Food

I wish I could say that it was all about bananas and rye bread, avocados and lean meat. Think sugar and carbs, chocolate and gummi bears. When you plan your food intake before a long race it’s all about calories. How can you get enough calories to keep going. If you do a race that is long, 2-3 days or so you can still pack fresh foods and vegetables. When it’s 7 days, not really. Like a shorter race we packed 6h zip locks and then brought enough zip locks to last until the next TA. Let me just say that I failed a little bit. I apparently have a big fear of starving. I ate more or less all my food during the glacier walk so without knowing I packed food for 4 days or so for the next leg and that gave me some nice extra weight in my pack. And I kept doing that until Robin stole my pack and my food and repacked it to his pack.

Food feels complicated before you start the race but then it kind of just happens. You eat all the time, and it’s not the kind of food you would eat on a regular day. It’s the kind of food I would never touch on a regular day. It doesn’t taste anything really, you just know that you need to eat. It’s granola bars, fruit leathers, fruit cups and nuts that works and every once in a while some candy. Jerky and gels doesn’t work for me. Robin was desperate to make me move faster on the bike at the end of the race and I feel really queasy when I drink 5 hour energy (or Red Bull) and try to avoid it but felt desperate enough to try it. Three minutes later I am on my knees heaving by the side of the trail regretting it. But it somehow worked and we did speed up a bit. And you only live once, I tried again midnight paddling. And I almost enjoyed the next one I had.

Ramen noodles, still a bit crunchy, tasted divine after 40 hours without food. But, I will never drink unheated chicken noodle soup from a can. Seriously guys, so classy.

After race: Give me food! Anything works. I have developed an ability to inhale food. Hotdog, 3 seconds. I found myself inhaling a large burger and an ice cream when I got to the airport at midnight. And then another burger. I knew this race would make me grow personally.

Sleep

If you think you are tired, think again… it can only get worse. Sleep is an interesting thing. You can barely stay awake, your eyelids close with every step you take, every paddle stroke. You close your eyes and sleep a few minutes without stopping. And then after a few days you get into T.A. Drop your backpack and all of a sudden you feel so light, you take your shoes off and it’s party time. You know you need to sleep, it’s only a few hours until you need to pack up and go again but it feels so good to chat with the volunteers, drink something warm, warm your wet and stinky feet by the fire. You take your socks off and hold your breath waiting for the worst, and count your toes and nails.

I somehow lost a few hours when we got off the glacier. I am 100% sure I stayed awake since we walked on a dirt road. If you can sleep with your eyes open, that’s probably what happened. I had a bottle with warm tea in my hand and suddenly the tea felt cold and I asked how long we had walked. Over an hour. And I turned around and realized that I had no idea where I was. At the same time I saw a big group of deer dancing on the side of the road and a black bear waving. That road was of course empty but that’s how I realized I was hallucinating. And it kept going. I saw animals, TV screens and houses. The first time was after 20 something hours on the glacier. I saw a group of big houses and a big playground. And I was looking for the helicopter because it would be impossible to get there by car. And when I told Eric about the nice looking houses he just nodded and said that he saw them too… liar. I laugh a little bit and feel really stupid but at the same time I think I am so right and I am a bit sad that they can’t see it.

Napping is great. Sitting on a tree stump, laying down on rocks, standing and leaning on your poles, floating in the pack raft… everything works. A rescue blanket on and it feels like the Four Seasons. I used a lot of blankets. As soon as I stopped someone wrapped me up knowing that I would be a big problem if I got cold again. 10 minutes felt like 8 hours. And when you finally get in to a TA, get some of your wet clothes off, get your sleeping bag out and lay down on the asphalt or the gravel, it takes less than 20 seconds and you are out.

Sleep got a bit more complicated after the race. Exhausted the first short night in a too hot hotel room, woke up like the Michelin man. Swollen. Could barely open my eyes and legs, feet, arms, hands, etc. were double sized. Flew back the second night and thought I would get a good night sleep on the plane but stayed awake the whole flight. And then, finally home. And the nightmares started. I woke up staring out the window at the mountaintops (our neighbors’ house) and couldn’t find a way to get down from the glacier. Steep climbs, lots of ice and no shoes. And all my gear was gone. The rope was tied wrong. Sweaty and breathing really hard, impossible to sleep. And I woke up coughing, not able to breathe, under water. And it goes on… I wake up every night looking for my shoes… I am really looking forward to a good night’s sleep. And a long, slow run with dry shoes.

Surviving Alaska

Expedition Alaska is over. It was all we could wish for and so much more. 7 days of extra everything. Every single step had a meaning and not one mile were there to fill the course or get teams from one activity to another. Even a 7 mile hike became a 10 hour steep climb uphill with a view, with all your gear in your pack. The course was designed with a purpose. This race followed the footsteps of the classic races from the golden age of Adventure Racing, when races included survival and adventure in the same sentence. When it came to the term survival, I think we got value for our money. Chip on our team summed it up one morning saying OMG, they are really trying to kill us, every day!! And that’s how it felt. Things could go wrong the whole time but we managed to stay alive and keep moving.

Before I write more gibberish I need to mention all the volunteers. The small group kept everything running. They had our gear in place, they made the TAs great and kept everything running smoothly. They probably got less sleep than the racers. Warm water and noodles, fire pits and endless smiles… what more can you ask for. Thank you all! And the team… Thank you guys!! You saved me more than once and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be alive without you.

For many racers this race ended early. People got injured, sick, and cold and got airlifted from the course or got picked up by boat. Our goal was to stay together, all four as a team until the end. I’ll have to admit that I had my moments when I just wanted out, to be beamed up, transported to a better place. But those moments usually didn’t last more than a few minutes and you keep going and forget that there’s another world outside the race. I also felt my limits a few times and that’s even worse when you feel like your body can’t take more. Paddling and rafting the last two days really got to me and it felt like I couldn’t move my arms. I realized when I got home that my right shoulder was really out of place and frozen so that gives me an explanation why. It’s still a non-working body part that acts like an alien.

When I think back to each and every leg there are a few things that stands out, that I will remember as long as I live. The glacier was in every way fantastic but also so unpredictable. We managed to do well, slow but steady and without any surprises or falls into crevasses. The route we took got a bit longer than expected but we stayed out of trouble. We started out the glacier trek with wet boots after a grueling river crossing. It’s been a long time since I felt so cold. I thought I would get frostbite on all 10 toes, it took days in to the race before they got the right color again.

The Soul Crusher (day 3-4) really crushed me. I felt broken and ready to go home after day 4. We hiked with all out pack raft gear for a long day and ended up far away beside a river in the middle of the night. We fell asleep on our rafts on the riverside after deciding to wait for daylight. We all woke up 45 minutes later so cold that we couldn’t take care of ourselves. We were lucky to have another team close by that helped out with fire and sleeping bags. Second round of close to hypothermia. We warmed up for a few hours and took off. The visibility was bad and I didn’t make a corner. I ended up on the side of the river, caught in a strainer upside down. I couldn’t flip out of the boat and I got all tangled in branches. I heard bad words echo in my head thinking this is it, what a horrible way to go. And then I saw Chip pulling, dragging me out and I refused to let go of my paddle. After puking up water and sitting for a few minutes it’s time to go again. It took me hours to get back in the game and I will be forever grateful for the rescue and guidance for the rest of the pack rafting in the race. I left all my confidence at the bottom of that river and I wouldn’t have made it without the team.

I thought sleep would be a big problem but it worked surprisingly well. Tired has a new meaning. You can be tired and keep going, and you can be tired and not be able to move. It takes a long time to reach the state of not being able to move. I remember the naps more clear than the race, like a great birthday present. Sleeping felt so good, even for 5 minutes. We took a nap at the 70 miles bike section by a river that I will remember as long as I live. I didn’t even take my backpack off, just laid back on the wet grass and closed my eyes. Someone got my feet up on the back wheel of my bike so my feet wouldn’t swell up. I snored so hard I woke myself up. The best nap of the race.

The race course was monstrous, evil, amazing, and didn’t have one mile were you could recover. I waited for an easy hike or bike, like a transportation to the next leg but the course just kept a constant ON mode. When you thought you had seen the most beautiful mountain top, lake, or ridgeline there was always a new waiting the next day. The landscape really took your breath away every day and night and you had the feeling that you were the first human to see this.

When we did the 30 mile paddle over Kenai Lake on evening/night 6 Robin tried to keep us awake and took us through the racecourse in detail. I must admit that I can’t remember some parts of it, and I don’t remember in what order it all happened, it’s more in chunks for me. I will write some kind of proper race report and post pictures when it all comes back. This is it for now. I am still waiting for the nightmares to end and my appetite to get back to normal, I eat every hour.

Chip, Eric, Robin – I LOVE MY LIIIIFEEEEE!

Home from Alaska…

…and so many things to tell. Happy to be alive and so glad I got to experience this epic race. So many experiences to share. Don’t know to how to start or where. Icecold glacier water, grueling, hard, tough, exhausting mountains, pain. A never ending glacier. Hypothermia. Gorgeous views, great teamwork, sleep monsters, fatigue, fear and tryhard moments. Falling asleep standing up, walking, sitting, paddling, biking… Never been so scared in my life but at the same time had the time of my life. Highs and lows. Need a few more days to process before there will be a story to tell. Need to heal my body and get more sleep, get over the nightmares and hunger.

Overnight training

Monday morning and I wake up rested and recovered. This may sound trivial but for the first time since I got my Band a few months ago I slept 8 hours. 8 hours and 12 minutes! And the secret is to stay up a full night before to get a decent night sleep.

I left for Lake Chelan Friday afternoon and I can’t say that it’s been a restful trip. After picking up ¼ of the team at a park and ride in Issaquah we drove to the sunny side of the state. The full team “I don’t remember” met for the first time and we had a nice weekend and an overnight outing in the mountains. After a toasty mountain bike race at Echo Valley Ski area Saturday we all tried to nap but with various success. The race was hot and very sunny and I felt drained even before it started. I had a bit of gear trouble on the first climb but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. It was beautiful and I felt like stopping for pictures but I had to tell myself that it would be ridiculous since it was a race. 30 miles passed fast and without any surprises. Very, very hot but gorgeous trails and views.

Saturday night brought dinner, bubbly drinks (for the support crew) and games before we packed our packs and took off around midnight. After a long car ride to a dark parking lot in the middle of a national forest we all took a deep breath and took off at 2am. Heavy packs and a tiny bit tired from start. Lots of elevation, beautiful surroundings that hid in the dark and snow at 7000ft. When we all turned off our headlights around 5am we saw the sun slowly wake up over the mountains. It is absolutely magical to watch the sun reach the sky an early morning. We sat for a few minutes and ate a little before we moved on. I think we all felt more awake when we got some sunlight. We kept walking and walking, reached snow, turned back and walked again. We reached the car before lunch and packed up and left for Chelan again. I sat down in the back of the car and felt my head tilt back and I could hear myself snore. I bumped my head in the window over and over again but decided to just ignore it. And when we got back to our home for the weekend It was a tired and squeaky body that slowly folded out from the car. After some leftovers and a shower we decided to take a 20 minute nap before heading back to Kirkland. I woke up one hour later with a corduroy pattern all over my face and a swollen eye. I fell asleep or more completely face planted with my eyes open in the living room stretched out on the couch. With two muddy bikes in the back of the car and lots of hiking gear we took off for Seattle and drove all the way to Cashmere where we stopped for greasy burgers. Finally home just in time for dinner and then time for bed.

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Expedition Alaska

It’s time for a new adventure. If everything goes as planned my teammates and I will be race ready in a month. After deciding not to go through with the Ironman I felt like I wasted hundreds of hours of training. A Saturday morning on a mountaintop a new door opened and I realized that I should have planned for this months ago. This is so much more than a race, it’s an adventure, a crazy week, an opportunity of a lifetime. You don’t say no to an event like this. Glacier trekking, sea kayaking, pack rafting, whitewater rafting, trekking, mountains, lakes, biking, more trekking… I am going to Alaska.

http://expeditionak.com/

I am preparing, thinking, running, hiking, paddling and I get my bike out every now and then. And I did a little bit of rafting today. And thinking even more. It’s starting to come together. The only questions is how my body will work without sleep? And will the bears leave us alone? And how cold is the water? Will I be eaten alive by mosquitos? Getting my gear ready. Should I pack a couple of bear bells? Backpack, dry suite, paddle, helmet, shoes, bike, sleeping bag, shoes, poles, food, shoes, clothes, crampons, climbing gear… never ending… 

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Teanaway hike again

A new day, new adventures. Life is now a strange mix of CrossFit, hiking, climbing, kayaking and rafting. All because of new plans and goals. So exciting, so scary, so much fun.

Friday nights are always a nice finish of a full week. We usually meet up with our extra family and have dinner. Not this Friday. I had a busy day and I squeezed in a CrossFit class with some snatches and jump rope since I really need to work on my snatches. I finally left the house 5.30 and drove towards the mountains. A very full and heavy backpack, food for 24h just to be sure (or packed calories that tastes mostly like chocolate), new hiking shoes to break in and an extra puffy coat. Picked up Robin and an extra sleeping bag on the way and took off. The plan was to reach the ridge by Navaho peak and sleep a few hours and then move east instead of west as we did last time. It was a lot of snow from around 6000ft that we wanted to avoid. We left the parking lot at 9pm and started walking. We reached the ridge as planned, it didn’t feel as hard as it did last time when we had lighter packs. I remember the last steep part that looks like you’re on the moon as the worst possible hill. I think we walked it in 5 minutes this time. Hopefully a good sign. We got the tiny tent up, got dressed and ate a little. After sliding around like a worm in a very tight sleeping bag I actually think I slept a few hours divided up in 15 minutes chunks. Sweaty on my upper body and freezing knees down. I need to bring more clothes next time so I have something dry to put on.

One peanutbutter bar and a big bottle of almost warm tea and we felt ready to move. Before the sun was up we started walking again. The view up there is indescribable. I need to get myself a tiny camera to keep hand, the phone is not enough. IMG_6450IMG_6458IMG_6467

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We walked and scrambled for a few hours and moved west over the ridge following goat tracks. It was a bit sketchy and tricky from time to time. A lot of ice/snow and loose rocks. Robin is a lot more confident and faster than I am and sliding around on the mountain edge with a heavy pack is not really my cup of tea.

We ended the day with what felt like an eternity of bushwhacking before we reached the trail that took us back to the car. A long walk/slide downhill, climbing over fallen trees after years of avalanches.

A beautiful outing!