Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Planet Adventure Night Winter Trail Half Marathon

Planet Adventure 
Night Winter Trail Half Marathon
Eagle Creek Park, IN
Racers: Eric Olsen, Heather Kluch

We hard about this race while doing an Indiana Rogaine a few weeks ago. We ran into two adventure racing friends that told us about it, and they happened to be the race director and a race organizer. Normally I wouldn't drive this far for a half marathon but since it was a trail run (a challenge), it was at night (more of a challenge), everything was frozen (even more of a challenge), and we were offered a place to crash afterwards, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity!

It's Saturday, the race starts at 6:10pm but we figure to leave early just in case. As we're driving down, I'm having doubts about racing. My leg isn't feeling normal. A couple days before the race I decided to do a crossfit type workout, and I think I pulled something while doing squats. My hammies and my left buttcheek are screaming at me. Thankfully, I didn't have to drive. Eric drove so all I did during the entire ride was pop some Ibuprofen and rub my leg and my butt, hoping it would loosen up a bit. I'm very stubborn so when things hurt, I don't let them stop me. This is not the safest way to go, because I know I could injure myself further, but if I think it's something that could potentially end up worse, I will make the call to not race. It's definitely a battle in my mind, it's hard for me to back down! When we are about an hour away, Eric decides he's hungry and whips out some weird vacuum sealed packaged from Harry & David. Apparently they sell smoked salmon which I thought looked weird as hell. He opens the package and yep, it looks weird as hell! It smells good, but I've never had salmon out of a plastic sack before! He lets me try some and it's actually delicious, but it's so smokey flavored that you can only eat some of it. He throws the rest away in our grocery garbage bag which is resting by my feet. For the rest of the drive this is what I get to smell....smokey fish. I'm sure you all know what this smells like and what this smell is reminding me of! I might not eat fish for a while! 

As we approach Eagle Creek Park,  I've made the decision to race. I knew I wasn't going to perform at my best and I also wanted to run with Eric since it's his first half marathon, so I thought I'd just take it easy since his pace is a little slower than mine. We arrive around 4 which is super early. I've been to a Planet Adventure adventure race before but never to one of their trail run races. The setup was absolutely amazing! So many tents, a sound system, a digital timer, music, and a disco ball! I've never been to a race with a disco ball, these guys don't mess around. The atmosphere was fun and the volunteers were sporting green and orange outfits with sparkling blinking bling. We find Matt (the race director), and Craig (the organizer), and give them big hugs. One thing I love about adventure racers is they like to hug. Hugs are healthy! Also, my adventure racing friend Dustin is volunteering and knew I was coming down. He tells me I have a gift waiting for me in the back of his truck. I find his truck and see a package. I open this thing and find some awesome bathroom poop spray called Poo-Pourri! Best gift ever!!!! For those who know me, will understand this gift, and for those who don't, well I somehow got associated with poo. At least it makes me memorable! 

So we check in as quick as possible and pretty much speed walk back to the car because we're both freezing. I hate the cold, so doing a night run in the winter is definitely out of my comfort zone! We sit back in the car for as long as possible until it's time for the pre race announcements at 5:40pm. We hop out of the car and head to the race start. This is a half hour before our actual start time so we get to freeze our butts off for that long. I'm warm at first but standing in one place is starting to make my finger corpsicles appear. I start hopping up and down but that doesn't work, it only makes me look weird, but I keep doing it anyway. Then out of nowhere some random dude comes up to us like he's known us for years and keeps talking about nothing. I have no idea what he was even saying but at least it distracted me from how cold I was. 

At 6pm, the quarter milers take off! We're standing in the corral and I can feel my toes going numb. Running with numb toes is not awesome! I put my neck gaiter over my face because my nose is starting to freeze too. I can't wait to start running!!! Finally 6:10 comes around and we're off! The first section of the race is single track so it's a very narrow trail which makes it hard to pass anyone. If anyone was going for a personal record or a win in this race, they would have had to start at the front so they could be ahead of everyone else. Since we were mid pack, we ended up walking part of the trail because we couldn't pass some of the racers. It was just too narrow, slippery and dangerous. I'd rather not get injured than pass up someone and fall on my face! We finally get out of the bottleneck and start running. The trial is pretty hilly and technical. Everything is frozen so their's potential of falling at any time, there are also roots, rocks, stairs, and slippery bridges which makes us slow down. We get to the mile 1 marker and Eric is like, that's it? We've only gone a mile? It did seem a lot longer since we were walking the first part of it, so only 12.1 miles to go! 

It's starting to get pretty dark which I fear since I don't see well at night. I seriously need to get contacts one of these days but they're just so expensive and I don't have insurance at the moment. So I'm half way blind when I run at night. The headlamp helps but it's still not enough, so I fear tripping over roots or just tripping over nothing. I have a habit of tripping on air, I'm pretty talented like that. We get to a portion of the trail where it extends across a lake. This part is awesome! It's a double wide trail with water on both sides. I felt like I was running through the Florida keys, except without the toasty warmth and lack of gators. The moon was full and it was absolutely gorgeous. Since we were out of the woods, we could feel the wind which made it a little chilly but it wasn't a huge section and the scenery was totally worth the chill. We get back to normal land and start circling around the lake. I look into the woods and can see a stream of headlamps dancing in between the trees. This was so surreal, and calming, and beautiful. It just took every negative thought or worry out of my mind. It was pretty magical. I wish I could've taken a pic or video, but it was just too cold to stop and attempt a shot. We keep running and I can feel my leg starting to nag on me. It was fine for the first few miles, but now it's starting to get a little sore. I keep running and don't say anything about it. One thing in adventure racing, when things are sore or bothering you, you tend to not complain about them so you don't bring team morale down, you only complain if it's something serious. So that mindset carries over into a lot of things I do in both racing and my every day life. We get to mile 4, and I yell to Eric "Only 2.5 miles to go!" We do have another loop to do, but putting it that way is a lot easier to digest than yelling out the full mileage! It's a total mind game with yourself. Break up long distances into shorter distances because tricking your mind makes it easier to accomplish! As we're nearing the end of the first loop, we approach a bridge. We know these bridges are slippery so we walk across it. The end of the bridge has a steep decline and even though I'm walking, I slip down it. Luckily I didn't lose my balance, well Eric wasn't so lucky. Just as he slid down it, his shoes lost grip and he fell smack down on his knees. Good thing it was nothing serious, he got right back up and started running again. 

At 1 hour 22 minutes, we get to the 6.5 mile halfway point. It was really cool how they knew who we were and announced our names as soon as we crossed it. Very professionally done! We keep going for our second loop. It's now easier to run since the pack has split up a lot. We have no one in front of us that we have to dodge and only a few racers behind us. We keep leap frogging these two girls which is starting to bring my competitive side out. I know I was doing this race just to run it, and not for time, but I just can't help becoming competitive when the same people keep passing me up. It drives me nuts! We get to the lake section again and can feel the wind has picked up. It's a lot chillier now but as long as I keep moving I know I won't freeze. I notice Eric start to slow down the pace a little, so I say a few things to keep him going at the pace we're at. I didn't want to slow down for two reasons, I didn't want to get cold, and I decided I didn't want those girls to beat us! At around mile 4 or technically 10.5, Eric is starting to lose a little steam, his legs are hurting and the chilly darkenss becomes mentally draining. One thing about adventure racing is that your mind is constantly engaged. You're reading a map and making decisions whereas in a half marathon, it's a set course, you don't think, you just run, so mentally you have to deal with doing the same movements over and over again without any thought process, kinda like a zombie, so I can see how it can become both physically and mentally draining. We finally pass the two girls and we pass them for good! I was not going to let those two beat us, that was my goal! We keep running and the last two miles feel longer than two miles. My leg is hurting, my ankle is weird, and Eric's leg starts cramping, but we both keep on going, as I yell word of encouragement (some nice and some not so nice), to keep us going. Hey, I wasn't going to let those girls beat us so I yelled whatever I had to yell! 

As we're switchbacking through the woods, we finally hear the music at the finish. We can't see anything yet but we can hear it. I yell to Eric, "Give it all you got, we're almost there!" We see the 6 mile marker and know we have only a half mile to go and the girls are nowhere in sight! We finally see all the tents and the lights and the music bumping louder. We sprint across the finish line at 2 hours 22 minutes. Not bad for a slippery night trail run and Eric's first half. As soon as we cross we head over to the food spread to shove yummy things in our faces! Chili, PA style potatoes (served cold but delicious that way), PB&J sandwiches, bananas, trail mix, pretty much everything you want to shove in your face after a race! We eat up and head over to one of the trailers for the instant scrolling results. This was awesome! We were immediately able to see our times, splits and what place we came in. Cheers to a great race, great food and great people! Special thanks to Matt Jourdan for putting on an awesome course, Craig Healey for volunteering and giving us a place to stay, and Dustin Amsler, for volunteering and my gift of Poo-pourri! We had a great time and will definitely be back again!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FRIGID 6 Hour Rogaine

6 hour rogaine
361° Adventures
Team Eyes of the World
Racers: Eric Olsen, Heather Kluch

We decided to head down to Brown County, Indiana the day before the race since it was about a 4.5 hour drive. Luckily April and Ellie Hernann were nice enough to let us tag along with them and sleep at the cabin they rented which was at the race start. It's always nice to not have to drive to the race start in the morning! April and Ellie bring a new racer along with them (their dog, Rosie) and after many farty stanks wafting in my face, we finally arrive to the cabin. The cabin is pretty sweet, it sleeps 8 and has a fridge and a microwave, and the room is so toasty warm, I didn't even want to leave to use the bathroom but peeing in a garbage can would probably be disgusting. We hang out, eat delicious cheese and cookies that April baked, and finally call it a night. 

We wake up the next morning to a much colder day, and dread leaving the cabin. Pre race meeting is at 9am and the race starts at 10, so I get only half way bundled up since we all thought the meeting was going to be indoors. Nope! So, Eric and I stand out there freezing to death while the race director lays down the rules. Luckily, it was a short meeting, so I only froze to death for 15 minutes. We get our maps, passport, and then head back to the cabin to plan out our route. 

We decided to start with Checkpoint 2 and then head clockwise around and up, and then back down to get CP 1 before the finish. As soon as it hits 10am, we sprint up a hill to get to CP 2. Well that sprint turns into a lame donkey limp, this hill is ridiculously steep, I felt like it was murdering me. I wasn't anywhere near warmed up and start on something like this made me feel so out of shape. I was out of breath in seconds and my legs were like what the hell is happening right now? We finally made it to the top of the hill but I still felt like death on a stick. We find the CP in a blue bus and move onto CP 3 which was in a reentrant. This park was filled with reentrants and some weren't on the map so counting them wasn't always accurate. Some of these hills were so steep, I had to slide down on my butt so I didn't fall on my face! We snag the CP and get out of this hilly reentrant and head up onto a ridge line. I love ridges because they are mostly flat. We stay up on this ridge for the next couple CPs and then head up onto a main trail to head west to CP8. This trail is amazeballs. It's wide, open, flat, and we can get a pretty good jog on. So we follow this trail to find a pond which is pretty easy to spot. The next few CPs are also off this ridge and luckily we can follow the trail map (which was not to scale) that was also given to us along with the topo map above. 

We snag the next few CPs without any mistakes. Using the trail made it so much easier and Eric's nav skills combined with my nav skills, we were pretty spot on. After we get CPs 13 and 14, we head up north. More hills! Running on these things started to destroy my left leg because I kept stepping in invisible holes. My leg would completely lock out and feel like my bone was jabbing up through my torso. It wasn't very pleasant, but of course I pushed through it. We hit another ridge line with a trail which makes me do a happy dance, so we attack CPs 15-19 using this ridge line trail. I would marry this trail if I could. We see our friends April and Ellie, with their dog Rosie on this trail. They're moving pretty fast for having a dog running along with them! After this we only have two CPs left...20 and 1 which is back by the finish. A different trail pretty much lead us to 20, and so did the racer wearing bright orange. I thought this guy was the CP until it started moving! After we grab 20, we bust out the trail map to find out which trails would make sense to make it back to CP 1, which was a hilltop right next to a lake. Luckily the lake was on both maps so this made it easy for us to plan our route. We took the Homestead trail to Indian Camp and as soon as we saw the lake we crossed a reentrant and headed up that super steep hill. By now my legs were getting used to this...of course now that we were at the end so it doesn't really matter. We head out on a road  back to the resort and sprint to the finish line so we look like we're fast. That's what every racer does even if they were walking seconds before. You gotta look hardcore for your finishing photo! We cross the finish line and it took us only 3 hours 3 mins. Since they were only allowed to use a small area for the race, it ended up being a lot shorter than planned, but it was still fun and a great workout.

Team Eyes of the World
Team Rosie's Way...Ellie, April and their dog Rosie

After the race we took a shower in the freezing cold bathroom and then headed home, with Rosie's (April and Ellie's dogs) farts wafting in my face again. It was glorious, but she's an awesome dog, so I couldn't complain much. We finally get back to their place but still have another hour drive back to our area. We decide to stop and eat since we are about to gnaw our arms off. We eat at a bar forgetting that it might be packed because the game was on. We at least get a table, but little did we know we were about to be entertained. First off, our waitress sucked! She would disappear forever and we didn't even order yet. Then some random person at table next to us starts cackling in a spastic way asking us what the score is. He's like screaming and waving his arms "Dude, dude dude, I'm going blind fo real, what's the score, I'm going blind fo real!". All I could think of was please shut up. We can hear you. So we tell him the score and he still proceeds to tell us that's he's going blind. I turn away but Eric still has eye contact with him. I didn't know this until later, but the guy pops out his eyeball and shows to Eric!! Wtf?? Who does that?? And then eyeball popper man rants on "I've been up since Thursday, LOL!", (yes he did literally say LOL after many of his sentences) and then he told us his wife got mad at him and he had to take his kid somewhere. How this guy has a wife and a kid is beyond me but I guess there's someone for everyone out there! We're hoping his friend comes back from the bathroom soon so spazzmatazz will leave us alone. Well his friend comes back and this guy still won't leave people alone. He starts telling the girls at a table next to him to smile. Well this is just a guess but she's probably not smiling because you won't leave her alone. Then two guys at a table next to us tap me on the shoulder and they say "I'm sorry you had to put up with that crazy guy." We finally get our meals and the guy stops talking to us. We can still hear his cracked out loud mouth stories but at least we don't have to listen and answer any questions. Sometimes the most interesting and weird things happen after a race, this definitely being one of those moments! Eric can now do a perfect imitation of crazy eyeball guy which now I'm sure will be making appearances in upcoming races. Can't wait! "LOL!"

Monday, January 14, 2013

CAOC Waterfall Glen O Meet

Chicago Area Orienteering Club
Waterfall Glen SW Madnaess #2 Orienteering Race
Racers: Eric Olsen, Heather Kluch, Don Bart

After working for 13 hours straight last night, on my feet all day with barely anything to eat, and then getting only 5 hours of sleep, my first thought when I woke up this morning was, "Why am I getting up to do this race?" So then I thought about how awesome I feel after doing one of these events, the sense of accomplishment and a good workout, and I also thought about the last one where I blew my teammate Don off because I was so tired, so I couldn't do that to him again. He knows Jiu Jitsu and he could kick my ass! Now that's motivation! Well I'm happy I did show up! I got to see some racers that I didn't expect to be there, and some other racers who I haven't seen in forever. One thing about adventure racing, it's a very tight knit community. Once you start racing and race often, you get to know a lot of people and these are pretty much some of the most amazing people I've ever met. This race was the start of an awesome day!

I decide I'm ready to race regardless of how tired I am and how sore my feet are from those uncomfortable work shoes that are too big for me. For those who don't know, I'm working part time as a server and the shoes we have to wear aren't the most comfortable. The race started with a mass start at exactly 10am, cutoff was at 11:30am, and we literally sprint to the first checkpoint. The trail we were on looked all nice and dry but it had a thin sheet of invisible ice layering on top of it. This was super fun because it made me run like a spaz and I felt like I could fall and break something at any moment. The first CP (checkpoint) was located at the end of a marsh. Well being a short person with short legs while running through a marsh isn't very easy. It was so uneven. It was like big hairy bulbous mounds randomly placed all over the area. I felt like I was kicking my feet up to my face just to get over these weird protruding hairy masses. We got out of there without me falling on my face, so that was a success. Then we started to pick up some speed since we were on a main trail with nothing big and hairy in our way. On our way to the next CP we saw Kim Heintz, our other Eyes of the World adventure racing teamie racing solo. She told us how her legs were already mangled due to a crazy hilly 10 mile run she did the day before. We adventure racers are stubborn sometimes and decide to do something stupid like that before a short race, I've been guilty of this many times and will probably continue this trend. I suddenly didn't feel so bad about my sore feet, and figured well, maybe we could slow this pace down. Of course that didn't happen. We sprinted on, and out of nowhere I heard a familiar voice. It was Eric Olsen, our other teamie racing solo being all sneaky sneaky. I had no idea where he came from, but we decided to stay together. We kept slipping and sliding up an down hills, jumped over icy logs, and pretty much nailed the next CPs. On the map there is what they call a madnaess control box, which means you can get the CPs in any order once you get into this box. We snagged all CPs and high tailed it back on a what seemed to be a neverending single track trail back west towards the train tracks to find the next CP, which got us closer to the finish. This is where I felt my sore feet and my sleep deprived state take over me. I felt like Don was trying to kill me with his lightning speed, I think I almost even started weezing. The Chai tea latte I had at Starbucks before the race also creeped up on me. I love you Starbucks, but my stomach did not agree at that moment! All I kept telling myself is "We're almost done, just push as hard as you can, and when you see those train tracks, you're almost done and you can yell at Don later." ;o) So we finally got to the tracks, and we had to cross them since the CP was on the other side. Well we thought that walking on the wooden planks of the tracks would be safer than the rocks, but nope! Those also had invisible ice on them and soon as I stepped on one, I almost fell and broke my neck. Luckily I caught myself before my face planted on the tracks, and we pressed on. We found the CP pretty quickly even though Gerry....race director of High Profile Adventure Racing, found it before us because he's just plain awesome...and we headed back to the trail. As we popped out onto the trail, I tripped over something which I do a lot, and totally rolled my ankle. Luckily I'm a clutz and do this often so my ankles are used to the abuse and it doesn't even affect me. We headed out sprinting (again) along the trail. Somewhere along this superhuman trail run we lost Eric, but him being so sneaky, he reappeared again and ran with us down the rest of the trail. He called us gazelles because we were so fast, but him appearing out of nowhere twice, he's like a freakin magician. We ran as fast as we could toward the finish. I was finally over my tired mind and body, and gave it all I got to get back.We crossed that finish line at 53 minutes and Don mentioned to me that it it's always good running with me because he tries to keep up with me. I told him "Well I'm just trying to keep up with you!" So apparently, he sets a pace, then I up the pace, then he keeps up with me and he ups the pace, so I keep up with him and I up the pace...and so on...you get the idea. So we just keep getting faster and faster without realizing it. No wonder why I felt like I was dying!!! It was a good thing though! It pushed us harder than if we were racing alone, and proved that we can navigate well together while we're sprinting like crazy people through the woods! It was an all around great day, for a great race, with some great people!

Gerry Voelliger...Race director of Lightning Strikes and Thunder Rolls. One of my favorite people!

Kim Heintz - my awesome girly teamie of Eyes of the World!

April Hernann, me, Ellie Hernann, and their new dog Rosie. Rose did the race with them!