This past weekend, the Tetons were a base camp (again). But this time, I was on the other side of them at Grand Targhee Resort for the Ragnar Trail Tetons. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t running this one and was only there as a support team (and on dog duty). And having the full weekend to witness all the event’s energy and participants, it was definitely something I wanted to share.
The whole Ragnar thing is pretty funny to me. In a nutshell, it’s a team-relay race where teams of 8 runners, alternate running 3 different loops. Each loop gets progressively harder, but the runner most likely will not do them in that order. In this race, the 3 loops are broken down as follows: ~4 miles 500 vert, ~5 miles 1,000 vert, and the last being ~6 miles 2,000 vert. I personally did the 6mi loop and it was no joke! It ran all the way from the base area to the summit, and left no time for an easy climb. I’m sure none of that sounds funny, and a bit ridiculous that I think so. What I mean by funny is that the teams run in order, similar to a batting order in baseball. Which means, 7 runners must do their assigned loops between your next loop. All of this to say, there’s a whole lot of waiting around at camp for most of the runners on each team.
I get it, the Ragnar core principal is the team aspect of their events. Some are point to point relays where team members alternate doing 5 mile segments until the entire team reaches some goal. To me, running, especially trail running, is an individual sport. It’s a time where I get to tune everything out and challenge myself against the mountain and the trails. To turn this into a “team” event is just silly. It makes so much more sense, and makes much more of a challenge, to do all these loops back-to-back-to-back. Knocking out 15mi and roughly 3,500’ vert. Now that sounds like something I would want to do, getting in done in a few hours rather than spaced out over a whole day.
I might have this point of view because I’be never done one. And I’m only viewing this event as a spectator of my girlfriends team which consists of her coworkers . Maybe I’m just jealous that I don’t have the opportunity to do something like this, nor do I have 7 other friends that would jump on an event with me like this one. Spending 24+ hours running with your friends sounds like an absolute blast. Especially since most of that downtime would be spent relaxing around camp and drinking beers until your next loop is up. I guess, that does sound fun now that I think about it.
At the same time, would I spend $100+ to go do this? Hell no! If I could convince even 4 friends to do some running challenge like this, it’d be in the mountains where we’d all run at the same time so we can share in the pain and suffering. Not sit at the trailhead until one runner comes back and tells us how it was! But then again, I’m not a runner, and I don’t ever compete in races. Apparently paying this amount is pretty common and the standard for marathons.
But you know who is a runner? My girlfriend Courtney (and Gregor of course), and she thought this was pretty epic and beyond challenging. Not just because of the distance, but because of the times everyone was scheduled to run. She couldn’t just pick whenever she wanted to do the loops. She had to do the hardest loop, the 6 mile red loop, in the middle of the night solely by headlamp. Yup, she essentially climbed a mountain and ran down it in the pitch black. That is so badass.
And that doesn’t even begin to comment on the effect that the scheduled runs have on their sleep (or lack there of). Each member of her team had to be ready for when the runner before them would be back so they could complete the relay, which mean being awake hours before they were finished. She, and her team, barely slept for more than a couple hours over the course of the 25hrs. But that didn’t stop her from crushing the 15 miles she need to run.
To top that effort, her team came in 2nd for the Corporate Category and something like 14th overall out of the 100+ teams in attendance. Not bad for a group of coworkers that really just met for the first time that weekend and forced to spend a hellish weekend together!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.