Ragnar runs wild along the Wasatch Back
Roughly 13,000 runners will converge on Park City today, and most of them will be having the time of their lives.
Wade Wolfenbarger, a Park City resident since October, will be one of the many competitors in the 2012 Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay, a 197.4-mile, two-day team-relay series that begins in Logan and ends at Park City High School. Wolfenbarger, a content Web administrator for Competitive Cyclist — a high-end online biking manufacturer under the umbrella of Park City’s Backcountry.com — is competing in his first Ragnar series.
He is also the last competitor, known as runner No. 12, and will end the race for his team, Whiskey Militia. And luckily for Wolfenbarger, he will run in many of the areas he enjoys in his new hometown before crossing through the silver gates at Dozier Field today. Of the 15.9 total miles he’s scheduled to run, he said the last leg will be the most enjoyable.
"I am running on literally the same trails I run on every day," he said.
The cruel summer heat and dry altitude of the Wasatch Back will be a test for Wolfenbarger, who previously lived in Arkansas, but he said he’s ready for the challenge.
"Events like this are interesting because you are all working together to achieve something, and I think that’s something important," he said. "I’m kind of excited to get out and into some new places I’ve never been before. That’s one of the great things about the area we live in. Everywhere is a postcard."
The Wasatch Back relay is the largest and most popular of all the Ragnar races in the country. The series, which has ballooned in reputation in recent years, now has 15 relay races in all areas of the continental United States.
For Kent Phippen, his first year directing one of the most admired races in the country is a job unlike any he’s ever had before. Prior to being named director of the Wasatch Back, Phippen organized the Washington D.C. Ragnar event, which typically had 300 to 400 teams a year.
Upping that amount by 800 teams and thousands of people has been interesting, to say the least, he said.
"There’s a lot more vehicles and a lot more people we have to deal with," he said. "We’re making sure everyone is safe along the routes, and we have more pedestrian and traffic control.
"It is hard to have people fully understand what really goes into it. I think a lot of people think of a race as a 5K or a marathon, but we’re talking 200 miles, thousands and thousands of people, and the logistics of it all. When I meet someone for the first time, they say, ‘That’s what you do for your day job?’ Yes, but it’s pretty involved. I think people are surprised how long it takes. We really start working a year out, working with jurisdictions, seeing how to improve from a year previous."
The first-year director said hearing the stories of why people choose to put such intense mileage on their bodies is the payoff.
"It seems it has a deeper effect on people because they’re running for a reason; they have their teammates out there cheering them on," he said. "There’s something magical that happens along that race route: that time with your teammates and overcoming something together that you couldn’t do in any other race."
Park City’s Marit Fischer is competing in her second Wasatch Back this weekend as captain of Team Steep and Cheap, another team under the umbrella of Backcountry.com. Fischer, the marketing director for Backcountry, said the company has had a team in the Wasatch Back annually since 2005.
This year, the company has four teams competing, she said.
"On our team we have someone from accounting, product management, marketing, programming, distribution center and other places," she said. "They’re all amazing people that I’ve wanted to get to know for a while now."
Fischer said she will also be participating in the Triple Trail Challenge in Park City this year, as well as the Trans Rockies Run in Colorado. After focusing on the Ironman Triathlon Challenge and having a child, this will be her first Wasatch Back relay since 2008 and it will help prepare her for the strenuous summer schedule.
"I love it. I’m actually looking forward to being stuck in a van with my teammates for 24 hours," she said. "Or 30."
For more information on the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay, visit http://www.ragnarrelay.com.
Two people indicated in interviews they are considering mounting campaigns for the Park City Council, a signal the City Hall election could attract an intriguing slate of candidates in a year when the majority of the five seats are on the ballot.