Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Inaugural O2X Summit Challenge at Sugarbush Mountain

A couple weeks ago, my friend Frank Fumich called my attention to a new race series: the O2X Summit Challenges. I was looking for a race to memorialize Faye's 9th birthday (last year, I completed the Summer Death Race in her honor) and this fell into my lap!! Faye would have turned 9 on 9/12 and the race was 9/13. Boom! Perfect. I signed up immediately.

Within a couple hours of signing up, Frank tagged me in a post and this put me in touch with the race directors. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with Craig Coffey, one of the directors. He asked me about my story of losing Faye, how I knew Frank (explained we were Death Race Freaks and that Frank gave me his Death Race skull), etc. Craig then asked me if they could share the story of Faye. I said SURE! So, a week before the race, O2X hashtagged their posts with #RunForFaye. Every time I saw the hash-tag my heart was filled with happiness.

Real quickly: I am not a mountain runner! I am a multi-day endurance event person (3 Death Races in 9 months...ouch! Not the smartest thing I have done!! But, I finished two of them). In fact, I am slow and steady on the uphills but climbing mountains is very close to my heart. Just a couple weeks ago, I finished the 48 4,000 foot peaks in New Hampshire. My "thing" is running DOWNHILL. I can smoke the downhills. So, participating in an UPHILL only race would be challenging!! But, I was up for it! Why not? Try something new.

Finishing the 48 NH 4,000 foot peaks
Proof that I LOVE MOUNTAINS!!!

All I have is amazing feedback for this new series. From the easy sign up, to the clear confirmation emails and itinerary that included the map of the course, information about camping onsite, directions, bib number, chosen wave start of race, etc, everything was a breeze!! Very straight forward and clear. There were no fees for parking or spectators. The volunteers were amazing. There was local food for sale/bbq, free shots of whiskey (yay!), free beer after the race, great music, live band after the race, ample trail marking (there was no way someone was going to get lost. It was done just right), low impact philosophy (no bottled water for sale but free water from two huge dispensers...no waste!!!) and an amazing community feeling to the event, which is one of the most important things for me: the people. The race directors, Adam LaReau, Craig Coffey, Gabriel Gomez and Paul McCullough, are all genuine, straight up folks. Amazing men!!!

The night before the race, I drove over to the base camp to register and pick up my bib. I immediately saw Craig Coffey and introduced myself and gave/received big hugs! It was nice to put a face to the name! Then, I saw Frank who I had not seen since the Peak Snowshoe Race in March 2013 in which I was carrying a car tire during my race and he was racing in shorts and a tshirt. Crazies!! He is so damn funny. I laughed all weekend with/at him :). So great to connect and to really hang out for the first time. Frank is an amazing endurance/adventure athlete who has done the craziest races around the world. In fact, he just got back from a mountain race in Romania just days before this race. I connected with Tara, Jared, Don and Lisa, Beth, Heather and Geoff, too! We all had dinner together which was delicious chili and salad and beer. After dark, the 4 directors gathered us around the nice fire outside. They each proceeded to tell us how they met, a bit about themselves and how the idea of O2X Summit Challenges came to fruition. It was an idea that formed 8 months ago and now this was their inaugural event. How proud they must have been!!! I loved the intimacy of the fireside chat. It was chilly, people were enjoying drinks and food and sharing the warmth. Frank spoke for a bit after about Pushing Through Limits, sharing his adventure stories and how he has pushed through some major physical and mental stuff in events. I could have listened to him for hours. He has many stories to tell with a true skill for keeping you wanting more!

Frank and I at the dinner the night before.
Oh my god, I laughed so much.

what a crew!

I live only 30 minutes from Sugarbush so I went home and then returned the next morning at around 6:30am. They had mountainside yoga available at 7am and the first wave was getting ready for the 8am push off. Before each heat, warm up exercises were offered to get everyone loosened up which was a nice touch! It was cold out so moving around was a great idea. The 8am racers were off!! They did a nice loop that came back around to the starting line so we could cheer them on and then they were directed to head up the mountain. The 8:30am wave got ready and were off and then my 9:00am wave was instructed to join for the warm up exercises! Then, WE were off!!!

This race is for you, my sweet Faye!!

Geoff, Heather, Lisa, Jared, Tara and I
(photo: Jared Herman)

Up the mountain we went! The race was a mixture of some ski trails but mostly new and existing trails and woods roads. There were definitely runnable parts of the race which you took advantage of to make up some time since you were climbing and climbing and climbing. There were inspirational signs along the way, telling you how many feet you had already climbed, "Kill your tv!", and most importantly, there was MUSIC. The song from Last of the Mohicans was perfectly placed in the woods around difficult climbs and scrambles. BOOM! How cool is that?!?!? I loved being way out there in the woods and then all of a sudden hearing the song....gave you some energy! I was with a super cool woman for a while and she said "Where is Jon Snow!?! This reminds me of Game of Thrones!!" lol, She was a hoot.

Here is the song:

So, we scrambled over rocks/big boulders, steep slopes, crossed brooks, cruised along freshly cut sidehill trails, then the last climb to the summit was up the F.I.S. ski trail, aka Fucking Insanely Steep. IT WAS FOLKS. Many people were stopping and taking breaks along the way, some were crawling on all fours. My method of uphill climbing is slow but steady so I just kept trucking. It reminded me of the up and downs that I did last year for the Team Death Race, relentlessly climbing Killington Mountain but I had a full pack with ax and that was for 12 hours during the ultrabeast so my perspective was "just keep on moving almost there!" I was soooooo glad I had a hat and gloves and a long sleeve shirt because it was cold! The fog moved into the summit and as I crested to the top, I saw race director Craig Coffey and he gave me the biggest hug and I told him how much I loved the course. I crossed the finish line and Tara and Jared were there cheering me on. Foil blankets were being handed out (very smart, thank you!) because the temps up there were 32 degrees and I later heard it was about 18 degrees with the windchill. I got my sweet canteen finisher award (it was filled with water, too...perfect!), Jared took a picture of me and then we headed back down the mountain towards the chair lift which would take us down the rest of the way. We saw Craig again and he took our picture.

An example of the natural awesomeness of the race course
(photo: O2X Summit Challenges)
Photo: O2X Summit Challenges
Photo: O2X Summit Challenges
Tara, Jared and I just before we headed down.
Photo: Craig Coffey/O2X
Chairlift down!!
(photo: Jared Herman)

photo: Tara Roch
Jane Sandwich!
Post race warm up with Frank and Yitzy!!
They were nice and warm :)
(photo: Yitzy Sontag)

Once we got down, I changed up and got some yummy food, had whiskey shots (3!), and warmed up inside the lodge. And then, someone called my name and pulled me aside, asking me to go talk to Adam and Paul in the other room. I went in and they told me that they were going to present me with the Rise Higher Award, a tribute to one racer per race who has overcome a major challenge or obstacle in their life, and wanted to make sure that it was ok to announce this in front of everyone. HONORED! I accepted. The awards ceremony was awesome and top racers were awarded super cool hand carved bamboo plaques, prize money, gift baskets, etc. The last award was the Riser Higher Award and Adam and Paul called me up. Adam said such wonderful words about my journey and Faye and Paul presented me with a beautifully hand carved box and a TruFit Personal Training System. There were tears, of course ;). I saw Adam later and he said he was trying to keep it together up there. LOL. You did great, Adam!!!

So beautiful!!

Paul, myself and Adam
photo: Jared Herman

photo: Frank Fumich
yes, I will post every pic available of me and two handsome Navy SEALs. LOL ;)
photo: O2X
photo: O2X
photo: Frank Fumich

Thank you, Craig, Adam, Gabriel and Paul. You will go so far with this race series. You will change people's lives and we thank you! Congrats on a job well done! See you guys at the Loon Mountain Race!

The amazing race directors, Craig, Paul, Adam and Gabriel.
Congrats, guys!! You will be amazingly successful!
(photo permission by: Kathleen McCullough Normandin)

Sign up via this link!!!

Next O2X Summit Challenges:
  1. Sunday River, ME September 27
  2. Loon Mtn, NH, October 18
  3. Windham, NY October 25

Push your limits!! Rise Higher!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faye and 9 years........

My daughter, Faye, would have turned 9 tomorrow.

The week before her birthday always throws me for a loop. These are the things that I think about so vividly when approaching her birthday.

I remember how happy I was on September 11, fully pregnant, my due date September 13.

I remember going to bed, she had been a bit quiet in my belly.

I remember waking up to my water breaking at 2am, but it was full of meconium.

Rush to hospital.

Listened to her heartbeat get weaker.

Listened to her heartbeat stop as I am being rushed on a gurney to the Operating Room.

Listening to doctors and nurses talking loudly, urgently.

Then, I am out.

I wake up to a crying physician over me asking me if they should stop working on my daughter...trying to maintain what little heartbeat she had.

In my drugged, anesthetized stupor, my mothering instincts said STOP NOW. LEAVE HER BE. 

Seth joined me, crying, we held our beautiful daughter.

We said goodbye.

We stayed in the hospital for 4 days, watching others leave with their newborns. I was literally hollow, gutted, in pain and in shock.

We met with a funeral director to make arrangements to have her cremated. 

We left, we picked her up in an urn a week later.

At home, my hands ached. Severely ached. I don't know why but I learn that my body is hormonally charged to hold a baby and that it knows that it is not. I call a massage therapist to help me with the pain and have my hands worked on. It takes a few days to get relief.

My breasts are leaking milk and they ache to nourish Faye. Instead, I have to ice them and bind them with a tight sports bra and wrap them with anything to make the pressure tight to stop the milk from producing. It is painful. Excruciating.

I cry.

My lower abdomen is scarred forever from the fast surgery that they performed to try to get to her after they heard, via the monitor, that her heartbeat stopped.

I look at those first couple weeks and wonder HOW THE FUCK DID I GET THROUGH THAT?!?!??!!?!?

Answer: You just do. And you never forget.

It has been 9 years but that shit is so vivid. Do you move on in your life? You have to. There is so much awesomeness in life to let yourself just tumble away. But, it is work. Good work.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Infinitus 72 Hour Ultra

Andy and Jack
The Endurance Society

Andy Weinberg and Jack Cary have created a new organization called The Endurance Society!

Which means what?

It means the creation of new, limit-pushing endurance events in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Which means we will come out of these events with renewed respect for ourselves and what we can achieve.

Here is The Endurance Society's mission statement:

"Co-founded in 2014 by Andy Weinberg & Jack Cary, the mission of The Endurance Society is twofold: To create unique, life-changing, and mind-blowing experiences for adventure enthusiasts, and to utilize our members for community involvement through volunteerism.

Simply stated, we create one-of-a-kind endurance events, and we organize exceptional human beings to make the world a better place."

A couple weeks ago, Andy and Jack announced their first event: June 26, 2015, "Sine Nomine" (without name). See this video for a taste of the creativity behind these events.

Then! They announced Infinitus, "an extremely rugged footrace in Vermont."
Here are the 5 distances:

8k - Race starts Saturday, May 30th, 2015 @ 8:08 AM
88k - Race starts Saturday, May 30th, 2015 @ 8:08 AM (24 hour cutoff)
888k - Race starts Thursday, May 21st, 2015 @ 8:08 AM (240 hour cutoff)
48 hours of Infinitus (go as far as you can) - Race starts Friday, May 29th, 2015 @ 8:08 AM
72 hours of Infinitus (go as far as you can) - Race starts Thursday, May 28th, 2015 @ 8:08 AM
All distances end Sunday, May 31st, 2015 @ 8:08 AM. No exceptions.

Quick Math Lesson: 888k is 550+ miles!

I will be participating in the 72 hour ultra! I am so excited to be out there for 3 days straight. I have experience with being on my feet for that amount of time via the Summer 2013 Death Race (76 hours) so I know what it feels like to be up that long, on your feet for that long, etc. I know what sleep deprivation for three days feels like. And, these three days won't be a walk in the park either. I was privileged enough to watch and help pace my friend, Mark Leuner, in his Peak 200 mile bid this past May, in which I paced him 70 miles. When I was out there with him, I was re-inspired. Being on my feet, moving forward, eating, drinking, maybe a bit of sleeping, and keeping my mind present made me super happy. No hauling heavy objects or being told you will quit (death race psychology). I was in my element and I as I kept moving, I realized that I am truly made for a multi-day event. What I love about the 48 and 72 hour options is that you do as much as you can in that time. I want to set a mileage goal for myself at some point but right now, the goal is to be on my feet for much of the 3 days. And, when I start my race, the 888k folks will have already been pushing for 7 days!! How inspiring is that??!?!

Things I wish to get out of my race:

  1. Finish the 72 hours (duh).
  2. Race on the same course as people doing the 888k event. Last year, I was on the course for only a limited time with the Peak 500 milers. I want to do loops with them if possible. Inspiring!!
  3. Keep my feet as healthy as possible, especially if it rains during that time. Wetness is brutal on the feet!
  4. Hallucinate from extreme exhaustion. Don't knock it, folks! It is such a cool experience!! For me, it has always been a calm, fun, interesting state to be in when racing. After a certain point in the race, it just comes and goes throughout the event. Hearing things, seeing images, etc.....it is just fun. 
  5. Listen to copious amounts of loud, angry music.
  6. Hike during the night both of the nights. Night hiking/running is my favorite!!!
  7. Practice being present which can be carried over into real life. Dealing with the roller coaster of a multi day event can center you and teach you skills to be in the moment that can be used later in "real life". What a gift!
So, my goal is to train hard all winter for this event. The past two years of training have been focused on the three Death Races I participated in. Now, I return to ultra endurance. Looking forward to the change and renewed focus for events in 2015!

Links to registration for both Sine Nomine and Infinitus events are below, as well as membership to The Endurance Society (only $15! Such a deal!!).

Endurance Society Membership
10% off 2015 races and events
Membership card with your name and membership number
The Endurance Society patch and sticker
Early email notification of upcoming events
Invitations to private events
Discounts from their partners

Infinitus Endurance Events May 2015

Sine Nomine (without name) June 2015

Join me!!! I DARE YOU to go out of your comfort zone and give these events a try.


PS: I hear there may be a winter endurance event in March ;)

Infinity symbol my 7 year old daughter made :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Crewing the 2014 Death Race: Year of the Explorer

Me in my element!!

I had been struggling for a few months this winter/spring with whether I wanted to follow through with my commitment of participating in the 2014 Death Race.

I had been training hard, thinking and participating in all things "Death Race" since November 2012; I participated in two Death Race camps early in 2013, finishing unofficially the Summer 2013 Death Race, finishing officially the Team Death Race 3 months later, then DNFing the 2014 Winter Death Race 3 months after that.

FUCK. My brain was fried. I forced myself to train hard throughout the spring after the Winter Death Race, not enjoying myself even the though training program was awesome and got me in amazing shape for the upcoming 2014 Summer Death Race. A month ago, I paced my friend 70 miles during his bid for the Peak 200 miler and felt amazingly strong! Physically, I was ready.

Mentally, NO GAME.

I told myself to wait until the Death Race gear email/list came out to see how I would feel; excitement? anxiety? fear? let's get this shit done? NOPE. I felt nothing. I decided to not participate because my mind was not in it. No mental game means high probability of DNF and most importantly, no fun.

I was so confused as to why I was feeling this? Was it purely mental fatigue? How could I not want this race that had so profoundly changed my life?! I was hurting and could not make a decision. I spoke with my friend, Don Devaney, just after the gear list was emailed to us. He helped me sort through why I was feeling that way. He helped bring to light that I had entered the Summer 2013 Death Race with purpose and with a fire of wanting to move beyond this horrible grief that I was continually battling for 8 fucking years since my daughter died at birth. I needed to feel as though I was strong enough to get pass a hurdle I had been stuck way on top of, teetering. After pushing with all my might though that race last summer, being stripped down emotionally and physically, I came out on top, healed and ready to move on. I had risen up to where I needed to be and it was TIME FOR ME TO BE PRESENT. It all made so much sense.

So, I decided to crew my friend, Craig Pannell, with whom I raced the 2013 Summer Death Race. He officially finished that race. His wife, Sharon, usually crews him but she was not coming this time around so I jumped at the chance. Craig is one of the most mentally and physically strong people I have ever met and coached my mental game for my death races so I was excited to give back and  help him finish this race. Craig gets shit done. But, ironically, he would get eliminated from this Death Race not from the mental side of the game or being physically spent. Craig was asked a question by a volunteer during the "Jack Cary Test" and spoke and was immediately DNFd. Craig is not one for words, an introvert, and would have finished this no speaking test for 10 hours like nothing, but he responded to a volunteer when asked and it cost him his race. More on this later.

Craig, #339 talking with Josh Zitomor, 4 time Death Race finisher.

Craig flew in from California on Thursday and I met him in Pittsfield that afternoon. We stayed at the Amee Farm BB for easy access to Riverside Farm, where the Death Race would be based out of. Craig, Luke Kovacs (his partner for the race) and Mike Klunk, Luke's crew guy, and I drove to Trailside Inn for registration. People were wondering if the race was going to start then, was the dinner they were providing just a joke, if you showed up that night would you be penalized in some way, etc. Theories were being thrown around like crazy. After catching up with many friends who were racing or crewing, we headed back to Amee. Craig got his gear packed up and went to bed early. I decided to sit on the Amee BB porch for a bit and relax and think about what my role would be the next 3+ days. I had raced three death races but I had never crewed one. I had the advantage of knowing what racers experience, the amount of calories needed to sustain the exertion, hydration, sleep deprivation and the highs and lows one can go through, but taking care of someone else's needs for 3+ days and getting them through those highs and lows would be a new challenge! I was ready.

Alone the night before the Death Race.
Where is everyone!!? I was the only freak up still :)

I slept ok and we set our alarms for 6:30am. Racers were told to be at Riverside to park and unload any gear between 6am-9am. The race would start promptly at 9am. Again, racers and crew were speculating whether chores would be handed out if you got there too early, etc. So, I got up first, at 5am, got out of my sleeping bag since I was crashing on the floor, crawled over and kicked Craig's foot "wake up, fucker! It's Death Race day!" and he promptly said, "Jane, you are killing me! I am sleeping another hour and a half." LOL. So, I went to the General Store for 6am for eats while Craig got the full sleep until 6:30am. I saw racers filling up their bellies for the final time with real food until the end of their race. It was so nice to see everyone again! I was so happy.

I went back to Amee around 7am and Craig was up and ready. We drove to Riverside and parked our car. Final registration for those who could not show up the night before was being handled. I saw Joe and he tried to get me to race, one last chance to join in, as Peter and Andy had done the day before when I saw them at the General Store. "Nope....not this time," I said.

At 9am, the racers were instructed to get in the "corral", or the brown fence that was in the field. Crews were instructed that they could not go into the corral to help them out at any time during the race. We could pass stuff to them over the fence but that was it. We learned that that was a loose rule as we helped racers anywhere we wanted for the most part.

racers in the "corral"
Andy explained the time cutoffs for the weekend: 4pm Saturday, 12:00am Sunday, and 7:15am Sunday. STRICT cutoffs. First task was to drop all gear and do a time trial up and down the stairs on Joe's Mtn. and do 50 burpees at the top. When they got back, they had to do 200 backwards rolls in the corral. Then, they had to do go back up Joe's Mtn with their gear but were told when they got to the summit to go down to Tweed River Drive from there where there would be a large pile of rocks, rocks that looked like they would be used for MORE FRIGGIN STAIR MAKING. Ugh. I decided to hike up the mountain with them and be out there for the rock moving. So, everyone had to choose a rock and drag it, wearing their pack, down the road, then on to a trail that was about 1/2 mile long, then up the steep part of the stairs we had built last summer at the death race. They were going to use the rocks to reroute the stairs because the previous ones had washed out.

The race starts!
Time trial up Joe's Mtn without gear.
Top of Joe's Mtn
attaching webbing for dragging!
Luke and Craig figuring out the best plan to get that rock 1/2+ mile to trail
At around 2pm, I saw Marion Abrams on the trail and she asked me to do a video podcast in the woods....a few people were being interviewed and she asked me several questions about why I have done the death race, how it changed me, how did I get through those rough times during the race, etc. It was fun! After that, I ran down the mountain and went to the General Store to get Craig some food for when he came down next. I think it was around 4pm that all racers were back at the corral ready for their next task. Racers had to pick a small sawed piece of wood which had Xs or Os marked on them (the marks never mattered, but many were speculating about what they were marked that way) and to get all their stuff ready to hike to Bloodroot. At the top of Bloodroot, Don Devaney was there and they were told they needed to fill up his cup with 8 ounces of water which meant they had to carve a bowl or cup out of the piece of wood they carried with them. Some racers sat down and actually did hollow out their piece of wood, some thought out of the box and took a ziplock or other container out of their pack and used that to fetch water to fulfill Don's request. They thought this would give them an advantage of being way ahead of everyone when they got back to Riverside. Luke and Craig were in and out of the Bloodroot challenge very quickly.

Craig and Luke leaving the Bloodroot challenge
BUT! The next task at Riverside was to drill a hole with whatever tool you had through that piece of wood, keeping it intact, then dropping the porcupine quill through it. So, whatever advantage you had just brought you back to square one. Racers also had to take the 12 feet of buckskin they were carrying in their packs and had to fashion an outfit to wear of the rest of the race, with a minimum of 108 stitches. So, as darkness approached, headlamps were turned on and tired racers were digging a hole into the wood and sewing an outfit before they could move on to the night hike to General Gilke.

12 am Saturday, Craig cranking out the hole in the wood to drop
the quill into. Making the buckskin outfit was next.

After Craig finished this task up, he and Luke were off to General Gilke, wherever the hell that was. I decided to try to go back to Craig's room at around 2:30am and sleep a bit since they were going to be gone for about 6 hours. I could not wind down. I maybe got one hour sleep. I got up around 5am and was at the General Store at 6am to get some breakfast for Craig and I. Prepared, I got back just in time at Riverside at 6:30am as he was coming off of Joe's Mtn. I believe they had to do 200 more backwards rolls or 100 burpees or something when they got back (seems like they were rolling constantly!). At Gilkes, I learned they had to make a primitive ax which had to be approved by Norm, chop a sapling down with it which was approved by Debbie, then they were asked if they brought a bucket. If not, they had to do 1500 burpees. If they did have bucket, then they had to fetch 5 gallons of water about a 1/2 mile away and bring it back uphill to Norm.

Next up! Orienteering!! The 4pm cut off was now getting real. Craig and Luke were on target for having PLENTY of time (cutoffs were not an issue for them). Choices were a shorter yet steeper route to get the the 4 points needed to complete the task or a longer, "more gentle" hike. IE: a sure shot to the cemetery but steep approach and then steep approach to the Ravine OR walk up Lower and Upper Michigan Roads (less steep but probably more miles) to the Iron Mine and Hayes Brook checkpoints. After discussion, Craig and Luke chose Iron Mine and Hayes Brook. The weather was heating up and getting more humid and racers were getting tired after two long hikes to Bloodroot and Gilke. I took this time to get ice, load up on Gatorade for the millionth time, and get Craig an ice coffee. I went up and sat at the junction to see where they were at and I was told they were cruising along fine. I met them on their way down on Lower Michigan Rd, handed off the ice coffee, and went back to Riverside Farm for when they got back to see what the next task was and repack/refuel Craig.

Orienteering Map! (thanks, Ben Hamlet!)

Next task: take all gear with you, hike up to the top of Joe's Mtn and make a fire. I decided to hike up and meet Craig and Luke to watch. When I got there, Verna and Peter Borden were supervising and approving the fire making. They had instructions on the picnic table of what exactly was needed in order to be build the fire. See picture: You had to have 4 pieces of wood intact. Racers started to think outside the box. Craig and Luke made the bow, but like most racers, instead of following the picture exactly which would have taken all day, they pulled out matches from their packs, held the 4 pieces of wood together in whatever way they could and then struck the match and lit the tinder (hay/birch bark). DONE.

Fire making on Joe's Mtn

Next up: hike back down the mountain to Riverside and snake through the corral fence dragging your pack. This took a bit to do for racers....there is a lot of fence! I believe they had to do 100 burpees as well. Craig finished up, came back to the tent and refueled and packed up and was told to walk up Tweed River Drive to Upper Tweed where they had hauled the large rocks in the beginning. What the hell was going on there??! Could not wait to find out!


Jack Cary: Bringing his A GAME!!!

You had to get every answer correct or you were DNFd.
Not many took the chance.

Holy shit. This is when folks started to unravel. The first place folks who had worked so hard to stay up front all of a sudden were faced with a test that was almost impossible to finish because if you missed ONE question, you were disqualified from the race. Rules at this task: no talking, no eating, no drinking, if you asked a yes/no question to Jack, you had to pay in a 10-20 minute relaxation pose which were not relaxing at all. You could do burpees, etc, for a bite of food or drink of water out of the ravine. There was a steep hill where you could open your test and look at it and fill it in. Once you were ready, you could choose a pose and hold it for 10-20 minutes, in which a volunteer started your time for the pose, based on your bib number, and then would yell out the bib number when time was up. After this, racers got in a long uphill line to see Jack, in which there would be no talking and no looking at the test, which had to be closed and folded. First place folks got here at noon I think. This challenge went on until midnight. During these hours, racers were reminded of cutoffs and that they would not finish the race. People were quitting, pissed, angry, and folks spoke in error to each other. Some racers took the chance and passed in their test and were eliminated. No one ended up passing it. This was the perfect Death Race challenge to weed out the pack and frustrate the hell out of people. IT WORKED. I thought it was genius. I went up a couple times to check in on Craig but I could not do anything because crew had to stay behind a line and could not speak to them so I left. I had no idea it would be hours that he would be up there. No one was passing in the test for fear of DQ. I get a text from Craig around 11:30pm "COME GET ME!!! I am out!!"

WTF?!?!?!? The one person who could pass the no talking test in flying colors is pulled from the race because of talking!??!!??!!? I could not believe it. Josh Zitomer and I drove up to get Craig. (Quick shout out to Josh Z, who is good friends with Craig. I love that guy!! He helped me crew Craig as well and is such a calm presence. Thank you for everything, Josh!!! You are an amazing person!) Once there, we saw that everyone's gear was in a friggin' huge mess, like a tornado had hit. Racers were made to dump everything out of their packs. It was dark, people were pissed, gear was being crushed because people were walking on it. NOT GOOD VIBES. I found Craig, finally, in disbelief, and he explained he was standing up in the "relaxation area" waiting to get the attention of the Race Volunteer who would call out bib and start time. When another Race Volunteer came up from the side and asked him "why are both your feet on the ground"? He responded, "I'm waiting to get her (points to the other Volunteer) attention so she can start my time." She then said "you talked, your out. Give me your bib, I'm reporting you."  Needless to say, he was pissed. She asked him an open ended question, not a yes or no question one that is answered with a head nod. He answered her. His race was DONE. As Craig said to me and a few of the race directors later on during the time trials before the sun came up, "I understood the rules of no talking, I also know we have always been told be respectful to the Race Volunteers, she asked me a question, questioning me on why I was not doing a task, I responded." They agreed later that he should not have been pulled and apologized. But, Craig's race was over at this point. 40 hours. He was still strong and mentally in the game. I was bummed for him.

the final bibs that of DNFd racers

I picked him up and came back to Riverside Farm. We wanted to wait until 7am to see what the next task would be. I heard that 50+ racers bailed or were DQ at the Jack Cary Test. Race directors decided to end the test and brought all racers back to Riverside to do time trials up and down Joe's Mtn all night until 7am. At 7am, racers had an hour to clean up, put their adult diaper and tyvek suit on and wait for next instructions. Craig stayed up for a bit then went to sleep in my car for a few hours and I stayed up and cheered on racers as they went up and down the mountain. I believe the most laps someone did in those 7 hours was 9 laps. People were looking super strong still, while others needed foot attention and encouragement. The number of laps completed would help in determining who would get a skull they were told. Who knew if that was correct but people were working hard all night.

Around 4:30am, the sun started to come up and day three of the race was starting. As promised, you had to be back at Riverside at 7am so you had to time your laps appropriately to be back in time. Racers were back, the sun was heating up the day already, racers were cleaning up with the hoses provided, and they were instructed to get in the "corral" and do body weight exercises to literally warm them up. Then, two buses rolled up: a yellow school bus and a white premier coach bus. Racers were told to line up, with packs and head to the two buses. Once they got to them, they were told the yellow bus racers would take their gear with them; the white bus folks would leave their packs and phones and money at Riverside. I believe 26 people chose the white bus and the other 60ish packed onto the yellow bus. The buses rolled out and we had no idea where they were going. Andy then informed us that the yellow bus would be back within the hour to do tasks all day. The white bus was heading to NYC!!!

cleaning up before the buses came!
tyvek exercises!
Heading to the buses!
Two journeys.....
Two buses, two very different 16 hour journeys!
NYC racers at the hospice

The yellow bus rolled up back at Riverside after an hour of going to various fake stops through Killington. Racers were told to take off their tyvek suits and diapers and get ready to do tasks. This would include going to Peter and Verna Borden's home for uni-cycling, singing, circle activities, rolling in long grass/poison ivy?, writing letters to their loved ones that Verna would then mail out for them, sitting in the river, walking in the river down to Marion Abrams home with a rock in hand to build a rock wall along the riverbank, have time trials to get back to Bordens and the last 5 were cut from the race, a 30 minute no sleeping session, another race back to Riverside where more folks were cut from the race if they were last, then the final task of hauling a 80 pound sandbag up the Ravine to the cabin. Women had to carry the same weight! So, the yellow bus got hammered and 20ish additional people were cut for the race for missing time hacks.

"find a rock then hike 3 miles in the river to help build a wall!"
It was not 3 miles down the river but pretty close :)
The white bus folks had a crazy death racey scavenger hunt in NYC, visited a dying man in a hospice (a friend of one of the death racers), ate foods at the Explorer Club, etc. (I don't have a lot of detail on what they did...all I know, is their trip was super challenging as well, in a very different way!) They were told to choose one person to receive the skull and it was decided to give it to Joshua Swink, a racer who had lost his 10 year old son to cancer this year. Then, they decided they were all one team and that all would get a skull or no one. And, they chose that no one get the skulls. On the way back from NYC, they stopped in Killington, met up with Joe, and he told them that there were two skulls available. Michelle Roy responded that their decision was made that all or nothing and everyone was ok with that and they headed back to Riverside.

Craig and I had left mid morning to eat and shower and head back to Bordens to check out the activities and then later on at Riverside as people were getting back from hauling their cement bags. At around 6pm, racers were instructed to stay in the corral until the white bus came back and crew could not enter. They would have to stay there until 2am ish until the white bus returned from NYC. In the meantime, Andy set up a table of skulls in the middle of the corral. At this point, no one knew if they were getting a skull. Had they made enough time cutoffs? Did they race fast enough during the night time trials up and down the mountain? Racers were glad to be done but no one was happy until they knew when the race would be over.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when Johnny Waite, Death Race finisher and, now, race director and Death Race Spiritual Adviser (my term for Johnny....many would agree!), pulled together the yellow bus racers and gave a quick speech about the two different journeys the racers on each bus had those during those 16 hours. And, that to embrace the white bus racers when they returned as their journey was very different but challenging in different ways. Love is always the answer. It was a powerful moment for many and quickly put the race into perspective. Thank you, Johnny.

Johnny in buckskin! xoxo

Craig and I decided that we needed SLEEP and would not attend the skull ceremony at 3am. Before we left, Craig took some time to talk to friends and racers and wished them well. I hugged so many grody racers, racers with 3+ days of sweat and salt and cement dust. To me, they smelled of success, grit and beauty. Personally, I had witnessed greatness all weekend. I saw determination, fear, anxiety, pride, strength, weakness, racers pulling themselves up over and over again for 60+ hours. I did not need to see the skull ceremony because that was just a formality: I saw them persevere and I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THAT FEELS. The skull means "something" but I know those racers were going to walk away from The Year of the Explorer changed forever.

I woke up at 4:30am on Monday, said good bye to Craig. I was bummed because I would not be seeing him again for months.  I had to get back home to get Aida to get her to Art Camp and had no time to see anyone before leaving Pittsfield. I got coffee and drove to Riverside to kind of say goodbye and make peace with the weekend. I got there with tears in my eyes, overwhelmed with what I had witnessed for those 60+ hours. The skull table was empty, the sun was coming up and the DNF'd bibs were lined up on the tractor still. I cried like a baby, not wanting to leave what I experienced all weekend. I went back to Amee, woke Craig up (sorry, bud), and asked for one last hug and goodbye again. Leaving Pittsfield and those experiences kill me every time.

Sun coming up on Monday morning.
Racers gone. Skull table empty.
I cried like a baby thinking about all I witnessed that weekend.

I will be back next year for the Time Traveler Death Race 2015. But, I will be crewing Craig, again, not racing.

We have unfinished business.  :)

2015 Death Race, here we come.

100+ miles
66+ hours
15,000 foot elevation change
65 skulls awarded
250+ lives changed for the better

Gear List (for posterity):
Rope (40 Feet)
Tyvek Suit
Porcupine Quill
4 Yards of Buckskin
Sewing Kit (needle and thread)
Tape Measure
One Adult Diaper
$100.00 cash
Work Gloves

These folks I would like to point out as people I admire and loved watching throughout the weekend:

Joshua Swink lost his 10 year old son, Beydn, to cancer this year.
He was racing in his memory. I felt a connection to what Josh was working through
out there all weekend. I healed immensely last year via the death race, working through
the loss of my daughter. Much love, Josh.
Here is the blog in memory of Beydn

Amy Palmiero Winters
I raced with her last year at the summer death race.
I just love her spirit and strength. She came back from the final task of carrying the hellish 80 pound
cement bag up the ravine and her prosthetic leg was broken.
She finished strong.

My friend, Michelle Roy.
She finished 400 miles at the Peak Ultra a month earlier and came
in second for women at this race.
She declined the skull as she simply explained it is not why she races.
She found much inner peace while racing this weekend.

Stefanie Bishop.
Death Race veteran and came in first for woman.
Such a strong person and inspiration.
How does someone look so beautiful after that 60+ hour beat down? 

Robin Crossman.
I believe he is the only person to have officially finished 4 summer death races. 4 for 4.
And, he is 57 years old. A hero of mine!
And, he ALWAYS brings a bucket to a Death Race ;)

I love the Death Race. I love Peak Races. I love what the Death Race brings to our lives. Andy, you created a masterpiece, yet again.

I only hope every racer can take home the powerful message the Death Race offers. And, that message or connection is different for everyone. I hope you find it along the way, at 24 hours, 36 hours, 48 hours, if you DNF, if you are DQ'd, if you finish unofficially or if you finish officially. There is ALWAYS something to learn about yourself.


PS: Doug Kline and Marian Abrams, thank you for the use of some of the pictures I used in this blog. You are amazing photographers who continue to capture beautiful moments at Peak Races.