Sunday, November 9, 2014


You guys. I found something that is worse than CAMPING. It's worse than surprise camping. Even worse than camping for more than one day.


It is called Ragnar. It is an unholy abomination in apocalyptic proportions. The people who came up with this idea should be imprisoned. Everyone who has talked another person into doing the race should be tried for crimes against humanity. They should change the name of the place where Satan dwells from "Hell" to "Ragnar."


The race was in Vegas, a solid six-hour drive from Salt Lake City. We drove south on Thursday evening, the six of us on our team.

From left to right: James, Kristin, Kati, Eli, Allie, Ben.

Note: I said six. For those familiar with Ragnar, each team typically has twelve people on it. The twelve people rotate turns, running a 200-mile relay over the course of about 30 hours. A couple of large vans follow the course, carrying the runners to each exchange place so the baton can be passed off to the next runner, meaning that for 30 hours, you are either running or sitting in a van.


But since we only had a six-person team, we were considered an "ultra" Ragnar group, meaning that we would be running the 200 miles with half the people of a normal team. Each of us would be running roughly between 30 and 40 miles over the course of the race.

Our race started on Friday morning. We got up at 5:00 AM to go get our rental vehicle for the day.


All of the vans of Las Vegas had already been rented by the time we attempted to secure one and so we were left with a barely-functioning Tahoe that was absolutely not big enough to fit six people, all of our bags, and the food and water we would be consuming over the course of the 30 hours.

Nonetheless, we crammed everything we could into the vehicle and made our arduous trek deep into the Nevada deserts to find the starting line.

Our first crisis occurred as Kati began running and we realized that soap had gotten into our water supply somehow and contaminated every drop of fluid we had with us. We immediately began referring to this problem as The Great Water Crisis of 2014.

We were far away from civilization and it was HOT. We didn't have time to drive all the way back into town to get more water and make it back to the exchange place to relieve Kati and let Ben start running. We didn't know what to do.

The Great Water Crisis plagued our race for the first few hours until we were finally able to get into town to secure more sustenance, long after most of us had become quite dehydrated.

And then the day got worse.

Ben went down first. He wasn't feeling well and was probably severely dehydrated. We frantically tried to get him what we needed, while also shuffling him back to the car so we could hurry and get to the next exchange place to relieve James from his long run. Moments later, Ben declared that he wouldn't be able to run his remaining 20 or so miles.

We were going to have to figure out a way for the other five of us to cover his remaining legs.

James finished his run. Allie ran. I ran ten or so miles and felt surprisingly good. We seemed to be holding it together as it got dark.

Now, I'm sorry if you know people who were in charge of the Vegas Ragnar and I'm sure they are very lovely people but it's relevant to this story for me to tell you that of all of the hundreds of races I have been involved in over the last 15 years, this was far and away the most poorly organized event I have ever seen.

There was very little support staff. There was very little helpful direction. Some of the legs ran through the middle of the city, through construction zones, and across incredibly busy intersections where there were no volunteers staffed. I had to stop and wait at about a dozen traffic lights. Multiple times, in the darkness, I started to wonder if I had gotten lost because I hadn't seen a sign for a while and the road I was running on had split multiple times. At several points, we found ourselves running in the dark on busy four-lane highways that didn't have a shoulder.

I seriously cannot believe they actually planned an event like this.

So it was under these circumstances that our very stressed-out and exhausted team continued to try to complete this event.

Sometime passed midnight James informed us that due to a knee injury, he wouldn't be able to continue.

We frantically covered his next leg, attempting to make a plan for the remainder of the race. I ran, while the others drove on. Kati and Allie met me at the next exchange and let me know that Kristin had also gone down with a knee injury.

We still had about 100 miles to go and only three members of the team left to run them. This meant that each of us would still have to run about 33 miles on top of the 20 or so we had already done. And to make matters worse, this was a moving event. It wasn't like we could leave for a while to regroup and figure out a new plan. We kept having to send someone off to run the next leg while the remainder of the team piled into the crowded vehicle, navigated the terrible Vegas streets to get to the next exchange, and frantically tried to come up with a plan B or C or D.

We were smelly and tired and dehydrated. The six of us hardly knew one another before getting to Vegas. But these were now starting to feel like my very closest friends. And I think I will feel a kinship with each of them for the remainder of my life.

Sometime around 3:30 in the morning I finished another leg and Allie, Kati, and I had a very frank conversation:

Allie: So . . . I don't think this is going to be possible.

Kati: Absolutely not possible.

Eli: Should we just go home?

Everyone at once: YES.

We drove the Tahoe back to the sketchy car rental place, boarded our own two vehicles, and drove all the way to Salt Lake City without even taking off our race bibs or changing our clothes. I felt like we were fleeing.

We made it home a little after 10:00 in the morning, nearly thirty hours since we had gotten up to go to the race.

And I will NEVER get myself involved in that mess again unless Paul Simon personally asks me to.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Do you want to run a relay race:

    1. Hahaha. This is amazing. I need to send this to many people.

    2. That was pretty funny. Eli, that should have been your conversation with James when he asked you to run the race with him. Why would anyone do this!?!

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  3. Oh wow. I think that whole thing should be called the Ragnar Crisis of 2014. Having the paths be that unmarked with so few volunteers would have made me scared to run alone in the dark through an unknown town. Now you know though why teams start out with twelve people usually. So that when the runners start dropping like flies from knee injuries and dehydration from soap water, you aren't left with only three to do an insane amount of running.

  4. Ragnar - Las Vegas=Hell. Dude, I'm glad you survived! Las Vegas itself is Hell. I despise Vegas.

  5. I've read the history, but I'm pretty sure Ragnar is a shortened form a Ragnarok, which is pretty much the end of the world for the Norse Gods (Odin, Thor, Loki, etc...), or in this case, the end of the world for those who run this race.

    1. Ragnar was actually a legendary Norse ruler. Just fyi.

  6. This has not been your year for ridiculous races.

  7. We did an Ultra team and it was super tough! And that was with everything going according to plan, no runners falling out and no soapy water. In the middle of the night it got really cold and we all felt super sick (all that running and trying to eat in between was not agreeing with us). We were ready to go home. We paid money to be there! Why?!! After my second to last leg I seriously cried! I passed off the baton, find a corner of the park and sat down and cried because I had already run 25 miles and I had 5 more to go, I was so sore, I was starving and sick, and I hadn't slept in over 24 hours. Luckily my sister was running too, she came and cried with me and we agreed to finish. But never, ever again will I do an Ultra.

  8. What sort of madness is this?! I thought marathons were the worst things ever. Thanks to you I now know about Iron Man, Ragnar, and Tami.

  9. Ragnars should be illegal. They are for crazy people.

  10. I did a Ragnar a couple of years ago and I too thought it was poorly organized. My sister volunteered at the race and said she will never volunteer at a Ragnar again because the people in charge were so terrible. She's volunteered at quite a few different types of races too so she's familiar with them.