Thursday, February 7, 2019

Worth the Effort

I like to blog.  There I said it.  In our fast paced, "I need this now" or "I don't have time" world, blogging is becoming a lost art.  And I confess I have been an absentee blogger.  I tried riding the instagram train and its ok.  But something was still missing.
Blogging.  It takes time.  I can't sit down and whip out a post in 30 min.  I start.  Come back.  Think some more.  Change a few more things and finally after some time, I publish.
It takes effort.

This blogging thing isn't my full time gig. 
I make no money with it.
I have no sponsors.
I have a busy life.

It seems pretty simple then...

I do it for the love of it.
In the same way I look at old photos and smile, I read old posts and reminisce.  I am back to that place in time and it makes me remember.

My mother in law passed away a few months ago and things are still pretty raw.  We flood our fridge with pictures of times gone by; special birthdays and family gatherings, times at the cabin.  We hold tight to those memories to encourage us and keep a legacy alive.

  And so I am holding tight to my little piece of cyberspace to encourage and keep my legacy alive.

La Quinta Indian Wells Ironman 70.3


An inaugural season finishing event for Ironman on Dec 9th, 2018 in the beautiful Cochilla Valley in California.
  We registered back in the spring with the plan to start of a 10 day getaway with the triathlon then head to the coast for some ocean and biking.  I was very excited about this event right from the get go.  I like the distance and we have been to the Palm Springs area quite a few times so we were familiar with the area.
Just prior to the event, my excitement was impacted by the busyness of  life.  I went right from very long days in the field to teaching in the classroom, as I took on a term position and life was very hectic.  My training suffered.  It felt overwhelming to be preparing to be gone from the classroom, pack up my bike and have everything ready for Christmas prior to leaving on Dec 6.  Once we were on the plane though, I was very happy to be going.
We arrived Friday Dec 7 in Palm Springs, got our rental vehicle and found our way to our condo unit.  It was right across the road from the finish area so the location was ideal.  Walked to race check in, bought a shirt and looked around.  There were a few vendors but not a lot.  Bought a couple Co2 cartridges (as you can't fly with them) as well as a new back tire for my bike.
Friday evening was spent putting our bikes together and relaxing.
Saturday we went out for a spin to ensure the bikes were working well.  A coffee/breakfast stop at Starbucks then back to clean up and get our bikes to the manditory bike check in.

The start as well as transition 1 was located at Lake Cahulla.  This lake is a private lake, 1 of very few bodies of water in the area.  There is no practice swimming and our wetsuits needed to come along to bike check in to be submerged in a disinfecting solution.  First time I have needed to do that.
The water is reported to always be cool.  I wasn't too worried about it before hand because being at Ironman Oceanside a couple times in 14-15 C water I knew I might be cold but I would be fine.
A new development though was because of very poor, rainy, cold weather that was in the area the entire week prior, there was talk of shortening or cancelling the swim because of cold water temp.  According to Ironman rules:

 Wetsuits will be compulsory if the water temperature is below 16° C. For Pro’s, wetsuits may be worn in temperatures up to 21.9° C. For Age Groupers, wetsuits may be worn in water with temperatures up to and including 24.5° C. As per WTC rules, the swim will be shortened if the water temperature is between 12.1° and 13.9° C. If the water temperature is below 12° C, the swim will be cancelled. See official "Race Rules."

Originally from: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/emeal


An email said we would be notified race morning of any changes.

Bike drop off was according to last name.  Our time slot was from 10-2.  There was a lot of people there and parking wasn't easy but as we left, the vehicle line up went for miles.  It felt like a full, busy day getting everything checked in at transition 1 and then taking our run bag to transition 2 (near the finish area) to drop off as well.  Less to worry about in the morning but a busy day.  Pasta for supper and feet up.

Race morning, no email with changes to the swim.  We walked to the finish area to where buses were loading up racers and spectators to take to the lake.  There is no vehicles allowed at the swim area, everyone needed to be bused in and out.



It was still dark for a bit after arriving at the lake.  We pump up the tires and finished a few things in transition before heading to the tent where the wetsuits were hung up.  Transition was closed at 6:30 and though there was a rule of having nothing beside your bike (you needed to grab your bike bag) there were quite a few with their gear under the bike.  I also thought there needed to be a lot more portapotties.  HUGE line ups.  Luckily, with the wave start and our placement around the 40-45 min swim group, we were able to get a turn in the biffy and see the pro start from a nice spot on the beach.  We were treated to an amazing sunrise.  It was so beautiful; the mountains, palm trees, the lake and a glorious sun.


I wasn't really nervous about the swim.  I knew I didn't get the swim training in that I wanted but I also knew based on the times of all my prior 70.3's, if it took a few extra minutes, I was fine with that.




All that changed as I walked into the water.  Nothing could have prepared me for this.  It was very, very cold.  I had been watching for more than an hour so many athletes entering the water and some prepared wearing less than I was.  I had neoprene booties as well as a neoprene cap on under the race cap.  I felt confident I would be fine.  The announcement that morning was that the water temp was 14 C.  I knew without a doubt this could NOT be the case.  I can detect small differences in temperature so easily, I had swam many times in water that was 14-15 degrees and this was in no way that temp.  Regardless, on I went.  I tried so hard to get a rhythm but struggled.  My chest felt like a vice was around it, I wasn't gasping for air but I just couldn't breathe.  But I kept going thinking it would improve.  At the halfway mark, I was still rotating between 15-20 strokes of front crawl to flipping to the backcrawl.  I was experiencing numbness in my left hand and cramps in my legs.  It was a real struggle to get to the halfway mark as so many times I though about quitting.  Once the half way mark is passed, I knew I needed to keep going to the finish.
I was so happy to reach the finish.  I knew I had been slow and I stepped out of the water with no troubles.  But 10 steps in, my body shut down.  I just lost my ability to stand and a volunteer caught me.  Immediately I started shivering; deep, whole body, convulsing shivers.  The volunteer immediately called for help.  2 others came with blankets and they surrounded me with their arms around me.  The gentleman who first helped me was so calm and kept talking to me, assuring me that I would be okay.  He held his arms around me, my head tucked into his neck.  My eyes were closed as the shivering took control for more than 30 min and all I could think about was how good he smelled and how gentle and reassuring his voice was; anything to distract me from how scary this was.  After about 15 min there was talk of taking me to the medic tent.  I assured them I was doing better and would warm up on the bike.  Biking the course was the part I was most looking forward to so I wanted to continue.  They helped me get my wetsuit off and bike clothes on and again surrounded me and brought me 2 cups of warm broth.  One of the volunteers then came forward saying I had passed the cutoff for leaving on the bike and she needed my timing chip.  My race was done.  I said I wanted to still finish and didn't care that it would show as a DNF.  They helped me proceed to my bike only to be stopped by the volunteer manning the bike portion who, after talking to us and finding out about my hypothermia, told me he would not let me go out on a bike as he had too many incidents of racers falling on their bikes in cases like this.  He said it takes time to regulate the body temperature after having hypothermia and he wouldn't take a chance on my safety.  So just like that, I was delegated to the bus.  Bike shoes and gear on, no extra clothes (my shorts and sports bra were still wet) and once again shivering.  So discouraging.
A spectator got on the bus just after me and after seeing me shivering, gave me his long thermal sports coat to wear.  I was so thankful.  Obviously, very disappointed to not be on my bike.  It was the part I had been looking forward to the most.  But I also recognized in myself as I continued to shiver that this was the safe and smart thing to do.
What was a 30 min drive yesterday from the finish area to the lake was now taking us more than an hour on the bus.  With the increase in traffic and road closures from the bike, it took longer.  There was a few spectators on the bus but mostly it was filled with others like me who struggled with the swim.  I have a ton of respect for the many athletes who got through the swim with little issue but the general concencus on the bus among the coaches and athletes was that the water temperature was such that the swim should have been shorted.  Most heard reports of the water temperature being 12C or colder.

 Measuring water temperature is such a subjective thing to me.  Was the temp 14 C 2 feet from the shore?  Where exactly do they take water temp?  It would make sense to me to do a temp reading beside each buoy that is in the water then average them.  Anyway, my 2 sense.  Of course, this is still probably a bit of bitterness that my race was over and it maybe shouldn't have been. I think with this event being the first, the RD wanted it to happen as planned and that was that.  Hats off to those who finished.

So I ended up in transition 2, no morning clothes bag with our keys or dry clothes to change into.


 Luckily I was able to get into transition to put on my runners and visor.  And fortunately, the morning clothes bags arrived within the hour and I was able to get my phone and track Terry.  I decided to run with him.  I wasn't going to just sit around.
I called his name as he was coming into the dismount line and immediately his face fell.


He asked if I was ok and I told him to go change I would wait at the run out area and was going to run too.






 My chest still felt tight but the run course is a 2 lap loop through a golf course and if I was feeling terrible after 1 lap, I could stop.  Morning air temperature was 8-9 C and now is was a sunny, warm 19-20 C.  I drank some gatorade and water at each aid station.  I hadn't had anything to eat and just a little to drink as all my food was on the bike, I had no money so what was my option?
We chit chatted, each relaying what happened since we entered the water together and the first lap seemed to go by pretty quickly.  Second lap was a bit more difficult.  The course was through a golf course and though it was nice and quiet with no traffic, there were also no spectators and constant rolling hills.  But harder than that was the pebbled path.  My feet felt like ground beef at the beginning of the 2nd lap and they just progressively got more sore. 
After a while conversation halted as we each entered that zone of waves where you have energy then you are tapped, you are tired and hurt and you are fine.  Finally, we were rounding the final corner as we approached the finish area at the Tennis Gardens.  I stepped out and swung around through the spectator area off the run course and headed to the finish area to hear Terry's name announced and see him cross the line.  Happy for him and sad for me.  Oh well.



I took a couple pictures, then we headed to the food area.  Chips, bananas and tacos.


We grabbed a table outside the food tent and enjoyed.

After 15 min , we headed to transition to find our stuff.

 A 10 min walk and we were at the vehicle at the condo.  We checked out that morning so we loaded our stuff up, used some wipes to remove some salt and a bit of stink and changed before taking off.
Picked up burgers then headed on the scenic Pines to Palms highway.

Terry asked if I would be returning to settle the score and without hesitation I replied "no".  There are too many things/events to do.  I don't want to repeat just to settle a score.  Getting a DNF doesn't sit good with me but I am safe and healthy.  What happened scared me a lot.  I don't ever want to feel that way again and I am thankful nothing worse occurred. 
Even after more than a half dozen 1/2 ironman distance triathlons under my belt, there is still learning and growing.  And that is good. 



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Oxbow 50 Ultra


Oxbow 50 shirt large redux

I broke most important rule of endurance athletes- DO NOT DO ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY and believe me, I paid a high price.  Lesson learned.

 The Oxbow 50 is a 50k trail ultra held on the Trans-Canada, Epinette & Newfoundland Trails of Spruce Woods Provincial Park .

Oxbox Ultra was held May 5, 2018 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park in southern Manitoba.
We drove to Brandon, MB the evening before (Friday night), checked into a hotel and got our race gear laid out.
Saturday morning's alarm went off at 5:45 am with the usual pre-event busy-ness.  Picked up oatmeal and coffee from Tim Horton's and headed to Spruce Woods Provincial Park about 40 min away.  I am not a big morning eater on the day of an event.  Every other day, I eat a lot at breakfast but never on race day.  I picked away at my oatmeal and drank only a few sips of my latte.  (Hmm, if I could just go back and see the problems this was going to cause.  BIG mistake.)
I am NOT a coffee drinker and have only in the past couple years periodically enjoy having a Tim's latte or Starbucks macchiato.  It really helps keep me perky while we are travelling, and I knew I could use a bit of help today.
Check in at 7:30 with the pre race meeting at 8:15.  Lots of energy and laughing.  It seemed everyone knew each other.  I have heard the ultra community is pretty tight and it was obvious.  We ran into a couple people we knew from our winter ultra activities.
The morning was partly cloudy and around 8 C with a bit of wind.  It felt cool to me.  I don't think I have every started an event where I haven't been cold.  It was nice to get running.

Oxbow_50K_Course_Map_2018_2
The beauty of this event in my opinion is that it was broken into 6- 5 mile sections in an almost completely looped course.  There was an aid station at each of the approximate 5 mile intervals.  The first 5 miles was an out and back but the rest was a big loop.  I like loops a lot, new stuff all the time.  We stayed about in the middle of the pack of the 88 runners.  Advice from a long time ultra runner was to walk the uphills and run the downhills- stay steady.  I was pretty gungho and ran maybe more uphills than I should have and a few times Terry (roaring runner) needed to tell me to slow things down.  I was excited and having fun. 

The first thing to interrupt my fun was the edema that started in my hands.  This happened within the first few miles.  It is so difficult for me to tell if the water retention is from too much/not enough water or too much/not enough electrolytes.  I ate a pickle at the first aid station and hoped it would help.  I used F2C glycodurance in my hydrapack and sipped periodically to keep my fluids and electrolytes up.  I also know that edema can happen with changes in temperature and I was pretty cold when I started and quickly warmed up as the sun came out and the course made me sweat.

The course itself was very deceiving in terms of difficulty.  There were no big hills, no brags of huge elevation gain but was difficult none-the-less with the constant rolling hills.  Flat sections were rare; it was always up or down.  There was various types of vegetation and trees but not many shaded areas.

In the second section, we met some new runner and visited, which made time pass by.  Aid station 2 was stocked with chips, sugary candies, chocolate bars, pickles, coke, water and NUUN.   I refilled the bladder in my hydrapack with NUUN, grabbed a piece of a kitkat and hit the trail.  I carried Generation UCAN bars with me and I had eaten parts of it along the way so I finished it off.

Issue 2 came not long after departing from the aid station in the form of a complaining right hip.  My pelvis doesn't seem to stay in correct alignment so the fundamentals of my hip/knee/ ankle are all affected.  I get a lot of pain in my hip/butt/lower back area then my knee starts to lock up and become very painful.  I hoped 2 advil would at mitigate the pain. 

Aid station 3 had water only.  We basically just said hi, thanks and kept going.

Issue 3 came very swiftly soon after.  It was like everything was good then bang it wasn't. I was planning to run today; not have the "runs".  Enter morning coffee.  I will spare the details but it was relentless, exhausting and painful.  7 stops I think I counted.   My stomach never settled for the rest of the run and my nutrition/water intake was very minimal.

I was on my own for a big part of the 5 miles between aid station 3 and 4 as when I stopped the first time to find a bush, I told Terry to keep going I would catch up.  I thought it would be finished and done.  Insert witch cackle.

The steepest hill was between aid stations 3 and 4.  A few trickles of water, lots of trees, birds singing.  I tried to focus on the beauty and not on my suffering.  A sign showed the aid station 500 m away and my spirits lifted only to find another sign 500 m later that said "Not even close".  Oh the humour of seasoned running volunteers!

Aid station 4 was a welcomed sight.  2 of the volunteers (Todd and Scott) asked right away how I was doing and what I needed.  I said my stomach was really sick and I immediately had a can of coke in my hand.  I was a bit nervous about this because I am also not a pop drinker and I feared the wrath of the coffee and pop would put me over the edge.  Todd assured me it would be fine, asked if I was sweating and if I was peeing.  My pack was taken off my back and filled with NUUN and I was given stern instructions to try to keep drinking.  It was very comforting to be in the volunteer hands of those with tons of experience.  It was evident they knew how to crew for a runner.  Thanks so much Todd! 

Terry was waiting for me at the aid station so from that point on he stuck with me.  I noticed right after leaving the aid station and having drank the coke, I had more energy and was able to run more.  This seemed to wear off after a mile or two and it was back to the run/walk thing.  It was pretty sunny and warm (+18 C), light wind which was so nice to keep us cool.  A perfect running day.  If only I could have enjoyed it more and been sick less.  I kept trying to drink and did feel really thirsty but my stomach would revolt so it was a real balancing act.  Evidence of my lack of fluid intake came from a immobilizing calf cramp that happened when I stopped to tie my shoe.  The yelling/howling/screaming charlie horse kind of cramp that needs to rubbed out and renders you useless until it is.  Oh the fun just keeps coming.

Aid station 5 I drank a few sips of coke and was given a handful of chips from the volunteers to eat.  I managed to eat a couple.  I was overjoyed to find a real outhouse so I could actually sit and not hold myself up.  If you have never experienced the pleasure of trying to squat numerous times on legs that were very shaky, you haven't lived.  I have heard of the marathoner rule of not stopping to use the bathroom 1-2 miles before the end of a marathon and I know why.  I at least had the foresight to pack a small baggie with a squirt of chamois cream and it literally saved me a whole lot of agony as the chafing from the highly acidic diarrhea was now adding to the day's list.

I have also read about how the final few miles seems like they are twice as long as the first few miles and it does seem true.  It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere still even with 1/2 mile to go.  A winter ultra friend,  Pete, came riding up along side us.  I think he was riding his bike, sweeping the course to check on everyone.  He said I looked as fresh as a daisy.  Flat out lying like that can't be bad right?

I was very thankful to see him as I was starting to wonder if we missed a turn.  The thought of getting lost and needed to go farther than necessary would have sent me into a full out fit.  Thankfully Terry was spared my tears as we were indeed on the right path.  We climbed up a decent hill and all of a sudden there it was; the people cheering, the finish line waiting, the end in sight.  Oh my.  I survived.

Brandon Search and Rescue was at the finish to assist any racer who might need medical assistance.  I have participated in a ton of events and I have to say this is the first time I considered that I may need medical help.  I felt very unwell.  People like me must have "I am in pain" written on our foreheads as they asked me how I was doing immediately when I finished.  And it seemed that at every aid station, the volunteers came to me very quickly to assist.  I guess suffering has a look of its own.
Our vehicle was very close and I wanted to sit down and reassess.  ( a big perk for this event is parking right beside the start/finish)  I said I would return if necessary.  I spread my towel on the ground and attempted to lay down on it.  A video of this event would certainly have made it to the top of the funniest video list.  I may have even become a youtube sensation.  Especially if it included me removing my shoes, socks and calf sleeves while lying down and then getting calf cramps once again in both calves at the same time.  Should have just cut the calf sleeves off.  Clearly had some swelling in my legs as the sleeves were really difficult to remove without pointing my toes.  If it didn't hurt so much it would have been truly funny.

A towel and water to wash my dirty, salty face felt heavenly.  Flip flops on, shirt change, some water and we headed to the food truck Extreme Fries, to receive our complimentary meal.  Hamburger, fries and a drink.  I drank some 7-up but could not eat.  Nor could I eat the ice cream at Dairy Queen we stopped for an hour later.  A few rice crackers given to me by a friend was all.

Interesting enough, my stomach remained unsettled for 2 more days.  Very little eating and still loose stools.  This greatly impacted my recovery process.  I was unbearably sore for 2 days and it still took 2 more days to really get back on my feet.

SO, my first experience in the ultra world was interesting.

1 week post run and my stomach is kinda back on track, my hip/knee is still acting up, I have 2 black toenails, I am somewhat caught up on sleep, my confidence is in the tank.

I have another 50 km in less than 2 weeks and I am not sure yet what is going to happen.

My conclusions:
-my diet up until the event was good, whole foods, chicken, salmon, stayed away from fiber foods 2 days prior
-stay away from coffee race day
-eating and consuming proteins after an event greatly impact recovery: bring protein shakes next time
-I ran in shorts, tshirt, calf sleeves, arm warmers -arm warmers came off after 2 miles so next time leave behind, calf sleeves felt very tight with swelling legs and I am not sure I liked that much so still on the fence about it for next time
-mix the F2C glycodurance with nuun tablets to get more electrolytes
-carry salt tablets
-always carry minimum 4 advil  as well as tums
-this was without a doubt the worst I have ever felt to date during any endurance event and the worst recovery I have ever had.  My stomach took days to settle and it made me see how very important eating properly after long bouts of exercise HELP recovery soo much.

So just to answer the question you are thinking:  If it was so bad, why didn't I quit?  Answer: during the prerace meeting, the RD explained that any racers who pulled from the event could do so at any aid station but they would need to wait perhaps quite a long time to get picked up or they would return to the finish area when that aid station closed up.  I figured that I was more than 1/2 way when I was feeling really bad so it would be easier to keep going than sit at an aid station for who knows how long also feeling really bad.

My thoughts on the event:
-though I had a crappy run (hahaha) the course was very nice.  I never felt like I knew where I was and with so many turns, I was mixed up about what direction I was going in but the changes made the miles go by.
-Race organizer Joel Toews, did an awesome job with everything.  Good aid stations, shirt and patch at the finish area.  It was an awesome event.
-the weather was pretty much run perfect.  Beginning of May with nice warm temperatures but this area even a month later could be very warm.








 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Tuscobia 160 Winter Ultra

Sunday, Dec. 30 at 8:35 am after 26 hours and 35 min, we rolled into the finish of Tuscobia 160 mile Winter Ultra.



This was a tough ride.  Sometimes I still need to look at the finish line picture to remind myself it wasn't a dream; that I really did complete it.

The course was an out and back that left Rice Lake Wisconsin at 6 am with 3 checkpoints.  Ojibwa was at mile 45, Park Falls (the half way turn around) at mile 80, then back to Ojibwa for 115 miles to the finish at Rice Lake.  Lots of riding before any checkpoint.


Tuscobia live tracker showed the following info;
Rice Lake   Ojibwa in  out      Park Falls in  out     Ojibwa in  out      Rice Lake
6:00             12:07     12:31       17:15      18:13         23:26   00:14    8:35

Basically 6 hour ride the first 45 miles to the checkpoint 1.  30 min to dry the neckwarmer/jacket/change chemical warmers in boots/eat.  4 hours 45 min for the next 35 miles to the half way point with an hour there to eat/change clothes.  5 hours to cover the 35 miles back to Ojibwa where I spent 45 min.changing/fueling up.  Then 8 hours to cover the 45 miles back to the finish.  Though there was no designated checkpoint between Ojibwa and Rice Lake, a volunteer organization at the community of Birchwood (15 miles from the finish at Rice Lake) had a tent set up with cookies and hot beverages through the night and we stopped there for 45 min.

The long distances between the checkpoints was the most mentally challenging thing for me.  Especially once I was at checkpoint 3 and needed to get my head around another 45 miles to the finish when I was already tired.

Start time Saturday morning was at 6:00.  It was dark, a pleasant -15 C but very slippery/icy.  There was very little snow in the area.  It had rained Thursday with a sprinkle of snow in the evening.  The 160 mile runners left Friday morning and reports were that the trail was slush.  Temperatures were to drop from Friday to Saturday so all the slush and rain was going to be ice and ruts.  And indeed it was.  I fell within a couple miles after starting which only heightened my nervousness.  The bikers with studded tires would have a big advantage. I would take another spill 10 miles down the trail.
 
The first 15 ish miles had lots of hills, exposed rocks and uneven trail.  The community of Birchwood was at the end of this section where some riders stopped at one of the 2 gas stations for coffee or food.
The next 15 ish miles was nice trail.  Net downhill, away from the main roads through forest.
The trail then got tough until the checkpoint.  It appeared that a truck had drove down the trail while it was wet so there were 2 narrow ruts about 4-6 inches deep that took all the concentration I had to keep the bike upright in the rut.  Outside the rut was soft snow so it was certainly easier to be on the packed rut trail but took a lot of straight arm handling.


Ojibwa was an tarp enclosed outdoor cookhouse.  It was warm and cozy with tables and smiling volunteers ready to bring up some ramen soup or a hot beverage.  I took off my jacket, vest, neckwarmer and toque and hung them all on the line by the fire to dry out.  They weren't really wet just a bit damp.  Soup was delicious followed by a few cookies.  I put fresh chemical warmers in my boots but otherwise didn't change anything.
The trail from the Ojibwa checkpoint on for about 10-15 miles was perfect.  Packed, wide, pretty smooth for easy riding.  This was followed up with 15 miles of very soft trail with unpacked snow. Lots of traffic through this part as we met the 80 mile bikers and runners that started at Park Falls that morning and were heading to Rice Lake.  The final 5-8 miles until Park Falls had a good packed trail.  It was getting dark and we were anxious to get there.  Up until this point, any time we needed to eat or drink we stopped as trail conditions did not make eating/drinking on the go very conducive without taking a spill.  So as we approached Park Falls, I couldn't stop thinking of all the food I was going to consume.  I was so hungry!!




Chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese and hot chocolate was served to us at the Gastro Pub by amazing volunteers.  I scarfed down a donut before starting my main course.  And I don't even like donuts.  We filled our faces and met new people and visited around the table.  It was so nice to see a couple familiar faces and receive some encouragement from them.  Thanks Scott and Sue!
After eating, we grabbed our drop bags and went upstairs to use the bathroom and change clothes.  I had a full change except for my bike shorts.  A mistake to not have fresh shorts as chaffing and blisters were already formed on my inner thighs/ butt area.  I covered them with bandaids and hoped it wouldn't get much worse.  My clothing choices seemed really good up until this point as I thought I wasn't really wet or sweaty.  Slightly damp shorts would have contributed to the chaffing but unfortunately there were more players in the game.
After leaving Park Falls with a temperature of -12 C, we stopped a couple miles down the trail so I could remove a top layer and another biker caught up to us, stopped also and asked if he could tag along with us.  Introductions were made and the 3 of us stuck together until the finish. One of the best parts of doing events like this is meeting up and riding with other people.  It was really hard to converse while riding single file added to the noise of the bikes but we stopped frequently (20 min) to get a drink or pee or eat something.  At times, we walked/ran our bikes to chase away the sleepies.  The soft part of the trail was much more driveable now after being packed through the day.  We reached the well lit Ojibwa checkpoint at midnight to volunteers flipping pancakes, a warm fire and a packed tent.  Us 160 mile bikers had caught up to some of the 160 mile runners.  Lots of tired, happy people.  The outdoor biffy was cold on the butt and I knew I needed to increase my fluids.  I had only used the washroom at the checkpoints and no where along the trail.
Though we were 3/4 of the way, I was so overwhelmed by the distance yet to the finish.  Something was wrong with my bike set up (though I had changed nothing from what worked in the past) however a sore back had plagued me since around mile 30 and I knew my seat chaffing was due to me trying to sit more comfortably on the saddle to alleviate my sore back.  My right hip and knee were now both complaining very loudly and the thought of needing to withstand the constant pain for another 7 -8 hours seemed inconceivable.  I took a few walking breaks along the way as walking seemed to reset the hip and it wouldn't hurt for awhile again.  I also took a couple rest breaks.  I'm sure Mark (the rider with us) thought I was crazy but I just stopped, plopped my bike down and laid down on the trail with my eyes closed for a couple minutes.  Secretly, I think both Mark and my husband were feeling as tired as me, they just didn't admit it.  I am not as comfortable following especially in the dark.  I like to see everything and like a bright front light.  So the gentlemen with me obliged and let me lead for a lot of the 80 mile return trip.  I think it is harder on the eyes being in front, paying close attention to the trail, finding the right place to drive and watching for the ice spots but I was happy to be able to see more. 
The good part about the return trip from Ojibwa to Rice Lake was the trail was in better shape than it had been on the outgoing trip.  More packed down, evened out.  But the ruts weren't nearly so bad.  At times I thought I was hallucinating, not sure what I was seeing ahead on the trail then all of a sudden a runner pulling a sled was there.  Thank goodness for the blinking red lights.

Reaching Birchwood was a monumental feat of victory.  The trail was slippery and though we had kept a decent pace up until this point, I was slowing down and the boys behind me weren't yelling at me to pick it up so I knew they must have been tired too.  The tent had a heater, homemade cookies and warm broth!  I was abruptly overtaken by spells of shivering to find after taking off my jacket that my 2 shirts were soaking wet.  I took one off and put on my puffy coat.  Socks were soaked too.  Also put on my down mitts and sat by the heater downing cup after cup of broth.  We were in no hurry to leave, enjoying the conversation with the few others there, resting and preparing for the final 15 miles that sounds like not much but in reality was still probably close to 3 hours of riding.

If possible, this section of trail that was hard going out seemed much worse heading back.  Very rough, so slippery, uneven and tons of hills. I worked hard to turn my mind off and concentrate only on a mile at a time.  Keep moving forward.
The final 4 miles was the only section not on the Tuscobia trail system but utilized local trails.  It seemed like it kept going on and on.  I have so often heard how the final few miles before a checkpoint or the finish seem considerably longer in mind than they are in actuality and it is true.


All of a sudden, I could see the parking lot where our vehicle was and I knew the hall was just in front of us.  Mark's wife was outside by the finish cheering for us and lining us up to take pictures.  It appears I didn't even have the thinking ability or the energy to turn my headlight off and take my goggles off.



 We were greeted and congratulated inside the hall by Helen, the race director as well as other volunteers and fellow competitors.  And it was over, just like that.

I was so thirsty and drank cup after cup of water.  We changed our clothes, unpacked our bikes and loaded everything up.

McDonald's pancakes were calling our name.

photo credit http://www.gregorytphotography.pixieset.com/
 and T.Schnorr


Many thanks to the race directors Chris and Helen for a superbly organized event.  Doesn't get much more personal than when a race director (Chris) comes past us on a snow machine at 4 am letting us know the Birchwood tent was 3 miles away.  Or when Chris and Helen make special arrangements for us to pick up our drop bags.  Many thanks.
Also so much appreciation to the many volunteers that gave up their day and night to help us achieve our dream of completing Tuscobia 160.
Thanks to the communities of Rice Lake, Birchwood and Park Falls for your support of this event.  And a special thanks to the other racers- your "hello" and "good job" as we passed in the darkest hours of the night and conversations at the checkpoints were a constant encouragement.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Epic East Gate Ultra


The final couple miles of an ultra I'm told are the longest.  The trees and forest surrounded me and seemed without end.  It was hard to imagine that somewhere soon my eyes would view the open prairie and I would run through the East Gate to the finish line just beyond.




The day began at 6 am to the singing of birds and the smell of open air.  There is such a peacefulness to camping and even the excitement and preparation for the day couldn't mare that.   Our arrival at Riding Mountain National Park the night before was late and we got the camper set up quickly with the help of a million mosquitoes.  The campground was very quiet and we slept well.

Quick shower, prepared my nutrition of NUUN with F2C glycodurance in my hydrapack.  A couple UCAN bars packed along with the other necessities- kleenex, bandaids, lip balm, advil, tum.  Breakfast was oatmeal and later an Ensure drink and some UCAN drink. We were on the road before 7 for the 45 min ish drive to the East Gate entrance.

Just parked and walking to East Gate entrance.

 Thick, morning fog impeded our drive but we had glimpses of the rolling hills, farm land and dense forest as we made our way around the south part of Riding Mountain toward the east gate.  We arrived with time to register, use the washroom and attend the race meeting before the start of the day's events.  The 50 km event start time was 8:30 and the 25 km event at 10:30.



Terry and I, Sue and Manon.


All runners were herded out of the park (toward our vehicles parked on the road) so we could run through the East Gate as our official start.

Race start


And we are off!  Terry is bringing up the rear with a wave.

The first 30-45 min was all uphill.  Serious, constant climbing.  Morning temperature was 12 C and the heavy fog/high humidity was keeping things from heating up too much, it was the perfect temperature for running.

It was also the perfect recipe for some heavy sweating.  My clohes and hair was soaked very quickly and I was hoping the liberal amount of anti-chaffing cream I applied this morning would work its magic until I was done. Others around me were commenting on how hard it was to keep their eyes clear from the steady stream of sweat pouring down their faces.  Thankfully, the hard effort of constant climbing was mostly walked.  I was sweating like crazy but not overheating.
The trail took us to a gravel road with outdoor/seasonal bathrooms.  Racers slowly started to spread out a bit now.  Most of us were all packed together on the single track trail up until this point but now had more space.  We ran along the road for about 15 min before heading onto a trail once again.  Aid Station A came soon after.
Aid Staion A


I filled up my hydrapack with NUUN and ate a couple amazing power balls.  They were soft, oozing with peanut butter and tasted fabulous.  There were also perogies (both balls and perogies were homemade by the race director's mom) as well as the usual stuff; coke, pickles, chips, candies, bars.
I was running with 2 ultra friends from another community and hubby ran with us sometimes, ahead of us at others or sometimes behind.  This part of the course seemed easier; double track, lots of talking and laughing and not as technical for awhile gave a break on concentrating on our feet and the ground.


The course was like a figure 8.  Start was at the bottom, with the first section going left and up and around to aid station A, from A heading straight down the middle to aid station B then to the right and around and up back to A then back down the middle to B and 3-4 miles out to the finish.  The middle part had 2 out and backs on it. So generally, the first section until aid station A was increasing in elevation, from A to B aid stations felt like running on an escarpment that was an elevation loss.  Aid station B back up to A was elevation gain and then back downhill.



The first out and back was more spectacular than I have words to describe.  Lots of elevation change in a very short distance but so amazing.   I have lived in Manitoba for a long time and had no idea there were views like this!  There was a hole punch/stamper that we needed to punch on our bibs so we didn't just run to the lookout but all the way along a very small escarpment to the edge.  I was very pumped and excited.  It was running on the edge of a mountain what's not to like?




   
The second half of the middle part was single track down hill and decently technical meaning I needed to pick up my feet or I would end up on my face.  Aid station B was a welcome sight with the same goodies as at the other aid station.  I satisfied my hunger with a couple more energy balls and refilled my hydration once again.
Sue and Manon doing a great job setting the pace.

The next section after leaving the aid station was uphill.  A lot of uphill.  There was some rocks jumping through a small stream.  A group of us (5) helped each other get across with only 1 booter.  This section I found the hardest.  It was warmer temperature wise and the uphill climbing was relentless.  The spring water runoff had carved trenches into the path so footing was tricky in spots.  You could never get into a rhythm.

Once we reached the top and headed left toward the aid station, it was flat and double track once again.  We were still in the bush but there were more open areas, some swampy spots and hotter as now the cloud cover we were lucky to have had up until this point was gone.



From aid station A, there was a short 3km out and back so we left our hydrapacks and ran naked.  Well, not quite naked but we sure felt lighter without our packs.  It was just Manon and I running together now but 2 other runners started the out and back same time as us and making new friends and chatting made the 3 kms fly by.

Hydrapack filled up once again back at the aid station along with a couple more balls and a pickle.  I put ice in my hydrapack and drinking cold NUUN for the next 45 min was heavenly.
This was the last section before the aid station B and from there, the homestretch to the finish.  It felt as though we were running this section faster than the previous time.  There was a few of us running together off and on and again, meeting and talking with new people makes the miles go by.  I could tell I was getting tired though.  My feet were hitting roots and stones more often now.
Manon's daughter was at the aid station and they shared a hug but it was a quick in and out.

The final stretch.  So exciting but very challenging mentally.  More stumbling and tripping.  Caught myself twice from falling.  Manon not so lucky.  The single track gave way to a more groomed trail with boardwalk paths, bridges and plant identification signs.  A runner behind us pointed out the poison ivy along the trail which kept me busy trying to avoid it.  She gave us instruction to not touch our legs and feet until washing off well.
And suddenly, the trees gave way to a road.  We cheered in excitement which was very premature as it was back onto the trail 30 seconds later.  Then all at once, back onto a gravel road.

If you have ran road races, the finish line is so visible.  You can see it, hear it from quite a distance away.  Not so in trail running.  It literally feels like I am in the middle of nowhere, no civilization, no finish line, nothing.

All we could see is a 1/2 to 1 mile of gravel road with a stop sign in the distance.  No finish line no indication that we were anywhere close to the end.  I felt myself somehow slipping into an emotional state where tears were threatening.  I wanted to walk, maybe have a fit or melt down,  but Manon said in her stern teacher voice, "let's go" and she wouldn't slow down or stop.  I knew she was in some discomfort as she mentioned she has back/hip troubles and I also knew she got a good jolt when she tripped.  So, I told myself to suck it up and stop being such a crybaby.  I wasn't really hurting, just tired. With new determination, I picked up my feet and picked up the pace. 

And then there it was.  The East Gate we ran through to start was right before me now again to finish.  One of the race directors (Clayton) was standing there cheering, gave a high five as I crossed the line and told me I was epic!  I was given a great looking trucker hat as well as a special finisher item for completing the Manitoba double of 2- 50 kms in May.



My husband was also there with the go pro recording my "epic" finish.  As usual, I got pretty wobbly when I stopped running so I was weaving in and out, walking for a couple minutes then plopped myself on the ground to lay down.
A cold bottle of water went down really quickly and I was anxious to go to the truck to get my shoes and socks off and drink my cold recovery shake.  A hamburger (included in the race fee) was devoured soon after.

Overall, this was an amazing event.  The terrain, views, aid station nutrition, volunteers, organization was the best.  Big thanks to Kevin and Clayton and the Hound Sports Services team for a great run.  You can find the events they organize here.

I was worried leading up to this event.  The Oxbow 50, 3 weeks ago was a nightmare for me personally and I couldn't shake my fear of the same thing happening again.  I was very adamant to do everything I could to set myself up for a better outcome.

What I did:
-a couple days after the Oxbow 50 I went to a ART specialist (Active Recovery Technique) who found that my right pelvis was rotated in and down 1 1/2 inches.  He also found significant posterior displacement of the tibia.  This accounted for the incredible pain and locking of the right hip/leg.  The beauty of the active muscle release is that as you move the body part through the range in motion, pressure placed in specific areas releases the muscle which then allows the body to regain its correct alignment.  The pressure was applied on the muscle was in 5 different locations and it wasn't painful but was uncomfortable in certain spots.  The pain in the hip ceased immediately and no longer did it hurt my knee walking down stairs.  A repeat appointment 10 days later found the pelvis in the normal spot and the knee once again a bit displaced but much better than the prior appointment.  I highly recommend ART treatment.  This was the best thing I did.
-a physiotherapist applied K tape to the IT band and knee to give it more support while running
- I kept my nutrition very simple the day before and the morning of.  No coffee this time and more liquid calories (Ensure or Boost)
-used more NUUN in my water to boost the electrolyte concentration (as opposed to taking in salt tablets which I have never tried) as I wonder if I sweat salty
-worked really hard to drink more while running.  I wanted to have my hydrapack close to empty by each aid station.

What actually happened during the race:
-very little hip/knee pain (the only time it hurt was after a lot of constant uphills where the calves worked hard and then immediate downhill sections)
-I did take advil 1 time when my knee started to hurt as mentioned above.  This was around 13 miles in.  I know advil is dehydrating so I wanted to avoid taking this if possible.
-the powerballs were very well liked by my stomach.  I am trying to get the recipe.  They were soft and would be hard to carry along in a pack but if I get the recipe, you can bet I will find a way to carry them.  I needed to eat more.  I have to work on this.
-being able to eat and drink after the event made a world of difference.  I use the F2C vanilla recovery powder.  Mix it with ice and water in a big shaker and I love it.  Hubby loves the chocolate flavour so I mix one for each of us after any long race or training session.

Air Relax Recovery Boots on in the camper

Replenishing electrolytes and figured to top up our calcium levels as well.

Recovery ride on the fat bikes the next morning beside Clear Lake

A great way to end a fabulous weekend at the White House.

 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Actif Epica 200 km

The first checkpoint at Ridgeville was at mile 23.  I was at mile 15, sprawled out on the gravel road after a fall on an icy patch, shaken, bleeding a bit, and in a full-on suffer fest with a mental battle that was threatening to overtake me.  I was in a bad place and was not expecting nor prepared to be at this spot so early in the day.

It was unthinkable to consider quitting but utterly overwhelming to imagine suffering for another 100 miles.


The alarm went off at 3:30 am but I was ready for it.  I saw every hour since crawling into bed at 9:30 pm the night before.  I just couldn't shut my brain off.  The next 45 min were spent mixing up the liquid calories (F2C glycodurance) that was going into my hydrapak, getting myself dressed and putting the final gear into a bag that was coming along with me (garmin, bike lights, extra nutrition, extra mitts).
A 10 min walk to the bus pickup and we encountered... no bus.  There were a bunch of vehicles in the parking lot with participants who were being dropped off, those who were leaving their vehicles there for the day and others like us who had a short walk from a hotel.
Long story short, the race directors were unable to make contact with the transport company to find where the bus was and it was evident that by 5 am, it wasn't coming so they made arrangements to transport us to either St Malo or Emerson (depending on which distance you were doing) by vehicle.

The bus was to leave Winnipeg by 4:45, arrive in Emerson by 6:15 and the event would start at 7:00.  I planned to eat my overnight oats and hopefully catch a few minutes of sleep on the bus.  With 3 of us in the backseat of a vehicle, making small talk about events, bikes, nutrition and gear, sleep was not a possibility.  I did eat a bit though. 

Our arrival at Emerson was then very rushed.  It seemed to me that we were the last to arrive and most of the others were almost ready and anxious to get going.  Rushing is not ideal.  Bathroom, final bike preparations, checked the air pressure, moved nutrition around.  With all the changes, sitting, then rushing, I was feeling a bit harried but was thankful the start was only mildly delayed.

We officially set off at 7:20 after a group photo of the 14 of us taking on the 200 km route. Temperature was around -16 C.  We were instructed to stay close together for the first few miles.



 Soon after, the sun crept over the horizon in breath taking fashion.  Though the distance and the length of this journey was a bit intimidating, I was committed to enjoying every moment and I knew this amazing scene of the shining sun dancing on the stark white landscape would be etched in my memory.  And I was very thankful I could have an adventure like this with my husband right beside me.


 Riding right on the international border between our great country and that of our neighbour was surreal.  It was a 8 mile ride and it was nice to able to ride as the minimal snow combined with the strong winds that Manitoba had experienced for a couple weeks prior to this day made for very hard drift that were ride-able.  Very jarring but no pushing.  In hindsight, I probably should have let some air out of my tires and it may have made the ride smoother and easier.

The first 20 miles were basically riding hard drifts or pushing and it took around 3 1/2 hours.
Ridgeville check point was at a small cafe in the very small town of Ridgeville with very nice people who offered drinks or food and any other assistance.  I was planning only to fill my hydrapak but upon taking off my jacket to get to my pack, I saw my shirt was soaked and decided to grab extra shirt #1 from my bike to change.  I ate part of my cinnamon bun and a banana and 15-20 min after arriving, we left.

The fall I had was like the straw that broke the camel's back.  Everything just added up.  I kept telling myself that I knew I needed to eat and I would only look to getting to the first check point so I could get some food in me.  I was discouraged.  The ride so far seemed much harder than I expected and my legs were sore already.  While the stop didn't fix everything, it helped.  I wasn't great but I was better.
I'm not certain why I hit the bottom so quickly.  A crash and burn is expected but all my experience up until this point,  falling into the hole has happened at a much later point.

15 mile to checkpoint 2 Senkiw.  That was all I was going to think about.  Looking at the cue sheets, it seemed this would be a nice leg and I was very excited to see the swinging bridge.  The cue sheets show only around 4 miles that are not on gravel.  Looking at this even now, I am still stumped because this leg was anything but easy.  I was told by a fellow rider behind me that he thought this was the toughest leg. Though the pushing seemed to go on forever, the scenery was beautiful along the river and the sun was bright and warm. 

We were greeted at the Senkiw checkpoint by a couple cheerful ladies who offered us a hot drink from their tent.  We declined and continued to the bridge.  It was interesting getting my bike up the few steep steps under the guide wire to get on the bridge.  The bridge did indeed swing and it was better than I imagined.




There was another mile of pushing then gravel roads.  A few more clouds now, a beautiful temperature of  -9 C but a strong NW wind that came as a surprise to us.  I was sweated up again from so much pushing and was now getting cold.

Check point 2 Senkiw to St. Malo, checkpoint 3 was 11 miles.  We decided that though we probably had wet gear, we didn't want to stop for anything more than a bathroom break and a hot drink.  The offer of hot chocolate sounded so nice and I asked if it could have a bit of coffee with it.  I am not a coffee drinker but I thought it would help to have some.  I had been drinking water with Nuun energy and it works very well for me.  No big energy surges or crashes and no jitters.

There was a feeling of relief arriving at St Malo.  This is the start of the 125 km distance, which is what we did last year.  There is some comfort in the familiar.

St Malo to checkpoint 4 at St Pierre Jolys was 18 miles; one of the longer legs.  We predicted we would be there around 5:30-6 so it was the perfect time to change, eat a warm meal and get ourselves and bikes ready for the remaining ride in the dark.

This leg has an amazing beginning as you ride across a lake beside the town.  Last year, the ride was rough as the lake surface was deeply rutted from the warm temperatures and lots of traffic.  This year, there were vehicles, snow machines, ice fishing huts and quads all over the lake and the path was smooth like a highway.

There is a mixture of gravel roads, a bit of highway and trails on this leg.  Last year, there was a bit of pushing across a field and along a trail.  To our surprise, we were able to ride pretty much the entire way.  Some slower spots but minimal walking.  We picked up our pace as much as we could- both of us starting to get pretty cold.

I have a love/hate relationship with pushing the bike.  Pushing is much slower, usually tougher going and hard on the back, legs and shoulders.  But, pushing warms up the feet and butt when constant riding will get them colder faster and it is a nice change to sitting.

Arriving at St Pierre Jolys was a welcomed sight.  My feet were cold and I was hungry.  We were treated like royalty by the ladies there.  They were very happy to see us, congratulated us on making it this far and set about to help us with anything we needed.  We plugged our garmins and lights into a wall outlet first, got our boots and socks off, changed into dry clothes, reorganized our bikes getting the wet things packed into the back bags, bringing fresh stuff to easier access.  A couple ladies were getting us split pea soup with homemade bannock, another used a blow dryer to try warming/drying my boots.  (they are supposed to be waterproof but my outer layer of socks were slightly damp so I assumed with all the pushing and walking through the snow, some moisture got through)  We were also approached by the medic who checked how we were doing and she cleaned my hand and knee scrapes and bandaged them up. We didn't rush like crazy but didn't dawdle either.  They told us we were #5 and 6 to check in which was a total surprise for us as we thought we would have been at the back of the pack.

I had a moment of "oh my there is still so far to go" as I knew at this checkpoint we were at mile 67, only half way there, but those thought were quickly extinguished.  I had hit the bottom, slowly crawled out of the hole and could feel myself getting stronger.  My legs no longer hurt, my energy was good and I wasn't the least bit tired.

I sent a quick text to our kids to let them know we were doing fine and out we went 40 min after arriving.


The next checkpoint at Crystal Springs was 10 miles away on almost all gravel.  We arrived to ribs still warm from the barbeque and a friendly welcome.  Used the bathroom and back on the road.

Checkpoint 6 Niverville was 11 miles away but we were very reluctant to assume it would be easy or  fast to get to based on the experience we had last year.  There is a very long stretch of pushing followed by the dreaded Crown Valley Road that consisted of the worst Manitoba mud/clay/goop you can imagine.  It was beyond anything I've every experienced.  I knew it wouldn't be muddy but wasn't confident it would be ride-able.  The field was rough with drifts but we rode the entire way and the Crown Road was just like any other gravel road.  Wow!

The only problem we now had was Terry's garmin stopped working and my light was already needing a charge.  The only navigation we now had was the cue sheets and the blue signs marking the path (if you could see them).  Fortunately, this happened only a couple miles from Niverville and we easily found our way to the arena.  We were not planning a long stop but plans changed.  It was a mistake to only load the maps on 1 garmin.  Next time, both will have them. 

This check in point was manned by men with lots of tools, helpful advice, great stories  (the pictures of Dallas's frostbitten toes being an exception) and perogies.  Garmin and light plugged in.  I removed my boots for a sock change as my feet were getting cold again.  Thanks to a couple gentlemen (Lindsay and Dallas) for fixing my front bag up for me as it was rubbing on the front tire as a strap had come off.  I mixed up my final bag of glycodurance in my camelback water bottle 1/2 full of warm water and drank it all while there.  Also enjoyed a couple perogies (who could resist) as well as a cup of soup.  Terry's garmin wasn't charging, seemed to be a problem with the connection.  A couple more riders came in a bit after us.  They weren't staying long and we decided to ride together to check point 7 at St Adolphe.

There was still some wind and it help with everyone taking turns in the front (except me for some reason) but I was very thankful the wind was much quieter than it had been in the afternoon.  The temperature was around -17C and the 8 miles to St Adolphe went pretty quickly.  A quick in and out stop, grabbing a drink and a GORP bar.  Terry tried again to get some charge in his garmin.  We were ready to leave and the other 2 riders decided to stay for awhile.  We had to decide if we wanted to go by cue sheets or wait.  Within the minute, 2 other riders (Pete and Tom) walked in and they were just checking in and leaving so off we went with them.

There was excitement knowing we were heading to the final checkpoint before the finish but also a sense of dread as it is a long 18 mile ride and the unknown conditions of the floodway could easily extend the time (estimated time 2- 2 1/2 hours in decent conditions) it would take to reach the U of M checkpoint.  Last year, the tough part was from Schapansky Road until the Floodway was crossed, a distance of about 6 miles.  It was a pushing, pole-holing in thigh deep snow experience.

Incredibly, this year, we walked almost nothing. We were met by some volunteers just before this section and then at the top of the Floodway, both offered assistance and hot chocolate.  It was also in this area that we caught up to some of the 100 mile runners. My heart ached and rejoiced with them.  They must have been so very weary.  The 100 mile on foot distance started at 10:00 pm Friday night and it was in the early morning of Sunday so those we were passing had been running for 28-29 hours already.
I had to stop once to change lights as my front light died but the spare was in my pogies so it took very little time and I was rolling again.

The next 7 miles until the U of M checkpoint was now in the outskirts of the city on sidewalks, trails or residential streets. I was truly chilled to the bone and was worried about my right foot.  I made a list of all the things I was thankful for from the last checkpoint until this one.  Was very happy to ride with others and it was great that Pete knew the entire route by heart.

So glad to arrive at the U of M checkpoint.  I took my bike right into the foyer (as did the others) and sat right on the floor to get my boots off.  I put on my insulating jacket to warm up my core and while pulling it out of my front bag, found my half froze cinnamon bun.  Mmm, a delicious snack.

I was filled with excitement upon leaving the U of M.  9 miles and we would be done.  Just as we were leaving, 2 runners whom we met Friday night at the pre-race meeting, Andrew and Kelsey, came in.  They came to this event from New Brunswick and I was curious if it was what they expected.  Kelsey said the wind was unbelievable but they were doing good.  I wished them well.

Sidewalks, streets, cross a bridge, more streets and before we knew we were crossing the St Vital Bridge.  I wore my insulating layer under my jacket so I was toasty warm and truly enjoying the quietness of the city and the company of my riding companions.  We rode at a nice steady pace and for once, the miles seemed to fly by.  Upon crossing the St Vital Bridge, we had a steep bank to descend down to the river (I planned to walk but actually slid) then onto the river ice trail.  The river trail was so much longer than I expected it to be.  It was very peaceful.  I was cautious of the bare patches of ice, nothing like falling 10 min before the finish and breaking your arm or something stupid like that.

All of a sudden, there it was.

The Forks

On Friday, before bike check in, we rode down to the river and it was a very busy place.  People everywhere skating, walking and enjoying the outdoors and now here we were- not a soul to be found, lights twinkling, a train heard in the distance, the winter air crisp and my heart so glad.

We were there.  4:33 am, 21 hours after starting but we were there.


This was a big challenge.  It was tough in ways that are hard to describe.  Every big event has its own challenges.  There are the uncontrollable factors that change sometimes hourly in an event and no two years can you exactly predict what you will be facing that day.  It's not a case of if you will need to dig deep, it's a matter of when. 
I massively hit rock bottom very early in the day.  But an amazing thing happened; I forced myself to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed by looking at the end and in doing that, I slowly emerged from my deep canyon and got stronger and stronger with each passing mile.  I was very happy to reach the end but honestly could have kept going.  I had changed, gotten stronger, learned a lot and emerged from a tough challenge a better version of me.
When you dream big, there is always a chance you could fall.  It is a long way down and then a long climb back up again but taking the chance is always worth it.  Adventure is always worth it. 



Part 2: Gear and Lessons Learned coming soon