it's a sultry year at the film festival; i realized i didn't have time to go home and nap before i met joe at an evening screening, so i decided that if a thrift store would sell me a shirt to replace the rain-sodden crew tee i've worn for the last week, by god, i would wear it. the clear winner was an old, soft ralph lauren plaid from the housing works down on 17th street, and i buttoned it up to my neck in a bar's bathroom. "no, no," joe said. "you look like a vato."


the dirty dozen {twelve things i cherished at our all-night trail-racing extravaganza in kentucky}

what's so goddamn essential to a camping-and-running trip that it's worth shoving into a suitcase and hauling all the way to la guardia, then to an airport hotel, then to a field outside fort knox? well. (as always, none of these links generate anything other than immaterial awesomeness.)

01 tzumi pocketjuice portable chargers. i bought one of these for my first ragnar in the fall and picked up two more before we headed out to kentucky this year, and what a boss call that was on my part. they're cheap ($15-$20), small, and powerful: each one will recharge a smartphone three times.

02 coleman flatwoods II 6-person dome tent. this bad boy packed down to 8.5"x8.5"x24", which was perfect for our larger suitcase (which also fit a sleeping bag, one of our inflatable pads, and a couple of my shrink-wrapped running outfits), and it rang in at under $100, which was a relief after the tents i priced at REI (which were light and sleek but scorchingly expensive). i would by no means attempt to squish six people into a tent of this size (the footprint is 10'x10'), but it housed joe, my sister, me, and our suitcases quite handily. bonus points for the front awning. my friend rachel, an accomplished car camper, suggested we spring for a big tent; as in all things, she was right.

03 nite ize radiant 400 led lantern. i'm still a little traumatized by the spectacular mess i made of our previous lantern by neglecting to take the batteries out after we loaded it up for superstorm irene several years ago; when i pulled it out for superstorm sandy a few years later, they had foamed up like rabid beasts and killed their host. this model was smaller and a bit less expensive than its predecessor, but it was bright, and our main source of light on the communal tarp between our tents. led light isn't always the sexiest light, but when you're digging around for a headlamp and/or a can of cider, it's awfully handy. speaking of sexy lights,

04 eno twilights led string lights. i valued these at our first ragnar because stringing them between our tents kept people from wandering through our campsite en route to the port-o-lets; i also valued them at this one, especially the purple set my friend melissa gave me when we got to kentucky, because they're damn sexy (and they made it easier to find everyone after night runs). i wanted to wrap a string of these around my body.

05 adidas adilette slides. i did not bring a pair of proper recovery sandals last time around—hell, i didn't bring a pair of flip flops last time around—and was forced to stay in my muddy running shoes for several extra hours after the race ended. i told myself that if i could find an only mildly offensive pair for sale in the gear tent, i could have them; reader, i could not. this time i acquired a pair of black-on-grey slides via ebay and was happy as a clam (joe, who requested and got a pair of the adissage slides, was not as comfortable; make sure you're really into that massage-nub footbed before you commit to it). i have only anecdotal evidence that loud, patterned pairs are more effective than the striped ones, but this evidence is compelling.

06 white pumpkin. a cornell horticulturist maintains that a healthy pumpkin picked from a disease-controlled field can last eight to 12 weeks; dottie in charlotte, in turn, told her gardenweb.com forum buddies back in october of '08 that she still had a white pumpkin purchased in '07. the one i acquired and brought to wawayanda lake was still going strong on a melamine plate in our foyer as i packed for kentucky, so i took it along, of course. after the race i kissed it goodbye and left it in the woods beyond the edge of our campsite; if a herd of feral pumpkins begins performing miracles across northern kentucky in a few months' time, you're welcome.

07 the believer, november/december 2007. when the believer and its cover art featuring 18 temporary tattoos (including a small bat with a POWER OF ATTORNEY motto and a portrait of ai weiwei in pigtails) turned up at ye olde charity bookstore, i knew it had to be mine (and my team's). ten-year-old temporary tattoos don't age nearly as gracefully as yearling white pumpkins do, and the gas can (BE MY CO-DEFENDANT) i applied to my neck looked rather like an unfortunate sun incident after a few hours, but it inspired me to apply one of the ragnar tattoos included in our welcome packet, and that was properly lurid. joe made me scrub it off at our airbnb on sunday. "you look like a gang member."

08 kossar's assorted rugelach. (see also: kossar's mini black and white cookies and babka.) kossar's is the oldest operating bialy bakery in the united states (since 1936), and it's been making grand street fatter since 1960. bialys don't travel especially well, but the aforementioned desserts just love the road; i pick them up en route to the airport, as should anyone who visits new york city, really.

09 ticla camp hero tarp/blanket. what sort of douchebag pays $50 or more for a stripey hipster tarp/blanket? this kind, though mine was part of the goodie bag from a fancy camping press event at the ace hotel a few years ago (yeah, yeah). ticla (whose "don't camp ugly" slogan moved me, i'll admit it) folded more than a year ago, but its pretty gear is worth stalking on ebay (i'm kind of tempted to pull the trigger on that link myself, truth be told). the tarp in question has been a solid teammate at picnics, the beach, and campsites, and it handles machine washing and drying like a pro. it also makes a great cape, obviously. blue plastic tarps are fine, but the camp hero is, well, you know.

10 REI evrgrn lowboy lantern. like the camp hero, the delightfully squishy evrgrn lowboy (its cover is made of silicone, and i make everyone at my campsite touch it) has gone the way of the giant banana; that said, i love you and i want you to know how important it is to cherish any evrgrn products and/or kawaii lanterns that might cross your path one day. maybe your local REI has a bunch of dead stock, who knows?

11 cidergeist bubbles rosé cider. a beer after a long run is nice. a cider after a long run is poetry.

12 s'well 17-oz insulated stainless steel bottle. who knew my trusty gym-hydration buddy could keep communal coffee hot for 12 hours? sarah kauss (who happens to head the fastest-growing woman-owned company in the country), that's who. triples as an excellent way to spirit pre-mixed aviations into central park for an evening of shakespeare.


the longest, darkest leg of my kentucky relay race started out quite nicely. i received the team bib from my college roommate at around two in the morning, barreled through a grove of red cedars and past an abandoned shack with a NIGHTMARE FOREST banner, and felt my lungs opening up to the blackness in a way they'd refused to do for my early-evening leg on the bluffs above the ohio river. then, around mile two or so, a second dinner: my left toe caught a root and i went down, hard, on my left hand and right knee (diminutive head lamp and nearly-forty-year-old eyes, you're not always a match for technical running in the wee hours). i assured the runner who passed me as i got back up—one of just four i met on the trail—that i was fine, and he said he'd done the same thing a mile back. i shook off my surprise, stuck to a trot for the next mile or so to give my heart a bit of time to quit galloping from the pain, and imagined my beloved owls at the bird hospital. my thoughts contract at that hour in manhattan, and they tighten even more when i'm watching and listening for unexpected company in NIGHTMARE FOREST. this race lacked the otherworldly rain that made the woods in new jersey feel like the upside down, but it condensed me in a way that was incredibly reassuring; there's a moonbather for every sunbather if you know where to look (it's no accident that "tonight, tonight" makes all the ragnar village playlists). i gave the bib to my sister at half past three, limped back to our campsite, and wet-wiped away the dirt and blood i was able to see by lanternlight. our coffee was frozen over in the morning. it was fucking great.


on thursday evening the missus and i will fly out to louisville with suitcases full of tents, sleeping bags, fairy lights, and synthetic clothing. i'm doing another two-day trail relay race in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, and this time i'm the team captain? this means that we are kind of brontë-themed (we call ourselves WUTHERING HURTS, and the shirts my friends melissa, ben, and i dreamed up for us have edward gorey-ish lettering and feature cathy and heathcliff wearing head lamps), that we are all staying together in a riverside airbnb loft after the race, that i'm bringing along temporary tattoos from an old issue of the believer, and that i'm going to try to figure out how to smuggle fireworks, again. i know everyone on this team very well, and i know we'll have a marvelous time (bonfires! sleep deprivation! running in the dark!), but i'm still incandescent with nerves. i dyed my hair lavender last night in an attempt to screw my head on straight and i think it helped. i also bought an iron-on set of bear teeth to award to the runner that reaches BEAST MODE most decisively.