Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ironman Lake Placid 2016

Leading up to race
In July of 2015, with some urging from friends I decided to enter Ironman Lake Placid.  I know what you are thinking, didn’t I say “I would never do another Ironman race” after I finished the last one.  I may have said that, but then when all my other friends were signing up without me I got caught up in the “missing out on fun” delusion.
Lucky for me, in November I changed jobs and was able to quit traveling every week, so I had time to start my training.  For the first time in my Ironman history, I was not injured, so I had big plans for this race.  With coaching from my good friend Bill “the Godfather” Peterson, I began my training journey to race day.
All my training was done with friends, some old and some new, most of us were on the same journey to Lake Placid, some were just out there having fun.  We had good training days and bad training days, and none of us were in sync.  Do you know what the good thing about not being in sync was? There was always someone ready to talk me off the ledge when I was having a bad day and I in return would do the same for them, when they had a bad day.  It’s interesting how close you become to friends when you spend hours and hours suffering together.  Everything that happens becomes a big joke and free game for hours and hours of ridicule.  Just remember, what happens during the workout becomes common knowledge and you will never live it down.  Everyone ends up with multiple nicknames, too many to list and many of the stories of how they came to be would be a blog post in itself.
The Crewe
So my training moved along, I stayed on plan with help of a “crewe” of training partners who talked me off the ledge too many times.  Overall though, this was the best Ironman training I have ever done and I was looking forward to a good race.
Just another training day
Oh, but then nothing ever goes as planned.  My daughter informed me that she was pregnant, and guess what day she was due on? Yep, that’s right, she was due on race day!  I began freaking out, devising plans for everyday of the week up through race day.  There would be a 3 day window that would make me miss the race, I hoped that she would have the baby early, but it was doubtful since this was her first baby.
Race day was approaching fast, with just 10 days until I would be standing on the starting line.  Finally a little good luck, I found out that Jade would be induced the day before I had planned to head to Lake Placid.  I quickly went into mom mode, making arrangements to leave a day later and stay with Jade and the baby an extra day and make sure she would have help while I was gone.  Everything went as planned with the birth of my first granddaughter, Emersyn Ray, she showed up pink and healthy with a full head of hair.  Both momma and baby were doing great. 
Seeing the Guys off on Tuesday morning
Jade and Emersyn
My daughter China drove me to the airport early Wednesday morning and just before I got out of the car, she showed me multiple videos from my family telling me good luck, one in particular, from my niece Shayna,  brought me to tears. Those videos made my day, I can’t thank everyone enough for sending them.
video

I caught a flight to Buffalo and was picked up by my friend John at the airport and finished the drive to Lake Placid with him.  When I got to Lake Placid another video came in, and you won’t believe who it was from, wait for it… Swiftwick.  The company that makes my favorite socks, sent me a video of them saying good luck, it was such a great surprise.  China had contacted them and asked them to wish me luck and they did, that just goes to show what a great company it is, I can’t believe they took time to make the video and send it.
video

Race Week
In Lake Placid I was staying at Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn, it’s a great little motel, right on the run course, I would be passing it 4 times during the race.  I had many friends staying there as well. We would spend the 4 days leading up to the race, training, eating and sitting outside our rooms, which encompassed the entire wing of the motel, talking every night.  It was like an ongoing party.
The ongoing party at Devlins
There was one thing that plagued me though, since Emersyn arrived both Jade and China were not with me, China stayed home to help Jade with the baby.  So in turn, I had no family there to help with all the support tasks, and also to lean on when the nerves hit.  I was lucky though to have such great friends with me.  I have to give a big shout out to the Germer family for stepping up and taking care of all the support tasks for me. They grabbed my clothes at the start of the race, and picked up my bike and bags during the race.
My Ironman Support Family

The 4 days leading up to the race, we swam, we ran, we biked, we ate and we had ice cream every night.  Those days we spent swimming in Mirror Lake were refreshing and calming, just being in the lake, gave me piece of mind. 
Our first practice swim in Mirror Lake
Well, except for the first swim, I finished the swim, and was standing on the dock, when Mike “Wildman” Hovatter came swimming up.  As he was bobbing in the water he yelled, I need some help.  We all thought he was joking with us, then his head slid under the water and bobbed back to the top, all of a sudden we all yelled “are you joking?”, and he said, “NO!” and slipped under the water again.  Jeff jumped into the water, grabbed him and dragged him to shore.  He had gotten a cramp as soon as he stopped swimming and couldn’t kick.  The experience was scary and funny at the same time.  We were all just standing there thinking he was joking and the poor guy was drowning.
Mike giving us a tip before our swim
Don't worry Mike, we will save you
We took pictures at the famous rock one morning before the swim, we walked around the town watching all the people and all the dogs, it is a very dog friendly event.

All the Zilla's at the Rock
The Three Amigo's back again
One of the furry friends
We checked in for the race, picked up our swag, shopped at the ironman store, checked out the expo, got active release therapy at the expo, oh, and I can’t forget getting cornered by the guy selling electrical therapy units.  He was quite a salesman.  I was sitting there trying it out, and Russ was right next to me, he thought we were married and was going to give us a good deal, but then he found out we were just friends, the deal wasn’t as good then.  Then John comes over and sits down in the chair on the other side of me and he hooks him up too.  After a few minutes he decides since we are all friends he can give us a really good deal.  I felt like I was in an infomercial, if I bought right now, I could get two for the low price of only 500 dollars and he would throw in some “bonus accessories” too. I finally said that sounds great, I don’t have my credit card with me so I would have to come back, yep, you got it, I never went back.
Checking in
When it came to eating, we had lots of excitement during the week.  We ate at the Pickled Pig, the food took 90 minutes to get and then it was awful.  Three of us ordered shrimp tacos, and when they came out there were 5 shrimp split between 9 tacos.  The fries were hard as rocks and potato skins awful.  Good thing we had Sketchy with us, he told the manager we didn’t want to pay for it and guess what?... we got it for free!  The next meal of the day was also eventful, we got to the restaurant and while standing waiting for our table they gave it away, right in front of us, so we went across the street to eat. They sat us outside right on Mirror Lake, it was beautiful.  We all had our 25 dollar vouchers for our Ironman dinner so we decided to order steaks. We got our food and noticed Sketchy wasn’t eating, he said his steak was tough, everyone else’s was good.  When the waitress came, Wildman told her Sketchy’s steak was not good, she was very apologetic, but Sketchy said it was fine, he would eat it.  At the end of the meal the waitress gave Sketchy his for free.  Of course, now the joke is, Sketchy never pays for a meal, he gets them all for free.
The shrimpless  shrimp tacos
Dinner on Lake

I have to stop right here and make the statement that Carolan was on what we call Scottish time all week, that means, if we say 7:00 am, she shows up at 7:03. The funny part is, Jeff would say 7:00, Carolan would roll up at 7:00, but we would have left at 6:55.  She would call us names that I probably shouldn’t type.  You have to understand Jeff was on a mission, no fun and games.  Someone said, “Jeff can do anything”, then someone else said “except relax”. I am leaving out the names to protect the innocent.  On the flip side of this, we also had people not taking this race serious at all, in fact, they had not taken anything serious for the last 7 months, I’m not going to say any names, but you know who you are Sketchy.
There was also a little excitement on Friday while sitting outside the ice rink.  Some little kids started throwing ice balls at Sketchy and Wildman, don’t worry, they defended themselves using only words and the little boys started looking through the cracks in the sign at them. I thought I was going to have to save Sketchy and Wildman, I think those little boys could have taken them.
The snow/ice that was being thrown at Wildman and Sketchy
Friday night brought the welcome meeting and it was also Jenna Germer’s, (my number one fan), birthday.  So we did a little celebrating at dinner and gave Jenna gifts that only the Crewe would pick out.  Jenna got a good laugh out of the gifts, one of which was slang term flash cards.  They brought many laughs for the rest of the week and they even prompted a few new terms to be created.  Such as, Gufurting: Farting after eating GU.
Jenna opening her Slang Flashcards
The night was fun filled while sitting in the grass waiting for the welcome meeting to start, the rain started, Sketchy and I ran for cover, finding a picnic table to climb under, while Wildman ran into the Johnny on the spot, of course, Jeff rolled up in the blanket we were sitting on. You know what’s coming, yes Godfather walked up as the rain was ending and saw us on the ground under the table, and we will never live that down. Wildman however told us how the Johnny was the best smelling port a john he had ever been in, yes we did, we all went in it to check out the smell and it smelled just like Tricks cereal. 

Waiting for meeting to start before the rain came
Out of the rain
Once again we were waiting for the meeting to start and Russ saw Mike Reilly walk up behind us, I jumped at the chance to get a picture with him.  He was very gracious and even chatted with me about other Ironman races I have done.
Me and Mike Reilly
Saturday quickly came and it was time to fill our transition and special needs bags, and check our bikes in.  Filling my bags, I checked, double checked and triple checked the bags, then I took photos of the contents, so that when I started freaking out later I could look at the pictures to make sure everything was there.


Bike Bag

Run Bag
Before checking our bikes in, we went to the pre-race meeting which was on the oval next to the finish line.  It was pretty hot and sitting there in the sun on those metal bleachers I started to get over heated and feeling sick. Of course we were in the top row, so I had to walk through the crowd down the bleachers and then down the oval to get to some open air, while everyone stared at me. I bet they would have clapped if I had puked right there.   After standing in the shade for the rest of the meeting, I started to feel a little better, but then the mental freak-out started to hit.  I doubted I could do it, I mean, I was just sitting in the heat and I was getting sick, how the heck was I going to finish this race. 


Racking Bike

Ready to Race

Bike Transition and finish line
I was having a panic attack in my head, but trying to be calm in front of everyone, I didn’t want anyone to know how freaked out I was getting.  Everyone was invited to a brunch that afternoon at a house some of the team was renting, and all I could think was “don’t get there and start crying because you are freaked out!”  In my head I felt like a poser,  I was at the race with 19 friends who are all incredibly talented and it always seems that no matter how hard I work, I am always running in the their shadows.  I kept telling myself, that I have my own goals and not to worry about anyone but myself.  Once you start freaking out, it’s really hard to reason with yourself.  My brain is my worst enemy, I needed to quit thinking about it and just do it.  I mean where could I go to race that was more beautiful than this. 

White Face Mountain

Mirror Lake
I made it through brunch without a tear, the food was great, I have to give a big shout out to Andrea and Chrissy for putting the work in to make it a great afternoon with food and friends.
Brunch at the team house
It also helped that I was getting photos from home of Emersyn, Ella and Bruno, so I knew all was well at home. China and Jade texted me and assured me I would be fine, that they believed in me. My Crewe of friends were also great, reassuring me that I had done all the right training and this was just the cherry on the top.
Emmy and Bruno

Ella protecting Emmy

Emmy Sleeping

The Crewe hanging out
It was Saturday night and was time to put on our race numbers. This year many of us had rub on tattoos, called tri tats rather than a black Sharpe.  You had to apply them by taking off the clear plastic cover, putting them on your arm and wetting it with a wash cloth. So you couldn’t really do your own, you had to have a tattoo artist.  Well, I’m not sure what to say about my tattoo artist other than I had to fire her. Let’s just say that she will never live her mad tattoo skills down.
Fired Tattoo Artist
My Tattoo
We had so many good luck notes on social media, we could hardly keep up with them, everyone was glued to their phones reading them.  Well except me, I was glued to my phone looking at baby pictures.
Well wishes before the race

Peace Out Gram!
The Race
Sunday came with an early wake up and a walk to transition to check on our bikes.  We put air in our tires, filled our bike bags with food, dropped our special needs bags and headed back to our rooms. Of course we spent a lot of time in the bathroom for the next hour then headed to the starting line.
Walking to the Swim Start
At the lake we pulled on our wetsuits and headed into the water, the water was warmer than the air and covered with a dense fog.  We could not see the buoys from the beach.
Ready to hit the water
The Pro’s took off and we watched as they came across the beach for the second lap.  That’s when Jeff, Carolan and a few of the other fast people took off. The rest of us filtered into the crowd at our estimated swim times.  Ray, Kyle, Mike and I were all together. I don’t think you can call any of us fast swimmers. We inched our way down to the water and headed out into the fog. I thought I was swimming to the outside, but I must have been way outside, because after about 10 minutes of swimming I see a paddle from a kayak motioning me in another direction, I was way off course in the fog. I got myself back on track, but there were so many people in the water that it was like a feeding frenzy.  It looked like someone threw food in the water and a million fish were fighting for it, and it felt like we were swimming in the spin cycle of a washing machine.  I have never in my life swam in those conditions.  I can’t tell you how many times I was hit, kicked and pushed.  

The good news was I didn’t really get swam over, so I started in the correct wave for my speed.  I made it through the first lap, but near the end was being passed by the swimmers that started in front of me and were already finishing their second lap.  My time was about where I wanted it, and I had thoughts of actually being on track.  Of course the second lap didn’t go as planned, I seemed to get pushed even more and ended up swimming four minutes slower than my first lap.  My overall time though was still much faster than any other Ironman race I had done, so I came out feeling pretty good. Although, the next day I looked at my Garmin and I had swam 2.67 miles.  You would think that 2.4 would be far enough, but no, I had to swim more.
An now it starts
One fact I need to mention, Jeff Germer killed the swim and won the award for First Out Of The Water. It was an awesome swim.
The weather forecast for the day was a high of 80 with low winds.  So I was ready for a good bike day. I headed into the transition, where there were so many people in the tent that I was having problems getting help.  Finally a girl ran over and got me water and she grabbed my stuff so I could head out. Just outside the tent I stopped for sunscreen and pulled up my shirt for her to get my lower back. I’m noting this because you will find out later how important that is. I ran to the bike racks and a volunteer was waiting with my bike ready to go, I grabbed it and ran to the bike mount line and took off down the steep hill while hearing voices cheering for me.  It was my Ironman family, the Germers, their cheers put a smile on my face.
Coming out on the bike
Soon I was climbing and climbing, it still felt cool, but there was definitely a strong wind, the weather forecast was not on point. I was still feeling good and riding a good pace. I hit the down hill and was going over 40 mph.  My bike started shaking because a cross wind was grabbing at my wheel, I got a little concerned and decided to ride my brakes the rest of the way down. Next was the 14 mile out and back section, which is nice because I saw a lot of friends in that section.  Greeting everyone was great, the smiles I got from Godfather, and the rest of the crewe all helped my mental state.  There is something about suffering with friends that makes it a little easier.  I got through the first 38 miles and made the turn out of Keene to start 18 miles of climbing. I know this is gross to those of you who are not triathletes, but I pee’d on my bike and was happy about it, because it meant that I was still somewhat hydrated.  
It really warmed up after that though and I was starting to feel the effects.  I kept taking enduralytes and salt, eating and drinking, but I could feel a fatigue coming on in my legs.  I knew the feeling, I always get it when I get dehydrated, I was doing everything I could to drink and eat. I was pulling bbq Fritos out of my bike bag, because they always help when I need salt, but I dropped them, I almost cried, but I bucked and kept telling myself it was not the end of the world and to keep riding.
The lack of salt was wearing on me and no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to pee again for the rest of the ride. I made it through the Cherries and up the Bears to the cheers of Zilla families, I could pick everyone out because we had made green shirts for everyone supporting, so it gave me something to look for in the crowd.  I made the corner where Jenna and Kirsten were taking photos and headed to the oval to start my second lap.  The second lap was slower, not by a lot, but I was working hard, too hard most likely. At 90 miles my quads started cramping up and I could not stand, so I just geared down and kept spinning. By the time I hit the 18 mile climb on that second loop, I was starting to doubt my ability to finish the race. I was starting to plan my pity party.
I once again made it to the top of Papa Bear and there were still Zillas there cheering me on, I really needed it too, the families and just random people out there cheering for me gave me such a boost, I don’t know if I could do this without them.
Top of Pappa Bear
I rolled into transition and stepped off the bike, but when I did, my entire left leg cramped up, I just caught myself from falling and some volunteers ran over.  I told them to leave me alone, it was just a cramp.  I worked it out and then gave them my bike and headed to transition.
Transition was not as crowded as the previous transition and I got my own volunteer, she helped me with everything and got me out the door pretty quickly, I stopped once again to get sun screen and as I was standing there John came running out of the men’s tent. I headed out to the run, just a minute in front of him, but he quickly caught me.  I was thinking we could run together for a while, but it was getting ugly for me and I couldn’t keep up with him.
Sketchy caught me in front of Devlins
By the time we hit 6 miles, John was a mile in front of me.  I saw so many friends on the course, too many to list, but Godfather was who I was looking for, I have a connection with him on this course and I needed those sweaty hugs from him. I needed all the sweaty hugs I got along the way, but  No hugs for Carolan, Jeff and Carl, they were on a mission and I was not going to slow them down, it was a quick high five and we were gone.  Tyler was always a welcome sight, I could see him from a distance because of his size and he was killing it out there.  Carolan was smiling so much, I’m not sure she was even sweating, she was having such a good day.  I was so happy to see everyone out there, even Doug in all his scales. 

Zilla Scales
By mile 11, I was passing Devlin’s with all the Zilla families cheering me on, even Mike and Kathy Wever were there, they didn’t have a horse in the game, they just traveled up to support the club members racing.  I made it through lap one, passed Devlin’s again and was headed out for the last time. By mile 14, I knew it was going to get really ugly. I quickly started calculating in my head how fast I could walk the last 12 miles.  Once again I began with the pity party, “poor pitiful me, I trained so hard and everything went right, and I wasn’t injured, but here I was walking”.  I had to snap out of it, so I just kept looking for friends and tried to be as upbeat as I could, I talked to everyone as I passed them or they passed me, hoping that the conversation would keep me going.  I was feeling some really painful chaffing on my under carriage, I’m sure it had to be from me constantly pouring ice water down my shirt and it running down my shorts.  I needed Vaseline badly. I stopped at the medical tent at mile 17 and took a handful of Vaseline and stuck it right down my shorts.  I warned the lady that “it was not going to be pretty” and that she might want to turn around, but she said “honey, you have no idea what I have seen today”, what I did was nothing new to her.  Every water stop has Port-a-Johns and boy they made me want to run, they smelled so bad, I could hardly get past them without gagging.
On the run
I could hear some guys talking behind me, I knew one of them, Mark.  I quickly caught on to a conversation that I learned more about the day after the race.  The piece I picked up on was that the guy behind me had 6 months to live and he was going to live it to the fullest.
This is a truly great story.  An older man named Jim was racing at Lake Placid.  Well, this guy was a former US Navy pilot who had flown A-6 attack jets, a real Top Gun. He was married, but had no kids. He had finished 5 Ironman races before this one.  He also has brain cancer with only 6 months to live. He said he was going to prove the doctors wrong and beat the brain cancer.  He had Chemo on the Monday before the race and had to take 10 pills during the race.  He had a great attitude and was talking to everyone. He made a deal with my friend Mark, he would make sure Mark made it to the end of the race under the cutoff time, and in return Mark would make sure he took his meds on time.  Well they both made it to the finish. Once again, I had no reason for a pity party.
I was now at mile 18 and I was getting closer to both John and Godfather, I didn’t think there was any way I would catch them, but I was trying not to lose any ground.  It looked like a Zombie death march out there, most everyone was walking, plus some of the temporary lighting had gone out and it was pitch black on the road, so you could just barely make out the shadows of people.  Oh, and the bugs, I ate plenty of them along the way, also.
By mile 21, I was back into a more lighted area and I saw Ray coming toward me, his son was walking/running with him.  We yelled hellos and Ray said he was going to make it and I assured him he would.  There is a whole other story that goes with Ray, let me see if I can quickly tell it.
Ray signed up for the race with the rest of us and started training with the “Crewe”. During a Thanksgiving morning run, Ray had some chest pains, but of course, being as crazy as the rest of us, he wouldn’t go to the hospital.  Weeks later he had a heart test and was shipped directly to the hospital for 5 bypass heart surgery.  We thought his Ironman race was over.  He proved us wrong and by the end of February he was back to training, and training fast. He had 5 months till Ironman day and he was determined to make it.
On the second lap of the run, Ray’s son jumped in to help his dad make it to the finish line, but he didn’t have on running shoes, so Kathy Wever took her shoes off and gave them to him to wear, everyone wanted to see Ray finish this race.  It’s hard to express in words how incredible Ray’s journey was.
So here I was looking over at Ray, who was so determined and once again telling myself to buck up and quit my whining. No one but me cares if I make my goal time; this is about the journey, not the finish time.

I made it to mile 24, which is right next to our hotel and Kirsten came running up next to me and walked with me on the hill, she caught me up on who had finished and who was still out on the course. She was so excited, Amy, her mom, had already finished with her fastest time ever.
At mile 25, Kyle came running past me, he had been chasing me since the bike and I had a feeling he would pass me.  He was the dark horse of the race, no one was sure how he would do, but we knew from training that he could kill the run and that is exactly what he was doing.
Mile 25.5, I was almost there, Jenna came out on the road and stayed with me until the oval, she was excited and smiling and I was so glad she was there.  I missed my family being there and knew they were having a watch party at home, but I needed some love.  That is exactly what I got from Jenna, I will be forever grateful to here for that.
Watch Party

More watch party
I hit the oval and did the best imitation of running that I could, I was high fiving all the hands hanging over the sides of the railings, I came across the line with my head held high. A volunteer caught me, covered me with a space blanket, gave me water, my finisher shirt and hat and asked me how I was.  I must have looked awful because he was really intent on getting me sat down, he even bypassed the photo booth and headed me over to the food. John and Jeff were waiting for me at the food, then Russ walked up, again I must have looked bad because Russ started taking off his jacket to give to me, but just as he did my bag with my jacket arrived and I put on a thick hoodie. My catcher brought me French fries and pizza and kept asking if I was ok.  I was really fine, just tired, I just wonder how bad I looked.
As I was eating my fries and chatting with everyone, I heard Mark cross the line, followed by Mike. Mark came over sat down, started to talk to us, then said, “I need medical help” and passed out with his eyes open.  It was really scary, I thought he was dead, I kept talking to him, trying to get him to say something.  Medical came over, put him in a wheel chair and took him to the medical tent. We moved out of the way so they could move Mark and while I was up, I got my photo and got another with Wildman. 


We made it!

Then went back to the table and saw all Marks stuff, I said we should go to medical and stay with him, and find his dad.  Now this is either funny or sad, but the guys said, “oh, we can just take his stuff to medical and leave it, they can figure out the rest from his bib number. We need to go get massages.”  So Russ took Marks stuff and dropped it off and Wildman, John and I went to get massages. I wanted to yell, “this is wrong!”, but I was too tired to.
We all had our massages, but when I was finished I was so cold that I laid down on a table and they covered me up, they  kept trying to take me to medical, but I wouldn’t go, I just needed to warm up.
While I lay there, I heard the lights shut off and the announcement of 12 am. I kept hoping Ray made it in.
I finally got off the table and walked back to my room wrapped in three space blankets, all the while thinking, “I never want to do this again, my Ironman career ends here”. 
I sent a quick text to my kids telling them I made it and that I would talk to them the next day. I had a hot shower and screamed while taking it because when the water hit my chaffed areas, it hurt so bad I could hardly stand up. My head hit the pillow and I was dead to the world until my alarm went off 4 hours later.  I had to get my butt down to the Ironman store so I could purchase a finishers jacket before they were all gone.
I looked at all the Facebook posts, and watched a video of my kids watching me finish while my 4 day old granddaughter had her foot kicked up on the laptop, watching too. I call it the social media “aftershock”, it brought tears to my eyes reading all the posts from friends and family.
video

I went to breakfast to find out that Ray had finished, they turned out the lights as he was nearing the oval, but he ran around and through the finish line.  The medical guy that caught him, saw his scar because his jersey was unzipped and asked him about it. Ray told him he had a 5 bypass heart surgery 6 months ago and the guy said, “you deserve this!” and got him his finisher medal.  Ray was sure he would not be an official finisher, but that morning we opened the paper and he was listed as the FINAL finisher. Ray’s story is the Cinderella story of IMLP 2016.
Ray at the finish line
I saw Mark at breakfast also and found out that he was just fine, that was funny, because I was sure he had died, but at least now I didn’t feel so bad about leaving him in medical all alone. 
We discussed our races, the weather conditions, and all of our injuries, and the award for the worst injury goes to Sketchy for his sun burned tramp stamp, I’m pretty sure it’s a 2nd degree burn.
The latest in  Ironman tramp stamps
A few final notes, my mouth was so sore I could hardly eat for a couple days, it was weird, but Wildman had the same issue.  I looked it up and found that it is very common in endurance races for that to happen, there are many different theories on why it happens though.  I have to Thank everyone who cheered me on, especially my Super fan, Jenna, and all my virtual fans at home.  Thanks to my family for supporting me through the training and the race. Thanks to Emersyn Ray, for making her entrance before the race. Thanks to the Crewe and the Zilla’s for all the long training days and talking me off the ledge on so many of them. Last, but not least, thanks to Dr A+, aka Arthur Langston, for getting me through the hamstring issue that plagued me the last 6 weeks of training.
So I am now an Ironman to the 4th power, I never saw that coming…
Will I do another Ironman???

Photo credit:  Kirsten and Jenna


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Castlewood Adventure Race 2016


After a 2 year hiatus from adventure racing, I decided it was time to come back to the sport and try racing again.  What that really means is that my knee felt stable enough to handle the trekking across rough terrain and my job changed, so I was at home for more than 2 days a week. 
My usual teammate Chuck, had to join another team because I was never available to race, so when Castlewood rolled around he was already committed to volunteering with his new cast of characters. 
I had to find a team, and of course someone would have to orienteer because I always counted on Chuck for that.  I can plot and I can somewhat read the map, but there is no way I am good enough to be in charge.  Just ask Chuck, if he ever needed to double check his skills he would ask me which way we should go, then go the opposite direction from what I suggested, which always turned out to be the correct way.
I have been training with a Crewe of characters for the last couple of years and have talked up adventure racing enough to get them interested in it. It didn’t take much to talk Jeff and John into trying it, but Mike was another story. We never actually convinced him to do it, we just sort of kept talking like he had agreed, it’s the power of suggestion, when we all entered the race, it took him a couple days, but he finally entered it too. I’m not sure he considered us friends after that fateful day when he hit the submit button and entered his first adventure race.
When you think of a rookie adventure racer you probably think of someone with a little bit of an adventure base. Well with this group, that would be a wrong assumption.  John and Jeff both had old mountain bikes, neither had much time in the saddle on them and certainly not off road. Mike did not have a mountain bike and had never even thought about riding one.  No problem, I just lent Mike one of mine. Jeff borrowed our friend Russ’s bike since his weighed about a ton and had no suspension at all.  John’s bike was a little newer, but still heavy, the problem was since he is more of a giant than a hobbit, we couldn’t lend him one, so he was stuck with the heavy bike, but it builds character, right.
We spent some time riding in the woods, worried about Mike, funny thing was, Mike was a natural, and he rocked the single track. When we told him that he was really good, he thought we were just trying to make him believe it so he wouldn’t back out, but he was a natural at it.  I think it was his low center of gravity, being a hobbit he lives very close to the ground.
Since a lot of the bike sections during past Castlewood races have usually been road riding and not single track, I felt that my team would be fine with only minimal training.  We all had a good running base because we have been in the early stages of Ironman training, so the trekking would be ok as long as my knee held out. As far as the canoe went, we had no training, and I’m a terrible paddler.  Mike and John didn’t have any paddling skills, but Jeff had done more and was pretty confident in his ability.  So we decided that Jeff and Mike would be in one canoe and John and I would be in the other.  That may not have been the best decision, as you will see later.
Our only goal for this race was to have fun and finish without assistance by a helicopter, ambulance or rescue team, we would call this success.
We sat down at the local coffee shop after an early morning run and reviewed the gear list.  I had a lot of extra gear, so what I didn’t need I lent to the team, that way no one had to spend much cash on gear. The sad part of this was, Jeff and Mike cold both wear my clothes, if my clothes fit two guys, I’m getting way too fat.  With that said, I was able to lend them enough gear for the race. John on the other hand is a giant and I told him to go to Goodwill for his stuff. 
Now all we needed was a name for this group of misfits that we have called “The Crewe” for the last two years.  So of course it made sense that we name ourselves “The Adventure Crewe”.  Plus when we were exhausted and on our death beds, laying in a ditch somewhere, it would be easy to remember what our name was when the rescue team showed up to save us. 
John picked up the packets at the Alpine shop on Friday and met us for dinner where we plotted our maps. It was a bit dark in Deweys Pizza so we had to get out the headlamps, I’m afraid everyone in the restaurant was a little bit afraid of us. We plotted the points and double checked them, we actually did it rather quickly and accurately, but then again, Jeff is really good at whatever he does, so it was his leadership that made it so easy.
That brings us to race day, Jeff, Mike and I carpooled to the race and met John there, we were all a bit nervous, even me, it had been a long time since I had adventure raced. We double checked our packs and found that Mike was missing his headlamp, but we had enough time to find it. That was the first disaster adverted. 

Double Checking our Gear
We couldn’t decide what to wear, the weather was cold, but would get warm quickly, so we all put on and then removed clothes as we were waiting for the race start. Emily, the race director gave us some pre-race comments then played the national anthem and off we went into the wild just as the sun was coming up. Well not really, we actually got loaded into buses and driven off to the wild. 
Sunrise just before the start of the race
After a short bus ride we were ready to race.
Bus Ride to the Start
The race started with a trekking section, we did really well and weren’t even last out of the section. 

Check Point
We then had a bit of a slow transition to the paddle, but we were finally in the water. 
Getting ready to Paddle
Paddling down the River

Of course I was worried about Jeff and Mike on the paddle, only to find out that they were fantastic at it, so much so, that John and I couldn’t keep up with them. We just kept running into Kate and Mickey, crashing into the shore or spinning our canoe around backwards.  I was really starting to get frustrated, but I thought, we aren’t here to win the race, we are here to have fun and finish.  We did get to float by Chuck’s chimney fire and see Lori taking photos of us in the water by the bluff, oh and Chuck offered us homemade moonshine, but we declined, who knows maybe we would have been better paddlers if we had drank the moonshine.  We finally made it to the canoe takeout, I think by that time Jeff and Mike were getting pretty frustrated with our paddling ability.  I think Mike mentioned to Jeff that we had to be dead, because only dead people could be as slow as we were. 


Next we had a gear check, which we passed, then hopped on our bikes for the next section. As we rode off, I realized that I did not punch the passport at gear check, so we had to turn around and ride back.  Good thing we only lost a couple minutes doing that. I’m the experienced racer and I was the one that messed up, pretty embarrassing, but another disaster adverted.
Don't forget to Punch the Passport
The bike section went great, Jeff was leading us right to every checkpoint and it felt good to be able to keep up on the bike, not like the paddle. 
Biking the Hills
The hills we rode were killers and at a couple points we saw people walking the hills, but I was able to stay on and weave my way up the hills.  I would have probably gotten up faster walking though. It was a pride thing, I was not going to walk.  I have John Dean to thank for that, he has schooled me on the bike long enough to know how to reach the top of a mountain.  There were a couple places that we had to bike whack too, and let me tell you, bike whacking really sucks, I made it through, but there was doubt in my mind a couple times.  
Bike Whacking
Crossing the Creek
We quickly ended up at a CP that was inside a giant authentic Teepee, it was really cool. There was a guy standing there and he was nice enough to take some photos of us in front of it.  
We found the Teepee
The next CP was at transition which was down a long muddy hill, it was so muddy and slick that we had to get off our bikes and walk them down the hill.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill there was so much mud on my bike that my tires wouldn’t roll. 
So Much Mud
Slick as Snot
We had to stop and find sticks to try and get enough mud off the tires that we could ride to the CP. 
After the bike section we were back at transition to get another map and head out for another trekking section.
Back at Transition for Another Map
Funny though, as we started the next section there was already teams that had finished with all the CP’s.  My knee was starting to hurt, but I was still moving ok.  Mike on the other had was having a problem with his foot and was having a hard time during the trek, but he never gave up, he just kept going dragging that foot with him.  We were hitting the CP’s about every 7 minutes making really good progress and then we hit the wall looking for CP 31.  We wasted about 70 minutes looking for it and we finally found it, we swear that the CP was not exactly where it should have been, but thanks to Jeff we found it.
Looking for CP 31
Steam in the Fog
It's getting Hot out here
Off we went to the next CP’s and we were back in our groove, finding them quickly, but we were getting close to the cutoff time.  We had one more CP to get and 30 minutes to do it in, the problem was that it was pretty far out.  With my knee starting to really hurt, I was dragging behind and Mike was right there with me, his foot hurting too.  We knew if we could go right to the CP we might make it to the finish just in time, but if one thing went wrong or we couldn’t find the CP quickly we would lose one CP for every minute we were late.  We decided not to chance it and headed back to the finish line without taking the last CP.  We got in with time to spare and were very happy with our performance.  Three newbies and a veteran, and we only missed on CP and not because we couldn’t find it, but because our strategy was to finish on time.
Yeah, We Finished
We went into the lodge and ate some baked potatoes and would have drank some beer, but it was all gone.  If I had one constructive criticism for the race director it would be to make sure you have beer to put out when the teams that finish at the back of the pack come in. 
On the whole it was a fantastic race, great course, great volunteers, a really fun race.  A big thanks to Apline Shop for keeping the race alive and to Emily for making it such a fun race.
A BIG THANKS to my teammates, Jeff, Mike and John, it was a great adventure, you are great friends and teammates. I feel really blessed to have such great friends that will agree to do crazy things with me.  As for Mike, I think his adventure racing career might be over.  Jeff will never quit because CP 31 haunts him nightly.  Now John, I think he can be talked into anything, if Jeff says let’s do another adventure race, John will say, “ok”.
Photos courtesy Alpine Shop and Jeff's Adventure Cam.