Showing posts from August, 2013

Such a beautiful nightmare

On Friday afternoon I dropped from La Petite Trotte à Léon in Morgex, Italy, officially 182 kilometers and about two thirds through the loop course. My teammates, Ana and Giorgio, came in within minutes of the checkpoint cut-off and were able to continue. I did not manage to make this cut-off, and not sure I could have kept going if I had. Sleep deprivation issues, including some downright frightening problems with my vision, impacted my ability to keep a necessary pace. During the descent into Morgex, I asked Ana and Giorgio to continue without me if I could not reach Morgex by 6 p.m. They elected to continue without sleeping, which I wasn't willing to do.

This race was unlike anything I've tried before. To say it was an ordeal would be an understatement. I had expectations based on what Beat told me that were completely blown apart. In running terms, the PTL course is highly technical, involving a significant amount of scrambling, aided climbing, exposure, and poor footing.…

On to the PTL

Well, it's time. Late last year, I got this inclination to plan something more "nutty" for 2013. Something that went far beyond the edge of my comfort zone to those untested outer limits where anything can happen. 2012 had been a fun year, full of challenging events. But none of them were beyond my known abilities, and I ended the year hungry for an outlandish goal.

Many athletically inclined people prefer to take incremental steps forward. I like to take big leaps over chasms without knowing exactly how far I can jump. In most aspects of life I'm a fairly conservative person, but there's a primal allure in physical endeavors that shoves all common sense aside. I want more of it, and have ever since before I understood anything about what "it" is. Case in point: The very first race I signed up for — as in first competitive event of my adult life — was a 100-mile winter bicycle race in Alaska that took me 25 hours to finish. Contrary to popular opinions…

Past the ones that I used to know

Needles of rain drove in through the small opening in my sleeping bag as the plastic walls of the dining shelter reverberated a howling wind — fwap fwap fwap fwap. I'd made a midnight escape from Tent Fjallfoss after being elbowed several times by one of my tentmates. It wasn't his fault, really; most of the occupants arrived after the storm set in, and it was soaked inside. There wasn't enough dry floor space for all of us. I decided sleep was better than walls and retreated to the three-sided group shelter. Unfortunately, the open side was facing the direction of the wind, and I couldn't find a square foot free from errant daggers of rain. The temperature couldn't have been more than a few degrees above freezing, and the wind forced cold air directly into my bag. I curled up in the farthest corner on the grass and shivered.

 "This is good training for Alaska," I thought, and the notion softened the knots of stress that had been building in my gut. Thou…

Yeah, I move slow and steady

Tent Fjallfoss was developing a consistent order of arrival that held without much variation for the rest of the week. First to arrive was always Beat, breezing in as though he'd been out for a pleasant stroll rather than a thirty-mile backpack run. Twenty to forty-five minutes later, I'd zip open the canvas flaps, grumbling about being sore from "running too much" but always stoked on the day's travel through mossy moonscapes. Raj from Bangalore came next, quiet but thrilled to have made it through the day. Then came the two giant New Jersey Vikings, bellowing on as though they'd just been on the worst run of their lives, but with an air of confidence that told me they had no doubts in their minds that they would see this thing through. Special Forces Raj came sixth, with painful knees and a pronounced limp that seemed dire; but then he'd tell us more stories about his days pursuing Pakistani militants through the mountains, and we had little doubt he&#…

But I feel like a waterfall

For being thirty pounds heavier than I'm used to being, and then propelling myself across more than thirty miles of rocky dirt track with a loose lava-pebble side excursion, I woke up the second morning with surprisingly little soreness. "Good," I thought. "That was a sustainable pace. I just have to hold it." All night the wind had been relentless, flapping the walls of the canvas tent like an angry animal, and I doubted any of us slept much. But on further inquiry, I learned my tent mates slept rather well through the hurricane. I'm always jealous of people who can sleep when they're exhausted. My body seems to operate in the opposite direction; the more tired I become, the more my brain holds a relentless grip onto consciousness. Eventually the scales tip, but usually by then I'm hallucinating lynxes and experiencing brief blackouts on my feet. Indiscriminate sleep is not a talent of mine.

The first few miles of stage two followed the road, losi…