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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday things

1.  I miss the race.  If you haven't yet read my Berryman Adventure race report (and you have a free hour or so) you should check it out.  One of the coolest things I've ever done.  I was still riding the high on Monday, and it's been downhill from there.  A friend termed it PRD (Post Race Depression), which sounded about right, though it could also be...

2.  The fact that I'm "tapering" (if "tapering" can be defined as "doing nothing athletic for two weeks other than a 14.75 hour adventure race") for Sunday's ill-advised private half ironman.  I'm feeling seriously fidgity and out of sorts.

The mother of all tapers.  Add in some hiking, mountain biking, and canoeing on Sat.  That is all.
3.  The "out-of-sorts" feeling is being compounded by the fact that our annual family Halloween party is turning into something of a scheduling nightmare.  Wake me up in November.

4.  Why do I call Sunday's race ill-advised?  I'm basically trained for the half marathon part.  My long bike ride for the year is 33 miles on the torture chamber that is my bike seat (on the other hand, I've several 3.5+ hour rides in on my mountain bike), and I've been swimming three times.

5.  On the other hand, I get a free race, free shirt, and free dinner (which sounds awesome), all for just showing up.  Who you calling ill-advised?

6.  If I don't finish the race, though, I'll only be able to sleep in the shirt.  With it inside-out.  The print might be scratchy, so I'm most likely going to have to HTFU and rely on grim determination to get to the dinner finish line.

7.  The half marathon portion will be run in 2-mile loops, and my 7 year old son is all about running a loop with me.  I think we're going to compromise on him riding his bike and me running.  The football game will be on in the garage/transition area, so I think I think I'll be able to convince my husband to come and "spectate".

8.  Thanks to the adventure race (yeah, I don't get far from the topic), I've got two new adventure racing blogs to obsessively read, which will be a nice change from obsessively REreading the ones I already stalk read.  Abby and Laurie, you'll be seeing a lot of me.  Comment-wise, anyway.

9.  I should be making supper, but we're having frozen pizza.

10.  Although the adventure race is over (Did I mention I was just in an adventure race?) I do have a couple things to look forward to:
  •  a return to Castlewood State Park for the Skippo trail race.  I did the 20K last year (the origin of Team Hangover).  This year there's a 10K, a 20K, and a 30K.  I'm toying with the idea of the 30K just because, you know, why not?
  • a return to Castlewood State Park for the Castlewood 8-Hour adventure race.  Last year I volunteered.  This year, I get to compete.  Famous last words...the last two lines of the race volunteer report: I can't wait to do an adventure race.  Just...not in December.
  • a rematch with Pere Marquette State Park at the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run, which may have kicked my ass more thoroughly last year than 14 hours of adventure racing did last weekend.
11.  After Sunday's race, I'm going to sleep for a couple of days and then start training regularly again.  Looks like it's going to need to be a heavy dose of trail running, plus I want to start lifting weights again.  And clearly I need to spend some time in a canoe.

12.  Expect the longest transition times ever for Sunday's race.  I don't have a tri suit or shorts, nor do I feel like swimming in the YMCA pool in my bike shorts and then riding wet for nearly 60 miles (I know, I'm a wimp), so...
  •  I'll be wearing a swim suit to swim,
  • changing into my bike clothes (ever tried pulling a sports bra on over a wet body?  10 minutes right there, if I escape the dressing room without a shoulder injury.  I'm going to need the reverse of one of those wet-suit strippers) for the bike leg,
  • and then change into running shorts for the run.  Just because I can.
13.  But it's all OK, because as far as I know, I'm still the only female racing.  And that means first place in my division...as long as I make it across the finish line.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A newbie's guide to the Berryman Adventure Race

( ***Written by Kate, commentary by Jim is highlighted in yellow, and any response I had is highlighted in blue.***)

You know how sometimes, when you've thought about and looked forward to something for a long time, it can't possibly live up to your expectations?

This is not one of those stories.

After a year of anticipation, I spent the last week jumping up and down with excitement like a hyperactive little puppy. My brother Jim, my teammate, had just gotten back in town on Wednesday after visiting friends in Colorado and hiking up Pike's Peak, so he was a little tired in general and a LOT tired of driving.  Despite that, he was pretty tolerant of my frequent "I can't believe it's here!" "I'm so excited!" "This is going to be so cool!"  He only had to listen to that for 2.5 hours; I'm sure it wasn't annoying at all.

Fortunately, I have a teenage daughter and have spent many a day tuning her and her friends out while driving them to events, so I was prepared for the car ride with Chatty Kate.

We got to the campground a little before 4 and registered, running into Chuck and Lori (and their boys) on the way out.  Patrick came by while we were setting up the camper, so we talked for a while, then Bill from Mid-Rivers Adventure walked by and we recognized each other from a training run way back in the winter.  After checking in at race HQ, we stopped by to catch up with Bob and Travis, so basically the day was shaping up something like a high school reunion filled with everybody you wanted to see, and Jim got to meet some of the people I've been talking about for the past year.

I was glad to find that Kate hadn't made up a number of imaginary friends so she had something to put in her blog.  I was also glad that they were such a good group of people who welcomed in her sarcastic brother.

Check out the sweet fleece!  I'm going to wear this with pride. :)
We thoroughly enjoyed the pre-race dinner and definitely got our money's worth :D This will be obvious in my picture later in the report) and then headed back for the race meeting.  Which was a blast.  Luke and Casey from Team Virtus had finally arrived, and the crew from Orange Lederhosen were there, too.  I'll admit, the company made it a little difficult to fully listen to Jason (the race director) because there was always somebody mumbling something hilarious.

Jason was pretty funny, too.  He asked, "Any first time racers?" [several hands raise] "Why you picked a race called 'a real ass-kicker' I don't know... Just kidding...I'm sure you'll have fun..."  And in regards to something else: "It'll get better...maybe..."  Besides the comedy routine, thanking the sponsors, and giving a shout-out to Forum Dental's video submission to the adventure racing TV show "Expedition Impossible", he also shared some useful information about the course, things like some of the trails aren't reflected accurately on the map due to reroutes since the map data was updated, the 36 hour race would start at 11 p.m., and the 12 hour would start at midnight.  At which I had a minor coronary. Midnight?? What?? Then Jason's wife, Laura sang out, "NObody beLEEves you," and I started breathing again.

Our race actually started at 6 a.m., which was awesome because it meant we'd get a decent amount of sleep.  We also found out we'd be starting on the bikes and wouldn't have to transport the bikes in canoes like they had to at the Castlewood 8 Hour last year, so I breathed another sigh of relief.  While the 36 hour people got their maps, clue sheets, and instructions, I finally got to meet my friend Wendy's husband, Jim of Team Trail Monster fame, and then we got our maps and headed back to the camper to plot our UTM coordinates.

This is our main map.  We also had another, smaller map.
 Chuck had given me a brief lesson on using the numbers on the clue sheet to plot the points.  Now, remember, all of our navigation on the course is strictly by map and compass, and those points we're plotting are the places we need to go.  Every checkpoint that we find is like a point in the race; whoever finished in time with the most checkpoints wins.  If two teams have the same amount of checkpoints, then the faster team wins.  So if those points aren't plotted correctly, there's virtually no way you're going to stumble across any of them or know which one you're at if you do.  No pressure.

Teamwork: I read, he plots, then we recheck each one.
Travis and the Virtus guys offered help if we needed it, but luckily, Jim knew what he was doing and Chuck's lesson had stuck.  I'm pretty sure I could do it myself if I had to.  And I'm even more sure that, once I've done it, I'll have it down.  After we had our points plotted, we talked strategy and route.  The first three checkpoints were on the bike leg.  Unlike in the nonrace, when I basically needed Luke to point to where we were on the map, this time I was able to follow it pretty well.  I even remembered what he'd told me about collecting features (kind of like landmarks you can mentally check off to know you're on the right course...like, "we'll pass two roads to the right and then a cemetery") and catching features (things that signal you went too far: "if we get to highway W, we passed it").  So the point plotting was kind of reassuring.  Hey...maybe we know what we're doing after all...

All packed up and ready to go. :)

We oraganized packs, filled water bottles, set alarms, and then slept like babies.  I hadn't been all about taking the camper for this trip, but I'm sooo glad we did.  I heard the cowbells as the 36 hour racers took off, and then every once in a while I'd wake up, hear rain on the camper, and be simultaneously thankful that we were dry in the camper and wincing at the thought of my friends out riding in the rain.  Our alarms sounded at 5 a.m., giving us plenty of time for breakfast, the all-important bathroom stops, last minute tire checks, and making it to the start line with a good 2 minutes to spare. :)

Red blinkies and headlamps at 5:58 a.m.
Bike leg 1:

We were off down the road...for a minute or two, and then we were up...up...up the road.  Man, it felt like we climbed forever.  Teams were getting separated in the crowd and having to stop and wait for each other, and mechanical issues seemed to start early, from flat tires to a guy whose pedal fell off.  We were lucky enough to be trouble free, other than the problem of trying to breathe and maintain enough speed to keep upright.

I was pretty pleased with the first section of biking.  We made the conscious decision to start at the back of the pack, but this was a case of slow and steady winning the race. Or at least a case of slow and steady making it to the top of the hills without dying. We rode our own pace, stuck together, and slowly picked off a few teams who had started in front of us.

The turn to the first checkpoint was easy to see because of the crowd of people heading onto the trail ahead of us.  We saw the Orange Lederhosen guys and Bob and Travis around there.  Then it was more road riding (and by "road", I mean mostly fire roads and gravel roads) before hopping onto the Berryman Trail.  Of course, if you've been reading my blog for any time at all, you know I'm still not too confident on the mountain bike or crazy about riding somewhere for the first time in a race.  Add to that the face that my bike shoes were gunked up from the muddy trail and I was having a terrible time clipping in.  And so it was that I was ridiculously slow and tentative.  And that I managed to fall right in front of Bob and Travis.  Jim and I got passed by a LOT of people during this time.  It was really frustrating.  I felt like I'd never been on a mountain bike before.

In our defense, this was a rough area of trail and a LOT of people got off and walked.  We just exercised impeccable manners and gave way, probably more than we should have. Much like I did with my college boyfriend.

It looked easy on the map: just follow the trail to the campground.  Basically a straight shot; no problem.  And then we rode into a clearing with trails branching off in three directions.  While we were stopped for a map check, a girl there asked, "Is your name Kate?"  When I said it was, she replied, "I read your blog."  Too funny.  The first time that's happened. :)  I was pleasantly surprised at being recognized, and by "being recognized" I mean Kate being recognized, and I also got a kick out of being known by my alter ego "Brother", so thank you team Small But Mighty.  

We eventually sort of figured out where we thought we maybe should go, though it was probably a lot luck in that some other people who stopped noticed that the trail to the left had a small marker for the trail on one of the trees and none of the others did (that we noticed). 

Fall #2 of 2, neither of them bad.
We saw Luke and Casey, who were in their 8-hour orienteering leg (that is, they were only allowed 8 hours; I don't know how long they actually spent on that part) during this next stretch.  Eventually, I managed to pull up my big girl bike shorts and start actually riding the bike.  It helped that I had finally managed to be able to clip in with some kind of consistency; even so, I bet I rode at least a third of that trail with one or both shoes unclipped.  Frustrating.  Also frustrating was when, at about 2.5 hours into the race, I realized I'd forgotten to get my chamois cream back.  That might have come in handy.  Oh, well, what do you do?  Keep riding.  We made it to the Berryman campground, our first transition area, in 3.5 ish hours (I think), and boy was I ready to get off the bike.

Yeah, it was a little muddy out there.
Orienteering leg 1:

So I already mentioned that the 36 hour racers had 8 hours to complete their orienteering course.  We had four.  By "complete", I mean you had to check back in at the campground within 4 hours of checking out; otherwise, you were penalized 1 checkpoint for every 5 minutes you were late.  You didn't have to actually get all of your checkpoints...which was a very good thing for us.  We definitely had some issues; one comforting thing later was that it seems like most teams found the orienteering very challenging.  Why?  Well, for one, the clue for each of our 7 checkpoints was "reentrant".

What's a reentrant? According to wikipedia, a re-entrant is a very small valley or draw that occurs at the head of a stream, or that begins partially up the side of a hill or ridge-line. Got that? OK, take another look at the map of the area we were in.  That just shows a portion of the course where our point 4 was.

Heading off down the road with high hopes...

We started out looking for checkpoint 4, which was somewhere to the left of where it says Berryman Campground on the map.  If we had been navigating more by the compass, we might have had a better chance of finding it; however, we were relying much more on terrain features like roads, trails, elevation, etc.  Now remember, the USGS data on these maps is about 30 years old, and things change.  Thing like, oh, new roads.  We mistakenly went off down a road that wasn't on the map and looked for over an hour for number 4.  With noooo luck.  Finally (and, really, way later than we should have), we decided to cut our losses, get back to the campground so we knew where we were again, and set off for CP 6.

This is also where we met the world's most friendly 4 wheeler riders.  Some of the locals were out riding and were bound and determined to help these poor lost souls wandering around in the woods, regardless of whether we wanted help or not. The guy kept telling us, "You just need to go..." while I was mentally plugging my ears and singing to myself la la laaaa I can't heeeear you...

CP6 was another challenge.  It looked like a straight shot back down the trail we'd ridden to get to the campground.  There wasn't much straight on the trail.  It curved back and forth so much that it took us over an hour to cover what looked like about 2 km on the map.  We spent the last part of the hike walking with a couple of other teams who were similarly confused, and we were thrilled to finally find a checkpoint that wasn't right there in front of us.

Now, though, we were down to just about 1.5 hours left, and given the amount of time it took us to get to CP 6, we didn't think we'd have time to go hunting for any others.  We certainly didn't want to lose the one precious one we'd found to a penalty.  Then Jim looked at the map and realized we could take a fire road around to another road and swing into the campground that way.  I was a little doubtful because it looked like a significantly longer distance, but it was actually much shorter because these roads, unlike the trail we'd come in on, were pretty straight.  We decided to take a shot at CP7 on the way back since we were going right past where it would be, heading into the woods with another team we'd been walking with, and we pretty much went straight to it.  Big confidence builder.

Jim doing his magic with the map
Since #7 was in a reentrant, we'd had to climb downhill following the course of it, then cross a creek and head up the reentrant on the other side.  Rather than climb back up the  hill through the brush, Jim led us down the creek, then we cut through the woods back onto the trail further down.  He was spot on through all of this section.  We made it back onto the road in time to get to the campground with about 40 minutes to spare and were walking downhill when I mentioned wishing we'd been able to get another one with all that time left.  Jim looked at the map and realized that, if we backtracked, we should have time to get #10 and still check in before our time was up.  Baaack up the hill and into the woods again.  We picked the wrong reentrant first, found the CP in the next one over, and made it back to the campground with 10 minutes to spare.  The orienteering leg that started out as a crushing defeat ended on a much more positive note.

Bike leg 2 (at this point I think we'd been racing for around 8 hours):  

We ran into Bob and Travis, who'd had some navigational challenges of their own, back at the campground, and they took off down the trail ahead of us.  We took our time getting some food and saw Orange Lederhosen, who'd gotten all but one of the CPs on the orienteering course, come in.  Then it was back on the bikes and onto the trail.  All my hard-won bike mojo from leg one had evaporated, leading Jim at one point to tell me, "I came to ride with SuperKate, not Wimpy Kate."  He was actually very nice and supportive, but it sucked to be so weak on something I've worked so hard to improve.  The first part of the trail wasn't too bad for the most part (thought it was mostly downhill, which is a challenge for me and my poor, overworked brakes), then we crossed highway 8 and met up with a stream.

You can see where the trail comes down to the stream in the top center of the picture.
I've definitely improved in my creek crossing skills, but I wasn't even going to attempt this.  Jim and I walked our bikes through the creek to clear the mud off of them, which was a good move mud-wise, but not so much chain lubrication-wise.  I also got a chance to test out the floating mountain bike theory.  It works; they do float.  Riders after us walked their bikes across the log.

Orange Lederhosen in the awesome team jerseys.
This was also a good spot to stop and refill our water bottles.  Part of the required gear was a water filter or iodine tablets to purify water, and we'd brought the iodine.  We filled our bottles, put in the tablets, and then let them sit the required 30 minutes while we rode.  Well, rode and walked.  There was a lot of hike-a-bike going on in this section.  The trail had some serious hills, and some less serious hills that I was just too done to ride.  We eventually got back out onto the roads, but we didn't get away from hills.  There was more riding than walking of hills in the mix here, but we still had to walk several. 

It breaks my heart that this picture doesn't even come close to showing how ugly this hill was.
We were riding with the Lederhosen boys for a while at this point, but after CP15 they dropped us as I slowed way down.  It was great to ride with the Lederhosen guys for a while.  As Kate and I tired out our banter became less animated.  The addition of the Lederhosen sarcasm really helped keep our spirits up. I was getting to that point where I really needed to eat or I was going to bonk, but we thought we only had a few miles to go, so I was just going to wait until we got to the canoe put-in.  After we rode for a while, Jim stopped to look at the map and realized that we had a lot further to go, so we stopped for a few minutes so I could eat something.  Overall, I did a pretty good job keeping on top of eating and drinking; that was the only time I waited too long.  I never seem to have a problem with the eating and drinking part.  I think it's my strong suit.  Feeling much better, we made our way to the canoe put-in.

Canoe leg (6 miles):

If you look in the background of the picture below, you can see that everyone had to leave their bikes and bike gear at the canoe put-in and then retrieve them after the race.  As we were parking our bikes, we noticed that a couple of teams had left their maps behind and felt really bad for them. 

Checking the map before we take off.
Canoeing, as it turns out, is definitely not our strong suit.  (Neither, unfortunately, were mountain biking or orienteering.  I do, however, think we'd have a good shot at placing in the witty banter division.)  We were hilariously bad.  Neither of us had been in a canoe in over a year, but how hard can it be?  Drunk people do it all the time.  Maybe the problem is that we hadn't been drinking? Whatever it was, we were swerving all over the river and I think we managed to drag across every single low spot in the river.  Eventually, we got going a little better.

Just a little better, though.  After a while, we caught sight of Orange Lederhosen ahead of us and tried to steadily catch up.  It seemed to take forever, but we finally caught their back canoe and passed it.  Feeling good, we started working on the lead canoe.  And it was going pretty well...right up until we managed to jam the canoe up on a tree that was on its side in the water.  The partially submerged roots made the perfect ramp for the front of the canoe, and suddenly my end was out of the water and perched on the tree, while Jim's end was still in the water. 

Despite the fact that the Huzzah has a lot of really shallow areas, this particular spot wasn't one of them, and Jim would've been swimming if he'd gotten out.  We tried shoving backward with the paddles to push us off the tree, but we weren't budging.  I just knew we were going to tip.  At this point, the Orange Lederhosen canoe floated past.  "They didn't even offer to help!" I told Jim.  (That may or may not be how THEY remember this, but it's how I choose to.)

"No, but they laughed at us."

"Well, that's almost the same." 

This was the point in the race where I wished we had a camera man.  We looked completely hilarious.  Kate up in the air and me down in the water, and neither one of us willing to pull out a camera for fear that we would be swimming in a matter of seconds. 

Somehow we made it off the tree without flipping the canoe, and life was good again.  That is, until we floated into a branch on the other side of the river just a little later.   I was pushing at it with my paddle and ducking at the same time and dropped my paddle in the water.  "Don't worry, we'll catch it," Jim said and started paddling hard...just as the paddle hung up in some plants on the side of the river.  He managed to stop the canoe, and I got out and waded in hip-deep water to go get it.  Man, the water was cold.  On the other hand, it did wash my trail shoes where I'd accidentally peed on them earlier. :)  At this point, it was after 6; thankfully the day was absolutely beautiful, but it was starting to get a little cool.  I was looking forward to getting out of the canoe and into some dry pants.

A calm moment
It seemed like forever before we got to the canoe take-out, and I was so glad to be off of that seat.  I was also glad to see my friend Emma who was volunteering there.  There was a quick gear check (which we passed), and then we had to get moving.  With about an hour to get back to the start (We were in the 12-hour race, but the cut-off was 14 hours, so as long as we were back by 8 we were OK.), we decided to skip going for the last few orienteering checkpoints and make sure we hit the finish line in time.

The long walk "home": 

You can look at the map below to follow our progress.  We left the canoe beach at the same time as Orange Lederhosen, but they decided to take one of the trails shown by double dotted lines back to the campground.  I had suggested to Jim that we follow the creek to the pipeline (shown in yellow) and then use the pipeline as a handrail to get to the Ozark Trail (shown with a single dotted line).  Then we could take the Ozark Trail until we got to the main road back in.

This idea had legs until we got to the pipeline.  I took a picture of the route, but it was too dark to really show what it looked like--steeeeeeep and high.  A couple other teams were there and heading down the pipeline, but Jim announced, "I'm not walking up that."  His suggestion was to follow the creek we were walking along until it ended, cut over to the Ozark Trail, and then take it back to the main road.  That plan is shown below in the blue highlighter.

The great thing was that there was a doubletrack trail that followed the creekbed the whole way.  At one point, we passed some tents with some kids playing outside.  "You're at least the last racers," they told us, "At least 150 people have gone by here already."  Such an encouraging little peanut gallery. :)  We assured them that there was at least one team behind us and went on our merry way.
This wasn't taken at this point, but I need something to break up all the words, and Jim's caption on Facebook cracked me up: "Kate, enjoying torture as usual".  It's true, too.  No matter how tired or sore or frustrated I was, I truly was thrilled to be out there, and I never lost sight of that during the day.  And sharing it with my brother was awesome.

When Jim said to, we cut across the creek and bushwhacked for a minute or so, coming right out onto the Ozark Trail like he said we would.  I'm not going to lie.  We were so proud of ourselves and what an awesome plan we had.  We just knew we were going to beat those other teams back, and we were taking a relatively easy way across (easy = quick = good).  The Ozark Trail ran right into a nice packed road, and we made our left as planned.

I have to admit, I was completely pleased with myself and feeling pretty smug at this point.  Here I was a first time adventure racer, and I knew we were going to beat some of those veteran teams back into the finish, and all because of my plan.  Little did I know...
We walked on, knowing that we had plenty of time to make it back to camp in time to beat the deadline.  And walked and walked and walked and walked.  We passed a couple of unmarked trails to the right.  And walked some more.  Jim wondered once if we were going in the right direction, but I brushed his concern aside.  We had followed the map. We had turned when it showed a turn.  There was no other way we could have gone.  Of course we were going the right way.

Eventually it became clear that we were NOT going the right way, but we weren't sure what our mistake had been.  Knowing that we weren't going to make the time cut-off, we decided to follow the road and see if we could find some markings and figure out where we were.  When we got to an intersection, there was nothing helpful.  This was stupid. We headed back towards where we first turned off to see if we could figure out our mistake.

I can't express how demoralizing this was.  We had been so excited, giggling and doing a little jogging, hurrying to get back ahead of the other teams.  (One of Kate's previous blog posts was rather prophetic, given that she said that if we would run it would be in the wrong direction.) When we realized that we weren't going the right way, it just took the wind out of my sails, and the sun was going down to boot. I knew he was really bummed, but at that point, what do you do.  We'd had a good plan, it went wrong, life goes on.  I was NOT thrilled that we had who knows how much further to walk before getting into camp, but I wasn't getting upset about it.

So this pretty much sucked.  Our plan had been so good, and it had gone so wrong.  It had been a long day.  At this point, we had been racing for about 14 hours.  The headlamps came out again, and this was our view:

We weren't lost, since we at least knew how to get back to where we'd know (more or less) where we were on the map.  I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to make our way back to the campground.  Eventually we passed a really faded sign for the pipeline, and looking at the map we realized that we'd somehow turned left on the wrong road.  If you look again at the map above, our "mistake" route is marked in red.  Thinking we'd maybe turned too soon, we went a little further on the Ozark Trail in the hopes that we'd find our missing road.  No luck.  We returned again to the spot where we'd made our initial wrong turn.

This time, we decided that we'd turn right on the "wrong" road since it appeared to lead to a main road.  Looking back now, it's clear that it led right into the road we wanted, but at the time it wasn't clear at all.  By the time we hit the pavement, it was about 8:15, we knew we were disqualified for missing the time cut-off,  and we were just done.  Jim got out his phone and actually had a signal, so we used the GPS to figure out where the hell we were (exactly where we'd planned to be about an hour earlier) and then called Jason to let him know we were alive...just inept navigators...and on our way in.  (What we eventually found out was that the Ozark Trail had been rerouted, and that's why it didn't lead where it showed on the map.)

It was about 2 more miles down the road to the finish line, and cars kept passing us either going to or coming from the bike drop.  I was at war with myself: I wish someone would stop and pick us up.  No, it'll be good to come in under our own power. ...I really wish someone would stop and pick us up.  I hope no one stops so I don't have the opportunity to take the easy way out....  No one stopped, though, so my resolve remained untested.

We finally trudged up to the finish line at 8:45, 14 hours and 45 minutes after we left, to cheers and cowbells.  When we hit the finish chute, we broke into a run, and Jim told me, "I'm beating you this time!" (since I crossed the marathon line a second before him)  This turned out to be a good move...for me, anyway, because when Bob came running up spraying champagne all over us, Jim took the brunt of the shower. It was the perfect end to an epic day.

Coming into the campground, I was exhausted and struggling to have a good attitude.  It had been a long day, and I was disappointed at the events of the last hour and a half, but running through the arch and having smiling friends there spraying champagne on us totally turned my attitude around.  It was a fantastic reminder that what we had done it itself was a huge accomplishment, and we had just joined a small fraternity of people crazy enough to spend 12+ hours running, riding, and canoeing around the woods. 

So we missed our time cut-off and got disqualified in our first race.  Whatever.  I'd have liked to officially finish, but it was all about the experience for me, and there's always next time to work on the things that need improving.  Really, my only disappointment is that I have no idea how many miles we hiked or biked and so can't log them on Daily Mile.  Otherwise, and even with that, the day is pure gold to me.

We ate baked potatoes and talked for a while at the finish line pavilion, then headed back to the camper to drop our gear and change into cleaner, drier clothes, then we went back to hang out at the campfire.  Bob was BBQing, so we sat with him and Travis for a while.  Jim headed to bed before the food was done, and I waited with the guys in the hopes of seeing any of my 36 hour friends come through for their next set of maps or their race finish.  Drinks were drunk, stories were told, and let's just say I heard a few things about the varied phobias and "talents" of some of my friends.

What happens at Berryman stays at Berryman, though, so if you want to find out you'll have to come along next year. I'll be there, for sure.

I felt a little guilty going to sleep when I did and not hanging out with everyone, but I was completely spend and found myself falling asleep in the chair next to the fire. Who would have thought that running an adventure race would tire me out?  In any case, it's probably better that I didn't have to listen to stories about my sister's phobias and talents.  It probably would have scarred me for life. First of all, I want to note that nowhere were my phobias or talents brought up.  Second, I want to mention again that a) Jim climbed Pike's Peak earlier in the week, b) he drove in from Colorado on Wednesday, and c) he has two ruptured discs.  If completing an adventure race under those circumstances doesn't show how tough he is, I don't know what does.  He more than earned that early bed time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

...and we're off!

The bags are overpacked, the camper is hooked up, and we're on our way to Steelville MO for racer check-in. We'll have a couple hours to hang out at the campground before dinner and the racer meeting at 7:30. It kind of sounds like the 36-hour folks will be heading out shortly after that, but us lightweights 12-hour peeps will get a little sleep.

Maybe. If I can sleep. :)

I've got my camera, so I'll try to get lots of pictures and take lots of mental notes so I can give a full accounting. You know, as opposed to the usual brief summaries I typically post.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Adventure approaches...

About a year ago, this guy I barely knew from the internet posted a note on Daily Mile saying that his team would be competing in the Berryman Adventure 36-hour race and that we could follow their progress online and send them encouragement during the race.  I didn't even know what adventure racing was, but I logged on during race day to check out how his team was doing.  In addition to a leaderboard, the website also had this awesome board where you could post comments, shout-outs, encouragement, or taunting to team members.  People also posted some questions about where "their" team was in the course.  Occasionally, pictures from the day were added to the board.

I. Was. Hooked.  I spent the day with the website up on the computer, checking back every time I heard the little clicking noise that signalled a new message.  We left the house, and I wondered how Patrick's team was doing.  The weather was beautiful, and I thought how nice it was that they had such great weather.  As dusk fell, it started to rain and get cold, and I thought about them out there in the rain.  I went to bed, woke up, and they were still racing.  My husband totally didn't get it.  Why did I keep looking at the computer to check on this person I'd met once? 

And, yeah, I wanted Patrick to do well, but it wasn't even about his team...it was about the race.  It just grabbed me.  It was pretty much the coolest thing I'd ever seen.  Within days, I had emailed my brother: we have to do this.  And, because he rocks, he agreed.

"What is adventure racing? ...adventure racing is a team-based multisport event where teams travel through unknown terrain collecting a series of checkpoints (CPs) along the way. Teams use only a map and compass to guide them through the course, and must remain together for the duration of the race. Core disciplines include cross-county running, mountain biking and paddling. Adventure races can also include rope work, caving, white water rafting, scootering, swimming, rock climbing and a variety of mystery events." (from bonkhardracing.com)

While I had done some trail running, I could barely use a compass or topographical map, and my one mountain biking experience had led directly to surgery.  I had my work cut out for me before the race.

I had been saving up for a road bike, but once the adventure racing bug bit me, I put aside the road bike plans and started working towards a mountain bike.  It took me until Christmas to get it. And then I had to actually learn how to ride it.  I mean, I know how to ride a bike, but riding trails is a whole different thing.  Especially if you're somebody like me who's timid and scared of everything.  It's been a steep learning curve, but I've definitely improved.
Photo credit: Suzanne Renner
One of my Christmas presents was a book on orienteering.  I read it cover to cover.  Twice.  I took a class on basic orienteering (where I felt more lost after than before).  I non-raced with a map tutor.  My husband and I have done two orienteering meets.  A friend went over plotting UTM points with me.  I will still be leaning on my brother's (hopefully considerably greater) map and compass skills.

Photo credit: Luke Lamb

I've read countless adventure race reports, most of them more than once, and been lucky to find people with adventure racing experience who are willing to share.  I got to spend a day at an adventure non-race and find out first-hand how demanding and exhausting it can be (though at least this time my race won't follow a 21-mile run!).  And I've gotten progressively more excited as the months have passed and the race has gotten closer.  And now it's in 4 days. 

4 days.

So what's this Berryman race you've been talking about?

My brother and I are competing on the 12-Hour Course:
"12-Hour racers will have a challenging course as well and should take this race very seriously! You will need to come well-trained and well-prepared if you want to complete this race. Racers will enjoy racing in deep backwoods forests and will be on miles of fantastic singletrack! You can expect to paddle some of the clearest streams in the country. Racers should come prepared to complete 20 - 35 miles of mountain biking (on gravel roads, jeep roads and single track), 7 - 15 miles of running, trekking and bushwhacking and 5 - 15 miles of paddling. Only about 1% of this race will take place on pavement. The entire course will be navigation based, and teams should be very proficient with using a map and compass in order to find their way through the course. Expected winning time will be around 7 hours."
Expected time for us will be significantly more.  We won't be doing much if any running due to the fact that Jim is dealing with two ruptured discs.  Chances are, though, that if we were running, it would be in the wrong direction.  This race is a Learning Experience.  And once I get finished with my normal pre-race freak out (What the HELL am I getting myself into??), I know it'll also be a blast.  Between nerves and sheer excitement, if I make it to the start line without peeing my pants, it'll be a miracle.

I was hoping to share a link with you so that you could log on during my race, cheer me on virtually, and possibly drink some of the adventure racing kool-aid yourselves, but the interactive site will apparently only be tracking the 36-hour racers.  I'd still encourage you to check it out, and if you feel like cheering for a team, my friend Luke and his brother Casey are competing as Team Virtus, my friend Chuck and his friend Megan are competing as ROCK Racing, and my friend Patrick (who gave me the ticket for this crazy train) will be competing with Team POW/MIA.  And who knows, maybe I'll be in their ranks next year.

Photo credit: Luke Lamb

That is, if we make it out of the woods.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The sun even shines on a dog's ass some days...

I haven't run a 5K since July of 2010.  I've been halfheartedly training (getting in most of my long runs, swimming once a week, but not much else) for the half ironman next month.  The last speedwork I did was a month ago.  None of that bodes well for a race; however, when my friend Michelle signed up for her first 5K, of course I had to go, too.  After all, it was partly my incessant facebook posting about running that got her thinking that, if I could, she could too.

I got there nice and early because I hate feeling disorganized before a race.  This wasn't even "my" race, but I was still nervous.  Since it was pretty small (about 242 people, including the walkers), I was through check-in really fast and then had plenty of time to kill.  I hung out with Michelle after she got there and tried to pass on my accumulated racing "wisdom" which basically consisted of don't go out too fast bc of all the fast people around you; just stick with your pace and warming up is good. She wanted to know if I was going to run with her or at my own pace. I offered to do either, but when she said she didn't care, I opted to run my own race.

I know...I'm an amazing friend, right?

My 5k PR was 28:00, set about a month into my racing "career", and I was hoping to hit 27 min in this race. Hoping, but doubtful. Like I said, it's been a long time since I raced a 5k, and none of my training has been focused on speed. That sad reality didn't keep me from wishful thinking, though. Instead of hiding in the back, I lined up at the back of the front and took off at a strong pace when the gun sounded.

The first mile included a downhill, which was nice. I was passing some people, but there were a couple ladies in front of me who looked like they might be in my age group. Instead of stressing about it, I just maintained a steady pace and eventually passed them. I wasn't dying, but I was pushing myself, which made it even funnier to watch some of the kids running the race as they goofed around, slaloming around and jumping over the cones on the side. I was happy just to be upright...and when I hit the first mile I was even happier to hear 8:28...but it's not uncharacteristic of me to be close to that pace in the beginning of a race.

The second mile was tougher. At about mile 1.5, the leaders passed me going the other way, and I cheered for a bunch of them. Always a nice distraction. I recognized Christopher from Daily Mile, who was on his way to a ridiculous 20 minute finish. And then I just did my best to stay strong and not fade. On the way back after the turn, I saw Michelle, who to be honest was closer to me than I expected. I waved and cheered for her anyway. :) At the 2-mile mark, the lady called out 17:04 and I knew a PR was in reach as long as nothing drastic happened.

Mile 3 was like a death march, especially having to go back up the hill. I passed another woman who looked to be my age, and at first she seemed to stick close but then dropped off. I tried to stay strong, but i know I let up some That last mile seemed to take FOREVER. I passed a guy and almost said something about how loud my breathing was until I heard how noisy his was. Finally the finish line was in sight, and when I crossed.....


By far a new PR for me and way faster than I thought I'd manage. I was thrilled...for about 15 minutes. Then, I was still happy, but I started wondering just what I could do if I actually trained for speed or ran more regularly. Most of the time, I'm pretty content with doing things haphazardly and accepting whatever results I get. Every once in a while, though, I wonder just what I'm capable of. At this point, I guess I'm just not ready to put in the time and hard(er) work to find out.

Anyway, new PR for me AND I got to watch my friend finish with a new PR as well...sub-30:00 on her first race! So it was definitely a good day, which got even better when I checked the results online later. Turns out I was 3rd in my age group!! (2nd if you don't count the lady in my AG who was 2nd overall female). Granted, it was a small race, but I'll take it!

Final stats:

Overall: 53/242
Female: 11/130ish

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to lose a customer

How to lose a customer*: 

1. Don't call me when my bike is done.  When I call you, tell me there was no answering machine even though I gave you my cell number and I know that's not true.

2. Don't do the whole job.  Even if I tell you that I have a race coming up and need my seriously wobbly wheel fixed, do a half-ass job that leaves it in pretty much the same condition as I brought it and then call it a day.

3.  Don't mention that you couldn't fix the wheel.  When I (foolishly) assume it's done and leave without looking closely at it, watch me go.

How to get free beer:

1. Work on my bike for me.

Luckily, I have a couple of awesome friends who've done this for me, some more than once. Thanks, Wade! And Chuck, I owe you one...or six. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not feeling it -- last week in training

That's pretty much the story of my workouts for most of last week.  Not sure what the problem is.  I think it's a combination of not eating well (eating plenty, just not the right foods) and being stressed out over this whole car thing.  The thing is, I would've been happy driving my crappy car for the next 5 years and enjoying not having a car payment.  I'm not a big "car" person, I couldn't care less.  I don't have some dream car out there that I've been drooling over for years, and if I did we couldn't afford it anyway.  So the whole car shopping prospect is bringing me down.

 Monday: Already mentioned this in my last post.  My brother's in town, so I met up with him and his friend for a bike ride before heading to the Survivor games.  30.5 miles, 16.1 mph pace.  We could've pushed it more, but his friend was riding a hybrid while we were on our road bikes.  Sidenote: I think his friend started looking at road bikes the next day. :)

Tuesday: Monday evening Jeff realized that the van's tire was looking super low.  He aired it up, but it lost more air that evening.  He ended up putting on the spare so I wouldn't end up having to deal with a flat before work Tuesday.  When he took off the tire, it had a big screw embedded in it.  The tire was worn enough that it needed to be replaced rather than fixed, so I took it in for a new tire after work.

After a 20+ minute wait to even get helped, they told me it would be 2-3 hours.  Awesome.  I wasn't hanging around Wal-Mart for that long.  Unfortunately, I  obviously didn't have a car.  Now, I have lots of friends and family in town, but you never know when people are going to be busy.  I was feeling fragile enough (we have to replace a car and a tire??...and yeah, I know it's not THAT much money, but it's money on top of money on top of bills...) that I was afraid if the first person or two couldn't do it I'd end up crying on the phone.  Ugh.  No thanks, so instead I walked home.  1.6 miles.  In 2-inch heels.  And hell yeah I'm counting the mileage. :)

Wednesday: A friend texted me earlier in the day to say she'd be riding from near my house at 6.  I was hopeful at first, but after leaving work later than planned and being at the grocery store until 5:25, it wasn't looking good.  I had to get the family fed in time for Jeff to get J to PSR at 6:30, and I wasn't even home yet.  Boo.  Another missed ride.

And then I got home, got annoyed by something, and decided I was going to ride after all.  I changed into my bike clothes while I cooked, got supper on the table, and managed to ride to meet my friends by 6:00.  Nothing like a little motivation to get you moving! It wasn't a very fast ride (20.6 miles at 14.5 mph pace), but it was good to just get out and ride. 

Thursday:  (The day I started to get my joy back) Ran to my friend Lindsay's house and then to the local university to visit some metal birds.  Total of 5.8 miles and countless laughs.  We are big big fans of The Bloggess and, in particular, her hilarious post And That's Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles, so when we realized that there were metal chickens practically right in our backyard, we absolutely had to go visit them.
Could we be any happier?
We were momentarily dismayed to realize they were ducks, not chickens.  Actually, we weren't.  We just laughed and decided they were the love children of Beyonce and Donald Duck and dubbed them "chucklings".

I want one! We briefly considered a duck-napping but decided we might look a little suspicious running back across campus with a gigantic metal bird.
It's a beautiful thing to have a friend who makes you laugh and giggle like a silly high school girl.

Saturday: Picked up my bike from the shop where I'd taken it for adjustments and because my front wheel was seriously wobbly.  I told them it needed to be trued when I dropped it off, then when I called asked again to make sure it had been trued.  Unfortunately, I didn't really look at it until I got home, when you could tell the wheel wasn't right just by looking at it...and when you spun it...oh, man.  It was still terrible.  Plus, it had like 1000 pounds of air in it...not what you need for a mountain bike.

So here was my dilemna: do I take the bike back (to St. Louis, a good 25-30 minute drive) and say "Hey, you didn't take care of this; fix it" (and there had been no charge) or do I take it somewhere else.  On one hand, clearly they didn't do what they were supposed to; on the other, if you didn't do it right the first time, do I really want to trust you with my bike again?  When I need it in less than two weeks (!! happy dance !!)? Luckily, a friend came to my rescue and offered to true it for me.

Sunday: I was supposed to meet some friends at Pere Marquette park for a training run for the upcoming race and my hopeful redemption after last year's pitiful showing.  Instead, I combined a wheel drop/trail run/UTM plotting tutoring session by meeting Chuck at Lost Valley.  This was to be my first trail run since probably March, when I stopped doing my long runs on the trails and went back to the road in preparation for the marathon.  I was excited about it but realized it had the potential to be a tough run.

It. Was. Awesome.  I felt really good running on the trails, and the weather was perfect.  We'd gotten a little rain the night before, just enough so that it wasn't all dusty.  I was breathing hard but for the most part didn't feel like I was going to die, and the time on the trail gave me a chance to pick Chuck's brain about the upcoming adventure race.  There were a couple tougher hills to run, but most of them were more rolling hills and fun to run.  We even got to have a couple walk breaks thanks to each of us falling, but I was either:

a) "Smart" enough to not fall on the rocky part of the trail


b) Clumsy enough that I fell on the smooth dirt part

Regardless, I bet Chuck's bruises were worse than mine today.  No blood, 11 miles in 2:07, and I felt a lot stronger than I did last winter when I ran that loop with Chuck, Robin, and Patrick after they'd already run 11 and still was the one dragging behind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Family Survivor Games

Every year for the past...gosh, it's been a while...6 or 7 years, Jeff has hosted the family survivor games/Survivor Jr/Kid Olympics as a way of keeping the kids in the family more active.  You can read about previous years here (2010) and here (2008).  He puts in a ton of planning, researching games for half the year, and the kids all look forward to it.  Actually scheduling it is a logistical nightmare because you're working around the schedules of 4 families and about 10 kids.  This year we managed to fit it in on Labor Day. 

In its earliest incarnation, we had ribbons for the top three finishers in each event.  When we moved to the Survivor theme, in the first year we had kids voted out, but that was kind of contrary to the whole "get the kids moving" theme and left bad feelings in the wake of the votes.  In the past few years, we've gone to a point system.  Teams are scrambled before each event, and then each member of the winning team gets a point.  The kid(s) with the most points at the end of the day wins bragging rights.  Of course, it's not nice to brag, so basically they just get to feel good on the inside. :)

Here's a look at some of the day's fun:

Sword soccer: (new this year)

Jeff explains the rules
One of the most challenging parts of the day for Jeff is just keeping things moving and keeping the kids listening.  He'll start explaining and before he gets out a sentence there are 30 questions that would be answered if they'd just listen to the directions.  Teachers will sympathize.

The blue team has their game faces on...
...while the red team is all about the stragegy.
Game on!!

Battling it out.
 Sword soccer, despite its many opportunities for dissention and unfair play (AKA smacking your opponents rather than the ball), was a success and a lot of fun to play and watch.  All good things must come to an end, though, and soon we were on to "Face the Cookie".

Event 2: Face the Cookie (from Minute to Win It)

Kind of slow to get through the game, but visually hilarious.



J. really struggled, so N (who's freakishly good at this game and
could eat a whole bag of Oreos from his face in a minute) was coaching him.

Next up was the Elephant Relay. You have to knock over a row of cups with a tennis ball in the pantyhose "trunk".  It's harder than you'd think, but good fun to watch your kids run around with pantyhose on their heads.




After that came the Electric Fence.  It started low.  Once the whole team was across the "fence", it was raised 6 inches and they had to cross again.

It started out nice and easy.

Even after being raised the first time everyone got across no problem.

Good to know all N's middle school high jump experience wasn't wasted.

As the fence rose, teams really had to work together to get everyone across.

Lots of teamwork going on.

D. played stepstool

Higher still.  Having tall teammates comes in handy.

If I hadn't been there when he was conceived, I'd swear he's half kangaroo.

Going up....

Around here's where I started to get nervous that someone would get hurt.

I'm thinking this was around 48", but it might have been higher.

He cleared it, but landed on his hip.  We hadn't had any rain for a looong while, so that sand was hard packed.
After both D. and N. cleared the fence by diving over it and landing hard, I made the strong suggestion that we call it a draw.  Both my boys are super competitive (not sure where they get that), and I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.  It's a measure of how hard they landed that both of them were ok with a tie.
The camera battery was running low, but I managed to get a few shots of the next game, where the kids had to try and knock a cone of their opponent's head with a water ball.

Gentlemen (and I use that term loosely), take your places.

Nerves of steel

This was a good shot...except for the fact that they weren't supposed to throw overhand. 
The camera battery cut out about here, so I put it on the charger and took another few pictures with my phone, but after lunch I fell asleep and failed to document the rest of the day.  I hear it was a pretty good time, though. :)