Teams of 12 runners tag-team their way through three mountain passes from the Utah State University in Logan to Soldier Hollow, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. If that’s not hardcore enough, runners can enter the Ultra division and split that same distance among a six-member team — meaning each runner clocks an average of 30 miles by the time they reach the finish line.
Sound like fun?
Yeah, we didn’t think so. But a team of six women from around Park County did just that earlier this month, finishing second in the Women Ultra division with a time of 32 hours and 52 minutes. Perhaps even more impressive, of the 426 teams that entered the race spread out over six different divisions, “Wild Wyoming Women” finished better than 199 of them — 187 of them being 12-member teams.
“I thought it was a blast,” said Wyoming Wild Women team captain and Meeteetse native Kelsey Scolari. “It was very challenging so it felt so good to be able to successfully complete it. We made a great team, encouraging each other and supporting each other throughout the race.”
Other team members included Jaime Perkins, Sammie Perkins and Brodie Bennett of Meeteetse, Tessa Round of Cody and Powell native Tiffany Brando. Primarily a sprinter when she was a member of the Powell High School track team, Brando said she hated distance running in her younger days. Her attitude has changed somewhat over the years, though she approached the idea of running the Ragnar with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“I thought it was crazy,” Brando said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Most teams do this with 12 people? And we want to do it with six? OK then.’”
Lead-off runner Brodie Bennett agreed with her teammate’s assessment.
“Kelsey [Scolari] was the one who had the idea and roped us all in, as she had done the race a couple years ago,” Bennett said. “I quite honestly didn’t think we would actually do it.”
Though all six team members were already in good shape, they tried to step up their workouts around March to be ready for the June 2 start. Fitting in workouts around a full work schedule could at times be tricky.
“I thought going into the race I was somewhat prepared, but I found out quick I really wasn’t that prepared,” Bennett said. “I don’t think you could ever be totally prepared for a race like that if you had a normal working life, as there is no way you could run enough times a day to train for the endurance.”
Running in the sixth spot, Sammie Perkins ran just over 30 miles, her longest leg totaling 9 miles.
“It was grueling at times, but it was an awesome accomplishment,” Perkins said of the race. “Being runner number six meant that I was the final runner on our team, and it was really neat to be able to run across the finish line.”
As for her training regimen, Perkins said she tried to mix her workouts up to maximize her effort.
“I started training for the race in early spring by working out four to five times per week,” she said. “I tried to run three to four times per week, running at least 3 miles each time. I also did some cross-training or cardio-type workouts two or three times a week to mix it up.”
At 34 miles, Brando’s portion of the race was the longest and included the Ragnar Leg, the most challenging leg on the course. Starting at the base of the First Time lift at Park City Mountain Resort, runners climb up 2,900 feet, past Lady Morgan Bowl and Empire Bowl before finishing at the base of Guardsman Pass, a total of almost 7 miles. The leg is so difficult that the runners who complete it get a “King of the Wasatch” medal to go along with their finishing medal.
“I knew going in that I had a really bad hill in the legs I was running; I didn’t realize it was the worst one,” Brando said.
It was her sixth and final leg of the race and by that time, one of her iliotbial bands (the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin) was really tight, “so it was painful to run at that point.”
When a team tackles a challenge like the Ragnar Wasatch Back, the members can’t help but form a bond. By the time your body begins to shut down, and sleep deprivation and hunger begin to set in, sometimes the support of your teammates is all that gets you through.
“We made a great team, encouraging each other and supporting each other throughout the race,” Scolari said. “We had a lot of laughs, especially as sleep deprivation started to set in. We all had our work cut out for ourselves so everyone had to pull their own weight. We really had to rely on one another.”
Brando said the time in the car between legs kept the mood light and the girls focused.
“For as tired as we were and for as sore as we were, we made it fun,” she said. “We had a blast. My biggest thing is I didn’t really know any of these girls very well before we started all this. Now I talk to them all the time. We bonded very quickly.”
With the race in the books, and the team having had a chance to reflect on their accomplishment, is this something they would sign on for again?
“I would do this race again in a heartbeat,” Scolari said. “What an amazing experience.”
The other team members might be a little harder to convince, though one gets the impression they might be up for the challenge.
“I can see where having a team of 12 would be a lot more enjoyable,” Bennett said. “During the race, I wouldn’t even consider running the race again, but now that it is over and I can look back on it, I might do it again.”
“I don’t know if I would do an Ultra again, but I would do a 12 person Ragnar for sure,” she said. “But if my teammates really wanted to do the Ultra again, I could probably be convinced.”