|"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark." - John Muir|
Wiseguy Creative Photography
Reflecting on last year's race, a few of my memorable take-aways included the following:
1) Normally, you'd expect a huge spectrum of athletes at a race like this. This simply isn't true. There are no lazy people in this race. No people ripped of the couch by their buddies. This was evident to me when the gun went off on the first leg and the entire group tore out of the Storyland parking lot. Despite the long, cold winter, everyone has been training.
2) While this race in its infancy was once a race of a bunch of crazies on alpine gear running up Mount Washington, people today spend a lot of money on gear. Last year, I saw downriver kayaks worth 2 or 3K, 10K road bikes (yep, for real) and ski mountaineering set ups totaling 5K or more.
...Or, you can show up with what you can get your hands on and hack your way through it.
3) Last year, in lieu of skinning up Mt. Washington, I opted to strap my skis to my pack and hike. Although the jury is still out, I felt last year that skinning would have been a faster option as the snow was slushy and I lost quite a bit of time slipping and struggling to find solid purchase.
Disclaimer (or, as it may be, excuses):
Running, kayaking and cycling have been challenges to training in our never ending winter climate here in Maine. I've tried to force myself out in subzero weather or to spin on the trainer in the basement with limited success. Instead, I made training substitutions knowing full-well that the vast majority of my success would fall on my mental fortitude anyway. So, I showed up on race day one-year-seasoned in my camo Spandits! looking to beat myself up a little.
|This guy, Ryan Place, won the run portion of the event running|
8 consecutive 5-minute miles. What is most impressive is that this
includes a hill that brought 1/3 of the field to a walk.
Photo RDL Studios.
This year's kayak would be interesting. While the river flow was about 700 cfs (cubic feet per second) last year, when we ran it the day before it was running at a mere 92 cfs. Rocks and gravel bars were constant and strategy would include figuring out a way to simply get clean paddle strokes without banging on rocks. During our practice run, my friend James put no less than 3 good-sized holes in the beater-kayak that he bought for the race. He would spend the better part of the evening repairing it with duct tape.
|Rockin the 25 year old blue Dancer. Wiseguy Creative Photography|
|Kovacs in his newly duct taped kayak. Photo Justin Deary.|
|There were some nice bikes in that heap. Sadly,|
mine is not one of them. Photo RDL Studios.
|Temps dropping. I am now wearing every layer that I have and making an|
exceptional fashion statement. Wiseguy Creative Photography.
|Last year's setup with gear on my back|
and running shoes for the hike.
This year I would try using the same gear
but with skins on my feet.
Photo Dave Koenig.
As I popped off my skis and began peeling off my skins, another racer overtook me for third place overall solo female. She bounded by on a Mountaineering setup like the ones I had been dreaming of for the last hour (OK, year, but who is counting?). She needed almost no transition- the skins can even be peeled off virtually without stopping. I would have loved to have chased after her. But alas, my gear was spread all over the ground and my hair was stuck in the partially peeled off skin of my left ski. Nope. I finished up my business of going nowhere while transitioning (which I thought was pretty speedy considering the flipping, peeling, clicking, and whining involved in getting on the trail). Quads ablaze, I headed down the Sherburne trail to Pinkham Notch. I arrived at the finish line with a 2-minute deficit to third place for women.
All-in-all, not a bad effort for a first race of the season. I have no complaints: this was a race of me vs me. A few kinks to work out, but 2015 has officially begun.
|Camo girl rocking my thermal Spandits! Photo Wiseguy Creative Photography|
So, my takeaway for 2015.
1) It was evident that the $1,000 winner-take-all cash purse (solo male and solo female) brought up the level of competition another notch from last year. Both men and women came in force, brought their A-game, and spent a little coin along the way on equipment. I have few choices to make about where I want to go in the future. I could choose to start saving, searching for deals, taking to the right people, and item-by-item put together a somewhat compatible set up to low-level elite racers. I could also choose to keep it old-style and keep things real with affordable, versatile, gear that I use everyday. In truth, paddling that old Dancer rocked my day. The jury will have to be out on this one for a while. After all, taking it to the next level requires commitment and brings a certain level of intensity. I can't say I won't look into it. I have nothing against nice stuff. James gave me a pair of lightweight adjustable poles and I haven't stopped marveling at them since I arrived home. They are so pretty I wonder if I should just hang them on the wall?
|Less carbon boats this year and more sea kayaks. Photo RDL Studios.|
2) I'd love to see The Friends of Tuckerman Ravine find a way to attract more recreational-level racers to this event. It is so well-put together, exciting, and fun. It is truly one of the best natural venues on earth. On the running leg, I passed two friends running together taking selfies with their phones of themselves laughing with the mountains behind them. They both finished the entire race. I'd love to see more people feel like this is an event they want to try. How often do you get to run, kayak, bike, hike and ski Tuckerman Ravine in one morning? Really, it is like a vacation in a day.
Back to my point in takeaway #1... at what point do we get too wrapped up in competition that we forget to have fun? Sometimes you need someone there to laugh with you when you have your hair stuck in your skins.
|besides....the coolest races always have the coolest swag and prizes.|
The next adventure on tap will likely be my first Spartan race in nearly a year in June (my first Super ever). There are lots of new venues this year, so there are lots of chances to get involved (check out the map below, wow). I'll be raffling off a free Spartan entry soon, so stay tuned.
|Red means Sprint (3-5 miles), blue is Super (8+ miles) and green is Beast (12 miles). Lots of new venue options|
to choose from. Click here to go to Spartan Race