Friday. I’ve started this post about five times starting five weeks ago. I have not had a moment to finish a single post. I’ll do my best now to at least get one out before race start….
Well here I am. In less than 48 hours I’ll be on the trail.
I am well aware it’s been a long time since I updated the blog. Literally no time. Not a second. Either I’m working, training, buying crap for the race, packing over and over again or for a few hours each night sleeping. I’m wiped out. I am so ready for this to be over. I am ready to hang up my backpack for a good spell.
I chuckled a little when I looked to see what my last blog post was about — my first rehearsal session. My first long day shooting for 26 miles. Since that post I’ve done another five rehearsal marathons. One every Friday. I do somewhere between 50-60 miles a week with my backpack on. Sounds like a lot but for some reason I feel like I should be doing more but there was literally no time for more. Weekdays my workouts are 2-3 hours long, one long day on the weekend 7-8 hours and then usually another longish day right after that. Most weeks I’m out there 5 days and a bunch of other stuff like yoga and pilates that I don’t always get to. I do pushups on my staircase — still have a shoulder problem from a long time ago but I do think it is getting better. I was doing a lot of situp and wall sits and ballet squats but the last two weeks not so much because I have so much work-work to do that I’m a little burnt. Usually August is a nice slow month for me because everyone goes on Holiday — not this year!
The last month has also been an emotional roller coaster. My old doctor in NYC (who I have been going to for 19 years and hated her every visit) gave me a bit of a problem. I have now officially switched doctors (should have done that years ago) and am very happy with my new doctor in CT who thinks I am very healthy — for an overweight 53-year-old. I get it, I need to lose weight. I’ll add that to my list. So shocking to find that out all of a sudden. There is just not a heck of a lot I’m going to do between now and my race when I’ve been training all summer and eating fruits and veggies (and potatoes and bread, I’ll admit). I know what I need to address and it’s not about the food. A lot of it is stress and nerves and just learning to calm down and take care of me. It’s not to say I haven’t lost any weight this year, I’m down 15 pounds but that is not enough.
So the training is done. The shopping is finally done. I cannot believe how much crap I have had to buy and test. Sneakers, socks, insoles, shirts, shorts, food. Everything tried and tested two and three times. You’d think that I could capitalize on some of my equipment from my last race but the makes and models of everything have changed. The only thing that has stayed the same is my raidlight backpack (even that was a discontinued model but I found an old one on a website — they had one left.) Also my gaiters are recycled from MDS, though barely because I’m starting to see some tiny tears so I believe this will be their last run.
At the end of this post I put details of my equipment if you care.
I left CT on Wednesday afternoon to get to NYC to have dinner with friends and then fly out. 1.5 hours into my drive I realized I left my poles in CT. To say I was upset would be an understatement. I love my poles. I can’t even imagine doing this race without them. I did not have enough time to turn around and get them so I figured I would just buy another pair in NYC. It’s NYC where you can buy anything at anytime of night, right? Well not Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-poles. Argh. I called my dog sitter who brought them to fedex for me — no time to reach in my NYC, just send them straight to Utah and we’ll cross our fingers they get there.
I arrived last night at midnight in Utah (5 1/2 hr plan ride to Vegas, 3 hours waiting for the bus, then 6 hours on the bus to Kanab Utah). Then 45 people on the bus with luggage just as big as mine (thank God) and when I finally got to the counter they handed me my fedex and everyone was looking at me like “who is she?” The poles were in perfect condition and I slept so much better knowing I wasn’t going to have to do that first 30 miler climb without my poles. I am so grateful. So very grateful.
So far most everyone seems super super nice but I’ve only met about 1/3 of the racers. There will be 122 in all and about 40 or so on the bus last night (some people arrived yesterday which was the smart thing to do. Some people arrive today which would be exhausting).
On our bus — a large contingent of Italian guys who were surprised to see so many women doing the race. I think they said they were 9 in total. Really lucked out to be sitting around some SUPER nice people but a good number of them seem to be in the military — Army, Airforce, Marines and Navy and some Canadian Military as well. They were all talking about their tours Afghanistan and creepy crawling things in their shoes. One gal is a Marine and State Trooper in NJ and goes sky diving several times a week. Can you believe that? She was showing us videos on her camera of some of her jumps. I will not be doing that ever.
Also met a galfrom Australia — another toughie, she has done multiple Ultramans. When she is done with this race she has rented a Harley for 25 days and will be touring the states solo on her bike. I thought I was independent, geesh! (She also owns her own company back in OZ ).
Of course 5 hours on the bus to Kanab and everyone is interviewing everyone else about the races they have done. Whoa — never even heard of some of the them like the Death Race in Canada (only 2/3 complete it — sounds awesome!). Lots of desert racers (gobi, Atacama, some ultra in South Africa I didn’t catch the name of — self-supported). Lots of 100’s, lots of Ironmans. To say I was feeling a little out of my league would be putting it mildly.
BUT, at the same time, several doing their first self-supported (and their backpacks all weigh much more than mine — at least 4 of them carrying over 25 pounds! And one of them has done 6 dessert races — he brings olives, hummus, tortillas. He says he doesn’t care he’s there to enjoy himself not suffer — I also hear he is pretty fast — he is an orthopeodic surgeon in the army and just got back from 15 months in Aghanistan so I don’t think the few pound difference me much to him.)
I can’t stress enough how absolutely friendly every single person is. Not one person has made me feel like I don’t belong here (though they haven’t seen me run yet.) Several people insist they are “walking” a lot — but that’s coming from people like Alice who does Ultraman (she’s done 4 or 5 I can’t remember) so I have a feeling her walk is faster than my run. (She’s also done so many Ironmans she can’t remember but thinks it is 9 but moved on to Ultramans). But some of these gals who are carrying 25 pounds don’t even look like they weigh 25 pounds themselves so I imagine they will not be running much right off the bat. We’ll see. I also think the first stage is so much climbing that a lot of people will be walking at least the first day until their packs get a little lighter. Everyone seems nervous about the last day the 9 miles up the grand stair case. I can’t even think that far ahead. But I’m glad they all gave me something else to worry about.
So today I’m meeting up with Lynne my ER nurse in NYC friend who is the Queen of ultradistance races. Her pack weighs only 14 pounds. I got mine down to 19 but I had to throw out most of my food. I said I wanted to lose some weight, I’ll probably lose ten pounds easy this week. We’ll go over my pack one more time to see if I can reduce it at all. I’m pretty sure my pack weighed 22 in the Sahara so I should be okay. Some guy has volunteered to lead a session at 2 pm on organizing your pack. At breakfast this morning I learned a few good tips too. Then we have dinner at 7 p.m. Need to put my feet up, can’t start zonked.
Today we have to check in — they inspect our bags to make sure we have the required objects (like compass, mirror, snakebit kit, knife) also to make sure we have the required minimum of 2,000 calories per day (I have 2,700 so I should be good). They also give us a quick medical look over (I think they hold up two fingers and ask how many fingers do I see and then say “you’re fine.” ) Then we have a big dinner tonight at 7 p.m. where they go over the final logistics (they do not reveal the route until each morning of the race when they give us a map for that day only. The route is a secret and they change it every year to keep people guessing.) No phones, gps or any other tracking device allowed. Tomorrow we pack our bags and hand them off — the bags go off to Las Vegas and we have another 3-4 hour trip to the Grand Canyon, CAMP 1. We are with our backpacks but they will serve us dinner on Saturday night. We go to sleep in our sleeping bags and wake up self-sufficient. (A guy from last year said I have to go solo and sit at the edge of the Grand Canyon with nobody around me and it will be an experience I will never forget). We will be camping on the edge of the North Rim which is an area less visited.
I’m not really nervous. I’m actually pretty beat and think I need to rest a little more. I have no idea how this is going to go. Getting this far seems to be a major feat. I don’t know if I will make it through but I can tell you already, driving through St. George last night was amazing. AMAZING. So if that is any indication of what I am going to be seeing, this is going to be some expedition. Let’s just shoot for finishing day 1. 30 miles — looks from the elevation profile on their site that the first 10 are downhill and then turnaround and climb straight up for 20 miles. (Everyone says this was really hard last year). Pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to complete it without my poles so grateful to have them.
Support from everyone has been amazing. Thrilled to have raised $2,000 so far for Abundant Waters. I really want to hit $10,000 if I can. Might have to throw a victory party when I get back. Horse first, then cart.
I think this will be it before I hit the desert. I posted a FAQ on my fundraising site (no obligation to contribute). All info on tracking me is there.
Here is a picture of everything listed below:
ADDENDUM: A quick run down of my final choices from top down — hat: I’ve been wearing this white running cap all summer and it is very cooling so I’ll stay with that. buff: around my neck or around my wrist sunglasses: moving to Rudy Project Nyoz because they are comfortable and I don’t think I have to worry as much as the Sahara about wind storms but they cover well enough. top: icebreaker merino wool tshirt shorts: skirt sports tri shorts — it’s the pockets, I like having a log of pockets skirt: skirt sports running skirt — it has pockets too and will also give me a little modesty while running, peeing and changing. It weighs nothing, I love it. Socks: Feetures Merino Wool socks. Sneakers: New Balance 910V with velcro sewn on to attach to the gaiters Orthotic: Surestep Backpack: Raidlight 30l with front pack and 2 raidlight water bottles. Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering MityLite (weighs 1.4 pounds) Pad: Klymt recon (weighs .8 pound) Down Jacket: Columbia Omni Shield (I refused to spend another $300 on ultralight and this was in my closet and weighs 1.2 pounds. Long Sleeved Merino wool shirt for night time Capris for night time and can also be used for running if very cold out on long stage pair of compression socks for night time extra pair of running socks in case it rains (because you know it will rain on me) sun sleeves required stuff like compass, knife, emergency blanket, headlamp, medical kit for bites and blisters toiletries — not much, tiny toothbrush, some soap sheets, some dried out handi wipes. medical — bunch of pills they are recommending we bring with for nausea, diahareea and something else, it’s in there. Plus a bunch of aleve and tylenol.
For food I’m keeping it really simple this time. I’m carrying more calories than most people but I’m bigger than most. Basically I’m having the same thing every day. (Note some of these calcs are a little off because I’ve been dumping food out of my bag and have not edited accordingly)
Breakfast — Vigilante cereal (360 calories) and a Vega protein powder (123 calories) (Total 483) calories
While Running — Four servings of Infinite Isis (love this stuff) It has all my potassium, sodium everything in it. Specifically designed for women ultrarunners and it does not bother my stomach (yeah!). (800 calories) 2 Kit’s organic bars (360), 2 chia bars (200) 2 cliffshot blocks. (400). That’s 1,750~ calories. I’m preparing for 10 hour days 200 calories an hour. The first day is 30 miles so I’m sure it will take me at least that long.
Dinner Vega Sport Protein Drink (chocolate) 134 calories. Instant Mashed potatoes (360 cal) 1 tbl chia seeds (60) 2 tbl hemp hearts (125) salt and pepper. Total 545 calories
My final count has me at 2,700 calories per day (that number is real as of 12 p.m. MST). The minimum we must bring is 2,000 per day. From reading other people’s blogs it looks like most of the guys are bringing 2,700 or so a day. I’m going to be out there longer than any of them so I really feel I need the calories.
Every single item here has been tested multiple times. Easy to get down.