Thursday, September 29, 2011


Do you like the giant picture of my butt at the top of the page?

Storm The Eastern Shore, Part I

After a crazy rainy ride down to Cape Charles, Virgina (just past the north side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) one thing was clear to me: I wasn't nervous for this race at all. No butterflies, no anxiety (other than the fact I realized I left my DEET at home and that I couldn't find my bike computer anywhere) and I had a steady diet of chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, Diet Mountain Dew and Ellio's (thanks for the race fuel inspiration, Abby and Val) to look forward to.

We met up with B.J., ate pizza, threw our junk into our packs and gear box and I actually got about 7 hours of sleep before our alarms started ringing at 5:30 a.m.

Maps weren't handed out until 6 a.m. Points were already plotted, although we** were all a bit curious about navigating via satellite maps in addition to the usual topo maps.

This race was BYO boat. Most of the other teams had these pencil-thin sea kayaks that looked like they weighed as much as a yard of gossamer. Our  rental "kayaks" rolled up an hour or so late, towed by a guy who I am pretty sure was The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Hello. I will tow crappy ocean kayaks to you. Then I will bowl and drink
a white Russian or seven.

The gouged clunkers The Dude brought to us would have to do -- or we could swim the 30 miles of paddling that were ahead of us.

At just after 9 a.m. we were off for a short 4-mile foot section before the paddle put-in. I was in a good mood. I sprinted. The boys hung back, chatting about whatever it is that boys chat about at the beginning of a 30-hour race. I ran back to my teammates, grabbed the passport from Bill and ran ahead to punch the first point.

LET'S GO! The terrain was flat, the nav was obvious even to me and it wasn't pouring down rain like it was supposed to. I was happy.

We jogged into transition to the kayak put-in and tried to carry our boats the half-mile or so to the water. Um, no. Too heavy, so we took the time to set up our two pairs of portage wheels -- one for the tandem that Bill and I were using and one for B.J.'s single. We were off and managed to save ourselves some time and effort.

And then we hit the water.

"How long do you think this part is?" I questioned.

"In miles or in hours?" Bill asked.

"Uh, both."

"Oh, about 25 or 30 miles. Will probably take us at least 10 hours," Bill responded.

Well, shit. I decided that I'd hate the paddle, be terrible at it and that we'd miss the 4 p.m. course cutoff for one of the kayak checkpoints.

Except sea kayaks move a bit faster than the damn duckies we'd been relegated to for most of our other races this year. And we were in open water with silly birds, fun plants and other cool things to navigate through.

Happy boys. And a milk jug bailer I made the morning of the race. A shoutout to my parents who bought Bill a waterproof camera for his birthday. Alas, this was the only occasion we had time to actually take it out during the race. The rest of the time we were using our arms to push aside thorn bushes, ride, paddle, stuff food into our face, swat at mosquitos ...

I was loving it. I announced to Bill, B.J. and whatever other poor teams were within earshot of my glee that I was having a great time. I did this approximately every 30 seconds for the first three hours.

And then we hit a portion of nasty, shallow water suffering from low tide. And lots and lots of stink. It smelled like the inside of 1,000 shoes after a marathon, plus 56 blocks of Velveeta, plus rotting veggies and also a bit of barf. Fortunately, I got to appreciate this to the fullest extent possible. The water soon became too shallow to paddle. As Bill had a spray skirt and was staring at the maps I got to get out and pull us along. Spectacular.

Nothing says "I love you" like dragging your husband through the mire at hour three of an adventure race. The nasty muck seeped into my trail shoes and squished between my toes. I gagged a few times and threw up in my mouth once. But I was amused.

I wish that this video was scratch and sniff so you could get the full effect of the stench.

Soon, I felt like we were playing Legend of Zelda, circa 1989. Bill switched from the topo to the satellite map and we wove our way through a labyrinth of grass, reeds and gigantic birds who looked bewildered to see us.

I had no idea where we were as we plugged along for miles. Fortunately, Bill knew what he was doing and suddenly the maze spit us out right where we belonged -- checkpoint 6. The lead teams were already on their way out but we were certainly in the thick of things (at that point, anyway) and decided to go for CP 7 -- a bonus point that seemed to be a straightforward run about a mile and a half south on the beach into a grove of trees.

Off we went, running hard. A few minutes in Bill realized he left the map in the boat. Grr.  But he was convinced that the CP flag would be easy to spot so we continued on.

This part of the course was awesome. As we jogged along the isolated coast, silent aside from the shuffle of our feet and the lulling sound of waves lapping at the shore, I realized I was having way too much fun.

Yelling "WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" did not seem appropriate, however, so I focused my joy into running harder. I ran a minute ahead of the boys, easily found the point, we spun it and we were on our way back to the boats for a mile portage. Eazy peasy, with our two sets of wheels and all.


One set of wheels was on loan from the race directer/owner/whatever else he does for GOALS. The second set was on loan from some friends of B.J.'s who were racing as a team of two. Unfortunately for us, that team decided to sit on and break the set of wheels that they were using. We found them standing next to our boats when we returned from CP 7, eager to have their wheels back.

Well, thanks. They snagged the wheels from us and zoomed on their way to CP 8 as we stood there and looked at each other, trying to figure out how to portage our massive boats, gear, paddles, food and various other sundries that we were instructed to carry to CP 8.

First we tried stacking the boats onto the one set of wheels. No go. The balance was off a lot and the boats kept tipping over. Then the boys tried to carry the single kayak. Too heavy. Finally, we borrowed some webbing from another team, B.J. rigged up a sling and he dragged his boat through ankle-deep water while Bill and I pulled the tandem through the sand. Fortunately CP 8 was easy to find and we spun it back to where we picked up our boats to start the portage.

I am cool with portaging when it serves a purpose, but checkpoint 8 seemed to be added just to give us a chance to lug all of our junk up the beach for a bit. Boring, especially considering that the course was otherwise creative.

We soon realized that we were racing against the clock. In order to get credit for our bonus CP 7 to count we had to check in at the next kayak point by 4 p.m. It was 2:45 and we estimated it would take us more than an hour to get to the next point.

The race was on. We peed in the sand (I was modest and hid behind an oyster shell), threw ourselves and our stuff into the boat and paddled hard.

I, usually the pessimist, was feeling optimistic.

"I bet that the tide is in and that crap we had to walk through on the way here is now under water," I said.

The boys hoped I was right. And for once I was sure that I was.

Sure enough, the tide and the current was on our side and we moved along quickly, passing several teams as we went.

I wanted food. I wanted a break. But I wanted credit for CP 7 more.

We saw what we thought was the point a mile or so in the distance. It quickly came closer and we saw the race volunteers snapping pictures and cheering us along -- we made it with 45 minutes to spare.

We paused for a snack and a drink. I thought we only had a mile or two left. At this point we'd been in the boat for almost 7 hours. Time to do something else.

Bill broke the news to me gently -- he told me we still had more than 9 miles of open water to go, with some challenging navigation choices along the way.

We made one mistake along the way that cost us about 20 minutes, but then Bill decided we should take a gamble that we'd be able to paddle a section of land usually above water except during high tide. He thought the tide would still be high enough and, if it was, about 2 miles of paddling would be cut off our trip.

He was dead on and pointed out a house in the distance that marked the end of what was about 9 hours in the boat out of the first 10 hours of racing. We paddled hard to the takeout and learned we were toward the back of the pack. We were, however, also one of the few teams who opted to go to CP 7, so we weren't too surly about our position.

We got some UTM coordinates that B.J. and Bill plotted while I refilled water bottles, put on dry clothes and ate pizza and chicken nuggets (complete with sweet and sour sauce) before we set out on our bikes for the next leg of the race.

**When I say "we" I really mean B.J. and Bill. I don't navigate. I am not too proud to admit it.

Come back for Part II, coming sooner or later to a Brick Wall near you.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Storm the Eastern Shore went well. I have no idea how we placed other than we most def did not win our division. There were only two teams, out of about 25, and the other 3/4 person coed team is nationally ranked and cleared the course hours before anyone else even crossed the finish line.

We even managed to squeeze in a few optional points this time around. I never felt tired except for about 30 minutes toward the end and I didn't feel like I was slowing down the boys, either.

However, I am covered in mosquito bites. Even though I doused myself in DEET a billion times and basically started drinking it, those little mofos loved me. I have about 55 bites at last count and want to hire someone to come over and scratch the one between my shoulder blades for me.

I am also itchy in my brain -- adventure race season is more or less over (there's one more short sprint we might do in a few weeks) and I want to have a long race on the calendar. I am already calling for a reunification of the Bees' Knees for the Rev3 next year, but that race isn't until the end of April.

A real race report to follow soon. Ok, maybe not soon, but in the next few days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Almost Race Day...

... which means it is almost chicken nugget time! This race I think I am going to actually carry the nuggets with me. Ten to start, 20 in my gear box. Should kill any cravings and provide me with enough sodium and calories to last a lifetime. Or at least to last 30 hours.

Don't worry, Ma. This tattoo is not on my person. It's just a photo from that thing called the Internet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Runs In the Family

Watch this. Be patient. Or just skip ahead to about the 2:35 mark.

Can you guess the runner I am related to?

If you can't guess, read this

Or read this.

So yeah. The kid who loses the fight with the rando pole is my cousin Ben. He went on to finish the race and while he didn't place as well as he had hoped thanks to taking a giant metal pole to the eyeball he still finished well into the top half. Once he managed to scrape himself and his retina off the ground and get moving again.

Now Ben, imported all of the way from Maryland to Philly for his running talent, goes to the same college I went to and is gearing up for what I am sure will be one hell of a freshman season of cross-country running.

Welcome to the big, dirty, nasty city, cousin. It's a hell of a place to be a runner.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I keep trying to make plans for the weekend of September 24. Dinners, happy hours, runs and races. "I have a free weekend!" my brain keeps telling me.

Except I don't. I have a 30-hour adventure race five hours from home.

Miles and miles of open-water paddling on the Chesapeake Bay and/or the giant ocean has me the most nervous. Hopefully we will get boats with motors attached, but I doubt it.

Also hopefully, there won't be any hurricanes/floods/crazy rain/etc. that have pelted the east coast over the past 10 days (wiped out a lot of Wissahickon Park, sadly, but I am currently too lazy to upload pictures).

I am fine with running and biking in the rain but paddling in a storm? No thanks. Unlike most adventure races this one looks like it will be paddle-heavy -- up to 35 miles in the boat with only 15 to 25 miles on foot and 80 on bike. Doesn't play to my strengths at all, but Bill is coming off of a minor foot injury so the course could be to our benefit.

But man, 35 miles on open water? Grr.

The good news is that I think we will place well in the 3/4-person co-ed division. Because we are the only one in it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sweatfest 2011

Sorry for the lack of blog action as of late. I've been too busy turning myself into a date or a prune by sweating every ounce of hydration out of my person.

Bill and I headed down to my parents' in Maryland for a large chunk of the weekend. With Storm the Shore two weeks away (shit!) we knew we had to get some training in between sleep, tailgates, Navy football and play time with the fam and the friends.

Bill is well on the mend from a foot booboo and wants to stay that way so we lugged the mountain bikes down with us to get some time in the saddle. I hadn't sat on that saddle since the finish line of the Equinox almost two months ago.

What kind of an adventure racer am I? Circle all that apply.
     A) The awesome kind.
     B) The short kind.
     C) The lazy kind.

I know you leaned toward A but, in fact, the correct answer is both B and C.

We headed down to a small park about 20 minutes south of my parents' digs near Annapolis. Only one real trail -- a 9.5 mile loop. We thought it would be boring and, based by the quality of the riders and bikes in the parking lot when we rolled into the park bright and early I was worried I was in for a day of hot mess technicality.

Instead, an awesome roller coaster of buttery single track, some short climbs, tight turns and only a few rocks and roots. I always forget that the Wissahickon, my usual riding spot, is one of the more technical spots to bike within a few hundred miles.

It was pretty stellar. We did a lap and a half and then found ourselves unable to stay away from the awesome -- we headed back to the park the next day for a few more hours of riding.

Bill likes to mountain bike, a lot. He also happens to be pretty good at it -- pushing the pace and the more technical, the better. This park was a bit beneath the technical junk he prefers so we decided to make the ride a bit more of a challenge for the both of us. I'd get an 8-minute head start on the first lap and then the last one to the end had to buy gas and Wawa hoagies to get us through the ride back to Philly.

I was off, zooming the best that I could up and around switchbacks, through tight turns, wedging between trees and splashing through a few streams. I could ride the whole thing -- only had to unclip when I'd go around a turn to find another rider zooming right toward me.

So yeah, I suck at mountain biking. Just past the half-way point I heard someone come up behind me, fast. It was Bill. We rode together for about two miles and then he was off, making it to the parking lot almost 20 minutes faster than I did.

I was a drippy, muddy, sweaty mess as we sat in the parking lot for a few before heading out on the trail again. Sweating so much that the sweat was actually rinsing off the mud on my legs. How damn nasty is that?

My new bike shoe make my feet look extra gigantic!

We rolled back to Philly at around 9 p.m. and I was up again at 8 to meet Abby for a longer trail run in the Wissahickon. As we chatted about whether our run counted as marathon or adventure race training, my new found obsession with The Hunger Games and whether we should really try to race the Philly marathon or just make sure we cross the finish line I found myself basically melting.

My entire person turned to sweat. I had a small pack on with about 60 ounces of water that I was chugging. It might have been more efficient just to dump the water directly onto my person. Every few minutes I'd grab the sides of my shirt and wring them out, sweat leaving a trail behind me. My hair looked like I'd gotten caught in a downpour. My shoelaces were so drippy they started whipping my ankles as I meandered along the trail. Blisters? I got them on my feet, thanks to the fact that my socks were so wet that I wrung them out when I got home.

How effing disgusting is that? On a scale of 1 to 10, please leave your score in a comment. Personally, I think it's a 9.

I don't weigh myself a lot, maybe a few times a year to make sure I don't have a tapeworm or that I haven't secretly been eating Big Macs and tubs of Crisco in my sleep, so I am not entirely sure what I weigh at any given point in time. But, I hopped on the scale once I got home from our 17.5 nasty (and, for me, sort of painful) trail miles.

I weighed 2 points less than I ever have in my adult life.

Not good. Kidneys, I apologize. Heart, I apologize to you, too.

I spent several hours sipping on blue-flavored Powerade, lemonade-flavored Nuun, water and chocolate milk. I never felt entirely terrible or death-like -- I just felt like the most dehydrated person in the tri-state area.

When I got on the scale this morning I'd put on five pounds. I felt fine today -- not sore, not dehydrated, not particularly tired, so I guess I didn't do any real damage.

But, fall, roll in soon. Please and thank you.