Sunday, July 31, 2011

This And That And This

Last Wednesday was supposed to be my first official track workout in training for November's Philly Marathon. I hate track workouts but I really and truly believe that they've improved my running speed when I've stuck to a schedule.  Abby was going to join me but our morning schedules didn't quite match up. She managed to convine me to go to her gym for a midnight run on a treadmill. On a Tuesday. Midnight. Treadmill. Tuesday. Someone else's gym. But not just any midnight run on a treadmill -- a timed mile for Keri's "Are You Faster Than You Were In High School" virtual race. Abby summed it up best in her post (and her gym is nice, crazy cheap and, oddly, empty at 12:15 in the morning). It wasn't too painful and went by quick, fortunately. I hope to get my time down to where it was the last time I was doing any sort of track work regularly last fall as I prepped for the NYC marathon.

Are we silly people or what?

> On Friday after work I headed to Kempton, Pa. to volunteer for the GOALS 12-hour adventure race. This is one of my favorite races and we do it more years than not. Bill, however, was wrapping up school and I didn't have the energy to try to convince someone else to do it with me so I decided to volunteer instead.

I swear, today I am more sore than if I had done the race. Ten hours of hauling bikes to and from, lifting stuff, running around, sweating my face off, cooking in the sun ... I was spent by the end of the day. And will present every race volunteer I ever encounter with a brand new car and a dozen roses at the end of every race. I think the day was a little more insane than even the race directors anticipated. There were about 40 teams and about 15 of those teams were first-time racers who had never done an adventure race of any distance.

While a 12-hour race is something I think most people who want to can accomplish, the GOALS race has the challenge of hilly terrain and, most years, a ton of bushwacking. Lots and lots of elevation gain on bike and on foot with a paddle through a creek that never actually has any water in it combined with fair but non-obvious navigation seemed to take many teams by surprise. I was at checkpoint 8, where the race directors anticpated the top teams would arrive about three hours into the race and that the back of the pack would come through after about five hours. The frontrunners were right on target but the back of the pack came through closer to nine hours in, leading to unanticipated short-coursing and teams who seemed surprised by the challenge of the (in my opinion, entirely fair, entirely doable) course.

I was more smelly, more dirty and more tired by the time I got home on Saturday evening than I've been after most of the races I've done this year. Go figure. And then go hug your favorite race volunteer.

> It is hot here. I just realized that tomorrow's post-work run will probably have to take place on a treadmill so I can run it at the speed I want to without worrying about melting to death. I am trying to embrace all the recent treadmill runs but,  barf. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Small Bit of Training

Marathon training is underway (sort of)!

Day 1: It's 108 degrees out. I am dumb but I am not that dumb. I head to the gym for speed work on the treadmill. It's bad, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Nor was it as boring as I thought it would be.

Day 2: It's 99 degrees out. Pull out the parkas and yank on the ski socks. I head out for the planned hill repeats. Tip: 16 ounces of water in a handheld won't get you through 45 minutes of hills, a warmup and a cooldown. I sat on an air conditioning vent for 30 minutes when I got home and the shower still didn't take.

Day 3: A fantastic run in the rain. It was sort of raining when I left but started pouring, pouring, about 10 minutes in. I got to splash through the puddles as I wove my way through the neighborhood for 5 or so miles. When I got home I looked like this:
My hair is serpentine.

Day 4: A mile on a treadmill at an absurd hour. More to follow.

Day 5: Seven steady miles on a flat trail. All was well until the last half-mile when a hill I run routinely decided to attempt to kill me.

Why am I doing this again? For the Philly marathon in November. More importantly, to raise dollars for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. A place that I hope none of you ever have the need for but a place that benefits so many families at my job whose newborns are crazy sick. Fundraising so far is going well! I am only about $150 from my goal. At first I was surprised by this because I am bad at collecting dollaz but then I thought about the fact that I am fortunate to have kind and generous family and friends and I was no longer surprised.

If you want to peek at my fundraising page, click THIS!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Equinox Travirse: How I Convinced Myself To Finish

So yeah, we were in a ski lodge without air conditioning (go figure), I was grumpy and I wanted to quit.

I flopped on the ground, plopped my feet onto a chair and promptly fell asleep for about 30 minutes. I woke up and was laying in a puddle of my own sweat. The floor was covered in this itchy, furry, Brillo carpet and I was disgusted with myself, with my attitude and with the race.

"Can we quit yet?," I asked Bill

He stared at me. "Whatever you think," he said. "Only you know how bad you feel and whether you can go."

He clearly conspired with my mother who used to say the exact same thing when I tried to convince her I needed to stay home because I was sick. I always ended up going to school.

I wanted someone to give me permission to quit. No one did. This made me mad. I continued to lay in my own puddle of sweat.

Another team of two came in.

"What's wrong with her?" the woman on the team asked Bill.

"She's hot," Bill said.

I felt like a terrible wimp.

The woman walked over to me, yanked my headband off my head, unzipped my bike jersey and told me to take off my sun-blocking arm warmer thingies. Bill's interest was piqued.

"Drink something, eat something, go back to sleep for an hour and then get up and go. You are not quitting," she said.

I ate, drank, and went back to sleep for another half hour, awakened by a team of four who was a bit pissed off because they were in second place instead of first, or something like that. Overachievers.

They were talking about food and I realized they were near my stash, discussing my Elios pizza and Combos.

"Do you think this was just left here? Can we eat it? Whose Mountain Dew is this?"


I shot up and plopped myself at the table with them.

"It's all mine!" I said, scarfing down the food and chugging the Mountain Dew.

They asked me where I came from. I told them I'd been sleeping on the floor. We started talking about all the things we wanted to eat. One guy and I became fixated on McDonald's chicken nuggets. It became all I could think about. The last time I'd eaten meat from a McDonald's was probably 1990. The last time I'd eaten meat, aside from a few beef jerky strips during the Rev3, was after the NYC Marathon when I'd consumed the most awesome cheeseburger of all time.

"So how's your race going?" the woman on the team asked me.

"Oh, we're dropping out. We're waiting for a ride back," I told her.

"So you've been racing for 27 hours and you are dropping? Really?," she asked. "The worst is over."

"Uh, yeah, we're done," my mouth said while my brain screamed "WHY WON'T ANYONE LET ME DROP OUT OF THIS RACE?"

I started to get pissed at my apathy. Then I started to hate it. A lot. I got angry. I wanted to punch the apathy in it's stupid ugly apathetic face.

"Get me out of this lodge," I said to Bill. "Let's go. Let's get the checkpoints that are on route, skip 19 and at least ride to the finish."

Bill and Kevin refilled our water, we dumped into the trash everything that wasn't mandatory and/or that we knew we wouldn't need and hopped on our bikes.

I felt great. My legs felt fresh as we climbed up the steep roads out of the ski resort-- like I hadn't just spent more than a day racing. More importantly I felt mentally strong and I knew we'd ride across the finish line, unofficial or not.

We (and by we, I mean Bill) easily found CPs 16 (down a steep drop in a creek bed along a trail impossible for any of us to ride), 17 and 18. The daylight began to fade as we entered our second night of racing. We had about 15 miles to ride before unofficially rolling across the finish and 11 hours to do it in.

Kevin rode up ahead and Bill and I hung behind.

"How are you feeling?," I asked.
"Fine," he said. "You?"
"Better than I have since about 10 minutes after the start. I think we should get 19."
Bill agreed.

One more point might not sound like much but it was up and over a mountain and based on our maps it looked like it was a small campsite tucked among a cluster of trails and trees -- not so easy to find in the dark.

We told Kevin we were going to go for 19. He said he wasn't going to join us and would just ride to the finish. After spending a day of racing together we were losing our third man.

We chugged back through Confluence and arrived at the point where we had to choose how we'd get to 19 -- up a paved road with lots of switchbacks that would get us to the top but with no clear route to the CP, up the fire road we rode down earlier in the day that was long, completely washed out and, while mostly rideable by day would be difficult by night and would still leave us with a bit of unclear navigation once we got to the top.

The best option seemed to be riding 9 miles down the gravel, flat trail we'd run up after the paddle the day before and then turning off to go up and over Sugarloaf, just as we'd started out about 38 hours before.

Off we went, Kevin leading our little bobo paceline

Thirty minutes later we parted ways with Kevin and Bill and I continued on alone together. Sugarloaf seemed much steeper, much longer and much more rocky than it did the previous day. We rode a bit, pushed a lot and slowly made our way up.

After what seemed like hours but was only 40 minutes we came across a solo racer on his way back. He assured us that we were going in the right direction and that our course selection was dead on.

"You will know you are there when you see the glowsticks. Just follow the glowsticks," he said. He seemed like an apparition but we both decided he was real. Up we went, and went. Finally we found ourselves on a gravel road that quickly dropped down the other side of the mountain. About three miles later we saw something -- A GLOWSTICK!

We plugged along, wove along some maze-like trails that would have been tough to navigate without the glowsticks and were soon dumped into a small, beautiful campsite in the middle of nowhere. It was awesome. New goal in life: Camp there one day.

We punched the point and were back on our way. We rode up the trails and road and all of a sudden I found myself napping on the side of the road.

"Just 10 minutes," I asked.
Bill set his alarm and we both fell asleep for 10 beautiful minutes before continuing on our way.

It was a beautiful, warm night. We were alone. It was quiet except for the sound of the river too far away. The gravel road dumped us back onto sugarloaf and I endoed thanks to the first rock I saw.

"I am walking."

"Ok, just keep moving forward and we will be fine," Bill said as he bounced down the trail.

He got too far ahead and I was by myself in the dark. Yuck. I coudn't hear him or see him. I yelled.
"Chieeefff," (That's what we call each other. Don't mock. It's better than Cupcake or Baby.) "Whhheeere aareeee youuuuu?"

Man oh man you're my best friend, I'll scream it to the nothingness, there ain't nothing that I need. Hot and heavy, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake ... AND CHICKEN NUGGETS. Oh, God, I would have sold my soul right then for one single chicken nugget. I became fixated. All I could think about were those little bundles of compressed, processed, bleached, breaded and fried beaks, tendons and toenails.

I saw Bill up ahead. He was talking to another team. Except I caught up to him and the team wasn't there. "Where did that team go?" "What team?" We continued on, he'd get ahead and I'd hear and see him talking to another team. Except I'd catch up and no team. This happened about three more times until I finally realized my brain was starting to melt and there were, in fact, no other teams. Bill's brain was melting too -- his bike light had burnt out so he had an insanely bright flashlight in his hand instead and I'd catch him shining it into the bushes and trees, staring at all the magical creatures that his mind had created for him.

Adventure racing. Like doing drugs, only legal. But more expensive and with more laundry to do at the finish.

I began to think that Satan herself was at the bottom of Sugarloaf, turning the trail into a treadmill from hell, adding two feet to the trail for every one foot we completed. It felt like we were going on forever. My feet, swollen and wedged into my bike shoes pinched and ached. My pack made my back start to kill. I realized the soles had holes in them. But the rest of me didn't feel too horrible. I felt like I could sleep for a year but my body felt perfectly adequate. No mental freakouts and we would get to the finish.

We plodded along, sometimes riding, mostly on foot. The river got louder telling us we were getting closer to the finish. Finally, finally, we were dumped onto the road and had less than a mile to the finish. We rode hard, although I am not sure why.

And there it was. The finish -- a giant man sleeping on a picnic table under a small banner that said American Adventure Sports. We punched the finish line CP, placed our race passport on the dude's stomach, I threw my bike shoes into the trash and we took dark and cold showers and then slept in the car for three hours.

We woke up and headed back to Bill's for another hour or two of sleeping. Then, time to eat!

McDonald's. Not to proud to admit it. I had a 10-piece chicken nugget extra value meal and a cheeseburger. Then we went to a bar. Three beers made me drunkish. And a pizza. And then KFC for more chicken, a salad, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Disgusting, but beautiful.

I woke up on Monday and felt fine physically. Mentally I was thrilled that we finished but also unsatisfied because we both knew we could have done better. We were physically prepared to race and our bodies held up fine but my bad attitude and our navigation mistakes could have, should have, been avoided.

So  I need to do another one. 48-hour races are had to come by though so for now I am narrowing in on a 30-hour September race a bit north of Virginia Beach. Anyone in?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Equinox Travese: I Sort of Hated It But Am Glad I Did It, Part II

So where was I?

That's right, blazing knockers.

We so loved the rappel. Alas, no pictures apparently exist of us loving it, so you are stuck with a photo of us running back to transition.

One day our legs will not resemble twigs and we will acquire a muscle. Today was not that day, however.

We tossed (or, gently placed, as I was using a borrowed climbing helmet) our climbing gear into the trunk and I was thrilled at how organized I was -- knowing I'd be drippy from the paddle, I'd organized a change of clothes, complete with Body Glide and a pre-lubed sports bra. No chafing was my pre-race mantra.

I yanked off my tri shorts, and pulled on some bike shorts for a grand total of 1 second of nakedness. Pulled off my jersey and sports bra, grabbed the Body Glide, pulled off the top and began to apply to the girls. Except it was hot out. And the Body Glide had been in the trunk of my car. Molten Body Glide poured down the boobs and all over the trunk and outside of my car at a temp of about a trillion degrees.

It was sort of awful. I yelled.

Bill, however, laughed. And laughed.

Glad I could amuse him.

In front of us was a 15-mile trek back to the bikes. We started off sort of slowly, up a steep, steep and also steep technical trail. We eventually found ourselves well above the river we'd slowly paddled down and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the hills and the water. Nice.

Soon we had a navigation decision to make -- take the longer route along the trail or dive down back to the river, swim across and run back on a flat, gravel trail. The longer route was probably safer, and I am not a risk taker. But I was already sort of grumpy and just wanted to get it over with, even though we still had up to 40 hours of "racing" ahead of us.

Bill basically left the decision up to me. But I am married to him and all, so I knew what he wanted to do and decided to suck it up.

"Let's do the river thing, " I sad, while grabbing a map from him to make sure the route made sense to me.

It did, and we barreled down a steep jeep road until it ended and crossed railroad tracks. We found ourselves in front of a 30-yard bushwack to the river. It didn't look bad at all, and from what we could tell on the map we were going to be crossing at one of the narrowest points of the river.

Then I heard a noise. Sort of sounded like a giant cricket right in front of me. Except it was still daytime. The sun was slowly setting, but totally still light out. I looked down about 5 feet in front of us just as Bill did.

This is what we chorused:
Bill: Sweet! Awesome! A rattle snake! I wish we had a camera!
Me: Rattle snake! Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. It's going to kill us. I want to kill it. A damn rattle snake. I hate snakes. God, is it gone!? Get me the hell out of here. I quit. I am going home and taking up knitting. I HATE THIS.

Bill: What part? The snake part, or all of it?
Me: All of it. I just want to be done.

At that point in the race, it' was sort of like saying you want to be done at the 800 meter mark of a 5k. But our only options were to work our way up the few miles we'd just barreled down or bushwack and cross.

So cross it was.

The bushwack was fairly easy. We worked our way down to the river quickly and decided that crossing looked more solid about 100 meters upriver. We bushwacked a bit more and then I hopped into the water with my pack on my back. And I sunk like a stone. I went under and realized that my pack was preventing me from doing anything even close to a swim. I worked my way back to the surface and Bill basically grabbed me by the face, pulling me back to the bank.

I'll follow you into the park, through the jungle and through the dark, moats and boats and waterfalls.

But the song forgot the part about rattlesnakes and drowning in a river with a backpack on your back.

"Uh, I don't think I can do this with a pack, " I said. "And it's really deep."

Bill liked the challenge, fortunately, and clipped my pack to his front, encouranging me to just swim across.

So I did. It was fine. While narrow, the river was a bit over my head for much of the way but I was able to step on a few boulders and didn't have to exceed my meager swim skills. Bill zoomed across and we scrambled up the river bank, he tossed me my pack and we started to run on the easy trail.

We still had about 6 miles to go of just straight running. In a road race this would have been cake, but in an adventure race I tend to mentally prepare myself for the fun of changing terrain, pauses to glance at maps, something other than the feeling of plodding along on the treadmill.

We reasoned that we were decent runners and that running would make the boring be over sooner so we mostly ran (we did a few sections of 5 minutes of running with two minutes of walking) until we got back to our bikes.

And miracle of miracles, we'd gotten ahead of a ton of teams, thanks to our decision to cross the river. We found ourselves more toward the front of the pack, working our way up from second to last.

This is the face I make after seeing a rattlesnake.

We refilled our water, ate some of our stashed food, threw on our bike shoes and helmets and were on our way through the small town of Confluence. We stumbled upon Val and Russel and traveled with them and a solo racer who was along for the ride. Then Russel's back bike wheel basically fell off. We tried to help them think of ways to fix it, but we were amazingly unhelpful so we decided to continue on.

We acquired the solo. Turns out his name was (and still is) Kevin, just like our cat. We rode hard-ish for about an hour and then realized we had no idea where we were. We stared and stared at the map for what felt like hours. I tried to Magic Eye it, like the way were supposed to go would just pop to the surface. A bored truck driver eventually pulled over -- fortunately he, and the lady of the night he had with him, was amazingly friendly. He told us where we were -- basically right were we started. Somehow we managed to do something terrible. We went in a 15-mile circle and ended up just a few miles east of Confluence.

AYFKM? FML. WTF. And all the rest. And then it got dark.

We regrouped, relocated and, thanks to the hand-drawn map that turned out to be the most useful navigational tool we had all weekend, were eventually on our way.

Finding CP 6 was quite the event.

"Kevin, this is one of the most amazing moments we have had in our marriage, and I am happy you could be here with us for this event," I said.

"It's a privilege," said Kevin.

I had never been so happy to see an orienteering punch in my entire life. I wanted to kiss it, but I was too tired and grumpy. Surprisingly, other teams pulled into the CP as we were on our way out. I was entirely demoralized, but at least I had company.

On to CP 7 we went. Except not.

Disaster. Complete disaster.

To make a long slog with the bikes short:
Labyrinth. We overshot where we thought we should be. We found where we thought we should be. We rode up, down and over hills, convinced we were well on our way. As were the other teams around us. As was Kevin. We were, in fact, well on our way in the wrong direction. Terrible. We realized we were lost and we figured out where we were but we had no idea how to get where we needed to be. It was cold. It was dark. It was the middle of the night. I had on every article of clothing I had brought, plus a giant shirt of Bill's on top. I still shivered and shivered. I reminded myself that we promised each other that we wouldn't drop out when it was dark -- the sun always makes things seem better.

After much staring at the map, some napping, some eating and drinking and a bit after sunrise, we pulled into CP 7. I couldn't have cared less.

"How are you guys doing?," an enthusiastic volunteer asked.

"Terrible. This is boring. I am not having fun. Can we quit here and have you guys drive us to the finish?." I whined.

"Uhhh... you will regeret it if you drop out," the volunteer said. "Are you healthy? Are you feeling okay? Just keep going."

We learned we were short-coursed and would be re-routed past an optional bike and orienteering section. Fine by me and my surly self.

"Dude, this is the worst race ever. I'm not having fun. I hate this."

Fortunatey this CP had plumbing and Bill went to resupply our water. I sat on a rock and made sure I was as pissed off as humanly possible. I pulled out my cell phone (I'd say it was against the rules, but we never actually got any race rules/guidelines/etc. and even if it was I couldn't have cared less at the time).

I texted Abby.

"I am not having fun. This is boring. We got lost. The worst."

Me pointing at my imaginary friend.
I asked Bill if we could drop out. He said no. The next CP, he said, was close. He showed it to me on a map. It did look close. He promised we could drop out there if I wanted. I agreed and we got back on the bikes. Bill was right. We easily found the next CP, and then the next, pulling into a manned transition to an orienteering couse. "What do you want to do?," he asked.
My smile lies. I was grumpy as hell.

"Let's go get one point, and then quit," I said. He agreed, and Kevin seemed happy to follow along, glad that we were no longer wandering aimlessly around. We looked at the O course, changed into our runing shoes, dumped all non-mandatory gear and were on our way.

Does this backpack make my ass look fat?

This photo marks the first time I've ever used a map in a race all on my own
like a big girl, understood where we were and how to get where we needed to go.
Thanks to the random dude who followed us around with a camera to capture this
major event in human history.
We snagged an optional point pretty easily, Kevin carrying my pack for a bunch of the way because my back was starting to hate me. On our way back to transition Bill began to stagger like a drunkard. He tipped over and immediately fell asleep in the shade. Kevin pulled over to call the missus and I sat down, too hot and too covered in flies to try to sleep. My left foot hurt. I pulled off my sock and shoe. A giant blister  on the bottom of my foot in the shape of Florida, panhandle and all, shined up at me. Grody. Bill was using his pack that contained the first aid kit as a pillow and I felt bad waking him up to snag our blister popping materials.

Kevin didn't have any, but he did have a knife and some alcohol swabs. I swabbed the knife, swabbed the blister and stabbed the knife into the bottom of my foot. Nothing. I pushed harder. Nothing.

"I don't think I can do this,"  I said to Kevin. "It's soooo gross!"

"Just stab harder," he encouraged.

So I did. I pushed the knife until it broke the skin. What happened next was so amazingly disgusting I am throwing up in my mouth as I write this -- pus flew out and landed on sleeping Bill's leg. Like, ounces. But my foot immediately felt amazingly better.

"I feel bad for covering Bill in foot pus," I whispered to Kevin.

"I am guessing he will wash those pants before he wears them again anyway," Kevin offered.

Good point. We woke Bill and were on our way back to transition where I announced to race officials that we were dropping out. They stared at me and told us to go sit inside for a bit. So we did. I was tired. I was hot. I was completely apathetic as to what happened next.

"Can we be done?," I asked Bill.

"It's entirely up to you," he said.

Worst answer ever. He was clearly willing and able to continue but my apathy was getting the best of me. We had three options: Continue on and try for an official finish, bike back to the finish without snagging any more points or wait around for someone to drive us back to our cars. The race people told us it would be about 8 hours until we could hitch a ride.

All options sucked. Trying to finish sounded impossible. Biking back to the finish with nothing to show for it sounded pointless. Waiting around for hours for a ride while other teams came and went on their way sounded demoralizing enough to quit the sport forever.

You already know that we finished. To find out how we got there Part III will be flung your way at some point in the future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Equinox Traverse: I Sort of Hated It But Am Glad I Did It, Part I

We (or at least I did, I don't want to speak for Bill) had low expectations for the Equinox Traverse from basically every angle. We expected there to be not a ton of creativity in the course, lots of hills, a low-flowing river and lots of trips up and back down the same mountain with the occasional detour due to crappy maps, a lack of familiarity with much of the area and no navigation experience with races that long.  We hoped to finish but expected to struggle -- this would be the longest race I'd ever attempted and, if we managed to snag an official finish, Bill's first successful completion of a two-day race.

Our expectations all came to be -- the layout was basically an 8-hour adventure race followed by miles and miles of biking to optional trek rogaines, the paddle was brutally slow (but an upgrade from April's paddle at the Yough Extreme), we went up and down the same mountain trail three times and we certainly got lost quite a bit.

I am getting ahead of myself though.

Where to start?

How about here:

Our beloved yurt was already booked up so we moved on to a "walled tent." It had beds, no bugs and a light so all was good. Val, of Rev3 fame, and her teammate were our neighbors in walled tentville. After an uneventful check-in and map pickup it was back to home sweet walled tent to pack our packs and stare at the maps for a bit.

Here's a shocker: I hate mapwork. Hate. Almost as much as I hate snakes. I helped some but mostly packed my pack as Bill's head began to hurt and his eyes began to bleed as he stared at the two giant maps (they were both larger than beachtowels) set to the smallest of scales (1:35,000, neither one of us could remember a race with a scale that small).

We tossed and turned a bit but did get a few hours of sleep before heading to the 10 a.m. start. Where we learned that the list of gear we had to carry for the entire race changed a bit and we hustled to repack our packs before the time-trial start. This made me a bit surly -- the communication from the race company had been sorta piss-poor leading up to the race and to change things at literally 9:53, seven minutes before we got moving, wasn't the coolest thing of all time.

But adventure racing does require a bit of flexibility (that I am not naturally inclined toward) so I tried to let it go and soon Bill and I were on our bikes. And then on our bikes, off our bikes, on and off, off and on as we rode, yanked and carried them up a trail called Sugarloaf toward CP 1. The point was easy to find -- even I understood how to get there and we had a screaming downhill to CP 2/TA 1/paddle put-in. We found ourselves way toward the back of the pack but we felt fine and there was still plenty of race to go -- 44 hours worth, in fact.

There at TA 1 sat a pile of damn duckies. Seriously, American Adventure Sports, have you heard this sweet ride called a canoe? Invented centuries ago, they are, in fact, still in use today and readily available in Pennsylvania.

The volunteers seemed to note my grumpiness and were nice to me as we threw down our bike stuff and transitioned to the water. We were only briefly detoured when I cracked my head on a street sign, setting off a bang that echoed loud enough for a lady in the process of draining sewage out of her camper to come check on me.

Anyway, we dragged our red POS boat into the river. Or, a trickle. The water was barely moving with exposed rocks everywhere. Seriously, I piss bigger streams. We moved slowly, got stuck on lots of rocks and passed no one except for smart, lazy people on float trips drinking lots of beer.

I will speak for us both: We hated the paddle.

"Hey, I think we live in this rubber boat now," Bill lamented after an hour went by and we seemed to be going nowhere. "This boat is now 46 Haines Street. We will get a cat and call it home."

I tend to get songs stuck in my head for hours on end during longer races. The thought of living in our red duckie, together forever outside, got this piece of awesomeness stuck in my head for most of the next two days:

Home is wherever I'm with you. Including in the middle of a pisstrickle river stuck in a giant floatie.

We passed a guide who told us we still had more than four miles to go.

"She's lying," I said. "I know she is."

Turns out she was lying (or maybe she was just wrong) because a few minutes later we found ourselves at the takeout. So awesome. I hopped out of the "boat" into the ankle-deep water and dragged Bill and the floatie to the bank of the river. We'd both clearly had enough -- Bill lifted the thing under his arm and we were off to TA 2.

A ton of teams were there, including Val and her teammate Russel. They'd mentioned something about a trail to the next TA/CP -- thanks to them we realized we missed a route instruction forbidding the most obvious route choice back which would have likely led to a penalty or a DQ or something (the race rules were never entirely clear) had we been caught.

Here's a picture of a someone on another team to give you an idea of what we got to do next -- an optional 130-foot rappel off a bridge. While it took us all of 10 minutes to complete this entire part, from the time we left transition to the time we returned, I thought it was a great addition to the race. Gravity rules!

I acknowledged to Bill that I was actually starting to have fun despite myself. We headed back to the car to change out of our sopping wet clothes (what water there was in the river managed to drench us) for a 15-mile trek back to our bikes.

Want to know how I managed to basically light my boobs on fire while in transition? Come back for part two. That is all. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Preliminary Equinox Traverse Race Report

We finished. Barely.

It wasn't too fun.

We made a lot of mistakes.

But we made some good decisions along the way too.

I also ate a lot of McDonalds afterward. A 10-piece "chicken" nugget extra-value meal and a cheeseburger. I am not too proud to admit it.

Now it's on to (more) beer drinking and sleeping. And lots and lots of laundry. I fear we've stunk up the entire state of Pennsylvania with our nasty race outfits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is It Friday Yet?

Geeze, would the race just get here already? For something I registered for about 10 days ago I feel like I've been preparing for this silly thing** my entire life.

I estimate that I am about 81 percent ready for the race. My gear is packed (aside from glow sticks just added to the gear list today -- maybe instead of a race I've actually signed up for a rave. Hmm... that would also explain the last-minute addition of MDMA to the list as well). My race clothes are either sitting in a pile next to a bag or in the dryer, so that's not too bad.

I still have to put my new bike computer on the mountain bike (the mount broke last week) and then figure out how to get my bike on my roof rack. Not as easy as it might sound. I have a secret ... I am short. Not  short enough to be diagnosable but short enough that people feel the need to comment on my lack of tallness on a regular basis and sometimes even pat me on the head. Grr.

When Bill's around he tosses bikes onto the rack with ease. I, however, can't reach. I can get my Cervelo off because it weighs as much as three Gus and twelve ants but I can't reach to get anything onto the rack or to lift my heavier mountain bike off.

If you are driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike tomorrow afternoon and see someone witha  bike bungeed, duct taped, glued and stapled onto her car, please wave. It's probably me.

** Dear Equinox Traverse, I am sorry I called you silly. Please don't kick my ass. Although I am sure that you will.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Night Fun

I am not a list-maker. Mostly because the one time I made a list, I lost it while simultaneously forgetting everything on it. Screwed.

Instead I start preparing for stuff a bit ahead of time. So, I am having an awesome Friday night packing mandatory gear for next weekend's hot mess of a race.

It was AWESOME. Forty-five minutes were spent picking through the basement looking for my knife with a three-inch blade (just in case I need to stab anything or anyone along the way). Happy hour? A late night out with friends? Turning into a drunk disaster?


Dumping all my gear into a pile was so much better than hanging out with friends. Except not. Vivian was kind enough to keep me company. Apparently he wants to do the race, too.

In addition to the basement looking like an REI barfed, my family room does, too. And like this it shall stay until Wednesday morning when I load up my junk and head out. To work. And then flee immediately afterward to Bill's summer digs about an hour from the race start.

Tomorrow will be just as exciting. It will include a trip to REI for some last-minute junk and, more importantly, to pick up my mountain bike. I thought it was done, gone forever. Things were pinging off of it on my last ride and my rear brake sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.Terrible.

I contemplated buying a new one but my friend David, who fixes bikes like it is his job (because it is) kindly agreed to see what he could do. He was, fortunately, able to magically paste it back together! Hooray! I must say that I am mildly disappointed because I was sort of looking forward to buying a new bike. Although I am thinking that when I go to pick my bike up tomorrow I might easily be talked into a new one ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Do you ever do something against your better judgement?

I don't. At least not often. I am a planner. I don't take a lot of risks. I like to know what I am in for.

A few months ago Bill and I began discussing the idea of doing a 48-hour adventure race.

"Well, we've been doing a lot of training and riding and running anyway. It would be a shame to let all of that go to waste," was our logic.

"It's far. What do we do when it is 4 a.m. on day two, we are lost in the woods, we haven't slept in two days and we want to kill each other?," were some of our main reasons not to.

Add the fact that we have to carry basically every bit of adventure racing gear that we own, the race is unsupported, it seems like we will have to start out with all of our food and water for the entire race and carry it the whole time (unless we feel like quaffing some creek water) and the longest race I've ever done was 24 hours.

After talking each other into it and out of it a dozen times, after much whining on my part and after Bill picked the race director's brain a bit, I guess we decided to commit -- today I got a text from Bill that simply said this: Registered.

Instantly, I did this:

I sort of want to cry a little bit just thinking about it. Regardless, The Haines Street Hustlers will be at the start line of the Equinox Traverse. Not sure that we will get to the finish line, but there it is.

Also, the race is next week. Ten days away. Worst idea ever? Probably.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Am 81 Percent Certain This Picture Is of Me

I've been meaning to post this, taken at this spring's Yough Extreme for a while. I am fairly certain, based on the fact that I am in the pictures before and after this in the photographer's album, that this picture is of me. If it is, I want to own it.

However, the photographer's Web site seems to be shut down with no way of contacting her. If you are Lindsay Brown and if this picture is of me, I'd like to own a digital version of it. I will pay you in money. That is all.