Saturday, March 28, 2009

Enroute to Australia

I am writing from the plane. I am on my way to Australia, in about 4 hours we will arrive, Leslie and myself. This time I am traveling with a crew. Leslie Gerein, an experience ultrarunner and adventurer from Banff and Jason Glass who also supported me in Brazil is waiting in Sydney for us.
From Sydney we will board a Plane to Albury then a two our drive to our final destination Harrietville, Victoria. I will be arriving Friday evening in time for the mandatory meeting and I will be ready to start the race at 4:30am on Saturday, it will not give me any time to write the pre race report.
I can however tell you what I know about the race.
There are 17 people running the race in total, two teams of 7 people each and 3 soloist, one male and two females including me. The race starts at 4:30am on Saturday 28th and ends 48 hours later on Monday 30th at 4:30am
I am as nervous going into this race as I was going into my race in Brazil, Not completing the Yukon race has made me feel unsure that I might not after all have what it takes to finish what I started. To be fair to my kids and to be fair to me, I have to try, I don't want to live my life with regret, that and the fact that my son Karl doesn’t have the choice of quitting. I will want for him to never give up hope that impossible things can be achived with the right attitude and determination.
And what I am bringing to the table on this race, is something that my son has taught me the last two years of him dealing with his disability, an indomitable will.
Alpine Skyrun is a 100 mile race in the Australian alps,, in Bogong national park, last year was the first year the race was held, with three people out of five finishing in about 42 hours.
The race major obstacle for me will be course navigation, I lack navigation skills , I will need to learn to follow the course with a map and compass. Second obstacle will be terrain, according to the race road book, the 100-mile course features six major ascents, including Victoria’s three higher peaks.
The course is designed with six stages and a mandatory overnight camp. The fist aid kit is similar to other races except for the mandatory elastic band for snake bites.
I have read the race manual guide several times before, it was not until now that all of a sudden I am filled with why did I think I could do this? not finishing Yukon has been terrible for my confidence but it did also thought me something very valuable, to be in the moment, ever since i started this journey I have been consume with the preparation for the races, if Ray asked me to run 5 hills I did 7, I read everything available about the races I have chosen, but I the end of the day, it’s not all up to me, since I return, I have enjoyed the company of those around me, my mind no longer drifts to far away places or to the next few training sessions, while I am not taking the races lightly, I am giving myself a break and allowing myself to even enjoy the journey, after all, looking around my life, driving my kids to practices, having coffee with my best friend, driving to dinner with my boyfriend, it’s all there waiting for me when I get back, I already know my destination, and climbing a few mountains to get there doesn’t seem like a great deal, when I will climb, I will look up in the sky, and marvelled that I just got a bit closer to the stars

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mea Culpa

boy did I ever get in trouble and I deserve it. i really didn't want to sensationalize 6633 Ultra while I wanted to reflect the internal struggles that happen in the race I want to make sure that everybody know I was never in danger of dying.

I failed to make it check points and that is the minimum expected when you sign for that race, martin and his crew did a great job of helping his athletes it was me that after all had a hard time on the race. There re somethings that I need to clarify.

I hurt my back and had my sled switched and everything was fine.

when they checked on my during at night I was fine, it was not until i undid my sled harness that the sharp pain came, i tried to sleep on the course and that is the reason why the left me, i never told that my back was hurting, they had already left thinking I was going to be down for a couple of hours.

It was when I strapped my sled again to continued because I was getting colder in my Bivvy that the pain became too much, when Claudia came by, I had my arms behind my back holding the sled underneath to relieve the pain. Only about an hour an a half I had been fine and waived them good night. I would have made it to check point on my own for sure but it was nice to take my sled off since it was hurting my back.

The frostbite was not visible until the morning light when I had already left the course that we notice the bridge of my nose was black.

My apologies again to martin and his team, they where great and I am sorry that it came across as whining.

I have been thinking a lot about the race and regret hit a few days ago, I think the only way I can make peace is to return and run it once more, there is no guarantees that next time will be better, I know of athletes that have return and they are force to quit even sooner that the time before but I will never know if I can do better if I don't return.

A lot of people asked me about my equipment, i did try it before hand but it was always from warm to cold, I took my gear out tor try out but it had been nicely stored at home warm, next time I will leave it out for a couple of days then try it.
Claudia took some fantastic shots and you can check here

Sunday, March 15, 2009

6633 Ultra Update

I am home after pulling from the race.

At about 4 am on Friday and after only 70k I decided to pull from the race.

The main reason why I decided it was time to go home was that I didn't think I could continue the race safely. This are very serious races and they should be taken as such. I hurt my back when the wheels on my sled froze.

6633 Ultra is a truly a self supported race, continuing under such circumstances would have been irresponsible. the temperature had dipped to minus 50c with windshield and my sleeping bag had frozen, because I discovered that if I used heat packs on my baklava and mitts I was still warm I was safe but for how long? check points where usually 43K apart, that is a long ways is you are running with a sled and add slowing down because I was running injured it could take a long time to make it to each check point.

At around 20 hours into the race I was once more experiencing pain and getting worse, the first time, I took ibuprofen and sat on the car for about 45 minutes while they brought a new sled for me, and I felt great when I started to run again but about 8 hours later the pain returned and I once more failed to make it to check point and had to be helped.

this is what it crossed my mind, I was only one third of the race done, getting weaker and weaker since eating and drinking on the course was impossible at night, i already had frostbite on the tip of my nose from exposure, and I wasn't sure that spending three more evenings battling the elements unable to move fast was a smart decision. I got a ride to check point to and got my back checked, i left the sled to mark the course something that it's mandatory if you want to continue, you are allow to leave the course at anytime as long as you return to your same location to continue after.I didn't think that it was fair that i was forcing them to babysit me, the minimum expected for an athlete is to make it to check point and i had failed to make it twice, it was time to pull the plug.

Andrew and Douglas both finish the 120 mile race and there are still two other competitors on the course for the 350 mile race. Am I sad because I quit? not really, although I did learned a lot, I have to be very responsible and I had 5 other races to finish so I had that too to think about. While there is always a risk when competing in endurance events,I feel a responsibility to the charities that I represent but I have have an even bigger responsibility toward my kids.

I didn't feel disapointed when I finished the race, i was after all exhausted and I was somewhat relieve to be in a warm car resting. It was not until much later that regret hit.

Ray Zahab and I are looking into other North American races to choose an other to continue with the quest, I am exited once more with the anticipation on what other race I will be adding to my list, I do hope this time is going to be on a warmer location, after Antarctica and the Arctic I think I deserve it. So it wont be long and I will be back doing what I do best, running wild.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wish You Were Here

As you are reading this Norma is off to compete in one of her most daunting races to date. She sent me an email to post it here for you to know what is going on in that part of the world. She has the company of Claudia an excellent photographer and they will try to keep us updated if there is a cyber cafe on her route thru the wilderness of the Artic Circle :). She is running the 6633 Ultra and fearing it. So as you may, or not, remember my name is Carlos and I am a tech blogger from Mexico and Norma's brother. Before I post It I must tell you that I received truncated because of the tech limitations of writing from that part of the world, but you can understand the spirit of what She is telling us, so here it is:

There are 9 competitors in total, all male except for me.

As it also turns out, I am the first Canadian to ever participate in the race, where the majority of the competitors are British and one American. This is the third year the race has been held, with the first year having only 3 finishers and last year only one. Both years won by a female, so overnight I went from being underdog to favourite. We had a long discussion on the reason why females historically perform better at this race even though they represent a very small number. I have said that to be successful on extreme ultras you need to have no common sense and short term memory.

The reason why the failure to finish the race is so high is the fact that is 100% self supported, I will be running pulling a sled with all my survival gear and isolation will be a major issue as well as the high wind, we will be running through Wright Pass where the highest winds in the world have been recorded.

There will be two check points in between of nothing more than a wind shelter and a couple of parked cars where we will be allowed to sit to escape the wind. I had to make my own sled since I couldn’t locate one of the specialised sled that are commonly used on this type of Artic races. That and the fact that they are almost as much as my mortgage payment to purchase, so I took a hard look at it and fabricated one with part of ice fishing sled, bike child carrier and plumbing pipes. I felt silly when I arrived with my home made sled , sort of like what a Rolling Stones cover band would feel if invited to perform with the real Rolling Stones, but after we took it for a test drive yesterday the guys where feeling a bit embarrassed to have handy woman on the team.

While I wouldn* t say I am looking forward to...(lost)This is the third year the race has been held, I Wish you were here

I arrived at the Yukon Monday for 6633 Ultra, after spending 3 days in Whitehorse for gear testing and course briefing we are made an overnight stop in Dawson City and finally to Eagle Plains for the start of the race.

If you ever find yourself in Dawson City, don* t miss the opportunity to try the Sourtoe Cocktail, where you drink a cocktail with a real mutilated toe in it, it was the worst thing I have ever done but being part of a hard core group is hard to set limits on how crazy you really are, crazy enough to run 120 miles in the artic while pulling a sled but not enough to try a drink with a mutilated body part, is an argument I lost for sure. The story on how this bizarre celebration can be found on Ripley* s Believe It Or Not.

There is less than two days to the start of the race and I am still overwhelmed with doubt, I am not going to lie, this is the only race that I am not looking forward to, there is absolutely nothing about this race that will motivate me enough to want to do it if I was not doing it for the reasons that I am.

Running ( or mostly power walking) 120 miles, pulling a sled half my weight, on extreme weather is enough to make me want to cry. But this race is also going to teach me a lot about courage, determination and overcoming fear.

The race will start Friday at 8am in Dawson City and finish Monday at 8am in Fort McPherson following predominately the Dempster Highway. Giving me 71 hours to finish since we loose and hour when we enter North West Territories. The race is mostly run on the Artic Circle giving the name 6633 after the latitude where the race takes place.

There are 2 categories in the race 120 miles and 350 miles. There is three of us in the 120 mile distance, and 6 on the 350 mile distance this race, I have made peace with the fact that I am here, it will be incredible hard and I have do this race since it will be one of the races that I will refer to if I am ever to speak about overcoming challenges and fear. And that was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome fear, Hans my son had a hard time letting me come to this race saying he was afraid that something might happened, he asked me why if I was afraid I was doing it, the truth is that even though I am afraid of this race, I am more afraid of watching my other son Karl go blind. What I am doing now might now mean a cure but I much rather live my life knowing I have done anything in my power to contribute. Motivation is temporary, inspiration is infinite.

high is the fact that is 100% s...(lost)d to have handy woman on the team.

While I wouldn...(lost)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The real reason I never remarried

My niece Marianna and I finished building my sled for 6633 Ultra and I took it for a four hour run. We struggle on the design for days arguing since it fail to work several times. I joked with her that if we had been the group WHAM today at around 2pm it would have been when George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley disbanded. finally around 4pm it was finished and i was happy to go for a test, I think my niece was happy to see me leave for a few hours as well. As i was leaving i waved and yelled "Can you believe I never remarried?" "Such a catch"

After a few adjustments the sled worked just fine, considering i used what ever materials I could use from a bike child carrier and an ice fishing sled.

Today was my long run and i couldn't been any happier. There has been a lot on my mind lately, from just the regular challenges of a single parent who travels a lot, to the races itself, to dealing with Karl's new diagnosis. When I run i can hear the silence, its like there is nothing there but the road and I, very cleansing.

6633 is proven to be a very difficult race to plan and I am sure it will be to execute as well. I am consume with details on what to wear, eat and race plan such as when to sleep, I am trying to work every possible scenario since it's such a difficult race, the wrong kind of sleeping bag can mean the difference between finishing or not finishing. I am feeling a bit better about it, I am getting to the point where I think that at this point I can only do my best and see what that means. The training that Ray has me on makes me feel like a drunken Koala, i am incoherent by 7pm tops!

This is where my fingers have a hard time moving forward, Karl was diagnosed with Bardet-Biedl Syndrome or BBS for short, the specialist don't think i have much to worry about but the truth is that it's hard not to. in short this is what BBS prognosis is

Growth and development: Mental and growth retardation
Behaviour and performance: Poor visual acuity and blindness
Eyes: Rod-cone dystrophy (sometimes called atypical retinitis pigmentosa), myopia, strabismus, and cataracts
Hand and foot: Polydactyly, syndactyly or brachydactyly
Cardiovascular system: Hypertrophy of interventricular septum and left ventricle and dilated cardiomyopathy
Gastrointestinal system: Hepatic fibrosis, central obesity and diabetes mellitus
Urogenital system: Hypogonadism, renal failure,4 urogenital sinuses, ectopic urethra, uterus duplex, septate vagina, and hypoplasia of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

In short there is a high risk of renal failure. Karl is still going for further testing to determine which of the 12 kind of BBS he has, since he is not obese or mentally challenge the prognosis is good, most likely is a mild case.

This however was brought a new range of feeling, I felt silly running for Karl's vision after finding out that that was going to be the least of my worries.

Running brought a bit o clarity and peace, I am running for the love of my kids no matter what they call what he has, it is still for them. I also feel blessed to think that if it wasn't for all my crazy quest to find a cure i wouldn't have meet the doctor that wanted to know, the "why" this was happening.
Now the doctors can monitor his health. I just make me feel that the purpose just got a bit deeper so it's not likely that I am going to go away anytime soon. I plan on making as much noise as possible.

Is strange how my journey is going in a completely different direction that I anticipated, I went to church today for the first time in a really long time. While i hadn't become atheist, i just didn't go to church anymore. In Brazil at a very tough time I asked God to help me get pass the pain, I was also scared of running alone on the deserted roads, I never though i was going to find my way back to a pew on an ultrarace but this is my journey and I intend to follow it no matter where it takes me.

On my run I also reflected about the whole generic lottery, the odds of Karl being born with BBS are infinite, both his father and I have to be carriers and of course this is something that my kids have to take into consideration when choosing a spouse, there is always a risk of passing the gene, i imagine my choice if I had know of this, would I have gone and married their father? and the truth is that how could I not, my kids are perfect in every way, i feel terrible and wish that this was happening to me and not Karl but he is the most amazing kid in the world.

I just watched Slumdog Millionaire and it reminded me that powerful love stories happen in many different forms and sometimes under amazing circumstances. Maybe this is how my love story was suppose to unfold.