What a day, yesterday!
My whole life I have wanted to train for, one, a marathon (done), Ironman (currently) an Ultra marathon, and an Adventure Race. Sitting pregnant with our last child, I remember watching Eco-Challenge, and then Primal Quest, and having the desire in my heart to push my body beyond my comfort zone, and do an adventure race. Only, I never thought adventure racing would come knocking on my door the SAME year I am training for an Ironman Triathlon. That, in itself, a full time job.
I am never one to walk away from a challenge, or a fabulous opportunity, so when the call came to join team ASW for an adventure race in Montana in April, although I contemplated hard, for about 3 seconds, I knew I was in!!!
We started training together as a team, all the while I continue to train for Ironman in June. Eat, swim, eat, bike, eat, run, eat, sleep, repeat. Did I mention, eat? The training has taken me to a new level of discipline, determination, and athleticism. Hard, hilly trail running. Long, arduous, steep, muddy climbs on the mountain bike, hiking mountains, carrying my bike on my shoulders, navigation, and orienteering, and kayaking. Along with long road runs, miles of swimming each week, and 40-50 mile rides on my road bike (in one day) Which brings me to yesterday.
It was our first truly all day, long training. Eight hours. Usually our training is about 4-5 hours. We got up, had a good breakfast, and met up with the rest of the team at about 9am. We drove to our starting point, unloaded gear, food, kayak, helmets, trekking poles, shoes, and hydration. You name it, it was on our backs, which is where everything for your hours, days or weeks remains. Dave & I lost the bet with Greg and Jeni, and jumped into the kayak first. You will see later why this was a bad bet to lose. We kayaked the beautiful water of Lake Pend Orielle, to Buttonhook Bay, for about 2 miles, portaged the kayak up a hill, which is called "Big Nasty". That, I think, is a nice name for it. Needless to say, I had several other names for it by the end. We took the kayak up and down, and met the rest of our team. We then embarked on a 10-mile trail run, up, up, up the Highpoint Trail, to the Lake View Point (the view was worth the torture, believe me. As you can see above) and back down. Ruts, snow, mud, rocks, roots. My trekking poles, my new Inov-8 trail shoes, and legs were getting a great punishing! After the run, team #2 jumped into the kayak, and got the luxury of paddling back to the start, while team # 1 (this is where Dave & I lost the bet) had to run the 3-4 miles back to the start. Team #2, good leg rest, while paddling. Team # 1 kept pounding the trail. Back to the start, to meet some more friends, and fellow adventurers, change out of our gear, on to the bikes. Twenty-some miles of biking up Cape Horn. The uphill on the mountain bike was killing my legs. I started getting crampy, even though all day I had been sucking down Heed electrolyte drink. My teammate hooked me onto the tow on the bike, thank God. This is a slick system used by adventure racers in the biking and running to help along teammates who are tiring out. Stronger person tows from the front. So on the tow, I went, for a much needed rest on my legs. It’s amazing, while you are still climbing and working on the tow, it really allows you to save some energy. Only thing is it can start to get hard when you are on rugged, rocky, uphill, terrain. We were hitting some good slushy snow in the climb, and I was fairing quite well, and then BAM, tire comes out from under me into the slush. I didn’t have the time to clip out of my bike, and down I went into the hard-packed ice, rock, mud, and slush. Only then to be drug a few yards by my teammate. He felt awful. The rest of the biking, I was off tow with a bruised elbow, hip, and ego.
We stopped for a while to refuel, which was much needed. Some of us were getting hungry, and cranky…..ok me….and work on our navigation, and orienteering skills. This is something all new to me. Never done it. I was taught, handed a map, and was off to find the designated checkpoints. This went well, and I really needed the break off of the bike. Our teams all ran scattered around finding the various checkpoints. Six in all. We had some good laughs during this time. Every reading we were getting, we were off by several degrees, but we somehow managed to all find the checkpoint, and fall back together. We navigated back to our starting point, and back onto the bike. This time now, well after dark. Headlamps on, freezing cold, hungry. I have never ridden a mountain bike, or any bike for that matter, in the dark. Probably since I was a crazy kid. This was fun, a little scary, and very exhilarating. My inner-child soured, as we flew through the night, with the glow of our headlamps, back to base camp.
We were spent. Utterly used up. Bodies, sore, tight and aggravated. Hungry, cold, somewhat delirious, but totally excited, happy, and feeling like we had conquered a giant. I knew in that moment when we were standing, and congratulating one another on a job well done, and deciding what was for dinner (Ha-Ha) and how good the hot-tub was going to feel, that I was ready for my first adventure race!! Grizzlyman Montana, here we come!!!