Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Infinitus 2016!

Ah, a random, small scarecrow at the starting line of Infinitus

I think it started with me crying in Kentucky last October.

"Do I want to do multi day events anymore? I have been doing multi day events, several per year, for 4 years now."

I was a participant in the amazing Catamount Games and I worked all weekend physically and mentally...but emotionally, I was digging as hard as I could to want it. I was suffering. Usually, I can dig in and grasp on to something to push through but I was noticing "that something" was not as present. I started "worrying" that perhaps this part of my life was changing. Not that change is scary because I can embrace what is thrown at me with an open heart. But, I was wondering what do I do if I don't have this piece of my puzzle? The puzzle piece that helped me work though a wall of grief from losing my daughter, that made me strong again, that showed me I can do anything, that I am a strong woman with a powerful will.

I set it aside and rolled with it. Present but not making any decisions.

I decided that Infinitus 2016 would be my chance to go back and get my 100 miler. Last year, I made it to 78 miles. This year, my friend, Mark, would join me and pace me. I paced him 70 miles in his Peak 200 mile bid in 2014. He wanted to give back. I said, Let's Go!

I trained all winter...Crossfit and hill repeats and long hikes. But, I was tired in so many ways. My body is changing (pre-menopause, I soooooooooo hate you more than you will ever know) and I had the stress of my mom aging and making some end of life decisions (she is fucking rock star and is still doing well). I kept in touch with Mark telling him what was up. We were in good communication about how this was going to be hard for me mentally.

my 48 hour Peeps!!

The week before, the weather forcast. Upper 80s and humid. NO FUCKING WAY. I am absolutely miserable in high heat and this was a kick in the ass I did not need. My heart sank.

Again the question: How much suffering do I need in my life right now? Can I pull even deeper to get this 100 miler done? Do I want it that badly?

I got all my stuff together. It is so easy for me now to prepare for a multi day event. I know exactly what my body needs and what gear to get my through.

I showed up Thursday afternoon to set up my tent and get into the vibe of the other racers arriving. So many amazing friends were already running the 72 hour and my crew of 48 hour folks were trickling in, setting up camp, gear, etc.


Love it! Hugs and discussions of how to get it done this weekend.

I had advice and hugs and kisses but the drive to get it done myself was not there.

But, I was going to set out on the first 27 mile loop and see how it felt. No decisions until then.

Other racers could read me...asked me if I was ok...if I was into to it.

After the soul crushing heat of the 27 mile loop...it took 10.5 hours....too long. I would have to pick it up big time and there was no way that I wanted to repeat that horrid loop the next day in the heat. NO WAY. During that 27 mile march (the course was gorgeous and amazing and loved it more than last year's loop!), I had an honest conversation with myself. I think it is time that I let go of this part of my life. Maybe for just now? Am I having any fun here suffering? NO. There was zero fun and it was crystal clear to me FINALLY that I was done. I felt free. No pressure. Folks were asking if I would go out on a loop for the fun of it. I answered with a very clear NO THANK YOU.

I sat down with Mark and I offered to switch gears and crew him...for him to get another 100 under his belt (his 12th!!!! God, I know some amazing folks!!). He did some quick math and it was totally doable. Mark is a machine with 100 milers. Now this was fun! I could keep him focused and be there when he returned from his loops, help with his food and pack, etc. Mark went on to get first place in the 48 hour with an amazing 122 miles!! So proud of him.

congrats, Mark!!!

888kers!! Look at the high mileage!
Amazing individuals.

The remaining time there, I saw everything...people who had to leave the race because of heat injuries, turned ankles, EMT visits, and others that were able to push through and finish what they came to do. Some had a choice in the matter, some did not with the heat. Congrats to everyone!!!!

Special congrats to my friend, Eric Skocaj, who ran 550 miles (888k) over 10 days. He ran into the finish with one of the masks that were on the trees out on the trail...he passed them several times over that 10 days. A classic way to finish, my friend!!

photo: The Endurance Society

Again, the community of The Endurance Society events is what keeps me coming back....and I think for many. People enjoying each others company, having beers, helping racers that were still going strong with their blistered feet or getting them food...this is a unique and loving community that I will always be a part of! But for now, as a volunteer! And a pacer!

What do I do now to make me feel whole now that these big events are not the focus?

Martial arts perhaps? That should keep this spazzy, fidgety, alpha mom busy. I will start looking into it. It has been on my list. :)


xoxoxooxoxoxooxooxox







Friday, March 4, 2016

2016 Frigus Snow Event!- A Review of the People ;)


Picture by Jennifer Paquette Eaton

Oh my god, the company I keep.

Folks wearing stuffed animal hats, another wearing a sombrero, runners in jean shorts, skull shirts, one wearing a tyvek type suit, one of the race directors bundled up in a big orange puffy coat in which you couldn't really see his face, one racer carrying wine, another carrying Jameson Whiskey in the water bottle holder of his race pack (I took a sip, of course). My friend, Lance, decided he would hike 50 miles or so on the Long Trail to the starting line. It rained so hard while he was on the trail during the week but he made it to Middlebury by Wednesday (3 days early!) so he got a ride home and then BIKED BACK the day before the race with all his gear and snowshoes attached to his bike. INSPIRING.

Lance's Bike!!!
(photo by Lance, too)
 Again, the company I keep....

The Endurance Society continues to bring in some of the funniest, loyal, most inspiring people to its events. People who only a few weeks ago raced up and down volcanoes in Nicaragua and and then came to Vermont to run around in the snowy woods. People flew in or drove to Vermont from all over the country....one friend drove from the midwest, leaving the afternoon before and arriving just in time for the race to start at 8am. I love these folks!

What was this event?? Last weekend was Frigus in Goshen, Vermont! Frigus is a Snowhoes/Sled/Ski event put on by The Endurance Society (aka: Jack Cary and Andy Weinberg), but with the lack of snow in Vermont this winter, it ended up being a microspike/running event. The ski race was canceled but the 60k, 30k, 10k (dude, it was totes a 13k), 5k sled run and a triathlon were still on! The lack of snow did not dampen spirits: the sun was out for the first time in, like, 5 months. The sky was blue, there was a fresh 4 inches of snow up high on the trail (it had rained all week and it snowed just in time!)...and there were many, many smiles.

10k was more like a 13k.
Salas Salsa made this meme.
Spot on for Andy and Jack event milage!

Wine and Microspikes!
(photo: Amy Parulis)

I only live 1.25 hours from Goshen so I have an easy commute to the event. I don't take that for granted at all! Instead of staying in the ski lodge the night before, like last year, I stayed at home and got up early. My goal was the 30k. My gear and food was all packed in my bin and ready to go! But, I was feeling really off for a couple days. Tired. (Hormonal changes completely out of my control..mid 40s woman...god damn it...TMI? Don't care, this is my blog ha!). I jumped in the car at 5am and 45minutes into my drive to Goshen, I pulled over to sleep for a few minutes. HUH? Bad sign for the day. I started to reconsider the distance for the day. I told myself to play it by ear and see how I felt when I got there. I could always do 10k loops instead of the one big 30k.

I arrived at 6:30am and walked in and immediately saw so many amazing friends and got a billion hugs. Ahhh....I thrive on these folks and their energy! I set up a small spot for my stuff and chatted it up for a bit. I was still dragging and decided I better just do the 10k loops and see how it felt when out there for the first one.

Andy started the race on time with a quick race talk and we were off!!

Start of the race!
(photo: Amy Parulis who carried wine during her trek!)

Runners headed out fast! The temperatures were in the single digits and warmed up slightly during the day...perfect conditions to move quickly! The course was reminiscent of last year's, minus a side hill bushwhack that was BRUTAL. But, they replaced that with a bushwhack up Hogback Mtn that rewarded us with an amazing view of the Long Trail! We then hiked on a bit and then UP Romance Mtn! I felt AWFUL going up. So slow. This is when I decided to just do the one loop and call it a day. It was just not my day and I was not going to be make myself do something I did not want  to do. I put some music on and just hiked on. I hooked up with Ted and Jordan and some other awesome folks to finish out the hike. Got my medal and hugs from Andy and Jack and hung out the rest of the day as racers finished. FYI, the leader of the 60K did it in 4:50. WHAAAT. There were some damn strong folks there!

Oh! Last year I did this with my friend, Mark Webb (read about it here). He had lost his left leg in an accident and he did not have a prosthetic yet but came out and did two loops of the 5k with my friend Ted and I...on crutches...in feet of snow.

Mark and I last year.

Ted,  Mark and I last year.

This year, Mark returned to Frigus and did the 12k in 2:37 minutes. I could not even keep up. Jesus! I don't even have a picture of him racing because I could not find him! I came in at 2:50! Mark, you continue to fucking inspire me and I love you!

My gear bucket continues to make its rounds to events :)

Since this post is about the people, I wanted to share a favorite moment. We were about 2 miles or less from the finish. We came upon an 11 year old girl all by herself, enjoying where she was at. Just hiking along. Our clan of clowns comes upon her and asks if she needed anything, food, water, etc. "Nope, I am good!" We all chatted. She is my friend, Shannon's daughter, Alix. (Shannon is awesome. Shannon is one of the folks who was just racing in Nicaragua recently and we have done events together in the past, too)....he brought his family of 5 with him. His three children, ages 5-11, did the 13K. Proud of that family!) As we were approaching the end, Alix saw the ski center and totally left us in the dust and blasted to the finish!! We all cheered for her as she got her medal. The rest of her family came along eventually. What I loved about this moment was that this young woman reminded me of ME. She had a confidence about her....she was totally fine out there. She seemed to be in her element. And happy to be alone. Throughout the day, I'd high five her or chat. Later on, when they were getting ready to leave, Shannon gave me a hug good bye and all of a sudden the entire family sandwiched me in a hug. BEST HUG EVER. And then Alix said to me, "You are really nice."

The Hulme Family
(the scoob in the Frigus shirt is my new bud, Alix!)

Day made. I needed nothing else. The race was not what I had anticipated for myself but THE PEOPLE made it for me.

Grateful.

xoxoxox

Jack's finish line.
Nice touch with the sunset, Jack ;)


Monday, February 1, 2016

Do you ever question: DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?



January has been a hard month. Winter is hard on me...always has been. No matter what I do, I beg for the daylight to return and for the warm sun but Mother Nature does not hurry so I have to learn to cope. I need long days of being in the woods. Being immersed in a tunnel of lush green. I don't even care if it is raining...give me those days.

For the past couple days, I have been thinking about that shitty morning of losing Faye. Waking up on the operating room table with a doctor telling me she was dead. Totally in a fucking fog. Leaving a hospital 4 days later with a huge abdominal scar and picking her up in an urn a week later.

I have shared this story and million times it seems. To media. To friends. To race directors. To family. To strangers.

But, after 10 years, no matter how often I tell it, I question DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN? Did I really wake up, gutted and hands aching to be a mother? How the hell does someone keep going after that? I am not patting myself on the back AT ALL for keeping going for a decade...working through what I need to to move day to day, year to year.

Most days I feel strong as hell. Emotionally, nothing can stop me.

Some days, I feel like "what is this pain...did that happen...I am sure that did not happen to me...why do I, at a cellular level, feel broken?"

I don't really have a point in writing this quick post. I guess I continue to be in awe at the will and human spirit. And respect the depth that we can pull from to get through.







Sunday, January 17, 2016

Extremus 2016!

The Endurance Society's first event of 2016 was last weekend....and what a crazy, amazing adventure!

Map of the Long Trail Trek!
50 miles from Mad River Glen to Rt 108 in Stowe

Last year, I ran the volunteers and ground crew. This year, I signed up for the actual trek. Then, withdrew because of lack of training and lack of the mental oomph needed to take on 50 miles of the Long Trail in winter on the toughest section of the 273 mile trail. I have hiked the entire Long Trail in summer (over two years) and I know the challenge it offers. In winter? For me? Not so much. I decided that I will never want to do this winter trek. But! I will always volunteer for it. This will be the one big multi day event I will give myself to every year! It is hard as hell crewing folks, especially those you love because you want them to have an amazing experience, to have what they need at aid stations and road crossings and to be SAFE. So, this year, I agreed to run the ground crew and volunteer again (glutton for punishment!). The volunteers that joined in this year were one of the best group of go-getters ever!!! I definitely was not alone in making decisions. This was a group effort! We all take equal effort in getting these hearty folks to Taylor Lodge this year. A handful of hikers were just 9 miles short of the finish that would have taken them up and over Mt. Mansfield. But the weather was a bitch...rain and 80-100mph winds rendered it massively dangerous and not worth it.

My gear for crewing!
You have to be as prepared as the hikers!

The base camp this year was the West Monitor Barn at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp in Richmond, Vermont. A PERFECT location as it is right in the middle of the trek. The barn is massive and had been recently renovated.There was no heat but being the group we were, many were prepared to sleep in the cold....or camp in in the warm hallways of the office building.  :)

It was so good to see many of my friends Friday night at registration! I kept telling myself, "my god, I know some amazing people." I felt at home.

Huge barn!
And amazing friends.



Andy, Mike, and Jack.
Andy and Jack are the race directors.
And Mike is one of the strongest winter adventurers!
Mike and I spent time together at Infinitus this past summer!

Gear explosion and prep!
Midgely!! :)

Safety talk

After getting to bed early, hikers were up by 2:00am, on the bus by 3:00am, and dropped off at Mad River Glen Ski Area at 4:00am to start their hike up the ski slopes in which they would eventually connect with the Long Trail. After that, they hiked about 4 miles down to the Rt 17 crossing and then connected back onto the LT.

At this point, volunteers were shuttling back to the monitor barn, grocery shopping for gallons of water and food that would be hiked into certain check points along the trail, preparing food for hikers and ourselves, and getting packs together to hike into the first check point at Montclair Glen Lodge. This would be about 15 miles into the trek for the hikers. 

Jack called me around 9:30am to say the group was moving two hours faster than the predicted time. So, we rallied the volunteers and drove over to the Forest City Trail/ Burrows Trail parking lot with our gear and loaded up our packs with food and gallon jugs of water. And up the trail we went! Snowshoes were not needed but we were glad to have our microspikes. What an excellent group of people! It took us an hour or so to get to the shelter. Once we were there, folks made a fire and unloaded the snacks and water. I forgot to mention that it was unseasonably warm that weekend! The temperature was in the 40s, rainy at times, and very sweaty when hiking. We got a bit chilled waiting a couple hours for the hikers. Jetboil cook stoves were fired up and water was heated for drinking and thermoses were filled. There were a couple thermoses of coffee that were hauled up but those were saved for the hikers.

The Volunteer Team!
So privileged to be a part of this crazy crew!

At around 1:30pm, the first hikers started to arrive! It was so fun to hear them in the distance as they were making their steep decent from Mt. Ethan Allen. Many hugs were dispensed and pats on backs and warm drinks and snacks handed out as well as helping to refill empty water bottles. As predicted, hikers dropped at this point and hiked down to the shuttles waiting for us. All should be proud for hiking that 16 miles! Wow! No joke....going up Mad River Glen ski area, then up and down Molly Stark, Burnt Rock, Ira and Ethan Allen mountains and then down a steep 1 mile to the shelter. Congrats!

I'm hugging Erica!! So glad to see her.
Photo: Mark Webb
Cold in Montlair Glen Shelter!
Photo: Mark Webb
Once all were down and back to the barn (first round got back around 4:30pm), we started planning for the next resupply point at Duxbury Road, which was 8 miles from the shelter they had just left. The hikers had to hike two miles up to the summit of Camel's Hump then down a relentless 6 miles to Duxbury Rd. A big portion of that 6 miles would be in the dark with some very interesting trail finding. The volunteer crew was expecting the first group to arrive maybe by 8pm at the Duxbury Rd crossing. BUT!! I got a text message not long after we got back to the monitor barn from the lead group that they were only 2.5 miles from there ALREADY! Jeez! They were flying! So, we packed up the vans with food and water and hamburgers and coffee and headed out! Luckily that crossing was only 10 minutes or so away so we did not have to rush. Again, all the volunteers were ready with food and hugs and headlamps and fresh coffee and we cheered as we saw the head lamps coming down the trail through the woods. This was about 6pm. As expected, this was going to be a big drop point for folks. Feet were wet and wrecked...26 miles done so far. These Vermont mountains are not merciful. The elevation change...the peaks....the weather changes...many are surprised at that toll it takes. It's not just a walk in the woods hiking the Long Trail in winter. There is constant management of checking in on how you are doing, how your comrades are doing, etc.

Andy getting some food from Marianna at Duxbury Rd.

So, over the next couple hours, hikers filtered in and out at Duxbury. The next stretch would be 16 VERY tough miles to Taylor Lodge. This would be a long, long night for hikers. It was advised that if someone was not doing well or had any doubt in their ability to go on that they leave the trail then because there was no easy bail out over the next 16 miles. Once they leave Duxbury Rd, they had a road walk and then a relentless hike up Bolton Mountain that offered several false summits which is TOTALLY frustrating when fresh, but after 28 or 30 miles of winter hiking, I am sure those that went on to that stretch fell into some dark places in there mind pushing through that night. Once again, CONGRATS to all the hikers that made it to Duxbury!!!! Amazing accomplishment!

There were now 11 folks (of the 40 that started) that we needed to keep and eye on and resupply at Taylor Lodge on Sunday morning. Volunteers met and we figured that 2:30am would be the time volunteers should get up to be out the door by 3:30am so they could start hiking by 5am-ish at the Lake Mansfield Trail. The vans were packed up again and people headed to sleep for a few hours. I set my alarm for 2am so I could start waking folks up. I decided I would stay behind at the barn for this round and help there instead of hiking up to Taylor Lodge.

Once everyone was packed up and in the vans and on their way at 3:30am, I snuck in a couple more hours of sleep in the hallway. The barn was so damn loud with the whipping winds rumbling against it. It sounded like a hurricane! (And, we did see roof tiles fly off a nearby house the next morning!!) The weather predicted for the final 9 mile trek from Taylor to Mt. Mansfield was 80-100 mph winds and rain. OH GOD. I started to worry. Jane Worry. Some of my favorite people would be on this final push if they decided to go on through that weather. But, first, I was keeping track of where the 11 hikers were and if they were making it safely to Taylor Lodge. I woke up at 6am to a phone call that one of the hikers had been alone for 5 hours on the trail during the night and was wondering if he was the only out there. I told him, no, people were in front and behind him and he did eventually catch up with a hiker. I kept receiving texts of those who were arriving at Taylor...the earliest group arrived at 7am. Now, the waiting game. When would the tough, tired hikers who pushed through the night arrive to this massively important check in.


Buried in my sleeping bag in the barn.
It was so windy and loud in there so I moved to the hallway to
get a couple hours of precious sleep.
"wake up, Jack! It's 2:30am!
Time to head to Taylor Lodge!"



Ah, the comfort of the hallway vs. the loud, cold barn!
And all my gear stashed to the side.

Mark Webb and his pup, Ray, catching zzzzs on Ray's big
dog bed! Best place to crash all weekend! :)
Mark was so damn helpful with gps and computer stuff!!
Needed! Thank you!

Things got a bit interesting when two hikers were still on Mt. Mayo and one was negotiating fatigue. The rain and wind was unrelenting. Hikers had been out there since 4am Saturday with no means of getting warm, they were tired and totally wet head to toe. Yes, good gear helps but this is a winter trek and the margin of error is low.

After a couple hours of helping the hikers to get themselves moving and with the help of volunteers meeting them on the trail, all hikers were reported as checking in at Taylor Lodge. THANK GOD. It was a very stressful few hours hoping everyone would be ok. The recipe for hypothermia could not be any more perfect.

One hiker was taken via ambulance and treated for rhabdo and the other hiker arrived safely back to the barn.

For the second year, no one finished this trek. I do believe if the weather was not rainy with 80-100mph winds that a handful of hearty folks would have finished. Mother Nature dealt the card again this year. Kudos for making us mere mortals work for that privilege of finishing a 50 mile trek on the Long Trail in winter.

No one finished but last year we said Ted Coffin was the first place finisher as a joke.
This year, Tim Midgley wins the gag finish award made by Andrew Coleman!
I love this group of weirdos. ;)

All I know is after two years of coordinating ground crew and volunteers, a weekend like this takes a fucking toll mentally on you! Ha! I felt like I actually did the trek. I was exhausted. Being "on" for a weekend, making sure hikers get what they need and then worrying about their safety will wear ya down! I have a lot of love for many folks on this trek. I have suffered with them over the past few years at other events and we have all grown close! I have so much invested in making sure they make it safely.

Again, an amazing and challenging weekend was had by all. People learned about winter trekking. Some will come back again. Some won't. I do know that we all learned a ton from this experience. Volunteers, hikers, and race directors alike.

Thank you, again, to all the volunteers for making this trek a success and fun!

Rest up! Frigus snowshoe race is next!!!

xoxoxoxox