Monday, March 29, 2010

White Mountains 100 (some more)

(The Ice Lakes)

"@#$%^&!" I yelled every curse word I could think of as Julie M. and I ran up and down the trail swinging our arms like idiots. My hands were starting to freeze and I thought this was the only time I really wished I had pogies. Julie showed me her hand and it was starting to turn really white. "Let's get out of the wind." she suggested.

It's a shame I was in such a hurry for the 2.5 miles down to the Ice Lakes because it was a downhill luge that I remember not even having to steer through. My bike just kind of got funneled down this chute and out onto the Ice Lakes. No steering, no brakes.

Ahh, the Ice Lakes! It was still light out, and... they didn't look that bad. From what Ed, the race director, had described the night before I was picturing a 12 degree slope of glare ice. Glare ice yes, slope... not so much.

I followed the snow machine tracks, as Julie M. followed behind. I tried to take the path of least resistance, or in this case, the path of least slippery trail. I pushed forward against the strong headwind and could feel my body temperature dropping. I stopped to wait for Julie, and tried jumping up and down to keep warm. But then I heard a crack in the ice that started at my feet and crawled it's way over to the side of the "lake". Okay, maybe no jumping then.

Finally at the end of the ice lakes, and I saw a headlamp. I looked back and saw that Julie was struggling with her bike. The wind kept pushing it out of her hands and she dropped it many times.

The headlamp at the end of the lake belonged to a medic named Dan Young. He had a tent set up there at the end of the lakes, just in case people coming down off of the pass at night needed help. Thank you Dan!

Julie showed him her hand and he told us the tissue was starting to turn. She couldn't move three of her fingers. He said, "There's nothing I can do here, we'll have to get you down to the Windy Gap cabin."

"Does that mean I have to scratch?" Julie said, and he replied, "If you get a ride on the snow machine it does." I was pretty bummed that she might have to quit, but thought all hope was not lost. Suddenly Dan thought of an idea and decided to warm her hands on the snow machine grips.

About and hour and half later, after her hands were warmed up and she had warmed up in a minus 30 degree sleeping bag, she made a miraculous recovery. She suddenly sat up and started chatting with us again. It looked like she was going to be able to keep riding.

During the time while Julie was getting warmed up I put all of my layers on and stomped around trying to keep warm. I put hand warmers in my mittens and boots. I chatted with Dan who I found out knows the owners of the company I work for(and good friends of mine). They actually bought his company some years back in order to form PangoMedia. Small, small world.

I guess I could have continued on to the cabin, but I thought if I left, Julie would have no one to ride with the rest of the 8 miles down. It was dark now and the temperature was dropping rapidly. It probably wouldn't have been a good idea for her to continue on by herself coming so close to hypothermia and frostbite. I was in no hurry to get to the cabin, I had planned to eat dinner and try to get a few hours of sleep there anyway. And I was ecstatic that my race up to this point had gone as planned.

So I stayed. And I'm glad I did because Julie then popped out of the tent, back to her old cheery self and we rode the last 8 miles to Windy Gap (mile 62) together. We got to mile 62 (checkpoint #3) at midnight, 16 long hours after we had started that day.

(Getting ready to go at 10:30 pm)

The Windy Gap cabin was so warm that we stripped down to our base layers as soon as we got in. It was very busy too and I was happy to see that there were still three bikers there. We ate meatball soup, talked with the volunteers and other racers, and got some sleep after some of the racers cleared out.

It was at Windy Gap that I saw that Brian had left at 8pm. I thought he was probably at checkpoint #4 by then, so he was just about 4 hours ahead of me.

Throughout the night racers came in until the very last racer showed up around 2 am. Eventually everyone went to sleep. We slept in a 6 person cabin with 12 people. It was quite cozy. Everyone was hacking and coughing all night (including myself), so I'm not sure I got any actual sleep.

I rolled over sometime later and it was 5 am. Julie M. said, "I think I'm ready to go." and I whispered, "Me too." We tried to get up quietly, but as soon as we stood up, most of the other racers jumped up and started packing. I think no one wanted to be the last one out of Windy Gap. Not only because it would mean that you were in last place, but because it's very lonely at the end. No one just happens to come along the trail behind you. It's just you.

(Morning on overflow)

And so we embarked on our second day. Mornings are rough for me so I told Julie M. I was going to hang back and take it easy. There was a ton of overflow on this section of the trail, so it was more on and off the bike to negotiate the ice. I was shocked that this section was so flat. If you look at the elevation profile, it looks like downhill the whole way with one hill.

(Looks downhill right? It is soooo not.)

It was a bit demoralizing when it was painfully gradual, to the point where it almost seemed to be uphill. It was bitter cold. We were told this would be the coldest part of the course and it did not disappoint.

Then about seven miles in just as I was starting to warm up and get going. I looked down and my front tire was completely flat. I looked up to yell to Julie that I got a flat, but she was cresting the horizon and she couldn't hear me. I cannot describe how completely devastated I was. And I absolutely hate changing Endomorph tires. They are really hard to get on and off. I hate doing it in my living room where it is 65 degrees and I have had a full night rest. But I was tired and it was probably 25 below at this point.

I tried first pumping air into it because this has happened before where the valve just comes loose and it's not an actual flat. That seemed like it was going to work, but then I got back on the bike and it went flat again.

By now Julie had to be almost a mile ahead and was probably waiting so I started to run next to the bike so that I could tell her to just go ahead, and that I would probably be awhile. I had one of those, oh my god I am going to burst out crying moments, and even made this "eeeeg" sound, then said out loud, "THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!" but then I held back the flood and got it together.

I eventually caught up with Julie and yelled to her, "I have a flat! You should go ahead." She asked if I had everything I needed and we parted ways.

And so I fixed the flat. It took about 15 minutes for me to get the tire off. There was ice build up on the rims from all of the overflow and the tire kept sticking to them. I would work on the bike for about a minute and then have to put my hands back into my mittens to warm them up. When I took the tube out, it still had air in it. And I could not squeeze anymore out. What the shit?

(Fixing the flat, getting passed by everyone once again)

But I put a new tube in and pumped it up a little, then proceeded to take a half hour to get the freaking Endomorph tire back on. This is when I had my major break down. I can't believe I actually thought I was going to get through the entire race without an emotional breakdown. So silly.

I think about it now and laugh. I was kneeling on my camelbak in the middle of this canyon, with no one around for miles (I hope), beating on my tire with all of my strength. There was two inches of tire that I could not get back on to the rim and I was literally screaming out expletives and punching it as hard as I could.

Awful words, unthinkable things, that you can not even imagine. Think of the worst curse words you know and then string them all together in a sentence. Now say that out loud. That's what I yelled over and over again.

I thought I was being punished for not practicing changing these tires more often. Then magically it popped back in. I was so proud of myself. I didn't give up and it worked. Then I pumped for what seemed like another half hour. Just when I thought I had enough air in, I packed up my stuff, got back on the bike, and then...

My tire went flat again. No joke. I was devastated yet again. But I was surprisingly calm. I pumped another hundred times, just to get the tire to where I could ride it and decided. well, I can ride it. It's going to be slow, but I can ride it.

The strange this is that about an hour later I looked down and it was fully inflated. An hour after that, flat again. I still have no idea, but guess what? I got to checkpoint #4 at noon. Hooray! Only 20 miles left to go.

(Me enjoying a tasty bagel sandwich that Brian left for me at Checkpoint #4, thanks Monkee Man!)

(This is getting long again... I finish it up tomorrow. Yes, I realize it was only 100 mile race and I've already written two novels here, but a lot happened and I have a job.)


Jill said...

I'm enthralled! Endomorph flats are my worst nightmare and it has actually never happened to me on the trail (only on the road.) I find them quite easy to get on and off my rims, but not with cold fingers on cold metal, and not when you have to use a little hand pump to inflate the massive things. I think you were justified in your cursing.

Anonymous said...

Okay. I am convinced, now more than ever, that my true test of strength and endurance lies not on the Ice Lake, or the ability to change tires in minus degree weather, but rather to go the distance on some sandy beach in the Bahamas. Oh, the dreaded warmth, the agonizing tan lines, the miles of sand and surf ahead of me! See? I am a total wimp compared to you, but a happy wimp all the same for I would have had the mother of all emotional breakdowns on your trail. You, Chica, are a powerhouse!

Julie said...

Jules, it is so funny to hear your version of the experience! The best part is knowing what you were doing to stay warm while I was in the tent and semi-conscious - Dan told me you were doing jumping jacks. I don't remember that downhill to the ice lakes either.. except vaguely that I was having trouble handling the bike with one working hand! We should go back and try it again! ;) I didn't know about the ice cracking - glad you didn't tell me. I started literally running across the ice in some spots to get through it faster.. for whatever reason, my logic said that the faster we got across the ice, the less chance of falling in. :) As far as popping out of the tent, I didn't mention in my post that I was violently shaking my body as fast as possible when Dan threatened to take me to Windy Gap. I don't know how you managed to stay warm out there - I am very impressed!

Nice description of the cabin, I was surprised when everyone popped up, HA!! I was hoping to make a breakaway.

I'm still sorry I didn't stick around to help you with the flat.. at the time I was beginning to go into survival mode trying to stay warm, but should have stopped. You are a trooper getting it all by yourself!

Great write up so far. I look forward to part 3!!

Julie said...

Jill, you'll have to show me the trick with getting the tires on and off. I know there are people that do it really easily all the time.

Julie, you should not have stayed, you would have not been able to do anything and just would have gotten cold and pissed watching me struggle!