Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
- Next meeting- Laura, my secret hero. She was a bit dazed and tired-looking but not far behind Thomas. Again, happy to be traveling together.
- Pass a few more runners, bikers. No one saying much. Some saying nothing. No eye contact.
- Hallucinations begin, though mild at first, mostly black dogs disguised as spruce trees.
- All I wanted to do was get to Alexander Lake. It is becoming obvious that 12 miles is far.
- What you'll notice is I'm not really describing how I'm feeling. Do I really have to? I didn't think so. So, here's my "Ode to J.D."- I will not lie. This sucks.
- Snowmachine passes, headed up to A. Lake, pulling a sled with a scratched runner on the back. I could tell it was Alessandro from Italy. Damn. He had worked so hard to lower his sled weight to a reasonable poundage. We found out later he had a "camelbag" fatality.
- In between all these happenings, we plod along, sometimes running, progressively more walking, occasional talking. By now, it's getting terribly cold and everything is on, save The Snowpants. My emergency-only Shkoop skirt has turned into a necessity.
- Jane! followed closely by Carol! Both too awake and too perky. They must be handing out something good at the upcoming cabin.
- Veronica in-bound! She warns us that we won't want to stay long in the checkpoint. "It's crowded." That was an understatement.
- Now, I know you have a tendency to see odd things out there, but when you turn a corner and see a red blinking light shining on the trail, a sled and it's contents strewn all over the ground and no runner to be found, you get a little worried. We yelled for William (name on bib), concerned about a hypothermic strip and run. Nothing. Oh boy. We kept going, hoping the checkpoint wasn't far away. Soon a snowmachine came by on patrol. We flagged him down and asking about William. He said he had scratched and was already picked up and taken to the checkpoint. Whew. Upside? We woke up a bit.
- Kevin Vig in-bound! He looked great, alert and going strong. 30 more minutes to go.
- Arrival at A. Lake checkpoint, looking forward to some quality rest of 1-2 hours. We walk into the cabin and it was like the Night of the Living Dead. Nevermind the full tent outside, this cabin was full of sleeping bodies. From those bodies comes a smell and humidity that is difficult to describe. There was no place to sit and dry anything out or change socks.
- Sitting on a chair by the fire, was Jamshid. He'd frozen or scratched his corneas out-bound to Luce's in the headwind, and now, he couldn't open his eyes. They were watering and fire-red. I had some contact re-wetting solution and told him he could use it. He asked if I could help put it in and I said sure, just open your eyes. He said, no, I need your help with that, they won't open. I had to pry his eyelids open to get the drops in. Not good. His eyes were another version of bloodshot I'd never seen before, though the drops helped him open his eyes some. I told him he needed to think about his eyes first and not worry about the race. The checker was so overwhelmed with people she couldn't focus on trying to help him. I assumed he would scratch.
- Dave was getting closer and closer to losing it with the crowd so we jetted out of there as soon as we could. The poor checker looked at us with despair, hating to lose two of the only sane people in the cabin.
- In summary, the 12 miles up to A. Lake was excruciating. Now we left the cabin, tired, not rested and it's colder. Now, skip to the top of the blog and review.
- Hallucinations in full- swing, black dogs everywhere, hollering to Dave to wake up. Amazingly, he can run asleep with very little change to his gait. There is just a subtle head tilt to the left and less cadence to his stride. One quick "Dave" and up he went, trotting on. Somehow he was able to remember to take a quality, flattering picture of the wreckage (first pic of the blog).
- "Darkness is a harsh term, don't you think? And yet it dominates the things I see."
- Somewhere while it was still dark, Jamshid! caught up and ran with us for a while. After he passed us (he passed us! With frozen corneas!), Dave told me he said "I think I damaged something". Yup. you and me both, buddy.
- It was here, on this 12 miles that we became a poorly-oiled but solidly enmeshed team.
- It was also here that I realized I was going to finish the race. What other choice did I have once we left A. Lake?
- Light started to break. Sunday morning. This helped as we dropped back down onto the Yentna.
- Fact: the two miles back to Luce's where you can see the sign for a full 2 miles is longer than the three visible miles of the dismal swamp. Don't believe me? Try it yourself.
- Ahhh, Luce's. I knew I'd gone crazy when I was happy to see Dave Luce.
So breakfast as Luce's was awesome. Oh, except the pancakes. But I don't like those anywhere. I won't bore you with the checkpoint routine, same as all the last- off with the wet, on with the dry. It was so fun to see Jane's friendly face, until she said she scratched due to Frostbite of zee toes. Suck. the only positive thing from that? She gave me her ski poles. Ahhhhhh.....Something different! My ankles (cankles at this point) were starting to not bend very well, so the poles helped alot. I don't actually think I was moving any faster, but it FELT like it.
Next stop- Let's play "Kill the Sleep-deprived, Blind-From -the Sun(the sun!) Susitna 100 Racers"! Dodging Irondoggers on the Yentna River is not fun. I thought Dave was going to stab them with a race marker. He was close. At the pre-race meeting, the director told us to hug the race markers, as the IronDog folks knew we'd be out there and would avoid us. Hug my ass. THEY were hugging the race markers, as it was the fastest way down the river, and otherwise sane, heteroesexual men were hugging each other, in an effort to save their lives. Below-Dave, with two skiers. We felt kind of bad for them out there, it was like skiing on sandpaper. Something with the ambient temperature, the snow quality and waxy stuff. THAT's why I run.The turn back onto the Big Su was in the heat of a gorgeous, sunny day. Seratonin release, baby. The big Su was also the location of the "Beef Jerky Incident". It went something like this: Dave- "Ooooo. I'm getting out the jerky. Want some?" Andra- "Not just yet, ask me in a few minutes." Dave- (couple minutes later)" here. take a piece." Andra- "no, just save me some in a little bit." Time passes, who knows how much. But from MY recollection, a couple minutes, max. Andra- "I'll take some jerky now." Dave-"Oh. Here, take these little pieces. They always taste the best." Andra- "Oh, ok." Little did I know at the time that they were the ONLY pieces left. The little pieces. Nice. I think it was the only salty thing we ate on the trail. The wide river, and Sleeping Lady in the background (I had to stand like that. My ankles didn't bend anymore): This is a wonderful example of what happens to two rational people on a 100-miler- goggles in calm skies and blank stares: The Big Su was going along great (make no mistake, everything was indeed hurting) but it's hard to complain with the sun shining. But evetually I realized that the turn off the river WAS NEVER GOING TO COME. The Wall of Death was apparently a one-way trip down. I hate to say it but I couldn't wait to get to the Dismal Swamp. And yet, it came upon us soon enough. Dave's face says it all: As we crossed the dismal swamp, something didn't feel right (well, besides all my joints). Oh. It wasn't windy. I asked Dave "Is this normal?" "Um. I don't think so. It's always windy here." I'd like to say we took advantage of the lull in the storm on the swamp and rocketed ahead, but nope. Plodded along. It was hard to remember that this was actually the same day we ate breakfast at Luce's. I was having some trouble across Flathorn. Yes, I'll say some trouble. Even following the right trail. Now, it's hard to go on the wrong trail here, but as we closed in on the checkpoint, I someho veered right, onto the trail that takes you across the length of the lake. "Uh, babe, you, uh, wanna be over here." Dave points to the trial he's on. It looks like it's about 1/2 mile away and through deep snow ( 10 feet away, 3 inches of hard packed). I see now, that this is where my obsession formed with staying on the (perceived) flattest, smoothest trail. Coincidentally, also my first minor bout of delerium. No worries. Flathorn checkpoint in-bound. Whew. What a checkpoint. They took off my gloves for me! They hung them above the stove! They served me MORE of the best jumbalaya. Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I left the checkpoint and told Dave "I'd like to run a little it if that's ok". He did a double take, and looked around, I guess for whoever may have invaded my body. He looked at me, I think trying not to smile and said "sounds good. You lead the way." From Flathorn back is 16 miles. Thank god it was getting dark because it is through some of the longest, straightest, most boring trail in the day. I was surprising alert. For about 10 miles. Heh, heh. The last 6 miles were amusing at best, alarming for Dave at worst. For some reason, I wanted to turn left. "Dave, we have to turn left up here." "No, stop veering off." "Come on, it's over here after these trees." "Andrea. Just. Come on.(Add southern accent for flavor)." Oh, it's the downhill to the Little Su. Oh. This does look familiar. And on we went (dark of course). Up the awful hill that Yvonne had to mentally help me though last year. Onto Ayrshire Road. At this point, hallucinations were in full swing. Dave was Yvonne for awhile. Then all three of us were running together. Dave was starting to get frustrated with how much energy I was wasting weaving across the trail, trying in vain to find the most hard packed route. Finally I hear him say, resigned "Babe, they're all the same. Stop weaving around." Ugh, then he made me eat a caffinated Strawberry banana gel. How good does that sound? Yuck. Then, a somewhat surreal encounter that woke me up momentarily from my stupor: People walking toward us (real people, not made up in my mind). To Dave- "Are you my husband?" Dave- Ah, no?" Me- wait a minute, NO! He's with me! Alas, only a fleeting moment of sanity, then we finally reached the start of "The Last Three Miles": "I don't think that it's the end But I know we can't keep going..." So, somewhere a few miles back, before I didn't know where I was, I told Dave it would be cool to finish before midnight. So, under 39 hours. By the time we had three miles to go, we had 45 minutes to go 3 miles. He decided to approach me with this situation. The response was not positive. Along the way, I saw so many moose. They would slowly stand up and move, kind of like those Elephant hallucinations in the Disney movie. I was aware enough to laugh at my own hallucinations, and yet kept pointing them out to Dave. I think it's what kept him so awake- concern over my mental state. Needless to say, we finished in 39 hours, 27 minutes. My finish line pose. I still feel bad, writing this 2 months later (sorry, I've been out running!) that we didn't get a picture of Dave and I. It's easy for me to say I wasn't thinking clearly. But really. No picture of Dave! My most important cog, for everything! Dave piled everything in the car, warmed it up and off we went. With an empty tank. Great. We stopped at a gas station on KGB and parked for a while to sleep. A security guard circling the car woke up Dave, so we headed home. Somehow we made it. The next morning, back to civilization, with the comfort of the dog and ice: "Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. Don't leave me alone at this time. For I'm afraid of what I will discover inside... It's not the long walk home that will change this heart. It's the welcome I receive with every start." To discover what's inside, and how much you've got. Maybe that's why people do these things. I don't know. Maybe most of the negatives have been tempered with time since I'm now only finishing this 2 months later. All I can tell is it seems pretty selfish (I mean, it's not like we're solving world hunger out there) and it's not always pretty, but when you get to explore out there with the person you love the most in this world, with no cell phones, internet, world disasters, bills, Sarah Palin updates or facebook posts, why not? Dave, I love you. Thanks. Even if you did eat all the beef jerky.