PRIMAL QUEST MONTANA BLOG
TEAM INTREPID #59
After my heartbreaking race at Primal Quest 2006 I knew I would be back to race Primal Quest Montana. After racing the MIX 2007 with Mike Hanchett, I knew he was who I wanted to race with. Mike and I think exactly alike. Our strategies, pacing, and ideas all fall right in line. The only thing we are miles apart on is our diet. He is junk food and I am health food. He has more energy than me however, hum…
Mike and I worked diligently to put a team together, choosing whom we thought we would compliment us. We ended up with two different teams which would be strong and we were confident in, but through unforeseen circumstances the teams fell through. So I was without a team again.
I talked to several teams about racing with them, but I really wanted to be in charge this time. On a last minute whim I called Markley Anderson. He said he knew of a few people that might be interested in racing. Within 2 days we had a team. We decided to meet at Pura Vida in N. Carolina for training. That is where I met Scott Schilling, and Paul Loete. They were great guys and we all hit it off. Paul and Markley already had a Primal Quest finish so we were a very experienced team.
We never raced together except for Scott and I. We got together for a 24 hour race. We had a good showing physically, but were navigationally challenged and therefore finished low. Our fitness was good however and we were ready for the task of Primal Quest.
The team was set, the training was in, the gear was bought and the road to PQ had begun….
I had an interesting journey to Primal Quest. On my plane trip I first meet a guy who does stand up comedy for me the whole time. Not the plane, but for me. He was pretty funny and he thinks I am a star because the race is televised. He doesn’t realize there are 400 other racers.
Next plane ride, I meet a backcountry guide. He shows me pictures of where we’ll be going. He thinks I am crazy and is worried I am going to die. This is not comforting! He seriously tells me stories of people dying on four hour hikes.
I arrived at Big Sky Galitin airport at midnight. Scott, the ever giving teammate, was there to pick me up. We headed to Greek Creek where we’d camp for two nights. It was very cold compared to Texas. I had left the 90 degree days for the 30 degree nights. We were camped beside a raging river. I have to say I was quite afraid of the water. I kept thinking, they always keep us safe so no way we’ll be in this river. I was wrong!
Joel was at the campground and he was working hard as usual. He is ex-military and military to the core. He worked tirelessly for us. We even had someone comment on how clean our bikes were during the race. That was thanks to Joel who washed our bikes with a bucket from the river!
The next day we spend the day going through all our gear. I had done this a million times, but an adventure racer loves his gear. One more time wouldn’t hurt. After finding a few items that were needed we headed to town for a few items and dinner. You have to understand we have a 4 page gear list of very specific gear. After some awesome pizza and gear finds we went back to camp for one last night.
Pre-Gear Check Day
Not only do you have to get certifications to do this race you must pass a skills and gear check test. Today was actually not our gear check day, but they said we could do it early. I was not excited at all about the lake stuff but ready to get it over with. The lake was from the snow melt and a bit chilly. We “got” to stay in the lake an hour to see how we handled the cold.
We woke up at Greek Creek and set out in two different groups. One group had a few more gear things to get and the other was cleaning up and heading to Big Sky to check in. We arrived at Big Sky got checked in and decided to get our gear check going. We mostly wanted to get the climbing and water out of the way, but ended up doing all but our pictures. We didn’t want to be gear testing the day before the race but we wanted to be resting.
This time the gear check went much more smoothly than Utah. For the climb we ascended a ski pole, which holds up the ski lift. We went to the top and rappelled down. Waiting up top for us was the famed Kitty Calhoun.
On the water we had to dawn wetsuits, pfd’s, booties, gloves, fins, and helmets. We first paddled on our river board across the lake. It was probably ½ mile. Then we paddled back. I was actually anxious about this, worried at gear check I’d be left in the dust as we swam, but it went fine.
We then had to get in the rubber kayaks. No big deal until they tell us we need to dump them over in to the ice water and get back in! We dumped them and got back in quickly! The rubber boats are hard for me to get back in, and some other women said the same. Due to our height and the fat pfd in front it takes some brute strength. Markley lent me a hand though and I was right back in the boat. Then we had to get in the Necky kayaks and do the same. This takes longer to empty the boat so it was a little chilly to say the least. Getting back in the Necky’s though was quite easy.
Finally we had to tread water for 10 minutes. Though we weren’t actually treading they had us float to see how we tolerate cold. That got cold, but was soon over. We had to take a river oral test as well during this time. Amazingly they don’t care of you know the answers as we missed quite a few.
We finished up with SPOT, medical, Go Pro, and the like and called it a day. After showers, Paul and I decided to stay in for dinner while everyone else went out. You can tell who the parents are. Shortly thereafter Todd, our support crew member, arrived. He gave me a huge bear hug (his trademark) that lifted me off my feet. It was good to see him and have an old “friend” there as support. Todd was the man in the kilt that got me so far in Utah. In Utah, I called him my angel. He was a medic on the Primal Quest staff that year. This year when he arrived the Primal Quest staff wanted him. We did not concede. We had him first and were blessed to have his support.
We then decided to all go out to eat. It ended up being a great experience. We met a river guide and just like in the Cheers bar, he pulled up a chair, as did the owner and we chatted until they kicked us out. The river guide said we were crazy and they he would not get on the water. That did not encourage my spirit!
We headed back for a good nights sleep. Our only agenda the next day is to have our pictures taken and be ready for the 3:00 meeting, where we’d see the course and get maps.
Day Before Race
I make my last phone calls to Phil and Colby and prepare for the greatest race on earth. I am nervous today. The elevation gain and the water sections have me apprehensive. The team is in good spirits, Autumn, Paul’s wife, is arriving that evening and our whole crew will be together. Things are good.
We go to the meeting at 3 and it is all right. One of the statements made was if you have never done an expedition race you shouldn’t be here. Scott had not done Primal Quest before, but he is an ox and more than ready.
I am excited about the pre-race video as in Utah it inspired me so much. This one ended up just being all right, and rather anti-climatic. After scaring us with bear stories we got our maps. I wanted to go do them immediately but the guys wanted to eat. This would be a theme. Guys eat a lot more than I do!
I could barely eat dinner that night. My stomach was nervous and I accidentally got beef, which I do not eat the night before a race. I took my left overs and I hope Todd or Joel enjoyed them I didn’t see them again. However that started my eating problems and I do not eat much the rest of the trip.
We go back to do the maps and I read to the guys while they plot and route. We had about a 30 page book we need to get through, with directions and utm coordinates to plot. It takes quite a while and we do not finish up until around 11:30 PM. As soon as we are done I quickly head off to bed wanting the last sleep I can get.
Do you want to do for a walk today?…That is what I was greeted with by Todd as he wakes us up. He kept me on schedule. I wanted him to tape my feet. I said we’d do it at 7:30 AM but he had be down by 7:10 AM ready to go. He pre-taped my feet while Mike Bitton looked on and asked questions. What a nice guy Mike was. He hung out with us some during the race and we really enjoyed him. He is a reporter who is there and is starting his own business.
I know we are going to be standing 1 hour prior to the start, so I am not in rush nor is our team. Our crew is insistent thought that we get up there however. So we arrive early and do stand around an hour. Well I actually laid down on the ground, where I ended up with quite a surprise when I opened my eyes. We’ll just leave that one for those who were there.
We line up at the start and Todd gives us a little pep talk. He encourages us to be friends at the end, as 9 days can get the tempers a little short and to do what we trained for. We line up in the middle of the pack and then the gun goes off.!
Primal Quest Montana has started and it is fitting the terrain is straight up. We are climbing Lone Peak a 3600 foot ascent that goes straight up.
We began to climb and I am thinking I am not ready for this. How will I do this for 9 days? I am going to die. Then I settle in and just keep plugging alone. The guys I am racing with are elite guys and are faster than I. Markley decided to take my pack and Scott towed me to keep us going closer to mid-pack. Now those of you who have not been towed may think it is a piece of cake. The problem with towing is it makes you go faster than your able. Yes you move faster, but it makes you anaerobic. I will stay anaerobic much of this race, which is why I’ll end this race so beat.
We hike for a while and then come to a hand line. We put our harnesses on and clip in two lanyards to the hand lines. It seems less dicey than what we will encounter later, but it is a nice reprieve to stand in line and catch my breath. I am feeling the altitude, as I will for the rest of the race. The nausea starts and I will stay sick with nausea until the race is over.
So the guys push me up the hill and we reach lone Peak. How Cool! You can see forever and it is beautiful. After a quick picture we sit down in the snow and slide down the mountain. This was fun until I hit a rock. My bottom hurt so bad and I have a huge bruise to prove it. I also banged my finger on a rock, that still hurts today, three weeks later.
We ended up running down the mountain after that. I set the pace going down and we passed a couple of teams. That is motivating and we hammer on. I do twist my ankle going down but don’t think much about it. I always turn my ankles.
We came blazing into the TA (ok it felt like we were blazing) and we in and out rather quickly. We had a moment we were trying to get out that we had some issues. Paul only got one trekking pole and I had gators without loops. I had 4 pair of gators and the ones at the TA were the ones without loops. Joel scrambled and found some loops for me and off we went into the mountains for our first night out.
First Trekking Leg 45 Miles
We’ll spend the next 24 hours or so on our feet. The first leg will take us close to 50 miles of trekking. It starts off a beautiful hike and actually the elevation is rather gradual. We pass several teams along this route. In route to one of the CP’s we pass about three teams as we cross a snow covered mountain range. We check off the CP4 and head out with confidence.
We are feeling good and excited about our chances. Then for some reason we see teams going a different way and ignore them. Then we see a team going our way and they stop and head down a trail. We ignore them as well.
I am thinking wow our navigation is so good that we ignore all these other teams. Well it would be a downfall. We end up in a circle back at CP4. Then from there we do not follow the prescribed route and go hours out of our way. We are hiking along a road, yes a highway road, when Chris Caul the course director pull up to us. When the course director asks where you are going this is not good. He said we were not on a prescribed route and we’d deal with it later.
We discuss for hours what this means. Will we be penalized? What is our out? Are we in the wrong? We ultimately decide to have Todd, our PR guy, to find out what is going on and then we’ll see if we need to protest. Later this treks takes so much out of us, we forget and never do anything about it.
This is very disheartening to start off the race. We are going into the first night and we are already shot ourselves in the foot. This highway is downhill and where I first start to get the blisters on the balls of my feet.
We finally get on course having gone about 4 hours out of the way. I try to stay positive as does the team, and we tell ourselves that is it. That is our one nav error and we’ll make it up.
Some of the team wants to stop at a grocery store to eat. This is the first day and I am not used to doing that, but we all stop and it is actually good to air out the feet as they are wet from snow. It just takes so much time when you do that, but for some it is up lifting spirits, for me it helped save my feet, so it is give and take. I also and am starting to really feel my ankle I turned running down Lone Peak. I am thinking it is day 1! I cannot already be hurt. It normally goes away pretty quickly but it persisted. It will hurt until I get in the TA and get some magic medicine that my MIX teammate taught me about. After taking the medication it doesn t really hurt the rest of the race. Until of course I got home, and do not take the medication anymore. Now I feel it!
We are finally back on track and head into the first night. We hike all night on course and are feeling good. We are carrying a good pace, but Scott put the tow rope on me anyway just to be sure we all stay together. The pace is good and we move nicely.
As dusk came along we had a bear sighting. Markley drew us all together and said to look big. Scott unhooks from me, probably knowing he can out run me so he better get me off of him. We say, Hey Bear, It’s Ok…Bear… Scott decided to be the man and get closer and check it out. Well upon further discovery we see it is a burned out log. Hey it really did look like a bear and yes my hand was on my bear spray.
The next day we make a few stops to fix feet. We are trying to keep our feet taped early to avoid problems later. Still as we come into Sage Creek after 45 miles of hiking the guys feet are pretty bad. My feet feel good at this point and this is one of my high notes coming into this TA. I didn’t realize I had some pretty significant blisters until Todd went to tape my feet. Paul has some very bad blisters on the balls of his feet.
The TA is laid out wonderfully thanks to Joel, Autumn and Todd. Autumn has scored me some macaroni and cheese, for which I am grateful. Our chairs our laid out perfectly with a foot rest, food, gear for the next leg and a shaded canopy.
We are supposed to River Board and do the Duckies at this point. We do not have too long to wait as there is a cut off. So we dawn our wetsuits, helmets, pfd’s, booties, dry tops, fleece hats and boards and head out. Right as we are crossing the road the river is shut down. Relief and worry come over me at once. Relief as I was terrified of that water, and worry as now we have to trek again.
Second Trekking Leg 44 MILES
Since the water is canceled they do not know what to do with us. Todd tells us just to go to sleep and he’ll take care of what we do next. I curled up in the back of the Tahoe and slept like a baby. I laid my head on Todd’s sleeping bag and covered my eyes with his shirt. It is funny what things you remembered. I remember thinking I feel bad that I stink so bad and am laying on this sleeping bag, yet I do not move. I also think wow this shirt sure smells clean. It smells much better than me…then I drift off to sleep.
I wake up when it is time to move out. Markley crawls in the back with me and we sleep back to back. It is amazing how comfortable the trunk of a Tahoe feels, shared with another person, when you haven’t slept in 30 hours.
I am not sure how far the drive is but we wake up at the new TA. The crew whips things into action again and we have a great TA set up again. I eat some more of my mac and cheese, as I couldn’t finish it the first time and down a Monster drink. I am forcing myself to eat as I am not hungry at all. Although the altitude sickness goes away when we come down lower, the masque is always there.
It takes us about an hour to get ready. Todd has to tape our feet, and we need supplies for yet another trek. Yes trekking. Day 1 ½ of the race and we are going to trek again!
We set out on the trek around 6 PM. Just as we are leaving Todd suggests we are not being penalized for time (due to the canceled river) so why don’t we rest and leave in the morning. We had such trouble getting out of the TA I decided no to this and that we should trek on out into the night.
What a night it would be. We were ahead of a lot of teams at this point and feeling good as we trekked into the night. We soon hit snow and our pace slowed. We got to a section where we weren’t sure the trail was. About 8 teams came up on us. We were so cautious after our major error the day before that we over thought it, and let all the teams pass us. We should have followed them as none of them came back. After a couple of hours of looking for the trail we finally find it and head up and up again. The snow is dicey and slick After we finally get on the right trail, sleep monsters hits one of our teammates. We start trekking pretty slow, as the stumbling and slipping begins.
Finally at about 3 Am we decided to sleep. We are moving so slow it will be good to wait until morning. We are still high though and in the snow. We found a patch of snow less ground and pitched camp. Which meant pulling out a space blanket. The guys let me have the bag. I shivered the entire time, so I know the guys were even colder as I had the sleeping bag
Every time we were about 7000 ft my breathing would be labored. While sleeping I’d wake up not being able to catch my breath. It was eerie and I’d have to take big gulps of fresh air, to control my breathing. I had never experienced this before and it was not a feeling I like. Breathing is good!
I had been told by Bill, my ar friend in California, to always sleep in dry clothes. So I decided to change. In the world of AR you get too tired to go behind a tree so I just told the guys to not look I was changing. You respect one another and there are no worries.
Well I changed into my dry clothes got in my bag, put my emergency blanket around me and headed off to sleep. I saw a guy walk off that I though was Scott but didn’t think much about it.
The next morning I am chatting with Markley. He mentions the camera guys last night. I asked what camera men. He said you know the ones that filmed us when we got our gear ready. Upon further questioning I realized that it was not Scott there who I told I was changing and not too look, but a camera man. I changed right in front of a camera man with camera s rolling!
We woke up to teams passing us, as we got up close to light. It took 1 hour after waking up to get going. Things like this would kill us in the long run.
I then chatted with the guys separately. We decided we really wanted to race this thing. We made some plans and were determined to move up in the standings. We committed to stopping less and keeping moving. Plans are great if you can execute them, but it seems we’d take turns bonking. Two teammates hiked out fast ready to conquer the day, while another was struggling. This would be our theme. We didn’t seem to ever all feel good at once, for long periods of time.
On this trek the nausea hits big time. I remember hiking with Scott and just stopping and trying to throw up on the side of the road. I kept thinking of I could just throw up, I’d feel so much better. I pulled up from Scott and kneeled on the side of the road, dry heaved and walked on. The glamorous life of adventure racing.
There was a beautiful part on this trek. We left the snow and climbed through a meadow. Then we went straight up a mountain, with flowers and green grass surrounding us. It was so beautiful and so steep. I remember Scott taking my picture and me thinking I must look terrible. I wouldn’t even look up I was so focused on getting up this mountain. The view at the top was incredible. God makes so many amazing things and you could see for miles.
This trek seemed to be never-ending. I suppose because we’d been trekking for two days and close to 90 miles. At one point we thought we had 7 KM. 7K that would be cake. I would start pace counting to myself, just for something to do. I’d think yes we only have 5 k left. Then we’d turn a corner and I hear, We only have 7K. This went on for about 10 miles. We finally get to the end of what seems like a never ending meadow and there is a river. We spot a bridge and choose to cross the bridge. After checking in we find out we are 58 of 59 teams. That is disheartening, but we knew it. It was a rough, not well planned out trek for us.
After the check point there is a 5 miles hike to the TA. Now you should be able to cover 5 miles in an hour easily, but with weathered feet and tired legs it will take us about 2 ½ hours. I can see the mile markers and break it to Paul how slow we are going. He was trying to wait to the TA to have his feet taped, but I thought he might want to go ahead and do it as to not put another couple of hours on the blisters. We stop and I tape Paul and Scott’s feet a little. I forget to tape Scott’s heel as he’d ask and felt bad later when I remembered.
This dirt road trek seems to go on forever. We are all tired, hiking slow and have nothing to talk about. Finally we see a blond vision waving to us. It is Autumn! Yeah Autumn!She has come about a mile out to greet us. That is great but I think since we see Autumn that we must be almost there. One mile seems long after 90 miles of trekking. Todd then greets us with drinks. He is not allowed to give us anything outside the TA, but we mysteriously found drinks in the road. As good as it tastes I have trouble drinking it. I am so sick at this point.
This was a tough TA knowing we are so far back. The TA again is set up stellar and our crew rocked. Joel, Autumn and Todd knew just what we needed. We decided to take a little bit of time here to sleep. We had a 70 mile road ride then we’d TA again. We knew we could ride the road as fast in the dark as the light, so we were not concerned about burning daylight. The guys are great bikers, so we knew this wouldn’t take too long.
Our feet at this point are all pretty sore and blistered. Todd carried us each, yes carried us, to the river. He made us put our feet in the river to clean them. Yes I say made as I didn’t want my left foot in the water. It hurt so badly when it got wet. But of course Todd made me anyway and would comment when he saw it sticking out of the water. While Joel fixed our bikes, Autumn prepared our thing’s Todd washed each of our feet. Now that is some love! He then carried us all back and taped our feet. I cannot stop shivering at this point. It is not cold outside but I wrap up in two sleeping bags. The combination of not eating and exhaustion gets to me. I am not a happy camper at this TA. Once I am taped, Autumn got me a spot in the car to sleep a little bit, so I can warm up. We sleep not too long and then head out on the next bike.
First Leg Bike 71 Miles
We smoke this bike leg. We blow past two teams right out of the TA. Once we hit a spot where it is all road, Scott tows me this leg for quite a while and we are moving quickly. The first town is not too far off maybe 35 miles and we stop to go to the restroom and the guys grab some drinks. While there we see the support for Team Enduring Freedom. These guys are just ahead of us and he is heading to the next TA. He offers to bring burgers to the guys and they eagerly place an order. He was such a kind mind and we enjoyed chatting with him.
We head out of the gas station and are moving along at a nice clip. We are in town and it is fun to be riding with traffic, having people ask us questions and just cheering for us. We have been in the Bozeman newspaper each day so we are front page new. Markley even had an article about himself.
Well we cross over a rail road track and I am standing up to minimize all the road rash, chafing and saddle soreness I have going on. All the sudden I hear a very loud bang. I look back and my seat had fallen off! I jumped off my bike and ran back to grab the seat and parts to my seat. The bolt had just broken in half! Thankfully I was not sitting on it when it happened. That could have been painful!
A man saw this happen and offered to help us find a bolt. He didn’t have one, but would escort us to the store. We followed him to an Ace Hardware store. Scott took the bolt and worked about 30 minutes trying to match it and the threads. He finally got it and after an hour delay we were back on the bikes, but not without an escort. Markley and Paul took this opportunity to get local directions. A lady whose husband is 13th in the world in road biking in his age group stopped to help. She ended up saying she’ll just drive in front of us for several miles to show us the way.
So we head out through town following the lady. Her husband road bikes so she thought we should be able to do about 25mph through town on the bikes easily. She took off and I was like oh shoot! I am not going to be able to keep up. Scott handed me the tow line and off we went. Well the lady took a corner pretty quickly. The tow rope was hooked to the front of my bike where it should pop off as needed. It was just sticking on my top tube, as I was tired of holding it. Well Scott turned the corner and it was a just as if I was the skier behind a ski boat. It slung me way out and I gained speed. I was headed right into the back of the ladies car. I yelled at Scott who quickly stopped and I slammed on my brakes! I was just inches from going through the back of this woman’s car. That was exciting and woke me up!
We then bike a dirt road for most of the remainder of the 71 mile ride, which was meant for us to paddle. It is not too hard and we have a nice view of the sun setting along the river. Then we hit a really nice frontage road where we coast along. Paul and I get to talking and decide we can really race this race, if we’ll push it. We move up to the guys and say we want to knock this ride out. We form a pace line and take off. We move up about 10 places during this leg.
BIKE LEG TWO: 90 MILES
We do not stay long at this transition. There is another bike leg and know we knock it out fairly quickly. Since the last leg was supposed to be a paddle leg and it was a bike leg, we are again on a bike leg. This leg is about 90 miles.
This bike ride is not quite as easy but not terrible. We rode along at a nice clip down a beautiful country road. The only mishap was I dropped my chap stick. I had to stop everyone to go back and get it. Todd will appreciate that I found it, as I think he gave me about 5 different ones that I kept losing. As we road through the country it all the sudden turns so brutally cold it almost hurts. We end up stopping at a truck stop to dawn all our clothes. We are required to carry thermals top and bottom, a fleece, a shell top and bottom, and a long sleeved shirt, long pants and a fleece hat. I put all this on! I was quite toasty once we got started.
We then ride on a dirt road for quite a while. I was feeling so sick and really needed a restroom. I just knew the town we were stopping in would have that and a spot we could warm up for a few minutes. We ride 45 miles to the first checkpoint on gravel roads. I am so sick at this checkpoint. The checkpoint is some type of building and picnic table. I go behind a building and try to throw up again…only dry heaves. I am having to force myself to drink my Hammer Sustained Energy as it has lots of calories both protein and carbs. I do eat a mini snickers bar that Markley gave me that tasted pretty good.
We then climb for a long time. We are on a dirt road with fields as I see Paul going right. He continues left until a small embankment wakes him up. I am talking to Scot and he is not answering. He too is asleep. This is a tough ride as the sleep monsters are in full force. We take turns falling back, falling asleep. Markley is pretty alert during this ride and keeps us moving.
We come in the bike leg pretty fresh but ready for some sleep. It is early evening I think when we arrive. We decided to get our feet fixed, sleep 2 hours and head out. This TA was very nice and finally we are back in the running with the other teams. We feel good and I actually comment about us making the top 25. If we keep this up we can do it.
We sleep inside the trailer for the planned 2 hours, when the crew wakes us up. Man it is so hard to get up in the middle of the night to get back on our bikes
We leave out early morning…meaning like midnight or so. We do not do too much foot work as we have been on the bike, so we don’t need much taping. We’ll get on the bike again for another short ride to the Crazy Mountains, which turns out to be an adventure in itself!
The Crazy Mountains Bike/Trek 20 mile Ride-32 Mile Mountaineering-30 mile Bike
We head out in the middle of the night which is tough, but once we are on the bikes it is not too bad. We ride 20 miles to the crazy mountains. Going to the Crazies I had one problem. We are riding along at a good clip and I hit a rut. I lost control of my bike and fell to the right. The guys seem like I am crazy that I fall right there, but I just hit a rut. This tears my new under Armour tights, and I bang my knee. It doesn’t really bother me until after the race. A week after finishing, it is still sore and swollen.
With the bike ride behind us we get ready for the Crazies. Markley points out where we are going and it looks so far away! We trek into the sunrise. We are feeling good and catch up with a few teams here. We hike along and pass them thinking we are moving quickly. It turns out we’ll flip flop with these teams throughout the Crazies.
We hit a nice section where we hike with a few other teams. It is fun to chat and I lead the group, until we need to stop and get water. We let the other teams go on and we’ll see them later.
Soon enough we enter snow. We’ll stay in snow for 24 hours. We hike into the night the next night and sleep monsters hit some of our team. We decide to bed down pretty high in an exposed area. We decide to move our food away from our heads. This section is taking longer than we though and we don’t have that much food. I had just a couple of bars and the rest of the calories we’re in my bottle. Scott went and buried the food in the snow. I do not know why we thought the bears couldn’t find that! Thankfully the bears must have been tired too, as they didn’t bother us. We are so cold. We sleep a couple of hours and then it is so hard to get going. We are cold but the sun is rising. When Scott brings back our food, I do not get any back. Apparently someone liked my food and ate it. I have a bottle of sustained energy to last me through the next day, which will turn out to be a very long day.
We hike all day. We hit some spots where we are moving along good and passing teams. We get to a river crossing where we decide we can make up some ground, while teams wait to pass on a log.
We try to do a swift water crossing. We are doing alright until the water goes to my waist and Markley is also begins swept away as the eddy is not big enough behind Scott. Scott tells us this is the worst part keep going, so we go. Then the water is higher, he says this is the worst part keep going. The water is swift and if we are swept away we’ll float off for a while. I finally said no, it is too swift. My feet were being swept out from under me.So we called it and went to wait our turn on the log.
The log was not that easy either. We had to pick ourselves up and Scott over this log. One slip and your in the water. A team member would sit down stream with a log should someone fall in. Never mind that the log was only reading 5 feet and the river was 35 ft wide! We finally get over the log and trek on into the day and finally night.
In the evening we hit a lake with some rivers flowing off. There is no way across except to get wet. It is 9:30 at night. We go across and now we are wet with another mountain to climb and descend before we hit the TA. We so wanted to hit the TA by evening. The guys start talking and think maybe we should build a fire to warm up, dry off before heading up the mountain. They were thinking of hypothermia as we are all wet.
I was disheartened as if we built a fire and stayed the night we’d be on the short course for sure. I really didn’t want too, but my feet were really hurting. We had not dried them out in 24 hours due to the snow. I had the same blister as Utah on the balls of my feet. I was worried if we kept going I would be in the same scenario as Utah.
I agreed to stop. What we should have done, is stopped and then left after drying off. But in hindsight, we were trekking so slow that night. We doubled our speed that morning so it probably was a good decision, plus the trail was easy to follow.
Now this was a new experience in an adventure race. I have never pitched a tent and slept in a race. Well the funny thing is three teams came along. Enduring Freedom was one of the teams, I cannot remember the other two. Two of the teams started their own fire and stayed with us. It was like being at camp. Paul and I sat on a log and tried to dry our things. We had gloves, socks and everything trying to dry everything.
The guys stayed up eyeing the fire, but I wanted to sleep if we were stopping. I went to the tent first, rolled up in my emergency foil blanket and went to sleep. I am not sure when the guys joined me but I do not even remember who got in!
We headed out the next morning. It took us about 5 hours to climb up and over the Crazies. We had a fun ride down as we slid on our bottoms down the Crazies!
We finally get out of the Crazies. I say finally as the last of the leg was never-ending. Beautiful, but never ending. We finally come to an unmanned checkpoint where our bikes are waiting. This was awesome. Autumn, Joel and Todd had left us water, yogurt pretzels for m (I was so happy they remembered) with a note on there that had scorpion fire 911 loves you and so does Phil or something to that affect. There was all kind of goodies, notes for us and it was inspiring. We quickly got changed, scarfed some food, filled up our water and jumped on the bikes. It was that quick. We were ready for the TA. It would be a short ride to the TA, 30 miles, and it was all downhill! As we neared the TA I got up to 38 mph down a hill. It was awesome. We finally pulled into the TA and this is where our first conflict would happen.
Bike Ride 90 Miles
As I check in I find out we have only 30 minutes to be out of this TA and then we are short-coursed. I thought we just had to be in the TA by noon, but it was too be checked out. With only 30 minutes to spare I break it too the team.
I just assume we’ll hustle out and rest outside the TA which is legal. The guys wanted to know what would happen if we didn’t leave in 30 minutes. I am surprised as I just didn’t think it was a question. I find out that we’d be short-coursed, get back on our bikes again, and ride for a very long time. After just coming off a very long ride this is not welcome to me. The next section is to be in the Bridgars a tough trekking section
We were all getting heated as we talked about what we were going to do. I am insisting we’ll be sorry if we make this choice. We all say some things that shouldn’t have been said. I strongly disagreed with the assessment the some of the teammates made and they strongly disagreed with me. The crew even gets into the argument. It is not pretty and I do nothing to take charge as I am so angry. Finishing the short-course was a failure to me, so I do not want to give into this. Todd takes me aside and said I needed to listen to the team. He said I was selfish not to listen and to hear them out.
Grudgingly, I go back and listen to the team. I wish I would have stood up more for how I felt, as I felt some comments out of line and not true. But I know they felt that way about some of the things I was saying as well. I listened to everyone and although I disagreed I made the decision as captain to listen to the team. In hindsight, I wished I would have stated my case more strongly and stood up for what I believed. However it I also have to say there is a good chance we would have missed the ropes section, which was the argument of some of the teammates. Everyone wanted to do the ropes.
I went and told the staff we would be short-coursing. We were the first team to short-course and the staff was rather shocked. I stew for quite a while. I go to the only place I can be alone, the porta potty, and stayed for a bout 15 minutes. Thankfully it was fairly clean. I was very angry at this point and not happy with the decision I made. I also call Phil and let him know what his happening.
I finally decided in order for the team to go forward and finish this thing I needed to talk to the guys. I got the team together away from the crew and spoke with them. I told them I understood, though I disagreed, and would give it my best. I again spoke to the individually as there was still some tension as we set out to the next TA.
We bike a short 20 mile bike to another TA where we will leave for another long bike ride. The crew brings us some hot food. This is a nice TA and we see some friends here. It makes it hard to get out, but finally after about 90 minutes we get out and get moving. This next bike ride is brutal. One team estimated it was 7 hours uphill. I am not sure how long it took us but it took us until the wee hours of the morning climbing, and climbing and climbing. We’d climb a while and stop. Climb a while and stop. We were all anaerobic as we tried to finish this thing. I was glad it was nighttime and I couldn’t see the top or it would have been worse.
When we reach the top we decide to sleep. We are exhausted. We meet a marine manning the CP. We slept of the porch of this cabin. We really wanted to go in but weren’t invited. We were to sleep for 2 hours, but we overslept. Scott kept saying do we want to get up and I’d say yes and just lay there. I think we ended up sleeping for 3 hours. We got up at light and headed down for a one hour screaming descent. The guys were maniacs going down. I was more conservative after I took a fall that felt like I sprained my shoulder. I had already done an endo, and had another crash earlier and so was a little timid.
The ride was beautiful. I cannot complain about that. I would love to do it again, but it was one steep descent!
We came into the TA at Storm Castle and are feeling pretty good. We’ll try to get ready fairly quickly to get to the ropes. We want to do it in the daylight. Joel made the best grilled ham and cheese sandwich in the world at this TA. We try to lighten all we can so be light on the ropes. Todd warns us people are getting dehydrated on the ropes. We take 3 liters, thinking this will be plenty. The ropes course has been taking about 6 hours.
We head out to the ropes which is about a 5 miles walk. The very first pitch is rock climbing. Now I have never actually done rock-climbing. I guess that is not true. I did it in one race, but I was being belayed so my teammate helped me a bit. We were to free climb. This means you climb with no help. We did have a petzl croll which was attached to us and a line. If we were to fall it would catch us, we’d get ourselves back on the wall and finish climbing. This was actually very fun. The pitch was 5.5 which people say is easy, but I felt it challenging enough for me on day 6 or 7 (I am not sure which) of this race. After the free climb, we went to a line hanging vertically against a sheer rock wall. This is what I practice all the time (in my backyard on a rope that hangs from our tree) so this was easy. I finish the second one, and take a hand line to the third one. At the end I check my water. I only have about 20 ounces left. Scott asks me for a drink and I give him some water as he is out as well.
At the third one I think this is easy I am almost done. I asked the PQ volunteer, We just have to go up there, looking up a 50 foot climb. He said yes on this pitch. This is pitch 3 of 6. Three of Six! I should have known, everything at PQ is epic. I do not think too much about not having water as I think this will go quickly.
On pitch 4 there is a slant to the wall. The volunteer suggests I jug instead of do the Frog up this. I try this and it is easy. I love it and thank her for the suggestion. The top of this pitch is very hard to get over. Thankfully I had done a lot of weight training as I actually just end up hauling myself over and not really ascending. Prior to going to Pitch 5 I try to take my camelbak apart and suck any last bit of water out. I am so parched and it is making it difficult to concentrate, as all I can think about is drinking. I saw the volunteers climbers water and I really think about sneaking some. But I don’t. They’ll be in the same situation I am later and that would just be wrong. Hey it’s not wrong to be tempted, it is what I do with it!
At pitch 5, I see Jay Smith, the great climber. He has set the ropes course. I chat with him then head on up. This was a little slower as I am starting to get tired and of course very thirsty.
Pitch 6, oh man what a pitch. I look at the next lines and I think I am looking at the wrong course. This section is hand lines. You are to clip in two lanyards to the lines and use the ropes to climb. It like a sharks fin, and I am supposed to climb it. I look around to see if I could rappel down thinking I will, if I can find a rope. There is no way down however and I dumbfounded looking at this rock. I really do think of my family and think I am not doing this, this is dangerous.
While standing there another racer comes behind me. She sees my dilemma and tells me to use an ascender. I hadn’t thought of that and so I did. That made me feel much safer and I could actually climb with the ascender. Some of the sections were still so tricky, I kept thinking what I am doing up here. At one point I do actually slip. On each side of me is a sheer rock face. My lanyards do work, and I quickly right myself. This section ends up taking us about 6 hours. About 3 hours of that I am out of water. I am so thirsty now, I retake my camelbak apart for just a drop of water. I head up the trail and see a team sitting there. We chat for a minute and for some reason they have tons of water. They gave me a whole bottle of water and an endurloyte (electrolyte tablet). After drinking about 15 ounces I feel better but am still so thirsty. It did noting to quench my thirst. I am thinking I must have gone into this section very dehydrated to be this bad. I find my team and regroup and get moving. I tell them I need water now. They were out of water too. I have been out of water before but I never felt thirst like this. I t made me think of Lazarus asking for just one drop of water. I understand that now, it would be like heaven to have a drop of water.
We are too catch a trial 1000 m up the way from our checkpoint. We head out to the trail and Paul sees a trail that he thinks is it. For some reason we do not go on this trail. We keep heading down the mountain. I am getting very thirsty as we work hard to go over downed logs, thorn bushes and trees.
This is thick bushwhacking. I do not know why we kept going, but we kept going and going and going. After about 90 minutes I feel I need to speak up. I am not doing well. I have taken my hat out to suck any remaining water out from when I doused it in the river 7 hours ago. There is none. I stop to dig to see if there is moisture in the earth and I can suck on something, there is none. I even think of the guy who says how to survive in the wilderness without water and what he does….yes I am that desperate. I did suck on a rock and that actually helped a little.
I tell one of the guys I am starting to lose my balance and not doing well. There is really nothing to do but keep going, but I feel I needed to speak up as I feel really bad. I am starting to have trouble talking, as my mouth is so dry. Have you ever had a cough drop that is so good you think you’re in heaven? Well I did. He gave me a cough drop and it was so good. It had some moisture and helped my dry mouth. I asked for more but that was the only one.
I am starting to fall about every 3 steps. There are so many obstacles and my senses are not good. One of the guys yells at me to Come On! That was frustrating as I was moving as fast as I could. Believe me I wanted water! I yell something not so nice back, and keep moving and falling, moving and falling. I hate adventure racing at this point, and vow I am doing sprint races. The frustrating part of this is we should be at the TA and we are still headed down a mountain. We waste about 4 hours going down this mountain with no water. I start praying for a spring…no really I did. I am bargaining with God telling him he provided a spring in the Bible, will he provide me one. Ok maybe I am not bargaining, as I do not offer anything in return. I just wanted water!
Then it starts to thunder. I hope it will rain. It sprinkles, I stop to try to let rain go in my mouth but it eludes me. I cannot get one drop in, plus I have to keep moving.
Right when we find the heavens open up and it begins to pour rain, we come upon a stream about a foot wide. It is flowing down the side of this mountain and it is making small waterfalls over rocks. I kneel over the small waterfall and drink straight from the stream. I cannot wait the 15 minutes it would take to put drops in the water. I drink and drink and drink. Then I drink some more. Then I filled my bladder 3 liters full and guzzled some more. I didn’t even bother putting the purification drops in. This was heaven. God answered my prayer! We sang about thirsting for God at church the Sunday I returned and now I knew what that really meant.
Now that we have water, we are somewhat brighter, but we are still on the side of the mountain. It is raining hard. I am in shorts and a short sleeved shirt. I put on my shell top, but know if I put my shell pants on I will just rip them up in this brush. We are miserable again. I keep falling as it is wet and the boulders are slippery. We are soaked as we are walking down a creek bed to find the river.
Afer hours we find the river and the trail. We still have an hours walk, but we do not care. It is a trail! We are excited about this. That lasts a little while until we realize we are freezing, soaking wet and tired. Thankfully we are heading towards the TA, which is on the way to the rappel. If we’d been out on a long trek we’d have been much worse off.
We come into the TA and find out the rappel is canceled due to weather. They will not reopen it. While I am checking in I see Vern. (Vern makes every racer pottery. It is so nice and he is such a wonderful man). I see his fleece, and I am cold and wet and tired. I told him I would like to just curl up in his fleece. So he gives me a big bear hug. It is so warm and he is so kind, he lifts my spirits. You really do become Primal in this race. A simple hug, mug of hot chocolate, word of kindness, a warm bed make you feel like your in heaven. It is amazing that is all we need to survive.
As I head over to the TA they have anticipated our needs. Todd, Joel and Autumn knew we’d be cold, wet, hungry and maybe grouchy! They had clothes laying out for us to change into, sleeping bags ready, a table with 4 chairs and food setting up in the trailer where it was so warm.
I quickly changed clothes and got in my sleeping bag. Todd informed my lips are black from being dehydrated so he spends the rest of this transition telling me to drink, drink, drink, for which I am thankful. When I sit down I do not want to do anything and I am tired of drinking. I actually do not drink enough, even with his efforts and am dehydrated days after the race.
There is pizza and sandwiches there. I can only take about 2 bites of a sandwich and 2 bites of pizza and I am done. I need to sleep. We first have to make some decisions again. There is one more trek, that is tough. If we do this trek and then the last bike ride we have to make it in by the cutoff or the race is for naught. We would be DNF. The trek is a long hard one and we figure up our pace. We are not certain we can make the cut off. Now had we still been on long course we’d have loaded up and left right then, but since we are not we have to make a smart choice.
Final Bike Ride 25 Miles
We do not know if we can do it, so we opt to skip the trek and do the final bike ride. This means we stay at the TA until 9 AM, that was a PQ rule, and then they’d drive us to Ennis Lake for the final bike ride. We all agree this is best and settle in for the night.
I fell asleep in the chair right after we discuss this. The crew and the guys start discussing my nutrition. I am in and out and hear this. It is quite funny the theories. One says I do not eat because of all my supplements…I had stopped taking supplements on day 3 as I was so sick. Another said I needed more real food…pizza, sandwiches etc…I find this funny as what I am drinking and eating is so much more healthy. I do not eat these things at home so I certainly do not want to try them in a race. The drink I was drinking actually had quite a bit of calories, protein and carbs meant for exactly what we do…long racing.
Guys do eat differently so I understand their thoughts. I do not even really eat much meat and that is their staple. I just thought it funny and with that funny thought….I actually just laid in the middle of them and went to sleep. The dehydration had taken a toll and me and I needed to rest.
We should have planned to be out of there by 9 AM, but we goof around and get out late. It is so hard to get up and race again after sleeping that long. It is better to just sleep 3 or less hours, otherwise the soreness and lactic acid sets in. We load up after a slow start and the crew drives us to Ennis Lake. Here we get the bikes out and get to it. We do not mess around too much here.
With goodbyes and promises of seeing each other and the finish we ride off in the right or wrong direction. How can the last leg cause us this much problems. The ride is only 25 miles and I am ticking it off on my cyclometer. We ride 5 miles, no problems, easy riding when the guys stop. We are riding the wrong way. We back up and go down another road. We stop we are going the wrong way. Finally we find the road and head out. We’ve ridden 8 miles just not in the right direction.
We finally start the long ascent to the finish. It is a pretty dirt road that it looks like you should just zoom down, but for some reason we do not. After about 30 minutes of riding we here a loud POP! Scott has blown a tire. Scott fixes the tire and we head out again. POP again. They guys try to fix this while I ride up where I see another team to bum supplies. We only have CO2 cartridges and no pump. We are also worried we’ll run out of tubes. The guy was so nice. He gave me a tube and chatted with me until his team yelled at him to come one.
Next I catch another team. They lent me their pump. I wish I could remember there names but they elude me now.
Scott duct tapes his tire together. It is so funny but it works. We head out again! We arrive at a road that will crawl upwards until we get to Big Sky. We pass a couple of teams on this road. The guys are so strong on these climbs and they help me out. Finally after about 4 hours of climbing we reach the top. There is a truck there with a guy telling us to follow them in. We are almost there!
As we travel near Big Sky, Mike Kloser of team Nike came out to congratulate us and gave us all high fives. We are just finishing the race and he was going on a training ride! We get to a screaming downhill right before we hit the resort. My chain is having some problems and is stretched. It is hanging in my spokes when I am not pedaling. So at 40 mph I still have to pedal my bike or risk the chain catching and wrecking. We finally turn the last corner and there is yet one more hill to climb into Big Sky. We make it up the hill and stop.People are yelling and waiting for us, but we are not ready. We light our smoke bombs and then take off! We cross the finish line with a rush of emotions. I am excited that we finished and did well. We are all still friends, had a good time and had a major accomplishment. On one hand I want more. I want the Champagne. Now I do not drink Champagne so that may sound funny, but if you finish the full course there is a bottle of champagne waiting.
I hug my teammates, take finish line pictures and then look for those who were there for us. Joel and Autumn greet me with huge hugs and congratulations. Then Todd hugs me and looks me in the eyes, like he likes to do when he is serious about something and asks me to be proud. He can sense it. I feel like I failed as we finished the short course. I know if we made different choices we could have done it. But Todd, tells me to be proud, it is a big deal and it is not fair to the team or those who helped me get here and for those who follow me. Of course he is right and I do feel pride in conquering the 500 miles with the help of my team and crew.
But I do want more. That is what makes me and adventurer. That is what makes me strong, that is how I do this-never being satisfied. So am I happy? Absolutely. I am happy we made it safely, and as friends. I am happy about the friendships I made along the way, that I will treasure forever. I am happy about new acquaintances. I am happy to have renewed some friendships, with people I’d lost touch with. I am happy that we were able to finish what we did, all but 40 miles.
But there will be a next time and there will be more. I learned so much. What I can do, what I need to do and how to rely on others.
Thank you so much for coming along this journey with me. Some of you have asked if I get tired of talking about it. NO! This is my passion. Sharing it with you makes it worth it. It wouldn’t be the same without your prayers, posts, e-mails, phone-calls, and questions. Thank you so much for yoru support.
So what is next…well PQ 09 of course!
There are many moments that I cannot place exactly that were very special. That I’ll share here:
1)We hiked with a team from Mexico for quite a while. They were so kind. Cocoa ( I do not know if that is her name but the guys called her this) was awesome. She had two teenage daughters who she takes climbing and things. She took second place at Patagonia in a 14 day race. She was hurting when we were out there and I told her to look up Todd when she got back. She saw Todd giving me a piggyback at the TA and yelled is that Todd. I said yes and she beckoned him. He promised to get to her after we left. He was able to help here and they too finished the race.I hooked up with the guys afterward and we talked about racing together sometime.
2) At one TA I just couldn’t eat. Nothing sounded good. Then I thought of soup. Joel hunted down soup for me and I had chicken and rice soup. Then Jonathon from GCAR (who was so great) brought me coffee with hot chocolate. It was like heaven. It tasted so good and I got some good calories there.
3)Scott had a nasty fall. He hurt his arm so bad he needed stitches. He just got patched up and kept going. Scott never complained, that I ever heard. He was a great teammate that carried weight without being asked, towed whenever he was able, and jut made us laugh. Thank you Scott for all your help. You were incredible.
4)Paul was like a rock. He was very even-keeled. I do not know if I ever saw him mad. He navigated so well. He was just an all-around strong teammate. He towed all the time, but would never tell you he did. He was so humble. Paul tells incredible stories that kept me entertained for hours. Thank you for your help Paul and all the towing on the bike.
5)Markley was great on the bike and was a strong teammate. He was always positive. Thanks for carrying my pack up Lone Peak and over one of the Crazies Markley!
6)Thank you Autumn for taking care of us when you came in. You were awesome and we knew we had a sensitive ear and care taker in you. We could not have done it without you.
7)Thank you Joel for your hard worked. Do yiou ever stop working? You did so much from washing our bikes to cooking and I so appreciate it. We could not have done it without you. From cleaning the goo out of my gear, to your lisetneing ear you were great.
8)Todd you’re my rock out there. You take care of my feet and my emotional state as well. I always know you have the team’s best interest in mind. Your honest advice and loving care was incredible. I am proud to say you helped me get through my toughest challenge yet.
So here are some questions I’ve been asked.
How did I feel finishing?
Finishing was awesome. It was a great feeling to cross that line for myself, family and friends who helped me get there. There was a little regret when I crossed the line. I am very proud of what we accomplished however. I cannot wait though to get a full-course finish.
How did I feel physically?
Well for days I felt like I get hit by a truck. I woke up with my nose swollen and raw skin, and lips dried together. It was quite gross. I was still dehydrated and you could tell. It was not pretty.
After 10 days I am starting to be able to walk on the balls of my feet better but no running yet. I still feel like I have a mild flu but not too bad. I only feel like a VW bug hit me instead of a truck.
How did you train?
Well it changed. For Utah I trained 20-30 hours per week. I was getting close to this leading up to Montana. I did stadiums twice per week with my good friend Pat and did the treadmill on a full incline for 2 hours at a time. I d ride hills every day and row.
Then I contacted Keith Bushaw (8th Place PQ Montana on BaseCamp). He totally changed how I train. He added weights and cut back the volume. I wanted to do more and he encouraged me to do what he asked and not much more. I would lift weights one day with a run and then do a 4 hour bike ride the next day.
He used weights to tire the muscles and I didn t have to do as long of sessions. His training was incredible and I am excited I could get the same results on about 15 hours per week. Thank you Keith!
I am excited to work with Keith this year to get faster and be a better adventure racer!