Ragnar Trail Angel Fire – leg #1 – Angel Fire, NM (2015)

The Charlotte crew of our team flew into New Mexico on Wednesday night to give us plenty of time to pick up the cars, get organized and settle in before the rest of our teammates flew in the next morning. We made our obligatory stop at REI the next morning to pick up a couple of camp chairs and other essentials before heading to a local Walmart to stock up on food for our condo. The Angel Fire race is apparently one of the two trail races where you can actually stay in a hotel / condo / house and still be within walking distance of the village, so we got a condo for the 8 of us so that we could eat real meals between our running. Plus, a warm place to sleep and a shower are never bad things to have during a race in the mountains. We stopped outside of Santa Fe for lunch and found some dinosaurs!

We actually saw the dinosaurs from the highway and as soon as we decided to stop for lunch, we knew we had to go find them. They’re outside of what looked like a mechanic’s shop, so we just parked beside some other vehicles and wandered around for awhile, until it started to rain on us (a preview of things to come!). 

It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Angel Fire, but the check-in process was super easy and we were on our way to the condo to unpack and get our last full night’s sleep before the race. The one thing we didn’t realize about the condo was that it was four floors! The shared shower was down on the second floor and there were four of us sharing the top floor, with the living room and kitchen on the third floor – just walking up the steps with our suitcases was a challenge now that we were at 8,500′ elevation. We all came from just a couple hundred feet elevation, so we knew this was going to be a challenge for us throughout the race weekend.

I was our lead runner and we were set to start at 1:00pm. I was down at the village early to volunteer for our team, so I was there in plenty of time to see the first teams start off at 11 and the second group start at 12 and before long, it was just about time for me to get started… and then there was lightning! We ended up with a 2-hour delay for our start, but we were allowed to just start late and didn’t have to skip any runners (the teams that had already started had to skip the next two runners). So, I used the extra time to eat some more food and we all put on our Ragnar tattoos. Then, at 3:00, I was in a large group of runners and away we went!

I started off on the Green loop, which was the shortest loop at only 3.6 miles. All of the loops had hills to them, but the Green loop started out with a significant downhill portion. That partnered with the fact that there were so many other people on the course meant that I was flying for the first mile.

  • Mile 1: 8:56
  • Mile 2: 11:00
  • Mile 3: 15:11
  • Last .6: 8:32
I knew after the first mile that I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace, but I also knew I had some hills coming, so I figured I could bank some time for when I had to walk, which didn’t take too long. There were a lot of people walking the uphill to mile 3 and we commented that this wasn’t a good sign of things to come on the Red loop. 
I don’t think anyone on our team got any pictures of the Green loop, but we wandered down a dirt road, along a smaller bike trail, then off-trail onto a patch of mowed grass before heading to run on the road against traffic and then back off road and up, up, uphill. The Yellow loop merges with the Green loop somewhere on the uphill and stays together through the rest of the course, eventually joining with the Red loop on the steep downhill section. I passed 12 people on the Green loop, but I was almost caught at the very end. I had a really good pace going down the hill, but there was a section where we had to go up and down steps as we went through the Angel Fire Resort where I slowed down before we ended up back on the sidewalk that lead back to the transition tent. I was going as fast as I could down the sidewalk and I could hear one of the guys I had passed on the downhill coming up from behind me.
We gave each other high-fives after we finished, him just a few seconds behind me. I told him I could hear him catching up to me and I wasn’t going to let him pass me. It’s great to get pushed at the end of the race and still have the energy to make yourself go faster! After we got our second runner onto the course, my teammates met me and asked me how I thought it went – the picture sums it up best!
 Up next: leg 2, my overnight run on the Red loop.

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