Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Infinitus 48 Hour Ultramarathon!

What an amazing weekend. Andy Weinberg and Jack Cary/The Endurance Society pulled off an amazing inaugural ultramarathon event! They had everything: 8k, 88k, 48 hour, 72 hour, 888k. Something for everyone! I'm going to break this recap down into these categories. Lots of pictures!
  1. My training
  2. My race
  3. What I feel I did right
  4. Lessons learned and what would have made my miles easier
  5. The People

Back in November, I decided I was done with running for a bit. I was bored with it and I wanted a change. Yes, I was going to do an ultramarathon with no running. I was going to hike it instead! I am a strong hiker so I set my mind to getting my body even stronger for hiking. So, I started rucking with bricks. I had no one telling me how to train and was going to get strong the way I wanted to....meaning, I WANTED TO ENJOY MY TRAINING AGAIN! I did not want to follow a program and I had to be gentle with balancing my time with family so I decided no long training runs on the weekend but some solid hours a week of rucking....2-3 hours at a time, building up the number of bricks I carried every month. I started with 2 bricks and ended with 7 bricks by February. There were many cold -20 nights I would put Aida to bed and suit up at 8pm and ruck until 10pm in the snow and cold temps. Great mental training, by the way, to tuck your kid in, leave a warm woodstove after a long day and blast outside in the freezing cold! I also purchased a used weight bench for $25 and lifted in my basement. It was fun! By March, I learned of Crossfit Waterbury and joined up. So many racers I know are crossfit members and I knew it would only help me. And, did it ever!!!! I never had ONE OUNCE of muscle soreness during or after the race! Quads, glutes, IT band, ankles, hips, back, feet, upper body. NOTHING. Amazing! Again, I hiked the entire 78 miles and never ran a step. That was my strategy going into this. I knew running this course would tear me down so that is why I trained the way I did. It worked!!!

7 of my friends!
my $25 weight bench from the 1980s!
Sears and Robuck brand!!!
I spent hours and hours rucking in the woods
on my dirt roads at night from November to May. The majority
of the hours were in the dark. This is a rare daytime ruck in the woods.

Crossfit Waterbury!
I joined in March. Best thing ever! I know it contributed to my success!

My Race:
My race "began" the first day the 888kers started their 10 day trek. I drove over for their 8:08am start and was so inspired to see those 10 individuals getting ready after a probably fitful night of sleep; taping feet, packing their running packs, eating last minute snacks before their first 10 miles of the 550. I took that energy and it fed me until I started 8 days later. I say my race started then because I started to get into my head game...which was STAY PRESENT. I carried that for the next 8 days.

I took a quick trek over on Saturday to see how the 888kers were doing and to introduce Aida to the scene. She quickly made her way to the pond and  played with the fish and salamanders with Andy's daughter, Jade, while I spoke with racers as they came and went over those few hours. I brought some pizza and Gatorade and enjoyed the afternoon, getting a feel for what the racers were facing....living vicariously through there trail stories, fatigue and foot issues. It had been three days for them at this point.

home sweet home for the weekend!

It was a LONG 8 days waiting for the 48 hour race to start! There were 36 of us signed up, a few did not show. I showed up Thursday afternoon, chatting it up with the 72 hour folks as they came and went...their journey started that morning. I set up my tent in the field and brought my food bin, gear bin and cooler into the ski center. I laughed a ton with other 48 hour folks that were slowly arriving, and by 9pm, I went to sleep. Big couple days coming up. I slept great! Quiet....peepers were loud....I could hear a bit of the folks who were up hanging out by the bonfire (I'm too old for that...I needed my hours of sleep), I was super present and did not worry at all about the 48 hours ahead of me so I just drifted off.

cover to my gear bin! reminders were very helpful every time
I came back from a loop!

kick ass bib number!!! And my morning coffee before the race.

I had signed up for the 72 hour initially so that is why
I am on the 72 hour leaderboard :)

Race Day! Up and at 'em at 5am! I had some food and coffee, registered with Andy at 6am, got my number (48!!!) and got my pack settled for the first 10 miles. What I loved about this event was it is a 26 mile distance of two loops: a 10 miler and a 16 miler. I loved the mental challenge of getting ready for the "happy loop" of 10 miles, which did include a 1.5 mile UP stretch up Romance Mountain...but once you were up there it was smooth sailing. LOVED IT. I could smoke that loop in 2:45 or 3 hours and be happy. The challenge came when you arrived back at the ski center, everyone wanting to say hello and check in on you (thank you!) but for me with no crew, I had to buckle down and think about what I needed for the next 16 miles. The first time I did the 16 mile loop, it took me 5.5 hours to complete. I was in heaven with my music. The heat was not too unbearable, the bugs were vicious, but the loop was gorgeous. My goal was to not get my feet wet in that first 3 miles of the 16 mile loop...super muddy and wet. I just used my poles and guided myself around the mud bogs. I got to the river crossing and walked a short ways down and rock  hopped...again, keep the feet dry! We were super lucky the river had receded and the muddy sections started to dry out for us...I do realize we had that going for us as the 888kers had it pretty rough for more than a few days.

I arrived back at the ski center and got myself going for the 10 mile loop. I wish I had put bug spray on because it was prime bug time(5pm-8pm) and I was going crazy swatting them! I have never witnessed that in all my years hiking! I got in my zone, got back to the ski center, refilled everything with food and water and my secret weapon can of Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso drink (for when my sleep cycle was going to hit around 11pm!) and was back out on the trail at 9pm! I knew I would be out there until at least 4am so, I had my two Ipods and lit outta there! I was so happy! I love hiking alone in the woods at night. The trails were very well marked, the bugs had gone away with the cooling of the temps (which it really did not cool down all that much but it helped), the moon was out, Jack's freaky props in 8s were everywhere, and at one point, I was sitting in the middle of the trail around midnight, eating a Cliff Bar, drinking the espresso, and listening to loud music....just totally in my happy place. I hiked on and got back to the ski center by 4amish. I had left when the sun was going down and returned when the sun was coming up. I checked in....2 full marathons done! I went to my tent and slept an hour, got back up and packed, popped a couple blisters, taped my feet, changed sneakers and socks and headed back out for the 10 mile loop at about 6:15am. I was hoping to be back by 9:30am with a goal of being back out on the 16 mile loop by 10am. As I started out for the 10 miler, I could feel the heat of the day already. I tried not to think about another day of heat so I just put my music on and moved.

I think this was after my first 10 miles!
(photo by Mark Mccaslin)

first loop done!

Heading out for mile 62
photo: Bigzig Soboleski

I got back to the ski center, 62 miles done, and I totally lost it. I started crying, I was freaking out about heading out for 16 miles in that heat! I don't do well with it and especially with barely any sleep and 62 miles done, I knew it would hit me hard. I did not want to see anyone (family) so I had Jack call home and tell them to stay put. I headed out crying and eating a bagel with cream cheese lol. I got to the 3 mile aid station and saw Jack dropping off water and we chatted a bit. I headed out and slogged the friggin' Leicester Hollow Trail....bug central!!!! My calves started to tighten along this long, flat-ish stretch so I took some salt tabs and ate some salty food. I got to Chandler Ridge Trail, which is the start of the accent up to the top and all of a sudden I felt REALLY BAD....I think my blood sugar was dropping....I was really hot. I was scared of heat exhaustion. I had been alone on these trails for 70 miles at this point but I did not want to be alone feeling like that. I was pretty scared. BUT! All of a sudden, two 888k pacers, Gary Davis and Victoria Petryshyn, came along and gave me quick energy foods, and then my friend, Fran, came along and gave me some cold Campbell Soup (salt!!!!). I sat in the shade and rested and finished up. I had 8 miles to go so I had to buck up and make it out. My calves were so tight! Not muscle overuse pain, but TIGHT! It was hard to walk. Fran's humor helped me slog out those last miles, I dunked my head into the lake along the way, and we made it back to the ski center at around 6pm.

78 miles done.
My calves were so locked...I have no idea how I was walking!
Fran and Mike P! Love those two big guys!
(photo Mark Mccaslin)

I hobble into the ski center and sit down. Many folks kept asking me how I was, did I  need anything, you gotta get back out there, can I help you pack your pack, can I fill your water. I was feeling loved but in my head, I could not see how I was going to walk another marathon. I could not flex my calves! And, it hurt to even touch them. Not muscle soreness, but something different I had never felt before. Beth, a racer and massage therapist, felt my calves and said my soleus on both legs was completely locked. I didn't really know what that meant so I asked and she and two other folks agreed that it was probably due to an electrolyte imbalance of magnesium and potassium. And, if I go on like this, my Achilles could pull out. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!? So, they gave me magnesium pills and I drank my last Starbucks Doubleshot thingy which has a ton of potassium in it. I sat it out a bit to see if they would unlock. It was a few hours before they even started to release. I watched 100 milers finish as well as 88kers. I watched racers feet get worked on. I hung out with many folks in the ski center while a raging thunderstorm hit and witnessed brave racers who went out in it to get there final 16 mile loop. I got to chat with friends with whom I had death raced with in the past. We were all having a good time, addressing our sore bodies and blistered feet and having a beer, and sharing stories of our adventures on our loops of Infinitus. We all had such different experiences!!! I then decided I was done. Mentally, I could go back out there and get one more marathon. But, why would I risk injuring myself? Yes, I worked hard for months. Yes, my brain was still in the game. But, I know my body and there is no way I felt the need to push it. I told Andy to mark me as done and I got my medal. I stayed up until 2am-ish with folks then hobbled out to my tent and got some sleep. I was totally at peace with my decision! I had done 78 friggin' miles!

And, I will try for it again next year!

78 miles done....
(photo by Mark Mccaslin)

What we do seems insane to others. It's just "normal weekend stuff," to quote Jack Cary.
"I was a marathon short of 100 miles." I mentioned to my workplace when I emailed in my work schedule for the week. Two different coworkers responded the same way: "do you realize how strange that sounds to those that don't do what you do? One marathon to us is a big deal and you are out there attempting 4 in 48 hours!!!!" To me, it was a game of numbers. I am goal oriented and my mind was focused on one foot in front of the other and getting back and having the satisfaction of marking my time after each loop on the leader board. Kind of like each time I completed one of the 48 4,000 footer peaks in New Hampshire....coming back home and marking the date in the back of the guidebook next to the peak's name.

What I felt I did right:
  • my training
  • my foot care
  • staying out of the mud and water
  • being alone almost the entire time. I could focus on me and my goal.
What I learned:
  • hot days mean having even more electrolytes than I had. Death Races are different in that you stopped often enough but an ultra of this length, you are moving constantly and your body depletes way faster. I knew this but it was a solid reminder!
  • bring quick energy like the Cliff Baby food things that saved my ass on Chandler Ridge. And a can of Campbell's Soup! Salt! Thanks Fran!
  • I crewed myself, but I think having one person to crew would be super helpful when the hours are ticking....just one person to focus on you when you can't think.
  • I used a Camelback hydration pack that is 15 years old. It works and fits me great! But, I can see how the Nathan packs provide conveniences like having your snacks right there and your iPod. I had to take my pack off each time to get to food. I guess that is not a bad thing because it forces you to stop and rest...and look around at the surroundings! I also carried my iPod on my hip in between my skin and my running shorts since I had no pockets. It got sweaty and annoying sometimes but I worked with it. I had it in my pack but the cord was pissing me off around my neck so I put it on my hip. 
The People:
Again, Andy and Jack attract the most amazing athletes and individuals to their events. I mean, who comes to Vermont in prime bug season and when the seasons are still changing to run for 10 days, 3 days or 2 days!? It friggin' snowed and was so cold the first few days and then it was in the high 80s and humid by the end of the week. I continue to make amazing friendships with like minded folks who come to Vermont from all over this country. I could post a picture of everyone from that race but here are a few!!

Greg Salveson
The only 888k finisher.
Strongest ultra runner I have ever seen.
AND! When I was on my 16 mile night loop, I was able to see him on his last few miles
of his journey!!! How lucky was I!?!?! Big hugs were given out there in the dark!
(photo: Mark Mccaslin)
Here's Greg in race mode. Swear to god he had that smile every time.
Jeff Seymour.
Pretty much one of my favorite people I have met over the past couple years.
He finished that 100 mile in 48 hours strong! Here he is finishing Sunday morning!
Love you, Jeff!! Wicked proud of you!
(photo: Mark Mccaslin)

Courtenay Guertin.
First Place 48 hour with FRIGGIN 169 MILES!!!
I saw him fly through the woods a few times with only one water bottle every time.
He is a machine and such a nice guy. Congrats!!
(photo Mark Mccaslin)

Rebecca Daniels Hansen
419 miles!!!
I don't know a woman as mentally tough as her. She is my idol.
And, Andy teases and torments her more than anyone else at these races!!
And she keeps coming back :)

Here's another one of Rebecca in race mode
with Jack instead of with the clown.
Unless you think Jack is a clown, too :)
(photo by Mark Webb)
Friggin' Billy McKenna.
He rolls up to the race in a used limo he recently bought
wearing this suit. And, he blasts out 141 miles and gets 2nd place
for the 48 hour race. Dude is classic, strong, and gives zero fucks. :)

John Spelko.
69 years old. Blasted 100 miles in 72 hours.
I love John! Super strong!!!! Great job!
(photo Mark Mccaslin)

Canadian dudes! Loved these guys! You were awesome,
Mitchell Wood, Shannon Hulme and Jamie Boyle!

My friend, Mark Webb, tirelessly took care of many, 
many battered feet over three days!
Thank you!
(Photo: Lisa Madden)

My go to items for the 48 hour I participated in:
  • My music.
  • And, Starbucks Doubleshot Energy. Three of them.
  • My music.
  • Oh, and MY MUSIC.  ;)
Items on the trail all in counts of 8s (there are so many more I can't remember!) See some photos below!
  • rubber duckies
  • no smoking signs
  • water guns at the river crossing
  • barbie doll head/torso in jars
  • barbie doll legs
  • mens underwear
  • handcuffs
  • garden gnomes
  • roosters (?)
  • bows used for presents
  • flowers
  • masks on trees
  • oven mits
  • one large freakin clown
  • one large doll
  • numerous signs varying on the #8 from elementary school worksheets (friggin Penguin with the #8 on his fat little belly pissed me off every time I saw it on Chandler Ridge Trail!)
  • Miles- 78
  • Hours- 34 out of 48
  • Elevation change in those 34 hours- ~10,000 feet

Additional photos for archives and laughs!!!

creepy clown and Jordan Wirfs-Brock (888k racer)
at the top of Romance Mountain stretch!
(photo by Jordan's crew, I think)

Jack's creepy barbie dolls
Photo: Ryan Peters

Photo: Ryan Peters

Photo: Ryan Peters

Photo: Ryan Peters

Photo: Ryan Peters

Photo: Ryan Peters

Billy McKenna and Jack and Andy and the clown
that Billy just carried down after his 141 mile and the race ended.
This picture perfectly captures the vibe of the weekend.
I love this tribe of lovable freaks!

Aida made me a sweet congrats poster for when I arrived home Sunday morning!

I grabbed the box of leftover c section abd pads n' stuff from, like, 8 years ago
and doctored my feet for a few days.

The traditional "Andy starting line!"
"It's over here!" as he is spray painting the grass or snow.

They had to say something nice about each other.
Jack and one of his babies. There were 8 of these lit up by night lights on the trail.
He is the creative genius behind all the signs and trail props that kept us
either entertained or pissed off depending on how far along in the
race we were! 

Voodoo doll and the Infinitus course map!

Trail sign

Aida loved this sign and totally got the joke! lol!

Andy was so damn excited about having a cannon "with a really cannon ball!!"
start the 88k race!
(photo Mark Mccaslin)

1am on Sunday morning and we are all up waiting for 100 milers and 88Kers
to come in. Andy was entertaining as he was up past his bed time.
So funny.....I did not want to go to bed but needed it!

I love them for challenging us!
(photo by Sloan Weinberg)

Elevation profile per 26 mile loop
Provided by Greg Salvesen,
the only person to finish the 888k (550) course in 9 days!!!

So there it is! Infinitus 2015 in the books! Already looking forward to signing up for Infinitus 2016!!!