The story of the hare and tortoise is a thread that runs in my life. I am normally ready ahead of time and then unexplained distractions occur, making me late. It irritates me because my time clock and the earth’s time are not in sync.
Mel Georges with Lynn and Sarah, 11:10am: With being ahead of the cut off time, I went into the “hare super chill mode”. In a cabin at Mel Geroges, Lynn and Sarah had decided to leave the event but were in positive spirits helping me dry stuff. So I lay down, sucking on the tube from my water bladder to rehydrate, noting that only a litre had been drunk over the 36 miles.
Eyes closed, listening to the creaks and groans of the cabin, time melted away. In this sweet meditative mode, I heard Bill Bradley’s booming voice pass by the window. I thought to myself “good for him, he is on his way onto the next stage”, unaware that he was quitting due to frostbite. It was fortunate to have heard him as it reminded me to get going. You can watch his VLog here.
Alas the girly works had started. Yah boo. But don’t feel sorry for me, because sometimes it is a secret weapon women have as it can make us stronger! (….and sometimes evil to those close to us ;p )
For women only: Have found using a menstrual cup brilliant and have cut up a microfiber pad to have a reusable liner. Hence no more trashy waste from girly time and brilliant for long expeditions.
Both Lynn and Sarah were trying to get me going, but “lala land” had returned, expecting time to be ‘hold’. I re-organised my kit, ensuring dry socks were ready to change into at Ski Pulk and drank a cup of coffee.
Ski Pulk is a tee-pee tent and the third checkpoint, about 40 miles from Mel Georges. All participants should have checked in by 10am the next day or it is a DNF (Did Not Finish)
With Lynn now anxious for me, I finally headed back out onto the trail at 2:45pm. It was snowing outside, and the snowflakes playfully greeted me with the Viennese Waltz. Mesmerised by their gracefulness, Lynn’s truck thankfully drove past me to point me in the right direction.
Although feeling lucid, the karaoke ultra in “Race to the Kings” taught me the brain’s sharpness reduces dramatically as time goes on. Sleep deprivation causes disruptions in the harmonious running of the brain and causes temporary dementia and illogical decisions. Forgetfulness and corrupt synaptic connections are common.
Within a couple of hundreds of metres from Mel Georges there is a sign that points to International Falls to the left and Tower to the right.
I paused looking at the sign, goofy pondering to return to International Falls with the snowflakes singing “left” until a gust of wind blew them in my face. An internal switch flicked on. My shoes had not been done up, snow had got in, the bungee cords had been left loose on my sled, and it was 2:45 pm on the clock when I headed out! Nearly 5 hours at Mel Georges doing mostly nothing and destroying the buffer time that had been built up. The last person would have checked out of Mel Georges at 1pm at the latest. The snow giggled, “you’ll never make it”
“I surely will”
The BPR sticker was blazing on my sled but the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland took over from the “hare brain”. My mental self slapped me! “Stop arsing around and get moving”.
My short regret turned to urgency. The snowfall changed its tune to tango, twisting and twirling with a sharp invigoration and then cross-overed to a Riverdance to fill the sled with a pointless weight:
A couple of inches of soft fresh snow already lined the previously hard packed trail, hiding any other tracks, creating greater resistance and thus more effort in pulling the sled. Ignoring the discomfort of the blisters, ignoring the snow flakes on the face….I had to move to make up time.
At Play on the Dragon’s Back
I was at the first shelter, 3 miles from Mel Georges in 40 minutes, Then a glorious sight appeared: a large downward slope of over 200 metres. Luge brain in gear, jumped on my sled and paddled with my poles until I had taken off.
Despite the slower terrain, the sled picked up speed, my feet steering along the twisted trail, finishing part way up the next hill. Woo hoo for the Arrowhead hills – best parts for a bit of wild speed.
The next hill was a steep climb and the weight of environmental peace and reducing trash weighed heavy on my sled (Bisaniiwewin). I turned round to walk backwards up: Pinky blew kisses, Princess Suma waved at me and Sharkey laughed as my thoughts turned to “gee it would be bad if I slipped or accidental unclipped the carabineer that joined the sled’s rope to my harness”.
Bisaniiwewin keeping the fluffy team safe: Princess Suma penguin of peace, Pinky smiling lovingly, Sharkey laughing at the madness
Up on the top of the this hill, I surveyed the track below noting a sharp right hand bend a 100 metres down, and put my Bobsled head on…
I pushed my sled, jumped on and sped down and……oh crapsy doo……a snowmobiler appeared out from the right hand bend. The snowmobile stopped dead and I steered myself sharply into a snowy bank. Fortunately, he was riding cautiously and the gang, that was following him in a domino effect, all in turn stopped one after another.
“Sorry – my fault. So sorry ….Good afternoon to you all. I’m from England….. where Prince Harry is getting married to an American actress….Am in that crazy Arrowhead race and am late” I said in my best English accent, embarrassed about my recklessness. The front snowmobiler waved, signalling all okay. “Thank you” I called back hurrying on.
Before sliding down a slope on a track shared with snowmobiles, remember a golden rule: check, look and listen before heading down the slope.
Back to Rabbit Mode
Quickly moving on, footprints appeared that had a dusting of snow. Detective interpretation was: they were fresh meaning a participant was close by. Sure enough within 30 minutes John Taylor was in sight. We were surprised to see each other and after a quick chitchat about why we were at this point….he got the “I’m late” song
“Well we’re late. Gotta make up time. I’ll see you up the next lot of hills as am slow up them. I’m late, am late, am late!”
I hurried on ahead, grooming the snow covered trail for John as the snowstorm continued. Crossed a road, onto the next part of the trail and soon observed a faint set of footprints and sled tracks that looked about a couple of hours old. The wind now behind me, pushed me along and the distance between John and myself rapidly lengthened and would soon lose sight of him.
3.5 hours from Mel Georges, met Todd, an awesome snowmobile volunteer:
I apologised for my tardiness but Todd responded
“You’re going well. You’ve got 5 more miles to the Highway 53 crossing”
“What does that mean?” I responded
“Highway 53 means you’ve gone 23 miles”
I thanked Todd for the information and soldiered on. My head spinning on the calculations and then uncertainty. Surely that can’t be right? That means about 17 miles in 3.5 hours. Was sure had been moving at 3-3.5 miles an hour, which should translate to 10 miles completed. Decided to reframe & degrade the distance quoted to mean there were 10 miles to highway 53 to help the personal time expectations.
The Threesome Dawdle
My left calf was now aching, the same calf I had pulled in July 2017 and had healed in September 2017. It felt strained. I returned to applying the “Pose” technique: straightening up, which seemed a small struggle as the back around the kidney area also ached, and took smaller lighter steps. With the better posture, the pain eased off and my fluffy team encouraged me onwards.
I recalculated and reconciled that if 17 miles in 3.5 hours had been completed, and the last “check in check out” time at Ski Pulk was 10am that would leave about 15 hours for 23 miles. Surely that was doable which could mean slowing down the pace to manage the calf. I “minced” to Highway 53 as darkness crept in.
The Night of the Blood Red Super Moon
The moon was being held hostage by the clouds, weakening its illumination cast upon the trail, though still bright enough to see the trail without a headlamp. Upon crossing Highway 53, I stopped to eat the cheese sandwich the Mel Georges volunteers had made for me. It was just “divine” (thank you Mel Georges volunteers). Soon a light appeared. It was John. He had caught up and was marching with a consistent strong pace.
Quick friendly chat and he went on ahead. Soon his red blinkie joined another red blinkie. It was Jennifer. She was tired and was glad to see some others to overcome the “walking in my sleep” feeling. It was good to see her as well. The last time we had met was in 2012 where we both had to bail some ways after Gateway and converted to volunteers.
Time whispered the illusion of distance
All of us went into a kind of “dilly dally la la holiday time” mode. Each of us constantly stopped along the trail for whatever reason, but we roughly moved as a group, frog leaping each other. About 1.5 hours later Jennifer who was generally in front stopped for a caffeine drink to try to free her brain from sludge mode. We had a casual chat as if time didn’t matter.
She looked at her wrist: “We’ve gone about 2 miles from Highway 53”
“Really?” I didn’t believe her as had thought that we must have at least been going 3 miles an hour.
“Yeah that’s what my GPS says”
“Impossible!” I thought, but recalculated what this meant….
“Okay I’m going to keep moving. You will catch up as am slow going up the hills and my calf hurts”
I chased on after John, knowing that once she got her mojo back, she would certainly catch up.
Starvation & Dehydration
Up to this point had 5 dough balls, 100g of nuts, 2 cereal bars, soup at Gateway and 2 cheese sandwiches at Mel Georges + soup + the sandwich earlier on. Drunk about 2.5 litres of electrolyte from the start to Mel Georges + one coffee at Gateway & one coffee at Mel Georges.
I was feeling quite ravenous and greedily ate a bag of nuts, drank a whole lot of electrolyte, then threw up.
“Well that ain’t good” I thought.
Tried to drink again, but perhaps too soon, and threw it back out.
“Okay body – fine do without for the moment.” Must be another corruption on the eating and drinking brain cells. It’s a common symptom for me when have had several days of sleep deprivation. Bizarrely, found eating snow quite satisfying and the cold ice took away the slight rancid taste in the mouth. I filled my now empty 75 ml bottle 3 times with snow and let the ice melt in my mouth.
To Go or Not to Go That is the Question
Again I caught up with John, who seemed to be holding back, and we walked together for awhile. This time we hung out for a longer duration. At one point, the wind dropped and the night was calm, feeling much warmer due to the cloud cover. This temporary calm was soon changed as the winds returned in a wild expanse, and I became a little desperate for a wee. However, the thought of stopping to do my thing in the wind and cold produced the thought possibility of a frostbitten butt. After all, had heard of a participant who managed to frost nip her “thingy” and heard about guys who have frostbitten their thingies when they had forgotten to zip up their trousers after a pee.
As the winds continued, I told John of my demise.
“We should be coming up to a hill shortly and it is more sheltered there” he reassured
As a distraction, I tried to think of other things and admired the wild expanse in the dim light. We talked and walked and walked and talked……alas, a nagging urgency was in my head with whirring sirens. The winds suddenly dropped. Red alert flashed across my forehead.
“Seems good right now John. Excuse me for a moment”.
“Sure I’ll carry on. I won’t look!”
I would have laughed but needed to get my trousers down – NOW! Except… whilst trying to navigate over the harness, under the food pouch, to find the belt buckle, then fumbling to release the buckle, it was too late. Noooo! Managed to get the trousers down for the bulk of the bodily fluids to drop on the snow. DANG – hit and miss!
As I thought about changing underwear, memories returned of having got my entire leg wet in the Arctic Ocean. Thus decided it would be best to keep all clothes on rather than try to change and get cold. Instead I placed a spare small towel on my underwear to keep the damp from my skin. At least it was a number 1 and not a number 2, and being on the clothing near the warmest part of the body, the damp clothes would hopefully dry. Yes readers I was wet and I smelt bad! (Thank you so much to Rachel and Renata who dealt with my disgusting stuff at the end.)
A Magic Hill Moment: I rejoined John going up the hill he had mentioned earlier. The wind had dropped and wondered if he could smell me! Once up the top of the hill, he excused himself to boil water at the shelter. I contemplated stopping with him, but he told me to continue on.
A little ways on, the moon pulled apart the clouds to light up a beautiful steep downward slope before me. So as Doctor Who would say “Allons-y”
Luge, skeleton, bob sleigh head on. I paddled my sled over the edge and woosh – down a big dipper, through a narrow passage, twisted right, up a small slope, then back down, then left then right again, over a bridge, onwards a little further……woo hoo. “Indian Jones, eat your heart out”! Yup a big grin stretched across my face and was excited at the prospect of doing it all over again. (nearly 40 hours into the event)
More Food Rejections: Walking on, my tummy was really rumbling. Nevertheless, trying to eat anything was super hard. The mouth rejected any more dough balls so I scratched around in my pulka for other types of bars. My mouth refused the 4 different varieties I carried. The Power Bar was sickly sweet, the Cliff Bar was yucky, the Life bar nearly made me throw up and the harvest crunch wasn’t doing anything for me. The stomach complained so I forced down a Cliff bar. The body was repulsed and threw it back out. I dug out the sweets the Arrowhead organisation had put in our “goody” bag. The body accepted it and would have to suffice for now.
Shoulder Injury: I continued slowly, contemplating picking up the bits of salty dropped food along the route, like cheesy biscuits, however decided it might be a bad idea. Jennifer caught up with me. She was moving strong. No sign of John. We moved together for awhile. She couldn’t be bothered to ride the small slopes and so I followed her on a “run down a small slope” and “Bam”. I tripped over my own rope, hit the ground hard, landing on my right shoulder. Jen hadn’t seen it and continued on, just as I must have done previously when people disappeared behind me.
I lay there temporarily looking up at the moon, thinking “Romeo, Romeo, where forth are thy, oh Romeo?” Did my brain really want Romeo to pick me up? Haha no such luck and no point in feeling sorry for myself. My right shoulder hurt and was unable to extend, so rolled over, got up and adjusted how I would use the arm. No more running down slopes for me!
Back to reality: Jennifer was leading about 50-100m ahead as I would sometimes sight her blinkies. As I prepared to ride another steep slope, a snowmobiler appeared. Todd had come out to check on us:
“You’ve got 8 more miles to complete in 5 hours”
My brain spun. Time had taken a leap forward. We all blew 10 hours in lala land for 15 miles.
Todd indicated Jennifer was just in front by 100 metres. Acknowledging, I let him know that John had stopped to boil water and would be close behind after. Todd suggested we three work as a team to get each other there. I acknowledged to hold back for John and we would all get there. I felt confident John would catch up at my current speed as he had done so before. In the meantime, I had a hill to ride. I took off, trying to look super cool as Todd looked on. It went spectacularly wrong as I crashed into the side of the slope.
Electric currents that ran on the ground when I blinked
About 5am – Electric Ground: Soon blinking caused the ground to spark with electric blue lines and hints of red. Abstract lines that seemed to outline the texture of the terrain.
Perhaps the changing moon was affecting me, or perhaps the amyloid beta waste that was building up from sleep deprivation was short-circuiting something in my head. I blinked at the trees around to see if the same phenomenon would happen – nothing. I blinked back at the snow covered ground and sure enough electric blue lines spread out in all directions.
Confusion: Jen wasn’t too far in front and had stopped to debate with another participant, Jim Wilson. Jim insisted we were going the wrong way, at the same time he talked about going round in circles. We pondered, thought about it and decided he was confused. We asserted we were going in the right direction and he needed to turn around, otherwise he would be backtracking on himself and would surely meet John who was behind us. He decided to go with our rationale and u-turned back up the track he had come from.
Nature’s Magic: The moon’s super brightness begun to dim. The lunar eclipse was happening and as it progressed, the route ahead darkened forcing me to use my head lamp for the first time. Temperatures dropped with the fading light. I called out to Jen and Jim to let them know, but they had now disappeared. With a down jacket thrown back on & avenger mask back in position, I walked slowly, watching the sky transfixed as the reddish tinge was being replaced with the moon’s blue. An eerie hush came over the world which was broken each time with my bizarre blue electricity blinking striking across the ground.
As some time went by, John appeared:
“Thank you for waiting for me. You really shouldn’t have. I’ve completed this event several times already. So you should make sure you finish as it’s your first time.”
“That’s okay, we have time for all of us to finish. Anyway look up at the moon. The lunar eclipse is happening.” I was more excited about sharing the magic wonder that was taking place before us.
John looked up to admire the eclipse taking place, which was partly a dull reddish orange orb in the sky and partly a blue moon, then we continued on together.
Race to Checkpoint 3: As dawn brightened the sky, Todd appeared checking to see his “children at play” were safe. I yabbered about hallucinations and lunar eclipses and laughing patiently reminded me:
“You’ve got 5 more miles and 3 hours to go”
Dang –time was being screwy. This meant 3 miles had been covered in 2 hours. Needed to stop gawping at nature’s wonders and get moving.
“Yeah we’ll get there” I reaffirmed to Todd.
We got moving at what I thought was a 3 mile an hour pace. John moves at a consistent metronome pace whether uphill, downhill, or on the flat. He is a machine! Mine varies: slow uphill, ride downhill and can be whatever speed on the flat.
John tried to encourage me to go on ahead as I maintained staying just before or behind him. So he tried to throw a small stone at the dog (me – not Pinky).
“A team is only as fast as its slowest member.”
Brain didn’t process and responded “We’ll all get there”
As John continued to talk and share stories on the uphill, John would slow down for me as I crawled up.
“Sorry John. Can’t respond much on the up hills” as I slowly trudged up backwards, “but don’t wait for me, keep going cos I’ll catch up”.
John understood as time was tight. We only needed to have each other in sight to encourage each other along. As John continued up and then disappeared over the brow of each hill, I would struggle up and see him half way down the hill…..reminding me of a song:
He frequently looked back for me. On seeing me at the top, and me waiting for him to clear the hill, he would move aside, signal for me to come and watch the mad lady careering down on her “luge-mobile”.
With the sun out, a glorious bright day, I checked with John on the time. We had two more hours. I schemed and shared a plan:
“If time becomes really tight, and when we get to the bottom of Wakemeup Hill, am gonna leave my sled at the bottom, run up, check in and then out and come back for my sled”.
John tried to explain the illogicalness of that plan as the check in point is partly on the hill. The plan seemed logical to me as am faster going up the hill without the sled. John’s words re-entered my brain:
“I’ve completed this event several times….” as I thought about bolted. “Will see you at Ski Pulk”
One last phenomena was in the sky; a vertical rainbow! A partial Sun Dog to welcome the year of the dog!
Photo credit: http://mendonomasightings.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/horizontal-rainbow-in-sky-photo-of.html
Approximately 2.5 miles covered and landed at Ski Pulk at 08:57. Caught Jim on his way out and Jennifer sorting stuff out. John came in 20 minutes behind. The team all clocked in with some time to spare.
Over 53 hours awake and personally still had not experienced the sleepy monsters.
However there was still about 23-24 miles to the finish which closed at 19:00 that day and 10 hours to complete this final section. This is where the hallucinations really began!
Next Post: The Battle