A Challenge Of A Lifetime!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Journey Home

The redeye home was miserable. We were all tired and cramped feeling and VERY sore. Hey, what else do you expect after having just skied a 40K!? We all looked like death when we arrived in Seattle for our layover. By the time our flight was ready to leave Seattle for San Francisco, I was so tired that I could hardly see straight.

The flight itself was smooth.....it was the baggage claim that wasn't so smooth. Just picture a bunch of tired skiers that ahd just gotten off a redeye hoping for their bags to be the next one off the belt...then BOOM, the baggage claim belt stopped working. We waitied for close to 45 minutes for it to start working again, only to psych us out a few times.

While we were waiting, Doug came up with the brillant idea to go get the car. Once that belt started working again we could grab our stuff and jump in the car. We were so close to washing our hands of the airport I could taste it! Unfortunately, it wasn't that smooth...we got our baggage and Melissa and I were waiting outside for Doug. We were in mid-conversation when what looked like a homeless woman walked passed us and stared at us for a brief moment. When she turned to walk away, I thought we were in the clear...that was a fleeting though. She turned around immediately and posed the question "Who should I contact if I was beat up?" Melissa and I looked at each other in stunned silence. One of us piped in, "You need to contact the airport security so they can help you." We felt it was logical, apparently that woman didn't. She ranted and raved for a while about how she is never helped and she had just been beat up! And in all honesty she didn't look beat up....in fact she appeared to have been on the streets for awhile. My sister had a brillant idea and started inching away from her....but for some strange reason I couldn't drag myself away from the ranting woman. I was hearing things about how a celebrity followed her from the east coast and had beat her up and no one would help her. It truly felt as if I was in a daze. After skiing a 40K, taking a redeye home, waiting for our luggage for what appeared to be an ETERNITY, and now hearing this woman rant about a celebrity beating her up.....I swear I thought I was going crazy!

Luckily, Doug arrived with the car not long after and yelled at me to move my booty so they could leave...I later found out that Sis had leaned over and warned him of the crazy lady that I couldn't tear myself away from. The drive back up to SF was uneventful. We ate and they dropped me off at my house. And it was at that moment, standing alone in my apt, that I realized that I had done it!

I can not wait for the 06-07 season. I will come back to skate ski instead of the classic ski that I did in this race. Hopefully you all will stay tuned! Until next time!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I got Crabs at Humpy's!

The morning dawned and I had been awake for hours...I think I was so overly tired that I just couldn't sleep well. I got up and started moving b/c we had our victory breakfast this morning! After moving very slowly due to some really tired and sore muscles, I got downstairs and started chatting with my teammates. We were all excited that we were done, but there was an underlying sadness b/c we knew that our season was over.
After we we all ate, the coaches started walking around giving us our medals! That was THE biggest surprise ever for me! I had no idea we were getting medals for having completed! We all have our badges of honor! As Coach Mary was putting my medal over my head, my sister was video taping it and my brother in law was humming the Olympic song! Which has my table laughing!
Once we all got our medals, our head coach gave us a talk about potentially loosing interest in working out, about sore muscles, etc. Then the group that was going to be going ice climbing left, the group that was going to see glaciers left and my sister, Doug and I were left to go tour the Anchorage newspaper. The paper that my sister works for and the Anchorage paper are both owned by the same company. So my sister wanted to meet her counterpart in Anchorage. We toured it for a good hour or so, my aching muscles screaming with every stride that I took. In all honesty, it was cool to see the newspaper and how it differs from where my sister works.
After wrapping up our tour, we walked out into the cold and snow and decided to drive to the ski resort an hour away. We had all day to fart around Anchorage b/c our flight was a redeye that night. We got to Aeleska ski resort and decided to eat lunch at a pizza joint that we had heard about. We also drank some beer.....and boy did that taste good!
After we messed around Aeleska for awhile we drove back to Anchorage, and basically were bored out of our minds waiting for the time to actually get on that plane to start the commute home. We ran into my teammates at Humpy's bar and grill (gotta love that name!). My sister, Doug and I ordered a few things to share. We ordered the crab and some halibut, and with the crap came a little present! It was tool used to help crack the leg of the crab....the funny part was that on handle part it clearly stated "I got Crabs at Humpy's". Of course I found great humor in that and had to walk around to my teammates tables and whisper in unsuspecting teammates ears that "I got crabs at Humpy's." The response was pretty universal....they all would spit their beer or soda out of their mouths (yes that is right, I waited until they would take a sip of something before I approached) and start laughing. Nothing like a good laugh after torturing ourselves with a day of torture!
Soon after we had to head back to the hotel to grab out items and leave Anchorage to go home. Some people were staying for a few extra days, but the majority of us were high-tailing it home.

How did our flight go? Was it smooth? Did the gods have mercy on us after having tortured ourselves skiing......more to follow.....

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Holy Cow I Just Finished a 40K

I remember that as I was nearing the finish line my name was being announced along with some information about me. A lady was standing at the finish line ready to hand me what appeared to be a charm, my sister had the video camera, my brother in law had the camera taking pictures and some other man was knelt down taking pictures. After I crossed over the finish line, Melissa and Doug were there immediately hugging me, asking what I needed and telling me that they were proud of me. It was a great feeling to be done, but I was so tired that I really didn't care that much at that moment. Doug had my ski poles, which I had to grab back to get the heck out of my skis. I really wanted out of my boots too. I had skied the whole race with one boot unlaced. That boot had been giving me problems for weeks. To ensure that my ankle didn't flare up during the race, I hadn't laced it up at all and I had downed several advil. I wouldn't recommend doing that to others, but it did work for me!
After I got out of my skis, I started asking about my teammates; who had finished, when they finished, were they gone or in the warming hut. It was then that I heard that many people had fallen on that last little ant hill to the finish line. What many people wouldn't understand is that the smallest hill will look like a mountain after having been participating in an endurance sport like we had just done. Apparently many people, and not just my teammates but others in the race had done this too, slipped on that final hill. And apparently one of my teammates had fallen on his way into the warming hut after the race. I later found out that he spent the night in the ER getting stitches on his nose. We were all so tired at the end of the race that the ones that did fall didn't care that they were falling and couldn't stop the fall. Several people later told me that they had fallen at the end of the race or right after.
We stood around for a short while and then I said I wanted to get the heck out of dodge. It was time to get out of my ski clothes, shower and relax! My final time was 6 hours and 19 minutes. I had been above pace the whole race! I definitely finished faster than I thought I might, however I think I could have definitely finished faster had I not messed with my head. My thinking that I was an hour behind schedule and that final hill at the 3K marker really slowed me up. I think I had great potential to finish in the 5 hour range, but slowed up at the end. Am I happy with my time? Yes! Will I do this again? Yes. Next year I am definitely coming back and I will be skiing in the 40k again, but this time I want to learn skate skiing instead of striding it!

What is really funny is that when people in Alaska found out that we were the ones from California in town for the race, they asked which distance we were in. When we responded with, "The 40K." They would respond with, "Oh, you skated the 40k?" And when we would respond with, "No we strided." The typical response was, "Why would you do that!?" The ones of us from my team that strided the 40 and 50K were the ONLY ones (there was one other guy from Norway that strided the 50K and had weeks prior strided in a race completing a 90K. Can you imagine?) in the race that strided that distance. Most people will only stride 25K in a race, but several of my teammates and myself decided that since we could, we would stride a 40 or 50K. With that said I definitely want to learn to skate ski b/c it will make the race a tad bit easier...but only a tad.
After we got back to the hotel, I showered while Sis and Doug sat in the bar waiting for me to come down. I showered and got ready pretty fast and got down to wait for our bus to take us to the awards dinner. While we waited we ordered a beer and an appetizer to celebrate the completion of the race. Our bus showed up about 45 minutes later and we were bussed off to the high school, ironically where my race had taken off hours earlier. On the way, I heard a muffled "Moose!" then it got louder and louder and then the whole bus was yelling "Moose!" If you couldn't figure it out, there was a moose walking along the side of the road. How very cool! When we got there we chowed down on some lasagna and salad. After we had time to eat they awarded medals to people that won them and the door prizes where given out. To be honest, the only reason that I decided to go to the awards dinner was b/c of the door prizes! My sister is a huge lover of FREE things...and when I noticed there were door prizes I knew that we had to for sure go there! We didn't win anything, but it was worth going and trying to win.
After we arrived back at the hotel, Doug and Melissa decided to go back to their hotel to go to sleep and some of my teammates and I decided to go to a brewpub to celebrate being done with the race! We walked about 2 blocks and found a great place to grab a beer! There were 12 or so of us and we all ordered a beer. And let me tell you that beer tasted so good! I hadn't had a drink in months and after a few sips we were all a bit loopy! We didn't stay out long b/c we had a victory breakfast in the morning. After another round, we wrapped it up and walked back to the hotel to get some shut eye. The next day was going to be a long day for some of us. A lot of us were taking the redeye out on Monday night. So it was time to get some shut eye!

Watch out for Iditarod poop and frozen nards!

The race had started and I felt great. We skied a loop at the high school and circled around to see the minimal crowd that had gathered and then we were in the woods! As were left the view of the crowd I prayed that I wouldn't fall on the downhill and turn...and thank goodness I didn't...how embarassing would that have been? We skied several kilometers when there was a man standing at a fork in the trail to tell the 40K striders where to go and where the 50K striders should go. During the first 15K two people and myself played cat and mouse on the trail....one would take the lead and while the other two dropped back for awhile. This kept on for several kilometers. It helped keep it interesting for us. The skate skiers had caught up to us by this point and I have to admit it was amazing to see the professionals racing!
I breezed through one water stop and felt good. I felt stronger than I had in a long time. I was breezing through the first part of this race. I was just hoping that things would stay this easy. I then passed the next water stop and saw Melissa and Doug to my surprise. I wasn't expecting to see them until 23-25K in. It was a good surprise and it gave me confidence to keep going at the pace I was going. I later passed another water stop and my lead on some of my teammates lengthened, though I had several more ahead of me! Just pasted the 15K mark I looked at my trust GPS tracker and noticed that I was an hour behind schedule. Unfortunately I hadn't remembered to set back the time to Alaska time when I turned it on, so it was still reading Pacific time...one hour ahead of Alaska time. Thus started my mental game with myself. Because I was unaware that my time was off on my GPS, I thought I wasn't going to be able to be an official finisher in this race...so I started to stress out about the finishing.
Luckily prior to the race, Melissa had given me a walkie talkie so I could communicate with her and Doug throughout the race. Around the 22K mark I tried to radio them, not knowing if I was within distance for them to hear me. I think I only said, "hello?" and moments later I heard my sisters voice...and I have to be honest...that was the best sounding voice I could have heard! She asked where I was and I responded with a very tired, "I have no idea!" She was cheering me on and telling me she was proud of me, that was what I needed to hear to keep going. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't having visions of getting in their rented punto and being done with this race, but I couldn't do it. I was trying to talk myself off the ledge that I somehow found myself on so early on in the race. I rounded the corner and saw a bunch of people cheering all the skiers on. I was crying, embarrassingly so, b/c I had hit my mental wall. I was trying to regain my composure when some random person said to me, "You are great! You can do this!" That was all I needed to regain my composure. Moments later I saw my sister and Doug, and once again I teared up. As I got closer I noticed that Doug had disappeared and Sis was videotaping me skiing past her. At this point I was 23K into the race. As I passed Melissa she yelled out some encouragement to me and then moments later I saw Doug. He was doing what he does best...cheering me on...and I kept going.
So many people from Anchorage came out to cheer us on. My team had gotten a mention in the Anchorage newspaper and people all over Anchorage knew that we were there to ski. Apparently my team had touched many people. They were impressed with us b/c we gave up our weekends to drive 3 hours to get to the snow to ski for 6 hours and then to drive 3-4 hours back home....that in their words is dedication. So with that said, people from Anchorage were scattered throughout the course cheering us on...not to mention the other skiers were cheering us on! That too also kept me going! How can one stop when so many people are proud of you and cheering you on?
As I left my sister and Doug behind I thought I would next see them at the finish line...which seemed so far away. I skied for a long time along the oceans edge and was trying to keep my mind off my lower back pain and how tired I was. The water was frozen where it came to meet land. In all honesty, it was a pretty view, but I really couldn't enjoy it much at that point! Some of my teammates that were skating, racer style skiing, in the race caught me at this point and we yelled our traditional cheer at each other, "Go Team....Stay Slick!" In and amongst those cheers some of the skiers that weren't associated with my team were cheering myself and others from my team on, like I mentioned before. It is amazing how nice everyone was on the course!
As I started up another hill I saw a sign that mentioned that I had 15K left before I finished! The end was drawing near! And to be honest I was thinking, "It is about freaking time!"
I got to the top of the hill and noticed there was another water stop. I skied up and this time decided to take some power drink, I took a drink and immediately spit it out! It was warm and it tasted like Theraflu! How were people drinking that?! I noticed that as I handed the glass back to the girl that had given it to me that I had caught one of my team mates and my sister and Doug were at this water stop as well! I was so tired, but so happy to see them! Doug walked up to me and asked if he could take anything for me....I ended up giving him my jacket, b/c Lord knows that I didn't need it b/c I was pretty warm at this point. I mentioned that I had seen the sign for 15K left and I was told that I had close to 11K left....NICE...I was closer than I thought! I was with them a good 5 minutes then I started skiing again. Fleetwood Mac was on my Ipod...and it helped me start to ascend the hill that was looming in front of me!
I had my teammate in sight for the next several kilometers and then I lost her. The hill was pretty long and I had slowed up so I wouldn't be out of energy by the time I got to the top of it. Not long after reaching the top I started seeing signs for another water stop. Once I got there, I realized that I had caught 2 of my teammates. One that was in the 40K with me and the other from the 25K. I was handed some cookies to eat (little did I know that the hill from hell was several kilometers ahead of us, so they were feeding us sugar to keep us going!). While I was there eating my oreos, I was told that we had 8k left to the finish line. That was a great thing to hear to be honest! That gave me enough energy to get moving again! I was almost there! We were in the home stretch!
Randi and I took off to get this done! She skied in front of me and was the one to alert me that we had gotten to the 5K left marker! We were so close! The next several kilometers went by uneventful. I was praying during this time to help me get through this, I spoke to my Pa a lot and I listened to my music...hoping all of this would keep my mind off the physical pain that I was going through. I skied up to the 3K left marker and noticed that Randi was climbing a hill from hell. I then remembered that we had been warned that at the end there was a hill that was hard, only b/c it was the last hill to climb to get to the finish line. Don't get me wrong, it was a steep hill and would be challenging even if I hadn't have already skied a 37K. But to my credit, I had climbed some monster hills during our training and this wasn't any worse than what I had been on before. It was just going to be hard b/c it was at the end of the race. As I started to climb the hill I found myself yelling things out loud....at this moment I had tourettes! I was yelling things like, "You have to freaking be kidding me!", "Why would you have us finish this race on a freaking uphill?", "This is a freaking joke!", etc (and I would like to add that I never did say a curse word, which my mom would be happy to hear! I did really say freaking...I just said it a lot!). As I was in my yelling fit, an older gentleman skated passed me and said, "Honey, your almost there! Hang in there!" Talk about embarrassing! At that moment I decided to stop my bitching and wasting my energy and decided to put my nose to the grindstone, finish climbing that hill and finish this race already!
When I got to the top I noticed the 2K left sign....there was some flat and then another uphill. At this uphill I saw the 1K left sign and then I saw one of my teammates coming back into the race. He was skiing in to see how many of us were close to finishing. I was to later find out there were still 20 of my teammates behind me. At this moment I pulled out my walkie talkie and radioed my sister. I had been radioing her since the 5K marker and at every 1K marker thereafter, but I was too far away for her to hear me. I figured that since I was 1k out that I was close enough for her to hear me. As I radioed to her and said, "1K left" I heard her respond with, "Can you hear us? You are so close. You can do this!" Then there was a pause and then I heard my sister say something like hurry up and something about Doug freezing. I later found out that to help make me laugh my sister had really said, "Hurry up! Dougs nards are freezing off!" Had I heard that I would have laughed or attempted to laugh, but I was so tired that I didn't hear what she said unfortunately. Anyway, I knew that I had to be close and radioed again to let her know that I still couldn't hear them and at that moment I rounded the corner and there was my sister, Doug and several of my teammates. And all of them were ringing cow bells and yelling for me! I broke out in a very tired grin and my eyes filled up with tears again (I seemed to have been on the brink of tears and in tears at more points throughout the race then I thought I would be).
I thought I was at the end....thought being the key word! I was so happy that I could have collapsed. Doug and Melissa were walking along side me at this point, yes that is right. I was moving so slow that they were walking along side me. Doug mentioned that I had to go up and around to the finish line and then that is when I noticed that I had to climb a small hill, an ant hill really, and then loop around to the finish line. I replied with, "I can't do that! I am done." Doug responded with, "You've done it sis....you can do this! It is right there!" All the while my sister was clapping her hands. So I mustered up the strength for the final part of the race! I got up that hill and looped around and skied through the finish line!

Ready, Set, Go.....

Today was race day and I was not as nervous and uptight as I thought I would be. I was actually way more relaxed then I thought I would be. The weather appeared to be holding for us...which was the huge stress point for me the previous week. If the weather held, then I knew that I would be able to finish my race under the 7 hour mark.

Our team shuttle was picking up the 40/50K striders and the 25K striders and skaters at 7:15am. We were all down in the restaurant at 6am. And a short 1hour and 15minutes later we were on the bus. After a small fiasco with trying to figure out where to drop off the 40/50K striders, we were let off and we had less than one hour to wait for our race to start. The 40/50K striders were to start at the high school at 9am and the 25K skiers were to start further down the course at the same time. The 40/50K skaters were to start at 10am and they were going to be shuttled to the starting location after we left. We were being given the extra time b/c we are slower and we needed the advantage of having the tracks as in tack as possible for as long as possible. The skaters were very potentially going to be skiing over our tracks and making our life a bit more difficult for us. We were being given an unofficial start time, but they would be recording our finish times for us.

While we were standing there a man from the race came to tell us about the course; where the icey patches were, how long it would take the skaters to catch us, that on one steep hill there were medics at the bottom just in case anyone in the race needed them, that the Iditarod sled teams had skied through the trails and there might be droppings left behind, and finally that there would be 5K markers all throughout the course informing us of our progress towards the finish line. All this news felt overwhelming and started to make me more nervous! I kept calling Melissa and Doug to get there b/c I was worried about them missing the start of the race...plus it would be good for me to see them before I took off. They made it in plenty of time to get some pictures and to see my teammates and I take off.

And the race begins......