Thursday, October 8, 2009

Project Athena!!

September 30- October 4: Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, Project Athena fundraising adventure.

I'm a little at a loss for words on this, but I felt it was necessary to post something. My loss of words may be because I'm not much of a mushy person... and any descriptions in English are just going to come off mushy.

This was an amazing group of people in an amazing setting, all for the purpose of helping others. All the planets aligned; it was the perfect storm.

See? Already I'm getting mushy. Think of any cheesy cliche, and I won't fight you on it. I seriously came back a different person.

The goal:
Cross the Grand Canyon on foot. Twice. From the South Rim to the North on Thursday, and a different route back on Friday. So I was thinking that this will be pretty easy; hiking is just walking, right? After two 10+ hour days with minimal stopping and a new series of blisters that Robyn dubbed "The Toe Hat", I realized that I was wrong.

The cause:
Project Athena, a non-profit that helps women "strive and survive" after medical tragedy/setback by fulfilling an athletic dream. For example, Kerrie Kerkman. She has a degenerative spinal condition, and has already had one spinal fusion- with the possibility of more on the horizon. Her dream was to to not only see the Great Wall in China, but to run the Great Wall marathon. In May 2009, accompanied by Melissa Cleary, she did just that. Project Athena provides funds and support for the "Athenaship Recipients" in these athletic endeavors.

The R2R2R recipient was Sandy Kilburg, aptly nicknamed "Sunshine". Always positive and active, you would never know that she is a breast cancer survivor.

Some of the people:
Melissa Cleary, San Diego firefighter, marathoner (dozens of 'em). Strong and kind, her Project Athena job description is "Angel of Hope". Seriously, it says so on her business card- and after hiking with her, I can't think of a better description. And again, don't think mushy: she's originally from Philly and tells it like it is. She carried packs and weight from damn near everyone.

Robyn Benincasa, San Diego firefighter, world class adventure racer. Strong, fun, and ridiculously modest, she is a founder of Project Athena (job description: "Minister of Dreams"). Anyone who follows adventure racing is aware of Robyn's rockstar status, but she is more down-to-earth than most amateur Cat. 3 road cyclists. Another woman who isn't afraid to tell it like it is, she knew my feet hurt before I did. She took weight and physically pushed, pulled, and dragged us to completion.

Masha Glanville, recently retired from the workforce and world class adventure racer. I didn't get a lot of time with Mosh, but I do know this: she suffers more gracefully than anyone I have ever known. She physically pulled (on a towline) other hikers for dozens of miles.

Florence Debout, French, tiny, and powerful, her Project Athena description is "Commissioner of Courage". Again, not a lot of time with Florence, but her presence is much larger than her compact frame. For example, Florence and Robyn completed RAW this year, and their two-person female team won their division and placed 3rd OVERALL. She is also not one to boast.

Jonea Mounsey, flight nurse, local, hiker extraordinaire, route finder. Another pusher/puller/dragger, Jonea is just an all around cool chick.

Josh Liberman, a professional photog there to document who quickly became one of us, and Jackie Windh, a journalist and photographer there to cover the event for Sleepmonsters, and who has always been one of us.

The "B" Team: abbreviated from "Bitchin'!", this was Wendy, a San Diego firefighter, Erica, the sweetest girl with a contagious laugh, and myself, the ex-crackhead posing as an athlete. We vowed on Day 2 that we would stay together and damnit, we did. Every. Last. Painful. Step. You learn a lot about yourself when you are stripped of all ego, walking in well after everyone else.

There were 22 of us, which would make for a really long blog. The moral is this: go to Project Athena and donate at least a tithe. Or ten bucks, whatever. Click here to do it under my page.

It is a cause worthy of all of your disposable income.

makin' progress

Dennis Grelk and I teamed up on August 29th to do the 12-hour Thunder Rolls AR. We're both in our first year or two of adventure racing, but we get into it like a couple of rabid beavers. Dennis is a great teammate for many reasons, not the least of which are his VW bus and his ability to tow my ass on a bike to the finish line at 26mph-- after 11 hours and 53 minutes of racing. (We finished, according to my watch, with 20 seconds to spare.)

Of note on this race:
1. Two-mile run epilogue, in which teams receive Map 1 of 6 and passport (for marking obtained CPs). Dennis had a pulled Achilles' tendon, so the run was less than fun for his angry foot. Luckily for us, Dennis and I are total geeks (again, great teammate) and had spent the evening before overlaying the existing maps to determine where CP 1 was on the missing map.
That way, we didn't have to stop and plot the UTM coordinates. We were off!

2. Rockin' bike section, in which I was towed for the first time. It was awesome! The only team that caught us was 3-person coed Team Bushwacker, and we all know that they are monsters, so I'm okay with it. Two water crossings by bike.

3. The Tyrolean traverse, during which certain female racers are accused of sounding like birthing water buffalo. Whatever, I think I sounded like a warrior princess. Did I mention that we had to traverse with our bikes?

4. The first orienteering course. We hit the traverse in second place. When we came out of this O-course, we were 16th. We spent 90 minutes on one CP, and still never found it. Yeah, neither of us are navigators. Not at all.

5. The damned paddle, in which all energy stores are completely sapped. The Mississippi is one powerful, angry bitch. A few days before the race, one river town had received 10" of rain in one storm. It took us 3+ hours to get two CPs, but damnit, we got them. God bless 180 Energy drinks and beans- supplied at the boat launch. Thunder Rolls volunteers are awesome.

6. The finish, in which racers are handed an ice cold beer (in a custom Thunder Rolls coozie). The rest of the race was a blur as I clung to Dennis' wheel.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the Muddy Buddy!! ...and a fuddy duddy

Did my first race as an Otter last Sunday-- the Muddy Buddy Chicago! Rod McLennan and I teamed up and gave that course the business as Fat Otter III.

This was my first Muddy Buddy, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was what I would call a "civilian" race-- with 1700 teams of two and free Red Hook beer, the vibe was definitely pretty chill. The course was quick, creative and fun... and who doesn't love an excuse to crawl through the mud? Rod and I ended up 9th in our division... I'll take it, since there were 148 teams and I wasted some time waiting for a bike that was already in one of the transitions. (Note: make bike more identifiable next year.) Afterwards I stopped by the Zanfel tent and got to chat with Mr. Steve! Haven't seen him since the High Profile Adventure Camp last April.

We celebrated for a while, then I stopped by the bike corral to pick up my bike... to no avail. That's right: someone took my MTB. Are you kidding me? The year I get in to Chequamegon, and now I am without bike??

The race promotor/director was as helpful as could be expected, but the website had warned that the corral was not secure. I'm so used to bike and adventure races--where it's all athletes and no one would mess with your gear--that I disregarded this warning.

I had a three-hour drive home to totally lose my shit about it, and believe me, I did. But that didn't bring me any closer to having a bike again, so I decided instead on this:

I have chosen to believe that my bike ran off to live on a beautiful farm with an active family who cleans, maintains, and keeps bicycles inside. They have pristine singletrack out the back door and live on beautiful, rolling gravel roads. The Tassajara is in a much better place now. *sniff*

...and now I will somehow get a new bike.

(But just in case, keep your eyes peeled for a red & silver Gary Fisher Tassajara, nicknamed "The Ass Jar")

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is it possible to bruise your sternum?

This weekend was FORC's first annual series of MTB races at Scott County Park, the Mean Fuzzy. Two days of racing with multiple categories and the good swag that FORC is known for made for a FANTASTIC first event.

Saturday was a "short track" race. This was my first attempt at short track and it was AWESOME. I'm not sure what else to say about it- I felt good and the course was great fun. I really need to work on my technical skills--I know I had the fitness to do much more than I did, even in a race that is generally less technical. My race (novice) was six laps and lasted around 28 minutes (balls to the wall!). The course was dry and fast, making for good clean fun.

Sunday was the cross country (XC) race. Two laps, 10 miles. Again, I was feeling really good about my fitness--but this was definitely more technical than the short track. I rode most of the race with Christie Klemish, until I decided it would be fun to wreck like a cartoon character.

Here's the scene: left handlebar hits tree, recover, right handlebar hits tree, barely recover, small root system finishes me off. Wobble, wobble, whoa! It was slow motion as I started to tip right, and all I could think was: "That is a lot of poison ivy." The next thing I know, I'm in the ditch (head lower than feet) and have somehow lost my right shoe. I took the end of my handlebars to the sternum (luckily no bar ends!) and had the wind knocked out of me. When the stars and tweeting birds cleared and my eyes focused, I was face-to-face with a three-leafed beauty.

Don't get me wrong- I love rolling around in poison ivy just as much as the next girl. But as I looked for my shoe (which I found still attached to my bike?) I just felt dirty.

I feel bad for the guy behind me- when he came around the corner all he would've seen sticking out of the ditch is two spinning wheels and perhaps a black-socked foot. Rock and roll.

My day was topped off by a good Zanfel scrubbing in the parking lot and a couple-hour jaunt to the ER with Matt Klemish (Christie's husband) to take care of his 3rd-degree ankle sprain (a nice, gnarly knot). Genesis East had Klem out lightning fast and we were back at the course sipping beers before the end of the expert race--which, by the way, was over 30 miles and took nearly three hours. This is why Bruce Grell is my hero. What a freak!

Side note: I seriously love that Zanfel. Seriously. If you do anything in the woods, ever, you must have this stuff. Do not cry to me about the cost, I am not listening. It is worth every penny.

Results: Sat- 1 of 3 Women's Novice, Sun- 3 of 6 Women's Novice, pain with deep breaths, slight bad-beer buzz. See you in the funny pages...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stayin' at The Bates

It’s true, and I can vouch: you get what you pay for… and I stayed at a $43 motel on Tuesday.

When I first pulled in to Nowhere, KS I stopped at a gas station to fill up and get anything I would need for the next day’s 5am start- cereal bar, juice, caffeine. The guy behind the counter had a very Jeffrey Dahmer-esque vibe. So when he asked me why I wouldn’t stop by in the morning, I minimized any information and got the hell out of there. But not before he got in a “What does your license plate say? I can tell you’re not from here… we don’t get many good-lookin’ women like you around here.” He followed this with one of the most horrifying laugh/grin combinations I have ever seen-- outside of a movie theater. Seriously. We’re talking cheap “Halloween Sound Effects” cassette. It was all I could do to stifle my Jamie Lee Curtis scream.

I should mention here that I had been in a van for nine hours after a two hour bike ride. My clothes were wrinkled and I was wearing pool shoes. My skin was in a civil war which resulted in three meteor-sized pimples around my left eye. (When I got home Sean asked, “What’s on your face?”) So no, I was not a “good looking woman” by any stretch of the imagination.

I escape the gas station unscathed but shaken and realize with horror that my motel was directly across the street. I knew that when I pulled my giant, white, beacon of a 3/4-ton van into the parking lot I would just announce myself to all the Jeff Dahmers of the area. It was 9pm. Awesome.

I get checked in and head to my room, key in hand. A key. Literally, a metal key--which in some situations, can be viewed as quaint. I was simply interested in security at this point, so the key was a bit disheartening, as was the lack of any other form of lock on the door. But this was nothing compared to the room.

In the right context, many of the things that I encountered could have been any variation of the word “quaint”. For example, the adorable stains on the throw pillows. Or the super-cute half-drank can of Squirt in the mini-fridge. Or the endearing loose toilet seat—I love to hover in my hotel! But I was not at a forgivable bed and breakfast out east. I was in the middle of Kansas surrounded by weirdos.

I decided that I would be better off sleeping (and I use this term loosely) in my clothes, skipping the filthy shower, and shoving the “desk chair” (a folding chair) under the door handle for security. Good times!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

bonk hard chill

So, DG and I did a 12-hour adventure race on Feb. 7th. Called the Bonk Hard Chill, this race adds the extra challenge of cold weather on top of physical endurance. Good times!

I had done the Frozen Otter, so I felt I had my winter gear pretty dialed in. DG had just done the Arrowhead 135 (26 hours- third place!), so he for sure had his winter gear dialed in. We were set. Oh, except for the fact that the weather took a freak turn and it was 60 degF during the race!! So much for the cold weather home court advantage.

This was DG's first actual AR, and only my third or fourth, so we still had a few things to figure out. We got our maps Friday night and spent a few hours plotting UTMs and mapping our course. We decided I would navgate the first land O, and he would take the second one. We would both work on the canoe and bike routes.

We hit the first land nav section pretty dead on, but our pace was slower overall than most-- I wanted to make sure I wasn't getting us lost. When I'm more confident with my nav skills, then maybe we can run full boar through the woods... but not yet.

Of note was the second canoe section, where we had to strap our bikes in the canoes and paddle them a short distance across the lake. This is where we learned that a tailwind is actually the worst thing you can have in a canoe... a tailwind will blow you sideways. Since DG had never paddled a canoe before, I was in back. I should mention here that I am not known for my upper body strength. You could say that my language in this section was colorful. Definitely one of the more frustrating experiences of my life.

We got on our bikes (the right kind of pain) and did a couple CPs, then got to the church. At the church was a veritable army of volunteers (I believe the volunteer-to-racer ratio was 2:1). Along with brownies, juice, and turkey sandwiches, we received the second half of our map which we then had to plot and chart. Again, we took our time to be safe and double-checked our work.

We hit the final land nav with only enough time for one CP before we had to strap our bikes back in the canoe... and we wanted to give ourselves enough time for that nightmare.

...but the canoe back was something completely different. We were headed into the sunset, and the air was calm. We sat back and enjoyed our final paddle in. It was just a few miles by bike to the finish line from the shore.

Results: DG's first race, my first time not getting short-coursed, cool views of an uncharacteristicly unpopulated Lake of the Ozarks, dead last in our division

Monday, February 9, 2009

Frozen Otter

January 17th was the Frozen Otter Ultra-Trek. For me, a long hike. I attempted the half: 32 miles. I completed half of the half: 16 miles. Single-digit temps, and it snowed the whole goddamn time. It was a trudgefest of a good proportion. One of the more difficult things I've done to date.

I trekked with the guys from team POLeR, Chad Hannon and John "Code" Morris. Chad made a video.

I think this will be excellent training for the Bataan Death March.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CTS Performance Testing Camp

January. Subzero. I have been going so crazy riding the trainer that I started to move my whole workout room upstairs into the empty spare bedroom. I half-assed it, so now the house is an mess of weights, stability balls (yes, plural), bosu, mats, etc, etc, all over the house.

I decided to mix things up a bit and go to the Carmichael Training Systems Performance Testing Camp in Colorado Springs.

All in all, a rockin’ experience. I hadn’t been to CO in a while, and never to CO Springs. It’s a great little town, with cute local restaurants with good food within walking distance of the major hotel.

CTS headquarters is a surprisingly low-key building. I had this illusion of some intimidating structure, full of coaches buzzing around being important and impersonal. The exact opposite is true. A one-level repurposed brick building in an art district, CTS headquarters is totally unassuming. And there were maybe a dozen people in the office, every single one of them friendly and approachable, even Dean Golich (though he seems to have an unnatural lust for Porsches). Chris Carmichael’s office is also unassuming. Many coaches were out with their athletes.

Only two other athletes were at this particular Testing Camp, which is understandable. Only the truly masochistic want to know their performance levels in the off-season, especially that soon after the holidays. One was a pro triathlete. The other was an elite road racer. Truly out of my league… but you would never know it. Everyone treated me exactly the same as the other two campers, and all test results were confidential, given directly to me by my coach.

I’ll spare the lackluster details. The results are: I’m not a pro, I have a lot of work to do, I need to eat better, and I bought a Powertap the second I got home.