So the race started with a bang. Literally. And off we went. Black Bear racers, which was the Sprint version of this race veered to the left and Grizzlyman to the right. We headed out behind the Paws Up Resort, which is where we started and finished. We headed straight into the woods, and started up and down a pretty nice trail. A little rock and muddy, but nothing too crazy. About 10 minutes in, I started to feel this tightness in my chest. I tried to just focus on watching the trail, enjoying the view a little, but it kept getting worse. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest, and squeezing my throat. I could not for the life of me, get a breath. I slowed down a bit, thinking maybe I wasn’t quite warmed up, and went out to fast. The asphyxiation grew worse, and all of a sudden I thought, “What am I doing? I cannot breathe, and there are 10 hours left of this race” I am out!” The thing that was hard was when you are racing with a partner, you can only have a distance between the two of you of 10 meters running, and 30 meters biking. So I had to keep slowing down and calling out to my race partner. Finally, I had to stop. Pulled off the trail and stopped. I called out to Dave, who pulled over, and I told him, I could not go on. I was going to have to stop my race right here. Finished. This made me almost cry. Dave and the others we raced with have done several adventure races, and qualified and went to Nationals in Texas last year. To let Dave down like this was killing me, but I could not take in any air. He stopped and VERY quickly (time is ticking) said, “No, you can do this!” He told me we would slow a bit, and it was probably the altitude that was making me feel so bad. But he said, “You have this!!” So off we went. I think it may have been altitude, mixed with my nerves of a new race, and the adrenaline that spiked in my body pre-race. After a couple of miles, I seem to calm down. We could not wear our Garmin’s, due to the GPS capability, so I had no idea what my heart rate was. Maybe that was a good thing. We kept going, and found our 1st checkpoint. That made me smile. Made me know I could keep going. We kept running, checking our maps for the next checkpoint, which was nowhere near the trail we were on. Up into the bushes and weeds we went to find the 2 nd one. After that I knew we had just a straight run to the river. Meaning, no stopping for checkpoints until we got to the riverbank. We took off. Up and down rolling hills. I was happy to have been wearing my trail gators, with all of the thorns, sagebrush, mud and gravel that we were running through. Finally we found the small road that lead us to the river, and our kayaks. Down the bank we went, punched our passport at the checkpoint, and rushed to get our clothes changed. Side note: going into this I knew that I was going to have to be changing in and out of wet clothes in front of God and everyone. Again…not your typical transition. I figured for the kayak portion I would take off my running tights, and put on the wetsuit. Seriously? I thought I would be shy, and embarrassed. When we got there, however, and Dave (my race partner) yelled out, “Let’s get naked!!” I didn't even think of the fact that I would be in front of tons of people changing. I knew I was WAY too sweaty, to be able to take the tights off, and pull on a wetsuit. It would have taken forever to get that tight sucker on. So I pulled my wetsuit over my tights. It went on easy. Well, as easy as they can. Put on my Seal Skinz, helmet, stuffed our packs onto the dry bag, stashed our trekking poles, and put my bag with my map/passport in the best stashing place ever for women, down the front of my shirt/wetsuit. I knew I wouldn’t lose it there. I took a glance over at Andy and Jeni who had come in a few minutes behind us, and she was pulling her shoes over her sealskinz. We had talked about doing this, and thought it would be a good idea, but once in the “thick” of things I decided against it. MISTAKE!
I made sure Dave’s dry suit was zipped up, and pulled the kayak into the river. THANK GOD I had run this river 2 weeks ago, or I would have probably been sick, due to fear of white water for the first time. Off we went paddling into the freezing Blackfoot River. I realized then how thirsty I was. Despite hydrating so well the whole week, and day before. My mouth felt full of cotton, my lips were sticky. Everything I owned was in the drybag at this point, and on the river, there is no stopping to grab stuff. We paddled on, having only ONE, uh, oh moment, when we came upon a sleeper we didn’t see, and got the kayak lodged up on top, sideways. UhOh!! I was so hot, that the water rushing into the kayak felt good, but I knew, this water coming in was not a good thing. Paddle HARD! We got out, and kept on a few miles (maybe 6-7) until we say the take out spot.
Dave and I on the Blackfoot River
Paddling river left, I jumped out and pulled the kayak to shore. My arms were toast. I knew I wasn’t paddling right in the kayak, with my torso, and not my arms because they were getting sore on the river. When we pulled that kayak out of the water, OH MY was it heavy, and my arms were like noodles. We had to carry the kayak UP the short, but STEEP, and VERY rocky (this is where I made the mistake with my shoes) riverbank. The rocks were killing my feet. And the freakin’ kayak felt like it weighed a ton. I kept, stopping and starting. Poor Dave.
Hiking those kayaks!!
We got our passports punched at the next CP, and preceded to carry the kayak to the transition area about 150 to 200 yards away. Again feeling like it was a mile. Finally we got to transition, dropped the kayak and the craziness started. This time I was in my undies, and T-shirt. At one point my partner was on the ground, having me pull off his dry suit. I am yanking the dry suit…STILL in my undies. HAHA didn’t even cross my mind until much later. We got changed, got bottles on the bikes, bike shoes on, and another pack, and off we went.
Bike transition in the middle of no-where, Montana
The mountain bike portion was the longest. And it was steep. We climbed for HOURS on our bikes, sometimes getting so steep, we were off the bikes and pushing. Through mud, snow, ice. Checkpoint after checkpoint. Dave and I got to the part where we needed to make a decision about going for an “extra” CP. It would require us to drop our bikes, and climb/trek to the highest peak in Lubrecht. Morrisson Peak at about 5600 feet. I had left my trekking poles in the kayak. Another mistake. We decided to go for it. Mind you, this was a climb that we would be doing in our bike shoes. Dave put me on a tow, from the back of his pack to the front of mine, and gave me one of his trekking poles. It took us 30 minutes to get up and down, and the bonus, was 30 minutes added to our time. A wash! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is where I started to get tired. I couldn’t eat. My legs felt like they were going to fall off. They were weak, and tired, and a little stiff. I was almost in tears, telling Dave, I just don’t think adventure racing is my thing. He said, “Are you whining?” I yelled, “NO!!”…and mumbled, “Ok, just a little.” He said, “Just wait until we do a 3 or 5 day expedition race.” I said, “THIS is NOT the time to be talking to me about a 5-day freakin’ (but didn’t say the nice word) adventure race!!!” I was trying to drink and eat, but just couldn’t. I knew if I didn’t get something in my system, I would eventually bonk so hard I wouldn’t be able to keep going. I tried sipping my Heed, and eating a bite sized Snickers. After a few minutes, when the sugar hit, I was feeling better, but still wondering how we would ever finish within the 10-hour time cutoff. Back down the mountain we came, to grab bikes, and head for the next CP’s. Climbing, climbing, climbing. The climbing was endless! There were no trails, some parts we were hike-a-biking, (carrying our bikes) due to the conditions. Through trees, sagebrush, bushes. Anyone who has ever hiked through the wilderness, you know what I am talking about. Until we finally got to the last CP, that would take us pretty much screaming down hill until the finish. This is where I heard the Hallelujah Choir. Off we flew. Man, this felt good. I knew we were almost done, and my body was ready to cross that finish line. I pulled on that last bit of determination, and “guts” you get to push yourself over the line. Flying down the hill across a big flat section of bumpy dirt road. We stopped, looking for the last CP. Where was it? We were on the road, next to the highway, with the river to our left. Just as the map said. WHERE WAS THE CP? All of a sudden, Dave yells. YELLS! (#%&*!) We missed a turn, and took the wrong road. No checkpoint. We had to backtrack. Oh my gosh. My last burst of finish line energy was wasted. I was out of Perpetuam, out of H2O, and was running low on my Heed. How far would we have to back track? Luckily it wasn’t far. But it did cost us a ton of energy, and about a ½ hour. We found our road, and Dave said, “Let’s bomb this last part.” It took every ounce of my being, every energy draw I had, every mental thought I could conjure, to finish this part out. When I could see the finish, I about cried. In fact I am sure I did. We came blazing through to the finish. Our spouses waiting there, our friends, and race buddies, Andy and Jeni there. We were tired, sore, caked in mud (yes, at one point I was unable to unclip out of my peddles, and the mud was so thick, I fell) sweat, thorns, weeds, blood, you name it. Having that complete exhaustion but euphoria at the same time. That feeling is amazing. Extraordinary! Finishing, what in the beginning, I thought I could not. Something so agonizing at times, I thought I could not go on, but ending up with that undeniable sense of joy of finishing something outstanding. That is why we race. That sense of accomplishment, to see just how far our bodies will take us. How hard we can push them. How determined can we be? And in the end, it is SO worth it. Through everything, even feeling tortured it was worth it. My partner was amazing. Through the slow times, crying, whining, he really held me up. Even when I thought I would sit down and cry, or when I wanted to KILL him. Team Mates! He was encouraging, motivating, and really, literally pulled/pushed me along at times. Thanks Dave (Team ASW2)
We finished fourth. Andy and Jeni (Team ASW1) third, and 15 minutes ahead of us. Good job guys!! Our time, 7 hours, 6 minutes. We made all of our checkpoints and got one of the extras. Greg and Dave D (Team ASW3) at about 6:16 for their 1st Sprint. Not too bad for my first 10-hour race. Already can't wait to do another!!!
All smiles at the finish
Greg and his race partner Dave D finishing Black Bear.
Crossing the finish line!!
Jeni doing her finish-line handstand!