Race Reports PQ Utah
THURSDAY- 72 HOURS TO START
Salt Lake City Airport 5:30 PM
I am informed that there is no shuttle for me that evening. I was scheduled on the wrong one. It leaves the next morning at 8:00 AM. Thankfully only 30 of the 90 scheduled racers show up, and I don’t have to spend the night in the airport!
On the way we stop at Burger King. I met a racer as we order our salads. He is from Sweden and has just returned from the World Championships. He is on team 95 and barely got in, so I think they are just a “regular” team.
I find out the next day, this soft spoken, kind man, is on Bjourson, with Mats Anderson-one of the best teams in the world. They end up getting 6th at PQ. The best racers were the most humble racers I met.
Moab 12:30 AM
I arrive at the cabin where my team is waiting up for me. They are very nice and a welcome sight, seeing as how I have never met them! I can’t get my gear or bag until the next day so I have to sleep in the clothes I wore on the plane and have no toiletries.
They do give me the famous Nemo race shirt. I now join the spandex world, including bike shorts with Polartec plastered across my butt, and a bike shirt a size smaller than I needed. I am a railrider clothes type racer, so the spandex was a bit out of my comfort zone, though the uniforms were very nice.
FRIDAY SKILLS TEST DAY
Pre 8:00 AM
Although I planned on sleeping in after my late arrival, we wake up early for breakfast. After breakfast I am anxious to get back and organize. We hit a couple of gear shops first. We had to put all mountaineering gear in one action packer, food in one, extra gear in one, and one stayed behind. We end up cutting it close and get this done just minutes before we are to take our skills test.
We head off to gear testing (in our race shirts) where it is a mess as teams have had travel delays. It is very chaotic as the race staff abanded the scheduled time for our test and now we are to just look for open stations.
This was fine except we kept seeing people we knew and visiting so it took 8 hours to go through the 5 hour gear check. It was lots fun visiting and the atmosphere was awesome. I really got into the PQ spirit as we tested with the best racers in the world, and visited with friends from home.
There were 10 stations. We did everything from ascending, to learning how to use your Wags bag, to what to do if you see cryptobotic soil, to T rescues, treading water for 10 minutes and self rescues in the kayak at the swimming pool.
We didn’t pass part of the test as our throw bag wasn’t long enough and a team member had some spectra instead of nylon slings. Also our knives didn’t pass, which meant I had to carry my big river. I had to remember to take it off my jacket each time we finished a water section.
Don Mann sees me and again pulls me aside. He lets me know our shirts now do not pass, as teams have complained. He pulled for us, but the jury said no. We will be penalized 4 hours-one hour per shirt. I was not happy and wanted to change shirts. The team said “no way” as they didn’t think it was fair to our sponsors and we would take the penalty. It was a valid point, but I was not happy starting out 4 hours behind, nor was the team.
We almost finish our gear check and scrounge through race food for dinner.
DAY BEFORE PQ START
Race dinnerWe ate with Dynamic Health (the oldest team in the race) from Texas, which was fun to have some Texas company.
Opening ceremonies were incredible. I had chills when we saw the course and couldn’t wait to race. Don Man was booed (in good fun) as the doom sayer when he predicted over half the teams wouldn’t finish. He ended up being right. We had almost two hours of directors outlining safety and then finally the maps!
We had four hours to plot points and turn in our gear boxes. We spent a few minutes taking a sponsor picture, then we were back to plotting. I was looking forward to helping plot and seeing the course, but we needed to help Tim pack his backpack.
Ebeth and I packed his bag and gear for him from our boxes that were about ¼ mile away. The two plotters got tired and took a break. We should have had someone else plotting, as it eventually meant we didn’t get the whole course plotted. We never rechecked the points which was scary, but they ended up all being right!
Two of us went to turn in gear boxes but several times someone would run out and say they needed to put something in the box. We were 15 minutes past the 11:00 PM deadline and were lucky our boxes made it to the course!
We boarded the buses at midnight for a 5 hour bus ride to the horses. When we drove out of the Red Cliff Lodge it was surreal. Volunteers lined the road and cheered for us for about a half a mile. It was so inspiring. With the press and staff we had a miles of cars following our 6 buses. I was on an adventure racing high.
Racers were just sure we would get a greyhound as how would racers with three days worth of food, trekking poles and gear fit in a school bus. Well we started the suffering early. We rode in a school bus, two to a seat, for 5 hours with backpacks and horse rigging in our laps. Tim and I were so cold, we pulled out the maps to cover ourselves.
Don Man had told us we would stop half way for food and restrooms. Racers had been heavily hydrating. Well someone forgot to tell the bus drivers. One of the racers was begging to stop and the driver said no. Finally after much pleading the bus stopped on the side of the rode. Hundreds of racers poured out and formed a “pee” line. Woman and men alike relieved themselves along the road. The team bonding had started.
Day 1 Sunday: Middle of Nowhere
We arrive in the morning freezing from the bus ride. The team had decided to go with just one light weight long sleeve and no other outer clothing. I knew better and knew I should take my fleece or jacket but didn’t…peer pressure at 37-now that is sad! I started out the race freezing, but that would soon change as in the canyons temperatures soared to 120 degrees.
Tim and I got in line for the horses as Ebeth and Jenny got our GPS (the nifty gadgets that let family and friends track us). In line we did a pre-dawn interview for the camera by my favorite crew woman Jackie. We received our horse Badger and the cowboys checked out how I had saddled the horse. Things were good and we were off to this start.
I decided to ride to the start and my horse liked Ian’s horse (For those new to racing, Ian Adamson is the best adventure racer in the world). I rode up beside Ian and after some silly comment I made, he told me horses were social animals and then continued to study his maps. Phil and I had joked about me going to the starting line with Ian, so this was quite humorous to me.
We waited patiently for the race start. They are waiting for the sun to come up over the horizon for the cameras. The horses are restless and I continually try to get Badger not to eat.
The sun came over the horizon…helicopters came up from behind the cliffs…a cowboy shot his gun…horses bucked and went wild…the race was on.
The horse in front of me went vertical and a lady was bucked right off the back. I really thought she might be paralyzed. I later met up with her and said she just had a headache. She was one tough lady! Other horses started bucking people off and running away. After it settles down I think, “I am sure glad I didn’t get bucked off.”
All of the sudden the helicopters circle again, as if to say lets see all that again. A horse in front of me starts bucking and heading straight at me. My horse starts bucking.
Being a Texan I figure I should be able to ride this out. I stay on for a few bucks and then go flying off. My only fear was that my foot would get stuck and I’d be dragged. I came right out, did a karate role and was on my feet. Ok it seemed that pretty to me, I am sure it was an ugly fall. My horse ran away.
I took some burrs in the back, had a trekking pole stick me in the back, pulled my groin a little bit and fell on my wrist. But in just a few hours I had forgotten all that and it never bothered me again. I glanced at my watch 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the race…I was racing Primal Quest!
We were to hike 3 miles to the vet check. After about a mile I realized my shoes are too small. I panic as my toes won’t move. I had done the last few training session in my Merrells (I am now wearing my Solomon’s), so I am wondering did my feet grow…did I pack the wrong shoes.
Then I think I’ve figured it out. It is the gators pulling my shoes tight. When we reach the 3 mile mark, I take my shoes off and realize it is sand making my shoes too small. Almost all the racers will battle this, and this is what took the skin off the tops of my feet. Some racers prevented this by emptying their shoes about every 15 minutes. We were too excited passing everyone and neglected to do this very often.
At just 3 miles into the course, there was a line for the cowboys to check the horses and walk us down a ravine. We were number 87 out of 89 teams in line since my horse ran away. That was a little dejecting.
As we came down the ravine and onto the course, we were moving fast. We started to pass a lot of teams. Many times I am jogging to keep up. I wanted to empty my shoes, but we are passing teams and I don’t want to slow the team down.
Finally we do stop to take care of some hot spots. My duct tape is not sticking and I asked for some more. I didn’t bring any, as the med kit would have plenty. The tape was in the bottom of the med kit in the bottom of a pack in the med kit, so the team did not take it out. We were being passed and this was taking a lot of time. So I use my duct tape that is not sticking which just came right off and eventually caused the hamburger heels.
We have now put our packs on the horse and are just trekking behind the horse. Some teams horses won’t move for 4 hours! We were lucky as our horse won’t stop. My only complaint with our horse was that Badger would not let me get a drink. It was like after he bucked me off, I was not his friend. Every time I tried to get my hose he would run away! I got a bit dehydrated on this 23 miles desert/horse trek, because of Badger!
After about 10 more miles I really needed to dump my shoes again and fix my feet. Most teams were doing this every mile or so. We decided ok the next shade spot we’ll stop. Then in a few minutes we say the same thing. Then we are passing teams again and just never stopped. I should have stopped, but I didn’t want to slow the team down. This was a poor decision as this eventually will take me out of the race.
We were able to stop at the horse watering station. Just hours into the race my feet were toast. We had passed about 40 teams on this trek, but my feet have already paid a heavy price.
Around 2:45 PM
We finish the horse section and I finally get to go to the med tent. I feel bad as the team is ready to go and I am still being taped. They told me my feet are infected.
There was to be a special surprise of ice water and Gatorade at this station. There was none when we arrived. A man felt sorry for us and we asked if we could take an ice block. Oh the simple pleasures! I held the bag up and we drank the melted ice from the bag like it was milk from a cow. That ice water was heaven. We were celebrating and carrying on like children and neglected to see the camera filming our antics. I met this camera guy later and assured me that would make the final cut!
We then accidentally dropped it and it split into four pieces. We each took a piece as we headed out into the desert for a 23 mile dessert trek. This kept our spirit up for hours. It is so amazing what a thing like a piece of ice can do for your spirits.
We trek most of night. When we began going in circles after CP7 and covering the same trail 3 times, two of us want to sleep just a few minutes to get our bearings. The team said we were on track now, but over an hour later we went back to the original checkpoint we’d just left. This was really only the time we went in circles.
Finally, we got our bearings and trekked into the night again. We then went to a really neat canyon that looked like no way out. Tim did a great job of leading us and about 6 other teams out. I was starting to get really drained, so we stopped and slept about 45 minutes. We slept in a ravine and a team came by and saw us puppy piled in our Mylars and thus the article where we were called the “burrito” group.
As we trekked on later into the night 3 of us were walking sideways off the road. We were making S’s down the trail. After Jenny tried leading us, it was futile. I had to go back and wake up Ebth two times who fell asleep while standing up. We slept about 15 minutes and then did better.
Day 2 Monday
We come into TA1 which is our bike TA, as the sun rose. We had to put or bikes together at each bike section. That is one reason for such long TA times. After I was ready I had a podiatrist look at my feet.
My feet were pretty trashed already at this point. He taped them up great. I only wish the tape job lasted. Med staff had not anticipated the number of messed up feet. Therefore most stations had run out of supplies, waterproof tape being one of them.
We set out on a fun bike leg. My biking work had paid off (as I usually am not a strong biker) and I was able to ride well this leg. This was a great rest on my feet.
We had an agenda today. We needed to be to the river boarding section by 6 PM, or we’d have to wait for 12 hours. This biking section was a wide single track with 10 miles of road at the end.
We stopped at a small joint in a town, as most teams did. I don’t drink cokes, but had a root beer. I guess my body was craving the calories. I was having trouble eating in the heat. We also had a team give us French fries. I don’t eat fried foods either, but this meal of root beer and French fries was heaven!
After this we set out on the road. I started slowing some here and although we were passing teams the team we wanted to go faster. I towed a bit on this last 10 mile section and we came into the river section in the nick of time. We caught the last shuttle of the day up to the river.
This would be the scariest thing I do this race. There is only one shuttle left and it is a van without 4 wheel drive. He said we can go, but he can’t guarantee we’ll make it. We pile in with another team and head out. The driver was an off-road driver and policeman.
He drove so wild. When we sat down, he said you better put your seat belts on. I didn’t have one! I had been excited this ride was 30 minutes. I was going to sleep-not a chance. We hit the ceiling several times. He was sliding all over, and for the first time in my life I really thought I might die. Since my fear is of dying in water, this was not a pleasant ride as the sandy trail followed along the river!
We get into the water and start the river boarding section. This was a lot of fun. We went down with another team. It turned out this was one of the guys who had asked me to race on his team. That was a lot of fun chatting with them. This section took us 2 ½ hours. There were only about 4 places with class 2 water the rest we just kicked and enjoyed. The last little section was a wild ride and was quite hard to get to the shore through the current.
We TA’d long and slow. We decided to sleep a little before the paddle. We found a quite spot and were going to sleep two hours. Tim couldn’t sleep (Tim was amazing he was never sleepy, except when we paddled!), so he woke us up after one hour.
We paddled about 3 miles to a one-mile portage. We decided to all four move one boat and then come back and get the other. This was a good choice as the boats were so heavy with all our gear in them, including our climbing gear.
This paddle was so boring that I kept falling asleep. Tim was tired as well and neither of us were talking, so it made it hard to paddle in the middle of the night. Tim and I wanted to stop and sleep a few minutes and the others boat didn’t . So we continued on until dawn.
At one point the girls looked behind us and we were a hundred yards back. They yelled Tim. I woke up realized they were calling Tim and not Kim and went back to sleep. Then Tim woke up. We had both fallen asleep and were just floating down the river. We stopped after this and were going to sleep awhile. We only sleep 15 minutes as Tim was freezing and shivered the whole time. We tried to warm him up, but he doesn’t until we hit the water again.
Day 3: Tuesday
About 6 AM Tuesday
We finally finish the 35 mile paddle and go into TA2. This is where I meet my angel for this race, the medic Todd, who is an ER nurse from Washington state. After getting ready to paddle I go to the med tent, where a stocky man with very piercing blue eyes, in a kilt, is my medic. Several people were taking pictures of my feet and examining them. I was just chatting about how you just block the pain and go on, as they “grossed out”.
After doctoring my feet Todd turned me around making me stare in those eyes, that could see right through me. He said, “I respect your ability to block out the pain. You have the worst feet I have seen in the race. I have never asked a racer to stop for feet, but I think you need to stop.”
I held back my emotions, as I knew I could not stop…not now.. I had to finish….I came to finish!
I told him I would not be stopping. He never batted an eye. “Ok then” he said and promised me, he would do what he could to get me though this race. He gave me a huge hug and let me know he’d be waiting for me after this section. He was always there waiting for me. He was part of the reason I made it as far as I did. He told me later that as I hike out into the canyon, he was really worried and in ah I was continuing. He told me I was the toughest woman he’d ever met and was telling everyone about me. It is strange how this can bond you, but Todd became a strength for me.
9 am Tuesday
Just before 23 mile cayoneering section About 9 AM Tuesday Ebeth found a pair of size 11 Tevas. I am an 8 ½. I put those on and did all of the 23 mile canyoneering section, except for the scrambling in sandals. This is what started the really bad blisters on the bottoms of my feet. It was a gamble which to do but so I tried both.
Before actually getting to the canyon we must do a river swim. The current is really moving. We are to hike up in the water about 75 yards, angle your body as if you were doing a ferry in the boat and attempt to swim across.
You really had to kick and swim but it was doable. Having a backpack with climbing gear, and some people had a stuff sack as well made it a little tougher. Tim took my things for me since my feet were so bad and all I had to do was swim across with my pfd and backpack.
This canyoneering loop was fun. We climbed Turtle Mesa a really neat place. It was exposed and we had to do some scrambling to reach the top. Tim hit a low point at the top and we stopped for a break, where we visited with another team. This was a nice break before we headed into the canyons and our big rappel. We hiked along to our rappel and you couldn’t see over the edge. I am afraid of heights so I just try not to look down. We went over the edge after some awesome climbers checked out our rigging. The staff was superb! We had to be joined to a teammate so I went with Tim. We were about 25 meters down when I looked down. Whoooo….that was a bit scary. I think I only looked down once more. We were doing a 400 foot rappel. I have never had my hand get tired on a rappel! Soon after the rappel we met Steven from Texas. He was a life saver for us and cheered us up!
From here we are in the canyons. Bugs are horrible and we came across some boys an their dad fishing. We asked for some bug spray. The dads just looked at us, but the young boys were like “sure here it is”. We sprayed on the Off and then went into the tighter canyons.
We hiked for quite a while and then decided to sleep 2 hours. Although this happened almost nightly this is one time I remember gathering strength from those at home. I was in a lot of pain and I was praying those at home would pray for me. I was also using Bill’s trekking poles and thinking ok he did this, get strength from that.
Then when we stopped I was able to get some good inspiration as well. Bill had suggested I bring something from home for strength. I couldn’t find anything, but in my gear box Phil had left a note from he and my son. I carried that. I took it out when we stopped, would reread it and be rejuvenated. I know this all sounds corny but when you are in survival mode everything helps.
Again Tim couldn’t sleep, partly due to me. My Mylar blanket kept blowing in the wind really loud and waking him up. Therefore we slept an hour and then moved on. It started lighting in the slot canyons and I was worried about flashfloods and of course lighting! We continued on higher anyway- because for flashfloods we needed to go up- and lighting down- so we chose to stay on path. A few hours we cliff out and end up at a 90 foot ascent. I was glad for practicing ascending in the dark as it was dark. The ascent was easy and we breezed by this. I had been most anxious about this and so had practiced this a lot! I was sick of climbing our 30 foot rope in our backyard, but it paid off.
DAY 4 THURSDAY
The next day we entered some slot canyons. I had never done rock climbing but my teammates had. It was so fun to go down chimneys and walls I never could have without them. They would just say put your foot here, put your hand here and viola-I was down. This was a highlight. Our only negative here was Jenny’s wags bag was stinnnnnnnnking.
This canyon we were in was never ending. I was so thankful to have met this team where we chatted for hours. One man I really got to know well, as he shared about his struggles getting here, the pressures on the family and doing this with young children. The other couple had left their 5 month old and toddler to come. It was neat to hear the stories and get to know these people. This helped pass the time quickly. It was funny I forgot about my feet until we hiked on and then with no conversation I would just focus on my feet-as much as I tried not to!
My team was super quite. It was not that I was excluded noone talked. I am used to talking the entire time! This was hard as I often felt like I was racing alone. Elizabeth also said she had never raced with a team so quite.
We hiked back to the river later that day. Tim mentioned stopping due to my feet and Tim’s. I said since we paddled next we could talk about it after that, but there was no need to talk about feet before a paddle. Everyone agreed.
My feet were very bad by the river section. I was really slowing the team down. 24 hours in the canyon had taken a toll on my feet. Tim was starting to have some signs of bad feet as well. They went and retrieved some of my gear for me while I waited by the river. This was a real low for me. I became very emotional (ok I shed some tears, when they stepped away) not for my feet, but the reality was setting in I might not finish. I had ignored the fact- I might not finish- as I knew it is downhill if you say those works…, but I was going sooooooooooo slow. There was no doubt that at my pace we could not make the cutoffs.
The river crossing was the most painful thing I did. The open wounds in the river were painful, plus walking on the rocks. I could barely walk into the TA after this as my feet were in such pain.
When I came shuffling into the TA, Todd could see I was struggling and quickly encouraged me and gave me instructions. After drying off , he wanted the doctor to look at me. I met Todd at the med tent. The ER doc didn’t say anything so on I went. Todd told me he’d continue to patch me up if I wanted to continue. Next was a 45 mile paddle so there was no need to even discuss stopping at this point. We discussed what would be best for the paddle and we left most of my feet open, with just a bit of tape on the heels so my feet could rest in the boat. Todd of course gave me his bear hug and instructed me what to do for the rest of the course. Todd saw me off and instructed me to see the podiatrist at the next stop. Then he’d be waiting again at the next TA. Sadly, the next I see Todd will be at PQ headquarters.
Wed 2:00 PM
We elected to sleep prior to this paddle in the TA. We again only slept about 45 minutes as Tim couldn’t sleep. In fact Jenny’s watch to wake us up went off when were in the river!
This paddle was one of the highlights for me. We brought special snacks and star bucks canned espresso. Each hour we would share a snack, as a team to celebrate staying awake. There were lots of canyons so we also had to be careful where we paddled. We told riddles and sang songs. We also strategized about how we would move up in the rankings. This was great until about 3 AM when Tim was sleepy. We decided to tow and Tim got up front and I paddled in back so he could sleep, while the front boat towed.
My only complaint here was the boat stunnnnnnnnnnnk in back. Tim had been peeing in a bottle and it was nasty back there! (Note: Tim is not gross, this is typical AR stuff) We towed Tim a while and then we were all sleepy. We woke Tim up and he assured us he’d stay asleep while we slept in the boats and floated. Well we all fell asleep and we woke up when we hit a rock. This happened twice. Finally the sun came up and we were able to hold it together long enough to paddle into the TA. We had gone all night again without sleeping, well except for the sleeping in our boats!
DAY 5 THURSDAY
Thursday 6 AM
We paddle into the TA and are shocked to find we had been short coursed. There were no cutoffs until Sat at 4 PM on the mountaineering section. We are crushed as we all came to finish the long course. All our enthusiasm goes out the window as we are to skip the canyoneering section and go on to the bikes. We had missed the cutoff by 30 minutes. We could have easily been down earlier had we not been lollygagging and barely paddling as we slept.
Note: I learned I can paddle, sing and sleep at the same time!
We have to do a 2 mile steep climb with all our paddle gear. It was a tough climb and super hot. I had not taped my feet up yet, thinking this would be easy but this tore my feet up some more.
Next we are to put our bikes together and do about a 65 mile bike. We get ready to go and then I stop by the med tent. I get taped up once again, but they are out of the “right’ tape. The medic kept asking me to flex my foot. He continued to ask me. I though what is the problem, well I kept falling asleep while the medic is doing my feet. Apparently I was snoring in the tent! He asked how long we have slept and I said about 4 hours. It has been 5 days so he tells the team to sleep. We slept about 2hours –finally!
As we woke up Tim decided he wanted to stop. His feet are hurting and he has had enough. Tim was a super fast racer, but he had cycled to a low as we all do. I suggested we just wait a few hours and talk about it. Ebeth and Jenny did a lot of encouraging finally we decided to go on. At one time or another, though many of us don’t verbalize it, you feel like you can’t go on. Buyt you NEVER say it, or it is over. It is so mental. We were in that TA about 6-8 hours I think…this is way too long if I am to finish this race at my pace. I end up visiting with teams during this section, when I really I should have just kept sleeping.
This biking sections is brutal for me. The girls take all my gear. They were so strong. There is tons of jarring rock that just shake the bottom of my feet. They took most of my 40 pound pack and biked just as fast. At one point during the race they took Tim’s 40 pound pack, put it on their back and biked just as fast. Ebeth and Jenny were rarely tired! This was a super technical section, part of which was Poison Spider a 4 x 4 trail, which is an expert trail.
Several people actually broke bones on this section. My feet now hurt to bike as well as walk, which I was doing a lot of both as it was too technical for me in my condition with a heavy pack. I was really slowing down. Finally we come to Gemini Bridges. This was another 400 foot rappel that was really neat. Our bikes went down a zip line and we rappelled where we could all see each other. This was a highlight. I went down with Ebeth this time.
As dusk comes I am now getting frustrated and sloppy on my bike. At one point someone yelled cattle grate. I was like yeah, yeah we’ve passed a ton of those. This lip was huge and I didn’t see it. I hit it and did an endo. I just sat there laughing. It didn’t hurt, but I lay on my stomach still clipped in on the cattle grate.
We walked a lot as I was the only one with a really bright light-thank you nite rider! Finally we found a checkpoint at around 2 AM. We decided to sleep until dawn to see if we could ride out the next day. Again Tim woke up early and we only slept about 90 minutes. As dawn came the other two girls came alive. They were super on these technical trails. I was not excited about technical rocky trails that vibrated my feet, but they were ecstatic and ate up the trails. These were expert trails and I am not an expert rider especially with a pack, no sleep and hurt feet. This was the highlight for the rest of the team, however as they loved this section.
We find one of the last CP’s on this section. From here it is only about 6 miles of technical trail and then 10 miles on to the road to Moab. The team is pumped about eating at Denny’s. I let them know when we get there I am going to take care of my feet and sleep while they eat. I said I wasn’t trying to be anti-team, but that would be best for me to continue, plus I have a thing about eating at restaurants during a race. It just doesn’t seem right!
We finally hit the road and it is 10 miles to Moab. I am pedaling about 10 mph. Not speedy by any means and they are ready to go. We don’t have the tow rope, but they come along side and push me. My toes were in excruciating pain at this point. It wasn’t so bad going slow, but going over about 11 mph was sending me over the edge.
By time we reach the Denny’s I could barely walk. I went straight to the restroom, pulled all the tape off except for those on my toes and sat down in the stall and cried. For those who know me, you know I was desperate to sit down in a restroom stall floor-groosssssssssss. I stayed in there for quite some time then came out and washed my feet. The girls came to take an order for me. Note: The girls were sympathetic to my feet. They said they would have quit and called me a lover of pain.
Finally, I came out and a friend who tracked us on the GPS let me use his phone. I called Phil and broke down. I told him my feet were toast and they were too fast for me with my hurt feet and I didn’t know what to do. He assured me everyone was proud of me and it was ok to stop. He was worried about the me going into the mountains on the next section. I didn’t want to stop, but it was causing a lot of unspoken tension on the team. Although there were times when I was going faster then other teammates who were bonking, since mine was constant it was causing tension. I can’t stop. I am not stopping! What would everyone thinK if I stopped? How would I feel if I stopped? I can’t stop. I have never quit a race. Was I quitting? Could I go on? No I knew I couldn’t but I still couldn’t quit. I had been so proud to have never quit a race, and I had no intention of quitting this one. My idea was I’d never quit unless someone made me.
Well we ate and just ignored the subject. Finally the friend who had rode in with us, told me if I couldn’t ride faster I should stop. He said you know your body, if you need to eat or whatever- do so, so you can ride faster. I sat there stunned, though it was silly I felt insulted. Then the team said if couldn’t go faster they were worried we would run out of water between water stations. I was surprised. My idea was to finish as a team, but in reality I was being selfish. They wanted to see the course too. There was not much to say. I couldn’t go faster. It was not possible.
They sat there staring at me, I let them know my speed was due to my feet. I had eaten there was nothing else I could do. The friend looked at me feet then started to tear up. He said you can’t go on. You need to go to a hospital. I sat there in resignation. We were on a short courses, so no one carried if we were unranked. I should have asked them if they wanted to go on without me earlier but I wanted to finish.
Some PQ volunteers had just walked in to Denny’s and in just seconds, before I really knew what was happening, Tim was telling them I withdrew. I withdrew that sounded horrible. In just minutes I had said goodbye and was on the way to Moab. The guys carried me to the truck and PQ was over for me.
They drove me to PQ headquarters where you are required to be checked by a medic. I wish he would have let me take the tape off my toes as he was not gentle. He said just watch for infection, no swimming, soak them-that’s it. A rather anti-climatic prescription. I went upstairs to try to figure out what to do next. I didn’t even have enough clothes to be finished early.
Elizabeth said I could use her car and this is where my two sets of extra clothes were. All other things I had were in the field. I couldn’t go home as all my gear was out in the field. I had no shoes as I had been biking and couldn’t fit in my bike shoes. I just sat there. A really nice man went and looked though one hundred cars for Ebth's car. I couldn’t remember the make or anything except she was from Montana. He couldn’t find it so I just sat there. Finally a really nice volunteer who we had befriended us went and looked again. He found it and drove it up for me. Then John Howard’s assistant (I wish I could remember his name-a race director in Chicago) saw me and didn’t want me to drive. He drove me the 20 minutes into Moab and someone followed him to return him. He also loaded my car with my gear I’d been carrying and my bike.
Once at the motel I was on my own. I checked in and then drove to a gravel parking lot. I still didn’t have shoes and when I got out, I realized I couldn’t walk on this surface. I had to move the car farther away to a pavement parking lot so I could walk. I grabbed my one bag and headed in. I did come get my bike as I didn’t want my $3600 bike sitting in the car. You were not allowed to keep it in your room, but I didn’t think I could walk it to the front desk, so I kept it in my room and just locked the deadbolt. After showering, I tried to decide what to eat. I only had race food with me. I knew I couldn’t go out, so I decided to order pizza. Pizza Hut was not delivering that night! There as no food at the motel, so I ate some race food while laying in bed. I tried to call Phil, but got emotional and hung up. I called again left a message saying I was ok and to call me. My feet were really hurting and swollen and I had forgotten to get the Advil I was given by the medics-all my medicines and bandages were in the field. The Advil was in the car. My feet hurt too bad to walk all the way to the car, so I just layed there. I did need to go to the restroom so I crawled to the restroom-which in hindsight is now funny. I then went to bed about 4:00 PM and woke up 14 hours later. I had planned on trying to go watch the pro teams finish but I never woke up.
Phil called the next morning and we talked for 3 hours. This was refreshing. Then I headed into town for some supplies for my feet. I just wore socks in the store. Then the next stop I bought some $5 sandals, so I could have some shoes-a men’s size 9 and I am a women’s 8 ½. I stopped at a smoothie shop for a wrap and some raspberry tea-my after race meal. I drove up to headquarters to watch team’s finish. While there I saw Todd. He of course gave me his usual bear hug, and expressed how sorry he was. He was surprised I went as far as I did and told me I was in his stories.
I hung out until evening and then headed back to the motel for the rest of my wrap and some sleep. The next few days were more of the same, except I met some of the pro teams. The golite guys were super nice, and encouraged me there would be more PQ’s. I met several others who had also exited for medical reasons.
Finally, Nemo was to finish. I saw they would be at the last TA and a friend of Tim’s invited me to go out with him. When we arrived Tim was hurting. There was one more 14 hour hike, then the 15 minute paddle to the finish. Tim wanted to skip the hike. He had blisters and they were causing him pain apparently. They skipped that section, took a 30 hour penalty and went to the paddle and to the finish.
The girls had called ahead to ask if I could paddle with them. I thought that was very kind, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t deserve to paddle to the finish with them as I didn’t finish. The answer was no anyway, so that saved any discussion. Race staff said I could run across the line with them, but I couldn’t run so that nixed that and again I didn’t want too.
I did wait of them in the finisher circle. Don Mann was there and talking to me about the Nemo tents exploding and the Merrell shoes falling apart in the heat-these were the two main sponsors. We were laughing about that. He was so sweet and nothing like the navy seal I imagined. He asked me to stand on stage with the team, I didn’t want to, but he insisted. As they approached the line Don ran the 25 yards over there to greet them. He turned and looked at me and was shocked to see he had left me in the dust. I was shuffling over very slowly. It was hard to walk up on stage and have pics taken with them as they finished and I didn’t.
They went to eat their after dinner meal. Art had held up the cafeteria for them. We finally head back around midnight and hit the sack. The next day we spent sorting gear. Some of my gear had been lost while I was gone from the course, but thankfully it wasn’t too expensive. As I sort through my food I wonder if I ate anything. The team said they took some of my food, but it looks like I have everything I brought! My bag was just as heavy going home-I don’t know how that happened.
I was so happy to be going home. I had missed my family and it was hard to sit around for 4 days. I didn’t want to call any friends or family as it was hard to call after not finishing. Maribel called me and that really lifted my spirits. My family called as well on a conference call.
At closing ceremonies the team wanted to wash and wear the jerseys-the spandex. I never wanted to wear that shirt again, but they asked me “don’t you want to be part of the team?” It is hard to explain the feeling of not finishing and feeling like you don’t deserve to put the shirt on . I go early to avoid wearing it, and end up never finding my team. They are really late and we never hook up. As I visited with Mooosejaw I thought I’ll just sit with them. As I walk forward a volunteer stops me, “Are you a racer?” Yes…”Did you finish?” Geez would everyone ask this. No I didn’t. “Then you need to sit in the back.” I said bye to Mark and went to sit with Steven from Texas and Julie from Weasel B another Texas team.
The closing ceremonies were funny and good, but just not the same. I was still dejected I didn’t finish. Dinner was nice and I sat with Dynamic Health.It just so happened we sat with different friends we’d met on the course. A band and dancing started and I could never saw him again. I also hung out with Moosejaw, Sutliff Hummer and Pedro’s Boulder-Charlie and Tom, who had shared their dehydrated mashed potatoes with me on the trek-Yes you just eat after everyone on the course-you are out there to survive together and there is a camaraderie. When I was walking around with Robyn, from Too Cool Racing, we met up with Danielle Ballangee (one of the best female racers in the world). Robyn advised her to go to the doctor, which I found funny.
I headed to bed about midnight for my 5:30 AM wake up call. I was going home tomorrow!
Wednesday 5:30 AM I rode the shuttle back with lots of racers -Bjorson, Neil from Merrel and some of the Golite guys. I arrived at the airport early and thought I could get an early flight, but my gear was not there for one hour. I went to check in still hoping and I missed the plane by one hour. Oh well I still wanted to make some calls. While waiting for my 5:45 plane I called Phil and then Bill, while I drink my double chocolate chip frappuccino.
I sign off with Bill just in time for boarding and my plane is canceled! I have to go rebook. They put me on Delta 2 hours later. That is fine but then they want me to take my two boxes down there about ½ mile away. I am still limping a lot so this is not fun. A PQ volunteer saw me and helped me (did I say they are awesome!). Then Delta wanted to charge me $300 for my bags and American had just charged me $80. (I had a really nice lady who let one of the bags pass). I have to walk back to American to work this out. American told me it is not there fault and I don’t get me a first class ticket like I already have nor will they pay the extra fees on Delta. The best I get them to do is ship my bags American and we will pick them up the next day. I have to go back and get my bags. By his time I am really shuffling. Finally we get it to American and I go back to Delta. I haven’t eaten all day thinking I am eating on the plane so now I need to find dinner. I end up riding with a male cheerleader from LSU who is huge and keeps me entertained, offering me brownies he baked and just being plain silly.
I finally arrive home at 11:15 PM. Colby and Phil are waiting. Colby looks huge. He grew in just two weeks. For the next two days he kisses me and tells me he missed me. It was so good to be home. My luggage does come in later than I was told, but it did come in the next day.
I can’t wait to go back. I am very dejected, as I didn’t finish, as I never dreamed I would keep a team from not finishing ranked. I said I would never ever quit a race. I now have a new respect for those who have tried and didn’t make it due to injury -especially feet! I used to say yeah yeah feet, get over it….I wish! It has been hard to answer all the questions about those who are excited I did PQ as I don’t feel like I did it
I thank all of you who continue to tell me your still proud, but it won’t be the same until I cross the finish line next year full course. As soon as I can run, I’ll be training again. I was excited that my training was right on, thanks to some good coaching. I was not sore at all, well except for my feet.
Thank you all so much for the prayers, gear support and words of encouragement. Reading all the shouts on the message board was lots of fun even after the race. I couldn’t do it without all of you. I will back and hope some of you are inspired to come along on this journey. It is incredible and one I can’t wait to continue.
Until Next year at Primal Quest……….