Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ditching the Boulder

Last year was sort of the year of racing for me. After doing only the Marji Gesick 100 the year before, I decided to try to race once a month in 2018. In the end, while I didn't exactly accomplish one every month, I did end up with 12 race starts thanks to two in some months and none in others. Did they all go well? No. Did I learn from all of them? Of course. Do I plan to do this next year? Definitely not. As always, I do a lot of introspection after I race, especially when the race doesn't go as well as I'd planned. After nearly two months to contemplate my last race of the year, which ended in a DNF, I've finally been able to accept that while the DNF came because of a fall, my approach to last year was really the problem.

Honestly, it really started at the end of 2017. There was a lot of hype after Marji Gesick. When you're the only one to finish a 100 mile running race, there are a lot of pictures of you that end up on Facebook. At first, this is fun. Who doesn't like a little attention? But, as we all know, the world of social media can quickly turn negative, especially if you're a sensitive person. Those pictures had comments, and while there weren't any that directly cut me down, there was an underlying message from some of the men, which was basically, "I'm gonna go out there and easily win a buckle," which since I missed the buckle time, felt a little bit (ok, a lot) like, "If that little girl can finish that race, surely I can do it much faster. It must be easy." When I guy I didn't know (who's Facebook page shows a lot of pics of him riding a bike and none of him running) messaged me, telling me he was going to run next year and win a buckle and wanted tips, it definitely stung a little. Or a lot. Suddenly it seemed like a whole lotta biker dudes thought they could do this race easily. So of course, I started to think that perhaps my performance sucked. Or I just sucked.

And you know what happens when you think you suck? You try to prove you don't. So, as much as I wanted to believe I was doing all that 2018 racing to conquer some fear, in hindsight, I was racing to prove I wasn't just some tiny woman who can't do much. Starting Jiu Jitsu not long after only accentuated the problem, since suddenly my size was an issue, every day. Once you know Jiu Jitsu, it can help you defend yourself against someone bigger who doesn't know it, but when you're learning and you're the smallest one there and everyone else knows more than you, you get humbled. Every. Single. Day.

I get it, humility can be a great thing. Unfortunately in this case, it just added to my need to prove myself, and racing from this place is dangerous. Sure, I had a few good races, like HAMR and Night Owl, but if I'm truly honest with myself, by Nov. I was exhausted from all the racing and training like a woman with something to prove.

Of course, I couldn't see this clearly at the time so I went to the Back 40 race in Dec. with a chip on my shoulder that was starting to feel like a boulder since I'd been carrying it around for over a year. In theory, this race should've been perfect for me. 40 mile trail run Saturday, 40 miles of mountain biking Sunday. With that boulder on my shoulder, it was of course a different story.

Long story short, I was anxious from the start. Since we started with a mass of 20 mile runners, the trail was pretty crowded. I did my best to find my own rhythm and enjoy some solitude, but I found myself more often than not running with guys so close to my heels one of them actually stepped on my shoe. I should've been able to let this go. Instead it just aggravated me. By the time we finally hit this bridge and had a very short reprieve from the tight singletrack, all I could think about was that I hoped this dude would pass me so I could stop to pee without him seeing my butt. He didn't. Apparently I'm a good pacer.

Photo: adVANture photography
By the time we got to my 11, this guy was finally gone, but I had a line of people behind me, none of whom seemed to want to pass. This was fine on the uphill, but as we crested the top and headed down, that line of people seemed to add to the weight of that boulder I was carrying. I ran faster, because I wanted to prove I wasn't holding them up. I lasted about 30 seconds before I finally tripped while flying down the hill at a speed I wasn't comfortable running. Thankfully, the instincts I picked up in Jiu Jitsu saved me from landing on my face or breaking an arm. In fact, I jumped up immediately and kept running. After all, now I really had something to prove.

Of course, as you probably all know, stories like this never end well. When I jumped up and kept running, there was pain in my pubic bone. I told myself it was just a bruise, but five or six miles later, there was no denying that my hip had taken a beating. With every step, it felt like my groin was going to pull off the bone. I hobbled the last few miles to complete one lap of 20, but I knew there was no way I could tough it out for 20 more.
adVANture photography  
 I tried to smile for the photographer there for the 20 milers, but really all I had was this grimace. I called Big E for a rescue and spent the rest of the day on the couch reading about hermits and researching places to eat. Carrying that boulder around for a year had made me really hungry.

Later that night, I packed my bags to ride the 40 the next day, but I knew when I woke up it wasn't going to happen. I spent the day cheering for Big E, because sometimes the best thing for a bruised ego is seeing someone else crush a race. I tried to crush it as his support crew, but since this was the result when he said, "Meet me at the finish line with an IPA," I'm not so sure how I did.

 adVANture photography
At least he's smiling.

So, what do I do now that I tossed that boulder away? Get back to what's true to me- racing for the challenge and not to prove anything. My favorite part of racing has always been the process-that intense focus you need to get the training done, to get to the start line as ready as you can, and to race with a greater purpose than just your own accomplishment on race day. My goal for this year is, in the words of David R. Hawkins in his book Power vs. Force, "to honor the endeavor, not the personal accomplishment, which is only the occasion and expression of something greater, universal and innate in the human heart."

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pepperoni Revival

I've been looking forward to October since the end of the July. Yes, I know, summer is awesome and I should enjoy it. This year though, I knew October would bring running races and I've been itching to run race for months.  That said, signing up for my first ultra in over a year only 2 weeks after Marji Gesick seemed like a good idea. At least, it seemed like a good idea until I realized I hadn't really run much with all the mountain biking I was doing.

So, I showed up for the Night Owl Shuffle 6 Hour race wondering if I might actually end up doing some shuffling. My main goal going into the race was to run 30 miles in the 6 hours. Of course, I won't lie, I was hoping for a win too. Ya, I know I'm old, but there's still a 17 year old who loves winning trapped in this old body.

Timed races work like this- whoever runs the most wins. Normally there's a loop of a certain distance and whoever completes it the most times under the cut-off is the winner. This race had an added twist. There was a main 3.35 mile loop as well as a 1 mile out-and-back. We were allowed to run either whenever we chose, as well as being allowed to run the 3.35 loop backwards. Basically, what this means is, you have no idea where you are in comparison to your competition so, if you want to win, you better be running as hard as you can.

Thankfully, we all at least started out on the main 3.35 mile loop so we could assess our places early on. I settled in to 5th, knowing my old bones can't handle the faster early pace like they used to. I ran the next couple laps hoping people would slow down and come back to me. No one did. I could only hope they'd jumped into the one mile loop and were running slower there.

I stuck to the longer loop for 5 laps, not wanting to deal with the monotony of 1 mile laps yet. By the end of that lap though, I was past the longest I'd run in over a year and feeling a little tired. As I finished the lap, I entered the one mile loop for a scouting lap to see if it might be a bit easier and I might find some of the girls ahead of me in there. The hills were at least a little mellower, but no luck passing anyone. Since I still had 2 1/2 hours left to run, I headed back out for another big lap. Halfway through, I started to melt down. I'd been on pace up until then to get my 30 miles, but it quickly started to slip away as I slowed to 15 minute miles. I was pretty much the walking dead.

I started to panic. Then I felt a little sorry for myself. Then I got over it.

I remembered hearing that the great ultra runner Ann Trason once said good ultra runners were good problem solvers. So I decided to problem solve. First up,  I needed to figure out what was wrong. I was hungry. My legs hurt. A lot. Second, I needed to find a solution to those problems. I needed to eat and I needed to avoid the pounding on the downhills. Third, I need to act. So, I headed for the one mile loop where the downhills were all grassy and not as steep. Then, I ate. I knew too much food would be risky for my stomach, but I figured I was already walking so how much would it hurt? I downed an entire package of pepperoni in seconds. Damn, it tasted good.

To my surprise, I was running again within a mile. The first one was slow, but the next one I was back in the 11s. A few miles later, I was in the 10s and back on track to hit my 30 miles if I could hold the pace. Of course, there was still over an hour of running left and I still had no idea where my competition was. I could only hope they'd enter the one mile loop soon.

I got my wish. Shortly after, one of the girls ahead of me appeared coming the other way. I did some quick math and figured if she'd run as many laps of the big loop as I thought she had, I'd need to pass her.  I got to work. A lap later, I found myself coming up behind her. I remembered a story I'd heard an ultra runner once tell about passing another girl at mile 90 something in a 100 mile race. She said that when she passed her, she wanted to be going so fast it would "crush her soul" so she wouldn't try to keep up. I decided now was a good time to start crushing souls and picked up my pace.

One down. Three to go.

Shortly after, two more of the girls ahead of me entered the one mile loop. I set out to crush more souls. I passed the second of them with only about 15 minutes to go. I knew I needed to stay ahead. As I neared the finish of that lap, I realized I had my 30 miles, but I also realized I just might be able to get one more lap in under the time. I came in with about 12 minutes to spare, saw my friend Dana cheering at the turn around, and knew I needed to go for it. I knew I'd been running under 12 minute pace for miles, but I didn't want to leave anything to chance. If I was gonna run this damn lap, it better count. I pushed the pace. 10 1/2 minutes later I came in with 31.1 miles.

All that was left was to wait for results. I'd passed three of the four girls ahead of me, but the fourth was nowhere around. I'd seen her exiting the one mile loop as I'd entered it 10 miles earlier but not since. Since my favorite way to pass time while running is to do math in my head, I'd calculated the many ways this could work out. I knew that if she'd stuck to 3.35 mile loops and kept a decent pace while I ran 10 one mile loops she could rack up just a bit more distance than I.

When it came time for awards, that's exactly what we found out happened. After 6 hours of running, she beat me by a whopping .05 miles. that's right 5/100's of a mile. Damn, that hurt. But at least I won the masters (a.k.a little old lady) division. And I figured out how to revive myself from the dead with pepperoni. That's a plus.
Now I just need to figure out how to keep my knees from swelling the next day.
Come on now, you knew I'd have something gross to share after an ultra. At least it wasn't chafe.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Unfinished Business

To say that this year's Marji Gesick was a mixed bag of emotions would be an understatement. After running the 100 in 90 degree heat last year, I decided to "just" sign up to ride the 50 this year. I wasn't entirely sure my inner thigh chafe would actually be healed enough to run again. Of course, after spending endless hours on the bike training for HAMR earlier this summer, I was really itching to run again, but by then it was too late for 100 mile run training.

So, I showed up to Marquette really wishing I was running instead. Watching the run start on Friday didn't help, especially when I realized someone was surely going to smash my course record to pieces and I wouldn't even be there. To add to my mixed bag, Big E was riding the 100, so 90 minutes before my race, I dropped him off at his start and left wishing I could drive around all day to cheer for him too. Since I was also slightly terrified of driving his barge of a truck to my start, I took off without changing the music, which meant I listened to his pre-race song 5 times instead of my own.

By the time I arrived at Marquette Mountain to start my own race, I really just wanted to drive around all day listening to Metallica, feeding Big E and cheering for runners. Thankfully, the Ringmaster's awesome wife, Stacie, was there doing bag check. She's the pep talk queen, probably because she runs the drop bag station in this race, which means she's likely watched 100's of people pull the plug.  She certainly wasn't going to let me pull mine before I started.

Fueled by her pep talk, I finally listened to my own song (Whole Lotta Rosie in case you were wondering) and channeled my inner racing Rosie. I needed her since the start was straight up the mountain. Not an easy task for we singlespeed junkies.

To my surprise, the uphill wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I pushed a bit, but managed to ride much more than I expected. What I didn't expect though, was to realize just as we headed down that I'd made the rookie mistake of leaving way too much air in my tires for the technical downhill. Halfway down, terrified I'd crash and smash my face on the rocks, I finally jumped off the bike, only to actually smash my face with my own handle bars. Rookie move #2.

Thankfully, I calmed down a bit after this and actually started enjoying the ride. As we picked our way up the hills in the first few miles, I kept my pace in check by chatting. It didn't take long to realize that when I told people I'd run last year, I always got the same response. "OH- I read your blog." Of course, I'm pretty sure to Marji folks this means, "OH- I saw your crotch on the internet." As Big E likes to remind me, this is my own fault since I'm the one who posted a photo of my raw inner thighs. Hopefully they're only famous in Marquette and I'm not unknowingly starring in some sort of internet endurance racing porn. Anyway- I decided to quit talking about running so I #1- could stop worry about becoming internet porn and #2 could focus on riding my bike.

That's pretty much what I did for the next 10 hours- push the pedals. I'll admit- I stopped to talk to every runner I passed because I really wanted to at least experience their journey for a few minutes, but other than that I channeled my Rosie and kept moving forward, which at the Marji Gesick means riding a whole lotta technical shit I would probably push my bike over any other time. It turns out, when I want to avoid riding in the dark, I'll ride some pretty sketchy downhills. (Not that you can tell by the race pictures. As far as I know, I'm pushing my bike in all of them. I think the Ringmaster paid the photographers to avoid any photos of me riding. I'm smiling in all of them though so that's a plus.)

In the end, after over 10 hours in the saddle, I happened to make it to the top of Jasper Knob just as the last few 100 mile riders who might earn a buckle arrived. I knew better than to get in the way of a man on a mission to earn the coveted Marji buckle, so I jumped out of the way and let them make their sprint while I enjoyed the last mile.

To my surprise, since my teammates were all still out on the 100 course, I heard my name at the finish. Ruth and Amy, friends from Marquette, like always, had taken the time to come out to the finish. This is sort of the spirit of Marji and the UP- even when you think you know no one, there's always someone there to cheer.
Ruth, Amy and I on top of Sugarloaf the next day.
After spending the race fighting off those pre-race conflicting emotions, it only took minutes for them to flood back. Big E was still out there and all I wanted, even more than getting warm, was to do some cheering. Amy knew what time he'd passed his first drop bag and after some quick math, I realized he'd be riding by the finish (part of the Marji torture is passing by the finish line with 25 miles to go) any minute. I took off on my bike and asked the first guy I saw if he'd met a loud guy named Eddie on the trail. (Everyone knows Eddie.) He hadn't but he took one look at my jersey and said, "There's a guy behind me wearing that jersey though."

I knew it would be Eddie. Sure enough, I found him minutes later. Somehow we can always find each other in these races. Mostly because he's loud and really friendly. Apparently our cool jerseys help too. After a quick stop to put on his light, he was off again and I was able to take a quick shower before heading to meet him as he came through Jackson Mine Park to his bag drop a second time.

If you've never hung out at Jackson Mine Park during the Marji Gesick, you're missing out. It's one of the most inspiring places I've been in a race. Sure, you see a few shattered souls come in and pull the plug, but mostly what you see is a whole lot of absolutely exhausted, shelled people come in and some how muster the energy to head out in the dark onto one of the hardest sections of the course. Big E was one of those. This spot was a big deal. He'd pulled the plug here two years ago and then last year pulled even earlier after getting almost no sleep while I was out running the night before his race. So this park was kinda hanging in the air as that place he wished he'd kept going for two long years. He rolled in feeling like crap. He sat down and started shivering. I started to worry, but he assured me he'd keep moving. After some Coke. And warm clothes. And ginger ale. I didn't want to push but when he'd been there over 30 minutes I started to panic. Thankfully Stacie did another of her pep talks. She picked a time.  He was leaving by midnight.

Not long after midnight, that's exactly what happened. Somehow, after over an hour in a lawn chair, he got up, threw his leg over the bike and showed that last 15 miles who's boss. Like I said, Jasper Mine Park is pretty inspiring. You see a lot of people slay their demons there.

Later that night, after nearly 24 hours awake, we put Marji to rest. At least for the year. I won't lie. I literally reserved our Air Bnb for next year while we sat in the truck on Monday preparing to drive away. There's a run out there that's haunting me. I might have finished but that doesn't mean I don't want another crack at that damn buckle.  After a year of wearing this shirt to celebrate crossing that line last year

I told Big E it's time to put it away for the year. I have some business to finish and it's time to get to work.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

For the Fresh Meat, Part 2

The Marji Gesick Ringmaster himself, Todd, called me on Monday. I was actually having a rough day, feeling exhausted and sore from likely jumping back into serious training a bit too soon after HAMR. Instead of a running or riding, I went to the archery range, thinking it would cheer me up. Unfortunately I was shooting like crap. Many rounds in, I finally nailed a fox dead on. Then the phone rang.

It was The Ringmaster, which cheered me up even more than the good shot at the fox. He had a project for me, he said.  I was pretty excited about this, hoping it would be something really important like designing the new Polar Roll run course. He had other things, I suppose equally important, in mind.

He reminded me we have just over 6 weeks until Marji Gesick, when there will be over 40 people out there running on his crazy-ass course with no aid stations. Since he's not a runner himself, he asked if I'd write up a post to give those 40 or so people a little heads up on what to expect. I obliged, even though it's not as exciting as designing a run course.

So, here's a little of what I think to be important. Have I done a crap load of 100 mile races? No. Marji was my first. Did I earn a buckle? No. I'll have to try again for that. Did I finish and learn a hell of a lot in the process? Yes. Yes. And Yes. So, hopefully that's enough that some Marji runners out there might want to keep reading.

Before I get to the training details to give a little insight into where you might want to be in training right now, there are three things you'll need that I think are important to point out. Without them, finishing (or starting in one case) just isn't gonna happen.

1. A bike. That's right. This is perhaps the only 100 mile run you'll ever do where you have to start on a bike. So bring one. It's not a joke. I even wore my helmet. The ringmaster apparently needed to give me some stern words anyway:

Photo- Lisa McIntyre
 2. A GPS of some sort. Yes, the course is marked, but you never know when a Sasquatch might move a few signs.  Or, like last year, they might curl up in the rain and be hard to see. Having a GPS that at least beeps if you go off course will save you a lot of time wandering around lost. Trust me, at some point during the night in my delirium I even turned the wrong way down a well-marked road and was saved by that beeping.

3. Most importantly-A CREW!!!! This race will not happen for you without one. Period. You can mess up the training a little, you can puke, you can get lost, you can take a nap. But you can't run this race without a crew there. Yes, the whole time. There are no aid stations. Zero. The ones you hear the bikers talk about aren't there on Friday and stashing your goods in the woods is not allowed. So if you don't have a crew, get one now. And make sure they aren't afraid of the dark.

Without all these people here, I would never have finished. End of story.

They tolerated my Dr. Pepper obsession well. Photo- Lisa McIntyre
I tried to lube everyone at the start and I still got chafed. Photo- Lisa McIntyre

Really, we did run right after this, but the 8 year old asked me why I was running so slow. Photo- I have no clue who took this photo. It was mile 100 something. I was delirious. I smiled at anyone even if they didn't have a camera.

That's right. It kinda took a village (and a large part of team LCR) to get me through this thing.

Now, on to a few training details. A few general notes before I go into what some of my weeks looked like. One, despite this being my first hundred, this wasn't my first ultra or even my first time on this course. I'd done 50k's, a 50 miler, a 40 miler, and the Marji "50" the year before. I also ran in college so I know my body well and what it can handle. I've found what works for me best is to do two hard weeks in a row, ending with long runs on tired legs, followed by a recovery week. That's just me so that's what you'll see here. Two, I love trails so most of these miles were on trails, many of them mimicking the elevation of Marji. If you haven't done that, I suggest you start, now. The technical difficulty on this course is no joke. You won't be ready by running on the road. Now on to a bit of a training timeline:

April- Built up to 40 miles a week, mostly on trails with lots of elevation.

May- Built up to 50 miles a week, twice averaging nearly 100 feet per mile of elevation for the weekly miles.

June- Built up to 65 miles a week, again trail and elevation specific.

July- things get more specific.

11 weeks out from the race, I ran a 70 mile week.

10 weeks out from the race I ran 80 miles, capped off with a training camp on the Marji course with my LCR teammates who were riding it. I ended the week with 28 miles on the course on Friday and 24.5 miles on the course on Saturday. Then my teammates and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that had what seemed like 200 steps. I was walking a bit funny after all those miles so they found it hilarious to walk behind me and tell people I had to poop. If you're LCR, your teammates are your biggest hecklers. But they show up for you on race day!

9 weeks out was, of course, a recovery week. 30 miles.

8 weeks out was another 70 mile week, with 7234 feet of climbing, you guessed it, nearly all on trails.

7 weeks out was my biggest week, 87 miles, capped off with 30 miles on Saturday followed by 15 hilly miles on Sunday. I chose to starting backing off a bit after this week. I've found with ultras it's better to get the heavy miles done early. Leaving them until just 3-4 weeks before the race leaves me too tired and sore on race day.

6 weeks out. (This is where you are right now if you're doing Marji this year.) Another 30 mile recovery week.

5 weeks out. 61 miles.

4 weeks out. 57 miles with my last long run of 22 on Saturday. I had actually planned for this to be a 70 mile week, but after running my 22 miler in the rain I ended up with a sore throat so I opted to skip Sunday's 13 miler and not get sick before the race.

3 weeks out. 30 mile recovery week.

2 weeks out. 50 miles with 5286 feet of elevation. Longest run of the week was 12 miles. Did some running in the dark to test out my lights and my skills!

1 week out. 33 miles, 3353 feet of elevation, more running in the dark.

Race week- 10 miles, including 2.5 on Thursday on the last mile of the course. I wanted to make sure I would recognize it when I got there! The rest of the day Thursday, Super Kate and I drove around the course picking out our meeting places. This was essential. Since there are no aid stations at this race you can't just meet your crew there. You need to pick your own places and both of you need to know where they are!

Friday- Race day! That's already been recapped here:  I made it to the finish thanks to my awesome crew, always supportive (even when they're making fun of me) teammates and of course Big E, who put up with a lot of months of me training more than I did anything else.
Photo- Ryan Stephens

For the sake of not writing an entire novel, of course I've left out a lot of details. If you're racing and want more, feel free to send me a message on Instagram @girl_unsupervised. I'll do my best to remember everything that happened out there. Part one of this, written right after the race is here:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Beavis and Buttcrack Do Hard Things

Disclaimer: I do not write typical race reports. If you're looking for specifics about my gear set up for HAMR or secrets about the route, you won't find them here. Other than knowing I ran 34x19 for gearing and had Thunder Burt tires on (and new front brake pads courtesy of Chad) I don't know much about my bike. I'd rather ride it than geek out over the parts. And if you want to know the secrets of the route- come ride it next year. Also, these events may not be in the right order. Cut me some slack- by the end of this story I'd been pedaling a bike for 23 hours. I'm allowed to mix up the sequence and exaggerate.

Despite the fact that we didn't start riding until Saturday, the 187 miles of HAMR really started Friday night since we were required to check-in with the mandatory gear and then camp together to be awakened for a random start time during the early morning. I wasn't worried about failing gear check, at least unless you could fail for having too much stuff.
They said bring a snorkel. I maybe went a little overboard. Photo: Todd Poquette

After passing with flying colors (Stacie seemed rather impressed with the kindling Big E made me to stash in my match case.) I headed to the camping spot I shared with Stamper and the infamous Brad Reed the Endurance Machine. If his endurance skills match his ability to polish off a 4 lb pastie in a small amount of time, he definitely deserves his infamy.
Post-pastie wrapper spike.
After the pre-race meeting and some passport examination
Photo: Tanya LaJoie Ruokolainen
we hit the hay to try to catch a few zzzz's before whatever random wake up shenanigans The Ringmaster Todd Poquette and Matt had in store for us.

Thankfully, mercy was taken and we weren't roused until 4am. An hour later, we were off in the dark. Despite my Garmin not having any idea what to do at the first few turns and an early ridiculously steep, rocky hill that I had to push, I finally settled in to a rhythm and enjoyed my favorite time of day to ride. After 20ish miles of peaceful riding by myself, I heard ruckus behind me. Along came The Ringmaster and a group of guys. I can't say I was disappointed. We were on the famously sandy Red Road so having them pass me meant fresh tracks in the sand I could follow.

A few miles later, we entered Mosquito Gulch, where I first caught Buttcrack Jenny and began a lot of miles a back and forth. I had no choice but to stand on the hills and singlespeed away. She would inevitably catch me on the next flat for some time to chat. We continued this way for miles, including making our way across the river
I didn't even need my snorkel! Photo: Todd Poquette
before finally climbing Mt. Arvon in the rain. I was hoping for a view since it's the highest point in MI, but all I saw were a bunch of cold, wet riders! After the mandatory selfie at the top
I headed out quickly. The Ringmaster was at the top asking for a working phone. I didn't want to be there if he called for a ride. There's something about seeing the race director bail out of his own race that's a bit disconcerting. Especially when it's because he's a bit worried about the rest of us!

If any of us had thoughts that we could've done this race on a cross bike instead of a mountain bike, they were quickly erased on the ride down Mt. Arvon. With the rain, the already technical descent became more like a rocky, sandy stream. I clung to the bike for dear life as I slipped and slid down the hill.

Thankfully, Buttcrack Jenny caught me again as we approached the town of L'anse. After seeing how remote the race had already become, we made a pact to finish together in the dark. We happily resupplied our water and food at the gas station before heading out along Lake Superior for a few easy miles and some much needed sun. (Ok, maybe my idea of "sunny" was a bit skewed at this point.)
We made good time on the pavement before hitting the next gravel road with some daylight left. By this point, we were riding side by side, of course chatting away to pass the time. Now, if you've ever met Buttcrack Jenny or myself, you know that if either of us is talking, we are also laughing. A lot. Since our conversation had turned to farts as this point, I'm pretty sure anyone that heard us coming would have most likely thought Beavis and Butthead were coming down the road.

Farts. Hehe.  Butts. Hehe. I need to pee. Hehe. 

That's pretty much how it went.

Well, at least that's how it went until shit started to get weird. What started as a nice gravel road with a little traffic got more and more remote. There was a bus in the trees, then a boat, then a trailer, then a random lawn chair. As it got darker, it got creepier. Considering I used to lead canoe trips on the river where they filmed Deliverance, it takes a lot of redneckery to freak me out. This, however, made the hair on my arms stand up. I started humming "Dueling Banjos". Buttcrack and I got pretty quiet.

Thankfully, we finally came to a little pavement. It was quick, and we flew down the hill to the next right turn back on to gravel, where I promptly crashed in the sand. Thankfully, my pedals had treated me well for 169 miles, but now they'd decided to get sticky, making it nearly impossible to clip out quickly if I needed to.

Great, we're in Deliverance-country and I'm trapped in my pedals. 

Thankfully at this point, the road was still pretty well maintained and I didn't really need to clip out much so we headed up the hill and took our mandatory snorkel selfies at the checkpoint.
 A few miles later, we had unexpected headlights behind us. Before I knew it, I heard Buttcrack talking to the driver and really hoped she wasn't trying to make friends with one of the Deliverance people. Thankfully, it was her husband, Matt Attacker Acker, who'd won the race and was now driving around offering support. Class act! He stopped up the road to offer us some food and fill us in on the rest of the course. We had less than 15 miles left and I was still feeling great so I didn't really get too concerned when I heard him say "hike a bike". Of course, in hindsight, if someone nicknamed Attacker says you're gonna hike a bike, it's probably a sign that shit's about to get real.

Let's just say- it did.

First we headed downhill on a sandy road, where I proceeded to crash numerous times and we dismounted lord knows how many times to walk around water. At some point after what felt like miles of this the scenery changed a bit. Then we rounded a corner and I heard Buttcrack say, "I think we're gonna have to hike this."

Thankfully I successfully unclipped my feet for once and we inched our way up the rocks. Within minutes, a noise unlike any I've ever heard come from the woods. After a quick, simultaneous, "What the hell was that?!" we inched our way up a little quicker.

Great, now we're in Deliverance-land, we're pushing our bikes and a Sasquatch wants to eat us.

Just for good measure, I shined my light into the trees every couple of minutes. You know, just in case Sasquatches are afraid of light.  I just hoped we smelled bad enough to scare him off.

After our push-a-bike, we remounted and continued on our way, hoping to find the elusive Chunky Summit checkpoint. In our passports, it said, "Watch out for washed out culverts," in the description for this checkpoint. I'm pretty sure it was in one of these culverts, while trying to descend, where I discovered one of my eyes was so blurry I couldn't see out of it.

Now we're in Deliverance-land, I'm trapped in my pedals, there's a Sasquatch in the woods and I can only see out of one eye.

Of course, I eventually crashed again, bashing my hip on a rock and finally throwing a hissy fit. Buttcrack calmly helped me up, squirted some water on my cleats and in my eye and we were on our way.

A few minutes later, my Garmin went haywire. It wanted, of all things, for us to make a u-turn. Seriously, we just rode 179 f-ing miles and you want us to turn around?!

You guessed it- now we're in Deliverance-land, I'm trapped in my pedals, I can only see out of one eye, there's a Sasquatch in the woods and my Garmin is drunk. Oh, and did I mention it was raining again? At least my ass was soft from the mixture of Chamois butter and sand that had been squishing around in there for 22 hours.

Thankfully, Buttcrack's Garmin was not drunk and we found our way to Chunky Summit and then to the Top of the World checkpoint, only three miles from the finish. We cruised the last three easier miles together, finally crossing the line after 23 hours on our bikes. Buttcrack tried to ring her Hamburger bell to announce our presence, but it was so waterlogged it sounded like a drowning duck. Good thing we never needed it to scare off that Sasquatch.

Before heading our separate ways to dry off and get some sleep, we of course took a few fun finish photos.
Photo: Todd Poquette
This one pretty much sums up our day. Two goofballs in the woods, not always right-side up, but smiling and sticking together. I'm pretty sure that's what The Ringmaster and Matt had in mind for this race- to give us something so hard we'd see that sometimes the group effort is much more important than the win.  (And of course to make us question our sanity.) After all, it's hard to fight off a Sasquatch on your own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just Eat the Damn Cake

Not quite cake- but eating some of Mama Iris's 13 flavors of homemade ice cream (a 4th of July tradition) because eating it is way more fun than "having" it.

I left the house for this morning's bike ride with two different tires on my bike. I wasn't trying to be cool. I didn't need two different tires. I had no reason other than the fact that I got up later than I'd planned, didn't change the tires as fast as I thought I could and only got one done before I needed to leave for the ride or skip it. Despite the fact that Big E thought it would be funny to try to convince me it would screw up my bike to ride with two different tires, I chose to ride.

For some reason, as I rode off frustrated with myself for not just getting up earlier, I thought of the phrase, "You can't have your cake and eat it too."  At first I thought it maybe applied to the situation since, technically, I didn't get my tires changed AND get my ride in. But then I decided that was stupid because the only reason I didn't get both done was because I chose to sleep in. If I hadn't, I could've had both. So really, I chose not to have my cake and it eat too.

So of course, right there on the spot, I decided that phrase is really stupid. (Big E can attest to my rant on the subject later in the day.)  But really, when you think about it, it's pretty dumb for two reasons.

First, in the literal sense, why would anyone even choose between having the cake and eating it? We would all eat the damn cake!!! If there was cake, even if you were allergic to it, you wouldn't let it just sit there. You would eat it if you could or throw it away so it wouldn't get moldy. No one (except maybe a hoarder) would just "have" the cake, no matter how pretty it was.

Second, in the sense in which the phrase was meant to be interpreted- you can't have two incompatible things- it is still kind of ridiculous. Yes, I get it, there are some things that are just impossible. You can't be Australia and Canada at the same time. However, that said, the phrase is used much more liberally than that, often for things that aren't necessarily impossible. In fact, the comparable phrase in Russia is, "You cannot sit on two chairs," which technically, is actually possible. You could just put the chairs side by side and put one ass cheek on each. It might not be comfortable, but it would be done.

This is what leads me to where I'm actually going with this. (Yes I often, but not always, have a point.) This whole comfortable thing is what gets in our way. We like to have everything and still be comfortable. When we see two things we really want and it would be a shit-ton of work to have them both, we just say, "Well, I can't have my cake and eat it too." It becomes our excuse for not putting in the work to get what we really want, and when we see someone else who is putting their head down and working their butt off we say to them, "You know, you can't have your cake and eat it too," because it makes us feel better about not going after what we really wanted.  And before you know it, everybody's comfortable eating cake and not doing a whole hell of a lot else.

So the next time someone tells you can't have your cake and eat it too, ignore them. Find a way. Give something up. Get uncomfortable. Work harder. Ask people for help. Sit on two chairs at once if you have to. But don't give up just because it doesn't seem easy.

After all, where there's a will there's a way.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ninja for a Day

Final smoothie at the end of a long training week. 
There's usually a story behind a picture like this- one that tells you how I ended up looking like a crazed woman ready for a really long nap. This story involves a crap load of training, because, well, prepping for a 187 mile bike race through remote terrain necessitates a crap load of training. So I train. And drink lots of smoothies.

My philosophy on training for ultra endurance events is this: train until you're beat down and then really start training. Why? Because that's how you're gonna feel at the end of the race, beat down. You might as well know you can keep moving through that feeling so you don't find out in the middle of a race, in the middle of nowhere, when no one's around to rescue you, that you're a pussy when you're beat down. At least in training if you become a total pussy you can make your way home pretty quickly.

This all leads us to this picture, taken today at the end of two weeks of straight hard training. My goal for the second week of these hard cycles is to never train fresh. Since week one involved  2 1/2 hours of running, 12 1/2 hours of biking, 2 hours of strength training and 4 hours of Jiu Jitsu, I was pretty much set up to reach that goal. Week two, which led to that crazy lady drinking a smoothie, went something like this:

Monday- Wake up at my usual 6:30 pretty sore and a bit crabby, go to work, run on tired legs for an hour, drink a smoothie, go back to work, strength train between clients, work some more, shoot my bow before bed. Nothing too unusual here.

Tuesday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 6:30, lay in bed for 30 minutes because my legs, hip and back hurt. Roll out of bed, stretch and massage myself with The Stick. Work. Ride an hour and fifteen minutes to the evening Jiu Jitsu class carrying my Gi, arriving just as it starts raining. Dry my bike with my dirty Jiu Jitsu clothes and begin the ride home. Get caught in the rain. Realize the Gi is getting heavier. Pedal harder. Arrive home smiling anyway because I finally had a stripe on my belt to show off to Big E. Drink smoothie.

Wednesday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 6:30. Hobble to the bathroom. Lay back down to survey the soreness. Roll out of bed after 7:00 and make friends with the foam roller before I even eat breakfast. Run for over an hour, including four sets of 97 steps and lots of hills. Drink a smoothie on the way to Jiu Jitsu. Feel thankful one of the kids wants to join us so for once I can actually practice with someone smaller than me. Reluctantly roll with a couple guys bigger than me at the end. Get my ass kicked. Leave looking like a drunk girl doing the walk of shame after a long night out. Love it because this is what hard weeks are all about. (Not the drunk girl part...) Get a massage. Ask her to work on my legs because that's what hurts. Fall asleep on the table and wake up an hour later to discover she was still working on my back and shoulder. Apparently those should hurt. Realize they're probably just numb. Go to work. Do 40 minutes of Pilates with one of my clients. Shoot my bow before bed. Fall asleep so hard Big E sleeps on the couch because he doesn't want to wake me.

Thursday- Wake up sometime after 7. Lay there for 1/2 an hour trying to figure out how to move. Wonder how the hell I'm going to ride a bike and do Jiu Jitsu later. Work. Ride the long way to the evening Jiu Jitsu class, do class, ride the long way home and do some monkey bars on the way to prepare from the obstacle course race I signed up for in August. Get a fish hook (yes, a fish hook) in my tire riding over the 494 bridge. Realize it's not easy to extract a fish hook from a bike tire. Change my flat and make it home just before dark. Drink a smoothie. Eat an entire pizza.

Friday- Wake up sometime after 8 when Big E tries to tiptoe into the room to video tape me snoring my face off. Laugh when he says, "Dammit, I can't sneak up on you now that you're doing Jiu Jitsu because you're turning into a ninja." Realize most of me hurts when I laugh.  Eventually manage to move enough to make breakfast, do some core training and run for an hour including 5 long hill repeats. Drink smoothie. Go to work, do a little more strength training between clients, but take a day off my usual routine of doing 10 pushups every time I check social media because I'm being a pussy. At least I made it to Friday. Shoot my bow. Stretch, foam roll and hang out in my ice tights before bed because I know tomorrow is gonna be long.

Saturday- Wake up at 6:15. Ride to Jiu Jitsu. Throw up in my mouth on the way there because my body apparently doesn't really want to ride a bike today. Stress the rest of the way there because I don't want puke breath when I'm rolling around with people. Ask The Ninja Teacher for gum as soon as he walks in. Try not to notice that a lot of big guys showed up for class today. Practice single leg take downs with poor form. Get thrown on my back by The Ninja Teacher while he shows me how to do them properly. Get up and practice them the right way (I think) because I really don't want him to show me again. Get back on the bike and ride for 3 1/2 more hours on the way home, including some singletrack and some ridiculously overgrown doubletrack. Do some monkey bars on the way for good measure. Drink smoothie. Check for ticks. Ask Big E if he will shave my head because I'm tired of dealing with my hair during training. Let him talk me off that ledge. Because he's always the more rational one of us. Get back to my social media push ups.

Sunday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 7. Go to the bathroom and open the shades with every intention of getting up. Fall back to sleep. Stay asleep for almost 3 hours while Big E gets ready for his race, which probably sounded like a small marching band was in the kitchen. Ninja failure. Get out of bed after 10. Somehow drag myself back onto my bike to get some more singletrack in. Swallow numerous bugs on the ride because I'm too tired to close my own mouth. Bust ass on the trail just to try to stay ahead of little kids. Drag my tired self home. Drink smoothie. Take crazy picture. Do one last strength session, in which I realize I can't even straighten my legs all the way.

Endurance training success. Now it's time for an easy week.  And some work on my ninja skills.