DR 2011 Race Report: Part 5 – The Breakdown

Where credit is due: Alvaro told me that my river crossing guide’s name is Trevor from Ontario. Apparently, they teach you how to cross rivers AND save lives up in Canada (Alvaro traveled from Montreal to get to the DR). Thank you, Trevor! And, I’m sorry for pulling you down and almost taking you with me down river. You’re a saint 🙂

Battle damage: feet and fingertips – still numb. Muscles – still tired. Joints – really achy. I’m going to give myself another week to heal, even though I’m chomping at the bit to get back outside and do something! I may be swimming this week. I hate swimming, but it will be a good way to get in some movement without hurting myself.

*****Disclaimer: This is my account of events as best as I can remember. The nature of the race precludes the recount of things exactly as they happened without the omission of some details and the distortion of others. I only hope to convey the misery and the glory of my time in Pittsfield, Vermont, and to not misrepresent any other persons that may be named in this blog.*****

Warmed up and ready to take on Andy and Joe’s next devious assignment, I head to the check-in table. They hand me a punch card and tell me to go up the farm’s driveway, saw off 18 inches of log, bring the log back, drill my race number into it, have it checked and head up the mountain to Colton Camp, then to Roger’s where I will get my first punch. Ummm…that’s a lot to do for one punch, and the card has 20 punches on it. I just can’t even think about that. One thing at a time.
I head up the drive, look at the remaining logs, select first by diameter and then by heart size. If my limited wood chopping experience is any indication of sawing difficulty then heart = bad. Most of the skinny logs have been taken. I don’t know this, of course, because I’m looking at pretty decent sized trees, but later on, I do see some guys with mere saplings strapped to their packs (but I also see guys with very large trees – and guys were made to saw off 3ft of log). I get through the tree by my tried and true wood chopping method – cut and rotate, cut and rotate. Eventually, my hunk falls off, I have it measured by the volunteer (thank you, volunteer!), carry it down the drive and get to drilling my number. The egg-beater-looking drill I have picked out is not that hard to use and though it takes a little time, I imagine some other people have had it worse than me.
Someone whispers in my ear that we are going to have to throw our logs into a pond at some point and dive to retrieve it. This is what I’ve been dreading the most about the Death Race. The previous 2 years have had racers dive to get items thrown into the pond and I’ve been practicing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not shaking in my boots. Not to mention, I’m looking at this log and wondering if I’m going to be able to get this thing from the deep when I can barely save myself from over-the-head waters. I just can’t even think about that either. That same someone suggests I put duct tape around my log to make it easier to distinguish it from others, so I encircle my new frienemy with hot pink, load it on top of my pack and head up the mountain.

This may be the only point in the entire race where I am by myself. I follow the flags through some rising, but easy-going woods, out to a nicely open road and come to Colton Camp. I see a guy doing burpees (uh oh), get my name put on a check-in list and am sent on to Roger’s. Chris catches up to me at some point between Colton and Roger’s (I think when I am on the ground trying to stuff my log into my pack with all my gear…thankfully it works) and the trail gets very difficult to navigate. I have a hard time remembering just all what we had to do, but I know there were trees laying in the path that you had to climb over, very steep mud hills, bushwacking, switchbacks and all other variety of obstacles. From Colton to Roger’s is a nightmare. Someone had way too much fun putting up these flags. (Later, Andy would post on Facebook that Everest guide Noel Hannah helped mark the course. Explains a lot.) Several times, I find myself saying outloud, “these guys are crazy!”

When Chris and I first met up, he asked me what I needed and I ordered up a PB&J sandwich and some Aleve – my knees were getting very achy. He called Roger and I set my sights on Roger’s Farm (not the same Roger). Just make it to the farm and you’ll have some food. Chris tutors me on what kind of footing is good and what is bad. I become quickly skilled in taking the safer route, avoiding some parts that have been so trampled by other racers that they are like an oily slip-n-slide of doom.

Chris wants me to say, "Because I'm a mother f@#$ing bad ass," like I mean it!

I would love to give a more detailed account of the suffering that went on during this portion of the race, but whether I was too tired to pay too much attention or my subconscious is protecting me from the pain of reliving that traverse, all I can say is that the log was heavy and I was slow. I took it a few steps at a time and told myself this was good training for Denali.

Things get a little fuzzy around here, but I think that right before we came out of the woods, Roger met up with us with my Aleve and PB&J. I had assumed he would drive the car to the checkpoint and meet us there but he came from behind, from the mountain. I asked him if he did that whole mountain just to bring me a sandwich and then found out that he, indeed, did trek the whole mountain and did so barefoot! Amazing. Thank you Roger 🙂 We run into Ricky, I guess coming from Roger’s and I think this is the last time I will see him before he comes to cheer me on the next day.

At the next checkpoint, I was greeted by volunteers and sent to get my card punched by Roger (Roger’s Farm Roger, not support crew Roger). Here, I had to throw my log into their pond (this is where I discovered that my log floated! Yeah, log!); do 60 push-ups; fill and sort through a wheelbarrow of wood, separating out the good kindling from the trash; retrieve my log from the pond; carve “1 RO” into my log and then I was sent back to Amee via the mountain. I had a deadline to meet; buzz on the walkie-talkies was that anyone not on the way out from Roger’s checkpoint by 6pm was going to be taken back to Amee, put on the Unoffical Racer’s List and would be allowed to keep going, but wouldn’t get an official time since they didn’t do the mountain going back. I was horrified at the thought of coming all this way and putting in all this effort to not get an official time. I rushed through Roger’s tasks and was out of there by 6:10 at the latest.

Coming into Roger's Farm

Chris and I pick up another racer on the way back, Rebecca, who has no one to go back through the mountain with. We’re all agreed that no one should be out here alone and we stick together through what will be the scariest part of the race for me. The three of us are racing against the clock now, not Andy and Joe’s, but the sun’s. We definitely don’t want to be on this mountain when darkness hits especially since Chris is wearing his prescription sunglasses and does not have his regular set. At several points, we lose track of the trail and Chris heads out in a spoke pattern to re-establish it. We’re looking for little pink flags in the darkening woods and I’m panicking that we’re going the wrong way. I’m reassured that we’re going the right way and I follow Chris even with my doubts because I trust his sense of direction more than my own. He gets us out of some hairy situations even though he’s working in the dark and can barely see. Again: Thank. You. Chris. My pack is heavy, I’m tired and my knees are really sore.

We get to the top and start to head back down. This is a relief because the going down should be easier than going up. Then it starts to to rain. But not only does it rain, it thunders in loud claps and lightenings in proximity closer than I would like. If you don’t know it, here’s where I should say that I hate being cold. The wet doesn’t bother me so much, but it is making me much colder than I was when dry. My morale gauge is heading south, fast. Even though up to this point I’ve been tired, achy and maybe even doubted myself, I’ve tried to keep at least a semi-positive attitude or found something to look forward to or set my sights on a goal ahead. Now that we’re lost on the mountain (not true, Chris does know exactly where we are going, but at this time I feel lost), wet and cold, in the dark with lightening happening all around, I start to freak out. I’m expressing my fears a lot, probably, but I only vividly remember 2 instances where I verbalize the internal breakdown that’s happening:

1. I look at Chris and I say, “I am so scared.” It is a declaration, not a plea, and said very matter-of-fact, but I have never meant those words in a I’m-scared-for-my-life context before this moment.

2. I totally freak out on Rebecca and ask her, “I don’t want to be DQed from the race, but if our lives are in serious danger, isn’t stupid that we’re still carrying these logs?! Shouldn’t we drop them and get down faster?!” Luckily, Rebecca is calm, or hiding her fear very, very well. She tells me we are not in danger. I’m very susceptible to peer pressure (how do you think I got talked into the Death Race? Ahem, Ricky.) and so her telling me this, though not making me less scared, keeps me forging on, down the mountain.

I know that the trip took forever. I know that I don’t remember the trip up taking so long or having this hill, or that gravel, or going down then up like this. There are so many things that I know that turn out to be false. The trip didn’t take forever and we did end back at Colton Camp, just like Chris said we would. I’m freezing and I’m sure Rebecca is too because she’s got less body fat on her than I do and we huddle up by a bonfire before asking about our next tasks.

Before moving on, we find out we have 50 burpees awaiting us (guys had 100). We start on that, 10 at a time, and at some point, my entire support crew arrives and asks me what I need. I’m coming down, hard. Even the volunteers running this check point look at me and worry. They tell my crew, “She needs protein and caffeine. Now.” They race off to get me what is needed and Jerritt stays behind. This is the first time I’ve seen him since leaving Tallahassee on Wednesday. Knowing he was flying in that night, I was a little scared to see him because I thought that all the emotion would come pouring out and I would start to cry. When Dawn told me to see who was here, I hugged him and then started my burpees. When he offered me a banana, I snapped back, “I’m doing something right now.” Whether this was a defense mechanism or I was too exhausted to care, I’m not sure, but I did find myself apologizing later. Not only do I hate being cold, I also get very cranky when I’m food or sleep deprived. At this point I’m all three. Jerritt didn’t stand a chance.

Me and Jerritt

The support van comes back, I’m made to eat and drink both a 5-hour energy (my first ever) and also a Red Bull (also my first ever). I was scared that they would make me sick because I’ve never had energy drinks before but after much insistance, down they went. Chris goes back to the crew and Jerritt is our new guide. He gets me and Rebecca down the rest of the mountain, which, thankfully, is much easier to navigate than the previous section. It’s still slow going, but I’m feeling a little better and at least it’s not thundering and lightening anymore. I apologize to Rebecca for freaking out on her and she’s so nice. She shares her experience with ultra-distance events, gives me some tips on nutrition to keep from getting dizzy (as I have been getting dizzy on and off) and offers to stick with me for the rest of the race. We arrive safely back at Amee Farm and separate to prep for the next task.

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About Megan

I live and work with dogs in Tallahassee, Fl. My loves are in this order: 1. Dogs 2. Food 3. Coffee 4. Endurance Sports
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6 Responses to DR 2011 Race Report: Part 5 – The Breakdown

  1. Loving the reports! Thanks for sharing the experience!

  2. dawn says:

    i am LOVE LOVE LOVING this blog. Not as much as I loved being there to watch you do this, but I just love the details that you remember. (I wasn’t there when you saw Jerritt the first time.) I’m thinking it was my sister or just my husband!!

  3. Megan says:

    Thanks, o’d! You should write a blog too, I would love to know that was happening when I wasn’t there ;D

  4. Megan says:

    Thanks, Heather! Loving that you’re loving it!

  5. Daren says:

    I feel back at the farm from reading your blog….. you write very well!

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