Ragnar Wasatch Back Recap

Ragnar Wasatch Back is now one of my favorite relay experiences ever. The views along the course were gorgeous, and it was very challenging. Between being at altitude, the hills, and the 90+ degree weather, it was definitely the hardest relay I've run so far. And I loved every minute of it!

I arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday morning, where a few of my teammates met me at my gate because they'd arrived earlier. We greeted two more teammates, grabbed the vans, and headed over to our hotel to start the weekend. After a trip to Target for the essentials (you know, sunscreen, Cheez Its, Pop Tarts...) we relaxed for a while and then went to dinner downtown at Squatters Pub to try some Utah beer. It was great to stay at one hotel with the whole team and to have time with the van one ladies, who we wouldn't see much during the race itself.

I was in van two, so we were able to sleep in on Friday morning. And boy, sleep in we did! We didn't wake up until about 9 am, at which point we got dressed and went to Perkins for breakfast. We had plenty of time before we met van one to start running, so we hung out at the hotel until we had to check out at noon and then decorated the vans. We had lunch at a good deli near Ogden, took photos along the pretty road to exchange 6, and hung out for a while after we arrived. It was unbelievably hot, so we basically spent as much time in the van A/C as possible before going to wait at the exchange.

Stopping for the view while driving.

Exchange 6 in Liberty, Utah.

The handoff to Robyn. And off we went.

I was runner 8, and my first distance was 7.2 miles. It was still very hot, hot enough that I ran in a sports bra (highly unusual for me!) My route had nice views but was along a really busy road for a while. Overall I ran well for the heat and was happy with how it went. I handed off to Farron, who then got to climb a big hill up to the pass. 

 Loving the mountain views.

 Almost done!

And...done. Farron taking it away.

Our van headed to the next exchange, which was at the top of Snowbasin ski area. Farron had a 7.8 mile climb to get there, but the view from the top was awesome and she rocked it. 

Farron coming into the exchange.

From here Jess took on an 8 mile run back down from Snowbasin, but the darkness prevented any photos. Marilyn and Kate followed Jess, at which point it was finally time for food. FINALLY.

Thank goodness for the pizza being sold at exchange 12.

I couldn't believe our first round of running didn't end until midnight, but that's how it worked out. We drove to exchange 18 and had a rather luxurious sleeping arrangement for a Ragnar event; we were escorted into a classroom with carpet and had our own little corner and desks to keep important things (like glasses...) safe. It was fantastic.  We slept for about 3 hours before getting back up to start the next run. 

Our next set of legs was pretty short and it passed much faster than the first. I ran 2.9 miles just as the sun was rising, and I felt great. Again, the mountain views were making me a happy girl while running and even while driving.

 Jess coming into the exchange.

Matching hoodies by the van. 

Before we knew it, we were back on runner 12 and almost done with round 2. We met up with van one again at the exchange, and when they headed out we went to find a place to rest. 

Wendy, Marilyn, Jess, Farron, Robyn, Leana, and me at the exchange.

Kate bring it in for van two.

During our second break, we enjoyed the cheap breakfast of pancakes and eggs at exchange 25 and rested there for a couple of hours. By the time we arrived at exchange 30, it was a complete zoo. Exchange 30 was at Park City HS, and the runner coming in had some single track trail on their route. You could say I was a little...or insanely...jealous. As it turns out, a few people on van one had trails! Even though I enjoyed the overall course, my routes themselves were pretty darn boring in comparison.

Luisa arriving at exchange 30, teammates pointing. One of my fave photos.

From here, Robyn took off on the 10.7 mile 'Ragnar Hill' climb up to the pass. Driving up to the next exchange made me wish I'd run that leg despite how hard I'm sure it was - it was gorgeous and I would much rather climb than run the downhill that came next for me. Robyn did an awesome job and then handed off to me to take it back down.

One of the views up to the exchange.

My next leg was 4.2 miles all downhill, and it was miserable. It was way too steep and it was relentless; by the time I finished my body felt terrible. Even worse, the exchange where I started the run was a mess and I almost got backed over by a van when I was trying to run the stated route. Yikes! This was part of the change to this year's course, and I hope they do a better job with it next year. At least I had a couple of fun photos from the Ragnar photographer on this one.

Farron picked up where I left off and continued the steep downhill for a while. While waiting for her, I was on the ground with the Tiger Tail desperately trying to loosen the muscle in the front/side of my left shin because it was seriously cramped. I was actually angry at Ragnar for the dumb downhill at that point in time. Jess and Marilyn ran next, and then it was time for Kate to bring us into the finish line. 

Marilyn finishing her last leg.

After Kate started her run we headed straight to the finish line, but traffic was really tough. I honestly didn't think we'd make it before she finished (somehow we did!) In a frenzy, we met up with van one and managed to get to the arch with a few minutes to spare and were able to finish as a team. Our finish time was 32 hours, 52 minutes, 25 seconds. It's slower than any other relay I've done due to the difficulty, but that was true for all teams.

Team Bird Machine! (Left to right: Farron, Jess, Robyn, me, Marilyn, Wendy, Emily, Luisa, Jess, Leana, Kate, and Emma.)

At the finish, they gave us free Little Caesar's pizzas which van two happily ate. Van one had already showered and eaten before they came back to the finish area. We hung out for a little while, although not too long because it was once again very hot. 

Van two, they told us to flex.

The finish was at the cross country ski resort that held the Olympic Winter Games.

Following the race, all 12 of us stayed in a condo together at the Canyons Resort. I've never done this after a relay before, and I'm so glad we did; we had more time to spend with the other van and time to celebrate as a team. I hope to do this again in the future.

Hanging out at the condo for beer post-race.

Together, the medals make a design.

Overall, I loved the weekend with these ladies and the location of the relay. That said, the new course for Wasatch Back doesn't sound as good as the old one based on what I've heard. It had a lot of changes between the time we signed up and started, the final course not being set until 7 pm on Thursday. That was the day before the race! My total mileage dropped by about 3 miles which I didn't love either. The exchange after the new Ragnar Hill had serious traffic delays and no parking, and the traffic delays at the finish almost made us miss our team finish. Hopefully Ragnar will take feedback from the survey to improve these new elements before next year.

Now for the best part: we finished 7th overall for Women and 3rd out of 35 teams in Women's Open. That was completely unexpected and I'm pumped about it. I can't wait for the Ragnar prize relay batons to arrive!


  1. Awesome! That sounds like so much fun! I'm running my first Ragnar in November and cannot wait!

  2. Even with the course problems, this relay sounds way better than Ragnar Napa. The classroom rest area, medals, and food vendors at major exchanges are nice touches. That was so smart of your team to schedule time before and after the race -- I wish we had done that at Napa because I felt like I hardly got to hang out with Van 1!

  3. This is by far one of the best places to hang with friends, have great drinks (amazing beer selection), eat some great food, including the great lunch I had there. Prices at DC venues are very reasonable and the pizza was awesome.

  4. We've just come back from that part of the world and it's so gorgeous, I bet the race was lovely despite the issues. Park City is the best, isn't it!! However...altitude. I ran a relay in CO last year at altitude and felt like death throughout!!!!


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