MisAdventure Racing

Bonnie Moebeck

Bonnie Moebeck


  • More Than Just A Race

    Gaggle

    Gaggle

     

    So I’m sitting here drinking my coffee and thinking, “That was the toughest race I’ve ever done. I can’t believe I actually did it! I need to start working longer hours again. I won’t have time to train, especially for a race like that.  I have my buckle and I finished under 12 hours. That’s all I wanted. Isn’t it?…”

    But then I pause and ask myself what I came away from my experience with, and without hesitation, I know the answer. Not just a cool buckle, or a finish time under 12 hours. I came away with more. Much more than I ever expected. I met authentic people with like passions from all walks of life out in those glorious mountains, and I connected with them. I made friends, and together we made memories; memories that not only fill my mind but ones that fill my heart. When I experience moments with others that peak my senses, experiences such as taking on a never ending climb and coming upon breathtaking views of majestic mountains that surround spectacular lakes like a jeweled crown; breathing in the aroma of invigorating pine forests with sage brush flooring; wildlife roaming the fields, pausing to observe us, just as we stop and momentarily stand in awe of them, I can’t just walk away mentally or emotionally. I can’t just forget. Those memories are a very important piece of my experience. They are a part of who I now am.

    It’s crazy how you can go about your daily life, surrounded by strangers and not even say much more than a polite hello. You go through your routine and forget the people in your peripheral. But then one day you’re put into a situation with complete strangers with mutual goals, like struggles, and similar passion, and the world around you lights up. Suddenly you see people. You look them straight in the eye. And just like that you’re in a gaggle- a group of strangers that suddenly became friends that now have each other’s back.Gaggle 3

    I had the awesome privilege of becoming part of a gaggle in Leadville this year. There wasn’t any hesitation to the instant friendships and mutual support that evolved nearly overnight. It started with the group rides. Everyday our leader, Art Fleming, also know as the Curmudgeon (uttered in total respect), would gather us like baby chicks and bring us out to the pasture to train, sharing wisdom and insight to us newbies and veterans alike. We would ride off like a speckled herd, donning our various bikes and kits, chattering away with Finished!excitement. The Curmudgeon would flank us from the front, letting us know which way to turn, then follow us from behind so no one got lost or left back. The veterans in the group would share their experiences and offer words of encouragement and hope. Never once did I feel left out or alone, even when the group would quiet down as the miles ticked away. If anyone was in need of water or food, a tire went flat or a chain needed adjusting, every hand was stretched out to help, and every resource was offered without hesitation.  It was amazing beyond words.

    When race day came, our gaggle was spread out amongst the large, hungry group of racers, set in eager anticipation of the great day ahead. I looked around earnestly and spotted a few in the throng. We nodded and smiled at each other, encouraging and cheering each other just by the look on our faces. We could read them clearly by then. This was what we trained for. This was our big day. The gun shot off and our focus turned razor sharp as we lurched towards the mountains. Our minds went through continual gear checks, nutrition checks, and pace and cadence reminders. Though the hours ticked by with great determination and effort, the race was over before we knew it.

    Crossing the Finish line!

    I quickly dismounted once I crossed the finish line and scanned the crowd for members of my gaggle. I wanted so much to see each and every one of them finish. Most had finished before me and several were still behind. My heart weld up in joyous celebration as I caught sight of some who had already ridden down the red carpet and were headed off with their families, hugs and smiles being shared between them. I leaned my bike up against a nearby fence and squeezed in among the spectators, watching in eager anticipation of those who would soon come home. Watching them complete the race was a feeling I’ll never forget. It was like watching a family member finish, a joy that comes from the heart.

    Reluctantly, I eventually pushed back from the barrier that lined the finish shoot and walked my bike to the street. I was cold, dusty and my stomach hurt from the strain I put on it from hours of racing and the nutrition that wasn’t quite perfected. My lungs were letting me know it was time to go, to get out of the wind. I biked to my rental house slowly, melancholy seeping in like a somber chill. My race family was going home, each to their own state and town, most too far away to see again. I suddenly felt alone.

    At the awards ceremony in the high school gym, half of our gaggle was haphazardly seated as close as we could get, considering the crowds of families and tired racers. We exchanged proud congratulatories and hearty hugs for a job well done. Slowly the crowds seeped out of the building, as buckles and necklaces were handed out. As I headed towards the back stairs, I glanced around at the scattered assembly, no longer finding a familiar face. Our adventure was coming to an end.

    It’s funny how you think you know what you’ll do next, what you’ll feel when the race is done, and then suddenly you find that you don’t feel that way at all. It’s sort of an eloquent surprise. It tells me that there’s more to come, that it wasn’t the whole book but rather a chapter that points to the next page. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

    Most of my gaggle is now connected via social media and the small pain in my heart from our dispersing is slightly eased by reading their journeys home and seeing all of their pictures. I laugh at their jokes and can hear their voices in what they write, almost as if they’re with me today.

    I haven’t ridden my bike yet but I know in the next few days I will get the chance to dust off my shoes and go for a spin. As I do, memories will flood my mind, forcing a smile across my face as I wonder who I will see again next year.

    Buckle Time!

     

    Hardware


  • 2014 Leadville Recap

    It was 9:00am on the dot and we weren’t waiting for anyone else to show up. Our ride leader, Art Fleming, pointed behind us and up a hill. “Let’s go that way,” he said, abruptly. Doc and I turned our bikes and pointed them east, falling in line behind Art. The morning was crisp and clear, not at all like I had hoped it would be. I was praying for an unprecedented torrential downpour with a full band of thunder and lightning. Maybe even some hail. If it was near-monsoon, maybe the mountain bike ride would be called off. I was so nervous about the group ride that Art had even looked me square in the eyes earlier that morning and told me to take a deep breath and calm down. We were just riding bikes, after all. 10552374_10203511639925886_316910409308718117_n (2)

     

     

    Leadville, Colorado is breathtaking. Glorious mountains surround it like outstretched arms waiting to embrace all who come into their fold. The hiking alone draws adventurists from around the world, eager to take on the infamous 14’ers. In the heat of the summer, snow can still be seen sitting like small handkerchiefs on top of a few majestic peaks. Beautiful, clear lakes lay in the laps of the mountains, ready for fishermen and boaters to come and partake of their eloquence. Sensory stimulation is something I never take for granted and Leadville is never in short supply.

    Two years ago I took on the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race with my husband, the poor man. We got cut at Twin Lakes outbound, about 40 miles into the race. Basically, we had ridden the easy parts, if you can call anything on that course easy. When the volunteers cut off our wrist bands I cried. After getting away from the crowd I saw that my husband was also crying, though not for the same reason. He was ecstatic that the grueling grind of agony was over. We hung our heads and pedaled back to Leadville. 20140714_125118

    We both unanimously stated we would never race Leadville again. Apparently my husband is man of his word and I am a filthy liar because when the time came for the lottery to open up, my heart pounded in excitement. I tried to think of a way to bring it up without causing my husband to jump in the car and drive away at a high rate of speed or break out in a fit of nervous hives. And I secretly wanted to race alone. It was tough racing as a team. We are built totally different inside and out. I was a better climber and he was a better descender. I love chocolate and he likes fish. Those things never work out and I can’t ride under those conditions. I squirmed in my chair and then decided humor was the best approach. “Ha ha! Can you believe it? The Leadville lottery is open. What a crazy race!” He looked at me for only a brief moment then went back to his book. Strike one.  I paused, knowing he would forget everything I just said and went it for a second swing. “Ha ha! Would you ever consider trying it again?” “No.” he said flatly.  Ok, things were looking up now. I’d call that a foul ball, not a strike. I waited a few more minutes. Steady girl, let the heat of the moment pass.

    Racing towards St. Kevins
    Racing towards St. Kevins

    “Would you care if I entered it? I mean, I totally wouldn’t do it if you didn’t want me to! Ha ha!”  Boom! The bomb was dropped. I braced for impact, quickly slipping on my sunglasses so my retinas would burn in the heat of the blast. He looked me in the eyes and said, “That was the craziest race in the world. I never want to ride my bike again because of that race. If you want to do it, that’s your problem, but I am not doing it with you!”  The hallelujah

    chorus flooded out everything else after that. I raced upstairs and grabbed my wallet, punching my information into the registration before he could even look back down at his book. I don’t think I slept for a week.  And then I injured my knee.  I tried everything I could to heal it. I had never had a knee injury in my life. I R.I.C.E.’d so much I felt like I had moved to China. I went to a chiropractor, a surgeon, a witch doctor; I had an x-ray, an MRI, acupuncture, massages. Nothing worked, nothing helped and it only seemed to get worse. I took nearly 11 months off of training and finally decided that the horse was going to race even if she was lame. I hired a coach and asked him to get me ready for Leadville. By that time, the lottery for 2014 had opened up and I had just as quickly thrown my name into the hat as the last time. No more waiting for a miracle to happen.

    My coach is an evil man and he likes Crossfit, which makes him crazy as well, but he came highly recommended by a good friend whom I now secretly hate. Instead of biking (which caused knee pain) he had me start lightly with Crossfit and very easy running. I kicked, screamed and took pictures but went along with his plan. After about a month I pulled him aside, “Coach, don’t you think I should be riding my bike, seeing I’m doing a bike race?” “Back to work!” he shouted.  He’s not very good with words.

    Finally, the day we had all been waiting for came. The lottery announcement. I refreshed my email so many times that I nearly got a blister on my finger. Apparently, the auto refresh set at 60 seconds just wasn’t good enough. And then it arrived. The email of all emails. I was so elated that I picked up our cat high into the air, yelled, “I’m in!!” and promptly threw out my back and strained my neck.

    After a 2 week hiatus, I started back to training. This time, my coach had me get on the bike. It was winter so I sat on the trainer, ready to go. My knee hurt a ton so we made every adjustment we could to find the place that the pain was tolerable. I kept going to the masseuse (also a maniac) and iced like mad. A few months passed and I got out on the road. I found that my knee was getting better, though far from perfect, and we increased time and intensity. And then finally, after conquering every 300 foot climb that Minnesota has to offer, it was time to pack up my car and head to Colorado.

    Crazy People Think Alike

    Crazy People Think Alike

    Instead of riding the 100 trail, Art took us on a beautiful, easy ride. Neither Doc nor I had been in Leadville very long so the drastic change in altitude needed some adjusting to. We ended up riding on some remote gravel roads, seeing an old hunting cabin, bombing down through some trees and having a great time. 

    Between arriving in Leadville and actually doing the race, I had one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I met incredible riders who turned into wonderful friends, saw more beauty then I could possible relay on paper, and formed bonds with people around the country that I sincerely hope will last a lifetime. Simply glorious. There is a separate write-up dedicated entirely to that aspect of my experience on a separate tab above on my blog called ’2014 Leadville Mtn Bike Race”. Read it if you can.

    The Leadville 100 is known for its tough climbs and high elevation so if that’s your thing, this is your race. The grade on the first climb alone tops out at 28%, depending upon who’s bike computer you’re looking at. Mine actually said 31% but I’m erring on the side of caution here.

    I rented a house four blocks from the starting line for the week leading up to the race. This gave me a chance to get settled, have some quiet time and easily ride to the start.

    In 2012 I had not been able to clean the first climb in the race (St. Kevins) but while riding with Art’s group, I was able to clean it every time. At the top, I had to let my heart attack subside before pressing on, but I made it none the less. That was a definite boost to my confidence.  One of the issues riders face in the race is that the first climb is so congested that if one rider gets off his or her bike to walk it can have a domino affect, causing the riders behind to also dismount. The race is long and not lost if a rider is forced to walk a portion of St. Kevins, but the desire is to clean it if at all possible. Thankfully, I was placed in the middle corral. The riders in the middle corral are typically stronger and faster. Even though we had two or three riders dismount, and a few people cause issues by trying to pass on a tight squeeze, the rest of our pack cleaned Kevins during the race. I was thrilled.

    After coming down the back side of St. Kevins, we hit a fast downhill called Carter’s Summit. I rode this going around 31mph, taking on nutrition and liquids as I descended. I won’t include every section of the course in my write up, but will add the major ones. The Sugarloaf climb came next and it’s one of my favorite climbs. Usually I have to use my inhaler before every climb to help bring my breathing under control but because the grade is hardly ever greater than 6%, I was okay. The view is spectacular as Turquoise Lake can be clearly seen below, along with the always beautiful forestry. I love this climb. Except where it leads. Sugarloaf takes you right up to the back of the infamous Powerline descent, and that’s a nasty one. By the time you start descending Powerline, you’re riding with people that you will most likely see for the rest of the race.

    Powerline is chuck full of everything you’d ever want in your worst nightmare. At least, for me it is. Fast descents, a few very steep climbs, rocks, some sand shoulders, deep ruts, grooves, salespeople, hidden grooves that will send you over your bars if you’re not back on your seat and, of course, the massive descent. I screamed the first few times Art took us down Powerline for practice. I thought for sure I was going to die. But, as we continued to practice, I learned that my bike can roll over more things than I ever thought possible, which was good because my vision isn’t that great and I can’t really see objects until they are nearly right under my wheels. I also learned that I am a great descender and I have a knack for picking good lines. On race day, I went down Powerline with virtually no fear (though lots of respect) and no problems, other than losing my emergency Snickers bar. Hopefully some hungry soul picked it up and had a good snack.

     

    Off the bottom of Powerline, we passed by the fish hatchery and then took road surface to the Pipeline aid station. For some reason, I had a burst of energy and found myself pulling a line of about 14 riders. I felt great. I then pulled off to drop to the back for a rest and instantly hit an energy low and got dropped. I tried to keep a bazu-3117203steady pace and conserve some energy as it was going to be a nice, long day.

    I hit the Pipeline aid station and since I didn’t need anything, I kept going, down Little Stinker (a very soft, steep descent) and then down the single track. If you’re really afraid of heights like I am, I highly recommend practicing this portion of the race as there were moments that I felt like my tires were being pulled out from underneath me. I went on to the Twin Lakes aid station. This was where my husband and I had been cut in 2012. I approached it, bracing for the worst. The bike computer I had did not account for stops and so I wasn’t entirely sure how much time I had. I was not far back from a few riders whom I knew had buckled previously so I was hoping for the best. I made the cut off by over a half hour. I switched backpacks with my crew and took off for the massive climb up Columbine, smiling and thinking in my head, “I did it! I made the cut off!” That was one of only about 4 thoughts I had all day. I was thrilled!

    Columbine is a long, steep climb. I had prepared myself mentally to take it slow and consistent. One of the riders I had met in the group rides, Robert Tuma, ended up right beside me. Ironically, he also lives near me in Minnesota but I had never met him until the group rides in Colorado. I was grateful for his company and familiar face. Robert has buckled before so he put us on pace to make good time without going too hard, in order to conserve as much energy as possible for the second half of the race. We averaged somewhere around 3.4 mph for nearly two and a half hours of straight climbing, until we reached the A frame and started to walk the tougher sections with a line of riders as far as the eye could see. The pro’s were coming down fast and furious, which helped keep my mind off the grind at least for a few seconds. Ken Chlouber, the race founder, was sitting on a 4×4 watching us from the side of the dirt road.  He looked at me for a few moments then said, “You are my daughter, my sister; you are all my family. My sister, and my brothers. Don’t give up. Don’t quit on me!” I promised him I wouldn’t and pushed on.  For me, the toughest part of the race was the hike-a-bike portions. I was very surprised how weak I was at pushing my bike up hill and because of this, several riders passed me. I felt drained and my legs were like big, heavy weights, but I eventually made it to the top and through the turn-around. I like to descend fast but there were so many walkers, and space was limited, so I used my rear brake quite a lot. As I was descending, I came to the same place that I had promised Ken I would not give up and he was still sitting on his 4×4. As I rode past him I said I had kept my promise and I would keep it until the very end. He said something in reply but I couldn’t hear him. I wasn’t about to slow down and find out. The course was very dusty and a controlled descent was better than a crash so I held back a bit and made it safely back to Twin Lakes, not far behind the other riders I had begun to recognize. My stomach was killing me and nothing I ate or avoided seemed to help so I kept forcing myself to take in liquids and fig newtons, the least offensive option.

    As I stopped at Twin Lakes in order to switch my backpack for a fresh supply of liquids, my crew said I was doing well and had made another cut off. My second real thought of the day was, “I’m actually doing this!” After the slight rest for my legs from descending and the good news, I pushed off with a big smile on my face and headed towards Pipeline inbound. The single track wasn’t too tough and I walked up Little Stinker, along with every other rider. We were getting tired. I stopped at Pipeline briefly to switch my backpack again because for some reason it was exceptionally heavy and the one I had taken up Columbine was about half the weight.

    Climbing Powerline can be described in one word: Nasty. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer. There are a few riders that can clean it but I didn’t see any. Our pack walked, grunted, pushed, groaned and clawed our way to the top. There were few sections worth riding. It was grueling. It seemed to go on forever. I kept my mind clear of all thoughts and just kept pushing, biking, pushing and biking. The ride down Sugarloaf refreshed me and gave my legs a little break and then I was off to climb Carter Summit, the fast road descent I had come down much earlier in the day.

    I was a little nervous about climbing Carter because I knew I was now operating on virtually dead legs. I tried to keep my mind clear and just spin. I was hoping to ascend at close to 5mph but my average hovered around 4mph. Thankful to reach the top, I began to climb the backside of St. Kevins. There are some pretty rocky spots but not a ton of climbing and when I crested it I felt a huge wave of relief. I asked another rider what time it was and how much time we had left. He was a bit delirious and couldn’t seem to tell me so I passed him and started giving it some gas.

    I descended St. Kevins as quickly as I could and was beginning to feel anxious about the time. I still had another 10 miles or so to go and wanted to know how close I was cutting it. Finally I found someone with a bike computer and he said he wasn’t sure exactly how much time we had as his Garmin did not register stops either but he thought it was going to be close. My third thought for the day was, “No way! I’m not going to miss that cut off, if there’s anything I can do about it!” and I took off nearly as fast as I could. I passed riders and got my momentum up on the flat dirt, hitting 24mph. I hit the pavement and kept riding strong, pulling a small pace line behind me. We hit a section that according to rumor has been renamed ‘Bonnie’s Dirt Road’ because for some reason, I can ride it very fast. And I did. I rode as fast as I could until I was blocked by riders in front of me.

    The last true section of the course is called The Boulevard. It starts with a rocky portion and then turns into gravel dirt road for just short of 3 miles. It’s not at a very steep incline but for some reason it seems to take the wind out of your sails. I kept my head down and my legs spinning and only got passed by one rider. After a steep, hard left and then a right onto the street, I was faced with Misery Hill, a short climb that seems to take what little you have left and run away with it. Once you make this climb, you can see the finish line below. It’s a short descent with a bit of an incline at the end. Once I saw that red carpet I asked a rider how much time we had.

    Just over a half an hour to go about a quarter of a mile. That last little descent on the road toward the red carpet is referred to as Cry Baby Hill because everyone is so happy to see that finish line in sight. My last thought of the day was “I actually did it! I made it!” I was so happy. I didn’t feel like crying; it was more like a feeling of ‘Mission complete’, a very satisfying feeling. I gave high fives to several little kids and adults that had formed a line for riders to pass through and then hit the red carpet happy, tired, thankful to my family and friends for their support and thankful to God for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to complete such an amazing race.  Official finish time: 11:31:00.

    Crossing the Finish line!

    Crossing the Finish line!

     


  • 10 Hrs of Burritos & Triathlon

    Burrito Union 10 Hour Team Triathlon

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    The weekend kicked off nicely on Friday afternoon with my two Burrito Union 10 Hour Triathlon team mates, Nancy and Matt, coming over to my house to add my bike, camping & triathlon bags to the huge pile in the back of the truck. It was a beautiful day and we were off on a 3 hour drive to beautiful Superior Park in Wisconsin for the triathlon time of our lives. The Burrito Union is a unique event in that it does not consist of a single race. It is a continually revolving sprint distance triathlon that repeats as many times as the racers can fit into the 10 hour period or for those whom prefer to enjoy the cookout celebration atmosphere after a good race, as few as one triathlon.*Duly noted that one triathlon is a lot of work!

    The Google directions were a bit off but after 3 u-turns and taking note of a few marks on the road that read “Bike Turn Around” and “Race in Progress” signs, we finally figured out that the park was at the top of a hill. Though it was rapidly getting dark, I began to get a bit concerned and expressed to my team mates that the hill was significantly long. Extremely long. And, according to the road markings, absolutely a part of the bike portion of the race. Nancy, a marathon runner and our team mate for all of the 7 triathlons we hoped to complete the next day, laughed it off and said, “It’s not that big!”  My instincts knew better. Matt was shuffling around in the back seat and laughed with just a touch of nervousness in his manly voice…

    We arrived at our destination and begun to pitch our tent. Matt and Nancy are both big fans of camping and Nancy along with her husband have all of the elite toys to camp with. Matt had assured us his gear was more than sufficient and thus Nancy relinquished to not bringing her tent and assessors. I was just thankful someone had some of whatever we needed for camping and hoped I wouldn’t get bit by anything poisonous or dragged into the woods and fed to some sort of creature’s babies.

    We unloaded the truck, chained the bikes to a tree and began to spread out Matt’s “It sleeps 4 adults comfortably with tons of room to spare!” tent.  I asked if he occasionally used this “giant tent” as a dolly for a small nightstand or perhaps a large dinner napkin….  This “giant” tent could have been pitched inside my car and had room.  Nancy went into a laughing rampage of comparisons of Matt’s idea of living high on the bonfire log to her and husbands version. Their tent apparently even comes with a screened front porch.  Nancy and I jammed our stuff into the little tent and immediately are extremely thankful that Nancy has secretly brought along a foam mattress. The ground is basically small sharp rocks and mud. We had to use a huge rock just to get the stakes into the ground. Matt pulls out his “Sleeps 2 adults comfortably” tent and I tease him that his mummy bag sleeping bag won’t even fit.

    At the orientation we get to take our first look at the race directors and the rest of the racers. Everyone looks excited and ready for fun.  We head back to our campsite and hit the sack. Some people have bon fires going but most of us want to get up at 5am feeling a bit energetic. A woman and her two teenage daughters are a few campsites down from us. This woman has a voice that you simply cannot block out no matter how much you try to stuff your pillow into your ears. Matt said he immediately threw on his ear phones. For nearly 3 more hours, Nancy and I have to listen to these 3 screeching at the top of their lungs, laughing about things that make no sense and occasionally hearing them crashing through the woods. I start considering sneaking up on them and scaring them half to death but hope that someone will drive their truck at a high rate of speed through their camp site instead as a quick, easy solution.

    5am. Time to rise and shine! Ah, the joys of camping. My neck is partially frozen and I know exactly where the rocks were under my foam pad. Just take a look at my back…  I splash cold water on my face and don’t even brush my hair, after all, I will be jumping in a lake in less than 2 hours.

    We head to transition and it is announced that we can bring a tent over to set up an area for our racers to rest between legs etc. Cool! We bring Matt’s tiny pup tent and set it up. It was like a flea amongst giant animals. The tents that started going up looked like small outdoor stores. We actually walked over to one to check out the merchandise when we realized that these were people’s tents for transition. Wow! They were up to 10 feet tall and some resembled small buildings compared to our 3 foot high tent that seemed to be shrinking.

    I put on my wetsuit and headed down to the water to see how warm “72 degrees” was feeling that day. I stopped dead in my tracks not even a foot out as my toes actually felt like they were numbing up. 72 degrees my frozen behind! The temperature was far lower than anything resembling “Not too bad!”. The race director came down, stuck his index finger in and literally said, “72 degrees! Cool!” and laughed as he walked away. Oh, Lord.  Later I heard that he said he never measures it. “When it’s that cold so why bother?….” Gadzooks….

    Triathlon 1: All team members on the first leg came to the shore line so I placed myself square in the front near the middle in line with the first buoy. Some tough looking young lady next to me with a tattoo I would swear read, “MOM” on it said, “I would never wear one of those wussy wet suits!” I looked at the guy on my right whom had also been in the water with me and we just smiled at each other. Suddenly the gun went off and we went hammering into the arctic ocean. I have never, ever heard so much cussing in all my life. I literally was laughing as I plunged into the ice water and overheard the young woman saying, “What the (explicit)!!”

    It was so cold I wasn’t breathing for oxygen. I was gasping for survival.  Everyone swam as fast as they could just to get out of the dang water. I got hit in the back from both sides, hit in the hamstring, the feet. You name it. It was like a boxing match out there but all I could think of was surviving hypothermia.  My legs started feeling like ice blocks and my face was frozen in some sort of distorted swimmers expression. Finally I swam to the outer right parameter as we followed the swim course to the left. I needed to get away from the pack and the punches. 2 people smoked the swim with a solid 10 second gap behind the first set of swimmers to emerge, of which I was proud to be a part of. I sprinted like a cat on fire up to tag off Matt as he waited on his bike.

    The race directors had brought in a hot tub on the bed of a truck and I immediately climbed up and sat down, rubbing my toes until the blood returned. I looked at the bottom of my feet and noticed some discoloration. Part of the path was covered in large gravel rocks. The race directors had warned us this would be a problem and to walk gingerly over them. I didn’t feel a thing as I hammered across it like a 100 yard dash to life support, determined to put a strong hold in our position. This was going to hurt later but adrenaline was telling me, “So, who cares! Let’s take this race by storm! We can deal with crutches later!”

    Matt did a stealer job on the bike but as he tagged off to Nancy and she headed off on the run I could tell he had some bad news. Some very bad news. He was pale and sweating profusely and this was only the first triathlon. Finally he said between gasps, “You know that hill we drove up on the way in last night? You were right! That thing is a lot longer than it looked!”  The hill turned out to be 2.8 miles long. A monster! And I had to bike next. Oh, Lord….

    Triathlon 2: Matt prepared for the swim and I ran down to the water ahead of him to savor the look on his face as he would feel the water for the very first time. He literally stopped dead in his tracks, started laughing like a frightened man would do and finally plunged in. I think it took about 1/2 hour for his face to thaw out later so he could speak. He said his right leg had totally frozen up and he was just dragging it lifelessly behind his body.

    As he tagged off to me I rounded the corner and got my first good look at that hill I knew I had to come back up to finish the bike leg. Let’s just say that I hit 34mph on my bike with very little effort in no time flat. 3 miles later I finally started pedaling with all I had. I rounded the turn point and headed back, a small knot forming in my gut because you could see this dang hill from 7 miles away. It was that high.

    As I came up the last 1/4 mile of the hill I needed to hit my chains as easy as they would go. I switched into a gear I almost never use because it is the “easiest” gear, i.e. for the hardest hills. And then my chain fell off and locked right in between the ring and the bike frame. Luckily I got unclipped in time to jump off instead of falling over. I picked up the bike with one hand and tried and tried to tug the chain free, very conscious of every minute ticking by. Finally I layed the bike down and yanked it out with both hands, got it back on and then got on my bike. Trying to mount a bike on a hill out of breath can be very challenging. I’m glad no one was video taping….

    I tagged off Nancy again for the run and Matt said my time was good. I had only lost just over 4 minutes from the chain and was 2 minutes behind his bike time without that. Cool!

    I went over and picked up my wetsuit. At 9am the water certainly had not dripped out and putting that and my bathing suit back on was quite a treat. I will never “Swim with the Polar Bears” as long as I live.

    Triathlon 3: My second swim kicked off our 3rd triathlon for the day and the water wasn’t getting any warmer. It was nice to not be swimming with a zillion boxers since the racing was thinning out the pack and spreading us thin across the race. I did manage to only have my swim cap partially covering my ears which is never a good idea for me. Basically what happens is water gets into your ears and sort of gets trapped. I like my cap above my ears so I don’t have to deal with the hearing issues of water plunging into my ears and gurgling around. I finished the swim and tagged off Matt.

    Triathlon 4: We reached our 4th triathlon and I once again started the bike portion. I gave it my all, recovering the 4 minutes I lost from my previous bike. The team placings were updated every hour and we were literally going neck and neck with 3 teams, fighting for 3rd, 4th and 5th place. We were in 5th but literally 38 seconds behind. After I hit the bike, we were positioned into 4th place and excited.

    Triathlon 5:    This is were who’s got guts really shows itself. We gave each other a pep talk as we handed off and kept hammering. As Nancy tagged me I knew I could gain some lead by running fast to the water, swimming and sprinting hard coming out, up the slope, around the building and down to the furthest point allowed for the bike tag. We had situated Matt as far away as possible because I knew I could sprint hard and that way he wouldn’t have to run with his bike at his side to the bike mount area. He was supposed to be always waiting for me already clipped in with one foot and ready to just shove off and hit it.  (Only once did I actually sprint and literally pass him to the tag off….)  Nancy came through the balloons and tagged me for the start of the 5th triathlon. I hit it running as fast as I could. Well, the grassy slope had pretty much become a slip-n-slid and I rounded the corner at mach speed. Next thing I knew I was going down and somehow managed a one handed push up position exactly like a right side plank. I performed this magic act right in front of the race director whom I heard gasp loudly. I flew up in a run and shouted, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” and plunged into the arctic ocean again.   Matt had a tougher time on the bike and lost some momentum and Nancy’s legs were started to freeze up a bit. We slipped into 5th place again, literally seconds behind.

    While each of us were racing the other two would stretch,swap notes, encourage each other, rest with our feet up against a tree and try to sip water etc. We knew we had to hold our times so we decided we could. Give it all we got! Go! No regrets!

    Triathlon 6 and I get the dang bike again. 3rd time to face that stupid hill. I had tried talking Matt into it but he refused.  Down the hill I went, hitting my top speed of 39 miles an hour. I held 23mph for over 3 miles and held 20mph to the turn around point. My legs and hips were on

    fire

    !  After the turn around I held 20mph for a few miles then 18mph. I hit the hill and slipped to 16mph slowing as I hit the top 1/4. I had been mentally trying to identify muscles within my body that were not burning from lactic acid to use and was pretty much just down to my teeth and hair.

    I tagged off Nancy and she smiled and said, “We just took over 3rd place!” 

    Matt and I stretched each others legs. At this point all shyness had evaporated and we were pretty much family. I massaged his lactic acid filled thighs and he massaged mine.

    Triathlon 7  You snooze, you loose. We knew we could not over take 2nd or 1st place because those people were pros pretending to be layed back. At least that’s our excuse and everyone else’s. Both teams were an entire triathlon ahead of us and we had been racing the entire time! Wow.
    This is where the major rain storm hit. I’m surprised it wasn’t on the news. It poured so hard that you couldn’t see more than 100 feet. I had just swam with all the dwindling energy I could muster and tagged off Matt on his 4th bike. We were all still determined to keep going and do an 8th Triathlon to keep our 3rd place finish. If there were no mistakes, Nancy would make it back from her run with 3 minutes to spare to tag me off so I could hit the water. At 5:30pm they shut down any additional triathlons so your runner had to be through the balloons by 5:29pm and 59 seconds, tagging off your swimmer so you could do one last tri.  At 5:27pm and 49 seconds I spotted Nancy coming around the bend. We were going to make it!  She crossed through the balloons and I hit the deck running hard. I slammed into the water and took off. Secretly during the rain storm I had gotten stuck next to the grill under the big tent. It was packed and I had to stand there taking in the scent of cooking creatine for nearly 30 minutes waiting for Matt to finish the bike.  I hadn’t eaten any real food all day and I started salivating. The next thing I knew I heard myself say, “Do you have any hamburgers?” and the next thing I knew I was stuffing one into my mouth. So, when I saw Nancy rounding the bend to tag me off, I suddenly realized my stomach was gurgling in protest and I began to burp. This was going to be a tough swim.

    Triathlon 8: I was the last racer into the water. I was determined to keep the burger down until I tagged off Matt. It got a bit dodgy a couple of times but I came flying out of the water with all I had. As I was running up the grassy slopes I heard a familiar voice calling my name. I looked over and there were Matt and Nancy sitting on a park bench laughing their butts off!
    I looked around and shouted, “What are you doing! Get on the bike!” Matt finally explained that they had asked the director what place we were in. 3rd. Whether we went for our 8th triathlon or not because the teams under us hadn’t made the cut off. So, they sat on the bench laughing and watching as I swam and gurgled around the lake for 600 meters as fast as I could.

    We were honored to have taken 3rd place. And at the award ceremony we were again honored as one of the top 13 teams out of 52 that beat one of the race director’s team.

    Our stuff was completely soaked and I literally had no dry shoes or things to wear so we decided to pack up our stuck and head home. We were all wired so making the drive was not going to be a problem.

    We decided to check the distance of the hill using the odometer and confirmed that the hill was in fact 2.8 miles that we had biked up and down all day.  As we were driving we passed a backpacker on a highway. He was stopped and just looked at us, obviously hard core and knew what he was doing. Next thing you know, he starts signaling us with his head lamp. I asked Nancy if she wanted to stop and she said no. I started to get a very uneasy feeling. I told her and Matt that normally I would never advise that someone stop for someone but I had a feeling we should. They both refused and it felt like Nancy gunned her foot on the gas to put in distance. We were going 65mph. The next thing we knew the truck made a horrible sound and felt like we had just blown a tire. Nancy pulled to the side of the highway and I jumped out and started checking the passenger side tires. Right then there was what sounded like a fire cracker exploding and a bright flash from the back of the truck. I ran past Matt as he tried to climb out the back door and gasped in horror. Matt and Nancy came around and also gasped. The bike rack had not been properly secured and the pin had worked itself out. The bike rack arm had crashed down and we had been dragging the bikes before we pulled over. The noise and flash was the heat and pressure on the forks on my bike. It had literally exploded and broke in half. Worse yet, this was not my bike. This was Mike’s bike. The cool friend that loaned me the bike for the past month and a half and that had been letting me race on his new bike. He had ridden it barely 4 times….

    We finally pried the bikes apart and found that Mike’s bike frame was busted in half in the middle as well as on the forks. It was totaled. Matt’s bike had severe damage but had been essentially laying on top of Mike’s as Mike’s drug along the highway.

    Every triathletes worse nightmare. Give me an injury and I can recover. Put me down for surgery and I’ll be strategizing how I’m going to make my come back. Break my bike and I will cry for months but will get a new bike. I destroy a fellow friend and triathlete’s new bike and I cannot tell you how much agony I am in. No words can describe how I felt. I will say that I almost threw up my hamburger. Literally. And then I started laughing in pure horror and the site of it all. Matt quietly suggested Nancy roll the truck with all 3 of us in it so we could take out an insurance claim but she said she refused to take one for the team of that magnitude.    There was a lot of gasping in disbelief and nervous laughter for many miles after that. Around midnight I lay in my bed trying to figure out how to break the horrible news to Mike the next day. Right then I received a text message from Mike. It said, “I am SO proud of you!!” and I lay in the dark laughing in horror at the irony of it all. He’s so cool!

    Sunday I invite Mike out for dinner. I slowly went through the triathlon story, hoping he’d order a double shot of something potent to ease the pain I was about to put him through. I told him I had some bad news as I started talking about the trip home. His face contorted and he knew it wasn’t good. I explained what happened and he broke into a sweat. I felt like screaming and running out of the restaurant so I told him he could punch me in the eye if it would just make him feel better. He asked me if the bike was faithful to the bitter end and I said it was and that I will replace it for him soon, though I knew no bike could take it’s place in his heart.I showed him some pictures I took with my cell phone so he didn’t have to agonize over the gruesome mental image he would surely conjure up.  We started cracking jokes and he occasionally stopped mid fork-to-mouth as the shock of it all sunk in. I hung out with him for a few more hours and then watched him slowly climb the steps to his townhouse. Ugh.

    Today he asked me to send the pictures I took of the bike. Apparently he’s had a good time telling the horror story to his co-workers and wants to show the pictures for bragging rights. I’m glad he’s feeling better.

    I am so sore today! I have bruises on the bottom of my right foot from running across the rocks out of the swim, I slightly strained my right hip flexor and I have knots the size of golf balls in my back. But I am stoked and proud to have pounded out 7 triathlons with my team at the Burrito Union! I expressed my many thanks to the race directors via email today and long story short, the director we beat said his aerobics instructor is also a former BFL Grand Champion! It is, indeed, a small world.

    Living life less than to the fullest is a life I refuse to live.
    Live hard, pray harder and count your blessings!!
     - See more at: http://www.transformation.com/bon/blog/Uncategorized/Burrito-Union-10-Hour-Team-Triathlon/6808#sthash.UhjVpGhs.dpuf


  • Pivotal Moments

    I Sometimes life brings us the most amazing moments that totally change our direction. These moments enrich our lives in ways we could not have conjured up on our own.

    I was given a moment such as this, and it changed me forever.  This took place during one of my darker hours of training; one of the hardest times of my Body-For-Life challenge. A time when I had not seen a lot of physical changes in my physique. I felt alone at this time, like I was the only one grinding through the workouts I did not yet have the energy for. I was dealing with cravings I could not satisfy and eating nutritious food I had not yet come to appreciate.  Pay special attention to these moments. Learn from them. Grow from them. Then share them with others.
      
    Words-of-Encouragement
     Around the end of week three back in 2000 I was at the gym feeling unmotivated and my thinking had turned from what I would do during my workout to how justified I was in feeling sorry for myself. My workout partner had told me a few days before that he would not be finishing the 12 week training program with me due to time constraints and required travel from his job. I was tired from getting up at 4:20am to get to the gym the moment it opened and tired from going to bed between 11pm and 1am from studying after putting the kids to bed. I walked with a drag in my step as I made my way through the free weights. I could see the squat rackwith it’s cold, grey steel structure looming ahead of me in the dim yellow light. The gym seemed extra quite and a little too dark that morning. That was when I saw my hero. She was there, sitting on a bench, pausing between sets. She had beautiful blond hair and a red face from effort. She also had down syndrome.
    encourage sign
    She was alone too, at 5am. She had no one to cheer her on between sets. No one to spot her. And yet there was something about her. Something about her motivation, her determination, that drew my eyes and fixed them on her. It did not seem to matter to her that she was going this journey alone. That she was at the gym before most people were out of bed. I saw her pick up a book from under her bench and open it to her marked page. Body-for-LIFE.  She carefully recorded her weights and reps and prepared for her next set, lifting the dumbbells off the floor. I stood there, not realizing I had stopped dead in my tracks and was staring straight at her from less than 10 feet away. Ten feet from a true Champion. I wanted to talk to her, to glean words of wisdom from her.
    I quietly walked to the squat rack realizing my failure mentality, understanding the importance of mind set and mental attitude. I started to smile to myself and my chest heaved in emotion. I turned away from her so she would not see me staring at her in the refection of the mirror or the tear running down my cheek. My self pity drained away and I felt a new sense of strength. Not physical strength. I knew I would be fortunate to squat the bar, much less throw ten pound plates on the ends. Inner strength that comes with character. Character that comes from moments like these, when we realize where we are inside ourselves and where we need to be.
    I did everything I could to keep her in sight during my workout but lost sight of her only half way through. I never saw her again in the gym and I have to think she must of been traveling or just passing through. Anytime I doubted myself or started to grumble within myself about the effort I had to put out I thought of her. How ungrateful I had been for not recognizing the value, the awesome opportunity I had to live a healthier life and be a better person in so many ways because I had the option to go the gym, the ability to cook nutritious meals, the freedom to make a choice.  pushing walls
    When I won my category I thought of that woman I saw in the gym that morning. I wanted so much to run to her, to put my EAS jacket on her shoulders. To tell her it was so much because of her and the example she had set for me that I was where I was today.
    Hundreds if not thousands of people, true Champions, go unnoticed, unrecognized and without praise. They face barriers and obstacles that we only fear or take for granted that we don’t have. Take a moment and consider all that you have to be thankful for. The ability to choose, the ability to do, the ability to commit. Look beyond where you are today. Look outside yourself. See the amazing gifts you have and embrace today. Count your blessings along with your calories, so to speak. And then give. Give the gift of encouragement to others. Give the gift of appreciating other’s hard work. Give yourself the gift of real living.
    To be what you are right now, continue to do exactly what you are doing. To be all that you can be: Make a plan, implement and follow through. Do not be afraid to climb, to soar and to excede yourself.
    BFL Champ

    Body-For-Life 2000 Champion


  • Anti-Dreadmill Adventures

    Loath.

    zombie treadmill

    This screams ‘Fun’.

    That word may seem appropriate when applied to getting up very early on your only day off to shovel the driveway for the arrival of your not so welcomed in-laws or cleaning up after the dog discarded his recently consumed outdoor surprise, but it fails to fully encompass how I feel when I so much as gaze upon the (insert scary music here) treadmill.

    Yesterday I had the privilege of talking with one of Minnesota’s finest elite triathletes Mr. Name Left Out to Protect the Innocent. For purposes of fluidity, we will refer to him as Boe hereafter. Boe embraces training outside as much as possible during the winter months. I can attest to this as I nearly ran him over at night with my car fairly recently. Thankfully he was wearing a head lamp. I asked Boe what he considers the benefits of training outdoors in the Minnesota winters to be and his response was, “There are no benefits. Minnesota winters suck. Fly to Arizona.” Thanks for that insightful piece of encouragement, Boe….

    Over the past few months I’ve noted with growing interest the number of what I commonly refer to as “Maniacs” running around the streets of Eagan in the dead of winter. I had yet to run outside in fear of dying from frostbite, being attacked by skidding vehicles, or simply dying of pneumonia from having my lungs instantly freeze up and no one finding my lifeless, frozen body until the spring thaw sometime in July. I went to the gym a few weeks ago and looked loathingly upon the treadmill. I forced my body up onto the elevated platform of bodily mechanical hate and willed myself with all I could muster to slog along going absolutely no where.

    Loath.

    After my fun run I drove home and noticed a group of Maniacs out weathering the near zero temperatures, donning their multi-layered heat compression gear, hats, gloves and head lamps.
    Pivotal moment.

    I quickly called my better half and poured out my hate for the treadmill as well as my newly found inspiration and interest to give the outdoors a go. He was as supportive as any man in love with absolutely no earthly interest in doing anything sounding so remotely horrific could be: “Sounds great! Let me know when you’re ready to give it a try!” God bless him.

    winter-running-dog

    What we felt like.

    a.baa-dressed-him-as-an-Eskimo

    What we looked like.

    Two weeks later we emerged from the garage while it was still light out. I immediately noted the wind chill factor had dropped to temperatures in competition with Antarctica. The ground seemed to stretch out before us like a never ending plate of icy death, beckoning us to come and break our backs. There was an igloo close by and someone wearing what looked like full winter body armor consisting of a thousand pounds of down crouching next to the doorway. We were wearing enough layers of clothing to stock a second hand store and proudly displaying our mugger hats, burglar outfits and YakTraks; off we went. Five miles later we were smiling, high fiving and wondering why we didn’t do it a long time ago. We laughed as we tried to talk with our frozen cheeks. I never knew my boyfriend could look so cute with frozen eyelashes and brows. Two days later we wrapped up a successful seven mile run in the dark with our headlamps guiding our feet.

     

    I think what Boe meant to say is that the benefits of running outside in the winter include constantly changing scenery, fresh air, body mechanics, stabilizer muscle usage, camaraderie, potential sunshine to offset SAD, frozen eye lashes, and the feeling of accomplishment. Not everyone braves the great Minnesota winters outdoors so now you’ve got something to be proud of. Shake it up! Now where’s my coffee….

     


  • Chillin’ for Recovery

    Chillin’ Out

     

    I’ve done many things in my life that may seem crazy to some people, to include jumping off the side of a mountain, scuba diving alongside a shark, eating the food I’ve cooked, running into buildings in which angry men were brandishing fire arms, but the one that tops them all took place last weekend.

    icebergs

    My ice bath.

    As an endurance athlete I experience the usual aches and pains associated with beating our bodies into dust, adding water for hydration and then trying to reshape them into something formidable for long distances of swimming, biking and running. After receiving a number of battle wounds my coach suggested I take an ice bath. With real ice.

    After Grandma’s Marathon last year I tried to step into a cold tub of water only to find myself immediately hopping out and announcing sternly to said cold water, “No thanks, I choose life!” I’ve tried to force myself to embrace this crazy idea on a few other occasions only to discover that I am not a polar bear, people have a sick sense of humor and ice is not meant to touch the human body unless it’s in direct association with consuming iced tea.

    Finally, last Sunday night, after a couple of long training days, I relinquished to try again.

    This time I went to the freezer and extracted two large plastic bins of ice and dumped them into the tub so that the surface of the cold water was half covered. The ice cubes were forming some sort of twisted bond of collaborated frozen death, beckoning me to come and immerse myself into it. I knew right then and there I would slowly become a human popsicle.

    shattered-glass-1

    My newly shattered window.

    I stepped in and immediately grabbed a towel, only this time I did not quickly use the towel to wrap myself up as I leaped out; this time I used it to muffle the shattering scream that rocketed out of my mouth and echoed throughout the bathroom. I continued to scream as I slowly lowered my once warm body down in into the seemingly sub zero temperatures, somehow simultaneously breaking a sweat. I was sure neighbors would be peering through their windows to verify there was indeed a heinous murder taking place and they should dial 911 immediately.

    I sat there with a pained expression on my face, hoping to God it wouldn’t freeze there just like my mother always warned me. I tried to relax. I found breathing was helpful. I had brought iced tea up with me and tried to calmly sip it. I noted the hair on my legs literally had ice forming on it. After about fifteen minutes of a solid, unblinking death stare I got out. Most of my aches and pains were feeling much better and I waited to see if it was merely for the fact that they were frozen solid and numb but after an hour I still felt great.

     

    Apparently this form of self torture is called Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) and what it does is constrict blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the frozen water of death, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. The ice baths suppress inflammation as well as help flush out harmful metabolic debris from the muscles. The water temperature recommendation is from 50-53 degrees. (I prefer around 35F.) Having survived this experience I can attest to the benefits or at least to the fact that warming up afterward never felt so good.

    Next time you grind out a long training session, treat yourself to an ice bath afterward and don’t forget to bring a towel for screaming into. Trust me, it helps.

     


  • The Pain of Healing

    itb

    It wasn’t the bruising and relentless infliction of pain that shed light on the fact that the man was clearly insane. Nor was it the way he could carry on, all the while smiling and talking, while implemented his torture. It was the way he enjoyed it that ranked him up with the worst of the worst in my book.

    Earlier I had been looking for his office, which he indicated was on the back side of Elsmore in Apple Valley. Driving around towards the back I found only darkened offices and a few loading docks. I parked haphazardly and got out of my car, surveying the scene. With hesitation, I approached one of the abandoned suites and peeled open a door. Quietly stepping inside, and feeling a bit like a burglar, I squeaked out a soft “Hello?” Distant voices echoed back, followed by fast footfalls crawling towards me….

    Emerging from the dark shadows, a tall man asked, “Can I help you?” Stammering just a touch, I asked if he knew where ‘Jonny’ was. The tall man let out a chuckle. “You mean JonnyJ. I sure do. He’s around back.” and he started off through the narrow hallway, zigzagging until we finally went through a door and emerged into the sunlight on the backside of the offices. Pulling open another door with a hand scribbled sign that read “Revolution”; he led me inside one of the small warehouses, and then said somewhat tentatively, “Good luck” and quickly left.revolution

    I spotted a tough looking man talking with an athlete who had his tri bike draped over his shoulder like a computer bag. The tough guy glanced over at me, pointed the athlete up the stairs and then walked over. “Hi. I’m JonnyJ. No ‘h’ and no space. You must be Bonnie?” he said, extending his hand. I was still mentally processing his name explanation when he told me I shouldn’t be wearing orthotics and to take my shoes off.

    “Lay on the ground on your left side.” He stated dryly as he rolled up his sleeves.

    “Are you going to hurt me?” I asked quickly, panic setting in. And with that he dug his elbow straight into my IT band. I let out a screech so loud that it nearly shook the building.

    “Bingo.” He said, a smile creeping over his face. “Yes, I am going to hurt you,” he said, and I knew he meant it. What I didn’t get was just how bad the infliction of pain would be.

    Pain? We go way back. I’m a mother, after all. I’ve also had my share of injuries, a few of them requiring surgery. But this wasn’t Pain. This was like a distant cousin to Pain. Not distant in the way of minimizing it; distant in the way of that one crazy relative that exists in every family. The guy you try to avoid eye contact with. His name is Torture.

    I broke into a sweat as he continued. He was like a crazed lunatic, searching for any area on my IT band that might lead me down the path of spontaneous murder. More people started filtering into the warehouse, coming over to observe me, like a caged animal being trained. Several of them let out a grunt and let me know, while I lay there pounding the ground with my fist, that they too had gone through JonnyJ’s Torture. “No, you don’t know this pain!” I spat out at them through soaked stands of hair and gritted teeth. But they assured me they did.

    After what felt like an eternity, JonnyJ finally let up and I crawled away from him, beaten, battered and bruised. “You’re a crazy person.” I stated in full conviction. He smiled and started scribbling something on a piece of paper.

    “Do these exercises and see these people,” he said, handing me the instructions. “I will see you on Monday. Go to the back of the High School in Edina. Way in the back, past all the fields and cars. You’ll find me there.”

    I began hobbling towards the door, which suddenly seemed a million miles away, as he headed up the stairs towards a loft. A man walked over to me, decked out in cycling garb, and asked me how it went. He shared his knee injury story and how he too had suffered through JonnyJ’s infliction of pain and the road that ultimately led to recovery. I glanced down at his knee which seemed to be in full working order. He seemed happy and fully recovered. I thanked him for the encouragement and resumed my hobble. Rock star triathlete Pam Nielson came over next and said hello, offering some additional empathy. I felt a little encouraged.

    As I emerged into the daylight and the door began closing behind me, I caught site of several bikes up on trainers, happy triathletes spinning away.


  • The Dirt In Front of Him

    I sipped my coffee in smooth satisfaction as the sweet smell of roasted, chocolate covered hazelnuts billowed up against my nostrils. Life was good. Like a gentle hammer, I set my cup down on my cubicle desk and picked up the list I had just finished compiling. In my hand, I held 2013 like a prized ribbon. I paused for one last satisfied glance at my race schedule then rose from my chair to pin it to the fabricated wall. Pain flooded over my knee cap, reminding me that not everything is in my control.

    Last fall I celtortoiseebrated a great training and racing season with a solid bike ride. It was one of those days where the wind threatened to snatch the roof tops right off the houses. Being slightly demented, I was enjoying the agony as I cranked down hard on the pedals, pushing my way home. But I made one mistake. I locked my knees while in a standing position, riding as hard as I could into the… wind in my toughest gear. Up until that day, I had never had knee problems. When I returned home three hours later, I knelt down on the living room carpet to catch my breath. It was a solid effort and I was glad it was over. I tried to stand. Nothing. My knees were totally locked up.

    Literally crawling over to the couch, I hoisted myself up on to a cushion and looked down. My knees looked okay but in my head I knew something was wrong. Later that night I sat with two ice packs, my gut wrenching in acknowledgement that this was no fly by night injury.

    It’s been 8 months and I still can’t ride my bike.

    I don’t talk much about my training or racing with part of my family and half of my friends. If I even mention biking, running, or an injury they pounce on me with their profound insight about my obvious over training and obvious over racing; and that my injuries (whether or not I have any at the time) are a result of over-doing it. If I would just listen to them, I wouldn’t have all of these problems and life would be good since it has been so terribly miserable. Obviously.

    Those types of conversations cause me to sit back and mentally run through a checklist of all of the wonderful memories I have, the adventures I’ve been on and the friends I have made. All because of training and racing. I think of the many times I never caught the latest cold or seasonal flu, never having had a flu shot, because of how healthy and strong my body is. Sure, I have had an injury here or there- but those are usually the fluke kind where you bend to pick up a bag of groceries and throw out your back. I could count on one hand the times where I actually had training or racing injuries and I’ve been doing this gig for a long time. And yet, my loved ones have been sick and injured with no training at all. Worse yet, they’ve never had the chance to experience the irreplaceable adventure of a triathlon, a foot race or even just a bike race. They’ve never even had a glimpse of the rewarding satisfaction that comes from riding a dirty bike into the garage after a hard interval training session, mouth parched from the heat of the sun, empty wrappers hanging out of the back pocket of a sweat soaked jersey, salty sweat chunks clinging to their forehead. I feel sorry for them.

    I know of a turtle that must hbikeave dealt with the same atmosphere. He was entering a race that appeared way out of his league. The competition was fierce and quite athletically gifted. The turtle’s friends or family potentially offered nothing more than a discouraging word, weaving a picture of imminent failure and ultimate humiliation to their friend. At some point he may have given up sharing the excitement that was often met with a dousing bucket of discouragement. But somewhere along the way he believed in himself more than the barrage of negativity that was cast at him. He didn’t see the endeavor as impossible or insurmountable. He didn’t see his physical make-up as a tethering rope, binding him to the stereotypical predestinations that were so easily attributed to him. Instead he felt that burning desire within his shell to go forward. He was born to race.

    I’ve noticed that the very same people who confidently tell me I need to give up, dial it back or follow their advice eventually come to me for advice. They want to know what they can do to get in better shape, what they should eat, exercises that would help a tired back or broken knees. And historically, those who stay the course of a newly active lifestyle change their voice from negative retorts to exhilarating freedom, while those who fall to the wayside go back to their barrage of reprimands. What is an athlete to do?

    The turtle entered the race, against all odds. He didn’t focus on the monumental gravity of what he was up against. He focused on the dirt right in front of him. We all know he crossed the finish line ahead of the hare and his family and friends went wild, cheering him on like a local hero. Some of them were probably inspired and some were probably just in shock. Maybe a few were intolerant and even went so far as to accuse him of cheating. The scoffers will always be there, laying down our path with their own expectations and ideas. But that’s not what that little turtle decided to base his fate on. He decided to base his fate on his own determination. Yes the hare was built for speed and could hypothetically beat him. True it was that the little turtle was limited by his shortened stride and the heavy shell that burdened his back. But most important was his positive attitude to overcome and preserver.

    I soon found myself in the doctor’s office, the chiropractor’s centers, and the physical therapist clinic, all to no avail. Months later and thousands of dollars spent, I have found that walking is the only thing I can do and yet with consistency, the pain shrinks back ever so slightly, and my knee is very slowly feeling a bit better. My bike lies against the wall in the garage (okay, all 4 of them do) as I walk slowly by them and out into the early morning sunrise or the late evening dusk to do what I can do. If there is one discovery that is resonating within me, it is this- Determination beats the odds because the weak are as capable of courage as the strong.


  • Fatbike Frozen 40

    If the devil himself was going to design a bike race course, it would consist entirely of single track and take place in the dead of winter. The temperature would have to be snuggled well below 20 Fahrenheit and it would be entirely single track. Or did I mention that already? 

    Friday evening I arrived at a bike shop to pick up my rental for Saturday’s race, the Fatbike Frozen 40. It was a quaint little shop in Dinky Town and I quite enjoyed the look of it. As I chatted with the staff and proceeded to give my okay to charge my credit card the $12 deposit fee, the guy on staff asked for my approval to also charge my card for the other deposit. Other deposit??  It seems that when I spoke with them and reserved the bike five days earlier that they had forgotten to tell me that they would also charge my credit card the cost of the bike. $1250 to be exact.

    I left the shop bikeless and immediately called Race Director Ben Welnak. “I’ll call you back in two minutes,” he said, determined to save the day. And he did. When I showed up at the frozen race from heck the next morning, I was immediately introduced to Gus from Maple Grove Cycling, proudly displaying a Surly Pugsley fat bike for me to ride. But let’s not get ahead of our dance with the devil….

    Saturday morning I drove up to the Elm Creek Park Reserve. I had never been to the trail and was excited to see what it had to offer. While enroute I glanced at the outside temperature reading on my car display. Four degrees. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead and I made a quick turn into a Starbucks. Who comes up with this crazy stuff?!  I could just imagine the race directors sitting around conjuring up races of imminent frozen death.  ‘I know! Let’s race our bikes in horrific temperatures!’, Ben would beam.  ‘Yah! And make it all on single track in the snow!’, Co-Race Director Brad would chime in. Sick. But yet, like a moth drawn to the pretty light of death…

      I pulled into the park and a really cool volunteer greeted me. Volunteers make the race. I can’t count how many times a volunteer has put a smile on my face and fuel in my endurance tank by the kind words that they speak or the funny signs that they hold. They do a lot for us racers.

    After meeting my bike providing hero, Gus, I set out on a get-to-know-you ride on the Surly Pugsley he had waiting for me. The Pugsley and I rode around the parking lot together and did some hand holding. It sort of felt like a blind date.  After some light conversation, we were off on the right pedal.

    In the heating tent there was a cooler filled with hot, freshly made egg and sausage burritos and I made good use of one while keeping my toes warm.  I got to meet the other racer in my category and show off my ColdAvenger to a few people. This mask was about to save my lungs from death by pneumonia once again. The temperatures later on would hit a blistering high of 11 degrees. In all honesty, I like racing in these temperatures. It’s actually a really cool element to add to the mix. I just need to work on my layering a lot more….

    Loop One – 10 Miles of Heck

    It’s no secret that I lack bike handling skills. It’s not safe for me to be on anything less than five or six feet wide, and that’s even questionable. When our wave started we turned onto the trail and I saw what sort of evil tral lay before me.  Have you heard that old song that goes ‘He flies through the air, with the greatest of ease…’  It’s the perfect sound track for me riding a bike on single track. If I am sure of one thing, it’s this- I go twice as far in any given race than any other racer out there. Straight lines and I have never co-existed in harmony. I zigzag dangerously like a crazed wildebeest, delirious from exhaustion. From an aerial view, I am sure it is quite entertaining. Often times, while zigzagging on steep down hills, I like to involuntarily voice my location with projectile shrills, just in case someone within a hundred mile radius is wondering where I am.

    After what felt like hours of biking, I pulled to the side of the trail and tried to calm my breathing. I was feeling a bit spent and the race had just begun. I jammed some left over Stingers into my mouth that I had from the Arrowhead 135 two weeks earlier and started wondering why you had to be forty to race in this frozen tundra. It didn’t strike me as odd that I was wolfing down open packaged food that had been lying around for two weeks, after all, I was doing a winter bike race on single track. Insanity has no boundaries. After some high-tech calculations on my frozen fingers tips, I was able to determine that I was about thirty percent through the loop. The course was perfect- hard packed, full of snow, beautiful surroundings and a nice, sunny morning.  At that moment there was no other place I would rather have been; aside from sitting on the couch at home, drinking hot chocolate, with my feet propped up. That was running a close second.  

    The first two hours of a race are always the toughest for me. My lungs have to adjust to the equivalence of strained breathing, my legs have to do something constructive, and my body has to give up, give in and just do what my delirious mind is telling it to do- keep moving. My ColdAvenger does a great job keeping my inhaled breathing warm. I tried removing the mask for a few minutes once, just to see what it was like without the warmer air coming back into my lungs and could immediately feel the difference. My  Lemierre’s Syndrome has permanently damaged my lungs, but even still, I couldn’t imagine trying to race in those temperatures without a mask.

    Just about two hours of pure, unadulterated single track grinding agony, I finally made it out of the first loop. Crawled out is probably a more accurate description.  As I rode over to the heater inside the warming tent to thaw my frozen water tube, I had a mental image of riding straight to my car and driving away as fast as I could, laughing maniacally while my eyes darted back and forth between the road and the rear view mirror.  This was a signal from my body that I was pushing too hard. I held my frozen water hose up to the heater in the tent and ate a granola bar. Ben, the maniacal co-race director, and a cool volunteer named Noah offered some encouraging words. Truly a great group.

    Loop Two – When Your Mind Leaves Your Body

    Sometimes it’s comforting to know you’re not the only one suffering. During my second loop I came across another racer somewhere between mile one and a zillion and pulled to the side to take a sip of water and say hello. He appeared older than I, which I found inspiring. Sitting back on his top tube, eating a snack, he remarked “The first two loops were pretty tough and I felt like quitting.” He thought for a moment and paused between bites. “But this loop, I decided to just slow down and enjoy the ride.” My kind of cool. Later, I found out that he is 70 years young and finished the 40 mile category. Amazing and very humbling. There is always someone out there that has it tougher than you do.

    Photo credit to Maple Grove Cycling. That’s me with my jacket over my backpack, looking a lot like a turtle.

     

    I plodded along at a slower pace and was able to enjoy the ride even more.  That is really what it’s all about- Ride well, ride safe and enjoy the journey.  And that is precisely when the longest and steepest hill lay before me. I remembered the burn it brought from the first loop and my mind started giving me excuses as to why I should rightfully get off my bike and walk it. “Come on! You’ve ridden so hard today! You deserve a little break! Nobody will know!” I quickly shifted the Pugsley to a smaller gear and flipped the switch in my mind that allows it to go blank. The hill didn’t seem so insurmountable anymore.

    Not too long later I emerged from the trail, completing my second and final loop. Cheers rose up to greet me and I saw Ben’s smiling face as he quickly jotted down my race number. As I warmed up in the heated tent, Arrowhead 135 Race Director, Dave Pramann came in smiling and looking like he had just enjoyed a nice stroll. Apparently he hadn’t been arrested for conjuring up his own horrifying race I almost had to be helicoptered out of a few weeks prior.  Evil race directors must like to hang out together.

    The after race giveaway was a lot of fun as prizes were drawn and randomly throw to, and at, the tired yet happy racers. My number was drawn and I won a limited addition, shockingly excellent Salsa Bikes hand crafted spork. Dining will never be the same.

    On the way home I reflected on the race with every muscle spasm I had, smiling to myself and being thankful to be able to be a part of such a cool event. Life is good.

    Check out the Fatbike Frozen 40 website here: http://frozen40.com/

    Maple Grove Cycling: http://maplegrovecycling.com/

    ColdAvenger here: http://www.talusoutdoor.com/

    My Arrowhead 135 bag surveying the scene and reminding me that winter is the best time to race.


  • The Arrowhead 135

    What would you say if I told you that your life really can be an adventure?  Maybe not exactly how you had it planned in your head, and maybe not in the state of readiness that you envisioned, but an adventure none the less.

    Tilting my head back deeper into the snow, I looked over the top of my forehead and surveyed my surroundings. The snow covered ground now hung like an angry sky, an impostor ready to burst.  Barren and blackened trees jutted down out of the mock ceiling with outstretched arms, cutting towards the cloudy ground. Glancing towards my feet, I tried again to push the bike off my body but the severe downward angle I was laying at made it seem impossible to heave the seventy pound behemoth off my legs. I began digging in the snow around me, hoping to drop just a little lower than the wedged frame and pull myself out from under the bike. No change. I laughed as I called out to my race partner, Focused Dave, who had continued riding on, unaware of my sudden crash. Silence.

    I’m going to freeze to death! Cheeeeze!

    I’m not a racer, at least not in the normal sense. I don’t go out trying to beat every gal to the finish line.  I’m more of an adventurous who occasionally finds herself in the middle of a race. I like to take in my surroundings while simultaneously challenging myself, and that often equates to races that last a long time. This race brought a whole new meaning to the word fun. A pure suffer-fest spread over sixty hours on one of the toughest courses on the planet, back-dropped with the dead of winter. It was the kind of race your friends and family say you are nuts to do with borderline disgust in their voice.  Perfect!

    Talus saved my lungs with their awesome ColdAvenger mask!

    Last year I began searching the internet for winter races. Being relatively new to outdoor winter activities I wasn’t even sure what to look for and so I entered a combination of words into my search engine that included winter, Minnesota and mountain biking.  A few races came up and I scrolled down through the headings, clicking here  and there until a link directed me to the Arrowhead 135 website. Intrigued by the home page, I began to search for images of the race. It took all of two minutes and I was sold.  Some of the photos I found showcased racers with icicles hanging from the faces, eyes red with strain, skin pale from long hours of deliberate effort.  I smiled excitedly and told my husband Mike, who sat in blissful ignorance on the couch near me, that I had found the perfect race for us to do. He groaned and acted like he had no interest in hearing what ‘fun thing’ I had found this time, but I knew he was secretly curious and proceeded excitedly with a zealous oratory of the gory details.  I read highlights from the website, went through the mandatory gear list and showed him photos of the racers. He stared at me in that way that only a man in love can, and stated dryly, “Count me out.”

    A head peered over the side of the hill I had flung myself off of after losing the battle to wild fishtailing on my bike. It was a runner. “You okay?” the masked voice asked, as he began to pull on my back tire, dragging my bike up and onto the trail, much like a bucket of water being hoisted up out of a well. I tried to do the equivalence of a sit up but the incline was too much for my weak abs. We locked wrists and he heaved me up  until I was upright and sitting on my ankles. I tried to thank him as I began plucking small, red branches of sticker bush off my face and hair, but he had already taken off, deep into his groove and charging the next hill. I quickly surveyed my surroundings noting my tire marks leading to the side of the hill and looked for any gear that may have come loose. 

    All of the insane people of the earth coming together to celebrate insanity.

    Earlier that morning, when the sun was too lazy to rise, we had packed ourselves together at the start line like a haphazard marching band getting ready for the annual parade. Race Director Dave Pramann’s voice could be heard over the nervous energy and banging around of gear as the countdown began to the start of the race. I closed my eyes and exhaled purposefully, my breath hanging heavy in the air. The temperatures were unusually warm for this time of year up in The Freezer, also known as International Falls, Minnesota, and I was glad. But then again, I didn’t know what I was doing, and that was about to become painfully obvious.

    The air fell still and every breath caught on the inhale as we waited for the resplendent blast of the gun. And then, like the pulling of a giant horse drawn sled, we lurched forward and began the battle against the elements.

    My testosterone.

    My race partner, Dare Devil Dave, shot out ahead of me, having the blessings of testosterone filling his veins. I had the testosterone equivalence of a donut and an asthma attack. We had agreed 3-5mph would be our target, allowing me to stay within my race zone and not burn the candles at both ends. Not too surprisingly we were immediately caught up in the initial excitement of racing and were not only burning the candle at both ends but we had thrown the whole darn thing right into the fire. Finally I caught up to him and we dialed it back a bit to just ‘wildly out of control’. Much better.

    Dave and I had met the previous year at a 12 hour mountain bike race. He was a totally nice guy with a very mellow disposition. I called him up and asked him if he would be willing to bike with me, sort of a collaborated effort to be safe, have fun and use each other’s strengths to cross the finish line, to which he unsuspectingly agreed. Poor Bike Mechanic Dave. Secretly I knew that if I got a flat all by myself, out in the middle of no where, especially in temperatures far below zero, that I was going to just sit there and die. I don’t have a mechanical bone in my body. I once was attacked by a smoke detector and after banging the blasted thing into ground in a failing effort to silence it, I threw it at my husband and ran screaming from the room.

    Caution: Ruts ahead!

    If there was one thing that immediately became obvious on this race course, it was that I was going to die. Secondly, in order to actually survive this adventure, I would need Coordination. I have never been close friends with Coordination. We tried to hang out once but went our separate ways when we realized we had nothing in common. As I made my way down the first stretch, I started missing Coordination real bad and wishing we had tried to work out our differences. This trail wasn’t the semi smooth, sort of snowy, off road surface that I had trained on. This trail was a vulturous casket of death, riddled with frozen ruts, icy patches, soft snow and opportunity to have crashing contests.  I lost traction repeatedly, zigzagging all over the place and went down hard on several occasions. I’m pretty sure I scored a perfect ten on the crash scale. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Not that I wanted anyone to get hurt, it just seemed like more fun trying to jump over sliding bodies and bikes while simultaneously calling Coordination on my cell phone.

    My husband used to ride his bike across thin wooden planks for fun. He would do this for hours and often talked about Coordination. Obviously they had a good relationship. I tried the unrideable boards of chaos countless times and after about three minutes I went into the house and ate a donut. Why would anyone want to ride their bike over a pencil anyway?

    Nice little wolves! See Dave? He has some beef jerky!

    Earlier that morning, while getting ready to race, I started worrying about the cold temperatures and I soon found myself piling on layer over layer of wool, wind breaker and moisture barrier clothing until pretty soon I wasn’t able to move my arms freely. I wondered if I should put on a down jacket as well but thought better of it. After a few long and grueling hours of racing I learned my first lesson of the day:  Overheating is just as bad as being too cold, especially in the winter. There I was, riding along, sweating profusely and drenched from head to toe. Horror stories I had heard of past race carnage began seeping into my mind.  I recalled the ghastly images of nearly frozen racers who had gone delirious, taking off all of their cloths in an effort to cool down their sweating bodies only to freeze to death in mid-stride. They were probably on display somewhere in a museum propped up like quasi naked cavemen . Other reliable tales of wild, ravenous pack wolves biting off the ankles of slow bikers whirled around in my brain. I knew right then what I must do. In moments of eminent danger, I was going to have to out-bike Unsuspecting Dave.

    We pulled up to an emergency shelter, along with five other bikers, shuffled our food supplies around and chatted briefly with the others. Suddenly I was becoming very cold. The most prevalent topic at hand had been the heat of the day and everyone remarked how drenched they were. Having only one change of cloths, we kept on what we had and headed out. Keep moving, I reminded myself. Keep moving to stay warm.

    I felt chilly.

    When I started training for Arrowhead (which was beginning to feel like about ten minutes before the race started) I had no idea that instead of riding my bike I should have primarily pushed semi trucks filled with cement blocks around the freeway in the snow while wearing slippery boots. Forever. Tireless Dave and I arrived at the first check point around 5pm. To on-lookers it probably appeared that I burst through the doors with excitement and a huge smile on my face. On closer examination they would have found that I was totally delirious with exhaustion and fell through the door, my face frozen in a crazy wild-eyed frenzy. I was totally gassed. Stupendous Dave looked fine.

    I collapsed on the floor of the store and vaguely heard the race director warn me not to spend too long inside the checkpoint. “He’s an evil man,” I thought to myself, reflecting on the difficulty of the first 35 miles of the course. What kind of kook getting his kicks out of watching innocent riders destroy themselves for hours upon end? Obviously he should be arrested.

    When Dave and I finally got back outside and onto our bikes it was then that we realized we were in big trouble. It was pitch dark and a snow storm had moved in, already dropping several inches on the ground. We looked at each other in that way where no words need to be exchanged and quickly got on our way. The race had changed dramatically. We quickly pedaled up the first hill and over the first few miles out of the checkpoint, trying to feel strong and move quickly. With each passing hill, the course became softer and deeper, as snowflakes fell quickly from the sky. The blackened  sky could no longer hold it’s snowy contents and we felt the full impact. No longer able to keep our tires under us we relented to pushing our bikes. Over hills, across dark open space and up hills. Over and over again. I glanced down at my bike computer and noted we had gone just five miles in over four hours. I swallowed hard.

    Frozen derailer

    A seemingly ride-able section of the trail presented itself and I mounted my bike and began to pedal. When I tried to shift nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. My derailleur was completely frozen. I looked back to say something to Injured Dave only to see his light shinning some distance away. I got off my bike and ate a snack, waiting for him to catch up. I had hot water in a thermos and was glad to taste warm tea. Had it not been for the fact that we were soaking wet, freezing cold, exhausted, and totally blinded by falling snow on a moonless night, I know the scenery would have been spectacular. I smiled in spite of it all.

    Is this a donut?

    My race partner hobbled up to me. “My hip is killing me,” he said, and from the sound of his voice, I knew it was true. We paused for a moment and tried to adjust my bike light so it wasn’t shining straight into my pack, giving him a moment to rest. That was precisely when the battery in my light went dead. I dug through my bags, the contents spilling into the snow, and pulled out my back up light. Also dead. Dave handed me his head lamp and I set it on dim to keep the battery from going out. We trudged forward. Sometime later I took another look at my bike computer. We had gone just over nine miles in close to eight hours. Hard Core Dave was now having to walk ahead of me as I had lost all traction in my overboots, despite the fact that we had used duct tape to try to affix scrubbing pads to the bottoms in an effort to minimize slipping in the snow. I would step in his foot prints as we slowly made our way through the dark storm.  Eventually we had to stop every ten feet or so to give his hip a break. The pain was becoming increasingly worse and pushing our heavy bikes through the snow was definitely not helping. Suddenly a snow mobile went by, caring a racer to safety. We exchanged no words and continued pushing.  A few more hours crept by with only the sound of compressing snow and the ratcheting click of my free hub signaling life still existed. I paused at a new sound and realized I could hear wolves howling in the distance. Poor Delectable Dave….

    Dave enjoying the sufferfest.

    The snow continued to come down, occasionally mixing with sleet. I tried to look around at the trees but my eyes instantly caked with snow, forcing me to squeeze them shut tight against the sting.  Another snowmobile came down the trail and stopped next to us. Dave hung his head as the driver asked if we were alright. I waited for the to answer and knew it did not come easy. “Yah, we’re fine. Just hurting.” he said. The man on the snowmobile was well seasoned at rescuing racers. He let Dave’s answer waft up into the frigid dark night before he shifted in his seat, “I’ll be back through here in a few hours. Be safe.” he said and road off , leaving only the smell of burning gas and oil in his wake. We trudged onward.

    Legend has it that racers often hallucinate out on that dark and lonely trail; the piercing cold and sleep deprivation shifting the balance of their minds. I’ve never hallucinated before. Until then. There we were, pushing our bikes up what felt like a never ending hill, Dave stomping footholds into the snow with me following close behind. And then I saw it. Dave was riding on the back of a dog sled. What a cheater! I lifted my head to say something only to find him plodding along, pushing his behemoth beside him. Odd. A few minutes went by and out of the corner of my eye I caught him hitching a ride again. I glanced up as quickly as I could, only to see him still plodding along with his head tucked down, bracing against the storm. I was certifiably crazy. Oh good. I heard what sounded like a scream off in the distance. Delirious Dave didn’t even flinch. “Maybe I’m sleep walking,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this is all just a crazy dream and I am bivyed up all cozy and warm along side the trail somewhere.”  I checked my bike computer for the time.  It was just past 3:00am. I looked back down at my feet and decided that Dog Sled Dave could catch a ride if he wanted to. He probably needed a break from the relentless hills anyway.

    Special thanks to Adrian Danciu / Kinocut Pictures for using his magic to make me look cool.

    The dark night lingered on and the trail began to feel endless when Dave finally came to a stop. I looked up to see him slowly turn around and face me. His voice was harsh with pain and exhaustion, and I could almost see the look on his face. It was time to catch a ride. A fleeting thought entered my mind that I could probably press on alone but I didn’t want to. Dave was my partner and we were in this together. If one man goes down, we both go down. No one gets left behind. I nodded my head in agreement and onward we went, pushing our bikes until the next snowmobiler found us.

    The snowmobile ride to the next checkpoint was a mixture of emotions-  From the exhilaration of riding on a three man snowmobile, flying around a crazy cool forest in the middle of the night, going what felt like a zillion miles an hour; to pains of empathy as we road up next to other racers hoping to catch a ride with us. Most of the expressions I saw were of pain, evidence of their fight against the brutal race conditions having long ago drained the hope out of their blood.

    After the wonderful volunteers helped me get my gear inside the checkpoint cabin, fed me delicious food and provided a soft bed for a much needed nap, I stepped outside into the frigid morning air, listening to the soft voices from other racers still inside, talking about the harsh conditions and the sudden snow storm.  Then the tears slowly began to fall. I turned and walked down a lonely snowy trail, not bothering to wipe them away. I wasn’t crying from pain or discomfort. It was a mixture of emotions that flows from the joy of having just participated in one of the coolest races of my life, the adrenaline rush coming to a screeching halt, and a touch of sadness for not have made it to that finish line. Pausing among the beautiful trees, I closed my eyes and thanked God for keeping Dave and I safe.

    My life is an amazing adventure. I have done more things than I ever dreamed possible, and somehow it just keeps getting better. I don’t always plan things out completely nor am I always on the top of my game. Sometimes I just throw the dice and look forward to what’s ahead.  I took my camera out of my pocket and snapped a few photos of the wondrous beauty that enveloped me on every side. Just as I turned to go, I saw My Friend Dave walking in the distance with another racer, laughing and talking as they went.

    Dave and I getting ready to kill ourselves in the name of fun.

    Many thanks to my wonderful sponsors, loving family and faithful friends who gave big and from their hearts to support me in my wild adventure:  Penn Cycle & Fitness for the best fat bike on the planet, the 9:ZERO:7, and their awesome courage to take on a back of the packer like me Talus Industries for their lung saving ColdAvenger head gear and breathing mask. My lungs felt great!; Jimmy Pesis of Continental Diamond without whom I never would have made it to the start line; Trevor Rasmussen for outdoor clothing that kept my body from freezing to death; Keiko Flores, Robin Markowksi, Kimberly Ries, Judy King, Robert Myersalong and Linda Kane for their donations which helped saved the day on more than one occasion, the Spinervals Group that cheered me on with relentless enthusiasm; and most importantly many thanks and love to my friends and prayer warriors at Calvary Chapel Solid Rock. Thank you!!!!

    **Very special thanks to Adventure Minnesota Films for including me in their amazing documentary Among The Wild! You made my adventure even more epic and I know the Among The Wild film will inspire many. From the infamous words of the Director, Brenda Piekarski,  ”ACTION!!”

     




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