the 3 mile Green Loop early Saturday morning. However, upon arrival in Comfort I learned one of their runners was a no-show (?!) and wasn’t answering her phone. We had to do a lot of leg switching but the reworked assignment was Green Loop in the afternoon, Red Loop late night, and the 5 mile Yellow Loop on Saturday morning. I hadn’t run anything farther than 4 miles since June so it was probably ambitious (read: dumb) to take on all of that mileage, but I went with it. YOLO. Thankfully the team was not competitive so my game plan of “just don’t fall + hurt yourself” would work out just fine.
33:27 (2014 — 55:13)
As the shortest loop, it was obviously the easiest. My legs felt a little rusty, and just as I was starting to hit my groove? The leg was over. However – I’m glad I wasn’t running Red or Yellow because it was 5:30pm and 80 degrees.
Buckeye Canyon Trail
1:38:41 (2014 — 2:07:01)
When I ran this in 2014, I fell more times during the Red Loop than I can count on two hands. I am notoriously a clumsy human being, so despite being armed with a solid headlamp I just couldn’t stay upright for the life of me. That being said, I was very cautious on this leg since I’d be tackling it in the dark at 10pm. I am pretty sure Ragnar only rates their legs based on the distance because the Red is by no means hard. Sure there was a decent amount of climbing (like where you were basically climbing rocks and wondering if you were still on the course or had made a wrong turn somewhere) but this leg was glorious. There were enough single-tracks sprinkled in where you could really stride it out and make up some time. When I came through transition at the end, I was on Cloud 9. This was the runner’s high I had been missing for many months. I was BACK.
Pipeline Hill Trail
1:11:25 (2014 — 1:36:32)
I stayed awake until 6am, taking teammates to/from the transition, downing coffee after coffee, and keeping track of our pace with a fancy clipboard (Type A’s dream come true) to make sure we were on track. I slept for mayyyybe 45 minutes before I gave up. It was super humid but the temperature was mid 60s and I felt simultaneously hot + freezing. Not exactly ideal sleeping conditions. I inhaled 4 pancakes with butter + syrup, pretending this was a good idea before my hardest leg, and took off at 8:30am to knock out the Yellow Loop.
Oh. This trail is not my favorite. It was a death march for me in 2014 and it didn’t take long into it this year before I remembered why. It’s almost four miles of climbing, and when it’s your third leg – it’s not fun. The view from the top is pretty though!
The last mile is almost completely downhill and while it’s tempting to haul ass down it, you still have to remember you’re on a trail and could potentially hit a hole or twist your ankle on a rock. I did remember seeing some decent paces on my Garmin during that mile but forced myself to reign it in so I didn’t faceplant.
Official Finish Time — 22:57:40
13th out of 75 in the Mixed Category
49th out of 218 Overall