Pushed around sleds on the turf yesterday and felt nauseous. A lot. Not quite like me. I can usually torture myself for hours before the nausea kicks in. I never feel sick. Tired yes, but not sick. My body runs on coffee, cinnamon buns and bananas. The only thing I don’t like is gels. It takes a gallon of water to rinse down one little packet of Gu. And I would rather run on empty for hours before I force myself to eat one. So, I tried to figure out what was wrong. A prowler with two plates, some presses, rows… and double unders. Nothing difficult. What the heck? And then I realized what I ate before I went to the gym. Honey Smacks with milk. Yes, Honey Smacks or Kalaspuffar in Swedish. Sometimes I really surprise myself. Who eats Honey Smacks? I picked up groceries earlier. Lots of fruit, veggies, bacon, eggs, yoghurt… and got a bit stuck at the cereal aisle. Looking for new gluten free options for the kids. And bang, there it was. Honey Smacks. A nice red box loaded with wheat and sugar. A nice snack from early 1978. It was my dream when I was 6. I eat cereal maybe once every six months. And today I loaded one big (read huge) bowl of Honey Smacks for a second breakfast at 10. A nice bowl of sugar and wheat. Good choice. The thing is that I think one portion is about half a cup, I did not eat half of a cup. More like 2 cups. Since all three kids are gluten and dairy intolerant I don’t eat very much gluten and the only milk I have is a splash in my coffee and some ice cream every now and then. I eat crisp bread every morning, a few cinnamon buns every week, that’s about it. I have a whole box of Honey Smacks left and I know that it will be hard to resist. High quality food, Honey Smacks! And am I looking forward to that second breakfast?? All those good choices.
Allvaret närmar sig. Skolan börjar om några veckor, try outs tidigare än så och hösten är snart här. och vi har ju inte hunnit med någonting… Vi bokade in en natt på yttersta väskustens hippaste hotell och planerade en rutt lite löst och åkte. Bil, färja, bil och så lite promenad första dagen. Bil, bil, promenad, bil, promenad och promenad, färja och bil andra dagen. Två långa dygn. Och vilka dagar. Vackert! Maffigt! Små hamnstäder, höga berg, vilda djur, orolig Stilla Havsstrand, orörd natur, regnskog och rena rama vischan. Allt i ett.
Första stoppet, Port Angeles by night. Ett litet, trött och ganska deppigt samhälle. Vi knallade runt och kikade, handlade lite böcker och Caroline hittade en hel trave med gamla LP skivor på stans hippaste antikvariat, en salig blandning av Dylan, Springssteen, Sinatra…
Efter många om och men fick vi bord på en restaurang som vi tyckte såg bra ut. Det var en hel del mindre attraktiva hak som vi snabbt gick förbi. Vi lyckades på något konstigt sätt pricka in byns bästa ställe. Crabcakes, musslor, räkor och lax som smakade himmelskt. Det bästa jag har ätit på år.
Nu bar det av upp mot Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park. En lång bilresa uppför. Egentligen kändes det som lite fusk att köra bil men så funkade det här. En lång färd på serpentinvägar och sedn öppnade sig bergen men gröna ängar, blommor och vi började raskt sjunga fina bitar ur Sound of music och kände oss som von Trapps. Dimman låg tät, utsikten var mjölkvit med inslag av berg. Man skulle kunna se hela vägen till Kanada och hela vägen till andra sidan Washington och lite till. Vi tog en promenad upp till toppen och höll på att bli påsprungna av en grupp rådjur.
Efter några timmar av toppnatur drog vi vidare förbi turkosa sjöar, tät skog, små samhällen och smala vägar. Vi hamnade till slut i Forks där det fortfarande är Twilight feber. Vi passerade Bellas hus och bil. Handlade där hon jobbade. Spanade efter varulvar utan tröjor och glänsande vampyrer. Forks var inte direkt någon metropol men värt ett besök för den som gillar Twilight serien. Jag har aldrig sett så många gamla truckar, flanellskjortor och rassliga hus på en och samma gång.
Vi inhandlade ribs, kyckling och turkeyleg på en parkeringsplats och körde vidare till kusten. Otroliga stränder mötte oss och vi var så långt väster ut man kan komma. Vi satte oss bland stenarna, tittade på vågorna och åt revben, melon och drack lemonad. Timmarna gick och vi kunde inte riktigt se oss mätta på utsikten mot det stora blå. Vattnet var kallt, så kallt att fötterna gör ont i 5 sekunder och sedan sakta försvinner. Salt, rent och otroligt vågigt. Runda stenar, stora träd som spolats mjuka och gråvita av vattnet och ljudet av vågor som slår. Hade kusten legat aningen närmare Kirkland skulle jag sitta här varje dag.
Mot nästa mål, regnskogen. Vi körde vidare genom mer natur. Mer skog, djup skog. Stora träd, vi pratar om enorma träd. Varning för djur, små stugor med parkvakter i stora hattar, träd som växer som en tunnel över vägen, stora steniga floder, träd och mera träd. Och så blir det helt plötsligt varmt ute.
Och så kom vi fram till Hoh Rainforest i Olympic National Park. Fukten lade sig mot skinnet och tröjorna åkte av. Vi hade åkt några mil och det kändes som ett annat land. På med promenadskorna igen och ut i skogen.
Och nu var det kväll och vi funderade på vilken rutt vii skulle ta tillbaka och började köra. Och vi körde och körde, missade en färja, väntade lite och körde mera. Och så var vi äntligen hemma, mitt i natten och mörkret.
It’s been a week since last and it’s been a good week. A little bit of everything. Food, drinks, sun, swimming in the lake… a week of recovery. I read a few books and watched 4 seasons of White Collar. We are obsessed. Who doesn’t love Neal Caffrey/Nick Halden/Matt Bomer?
I’ve been tired in a jetlag kind of way. A long race gets to you one way or another. Yes, I am admitting that I am tired, sore, done and I write this only because I don’t think my teammates will read this. It’s one thing to feel tired but it’s another thing to admit it. Last week I found myself falling asleep everywhere. Not because of any time difference or traveling to a faraway continent, my Skalman clock just said sleep every other hour. Sitting comfortable, leaning against a wall or laying down and I woke up 2 hours later drooling. Not pretty. It’s part of that post race depression that happens every time I do something grande. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it’s been, I always feel like running a 100 miler, bike up the Himalayas or sail to another continent (and I don’t know how to sail). It usually passes before I sign up for something stupid but the uneasy feeling stays for a few weeks. The feeling of I have no life and nothing is fun. Along with listening to very strange music and baking a lot of cinnamon buns. But it’s all better now, I got my bike in for a tune up yesterday. New brake pads and some TLC. The bike-guy with the very large earrings asked if I drowned my bike in water and rolled it in sand. I sure did, 30something river crossings and a sandy trail to finish it off. He thought I was kidding.
I forced myself to get out on the bike a few times last week and took a few classes at the gym with a taped up foot and the left arm dangling by my side. I gave in and got an x-ray of my foot (old fracture, lots and lots of oldladyritis and swelling). And I ended up in physical therapy again, trying to wake up my elbow and hand that seems to have died the big nerve death again. I so wish I was 25. Or maybe not.
Got a message from a friend far away and got a very flattering invitation for a 24+ in Europe in a few weeks. I had to say no but it sure boosted my confidence and I made plans in my head. (And if you read this, call me again next year! I would love the challenge, it sounds amazing.)
After a week of resting my foot I went out on the trails today. A short hour run on a soft trail, gravel, railroad tracks and grey skies. I was minding my own business and listened to a Husky podcast, an interview with Freddie Meadows (Swedish surfer) when a deer stepped out blocking my way. He took a few steps and stopped a few yards from me and turned his head. Well, hello there. I stopped and got my headphones out and asked if he felt like moving. I’ve meet a lot of deer but they usually keep moving, this one wanted company. I thought if it was a good idea to pass him, and if so is it safe to go behind him. I’ve never heard if kicking deer but you never know. He didn’t move an inch until I reached out and touched him. End of story, I kept running, he stood there looking bored waiting for another runner to bug. So, watch out for the deer beside the Willows golf course beside the water. He is one friendly guy. So the question is, how do you pass a deer without getting trampled?
Saturday morning at 4.45 I found myself sitting on the side of the tub in the bathroom checking Instagram really quick before I got dressed. I saw pictures of painted toenails on beaches, beer bottles in hands, beautiful vacation houses and smiling people. A normal Saturday around the world. I tried to get ready for a +24 hours adventure race. Is that even possible? I brushed my teeth, put sunscreen on and took a couple of deep breaths. I had breakfast and scrambled through the newspapers and got picked up about an hour later. We left for Roslyn, WA. The first time I heard of Roslyn (population ca 875) was when I lived in Leuven, Belgium ’94 and attended KU Leuven. I made a few American friends who came from Roslyn and Seattle. I remember they showed me the map over Washington and pointed it out. In the middle of nowhere, far out there and nothing around. They told me the show Northern Exposure (90-95) was filmed there and I knew exactly what they were talking about. Large moose, lots of bears, a quaint bar and genuine people. Nice place.
We got ready, checked in, changed, drank a few bottles, had a banana and a bar, got the maps, checked the bags, packed the last stuff, got our transition bin ready… And I really had no clue. Didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know what to put in the bin. How does +24 hours feel? Will I fall asleep standing, sitting on the bike? Will I ruin the race for the guys? Will my body stop working? How do you know?
10am and we are off. It’s hot. Two checkpoints down and I don’t get any air. My left hand burns and my heart rate is so high it feels like my heart will stop working. My fingernails turned purple and I got off the bike and had to lay down. The guys stopped and my poor teammates looked puzzled. It’s not looking good, 30 minutes in to a very long race and she cracks. Overheated? We start walking and we walk with our bikes for a long time. I cool down and we start over. Lots of time passed and we should have been going faster. I don’t know how much time we lost, 20 min, 1hour, 2hours… it felt like a long time.
The race was divided into 5 chunks with 4 transitions (bike/trek/bike/trek/bike). The first was a very long bike section. We knew it was going to take time but it took a lot longer than I expected. The first hours felt like a blur, I can’t really remember what happened. We started walking with our bikes, basically hiking with a lot of extra weight. Pushing our bikes, walking on rocks with big drops beside us trying not to fall. It was hot. Sweat was dripping from random body parts. 3 hours and 15 minutes in it started hailing. It was popping down on our helmets, making funny noises. Got on the bike for 20 meters and off and over a river, pushed it up, up, up and got on for 30 seconds. Don’t look down. Don’t fall. Don’t walk too close to the edge. It rains a little and we hear thunder every now and then. Crossed the river again, again, again. Up, up, up, pushing the bike, checkpoint after checkpoint. The only think I could think was:
We all ran out of water when we had a few hours left. I emptied 5l of water really fast. Hot weather and no water, kind of a nightmare. I felt like the raisin version of myself, started to crumble up and could only think of the blackberry lemonade I made a few days ago. Or a cold beer. We crossed another river and filled up our bottles. I am too tired to dig out my iodine tablets from the bottom of my pack and decide to drink little sips and filter away the dirt with my teeth. How bad can it be? We are in the middle of a huge national park, no people, lots of animals and the water looks clear. And I found a nötcreme in the bag on the bike. What a treat. Next time I am going to have my parents send over Dextrosol and Nötcreme. Huge amounts.
I remember checking the time and thinking that I had pushed my bike uphill for more than 2 marathons. The last miles of a marathon usually feel pretty hard, the legs start to cramp a little bit and the body feels done. When you run a longer run/race you usually have plenty of time to regret your decision, curse and doubt your ability to finish. At least that is how I work. I did not think once that I couldn’t do this. It really sucked, it was not fun at all but I didn’t think, just walked. And ate and drank when I walked. More than 11 hours passed. A long day mostly bike hiking up mountains.
We got in to transition and filled up new water. 5 new fresh liters. Changed in to dry clothes and packed the pockets with more food. Ate a sandwich. I took off my shoes and socks and looked at my feet. Purple? Rotten? I count my nails, all there and with a turquoise polish. Looks very odd in the middle of the forest. Wet shoes for a day makes your feet really pretty. Dry socks and shoes feels like a treat. I sit on the ground and I can’t bother to go hide somewhere to change. (Really apologize for not being very modest guys). 10 minutes and we are on our way. It’s dark, our headlights are on and we are walking. It feels great. I am not tired. We are hiking up , up, up looking for new checkpoints. I am really impressed with Robins navigation. It is pitch-dark, in the middle of the night, we are on top of a mountain and he is spot on. All the time. And cycle on a trail, read a map and eat at the same time.
We spent hours wading through water that was full of crayfish and a gorgeous red water snake and the dry shoes and socks is a thing of the past. It’s dark, the temperature feels so much better. We walk the whole night, waiting for the sun that never shows up. It’s a long night looking for reflective bands/checkpoints. We are on the top of a mountain again looking for a cave, climbing boulders, shuffles around, climbing big trees that fell years ago. Trying to hold on to branches so I don’t slide down the hillside. My hands are full of thorns and I don’t really care. The mani-pedi last week was money well spent. We run out of water again. It’s mixed feelings, the pack is getting lighter when you drink but it’s a scary feeling to run dry. My body is really beat up. My left foot is swollen and is constantly pounding after a wrong step a few hours into the race. I have bruises and scrapes all over. My legs look like ground meat, dripping blood from a few spots, covered with dirt. I have a bad cut on my wrist from sliding down a cliff. Looks a bit suicidal. My left hand is completely numb, very convenient since I can’t feel if I am holding on to rosebushes with thorns. I am starting to think of things that are worse than climbing over sharp objects on a hillside. I can think of lot of things and it really helps. Watching a burlesque show, jump out of a plane, carry my bike and climb at the same time, eat crickets… I am in a long-term relationship with my brain, trying to stay focused.
Back on our bikes and I lost track of time. It’s getting lighter and the sun starts to show. It’s going to be a hot day. We move, we bike and we push our bikes. The view is gorgeous, we are 6000ft up and on top of the world. The trails are full of sand, big boulders and logs. A bit technical for me and the guys slow down. We keep on moving, walking our bikes, carrying our bikes, falling, walking… Hours pass and I am not tired. My body feels a bit slower but my mind is still there. I actually enjoy the day. This is great and I don’t want it to end.
And we came in for a third transition, starting to run out of time before the cut off. And we get a big welcome from Rick and Jen. So nice. We take off for a short trek. I feel extremely tired for the first time. It’s hot, around 35. The skin burns, there are no shade and the cloths are once again sticking to my body. I smell, my hair stinks and a cold shower would feel great. Where is that river when you need it. And 26 hours something and we race through transition again and are on the last part of the race. We need to make it to Roslyn before 4pm, before the cut off. We hear in transition that most of the teams went back and didn’t finish the checkpoints. Apparently it’s been a tough race. I don’t know since it’s my first +24h adventure race and have nothing to compare with. I am just surprised that time went by fast. And I am still awake.
We have one more bike hike before the finish. 1500ft, trails with deep sand and the sun is extreme. One step up and two down. We never seem to finish the bike hike, we will never reach the top. When you think you are there another hill shows up behind the trees. We finally made it but it took forever. We bike over the ridge and keep moving. Sinking in sand, broiling in the sun. We saw a random black cow standing in the heat in the middle of nothing.
The last part back to Roslyn is a nice single track down the mountain. We enter a bike park with two different paths. My nightmare. I don’t like this at all. I am tired, I can’t focus. If I look to the right, I turn to the right. It’s been a long race. Instead of just go and try to focus, I start slowing down, breaking too much. And I fall. I hit my previous broken elbow really hard and swear. Up again and trying to catch up. Josh is the nicest guy you can imagine, tells me to take it slow, walk if I need to. I am bubbling inside, angry, disappointed that I am such a coward. The guys walk through parts of it and that makes me even more mad since it’s my fault. Just go, don’t wait for me. Down on a trail and found the last checkpoint and I can’t say the word cottonwood. I am tired, I am done, I can’t move my lips. One mile left. ½ mile left. For the first time I feel so tired that I can barely move my legs. Robin tells me to bike like someone is chasing me. And we are done. Finished. Finito. I mål. 29 hours and 44 minutes of constant movement. That’s a long workout. And I thought when we reached Roslyn again it would feel like a super happy moment.
But it felt more like
I am not going to lie to you, it was a long day, night and day. The 24 hour race spilled over to the next day and became close to 30 hours. It’s a long time. Constant movement for 30 hours. Long time. Getting myself in to this I thought not sleeping for 30 something hours would be the biggest problem. Eating and drinking is what’s important, all the time. And keep moving.