Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Extremus! The Endurance Society Kicks It Off!

The Endurance Society

"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."

In December, I decided I needed to pull the plug on participating in Extremus, the inaugural event of The Endurance Society. I had been training hard, hiking mountains all fall, rucking with bricks for hours a week in the dark and cold, etc. I was sad about it but I knew it was best for me and my family. order to stay sane, I need to be a part of this event. Supporting Jack and Andy in their first gig was personally important. These guys both changed my life when I participated in the Death Races so I wanted to give back and be knee-deep involved. And, boy was I ever! The day before, Andy reached out and said, "Volunteers are not able to help out like we planned....will you please be in charge of the ground crew...oh, and all the volunteers....and also be the main contact for the state search and rescue guy." UMMMM...OK! Game on! I like a good challenge!

So, on Friday, I gathered all my winter gear and backpack and any extra gear that participants may need over the next couple of days. I piled everything in my car and headed to Blueberry Hill Inn! I got a room there with a death race friend for the weekend. (FYI, shout out to the folks at the Inn. Sheri got up at 1am to make fresh pastries, coffee and breakfast so the event participants who stayed at the Inn had full bellies before they climbed all weekend! Highly recommend staying there!)

getting my gear together...extra sleeping bags for emergencies, etc

I arrived around 5pm and participants were trickling in, setting up their sleeping bags in the Ski Center, which would be the basecamp for the weekend. As I get out of my car, Andy says, "Jane!! About 20 people are inside asking about you! Get in there!" I thought to myself, "I am HOME. I love my endurance family!" Maps were on the table, registration was getting set up, and people were packing up their packs, food, snowshoes, taping up feet, reorganizing gear, asking great questions and seeking advice. Trip leaders were converging, talking about radio usage on the trail and when to check in with each other. I was watching an amazing effort unfold! What I loved, too, was that I was useful to these conversations. I live here, I have hiked the entire Long Trail and side trails, I was familiar with the maps and roads and trailheads, and I could give advice on layering up. I was having fun and contributing!

tattoos and fixin' feet!!!
gearing up
sleep area!
photo: Dario Cantatore

What I really loved was that almost all of those participating were friends that I had met Death Racing. So, it was like a big family coming back together. We headed over to the Inn and had an awesome dinner, got to laugh and share stories of our past endurance races, hallucinations and pushing limits. So fun! At around 8pm, Andy and Jack gathered us back at the Ski Center and gave us the safety talk for the trip; that this was a group event, not a race. That folks would be working together to be safe and to have an experience, and to most importantly, leave your egos at the door. Everyone needed to be with their team and to move together. It was a solid discussion with much respect. The weather was getting crazy as the discussion was happening...temps were falling to below zero and wind chills were amping up. So, people were listening.

Jack and some of the leaders
photo: Dario Cantatore
leaders talking logistics
photo: Dario Cantatore
dinner with "family!"
Jack and Andy giving the pretalk!
Photo: Dario Cantatore

By 10pm, we were all settling in for sleep since alarms were going to go off at 2am. Hikers needed to be on the bus at 3am in order to get to the Smuggler's Notch Rt 108 trailhead by 5am. HOLY SHIT, IT WAS COLD OUT. Everyone piled into the bus and the two support vans and Andy jumped in my car and we all headed out. It was a long ride but Andy kept me entertained and we arrived at Smugglers Notch around 5:15am....It was brutally cold out!! -9 on the car thermometer but the wind was crazy cold. People were quickly putting on microspikes and keeping skin covered. I was thinking "oh my god, that first 1.8 miles up to Taft Lodge is insanely steep and it is so brutally cold. Please let everyone be ok." And, then they were off; Andy and Jack and 36 participants, a photographer and couple volunteers. Commence Extremus 2015!! History in the making!

Andy and Jack ready to start the adventure!
Extremus 2015!!!
Beautiful group! Just look at them!
photo: Dario Cantatore

loading up!
Photo: Dario Cantatore
Subzero temps at trailhead
photo: Dario Cantatore
Mansfield summit!!!
Photo: Jay Miller
Photo: Jay Miller
amazing picture!
Photo: Jay Miller

Support crew gathered and made a plan to have a van stay at the trailhead in case anyone was going to come down before getting to the summit. Decisions had to be made at Taft Lodge (which is .5 mile below the summit) if anyone was going to leave the event because they were going to be exposed fully to -40 temps for about 1.5 hours up on the ridge. So, Chelsea stayed with the van and Kevin (a reporter writing a piece for Vice Sports) and I went to town with money to buy water and snacks for the trek up to Taylor Lodge. The plan was to have the volunteers hike 1.6 miles up to Taylor with 10 gallons of water, coffee and hot chocolate, and food for when the hikers came through. Kevin and I snuck in a quick breakfast in Stowe, talked about the craziness, bought the supplies and met the other 9 or so volunteers at the Mount Mansfield Trout Club trailhead at 8:30am. The itinerary stated we needed to be at Taylor Lodge between 10am and 2pm, so we packed our backpacks with the water and food and layered up. The sun was shining now but it was damn cold! The hike up was beautiful. I had to make a leadership decision and send two folks back as I needed to make sure that everyone on my watch was safe, too. The rest of us made it to the Lodge by 10am! Perfect.

Now, we had to keep ourselves and the water unfrozen for hours. The sun was beaming and the views from the porch of the lodge were beautiful. We stood in the sun and did body squats and jumped up and down for hours trying to stay warm. We had radio contact with Andy on the trail and Gene (down at the Mansfield Trout Club). We had a good system. Andy, would contact me at the lodge and I would triage it back to Gene. At around 1:30, I think, the first hikers arrived! I was so happy to see them! This small chick launched herself at any hiker I could ;). Everyone was looking good but some people were definitely going to drop at this point. We got folks fed, refilled water bottles, handed out warm drinks (I wish we would have had more), stories of their journey were shared with us, and there were laughter and smiles (and some tears). It was an awesome scene for me to watch.

Everyone packed up their gear and I got the list of participants out and updated it with those who were staying in the event and those who were leaving with us. It was around 2:30pm when the hikers left. Their next stretch was going to be REALLY CHALLENGING. The trail is very hard to follow even in summer so I knew this was going to be interesting. Hugs were given and many "good lucks". I radioed down to Gene to tell him we were on our way. All the volunteers, WHO KICKED ASS BY THE WAY, packed up trash, I packed out a couple frozen camelbacks for hikers and broken gear, and we cruised down the trail in an hour. Warm vans were waiting (thank you!) and we headed out. I drove a hiker back to 108 to get his car and then made the long trek back to Blueberry Hill Inn. It took me about 2.5 hours to get back, I was really tired and grumpy and agro. I think it had to do with the fact that I really wanted to be out there with my friends, hiking that insane section as the sun was going down. Also, I think I was feeling that way because standing out in the 0 degree weather for 4+ hours is really mentally and physically taxing, as well as making sure everyone is ok. I needed some space to download. My friend Tara was with me in the car, god bless her. Ha! Agro music was on my Ipod and I was bitchy. Sleep dep was kicking in!

"Team 6" at Taylor Lodge!
 There were other volunteers that were not in this photo, too!
Andy at Taylor Lodge. In good spirits per usual!!!
We had some good laughs together here! And, we also got serious
about logistics and who was staying in the event.
I love "working" with Andy and Jack!
Jack and Dan.
Dan was a team leader and is such a solid guy.
I have done 3 death races with him! My fave Canadian! ;)

We finally get back to the Inn at 5pm. I needed sleep but I was too wound up and we still needed to make a plan for getting pizza and coffee to the Jonesville crossing at Rt 2 by 10pm. This meant trying to sneak in a nap, finding a pizza joint who would be open the latest in the Jonesville area and pre-ordering them. We made the plan to pick up coffee and pizza by 10pm (the pizza place waited for us even after they nice!). I headed back to my room, got in bed and tried to relax until 8:30pm...our goal was to leave by 8:45pm to get to Waterbury to get the food. "Holy shit, do I really have to get back on that damn 2+hour trek AGAIN for the third time today!?!?!" Wow. Thank god I have experience with pushing through limits. ;) So, Gene, Chelsea and I headed back out by 9pm with two vans and my car. 

After the food was secured, we went to the Rt 2 Jonesville LT trail crossing and waited at the Post Office. This was at about 11pm. The hikers would be coming down the road and we would be able to see them easily from that spot. Gene and I both had the radios in our vehicles and we could hear some stuff going on but it was not totally clear. Jordan then called me from the trail with his phone and I spoke with Jack at around 11:30 I think. Jack wanted us to go to Bolton Valley Ski Resort because they had decided to all come down at that point. The trail was too hard to follow, folks were cold and they needed to make the decision to come down. They spent hours just looking for the trail.

Chelsea, Gene and I left and headed down the road to Bolton. Once we got up in the parking lot, we had full, clear communication with Andy and Jack and the team leaders. What I listened to over those next couple hours as we waited in the parking lot was nothing short of amazing. I heard solid decision making between the race directors and team leaders. I heard TEAM EFFORT. It was the best reality show EVER! Jack had communicated that all 27 hikers would be coming down to us and that we would all be heading back to Blueberry Hill Inn. The next 6 miles to Jonesville would have been a complete shit show (my opinion) because the trail is VERY HARD to follow in summer through that section. I am so glad they made the solid decision to have the group event end then. I had 4 amazing dudes (Jason Spare, Tim Midgely, Ted Coffin and Steve Barto) in my car on the way back to the inn (HOLY SHIT, I HAVE TO DRIVE THAT ROUTE AGAIN!!!?!?!?!). They were silly and delirious and tired and then all of a sudden very quiet. I could see heads bobbing next to me and in the rear view mirror. I was getting super tired so Ted (Ted is a machine...he had just done all that hiking and still had the energy to help drive) took over the wheel for me and I used Steve's shoulder as a pillow (thanks, bro!).

All hikers were back at the inn by 3am. Andy and Jack offered to take folks up to Camel's Hump via the Burrows Trail at 7am if they wanted to do a day hike and experience that beautiful peak. I got up at 7am to see what was happening over at the ski center, handed out IDs for people who were leaving, and to get a count of those heading out with Andy and Jack on the hike. They were going to be back from the hike around 3pm. No ground crew was needed so I went back to bed. I was going to stay there until everyone was back later that afternoon.

At around 10am, a bunch of us headed to Brandon for breakfast. What a great crew!! I needed to soak in as much of these people before they all left Vermont. I dubbed them "the new york crew" . We had some good laughs and delicious foods and then they were off. The rest of us drove back to the Ski Center, I took a nap FINALLY and then went back to the Ski Center to wait for Andy and Jack and the Camels Hump crew. It had started to rain just as they were pulling in. Everyone was off the mountain safely and the Extremus weekend was done. Andy's wife, Sloan, made us a bunch of awesome soup and we sat around talking and recapping the weekend. The Endurance Society fulfilled their mission: they provided a one of a kind endurance experience that every hiker will take away with them. I would bet my life on the fact that all 36 hikers took something valuable away with them from this trek. I know I did.

New York Crew!
Our eyes are closed/squinty in this pic but our bellies are full of good breakfast
and we all shared an amazing experience that weekend.
I miss these folks so much.

Extremus is done!!
Congrats, Andy and Jack!
new hat!!
The Endurance Society!!!

-24 hours of intense winter experience
-it felt like we did countless trips down Rt 100 to Blueberry Hill Inn ("make it stop!")
-10 pizzas inhaled by hungry hikers after that 24 hours
-I drank buckets of coffee to stay awake
-5,400 (just a guess) hugs given out to beautiful hikers all weekend ;)
-I did not cry at all!! A first at an endurance event! ;)

Next up!
Frigus, Infinitus and then Sine Nomine! The Endurance Society is on its way!!! Much love to you, Andy and Jack, and thank you for creating this organization for us! We are eternally grateful!


Oh, you should definitely join The Endurance Society. $15.
Here is the link.