Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Kicked Ass!!

Spartan Super and Hurricane Heat, Miami
Peak Snowshoe Half Marathon, Pittsfield
Summer Death Race, Unofficial Finisher, Pittsfield
Moosalamoo 14 Mile Trail Race, Goshen
Spartan Sprint and Hurricane Heat, Amesbury
Team Death Race and Spartan Ultra Beast, Official Finisher, Pittsfield/Killington
Spartan Beast, Trifecta, Sacramento
Run Your Can Off, 23 Miles, Winooski


January started with two death race camps. Cold and snowy and crazy.

ready for Death Race Camp #1
Andy, Don and Peter at sunrise
hauling Joe's holiday sleigh all over Pittsfield fields to his house.
Death Race Camp #2
Guys crossing the river with sleds full of wood

February, a crazy 60 hour road trip to race 8 hours in Miami. Part one of the Spartan Trifecta done by completing the Spartan Super and participating in the Hurricane Heat.

80s in February. LOVED IT.
Hurricane Heat after 30+ hour drive from Vermont and 4 hours of sleep!

March, Peak Snowshoe Half Marathon in Pittsfield. The first 6.5 miles were so fun and then the second 6.5 I carried a car tire for Death Race training....still fun!

Jack Cary and I. Jack was out there for the 100 mile snowshoe race!

April and May, many trips to Pittsfield to run and train on Joe's Mountain, preparing for the Summer Death Race. I also paced my friend, Michelle Roy, who was running the 500 mile race...I was with her for mile 360 and 370. Inspiring.

Michelle and I at Pittsfield General Store.

June, Summer Death Race. Unofficially finished after 76 hours and met people I will be friends with forever. The experience changed my life and I blasted over a huge hurdle in the grieving of my daughter who died 8 years ago. "I AM strong enough to push the heavy load of grief aside and move on."

August, Moosalamoo 14 mile Trail Race. Came in 3rd for my age group! Fun! Also hiked a couple more 4,000 footers, number 40 and 41. Getting close to completing the 48 in NH! Finally, I completed the second part of the Spartan Trifecta by finishing the Amesbury Spartan Sprint and another Hurricane Heat.

Hurricane Heat #2!
Patrick Verrico and I after the HH
Patrick buddy carrying me...he is 6'4"...I was way up there!
Mt. Carrigan, #40

September, hiked two more of my 4,000 with Tara Roch, Mt. Adams and and Mt. Jefferson. Only 5 left to get next year!  My two decade quest of bagging those peaks will come to an end!
Then, I officially finished the Team Death Race which included the Spartan Ultra Beast! Amazing, crazy weekend.

Tara Roch and I on our way to Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Adams
Mt. Jefferson
Kevin, Michelle, Bob, Margaret and I before Team Death Race at
Pittsfield General coffee and breakfast before we head out for
57 hours.
DONE Team Death Race
Finish Line at Team Death Race

kisses for Skull!

October, I flew to Sacramento to visit Craig and Sharon Pannell and finished the final piece of the Spartan Trifecta, the Spartan Beast.

November, I participated in Run Your Can Off in Winooski, VT. Ran 23 miles.

December, I am training for the Winter Death Race in January 2014 and planning other 2014 events, such as the Peak Snowshoe Marathon and HatRun 50K in Maryland, both in March; pacing Michelle, again, at Peak 500 in May and then Summer Death Race at the end of June.

What a friggin' year it has been!!! A year of breaking down barriers and creating amazing friendships.

I love you, Seth and Aida, for supporting me this year!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3, 2005....the day I first felt like a Mom

Eight years ago today, we had Faye's memorial service.

It was a beautiful, cold, crisp, blue sky day and there was fresh snow on the ground. The day prior, Seth and I met the cemetery crew there and buried her. (Seth and I put her urn in the ground 3 months after she died. We needed to process what had happened first, not rush it). The next day, we were to remember her with 40 of our closest family and friends. It seemed so strange, but I was surprisingly joyous that day. 

After she was taken from us at the birthing center, we left, we were grieving, and I was in physical pain from having an emergency c section from my belly button to my pubic bone. We left empty handed, watching for four days as couples were having babies around us, leaving with their newest member of their family. But, Seth and I kind of just....left. We were going to pick up our child in an urn "in about a week" they said. 

We went home to an empty house and tried to heal physically and mentally. 

We picked a day...December 3, to memorialize her tiny life. We sent invitations out. We printed up a "program" with how the service would flow. We are not religious in the traditional sense but we meet with a minister to help us "run the show." She was wonderful.

We picked out poems for friends to read.

I wrote a letter to Faye that my friend COURAGEOUSLY read in front of sobbing family and friends.

But, there I am. I am standing there with Seth crying on my left shoulder with my arm around him and my mom crying on my right shoulder, my arm around her. I could hear everyone sobbing around me, behind me, in front of me.

But, I had a smile on my face. No tears. I felt at peace. I was listening to the words of what I had written, the poems, the tears and sobbing all around me, yet I had a big smile. I knew I was loved. I knew Faye was loved by everyone there and that she would never be forgotten. I felt like her little life was being remembered and that I was a Mom for the first time in that three months since she died.

I remember thinking "So THIS is what it is like to be a mom
and to love something greater than life".

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Buddha and the Death Race. There is a connection, I swear!

As I was running recently, I was thinking about how we achieve a sense of peace, balance, and spirituality in many different ways. Not just via religion in the traditional sense but via other avenues. For example, my friend Becca and I strive for these three things and approach them in COMPLETELY different ways.

Becca and I are moms of 6 year old kiddos. She with twin boys, me with Aida. We were pregnant at the same time, have worked together for many years and have known each other for 11. I met Becca in 2002 and learned at that point meditation, retreats, and Buddhism are all a very big part of her life. For me, hiking, mountains, and being outdoors at any possible second is my religion. There came a pretty long break in the participation of our "religions" when our children became a part of our lives. The instant halting of brakes that having a baby does to your life is something you can't even explain to someone who does not have children. It was very hard to adjust to this new life, even though we were blessed to have our children, and know that the outlet of our "religions" was definitely not there or at the top of the list any longer.

Now that our kids are 6 years old, Becca and I have worked hard to incorporate the things we love and that bring us peace back into our lives. For me, the past year was a year of healing from the loss of my daughter who died 8 years ago. I put my focus into extreme endurance events, to push my limits and to prove to myself that I really am strong and that I can move on. People have called me crazy for participating in two Death Races this year (I will be doing THREE next year!). I don't see it as crazy. I see it as a religion. A place where you meet amazing people in the mountains of Vermont, where you are pushed to extreme limits to see what you are made of, to cry, to laugh, to fall in love with the new friends you meet. That is what has given me peace this past year.

For Becca, she was able to go on three retreats, something she has not done since before her children were born. She went to Arizona to a sealed retreat for 10 days, in which no one could speak, use phones, etc. That is certainly a challenge when you are a parent....not checking in with your family and your little ones. Just recently, Becca flew to Russia to attend a retreat, to see her beloved teacher. She never knows when she will be able to see him again.  I am so proud of her to have taken that leap to fly across the globe, to nurture her spirit. I see both her trip and My Year of the Death Races to both be epic in our paths for following our "religions." Letting go, temporarily, of the beautiful yet demanding grip of parenthood and letting yourself actually be the one to be nurtured instead of always being the nurturer is not as easy as it seems...especially for mothers.

AMAZING pictures from Becca's retreat in Russia

Summer 2013 Death Race

Becca and her boys, Leo and Dylan, at a retreat

Sweetness! Becca at peace and so is Dylan :)

my sweet, Aida, and I in Pittsfield, where my races occur

Here's to 2014 and the paths that Becca and I will continue on to help nurture we can make space for what we need as mothers. She, sitting still on a mat, eyes closed, meditating for days. Me, carrying a heavy backpack for days, hauling rocks for dozens of miles, burpees, sitting in the cold river and crying and laughing with friends.

What I really love about this connection is that we both know EXACTLY what we got out of our individual experiences without even going into detail with each other. I find that truly amazing.

Here's to healing, being moms and loving every minute of it....and for finding our own Zen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

California! And the Spartan Sacramento Beast Race/2013 Trifecta

The Summer Death Race came and went and I met the most amazing people ever. That is what has happened over and over again this year: I have had the opportunity to meet crazy, amazingly warm and beautiful people at the races I have participated in and then they all leave Vermont, leaving me sad and wishing I could see them again. You don't just participate in a Death Race or intense event and say "see ya later, maybe." You bond with these people, you become family, and you forever love them. After the Summer Death Race, I pretty much made immediate plans to visit Craig and Sharon in California. They were a major part of  my Summer DR experience and we became instant family. As luck would have it, the Spartan Beast race would be an hour from their home so I bought plane tickets, signed up for the Beast and would get my Spartan Trifecta while visiting with them.

I was told the course would not be Vermont-ish (lush, green trees and mountains): it would be a 13+ mile obstacle course race on a cattle ranch, the same place as last year. The weather was predicted to be perfect, sunny and 70s and low humidity. Dreamy weather for a race! Craig and I were running the 8:30am race and his daughter, Quinlan, would run her first Spartan Kids Race at 12:30. We arrived just in time to register and get to the start line. This is where I saw my Death Race buddy, Jerry Libecki!!! He drove three hours to get to the race that morning and we pretty much ran the whole race together. I love Jerry! We did both the summer and team death race this year...and talk about family. This guy is awesome. I feel so lucky to know him.

Jerry!!! He is kick ass....

The elites had already started before us and we were the next heat to go. I had no idea what the terrain was going to be like. It started with the usual over and under obstacles, some running and then at about 2.5 miles, THE BUCKET CARRY. Holy smokes. Fill the 5 gallon bucket to the white line with gravel, which for women, was a couple inches from the top. Men had to fill the entire bucket. Craig and I both thought that it weighed about 80-90 pounds. That killed me. We had to carry it in our arms, not on our shoulders, up a very steep, long hill and then down without spilling the rocks. And then, when we got to the bottom, we had to lift the bucket up over the wall and dump it back into the rock pile. My legs are so bruised from just hoisting the bucket up onto my legs to try to get it into my arms. It totally smoked me. And, it was super hard for me to lift the bucket up over the wall at the end because I am short and the wall was head was a bitch but I got it over. Next up, rope climb! No thanks! I walked through the water and did my burpees. I gave Quinn, Brooke (Sharon and Craig's other daughter) and Sharon high fives and they told me Craig had just did the spear throw and was on his way out onto the course. For me, friggin spear throw=miss and 30 more burpees. Whatever. Who the hell can hit that thing anyway!?!?!?

After that, we did a whole lotta running. We heard the course ended up being about 14.8 miles. We were out in the open the entire shade and trees. Luckily, it was not hot and the sun was not intense. It was strange to not be running in humid weather and that there was no shade/trees just around the corner. I am not a big fan of the sun so I knew this would take some getting used to that day. I can't remember the order of the obstacles at all. I do remember coming around each bend or up over one of the hills and hoping for a water obstacle! Many, many people were suffering from leg cramps and stomach issues (I heard several people puking behind me as I was running the course). I am glad I had my camelback and Clif Bloks. There were 6 water stations but I was glad to have more water with me. It was dry and dusty as hell out there! Oh, it was super cool coming up over a hill and seeing hundreds of people way out in the distance, in lines like little ants, running and doing obstacles. The ranch was so expansive that you would get to viewpoints and could see tons of racers who were probably a few miles away and think, "shit, do I have to go way over there or have I already been there?"

Bring it, Barbed Wire

Other obstacles:
-scaling big hills by hauling yourself up with a rope- a couple of these.
-cargo net! that thing was sketch and freaked me out. I did not want to do it but it was an instant DQ if not done so I blasted over it and did not look down.
-sandbag carry
-6 and 8 foot walls
-mud pits. Some of the water was almost up to my neck. Some of the mud in the pits was up to my thigh. good god!
-two awesome barbed wire crawls with fire hoses pointed on you. I loved it because I was looking to cool down. Felt great to me but others thought it was cold (Vermont blood)  ;)
-swimming in a big pond definitely filled with cow crap. Ugh. Shoe sucking clay. Many almost lost their shoes!
-monkey bars- first time in 4 races that I have been able to complete them! I swung through them like a monkey!
-Log hop. I just ran across that. I did not stop and think!
-bound ankle hop- annoying. but someone suggested hopping sideways and that helped!
-atlas carry
-tractor pull- a chain attached to a cement block and drag it up hill for a while then back down. Nice way to have an ankle bashed in on the way down as a cement block chases you.
-tractor tire drag- you had to drag the tire, attached to a long rope until it was taught, and then run back to the beginning and pull it back to the beginning. I need to work more with tires. I did it but it is time for more dragging of those damn things. Great workout!
-inverted wall- first time to climb one without help! Most proud of that at this race! Climbing while hanging somewhat backwards ain't normal! :)
-bucket hoist- could not budge that thing. burpees. Alot of dudes where bailing on it too and could not hoist it so I don't feel so bad  ;)
-traverse wall (favorite obstacle)
-tyrolean traverse- did not even try it. burpees.
-barbed wire crawl at the end
-slippery wall
-Mine Fields- signs were here and there for super rough parts of the course. The ground was either full of deep crevices or huge cow hoof prints where you could EASILY twist and ankle, rip an achilles tendon, or trip and fall on your face. It was frustrating because they were on flat sections of the trail and you could not really run them and make up time.

Jane Stats:
-120 burpees for failed obstacles
-14.8 mile course
-completed race in 4:37, 8th place for my age group, 50 for females, 507 overall. About 2300 participated that day.
-Trifecta done!

Craig Stats:
-No burpees (
-completed course in 3:42. I lost him after the monkey bars. :) He was 19th in age group, 131 out of all dudes, 136 out of 2300 racers. Awesome! An amazing athlete. Not bad for a big guy of 6'6" and 230 pounds!! He was halfway up that rope just standing in the water!! :)

Quinn did her first Spartan Kids Race at 12:30, but I unfortunately missed the race. I was trying hard to get back but I missed it by 40 minutes. I was bummed. But she did great! Proud of you, Quinlan!

The following pictures were taken by Brooke. Amazing or what? That young woman is 14 years old and already has a feel for catching "the moment". So impressed. Thank you for sharing your pictures with me to put in my blog, Brooke!!! She (and the entire Pannell clan) will be at next summer's death race. I expect her to catch those crazy moments, too.

Photos by Brooke Pannell:

bucket carry=ouchie  :)

Craig climbing just after we hauled the buckets of rocks
I LOVE this picture of Craig.
Great shot, Brooke!
Spear Throw Burpees
Quinn muddin'!!

Lil' Beast

So, saying goodbye to my friends was hard for me. They were incredible hosts, ran a race with me, showed me San Francisco, made me laugh endlessly, fed me good food, I cannonballed in their cold pool (it was snowing in Vermont so I said SCREW YOU to the snow and jumped in their pool even though it was freezing), etc. What I love is that they are only an 8 hour flight away. February in Cali is sounding kind of good right now. Love you, Pannells!!! xoxoxoxoxxo