Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dances With Dirt

It was the night before DWD and I had finished up all my shopping and running around, I had bottles of Gatorade and water, fresh strawberries and grapes, bananas and granola bars. I packed up all my equipment, 3 changes of clothes, 3 pairs of shoes including a brand new pair of Saucony running shoes. As well as an 18" long fake beard and 2 five foot long signs that read "FREE CANDY" that would be affixed to the sides of our full size rented cargo van. It was now about 9:30 PM and I was ready to get to bed. The minute I set the alarm for 4:35 AM and layed down, my heart started beating faster as the butterflies took flight. I knew that the next step was when the alarm went off and it was GO time. After I finally fell asleep, I actually got some good sleep in even though it was riddled with a few wake-ups to look at the clock, 1:30 AM, 2:30 AM, then next thing I know its the dreaded BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! of the alarm.

I jumped out of bed, took a quick shower, threw together 3 PB&J sandwiches, loaded up the cooler and went outside to wait for Upton to arrive. He rolled in shortly after 5 AM, we threw his gear in my car and off we went to the the Okemos park and ride where the race van was waiting for us. As we pulled in the park and ride, from a distance I saw a full size van with the back doors open, but as we got closer we realized it was another team doing the same thing we were doing, loading up their men to head to Hell, MI. On the other side of the lot was our man and the van. We loaded up then it was OFF TO THE RACES!

It was a cool and foggy morning and we drove through the darkness to Bruin Lake campground to get the remaining 2 members of our 5 man team. As we approached the park that was hosting the race, we could see a steady line of headlights streaming in. We made our way through the line and into a dark foggy parking lot that was bustling with activity at 6:30 AM. There was alot of excitement in the air as we looked around and started to spot some of the different teams that stood out. We could hear music playing, a group of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles were wandering around amidst Batman, Flash, a group of hot schoolgirls in skirts, and tons of other teams. We all put on our beards and prepared to join the "party". As we got out a van pulled in next to us blasting the Sesame Street theme song. The van was painted on the outside with Elmo, Oscar, Cookie Monster, etc. Momentarily a group of girls climbed out wearing costumes mimicking the paintings. It couldn't have been more out of place parked next to the windowless van that said "FREE CANDY" and had 5 creepy bearded men lingering around it..


Upton was running the first leg of the race, so we headed over to the start area to make sure we where ready and in the right spot at 7:30 AM when the race gun fired. As the clock neared 7:30, 1 man from each of the 350 relay teams lined up and waited for the start. BANG! And they are off! The first leg was a 4.75 mile out and back loop, I was running leg 2 so I knew I had about 45 minutes or so to prepare. I went back to the van to change into my running shoes, take off my sweat pants and sweat shirt, and drink some fluids. I was pretty nervous at this point, I had started my training ALOT later than I had wanted too, I only had a handful of runs under my belt from the previous couple weeks and none of it was on hills. My first leg promised 512 feet of elevation gain and 522 feet of loss. That is A LOT of hills crammed in a 4.6 mile run.

As the time grew nearer to Upton's expected arrival, I joined my teammates near the exchange point. There was approximately 1400 people waiting for their first runner to arrive back at the exchange. In that chaos it is pretty hard to find your team, so experienced teams, and teams that had done a little research, knew that you brought some sort of large sign on a pole to help your runner get to you as quickly as possible. Our team had access to a 25' long survey elevation rod, so we brought that along and at each check point we had it raised fully up. People were astounded at how tall it was, it was the most visible one there. The next closest teams pole was 10' long, however there were several very creative "pole signs" being used. I thought the giant arrow pointing down that said "LIVE NUDE GIRLS" was pretty funny. I hear a teammate shout "here he comes", so I quickly moved into an open spot on the course. (although it wasn't roped off, all the gathered teams were leaving a 5' open channel for the runners to come in through.)

Upton and I made the hand slap tag, and I was off. As I started running, I noticed my watch had gone into power save mode while I was waiting. As I ran I was fidgeting with it trying to get it started, took me about a 1/4 mile, but I finally got it going. As I followed the runners ahead of me, and the yellow ribbons and flags on the ground, I was quickly off the parking lot and into the woods! Then the brutal hills began, up and down, crooked makeshift trails. Continuing on up and over logs, a muddy stream I try to jump over but land a foot short splashing mud all up my legs and onto my hands. Back to the hills, up and down, and then as I come down a big hill, I hear girl screams from around the next bend. I come through the brush and I see several people bogged down in a foot and a half of mud. I know at some point it in this race it would come to this, I figure its no use trying to pick my way around it, so I plow into the mud and my feet sink down to about mid calf, I feel the wet black mud fill into th sides of my shoes and as I'm plowing through, each time I pull my foot up I can feel mud start to work its way down into the tops of my socks. I can't believe how long the mud goes on for, at least 300'. I had no warning that this leg of the race crossed a swamp, oh well. I finally get out of the mud and my feet feel like they are 5 pounds heavier. I can feel my socks jiggling with every foot step. I hear my watch beep, 1 mile. Dear god.

The leg goes on, hills galore, more log crossings, brush you have to duck down to get through, under logs, and oh, did I mention the hills?? I slowly tick off the miles and eventually I can hear the screams of encouragement in the distance of runners making it to the exchange point. I finally come out of the woods and there is a race volunteer saying "just up the hill to the exchange, good job!". As I start coming up the hill I can see the giant crowd shaped funnel I have to run through, I also see the 25' survey pole standing proud. I make the exchange and my team make takes off. The rest of the team congratulates me and I'm happy to have finished my first leg. Only 2 more to go.
I didn't have to run again until leg 8, so I had a decent amount of time to get organized, eat some food and prepare. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect, all I had to go by was the race description of leg 8 "The River of Death, The path to Hell is the river of death, Styx. Your tormented soul is ours. Multiple river crossings and river run with dangerous river rocks and deep holes.". I was still wearing the same muddy wet shoes and shorts from leg 1, I had planned on changing after every leg to freshen up, but once the time had come I said screw it. Plus I knew the river would give a good opportunity to rinse off the mud. As our team made its way through the next several legs, we were trying to judge how we were doing based on the amount of people hanging around at the exchange points. The best we could tell though was that we were "somewhere in the middle". We knew we couldn't hang with the Dirt veterans, but we knew there was alot of teams that we were passing on the trails as well.

Finally came the exchange from 7 to 8 and I was off. I was feeling good after my rest, and also feeling good that this leg was only 3.1 miles and had less than half the hills of my first leg (+259/-295). After a short jog through a campground I was back on the hilly trails and awaiting my first river crossing. As I came to the river there was no hesitating, I climbed down the bank and splashed my way in. After climbing out the other side, the trail was super slippery and wet for a couple hundred feet from all the other runners that had come through. I think it was the third river crossing that had a pretty brutal climb out, I had to use some trees to pull myself out and work my way up the bank, tree by tree. I left a couple girls scramling on the muddy bank trying to climb it. As I was running away I was thinking maybe I should have helped them, but then I remembered that they get a 12 minute handicap for being female, so an all female team gets an hour handicap! As my watch ticked off to 2.5 miles, I knew the river run portion must be getting close. Sure enough the trail wound down to a muddy swampy stretch that was near the river. After several hundred feet of the black mud again, the route plopped down into the river and from here to the finish line, it was all in the river, upstream fighting the current. After a few minutes my quads started burning, and after a few more minutes it was all I could do to even lift my legs! I hit a few shallow portions where I attempted to run, but then I would plunge back down to deeper water, and a couple points I found myself chest deep pushing through the water. At one point it crossed my mind that maybe I should try to swim it instead of walk. Not a moment too soon I could hear the crowd at the end, there was a bridge near the exchange point and it was packed with onlookers cheering.You really need to look at the aerial view on this one to see the river. Also check out my pace chart how it corresponds to the river crossings. Like hitting a brick wall.
Leg 9 and 10 were relatively short, and I was running leg 11, so I knew I had to get out of my wet clothes and get ready! I got my dry clothes on, and laced up my brand new shoes, ready to break them in proper! My next leg was 3.05 miles long and boasted +407/-423 elevation, as well as "a bunch of Crooked Trail ankle busting rocks". By this time, I knew what I was in for. I got the tag from my teammate and I was off! The first section of the trail was a hilly gravel road, the easiest terrain I had ran on that day, but after that I was quickly back into the woods on some off trail section. It sounds crazy for me to say this, but when the course would come back out onto the hilly Potto trail, I would actually be relieved that i was "just" on the rocky, rooty, hilly Potto trail. I ticked off the miles and before I knew it I was DONE!! I now just had to help the team with encouragement and navigating to the last 4 exchanges.
Leg 12 was a big one, 7 miles long and elevation +643/-617. As we waiting for our team member Rick to come in, the clock ticked slowly by. At this point, other team members were handing beers to their runners as they came in. We knew it was a tough leg, and our runner would be in soon. Finally we saw him coming up the hill, he wasn't looking so good, and as he made the tag he crumpled to the ground. He tried to get up, but then fell back down. I ran over and told him to just stay down and don't try to get back up. I also gave him a water. He couldn't talk and just sat there trying to catch his breath. Another lady came over and gave him a can of coke to drink. After a couple minutes we tried to get him up and move him off the race course, and finally managed to get him back in the van. About 30 minutes later he was finally feeling better and was able to tell us that the leg was incredibly brutal and hills were pure torture. At the end of the race, the teams wait for there last runner to come in on leg 15 and then they all cross the finish line together. We weren't sure Rick would be able to run with us, but he assured us he was gonna do it. We all donned our beards, as well as a 40 oz of beer, and when Keith came through, we joined in with him and finished the last 1/4 mile of the 62 mile race!After checking the results, it looks like we finished in 10 hours, 45 minutes and 15.1 seconds, putting us in 203rd place out of 350 teams for actual time finish. Not too bad for our first DWD, especially considering almost all the teams had at least 1 prior DWD under their belt. What gets me is that after all the handicap adjustments for age, female, etc, our team moved down to 302nd place. I'm gonna disregard that one though! I love the last place team took 20 something hours, so they finished about 4AM, haha!

Mud leg residue after first run.

At the van getting prepped.

Making the pass in the river. That guy looks miserable.

Climbing out of the river, ready to make the exchange.


Team Sesame Street at the finish line.

Bearded man wanted a piece of our team.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Block

Last run before DWD, gonna rest the next 2 days. On Saturday my suffering will be legendary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fast Lane

First mountain bike ride of the.... couple years? It was super short, but seemed pretty fast. First 3 miles were trail, next couple were gravel road, last couple were paved park road.

"Livin' life in the fast lane, Movin' at the speed of life and I can't slow down, Only got a gallon in the gas tank, But I'm almost at the finish line, so I can't stop now.
I don't really know where I'm headed, just enjoyin' the ride, Just gon' roll 'til I drop and ride 'til I die, I'm livin' life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal) Livin' life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal)"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My block - Run

Definately some GPS hijinx going on, It shows a super speed burst in the beginning: false. I doubt I ran in the 8's that first mile, I'm guessing low 9's. Also seems like it added .06 miles to my route.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

My block - Run

Dances with Dirt is less than 2 weeks away, time to start training!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jason-Heath Tri

Finally squared off against Heath. 4 widths across Motz pond, approx 600 Meters according to Heath. I wore his old GPS watch and it didn't give very good data for the swim. After the swim we biked 12 miles then ran 3 miles. The run was VERY painful. Bottomline, a man can do a sprint tri raw, no training. The only part I was disapointed in was my run though, it was alot harder than I expected and I was about 6 minutes slower than I was anticipating. I had to do the run/walk combo, you can easily see it on my pace chart.

swim: 16:56
bike: 53:43
run: 35:24