Packing for the Ragnar Relay

I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging very well, so I’m going to split my Ragnar recaps into a few posts and get more, er, mileage out of the topic. (Mileage! Har har.)

So let’s say you’ve joined a 12-person team with the goal to run 200 miles in under 30 hours. First, you’re a lunatic. :) Second, how should you pack?

In two words: lightly and strategically.

I cannot stress this enough: Gallon-size Ziploc baggies are your friend.

If you take my advice, this will happen: While everyone else is tearing their bags apart, looking for that pair of dry socks or that chocolate-raspberry-flavored granola bar, you’ll be sitting fat and happy in the back of the van with socks, bar, music and travel pillow in hand.

I’ll make this super easy on ya …



  • 3 running shorts (or tights or capris, depending on the weather)
  • 3 running tops (add a long sleeve running top or two, if you need to layer)
  • 3 sports bras, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks (sub in compression socks, if you like)
  • running shoes
  • running belt (if you want to carry water or gels)
  • headbands & hair ties
  • iPad & headphones
  • visor or hat (if it’s super sunny)
  • headlamp
  • Garmin

other clothes

  • sweatpants or yoga pants to wear in between runs
  • sweatshirt
  • rain jacket (if you’re in the Pacific Northwest … even if it’s July … grrr)
  • extra underwear, bra, semi normal outfit for when you’re all done
  • sunglasses


On the night before the race (Thursday), we ate dinner near our motel. The motel had continental breakfast, so we were covered for Friday morning. We planned to stop at a restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner during our break on Friday (after every runner in our van did their first runs, and we handed off to van #2 for their first set of runs). So Friday was mostly covered, except for snacks. Then, we needed food for Saturday’s breakfast, and during Saturday’s runs, and finally we planned to eat free pizza for lunch at the end. None of these details really matter, except to say that I ended up over packing food. You have more opportunities than you’d expect to stop, and you really don’t need that much food between runs anyway.

  • bars
  • nuun
  • water bottle
  • dried fruit
  • peanut butter
  • English muffins
  • pretzels
  • animal crackers
  • fruit leathers
  • string cheese
  • chocolate milk


  • large towel or tarp or sleeping mat
  • sleeping bag in compression sack
  • travel pillow (bed-size pillows are too large, if everyone in the van brings one)


  • roll of toilet paper or small kleenex (I didn’t end up using mine because all of the porta-potties were well-stocked)
  • baby wipes & Shower Pill wipes (lifesavers!!)
  • small ziplocs for ice & snacks, large ziplocs for running outfits
  • Advil
  • bandaids
  • sunscreen
  • deoderant
  • hair brush, dry shampoo
  • small toothpaste & toothbrush
  • cell phone
  • wallet/ID

I’m pretty sure my van mates thought I was weird for bringing dry shampoo, but I’m so glad I had it. After every run, I immediately cleaned up with a Shower Pill, took off my sweaty clothes and threw on my next running top with yoga pants, and sprayed my hair with the shampoo. I didn’t exactly feel fresh, but I felt dry and didn’t smell bad.


Beyond what to pack, the most important part of race prep (other than, you know, training for the runs!) is packing strategically. I saved myself so much time by putting almost everything in Ziploc bags. Here’s a breakdown:

Ziplocs 1, 2 and 3: Each running outfit (including the sports bras, underwear and socks for each)

outfits for legs

Of course, the best part of having each outfit in a separate bag is that you throw the clothes back in the bag right after running so they don’t stink everything up.

Ziplocs 4 & 5: Dry snacks & wet snacks

Yes, I split up dry and wet snacks. As if I am a cat. Roll your eyes, but it works! I individually bagged things like pretzels and animal crackers and bars and then put them in one large ziploc together (dry) and then did the same for things like cheese & chocolate milk (which I’m considering wet because they needed space in the shared cooler). It was so convenient to have all snacks in one place, rather than spread out all over my bag.


Ziploc 6: Repeated items, used for running

It was also super handy to have my iPod, Garmin, headbands, headlamp, etc in one place. Basically everything I needed to reuse and grab quickly, without digging around at the bottom of my duffel bag.


Ziplocs 7 & 8: Toiletries

I split up my toiletries into two categories: things that would make me feel clean & ready for the next run, and other things. I used a Ziploc for the first category and my regular, small toiletry case for the other.

In the Ziploc: toothbrush, toothpaste, Shower Pills, baby wipes, deoderant, comb, dry shampoo, small sunscreen, hand sanitizer

In the small toiletry case: stuff I used the night before the race & in the hotel after the race, like a razor and some makeup, plus the Advil and bandaids

I know it’s a little crazy to go so far as to split up toiletries, but this simplified process really worked for me. It would have driven me crazy to be weeding past a mascara brush or something when I was in the middle of race legs and only needed deoderant.


Lastly, I split everything up into 2 small duffel bags: all of my clothes and running-related gear in one bag, all of my sleep- and food-related items in the other. This made it easy when changing because I obviously didn’t need to grab both duffels. And when we got a few hours of sleep on a high school gym floor in the middle of the race, I knew which bag to haul inside.


As a group, we also needed 12 reflective vests (everyone has to wear one during night hours, whether running or just stepping out of the van to cheer), plus sets of clip-on blinky lights to clip to the runner’s back. We also had one big shared cooler per van, plus a water cooler (we only had to refill it once, I think), which we used to fill our individual water bottles. (One teammate also brought powder Gatorade – takes up way less room than bottles of Gatorade.)

So, to summarize, friends:

  1. Ziploc bags are a necessity.
  2. Snacks are not. Just bring a few of your faves, and stop along the way for sandwiches.
  3. Your van mates might think you’re crazy, but when it’s 2:00 am and you can find your headlight in less then 5 seconds, you’ll be glad.

52 books in 2012

I’m trying to read 52 books in 2012. I’m falling behind, but here’s the list (some of them are incredibly embarrassing – deal with it!). I’ve included a parenthetical with book genre/type so you can get a hint before clicking, and I’ve marked in bold the ones I liked the best. And, at the bottom, I share some book recommendations.

Goal: 52 books in 2012

  1. Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr (health/nutrition)
  2. The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett (micro-memoir about writing)
  3. The Baby Chase by Holly Finn (micro-memoir about fertility)
  4. Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (web content strategy)
  5. Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish (web content strategy)
  6. History of a Suicide by Jill Bialosky (memoir about her sister’s suicide)
  7. Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett (fiction)
  8. How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (satirical memoir)
  9. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe (memoir about life after her husband’s death)
  10. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (fiction)
  11. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje (fiction)
  12. Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott (memoir)
  13. The Accidental Buddhist by Dinty Moore (memoir)
  14. Chi Marathon by Danny and Katherine Dreyer (running form)
  15. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (nonfiction, on escape from an internment camp in North Korea)
  16. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (memoir on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail)
  17. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (fiction)
  18. No Cheating No Dying by Elizabeth Weil (memoir)
  19. Torch by Cheryl Strayed (fiction)
  20. The Pages by Murray Bail (fiction)
  21. Most Talkative by Andy Cohen (memoir)
  22. Wanderlust and Lipstick by Beth Whitman (travel guide)
  23. Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson (nonfiction)
  24. Project Happily Ever After by Alisa Bowman (memoir)
  25. Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham (instruction/memoir)
  26. Where I Was From by Joan Didion (memoir/history of California)
  27. Pill Head by Joshua Lyon (drug memoir)
  28. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (fiction/beach read)
  29. Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith (memoir)
  30. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie (fiction)
  31. Love and Other Infectious Diseases by Molly Haskell (memoir)
  32. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
  33. Fifty Shades Darker by EL James
  34. Delicacy by David Foenkinos (fiction)
  35. It Chooses You by Miranda July (interviews/narrative)

Recommended books

This is gonna look to some like the good little reader’s guide to writers, but what can I say? I did get my MFA and I did fall in love with the required reading lists.

Short stories


On writing

playing catch-up

Hello, blog. (And my 6 readers.) I’ve missed you.

I’m almost ready to write a Ragnar Relay recap, but I’ve been playing catch-up since I got back (and haven’t been doing any running … more on that later). There are things like piles of laundry and piles of mail and messy floors to take care of. And other things like kickball parties and backyard barbecues and trashy TV to enjoy.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of me not running & spending time with friends, instead.

group shot

When one door closes, a bunch of new ones open. And sometimes those doors bring along a new circle of friends. It makes me happy.

running slump

I went to get a pedicure last week, and when the pedicurist removed my old nail polish, I saw that two toes on my right foot are all black & blue.


I felt kind of like a badass runner for a moment, but then I realized that it’s probably not from running at all (I have shoes that fit and don’t do that much downhill running). It’s probably from my kickball cleats. Well, badass nonetheless.

I also have some fresh bruises on my shin from kickball. It’s not for sissies. :)

In other news, I had a really lame week of running. Or, I should say … It started off solidly, then deteriorated.

Monday: 3 easy miles on the treadmill

Tuesday: strength training (with a focus on hamstrings, glutes and core)

Wednesday: ladder track workout (for a total of 5 miles)

Thursday: nothing

Friday: nothing

Saturday: 5 miles (instead of the planned 10)

Sunday: nothing

I’ve totally hit a wall. I just don’t care about running at all right now. I miss other workouts: Zumba, yoga, the elliptical.

Last night I was out with a friend who said, “I hate people who blog about running. It’s sooo stupid.”

I was like, “Yeah, it’s stupid … Wait. I blog about running.”

She said I’m “not like them” because I don’t post every single run on Facebook. (I wanted to tell her that I post nearly every run on Twitter, but she’s just not on Twitter to see it.)

She said, “I don’t care to hear how far someone ran today. I don’t care how tired you are. 6 miles. Big deal. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

She has a point.

Some runners get complete tunnel vision and won’t shut up about their mileages, races, sore legs. (Have I dipped my toes in that territory yet? Am I still in touch with, like, reality?)

It’s true that since I’ve entered this little running slump, I’ve had a really hard time looking at running blogs in my Google Reader. They’re all so gushy and obsessive, or at least that’s what it looks like when I don’t feel like putting on my running shoes. (When I’m in the mood to run, those blogs are fairly motivating.)

I’m not sure where this post is going, other than to say:

  1. I don’t feel like running these days.
  2. I’m going to try to do some short runs since I have the Ragnar Relay coming up, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself.
  3. I’m going to give myself permission to do other workouts next week. (And you should, too.)
  4. I’m going to start thinking about more things outside of running because thinking about (and talking about) running morning, noon and night is kind of boring. Sorry. It is.
  5. I’m going to keep wearing neon because it makes me happy.


Ragnar Relay approaches

Friday: nothin’ (Anybody got a trick for working out on Fridays? I barely ever do it.)

Saturday: 13 miles on the treadmill!! (The exclamation points are not excitement, but shock. Can’t believe I did my long run on the treadmill.)

Sunday: rest day (included some major river floatin’)

Monday: 3 miles (planned to do 4, but was in a super rush) + kickball

I’ve been so focused on meeting my marathon training mileages (and falling a little short) that I’ve nearly forgotten all about the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage, coming up in 10 days. 10 days!

This is my first relay, and I’ve got to admit … it’s been kind of a pain in the butt thus far. My team’s a hodgepodge of nice folks, with varying degrees of running ability and commitment. We’ve had runners drop out and no-show to our team meetings, and it’s just sort of become a logistical circus more than anything else.

I want to go into it with an open mind, but can you tell I’m little more than lukewarm on the whole thing?

I’m runner #3 so I’ll be doing legs 3, 15 and 27, which break down like this:

  1. Leg 3: 8.2 miles, virtually uphill the whole time (eek)
  2. Leg 15: 3.5 miles, all flat (phew)
  3. Leg 27: 4 miles, gentle hills with a long downhill at the end

It’s a total of 15.7 miles, and it’s a pretty good runner position (I think it’d be super challenging to be runners 10, 11 and 12 and have to get excited for your last run, when everyone else is done). I have no idea when I’ll be running … I should probably do some estimations to figure that out. The first leg will likely be early enough in the day (around 10 am) that it won’t be too terribly hot. (The race is on Whidbey Island, so hopefully it’ll be breezy anyway.)

If either of my other runs are in the middle of the night, I imagine I’ll run them really fast to get the heck out of the dark. :) Crossing my fingers I’ll be able to pace with another runner in the night so I’m not out in the middle of nowhere alone. And maybe I won’t have to worry about this at all. Again, need to sit down and do some estimations.

I’m actually thinking a lot more about all the surrounding issues, not the runs themselves. Namely, how will I react to being stuck in a van with people for over 24 hours, on little sleep, no shower and too much caffeine? (Remind me why I signed up for this?)

It’s a good exercise in patience and positivity, right?

Or, er, it’ll prepare me mentally for running a marathon.

Whatever the case, I’m signed on and I’m not dropping out, so it’s full speed ahead.

get faster

I love when folks post their speed training workouts. Makes it easy on me the next time I hit the track (or the treadmill). Here’s a terrific HIIT workout from Shut Up + Run, and it includes all sorts of helpful tips, too. I can’t wait to try it.

so fast

That’s all for now. LET’S. GET. FAST.

whip your glutes into shape

Sunday: rest day

Monday: 10 mile bike ride instead of a 3 mile run (though … it was really slow and on a cruiser bike, so it wasn’t really a workout)

Tuesday: Went all lazy & did nothing

Wednesday: track/crossfit workout (see below)

Thursday: 3 mile walk instead of a 5 mile run (because I was too sore from yesterday)

Since I’ve been trying to meet my weekly mileage goals, I’ve seriously shirked any semblance of strength training. Not that I did a ton of strength training before, but at least I was consistent with a weights class once a week.

As anyone with a fitness orientation (runner, athlete, yogi, trainer) will tell you, strength training is really important. It shouldn’t be the first thing you cut from your fitness regimen.

So I’m making a deal with myself to drop one of my short runs each week and do strength training instead — or add strength training to a run, as I did on Wednesday.

If you’re a runner and at all skeptical about dropping miles to add in weights, let me offer three convincing reasons:

  1. It’ll make you stronger (duh) and faster (yay), especially if you build up your hamstrings.
  2. It’ll help you burn more calories. (Who doesn’t want to burn more calories?)
  3. It’ll leave you less prone to injury — and more equipped to last through your long runs.

And, let me clarify: When I say strength training, I don’t necessarily mean you need to use weights, though it’s a good idea. I simply mean any weight-bearing exercise. Using your own body weight counts, too.

Want a quick and effective workout that’ll whip your glutes into shape? Take a look at the track/crossfit workout I did on Wednesday … It’s the first crossfit workout I’ve ever done, and so far my favorite. :) (I stole it from Paula of Eat Watch Run, who I follow on dailymile.)

I’m calling it …

Let ‘er burn!

  • 1 mile warmup
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 100 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 75 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 50 squats + 25 moving lunges
  • 1 fast lap, followed by 25 squats + 25 lunges
  • 1 mile cool down

Some important notes:

  • Do not rest during the fast lap rotations! I wanted this to simulate what it feels like to run fast on really tired legs. Defeats the purpose (in my opinion) if you allow yourself recovery.
  • Do a proper squat. No cheating. (Google proper squat if you’re not confident in your form.)
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the squat. Go ahead, squuueeeeze.
  • Please don’t forget to stretch afterward!

I loved this workout for a few reasons. First, it was super quick. I think it was about an hour from start to finish, and that included a lot of stretching. Second, it felt tough but completely doable … and yet, I was more sore than I ever expected the next day. (I can’t wait to do it a few more times and see my progress.) Lastly, it’s open for lots of variations. I’d like to try it with pushups or burpees, extend the laps in between or turn it into a ladder (where you start with fewer squats and build up to 100, then build back down).

Try it out. Let me know what you think!


Guess what happened this week? It’s officially summer in Portland. Sure, we’ve had some sunny, warm days before this. But now it’s here to stay. Yep, summer starts on July 5 in PDX.