Monday, August 6, 2007

125K,24 hours to finish, 17,000 feet of elevation, freezing rain. What is this the death race?

This was no ordinary weekend. I arrived at Grand Cache Friday night to the mandatory meeting and looking around the crowd I was sure I had missed a turn somewhere and ended at Woodstock 2007. I started feeling nervous. It was pouring and I didn't bring extra clothing. John and I walked around the booth trying to find anything that was either waterproof or warmer. We did find a pair of running tights that would not keep me too warm but with their crisscross design would make me look fast as John casually mention when I showed up on them race day. I suddenly felt like I was Paris Hilton and this was my simple life attempt.

Darcy and I met at the start line, stage 1 was uneventful Darcy chatted with other runners, they all had stories of failed attempts or glorious victories, we settle into what seemed a very slow pace and kept a close eye on my pacing partner, Darcy after all had successfully finish his last 3 attempts.

Leg 2, the second hardest gave me a true indication of what was to come, climbing Flood and Grand mountain was a hard 4 hour long test of sanity. The climb was steady and the descend was even harder, the steep terrain was made even more difficult by the slippery conditions, I had trouble catching up to Darcy who was great at using his poles to aid himself on the descend. It was still raining but the rain felt nice and cool on my body.

Leg 3 was a breeze, only 19k long and rolling hills , armed only with my ipod and a bottle of Gatorade in hand I knew it was my only chance to gain ground. I passed Darcy in my first 15 minutes never to see him again, I told him I was going to go ahead since he was clearly going to catch up to me on stage 4 the hardest climb. He never did, the next day I heard he didn't finish either, he didn't said much, he was either too tired or to chocked to explain. From this point on I was 2 hour ahead of schedule, I was tracking for a 22 hour finish time.

leg 4 was by far the hardest thing I had ever done physically. I started the climb around 6, since leg 4 is 8 hours long and unaided I put as much on my backpack as I could physically manage. The climb is not technical like leg 2 but the 6986 feet climb start all at once. I hiked at a pace that didn't seemed fast, it feel like I hardly move but only two races past me and when I joked with them I felt I was hardly moving one of them motion me to look behind me, one of them said, " no, you are moving, they are not" behind me down below I could see people everywhere laying down or bent over trying to catch their breath. I keep thinking what Darcy said to me, " don't worry if you feel like you are slowing down, just keep moving, never stop" What it makes this climb even harder is that as the climb progresses there are longer periods of times where you don't see any body else. I got to the top around 9:30 and started my descend. The rain that had felt nice around 4pm was making my descend not very enjoyable as the light started to disappear.

I got tho the emergency station around midnight only to find out that I had to climb other 5 k before climbing down again, is what they called the Amber Loop. It broke my heart, It was pitch dark and I was alone for most of my hike, I had a head light but as I avoided 3 puddles I felt on 2. Finally around 2 am, and with only 9k to go to the next station I was stopped by the emergency crew patrolling. hypothermia was making me disoriented and I had trouble answering their questions, I was asked to get on their ATV and relinquish my timing stick and coin, the only proof a Death Racer has of finishing. I was in a lot of pain then but as I finally sat down on the ATV the pain that I was experiencing tripled. My support came to pick me up and I had only the energy to climb to the back of the van and I fell asleep fast.

I woke up 4 hour later and amazingly felt great, it was only when I try to walked that I realize what I had just done was not natural. At breakfast the town was full of people who walked funny like me, after a long shower I took advantage of the complimentary massage. make no mistake this was not Banff Spring Hotel, the massage felt like Chinese torture to make me confess, I knew I needed to release all the lactic acid that had build around my muscles. The girl that worked on my legs asked if I had stretched before the race, my IT band was too tight she noted. No I reply. "That is why you are so sore" I don't have a degree on sports medicine but event I know that no amount of stretching before hand will prevent my muscles of been sore after 18 hours of continuous effort.

My take on the race? it was all worth it. I think we should all do something that seems impossible once in our life time, something that brings us out of our comfort zone and forces us to look hard inside and ask the hard questions. Is easy to avoid dealing with ourselves. There is so much we can hide behind to avoid thinking, our family, jobs, or even when we find ourselves alone we are quick to seek companion in our solitude with TVs, radios, music, or even computers. Out there in the middle of the night, alone and with miles to go I had nowhere to turn but in.

I have now found the strength to keep me strong if more challenges come into my life as I am sure they will come.

From now on I will approach new challenges as the Death Race, I will take it one leg at the time, some legs will be more challenging than others but they will all be part of the journey and even if I don't win the race I will learn to appreciate that at the end I have grown a little bit stronger.

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