For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

and after (Untamed New England race report)

class III whitewater during the final leg.  Pity i wasn't awake to enjoy it.

The race went well, relatively speaking.  I guess a better way of stating it is that it went well in my opinion.  If you ask the rest of the team they'll probably mention that they were hoping to do better than 9th overall, 8th in our division.  And then they'll add something about how it was the most competitive field in an expedition length AR in the US in probably five years.  True enough.
I bonked on the first day, but recovered.  I suffered from GI issues early on the third day but also recovered.  I slept about three hours over the course of the 80 we were racing.  I flirted with cramping once, but it didn't last.

I made a bad foot choice the first night during a packraft/trek leg.  Thinking that we'd be in the boats except for a short few miles I elected to wear neoprene socks and forgot to bring a regular pair as a back up.  The trek ended up taking about 8 hours and by the time it was over my feet were severely masticated - water swollen skin forming deep creases in the soles of my feet that were incredibly painful.  It felt as though the entire ball of my foot was one massive blister.

Luckily the process seemed to be reversible and I was able to dry my feet out (more or less) over the next leg of the race, bringing the pain to managable levels.  Lesson learned.

What else is there to report?  We paddled and packrafted at an elite level, leading the field through the first stage(packraft-run-paddle).  Our biking, however, was sub par - we just never moved that fast as a team.  Perhaps this was because Jason, normally the team navigator, handed the duties to daniel on the bike.  this presented a problem as daniel is the strongest biker and usually responsible for setting the pace - although he can bike and navigate at the same time (doesn't stop to consult the map), he doesn't approach his normal speed while doing so.

And because this race was pretty short as far as expedition races go, we didn't use the sleep strategy i was familiar with (2-3 hours per night).  the last 36 hours i spent pretty much in a waking dream - a lucid state where the sensory input coming from my external reality seemed less and less likely to shape my consciousness.  It was pretty fascinating and also made the last day or so pretty 'comfortable' in the sense that although my feet were still pretty wrecked i found myself at least partially detached somehow from the sensation.

Of course the sleep deprivation also made it hard to go fast - not because i was muscularly or cardiovascularly fatigued, but simply because i was so sleepy.  I've had little to no soreness following the race (other than bruising - i was hit by a bowling ball sized chunk of rock on my collar bone at the climb site - and chaffing) and i think its because i was unable to push very hard those last couple days.
I was pleased with the team - much more comparable levels of fitness than in some past races (where either i wasn't up to par as in 2010 nationals or i was noticably stronger, at least in some disciplines, than the others, as in 2011 nationals).  Chelsey in particular was insanely strong - if she had low moments she didn't show them and they were brief.  I like my fitness program and think it has alot of strengths and prepares me well for these big endeavors... but whatever she's doing works too.  She was a Dynamo - probably among the three strongest women at the race.

and finally - although our tent cabin was surrounded by lush poison ivy, the course (miraculously) was relatively urishol free.  i escaped with nary a welt from the oil, but many thousands from the swarms of black flies and mosquitos that were, they said, the worst they've ever seen.  So it goes.


My thoughts as i was headed to Untamed New England....

I'm writing this enroute to Portland, Maine to take place in a four day race, Untamed New England Adventure Race.  I'm psyched to be under way but as expected, the last couple of days getting ready were tough psychologically - as the race approaches i always seem to wonder why i'm voluntarily leaving my wife and two wonderful boys to go and endure sleep deprivation and other types of suffering in the middle of the wilderness.   I know the answer - if i decided not to go i'd wake up tomorrow itching for adventure and pain, and be unsettled until something that would provide this pair of experiences was on my schedule.  But just because i know, doesn't keep the emotions from coming.

I'm also excited though and very very keen to go hard.  I've been haunted by dreams of the race during my last three sleeps - with all of the dreams sharing a common characteristic - i end up disappointed and wanting to go faster as a team.  Not sure what these mean, and i'm hesitant to attribute much signifigance to them (my wife thinks i should be more attentive to things like this), but i'm hoping that it is just my way of dealing with the nerves and doubts that inevitably (and probably for good reason) come with the territory when one is about to embark on such a challenge.  

I feel ready, or at least ready enough.  The tough part will be mental.  I know i can most likely physically keep going for the duration - at least at a speed that is acceptable in the context of such a long race.  My biggest fear is really the poison ivy that i hear lurks in the wilds of northern Maine that form the bulk of the course.... i'm deadly allergic to the stuff and every time i get a bad case swear that i will never put myself at such risk of exposure again.  And yet here I am, about to race through it.  I've convinced myself that this time will be different - i've got a poison ivy suit to don every time we need to do serious bushwhacking - a strategy that worked for me when i was planning a race in territory rife with the urishol laden 'leaves of three'.  But even as i'm writing this i wonder at my resolve, and my eternal struggle with delayed gratification.  In the moment, my need for speed - my racing mind - will probably take over.  

We'll see how it goes.  As with all things, time will tell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Secrets of the river rat

Liver, like a little life preserver for rats.... and maybe me too?

I'm a bit superstitious in a very scientific sort of way.  You see, I need my crazy theories to have at least a little bit of documented research behind them - even just some minor study from the middle of last century - before i run with em.  Well that and they can't directly violate any known 'laws' of physics (after all, I am a trained physicist, or was anyway as by now most of the training is long gone - in fact i can't even remember the title of my thesis which was written less than 18 months ago). 

This still leaves alot of mysterious ground that i can happily mine for secrets for how to remain a force to be reckoned with, despite my limited training.  It's a good thing too, because in my experience, most of the ground is pretty barren.

I have found one secret though.  And i've used it enough that i think i'm ready to pass it on.  Now keep in mind that i'm not saying i understand why it works, or even that it actually works at all - but whatever is going on it has, at least to my subjective mind, made a difference in my performance at ultra-endurance related tasks.

Now that i'm thinking about it, i might have mentioned it before.  Maybe it is a sign of my age that i'm no longer able to remember what i've written about.  No matter, i'm penning this post without access to the web (or else maybe i'd check) and so will probably upload it anyway and risk sounding like a broken record.  Besides, many of the dozen or so people who might actually read this entry might not have  been in on it the first time i spilled the beans.... so here goes.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


note - i wrote this prior to my latest effort but am posting after as i wasn't able to find a suitable internet connection during my travels.  The race is over.  My team placed 8th in the premiere division and was the 9th of 10 teams overall that finished the full course. We raced for about 80 hours on (for me anyway) about 3 hours of sleep.  Report coming soon.
I'm heading out on monday to Portland Maine to take place in the untamed New England adventure race - a four day odyssey through remote wilderness regions.  This race will be the biggest and most competitive event i've attended since my initiation into expedition length AR back in 2006 when i took on Primal Quest.  50 teams - 200 racers - will be vying for top spot, among them a bevy of international teams including the reigning world champions, team Thule from Switzerland - one of the only fully professional AR teams out there. 

The race course looks grueling.  I was pretty worked after my extra long bike ride last night (clocking in somewhere over 90 minutes).  After a similar effort on wednesday (when the race begins) i'll have completed roughly 2% of the course.  But honestly, i'm not too worried.

Maybe i should be.  Maybe it makes no sense for me to be confident - to believe that i can keep up with and be a contribuiting member of a team that is aiming to be one of the 20% or less of teams that typically complete the full course, if not , if not on the podium itself. But in my experience, attitude (which stems from confidence, about which i've written extensively) is important. 

Thinking back, i've always had a bit of attitude.  As a teenager, even though i was pretty much a wall-flower in most social situation, i'd talk a mean game of smack when playing raquetball with my brother.  Today my attitude involves less smack talk but plenty of smack-think, at least until i start racing.  Starting a race not thinking you have what it takes to do well just seems a bad idea, regardless of where your training has you, physically speaking.

And then once you start?  just let it go, focus on the task, and accept whatever happens.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tea Time

Robert Treuer in the Red.  Photo courtesy of Grand Forks Herald.
I did my first swim in the red river of the north last monday.  I figured since i'm putting on a race that has a few hardcore individuals flying in from all around the country that takes in 27 miles of the waterway i better have damn well been in it at least once.  Truth be told, i do tentatively plan to try the full 27 miles the week before the race - not so much to vet the course but rather to placate my own need to know if i can.

but getting back to this first swim - it was fantastic.  Robert Treuer, co race director is going to swim the event on the day of and has been training in the river for months (with  a wetsuit however), logging regular 7+ mile swims along its length.  My wetsuits are all too small for me now that my legs have become slightly more muscular from the 'big upper body but chicken legs' days when i bought them, but monday was nice and warm and i was only going to be swimming for about 30 minutes so i thought i could manage without.

It was fantastic to be in open water again.  it's crazy to think that people swim in pools when there are other options.  Imagine running 5 miles by going back and forth on a single block... even though i have swam competitively and spent my time staring at the black line i can't really fathom going back - this is one reason why i confined my winter swimming to 15 minute sessions. But in that river - slicing through that water that reminded me of good old unsweetened iced tea - man i felt like i just wanted to swim forever.  which is a good thing  i think, because if i'm to manage those 27 miles in five weeks time, it might take me pretty near that long....