Friday, March 5, 2010

H2C, Wasatch Back or RAGNAR Del Sol

Ryan Driggs at Hood to Coast 2009

RAGNAR Del Sol hit the Valley of the Sun last weekend.  If you've never heard of the popular relay series, you should really check it out.  A twelve-person team runs 200 miles in a point-to-point relay that runs continuously until the last relay team member crosses the finish line.

Relay events have become quite popular in the running community, and my friend Ryan has competed in several of them.  Here is a report on Ragnar 2010m as well as how it compares to some of the others that he's done.

Ragnar Del Sol 2010
We had assembled the fastest Tri-Mesa team ever and were looking to improve on the 2nd place showing in the race last year.  We started out strong and after the first 12 legs we were hanging around in the 2nd to 4th place range.  Unfortunately there was a team from Flagstaff that had 12 fast guys wearing Dolphin shorts and nobody was going to catch them.  First place was out of the question, but we were confident we can make a run at the teams in front of us.

We got word at about 2 am that there was an accident.  All teams would be skipping legs 19-24 and were supposed to drive to the next major exchange.  This obviously changed everything and it became very clear that the race was no longer going to be competitive.  After much discussion we decided to pack it up and head home instead of waiting for our turn to race, which would have been another few hours of waiting.

Overall the race was a huge disappointment on many levels.  The accident really changed things for those racing competitively, and once that was gone, we didn’t think it was worth it to keep going.

Even before the accident, I can’t say I was all that impressed with the race as a whole.  The major exchanges were small and uneventful.  The course itself wasn’t all that exciting and some of the legs on dirt roads were sketchy at best.  During much of the course you are running on the side of the road with little to no shoulder with cars/trucks just buzzing right by you.  I didn’t see a ton of volunteers out there and it just didn’t look as organized as it should be.  To be honest, I don’t know if I will have interest in running the Del Sol relay again.

The Ragnar company as a whole does a pretty good job, but still a huge step down from the people who run the Hood To Coast.

The other Ragnar Relay that I’ve run a couple times is the Wasatch Back up in Utah.  This is a very challenging relay race with some of the toughest climbs out there, including the dreadful #34 which is a climb of 1700 feet over 4 miles.  Another big challenge with the Wasatch Back is the potential for a very warm/hot race.  I remember a few years back when temperatures reached 95+ degrees and there were people needing medic assistance all over the course.  It has become a bigger race, more teams, which means more volunteers and that is a good thing.   It also has some of the best scenery out there including my favorite part which is a climb up old Snow Basin Road.  The starting and ending locations are just ok, nothing too special.  But overall a fun race and one that I would do again for sure.

As much as I enjoyed Wasatch Back, it really doesn’t come close to what they are doing up in Portland for the Hood To Coast relay.   All you need to know is the race starts at a volcano and ends on the beach.  What else do you want?  There is the reason they call it the “Mother of all Relays” because it is the biggest and the best.  The race caps it at 1000 teams and there is a lottery to determine who gets in.  There is some serious competition and it attracts some of the fastest runners out there.  I believe last years team finished the 197 mile race in 17 hours which is about 5:10 per mile.  Crazy.

Bigger race means more traffic of course but it also means a much more efficient, well-run race with 12,000 runners and 3000 volunteers.  The start of the race is located 6000 feet up at the Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood where you will see some snow and some incredible views.  The first two legs drop a combined 3500 feet down the mountain.  The race is filled with some of the most scenic roads you will ever see just lined with trees and green everywhere.  Fast course with lots of downhill and normally perfect running weather.  The finish is located on the beach in Seaside, or with a great view of the famous Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Another bonus of the H2C relay is being able to spend time in and around Portland.  That is a great city.  One of the highlights for our team going up to Oregon is going to NIKE headquarters in Beaverton and having time to visit the employee store.  Highly recommended!

The most important aspect of all these relays is the people you are with and having a good time.  If you don’t enjoy the people in your group, you won’t have a lot of fun doing these things…I don’t care if it is H2C, Wasatch Back, or Del Sol.  

Having said that…if you are going to pick one of these relays…start planning your trip to Oregon right now!

Thank you Ryan!

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