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Sunday, March 20, 2011

A weekend of training and thinking

Friday was a school free day and I had everything packed and ready to head to Pittsfield, VT for the D.R. camp...I even put it on my F.B. page so you know I was on my way ; ) but a last minute weather check calling for rain there while it was 64 and sunny here made say the heck with a 3.5 hour drive instead I put on shorts, a tank top and my pack and headed out the door for the first of two runs in Callahan State Park.  I made my own Death race camp here at home and saved gas money and wear and tear on my car.  I did two runs Friday, one in the afternoon and one at night with a upper body and leg work out at the gym (ending with a treadmill elevation work out) in between the two runs.  I had an amazing healthy dinner; read a fantastic book and was asleep by 8:30. Up early Saturday and hit the gym for another strength work out and treadmill hill work out then got some school work done at Starbucks and some shopping.  Home by 5 where I started a new book, had a healthy meal and just relaxed...that was until a brief text exchange that really knocked me for a loop and made me very sad and heavy hearted....I fell asleep by 9 in a bit of a funk.  This morning up at 5 but felt really crappy... thought it was the flu...layed in bed and watched a coyote play in the field out my window then fell back to sleep for an hour.  Woke up and felt a bit better so went out for a quick run in Callahan and managed around 4-5 miles in an hour....and now here I sit at Starbucks doing bills and writing my blog post with sipping a skinny vanilla latte.  I plan on a second run after lunch followed by hill repeats of Gibbs Mtn with my pack.  Only a few months to get serious...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peak Winter Death Race 2011 or How I Sucked it Up....

5:45 p.m. Friday in car quick pic before I head out for the Winter Death Race.  I planned on doing it just for the training and then quitting when I got too cold, dirty, tired, hungry or which ever came first.  In truth, I went up there with a great deal of self doubt running through my pea size brain; a car filled with gear and yet concern it was not the right gear for a race with the word "death" in it and my well known aversion to the cold.  So I thought of the race as just a stepping stone to the summer Death Race I have been focusing in on in terms of training (actually now I realize the winter race was just as important and just as much fun as the summer race)...The race was at Amee Farm in Pittsfield VT.  I arrived around 4 p.m. and started to prepare my pack with the gear and food I would be bringing with me.  Andy and Joe the RD's were no where to be found, but a few other racers were arriving.  I knew I was the only woman of 17 or so racers to have signed up.  I met a few guys in the parking lot from NY, med students who were really nice, I lent my second pack to one guy whose pack was just not appropriate for what we were doing then lent my gloves to another guy (hind site the second pair I had as backup were useless and I basically spent the entire race bear handed or with sopping wet gloves... worth helping out the other guy though as he was so kind and thankful for good gloves : )

By six we were standing by the start with our packs and still no Andy or Joe. Two guys on snow mobiles pulled up.  Turns out an old friend Dave Darby was one of the guys on a snowmobile.  I knew Dave from AR.  Dave raced with my old beau and I did support for them a few times, Dave was there as a support/volunteer and was friends with Andy from AR.  Dave was really positive throughout the race... giving me encouragement whenever he saw me.  As we were waiting for Andy and Joe a youngish looking guy...reminded me of the actor from that Kevin Smith film Clerks...not the stoner but the video store dude...came over and told us we could do something while we were waiting for Andy and Joe.  This turned out to be out first task in the race.  There was a huge pile of snow...under it was wood then pallets then a huge tarp then more wood then more pallets .  It was all covered in a thick film of ice under the snow.  As a group we had to remove it all and stack the wood, carry pallets to fire, stack them, clean snow/ice off tarp and fold tarp neatly.  We had axes and one guy found a small shovel in his car...we used a big piece of pipe we found as a crow bar.  Mind you this first task took 3 hours.  I was not heavy enough to do diddly squat with the crow bar, and the axe job I could not get near enough so I took it on myself to stack my arms full of wood and drag huge pallets back and forth from the pile through the dirt/ice parking lot to the fire...3 hours back and forth back and forth...at one point Andy and Joe showed up and they both commented to me "where is everyone else?" and later hehe Joe walked over to check on us and said"the woman is the only one doing anything" hehe made me giggle but it was not true as they other guys were just taking a well deserved break from chopping when he came over.  Next task was to hold a string over our heads with arms straight up for 5 minutes and while we were doing this we needed to memorize a 4 sentence limerick....I hate memorizing!!  I took my gloves off before we started....what a big mistake....the 5 minutes turned to 10 then 15 then 20 and so on until 40 minutes...my hands were so cold that at 36 minutes I was the only one have to put my arms down and take the penalty to carry a huge pallet around the barn property (drag that is...too heavy for me to pick up).

Next task we were told that we were running a marathon up and down the mountain.  I thought cool!  That is right up my alley. Of course there was an additional task added..the course was the snowshoe marathon course...4 six mile loops...up and down the mountain...we had to carry all our gear and a log....for the second loop we had to carry our gear and 2 logs..3rd loop 3 logs and the 4th loop 4 logs..huh?!  So we grabbed a log and headed out.  I carried it in my arms in front of me with my biceps curled around it....needless to say as I type this my arms are ropey with blue veins and I have me some tickets to the gun show!!! I started up the mountain at 10 p.m.

Now this is the funny thing about this "training" race.  After the first loop I was in first place!!! Turns out for most of the marathon I was about 20 minutes faster than the next racer.  I was sent back out with my second log...one under each arm, and I had to do the course backwards so I ran past all the other guys who were congratulating me on my pace.  I felt great.  It was hard going up those snow covered trails..many of the guys had post holed and I kept falling in their deep holes with the logs under me and  I have bruises all over me today.  It hurt to fall and yet I realized I was having an absolute blast and felt on top of the world!!!!  It was actually fun!  I was not too tired or cold....either....wtf???  Third loop I see the bonfire in the distance feeling strong and happy and truthfully just at peace more than I have been in a long time : )  The guys at the fire say "this race is yours Michelle". I know that it not true, that the marathon is just one small part of the race, but I am so proud of myself at this point.  So much harder the third loop to hold the three logs.  I have my arms hooked under them and I balance them under my chin.  Each time I fall it hurts worse, but I get up and keep going.  It starts to snow and my gloves are useless so I take them off...my snot runs freely down my face and over my lips but I can't do a damn thing as I have the logs. My snowshoe breaks three miles into the 3rd loop so I trip and drag it under me.  I am annoyed but suck it up...one mile out I take it of and carry it in my pack.  I complete the loop with one sneaker and one snowshoe.  I fixed the snowshoe before heading out for my fourth and I lose some of my lead time.  The fourth loop the gap closes between me and the second place guy due to my snowshoe issues.  4 logs and I am tired..legs screaming but I have felt this before during ultras and then I am no carrying a heavy pack and 4 logs so I just close my mind to it.   I found out on the fourth loop that I heard Andy wrong and that I could have lashed the logs to my pack or if I had room put them in there.  How much easier it would have been for the first three loops to have my arms free!!!!  I saw the other runners doing this but I just thought they were bending the rules and that is not my issue..I wanted to do just what Andy expected me to do...but of course my deafness ends up kicking me in the ass and I made it far harder on myself then needed be...duh...I head out for the fourth loop and one of the snowshoe 100 milers (there were 5 out on the curse with us....Sherpa John was one...he looked strong all night) ran up behind me and said Andy wants you to drop your logs at the top of the mountain.  I said ok dokay and headed off to the peak.  At the top I met up with the second place runner... I realized then first...second...last...who cares...I was just so proud of myself...all the guys out there were so positive when they saw me on the trail throughout the night and I felt a real sense of comraderie..this meant more than anything else..so I offered to untie this runners wood from his pack so he would not have to go through all the trouble of taking his pack off...I took my pack off and helped him knowing he would be able to leave ahead of me..but it just did not matter.  I said "nice work see you at the bottom" and he headed off..I felt good about helping and gladly gave my first place up...it was mine for most of the marathon and that was something I could be proud of.

I left the top for the last 3 miles down and my snowshoes broke again, but this time I just say the heck with it and run pell mell with a broken snow shoe.  The last mile the snowshoe racers started their races and they are now running directly into us..they do not for the majority get out of my way I must step off the trail to let them by...in fact two guys physically knock me clear off the trail into the snow without an "I'm sorry" ......karma  : )  I see Steve, Kev, Emily and Dan which was great.  When I get to the start I am in second place tired but so happy.  It is at this point that I actually tell Andy that I am going to quit as I did this race purely for training and I don't want to be driving home in the dark exhausted.....he was really nice about it but said "are you sure?"  "you are doing well".  I said yep and walked away and immmediately felt a stab of regret that made me want to puke.  I ran back and asked Andy if I could rejoin : ) He laughed said yep but told me I could not do this at the June Death Race.  So glad I did not wuss out and I decide to stick it out....it starts to rain.  Here is an abbreviated account of the rest of the race:

1.  Take buckets to the river...get in river...fill buckets with rocks...bring back up hill to the start and build a three foot tall cairn that will not topple (oh this sucked...my hands hurt so bad from the thin wire handle and my gloves were long gone..sneakers and legs sopping wet and my cairn kept falling Joe had to give me a talking to during this task to be smart about staying warm and not give up as I was getting frustrated and a bit whiny...
2.  Build two birdhouses in the rain with wood glue...oh this sucked as well as glue would not dry....took me an hour of just sitting in rain..hands frozen solid...had to take breaks and try to unfreeze them in bon fire...Sherpa John was there giving me great energy and advice...he had just done a 50K snowshoe race through the night)
3.  Get a wheel barrel...run it up the road to another barn fill it with 15 logs (take as many trips as you need) return to base split each log in 1/4's then stack wood.  I had split wood before so after a 60 second lesson from Andy I started...it was so much fun!!!
4.  Grab a shovel and dig out a huge greenhouse that is covered with ice and snow.  It is now raining hard and the snow is HEAVY...this took me an hour and a half.  (turns out later I found out when I saw Joe at the General Store he said I did not do this task as well as the other guys, but he says it was not my fault as I was not told the parameters...I feel bad...he says I can go back and help the other racers out with their greenhouses but again I think of the long drive home in the dark and I say no thanks...realize later that I coped out and acted like a baby and a bit ashamed I did not go back.)

Now I am still in second place.  A woman comes over and tells me that after I finish the greenhouse she will take me to my last task.  When I am done what I dread comes to pass....I must post hole through a field to a pond and immerse myself in the water for 60 seconds.....not too much to say other than I had a mini breakdown crying like a total girl as I hate swimming (can't swim just doggie paddle like a spaz) ugh putting my face in water makes me freak out and I especially hate freezing cold water.  The woman who took me (i forgot her name..blond very pretty...stunning actually) was soooo nice to me!!!!  She did the summr race last year and I can't wait to see her there this summer...when I was done I had to repeat back the limerick to her:



Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of Pickled peppers
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?



Then I stripped naked...put on dry clothes...said thank you and good byes and took off.  I went to the General Store with Emily, Kev, Dan and his wife...Kev bought me fruit and coffee and then I drove home.  Got home took shower my hands and feet a mess..pulled huge prickers out of my hands....put antibioitic ointment on then crawled into bed and out like a light.




I had so much fun and realized I am tougher then I thought...Summer Death race..here I come I know it will be WAY harder but this race made me believe in myself and I met so many wonderful people; racers and volunteers alike : )  Joe and Andy are amazing....I learned that to make it in the summer there will be no whining, no negativity and you must see the humor in the absurdity of paying  a lot of money to get the crap kicked out of you..hehe....I think I get it and that will be the key to surviving this June.