According to Facebook, every single one of my friends were “hiking” in Vermont this weekend [thank you, John H for the apt description from last year’s Ultra Beast].
Distance: 22.42km (13.9 miles)
Elevation change: 15,500 ft [according to Alec Blenis] *Here numbers vary quite a bit. I have now seen the GPS stats from a couple of devices, and the elevation estimates vary quite a bit. Let me just assure you that it was hilly. If you were looking for your first DNF, this was definitely the place to do it.
This weekend started and ended with Katy’s Perry “Roar”. The middle was packed with farm dinner, hugs, mountains, lakes, unexpected scenarios, some tears, a pull-up challenge, Switchback beer, coconut water and dancing the night away.
The pre-Beast feast was held at the Amee farm on Friday night, and it was a great way to start the weekend – amazing food and familiar faces all in one place. Lots of hugs were shared over lasagna, quinoa salad and apple crisp. Most Spartan races feel like family reunions, and given the pre-event festivities this one felt even more so.
“Are you doing the Beast or the Ultra Beast (or both – ha!) this weekend?”, was the most common question floating in the crowd. It got dark quickly, and racers started to head home to get some quality shut eye before the big day.
I am staying at a cottage about half an hour away from Killington with a bunch of fellow racers, and after some introductions and reminiscences about the summer Death Race, I turn in for the night. My racing outfit is right beside my pillow, and I hang my hydration pack ready to go in the closet. The start is at 8am tomorrow, and the plan is to be up sometime before 6am to be at the start for just after 7am.
I wake up because someone is talking to me. As I open my eyes, Jeff, my official chauffeur for the weekend, reports in a slightly panicky voice that it’s almost 7am. Neither of us has set an alarm, assuming we’d either wake up from the noise, or someone would surely kick both of us in the ribs. The house is empty. Bleary-eyed, I pull on my racing gear, spend some time frantically looking for race shoes, then finally grab my purse, and we are on the road. Jeff is desperately trying not to speed.
We are few minutes away from the race, when I realize that my hydration pack is still napping in the closet, where I left it. I’m heading towards the start line of Vermont Beast without water, fuel, or salt. Nothing.
I feel my heart rate starting to go up. I’m about to have a panic attack. Then I pause, and decide against it. A surprisingly calm internal dialogue turns on… Let’s consider my options.
1. I can choose not to race at all. This whole forgetting the hydration pack thing is clearly a bad sign. Pfffft. Right.
2. I can race in a later wave. Going back for my pack would take way too long, and I’ll be finishing after dark.
3. I can race tomorrow. No way.
4. I can race without water or fuel. Wow, now there’s a dumb idea. But I have done enough events in the past to make the decision to do something stupid consciously. You can be as stupid as you like, as long as you are aware and conscious of what you are doing.
Let’s consider the worst case scenario. As a rule, I like to avoid doing anything with very high likelihood of death, simply because there is way too much cool shit that I still have to do beofre I kick the bucket (unless that cool shit inherently comes with high likelihood of death – bungee jumping and skydiving, I’m looking at you).
There will be water on course (including a lake – ha!), I won’t die from dehydration. I’ll be hungry. I will probably bonk, but I’m stubborn enough to finish anyway – it will just take me a very very very long time. “Food is a crutch”, I remember one of the SERE performance instructors, saying as they take away our fuel at the beginning of the 16-hour event.
I’ve never done an endurance race in a fasted state – this could be an interesting experiment. Besides, my coach always says that I should train my body to use fat for fuel rather than readily available carbohydrates. What better way to start than the Vermont World Championships? Right?
My biggest concern would be muscle cramping – with no salt or electrolytes, this would be tough to battle. So the worst case scenario would be severe muscle cramping to a point where I would not be able to go on. But muscle cramps go away, and I’ve been looking for my DNF. This may be it.
As we pull into the parking lot, Jeff looks at me, amused. “You are taking this really well”, he notes. “I know”, I state calmly. “I’ve been in therapy all year”.
As we start walking towards the crowd, hundreds of racers are picking up their race packets, smiling and laughing. Many of them will not finish.
[to be continued]