So, last weekend (Jan. 16) was the Frozen Oter Ultra Trek. I attempted this last year and got schooled so hard I stayed out of the woods for weeks. This year-- I knew-- had to be different.
Team Fat Otter offers up two flavors for this event: the 64-mile, 24-hour, I'm-so-crazy-I-need-shock-therapy full distance; or the 32-mile, 12-hour, I-have-a-few-screws-loose-but-am-still-a-functioning-member-of-society half distance. Since I have a full time job and a healthy respect (read: fear) of danger, I chose the latter. My Project Athena Goddess teammate Kerrie had to bail at the last minute (moving + training for a Namibian ultra + holidays = no time), so I was on my own.
Solo in the woods of Northern Kettle Moraine State Park. For at least five hours of darkness.
My group, the solo half distance, was the first off. A few of us began jogging right from the start, where the snow was hard packed. I'm glad we did; less than a mile in the snow got loose and deeper. I used my $18 Target trekking poles for all they were worth and then some. I was pretty psyched to see Evan Wing at the 8 mile CP-- it's nice to know that someone running support really gets what you're trying to do. I asked for whiskey and bacon, which no one had, so I settled for my trail mix and Heed mixed with hot water. I didn't allow myself my iPod unless I made it to the first 8 mile CP in time to continue on... and success! My second 8 miles, the ones with music, were my fastest for the day.
By 9 miles in, my GoreTex Salomons were filled with water--either from snow, sweat, or both. I knew I had a fresh pair of socks in my pack, so I pushed on to the 16 mile (a.k.a. the Turnaround). Perhaps I should have stopped earlier.
When I took off my first sock, one of the volunteers audibly gasped. My foot was basically grey (think bathtub pruning), with my second and middle toes forming weird blisters around the base of the nail. And let's not forget the "toe hat" blisters that I have grown to know and love... thank God for April and Ellie. Again, having friendly, knowing faces at these checkpoints kept me going. April lent me her Vaseline Lip Therapy (closest thing to lube anybody had) to rub on my toes, Ellie made some hot Heed (my new favorite drink), and I took my first (and only) 800mg of Ibuprofen. Now, I have never been a fan of doping, but damn did that help.
I was cutting it close. I had to get out of that CP before the 6-hour mark if I had any hope of finishing in time. A big group of 6-8 guys got to the checkpoint right behind me, and they did not like the idea of getting chicked. The hunt was on. I shoved my dry socks into my wet shoes and got my ass moving. It was getting dark and I knew it, so I had my headlamp out before I left.
One of my major accomplishments in this event was my organization; I seemed to have everything ready to go. I almost didn't stop for anything: glove changes, eating, drinking-- the one time I had to pee I was counting the seconds.
Regardless of my phenominal preparation for this event, a few of the boys caught me. Fine with me; while motivating, the coyote howling in the valley and the random car stopping for far too long (at one of the few road crossings) were not things I enjoyed encountering on my own. We talked a bit about these encounters before I broke away from them again just before the final manned CP at 24 miles.
Back at Evan's camp, I was again faced with super wet feet; but this time with no spare socks. I took them off and hung them by the fire. This time around, venison jerky and (yes!) a bottle of whiskey were available. I took a stick of jerky and a snort off the bottle, and suddenly what I was doing seemed much less idiotic. Back on with the wet socks and shoes, I'm off!
By this point, two of the guys from the group had passed me at the 24-mile, and my bladder of water was frozen solid. The other guys that were behind me were making coyote howls as they chased me down. I have to assume that anybody with less of a sense of humor would really hate this... and I'll admit that I was damn near sprinting to the end when I saw the fire marking the finish line. But at no point was I afraid. Coyotes, creepy cars, frozen fluids... these were all things that I handled with a levelheadedness that I did not know I possessed.
Anyway, I finished with about 12 minutes to spare. And there was chicken soup at the end! Real soup, not the skinny-noodled kind. And a jar of giant dill pickles! And New Glarus beer!
Can I get a hell yes?
Results: sore hips & feet, 9th of 37 (including teams), only chick to finish the half in time.