“I’m not 17 anymore!” said a good friend of mine to me the other night. He had come over for completely different reasons, but as a good friend tends to do, he had let me take the conversation to running.
We were sharing a few drinks and bs-ing. Telling stories about days gone by, and races I had just recently run.
As I usually do, I suggested how good he would be at running, and his response was the same I always got. “I could hardly run when I was 17, and I’m not 17 anymore. I’d probably die if I started running.”
After he headed home and I was sitting finishing the drink, the real answer to this came to my mind. What I should have said.
“My 17 year old self couldn’t have done this! I wasn’t ready!”
The tools I use to train, sustain, and finish races simply were not present when I was 17.
What I could do at 17 could not be more irrelevant at this point in my life. I am so different from that kid that it boggles my mind. That poor kid could never have done the things I can do today.
My friend had told me “Even at 17 in football practice, I would stop running if I even started breathing hard.”
Even at 17? As if 17 was the pinnacle of when we peak as humans an athletes.
Yet, I completely understood his point when he made it. I understood the perception that we are at our best athletically when we are young.
I am better today then I ever have been. I would lap the 17 year old me.
So, would you, my friend. So would you. Trust me.
So that’s my hill.
I know. I know. It’s not all that impressive of a hill.
It’s the best I can do.
It’s a mining hill; the pile of dirt left behind from the early 1900′s when strip mining was big in this area. There are many of them in the communities around here. Some can be seen for miles.
Spring Valley’s hill is probably the smallest in the area. It can’t be seen till you’re almost on top of it.
Some people who live in Spring Valley probably don’t even know it exists.
It’s my hill though. It’s all I got.
According to my Iphone, it’s about 1/4 mile to go over and back. It’s 115 feet up and 115 down to go over and back with more elevation on the back side then on the front.
Here’s a picture of the back.
So, if you’re playing along, you’ve done the math and realized that 4 over and backs is a mile and 460 feet up and 460 feet down. That’s 920 feet of elevation change per mile.
I have been doing miles of it at a time.
I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO SORE!!!
Oh, I’ve done hill repeats before. Many times.
There is something special about this hill though, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
It may be because it’s not on pavement. It may be because each side is at different slopes. It may be because it’s not exactly straight up.
Whatever it is, it’s working already and I’ve only been at it a few days.
Look out Ohio! Here I come!
Here is a bonus video of the rain coming down in the sun at the mining hill park. It was awesome….
Kim and Donovan before the race. Kim’s getting her bike ready so this must be about 8pm-ish.
Race is on, and we’re crossing the river to enter the cave.
Done with the cave. On we go.
Photographic evidence that Donovan tried to push Kim in!
Donovan punching #9. So, that’s Team 9 at CP 9.
Donovan celebrates Kim putting on her favorite shoes. Jazz hands.
I’m not sure where we are, but we all have on harnesses, so my guess is near a rope.
Getting in the canoe.
…and we’re off!
“Donovan, what’s 2+2?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s 4. Maybe I’ll ask Kim.”
I like watermelon.
Kim likes watermelon more then me.
What a great picture.
I awoke Sunday morning feeling like Scott Norwood. I can pretty much say I know exactly how that guy felt in 1991. It had been a 47 yard FG for him, which is a long one by any standard, and it had been into the wind on a grass field. None of that mattered though as this was the Superbowl and he was supposed to make it.
Had he made it, he would have been a hero. He would have been THE hero. He missed, though, and the rest is history. He left the team and fled the city. He never played again.
That accurately describes how I felt as I awoke on Sunday morning. I can be a drama queen like that.
When I awoke, I found everyone else still asleep. That made sense as I was sure they had been up longer then I, especially since I had went right to bed the night before. So, I snuck out, got a shower, and began hunting down the gear I had left pretty much everywhere the night before.
At every turn I was greeted with “Are you OK?”, “How you doing now?”, or “Are you going to be alright?”. It was genuine concern from really good friends, but it stung like a hornet every time I was asked.
I put my paddles on my jeep and checked to see if my phone was dead. As luck would have it, I had 4% on my phone to call Cortny. So, I called.
She immediately sensed trouble, and all I had said was “Hi”. I recounted the story for her, and she made me feel better like she does. I shed a tear or two…or maybe more. I told her I’d see her soon, and the phone died.
As I gathered my dry-bag and a few stray pieces of gear, a guy I had run into many times the day before said hello. He had no idea what my team outcome had been, and he greeted me with a huge smile.
“You guys did really well,” he said. “I was impressed as hell with how fresh you all looked the whole time. It was inspiring. Great job. Thanks for your words to me.”
“Anytime,” I said with my first smile. I recalled having said something like “If I can do this, you guys can do this.” at some point the night before.
They had went on to finish the race after that.
He was a really nice guy, and he talked to me for a bit longer. I’m sure he had no idea he was cheering me up. I enjoyed discussing the race with him.
As I recounted parts of the day, I realized, as I’m sure Scott Norwood did eventually, that we had almost won the Superbowl. Our Superbowl. We had come within a last second field goal of finishing the toughest 24 hour adventure race in North America. We almost won the F-ing Superbowl…at least by our definition of a win. It was one hell of a feat. We should be proud.
You are correct in assuming that if I try and write a blog about the entire race that this will be a novel. I am not a brief writer. So, let me take you through some of the highlights, funny bits, and victories…
First off, the race went like this…
1) Orienteering (Rogaine) through the Camp Benson area. This area is cliffs, rocks, a river, and caves. This would be rock-climbing, rappelling, ascending, caving, and coasteering; all while following a map. In other words, it was a ton of fun.
2) Coasteering. That’s a fancy word for navigating the shore of a river without getting out of the water. It’s much harder than it sounds. It’s rocky to start, and the water slows your legs like weights. OH and it was NIGHT.
3) Road Run. Flat out run.
4) Paddling. Yep, three people in a canoe with paddles explains it.
5) Road Biking. Hilly.
6) Bike-O. This is orienteering (Rogaine style), but we had to keep track of our own bikes. The bikes were to be kept on roads or gravel…and all of the checkpoints were not on roads or gravel. This was our puzzle to figure out as fast as we could.
7) Orienteering. Traditional style. On foot. Points in order.
8) Biking. Gravel grinding. Huge gravel hills for miles and miles.
I really have lost a sense of the distance of each section, but I can tell you that Gerry, the race director, said the race spanned a 455 square mile area (I had previous said 250…but I was wrong). Plus, if somehow you could go in straight lines from point to point (as the crow flies) with no hills, then the race would exceed 100 miles.
Trust me when I tell you that we would not go in straight lines, and EVERYTHING was hills.
If you can’t read a map well, that picture may not impress you. It should. It’s crazy hilly.
I’ll start with my friend, Bob. Bob is an amazing person. He and I ran a trail 1/2 marathon in January in freezing rain together this year. You’ve read about him before in the blog about that race. Suffice it to say if you know him, you like him. This race, though, Bob is a good example of how wrong a race can start and how right it can end. (Love you, Bob. I hope you don’t mind me using your story here. It’s inspiring.)
I ran into Bob and his team about 60 minutes into the race. He was hanging 30 feet above the ground on an ascending line, and I was next to him on my line. I stopped for about 60 seconds to see if I could help him because I saw he was struggling. I couldn’t help. Somehow he had tied his lines all up and had burned out his arms trying to get them undone. He was in full mental and physical meltdown. I felt bad, but I moved on. He eventually had to be helped down.
Why include that story? Well, because Bob was sighted in another blog for later continuing the race anyway and standing neck deep in a river to help boats through log jams…even boats that were competing with him.
Bob eventually went on to take 3rd in his division and called it the best finish he’s ever had.
I’d like to move on to the paddling section now, but I think I will first tell you about the cave. Have you ever seen “Hole in the Wall“? It’s a kid show my girls like. Contestants try like crazy to contort themselves into a random hole to fit through and win prizes. The cave was like a natural version of that show. Especially for a 6’4″, 200 pound guy like myself.
…and add bats flying at your head. Dive bombing you. It was so nuts, we were laughing. I think this was the only times (60 seconds of a 24 hour race) that Donovan seemed slightly scared, and Kim and I thought that was funny. Hilarious.
We didn’t get out without at least one joke about no bat getting caught in my hair.
AND OMG! I haven’t introduced you to my teammates….
Kim Heintz of Frisco, Colorado and Donovan Day of Woodstock, Illinois. They are not dating. No they are not. They have very distinct plans for future dating, but at this time they are not dating. It’s cute….er…they’re not dating. (Love ya guys!)
Athletically, Kim is currently 1st in her division in her mountain biking circuit…and remember she lives in Colorado. Donovan finished the 34 mile version of the Frozen Otter …and wishes he had just went ahead and done the 64. He would have finished.
Personally, they are as friendly and giving as you could ever hope for in teammates.
Philosophically, they are right in tune with myself on just about everything from food to courage. Donovan even has a daughter named Maddie, too.
They are my friends.
PADDLING! You ready for this?!?
Paddling consisted of no less then 4 hours of log jams. Log jam after log jam. We started in the dark and continued into the morning hours. Dragging, shimmying, pushing, pulling, and portaging log jam after log jam. It was ridiculous.
Two things you need to picture here. First, picture Donovan singing “Who can take a sunrise. Sprinkle it in dew. Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?“. Second, picture me with my hands on Donovan’s shoulders shimmying with my entire body to make the boat come off a log jam.
NOW PICTURE THEM TOGETHER!
WAIT! DON’T! LOL
Kim was the eyes of the boat in front, and I was trying like hell to minimize collisions from the back. It was an impossible task. At one point, I shouted “Ramming Speed!” and we just rammed a log as fast as we could. We literally got air….and from there on out, we used skatboarding terms to describe our way through the logs. “Olly over that log and rail grind the tree on the left, Chad!”
Donovan was the brave soul who took the plunge when it was needed and pulled us through trouble. He would get back in the boat and shiver from the cold, but he never complained.
No less then 58 “Is this the turn in the river?”s later, we were at the bike section.
The bike section would not be memorable if it weren’t for my change of shoes and socks. My shoes were toast, and my socks were not only mud soaked, but they had ripped at the ankle. I was DELIGHTED that I had new socks on my bike for me. “Yay! DRY SOCKS!” I shouted. I even did a little dry sock dance, and Matt and Dawn Moore (the volunteers here and friends of mine) laughed at me.
I had purchased a brand new 3-pack of Puma dry-weave light hikers just a few weeks before the race and had set one pair aside just for this moment. They were brand new socks. This was going to feel AWESOME!
I put on the left sock and let out an orgasmic “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” It was heaven.
I put on the right sock.
I put on the right sock.
I put on the right sock.
The never-before-worn pair of socks was a factory error. My right sock was a baby sock. It fit only over my toes.
Who would have thought to check that? (Don’t really ask anyone that. One lady snarkily shot, “That’s what you get for trying new socks in a race” at me. It mad me so happy to hear that. It was just what I needed. Helpful advice. Grrrrrr!)
By the way, I had worn the other 2 pairs in the prior weeks. They were fine. I had randomly selected the flawed one to save until this very moment.
Why do I always have to be the guy who’s the example for others to learn from? Ah, yes, because I am a dumb-ass. OK. I said it. So, you don’t have to.
From the bike we went on to the Bike-O. It was about 8 hours long. It was a ton of fun, as we did really well finding each checkpoint.
I really don’t know how she does it, but Kim got a migraine early in the section, and it didn’t slow her down. If she wouldn’t have told me, I wouldn’t have known. She said to me several times that she was at 30%…and I just kept thinking “I’ll take 30% of Kim as a teammate any day.”
I did 70% of the navigating in the section, but not without constant double-checks with Kim. Together we did very well. I don’t recall having any major issues that cost us significant time.
Our only concern was water, and thanks to Donovan we found more than we needed all day. We even managed to wash off once.
WATERMELON!!! HOLY SHIT!!! WATERMELON!!!
Some genius (I would later curse his name…but for now he was a genius) had brought a huge cooler of ice cold watermelon to the transition area/bike drop. It was amazing.
Imagine the heat of the hottest part of the day. You’ve been on the move for 16 hours. You’re drenched in sweat. You’re running low on…well everything.
…and right there….
ICE COLD MOTHER F-ING WATERMELON!!!
I kept going back for more. Kim and Donovan thought I was making it magically appear in my hands.
I am willing to admit to 4 pieces. 4 pieces…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. <wink>
So, we’re off on foot now, and we know we have until about 8pm to get this section done or else the sun will go down on us, and we’ll be hard pressed to make the cut-off (<<<I’m amazingly good at foreshadowing).
Bang boom pow, we get through them quick…except the last one.
OH NO! The SUN!
Its gone down.
What will we do?
Will we ever find it?
Let’s pace count.
Let’s try from this curve.
Let’s try from this tree.
Let’s try from this power line.
Maybe this is the re-entrant?
Maybe THIS is the re-ertrant?
Let’s attack from bottom.
Humm…back to the top.
Is that 6 re-entrants we’ve tried?
OK…we give up. We need to leave. We have only 3 hours to get back now.
“Umm. Guys?” says Donovan. “You think this is it?”
“YES DONOVAN! YOU ARE THE MASTER!!!”
Hugs, High Fives…and a run for the bikes.
WE HAVE THEM ALL! WE ARE GOING TO FINISH THE THUNDER ROLLS!
<INSERT SOUND EFFECT OF SCREECHING TO A HALT!>
“So, you guys want to take the truck back then?” said the volunteer.
Um. Excuse me? We’re navigational gods. We just completed all the orienteering at the Thunder Rolls. You couldn’t possibly be talking to us.
“Um, yes. I’m talking to you guys. You should probably just wait til the truck gets here to pick you up,” he said.
Our jaws dropped.
“Teams have been averaging 3-and-a-half hours to get back. You guys have 2 hours and 20 minutes left.”
“Yes. AT LEAST!”
So, you’re saying we have no chance?
“No chance. You should wait til the truck gets here.”
Can we short course ourselves so we can make cut-off?
“I don’t think so. We had someone get a ticket in the park, and the other roads are too dangerous. If you vary from the course, you will be disqualified. You should just stay here and ride back in the truck.”
Which means we are disqualified anyway?
<Whisper> Let’s just do it anyway guys. What do we have to lose?
“Here. I’ll call Gerry and check.”
<Whisper> Shit he heard us.
“Nope. You should just stay here. Gerry says all other routes are banned.”
WELL WE’RE GOING FOR IT ANYWAY!
“OK. Good luck.”
The next two hours went like this for me….
…hands going numb
…arms hurting. Head hurting. Heart pounding.
Oh, God. I’m falling behind.
I’m gonna be sick.
…if I break, we lose…if I continue I’ll pass out. I’m getting dizzy.
…I’m laying on the side of the road.
I am in a truck.
I am overwhelmed by pain and shame. I don’t talk. I don’t know what to say even.
This brings us full circle to the top of our story here.
BUT as I write this, three days has passed….and I am becoming myself again.
My determination is back. My drive is there again.
I will return. I will be stronger. I will beat this race. Mark my words.
Thanks for reading my story.
Ginormous thanks to Kim and Donovan. I am forever in your debt.
Wow! Look at that guy!
That guy’s getting pretty heavy.
This is a picture from October 2010. It’s not my heaviest. If I had to guess, I’d put it in the 240ish range. Before I was done, I’d tip 260.
If you look close you can see the shorts fit tight around the waist. The climbing harness has about 3-4 inches of belt left (on an XL) and the leg loops easily stay up.
My neck, arms, and face all carry some weight to them.
This was on my way down the wrong road. I had pretty much quit exercising and was enjoying food like never before. Cortny and I were “saving money” and buying most of our groceries at Wal-mart. Processed foods made up nearly every meal, and exercise was a thing of the past.
Now, I can give you a million excuses as to why we ate poorly and didn’t exercise anymore. My favorite excuse was that my mother had moved away to Tennessee and left us with no babysitter, so we could never get away from the kids anymore. Of course, I know all my excuses were bullshit now, but then…oh, then I could go on and on about how I “used to be an Adventure racer”.
It was the 260 on my scale in late December of 2011 that sent me into a panic. Here I was a guy with a garage FULL of kayaks, bikes, backpacks, shoes, etc…and I wasn’t using any of it anymore.
TWO FUCKING SIXTY! I like to think I’m the kind of guy who saves nasty swearing for when it really makes a point…I don’t use it lightly. I apologize if I have offended. 260 was an eye-opener. It had to end.
To give you an idea of my fitness level, I can tell you it had degraded to the level of non-existent. I did literally nothing.
So, I thought about it and decided to attack this “Fat Thing” like I did smoking.
My plan was simple, and mirrored what I had done to smoking, I would set a date in the future, and put together a plan that would start on that date. The plan would include several “goals” along the way…a 5k, a 10k, a half-marathon, and finally a return to he Thunder Rolls!
It was a 2 year plan, and quite frankly it seemed impossible. I figured I had no chance. The date almost two years off, seemed impossibly far off. I thought two things…1) The date would never come and 2) I would never be ready. BUT I KNEW I WAS GONNA FIGHT LIKE A SON OF A BITCH TO GET THERE! (Swearing again…sorry.)
Many of you have been a big part of it. You’ve run with me. You’ve raced with me. You’ve trained with me. You have inspired me. You’ve lifted me up when you saw I was getting down.
I would be remiss if I didn’t put in a HUGE thanks to my wife right here. She NEVER doubts me. She always seemed to know I would do OK. Laughing at me when I would say otherwise.
So, now look at this guy!
I do apologize that I picked a picture with a slightly out of focus face, but I have a reason. First of, I am wearing a large shirt, not an XL, and you’ll notice it hangs loose. You’ll notice my skinnier arms too.
BUT the real reason I had to pick this picture is that I AM WEARING THE SAME SHORTS! Notice the black belt hanging down in the front. That belt is cinched so tight just to keep the pants up. I easily have 6 inches of belt hanging there. Look how loose the shorts are as compared to above.
The guy in the photo above is about 209. I almost broke under 200 at one point, but I started going back up as I continued to trained and put on muscle.
The guy in the picture above has raced dozens of 5k’s, numerous 10k’s, three half-marathons, a couple 12 hour Rogaines, and a couple adventure races…mostly just in the past 6-7 months….to get ready for this coming weekend.
Here are the photos side by side…
So, it’s time I use a big word and say that the “Culmination” of almost two years is upon me. (I hope “Culmination means what I think it means…LOL)
This weekend (August 23-25), I race the Thunder Rolls with my team mates Kim Heintz and Donovan Day…two amazing people. It will be a 24 hour gruelfest of endurance and skill, that spans an area of more then 250 square miles. I will bike, hike, run, paddle, climb, rappel, crawl, scrape myself along a mapped course along a path that at it’s shortest is considered 100+ miles long. Most of this will be through weeds, briars, thorns, stinging nettle, poison ivy, and it will be up and down some of the biggest hills Illinois has to offer…some places it will literally be 100 foot cliffs. Most of the time, no road will be in sight, and probably no trail…we will be making our own as we follow our map.
Am I nervous?
…but in my mind I have already won.
“Mom and Dad, I’ve decided to be a vegetarian.” she said to us.
Now, you probably have read quite a few of my posts about eating right. You may know that I strive to eat healthy, stay in shape, avoid processed foods…and so on. So, you probably expect that I was happy.
I was not.
I was kind of pissy about it.
How can she do this to my wife and I?
What a pain in this ass this is going to be.
Yep. My instincts were shouting all the wrong things.
Here, in front of me, was a child who’d absorbed all the things I had been trying to teach not only others, but had been trying to teach myself. She HAD been listening. She understood what I had been trying to tell everyone…and I was annoyed by the inconvenience it was going to be.
“10 year olds aren’t vegetarian!” my mind shouted at me.
How am I going to explain this to people? How will my Mom (her grandmother), or my Dad (her Grandfather) feel about this?
THIS IS RIDICULOUS!
It’s not ridiculous at all.
It’s was exactly what we had been teaching her.
“I just want to be healthy, and I don’t really like meat anyway, Dad” she said. It was true too. She’s always devoured salads and veggies. Her entire life, we have struggled to get her to eat meat. This was going to be easy for her.
Now this was about a month ago, and Maddie has been great about it. She’s found new ways to order at restaurants. She doesn’t make it a problem for the rest of us. She’s enjoying new foods like it’s an adventure she’s always hoped to be on. A trip to the grocery store has been exciting for her as she explores all the new things it has to offer. She’s been seeking knowledge on her new diet like Columbus on a voyage.
One of the most interesting things I have noticed is that she doesn’t let it get all confusing. She doesn’t torture herself over it like an adult would. There are a few meats she really enjoys, and so she has indulged on occasion (breakfast sausage for instance), and not let it change her stance on “being vegetarian”. She’s maybe had meat twice in the month, and it didn’t phase her. It didn’t bother her at all that she had a little meat. Her beliefs held strong. This amazed me, because I know most of my adult vegetarian friends would have major issue with any meat or with ‘falling off the wagon’.