Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Frigus Ski/Snowshoe/Sled Event!!

Postering the towns with Frigus flyers!
Grassroots Communication!

The Endurance Society's second event, Frigus, was amazing!! 

A few months ago, I signed up for the 30k Snowshoe event. I had been snowshoeing tons this winter to get ready, as well as rucking with lots of bricks, which has become my favorite winter training regimen!

But!!! A week before the race, I was thinking about how my friend, Mark Webb, was coming to do the 10k race. I thought, WTF???!!? I should go out with Mark and get back out on the trails with him!!! I missed being out there with him even though it had been 7 months. Mark lost the lower part of his left leg while riding his motorcycle last August. A car hit him. This was going to be one of Mark's first big races back since then. He still did not have a prosthetic leg but he was going to crutch that course. Holy shit. I needed to be out there with him. Not because he needed my help but because he is one of the most mentally strong people I have ever met. He would get through that race. Mark and I competed in 3 Death Races together. We bonded during those suffer fests. I thought, I don't need to do a 30k when I can be out there with my friend, again!

I decided to spend the night before the race at the the Blueberry Hill Inn Ski Center so I could see folks registering Friday evening and hang out with many friends I had not seen in a few months. It's always such a great reunion! Many Death Racers were there and we got to catch up and we got to show some of them how to actually use snowshoes and skis for the first time (because that is what crazy endurance freakers do: they show up to races having not trained for it and give it a go!)

Here's my death race buddy, Mark Wood, from South Carolina.
He strolled in after driving up with friends, had never been on snowshoes or skis and
provided an excellent bottle of whiskey for the prerace festivities Friday night!

My race bib!

After a good nights sleep, racers starting waking up at around 5am. The race started at 7am for the skiers so rise and shine! We had some coffee and food and hydrated and at about 7:30ish Mark arrived! I had his snowshoe and he had prepped his crutches with special baskets that would help him navigate the deep snow. Mind you, the snow was a few feet deep just off the trail. It would prove to be hard to crutch through. Mark gave me his camera and tripod and asked me to video his trek. Fun!

Our friend Ted joined us! Ted, Mark and I competed in the 2014 Winter Death Race together (top 5 for Ted at that race, yo!) and he is a fellow Mainer with a wicked strong Maine accent which I obnoxiously pointed out to him throughout the weekend. :) 

At 8am, Andy announced that everyone doing the snowshoe race had to get out to the starting line which he was spray painting as he said it. Lol! I love Andy. Everyone negotiated the knee deep snow to the starting line, including Mark! That shit was deep, never mind if you have one leg and crutches. Then, Andy blew the horn and we were off!!!

"everyone out at the starting line soon or your not doing the race!"
Where is the starting line?
"Over here!" as he is spray painting it.
Classic Andy moment!

This is a classic Andy Pose at a race

Sidestix crutch attachments for poling in snow

The day was just perfect weather-wise. Blue skies, no clouds. No wind. About zero degrees which was damn warm to all us Vermonters! It had been sub zero temps for practically the entire month of February. It was balmy and delicious out! And, I was out there with my friends! And, I was going to witness something amazing by my strong friend. I was in heaven. I was in my element.

Racers forged ahead and we kept a good pace. Seriously, Mark had never been on snowshoes before and now he was snowshoeing this course with one leg! It was a steady uphill climb to the first of two beautiful clearings. Mark was getting into his groove, figuring out how to navigate the poles and the deep snow along the trail. The second clearing afforded amazing views of the Long Trail and the air was so crisp that the trees were white from whatever moisture was lingering in the air. Just spectacular!

We moved on, laughing a ton, as well as readjusting so Mark was comfortable. Which means, we did not have to do much because Mark is so fucking tough that he just moves along. We finally get to the section of trail that Jack had said could be a bit challenging. Steep!! They took us off trail on a bushwack which also had a fair amount of side-hilling. NOT EASY WITH CRUTCHES AND ONE LEG!!! I witnessed some serious determination and will as Mark fell and picked himself back up again. When we starting coming down that hill, Mark's basket on his crutch broke!! Shit!!!! We were still about a mile or so from the ski center. And, after that, we would have to come back out to complete the second lap to finish the 10k. Mark and Ted took a look at what was the problem and the material completely ripped out and the pole pushed through the basket. THIS IS WHERE TED STEPPED UP! Seems that Ted can do ANYTHING so he grabbed the crutch, said that he was going to run ahead of us for bit and start working on a way to fix it up so we could at least get back to the ski center. So, Mark started hopping on one leg with the god damn snowshoe on. That was not sustainable. So, I offered my right side and he used me as a crutch. Human Crutch! So, we moved along slowly, Mark holding my hand (I had to take my ring off because my hand was being squeezed so hard!) and every step Mark took, he leaned into me as I negotiated the deep snow on the other side of the trail..which was up to my knees. I'm friggin short, folks so this was a good challenge! Let's just say I did not need to do an upper body workout that week. ;)


Mark, Ted and I at the clearing

So, I think we crutched together for a couple hundred yards...it felt like more but I am not quite sure. Mark was a champ and just forged ahead. We made it to where Ted was and he had used part of his buff neck warmer as a patch and got the pole and basket to stay solid. Thankful for Ted because there is no way I could have come up with something like that. I can be a crutch but I don't have the fix it brain. AND! Ted had the brilliant idea to make the trail wider for Mark so his crutches were not sinking into 3 feet of snow along the edge of the trail. So, Ted and I stepped out of the trail and broke trail along the actual trail. We laughed about how we would only do that for Mark....how that there is a perfectly good trail 3 inches from where we were breaking trail. ;)

Mark tried the pole out and we were off! We made it back to the ski center after about 3 hours on that first loop, definitely taking a bit of time to deal with the broken pole. We got some quick food and I refilled our water bottles. BigZig and Poppa Joyce joined us on this loop! Fun group! Four dudes and me. Sounds about right...always with the guys. It was fun. We were cruising along and I think it was as we were going up the first couple steep slopes that Mark's pole broke AGAIN. This time, Poppa Joyce took the basket off of his pole and he gave it to Ted and, AGAIN, Ted made a solid repair. This was going to stay well because it was plastic and not cloth. Genius!! And, we were off! Mark really had his groove on this loop. He was just cruising!!! His thumbs and hands started to go numb and suffered some sharp pains. His shoulders were tired. But, he kept moving. I took video along the way. Here is some footage: first one is me crutching with Mark. The second one is of Mark hammering up the steepest hill. Badass!!!

We got to the steep hill again and Mark smoked that thing this time! Proud! At that point, we knew we were getting close to the ski center again....Mark knew it and was psyched to push on harder! So amazing to watch! I ran ahead with the camera and got him as he was coming to the finish line. 6 hours later, Mark finished a 12k on one snowshoe, one leg and two crutches and lots of love from his friends (of course it was longer than 10k! It always is with Andy and Jack!)

Mark finishing the 12K!!
I'm filming him here. Ted is following!

Ted, Mark and I after we finished the race.

Finisher Medal!!!

Tired and satisfied race directors.
Thanks for a great event, Andy and Jack!

Changing my race from 30k to the 12k was the best decision. I got to be with my friends, friends who have pushed through multi day events together. Friends that would do anything for one another. I had no doubt in my mind that Mark would finish this race. I witnessed determination and will out there. It was a gorgeous day with friends.

I love you, Mark!! I can't wait until the next event together!!