Felix (from Kilimanjaro trip)
once asked me "Does Peace come before Love or does Love come before Peace
?"My mind has pondered over this thought.
Is it possible to say we love this world without peace?
If we loved this world, we would fight to protect this world. In order for us to protect this world we must find peace with this world. That is we should be in harmony with this world. Yet corporates tell us to spend on trivialities, spend on toys/goods that won't last, spend because that is what makes the world go round and that is what will get us out of recession. Firstly what are we supposed to spend when inflation and wage freezes have meant we have less money? Secondly change that word to "consume" and I cannot find peace with those thoughts. Our economics and greedy corporates need to change to become more sustainable so that each one of us can find peace with the way we live our lives and look to protect our natural world or we will continue to destroy our heritage for us now and for our future generations.
We all need to pull together for peace!
Eszter and her big bike - purple monster!
Bisaniiwewin would remind me of this continually throughout this trip for I was nervous about this event. My preparations were haphazardly put together, but some how everything came together in the penultimate days leading up to the event.Just days before, Dave (Arrowhead organiser) found me a buddy, Eszter, a biker and a great athlete who finished in the top 10 and smashed the women's record by 2 hours. She sorted out my accomodation and ride up to International Falls.
Another racer's plastic sled and my sled
Nicole, another amazing woman who is a friend of a friend, lent me her gear. I cannot complain, but when I saw the 5ft fiberglass sled she had lent me, I thought "oh dear". It was beautiful beast, weighing about 8-10 kg that needed two hands to carry it. In comparison, I could lift other racers' plastic sleds with my little finger. My second thought, was no big deal, I've pulled 60 kgs before.
With that thought, my mind went into expedition mode and began to load my sled for survival instead of opting for drop bags at check points. Wrong mode! Eszter helped me to adjust my head. So I left the snow shoes and a small bag of gear for a drop off at the finish, but still forgot to take out the over boots and a spare bag of thermal clothes that I would never use. I still had all of my food. All of which would be dead weight, and contributed to a total sled weight of about 30 kgs alone.
Most sleds in the race had a total weight of about 12-15 kgs.
6am check in for race start at 7am
Again, I thought "no problem", this would be great practise for an expedition. My head was challenging my body and my body was rising up to the challenge. My mother asked me to leave the tyre behind, but how could I leave Bisanii behind! Tim, another bike racer, who picked me up and dropped me off at the start point, commented at how heavy my sled weighed. However, at 6 am on race day I was committed.
The night before the race was an unrestful night as being a girl, my menstrual cycle was happening. Yes that "girly" thing that makes us crabby and snappy to those around us! This meant my body temperature was on the rise and thus the room felt hot and sweaty. It is typical for me to have insomnia the night before when that "that girly thing" is about to happen, although I managed to snatch an hour or two of sleep! It is typical for me to have an upset stomach and diarrhea when "that girly thing" is happening. Thus I had several moments in the toilet before the race started and unfortunately I had to be in the toilet when the race started! It is also typical for me to feel extremely tired when "that darn girly thing" is happening. This is a mind game, and the only way to defeat the mind was to keep everything positive.
The start of the Arrowhead trail
I raced over to the start line and saw everyone's flickering racer lights disappearing into the distance. I was 5 minutes behind everyone but no big deal as I normally started a race behind everyone!
We were briefed at the pasta dinner that the first 25 miles would be flat with undulations. After that the hills would strike with increasing severity.
Within 3 miles I had caught up with 4 other walkners (walking runners). Ryan from Manitoba was attempting this event for the second time (he completed the event). His motto was to just keep going. Jen had completed the bike last year and was now attempting to complete the distance by foot this year. Her head was not in a good place starting, so I tried to encourage her. She kept up with me at first but had to stop for water for about 5 minutes. I stopped with her but later had to question myself why I was stopping. Ryan kept going. On her second stop I had to apologise to her that I needed to keep going. As a racer, it is important to stop only when you need to stop. With cut off times, time was an important consideration and I wanted to be going at least 3 miles an hour in the beginning. When I next looked back to see if Jen had caught up with me, she was in the distance with another walkner.
Tree lined trail
The trail was easy to follow, with marshals located at turn points to ensure you stayed on the correct path. Temperatures this year were warmer than last year starting at -14 Celcius. However the soft snow packed trail would collapse unevenly under foot. I did not consider that this would have a significant impact on one's ankles and would force John, the walkner who had won the event 3 years in a row, to quit 10 hours into the event.
Day 1, 10am: I was at mile 10 and was fairly happy at the progress being made. However the yaktraks that I was wearing in case of ice, were making my feet impact with the ground sooner than I had expected. I had only tested using these for about 5 miles prior to the event. I decided to bear with them until the first check point as I would have to also remove my gaitors in order to remove the yaktraks.
There was only a french man (Jean) and a lady (Angela) a couple of hundred metres behind me. Both had completed 100 mile marathons before this marathon, both were looking strong and both would eventually catch up and overtake me back. First Jean at mile 11 and then Angela caught up with me at about mile 20 something.
It was nice to have a chat with someone, but as we continued a wave of lethargy washed over my being. I blame it on the "girly thing". It is when the brain vacates the body, leaving the body to feel alien and wanting to stop and sleep. It was 3 pm, too early to be in a zombie stupor and I would have to fight this, but I needed to do this alone. So I shooed Angela on ahead of me so that she would not pick up any negative emotions I would be feeling. I decided gels would be my answer.
3 slow hours, 3 slow miles and 3 gels later, my head began to sync back in with my body. By this time I had caught up with Chuck, a man on a mountain bike with normal mountain bike wheels. I guess if the snow was hard packed, the wheels would have worked, but being soft snow, the ground below collapsed into crevasses making the bike inoperable and useless. However Bisanii packed down the snow for Chuck, and made the route a little easier for Chuck to cycle on but not significant enough. He would make the first check point just after the cut off time.
Anton snatching an hour after 2 sleepless nights
Day 1, 5 pm: Anton, a volunteer with a snow mobile who was looking after participants on the course told us the first checkpoint was 5 miles away. Just before Anton came by, I began to have an achilles niggle on my left ankle. Dave and Ron who were behind me decided to dig in to make the checkpoint by 7pmish.
Unfortunately again I had to slow everything down. I was annoyed at myself for even having an achilles problem but continued to find difficulty with the soft snow to correct my technique. I felt the real problem was having left on my yaktraks and now my "girly thing" was really kicking in. Yuck! But I was close to the check point and would be able to sort everything out in the warmth of the service station.
Some slopes presented themselves, steep enough for me to dive onto my sled, head first, to take a ride down. My first attempts to use my body weight to steer the sled, ended with me crashing into a bank of snow and laughing to myself. I looked forward to more hill runs so that I could perfect my technique. However there would be no further runs until the first checkpoint, which I reached by 20:22. This left 38 minutes to top up water and sort out gear. Having over compensated on the right leg, my right shin decided to play in the pain game. I should have strapped up my left ankle, but time was ticking away fast. I was able to remove the yaktraks and just hoped this would help to make the ankles play nice.
Day 1, 21:00: I was back on the course, excited about the night. The ankles felt slightly better with the short rest, or perhaps it was the milky coffee I had at the service station. I walked without my headlamp on so that my night vision would have a better panoramic range rather than being light focused.
As I turned back onto the trail, I met a very positive Jen, who thanked Bisanii for making her so happy!
Day 1, 22:00: another wave of tiredness swept over me. I decided to use my secret weapon - red bull. It's sickly sweetness made me retch but unfortunately I had filled my bottles with energy drinks for the night so just had to deal with the sickly sweetness.
The trees were shimmering a strange green tinge. I looked up at the sky and it was a muted, faint green. Perhaps this was the Northern Lights, but as the sky thickened with clouds, the green tinge quickly disappeared. Or perhaps I was just high on caffeine. Regardless I was happy with my "illusion" even if it was watered down.
In the gloominess the pine trees appeared to have big broad prehistoric leaves laden with snow. Outlines and shadows took on shapes of animals and everydday objects. Every now and then light would catch onto the snow falling from the sky, making me think I was catching up with someone. I was happy my mind was entertaining itself but I could not stop the achilles pain that would occasionally cut across the back of my ankle with a shooting sharp pain when I did not concentrate on keeping my form. Soon a battle was stewing in my head:
The negative side: "You have a 100 miles more to complete and this could have a long term impact on your achilles. It would be better to consider a DNF (Did Not Finish) in order to save your achilles."
The positive side: "This will be your first DNF. You know about running techniques, you can correct yourself and you'll be fine."
The negative side: "Additionally you have slowed down to a mile an hour. You are not going to make the second checkpoint."
The positive side: "You can overcome your pain and have done so before"
The negative side: "Yes you broke an ankle because you strapped up a sprained ankle so stupidly tight in order to continue with your sport. You were out of sport for a year. Also remember your brother who continued competitive squash with a badly sprained ankle and won the game but suffered for years after."
TG: Okay you two sides, I will go to the second checkpoint which will probably be late and so will be kicked off the course anyway. So leave me alone to continue with whatever hallucinations my mind wants to entertain me with.
Anton came back to check on me and again asked me if I wanted to leave the course as there was a minivan with participants who were leaving the course. My mind was made up, and besides the trail was getting better with a hill to climb and a hill to go down. My spirit was alive. Bisaniiwewin was riding on the sled with me.
Day 2, 4am: There was the minivan with Ron, Jean and Lynn. The boys were sleeping at the back. Lynn said they were feeling too tired to go on. I tried to persuade her out but she had made up her mind as had the boys. My achilles and shin were now just a dull pain despite a flush of heat upon the achilles. I was high on hills and suppose the pheromones were dampening any pain.
Day 2, 6am: More participants were being snowmobiled out. I was surprised to see Angela and asked her to continue. She did not want to do another night. She had made up her mind that she had done enough and just wanted to get back to see her kid.
Day 2, 7am: I was now steadily completing 2-3 miles an hour and looked forward to the sun rise, to watch the sky lights changing. Anton came by and asked me if I wanted to leave the course. Again I responded no. However he wanted to reason with me and said I would miss the checkpoint time. I wanted to head for the second checkpoint. He decided he would leave me for a couple of hours to think about it. But I was adamant that I wanted to make that second checkpoint.
Day 2, 11am: More hills and I was feeling very good. 60 miles completed and 12 more to go. Anton came back to see how I was.
TG: Anton at this moment in time I am feeling strong. My head is in a good place.
Anton: Yes you look strong and we have no idea how you are hauling that load the distance you have done but you are not going to make the second check point. You have 3 more hours to make that checkpoint. At the rate you are going, you will need 4 hours.
TG: Well I do not want to go back to International Falls, I want to keep moving forward and get to Mel George (second checkpoint).
Anton: I can take you there because by the time you get there, the checkpoint will have packed up and have moved on.
TG: Am okay with that. I have everything here to support myself, including stoves to make my own water. I would like to carry on under my own steam.
Anton: Okay well, I will wait for you and support you.
TG: Please do not, I will be fine.
Anton: I want to ensure you are safe.
I felt guilty about my own selfish pride and I buckled. Anton had been working non-stop throughout yesterday and the night checking on our health and safety. It would have been unfair to have made him cover the extra distance and cause further concern just because I felt I had to go the distance. It was after all just an event and mentally I knew I had the capacity to go on.
It was time to use the achilles card and allow someone to help me. So it was at mile 60 I was snowmobiled to MelGeorge. Unfortunately I had caffeine coursing through my being, thus was wide awake and at a loss at what to do. The caffeine would not release me until 22:00 on day 2.
Lisa and her trolley sled!
Out of 51 walkners, only 45% of the entrants completed the entire course. A number of drop outs were hard nosed ultra runners who by MelGeorge were suffering with all sorts of ankle injuries. Last year out of 55 walkners, only 36% of the entrants completed the entire course.
My sled weight was a contributing factor to my slowness but my tyre was certainly not to blame. If my ankles were perfectly fine, my sled weight would have been a non-issue. I will be back to slay this dragon and so will Bisaniiwewin.
Thank you to all the excellent volunteers and the organisation. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the course, and feel lucky to have watched the sun set, wandered through the woodland trail corridors, watched the sun rise in a beautiful natural place and play on the snow and hills. This is a fantastic race and one that I look forward to completing the next time round.
I decided to support the rest of the back guys. At mile 85, Lisa started to have negative thoughts. But I would not allow her to entertain those thoughts. After all she had to carry on as there were only 2 women left out of the 7 who started and she had less than 50 miles to complete. She completed in 59:29 (59 hours and 29 minutes). Alicia, the other woman, completed in 55:56. This apparently doubles the number of women who have ever completed this race on foot!