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 :)