Friday, July 28, 2017

Out of luck (aka "I was robbed and they kidnapped Davey) (July 16-27, 2017)

Translation: unintentional DNS at RAMROD. 

I’m not usually one to prep for races in advance. It says something about my level of anxiety that I showed an unusual amount of preparation last week, that I went to get a front light and uploaded bikewithgps routes for RAMROD. My fat to fitness ratio was not what I had hoped for 4 months ago. 

I had hoped my "altitude training" and rest would help me, but I just seemed to get worse and worse. I was anxious about the last big training ride with the Hill Yes! boys, especially the day after running/ jogging the Trials Legacy marathon in Oly. An ambitious ride starting in Lynden and going to Mt. Baker, 115 miles 8189 ft elevation gain. 

Lynden is a beautiful town near the Canadian border, we stopped for coffee at a place fitting the Dutch theme while the rest of the group arrived.
Everyone had done RAMROD a bunch of times before, other than one guy, and this climb was apparently very similar to the first climb of RAMROD.

The start was pretty nice, and hanging in the pack chatting on the flats while looking at scenery was awesome. But as soon as the climbs started, I was like a rock sinking in the ocean. They were nice and waited at the tops of the hills
but I kept begging them to leave me because I threatened their getting done with the course in good time. Once the climbing started I got so far back I got lost and finally I convinced them I would be OK, which I was, though I had to ride with one hand holding my iPhone to navigate. I felt a lot less pressure having to keep up with them, got to take in views, smell some flowers,

was able to fix yyet another front flat, but decided to turn around at the 55 mile mark thinking that would get me a century ride in at least. Missed the key part of the climb (only did 4725 ft elevation over 96 miles) but I had more in the tank. It was just a matter of making those cutoffs.

Then I had a bit of a mini-meltdown last weekend at what was to be a relaxing "wind down" ride, 56 miles 2265 ft, the 15th group training ride of the Ramrod Training Series, when I got dropped like a bucket of lard by the pack, essentially at the first climb. Despite all my resting, my legs were unreasonably tired, felt like they were 500 lbs each and made of lead. 

I cut the loop short and called Elmer in tears. If I can't do the "cool down ride", how would I survive the real thing? 

His advice? Drop Ramrod. This made me even sadder. I had a similar reaction to being told I was not cut out to be an academic or a leader or a musician or supermodel or insert whatever. F* that, I’ll show them. Only 3 months later to realize they were right, in some cases I realized I was pushing for someone else's ideal or just wasn’t my cup of tea. I felt that was why I had 6 DNFs at 100 milers (runs), and I trained myself not to care, and once that happened I could finish. Contrary to everything I was taught, I had to learn not give a S* to succeed.

But this is different. I can’t explain why I want it. I can’t not give a S* at least not yet. Ask me again when I fail 3 times. But I just wanted the chance to try. 

So after meeting Elmer for Glos, eastside ride, and Dim sum, I head to Redmond to pick up my RAMROD packet and add another 30 miler from Marymoor. I found this awesome route by none other than the illustrious E. Gierke. The hay was now either in the barn or it wasn't.

Anyway last night I was pretty proud of myself, got Davey all dressed and tires pumped and into the back of my car the night before. Plenty of people were out and about, this being one of those busy weeks for the church next door. But it was in my locked SUV with tinted windows, I’d done it before….

I took a sleeper since I had to get up at 2:30 to leave home by 3:30. Somehow I managed to be a little later than planned, getting into my car at 3:40. I could still make it to Enumclaw by 4:45 and make the 5 AM start.

I got into the car and saw a pair of gloves and cd boxes on the driver seat. Hmmm I didn’t recall looking for anything last night, but I am a slob so it didn’t seem weird. I started the car but the internal lights would not turn off. No indicator lights were on. I got out and checked all the doors, and in fact one of the rear doors was partially open. Guess I didn’t close it fully after emptying groceries yesterday. I headed down the highway and when I turned off I felt something was off. I didn’t hear the usual rattling in the back of the car. I thought, noooo, but it was true, no bike in the back.

I racked my 4 am brain. I clearly remembered loading the bike last night. Or did I? In any case I wasn't going to get far with no bike so I turned home. Theoretically I could still get home by 5:30 and back to Enumclaw by 6:45, and maybe still get to start.

But I knew the truth before I got home. No bike in garage. It had been stolen. My car had been broken into. I dug into the glove compartment further and saw my bag of parking $ was also gone.

My steel bike was in the shop, I hadn’t imagined I would need it so soon.

Of all the things that could go wrong for RAMROD- not getting in, bad weather, injury, this?

I was clearly being punished. I actually questioned whether my unfitness led me to unconsciously behave as to accidentally get Davey stolen. Well being undertrained never kept me from pressing my luck with stuff that was too hard for me before…. But oddly I can’t shake the feeling it’s somehow my fault. Everything bad is my fault and everything good is luck.

I call the police but they are not open at 5:30 AM. I should go to the grocery but TJs doesn’t open until 8 and I went to Safeway yesterday. S* I have to stay sober until 7. So I start writing (BRS, not work mind you). I emailed Davidson who advised me to call my insurance company. Many phone calls later, I got a tired but sympathetic cop to file a report what won’t go anywhere, put an ad on Craigslist for a “no questions asked” reward for Davey, filed an insurance claim, put myself on the list for Davey II and ordered replacements for accessories.

Got a group text from the Hill Yes boys. Another successful RAMROD for them, on a perfect weather day. They sympathized about Davey but at this point I wasn’t sure which I was sadder about, losing Davey or losing RAMROD. I explained to my sister J who is a professional musician, I was attached to Davey a bit like my Powell flute. Yes it's just a luxury item but after 9 years and many miles together, blood sweat and tears, I have a strong sentimental attachment to it even if I don’t ride hundreds of miles anymore. But a bike can be replaced. RAMROD 2017 can never happen for me, and at my rate, will I ever get the chance again?

I’m ridiculously torn up I don’t know why. My gratefulness for all I have just reinforces the ridiculousness of my first world problems. 

But a loss is a loss. Time moves on and experience can never be replaced. Regret is almost the same as guilt in my book. RIP Davey...

Done crying (for today). Going for a run now. Back to work tomorrow.


(late entry: Inca Trail marathon (Cusco- Machu Picchu- Lima Peru, July 1-10, 2017) 

My Canadian Twin Susan periodically texts me that she just signed up for some crazy race. Usually this prompts a sigh or mini-oculogyric episode from me, but when I heard about the Inca Trail marathon it took me less than 5 seconds to answer, “I’m in”.

I had only a vague idea of the Inca Trail or Machu Picchu, but it’s been on my list since reading about Peru on JDKs blog. But since I'm lazy, I wouldn't go there unless there was a race and some company or a tour, I am not one to skip opportunities when they fall on my face.

I learn later, it is usually a 3.5 day hike with 2 mountain passes, uneven stone steps, peak altitude of 13,800 ft (guessing ~10,000 ft elevation). Even in a group of marathon runners, ~1/3 take 2 days to finish. I have virtually no trail running miles this year, and no marathons in the month before (due to RAMROD training) but my capacity for denial is even greater than my pain tolerance. 
Cusco is at >11,000 ft altitude and it was a little scary that I felt SOB (short of breath) just walking up 2 flights of stairs with my overstuffed duffel. It is a beautiful city covered with rainbow flags (their symbol, not a perpetual pride parade). Got try some weird local fruit and gigantic breads at San Pedro market, 

We had amazing local tours including Sacred Valley, Pisaq,

haggling with children in the middle of nowhere, eating boiled gigantic corn with salty cheese, 

And the obligatory hugging/ feeding llamas, learning the differences between llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos.

A group of us decide to ditch White Water rafting to see Rainbow Mtn, a fairly new destination with crazy striped color mountains. It was a long day, getting up at 3:30 AM and riding an overcrowded van 3 hours each way, driving through small towns and cliffside switchbacks, ears popping, blaring first Peruvian music then Led Zeppelin, and stopping for breakfast and to pick up some smelling potion in case the tourists got altitude sickness...

I got a little paranoid because our "guide" who didn't speak English was coughing sneezing on me the whole ride (memories of Comradeds II). I had to stop several times to rest on the 10k out and back hike which started at 14,000 ft and went to 17,000 ft, which the locals in their traditional costumes, though all under 5’ ft tall they make look easy. I was properly scared of the Inca trail after that.

After than more sightseeing at ancient Inca ruins like Saksay waman (pronounced “sexy woman”, like Cusco is pronounced "Costco", the Quechua language of the Incas apparently resembles English more than Spanish”), 
and Ollantaytambo, learned about inca engineering and their philosophy about rocks (they have feelings so they don't cut off all the protuberances),
how those gigantic steps keep people in crops who have torrential rain for 6 months and grey haze for 6 (hmmm maybe I should have some built for my yard….) Saw Jesus (Cristo del Pacifico -¾ the size of the one in Rio),
before returning to Cusco and the complicated task of packing for the race. I realize with horror that the water bladder I had brought was broken and my pack too small to hold bottles, but there are high end mountain stores in town open until 9 pm so I got new gear- whew!

The Peruvian government regulates the number of daily hikers/ porters and you have to get through security gates on the way in and out, and passports are required. The ~6 mile “flat” hike from km 82 to the campsite at the race start was beautiful but it was rocky and not flat.

Once we got there the RD reviewed the course, which we had learned about at the race briefing. It sure looked different in life than on paper, where he points to a “little hill” and we all have to crane our heads to look at the sky. OK I was really really scared now.

We camped and the next morning were ready to go by 5 AM in the dark. I hung in the back so as not to get run over by fast people. Trouble is, pretty soon I lost the headlights of the pack and was in last place with the sweeper Franco, whose headlight didn’t work and who didn’t speak English. We wandered around, went all the way to the river, up another embankment, finally bush-whacked through a field to find the bridge to the path, and by then the leaders were already coming back from the first 4.4km. 

I had lost >10 min which I could not afford. I kept moving but knew already I couldn’t get over the mountain to the first cutoff at 5.7km in under an hour, which meant I was diverted off the 2nd out-and-back which was actually not part of the Inca trail but added to make the distance 26.2M. I didn’t really mind since there is a clause in the rules that you still get a finish but add a time penalty of 1.5 hours for the lost 5.5 km, but I know several runners who wanted it to “count” for their 7 continents wanted to make sure they did a full distance. I never understood those weirdos who will run laps around a parking lot when their garmin says 25.8 miles at the end of a “marathon”. 

Anyhow, I was under the delusion that I could now “relax” because I was now an hour ahead of the pack, and though the leaders lapped me, it was a clear day and the trail though steep was not too technical. Took a ton of pics, was wowed by porters carrying huge packs and wearing cheap shoes leaping like antelopes down the path,
“vamos vamos”-attempted to chat in Spanish with locals who offered me cacao leaves which apparently cure everything from altitude sickness to headaches but taste like ass and may cause your urine to test positive for cocaine, bought overpriced (though still really cheap) coca cola from old ladies in traditional dress.
The leading women passed me toward the end of Dead Woman’s Pass, because as soon as the descent started, they were flying and I was crab walking it one foot at a time with my trekking poles due to my bum knee. I may be the only person who descends slower than I climb at altitude. I started to worry that I might not make the 1st day cutoff. 

At the last aid station before the gate the volunteers were cheering us on as they filled our bottles with 100+ degree water. They said I was fine, they would keep the gate at Winay Wayna open until 4 pm. Normally they close this gate at 3:15, since most hikers take 1:45 to do the last 5km, and they close Machu Picchu at 5. But with a little bribing of government officials and convincing them that “runners” can do it faster, they usually keep the gate open until 3:30-3:40. 3 other runners zoomed past me on the downhill, the last was K, a 27 year old doing her first marathon), all smiles since she was also told they were keeping the gate open until 4.

I got there at 3:50 and there were a bunch of security guards and race guides standing next to the gate. “The gate is closed”. My heart sank. I had missed the first cutoff and now I’d have to camp anyway, all cold and wet, until 8 the next morning. I can’t remember if I started crying or just whimpered “please”. Cesar, our guide said, “go – go- we’re already in trouble with the government”, and “if you see the other girl, tell her to talk to the lady at the gate”. 

I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time, and I was low on water, but I took off like a bat out of hell. I had 65 minutes to do the 5k that normally takes people 1:30-1:45 minutes. I was finally all alone on the trail, I could hear my heavy breathing and feel my heart pounding, which got worse after I ran out of water. Was getting exponentially slower or were the hills actually steeper? Was I going to get stuck on the mountain overnight with no camp or water? 

Then I passed the sun gate and saw the camp and knew I would make it- there was no gate. 
I glimpsed Machu Picchu and it was breathtaking.
I stopped a lady to take my photo. She didn’t know how to use an iphone so that was probably another 5 minutes I didn’t need to kill, but just downhill the last runners who passed me after the aid station were all there at the finish. 12:15 (with penalty 13:45), and I get to shower and sleep in the hotel! (and beeeer!)

Later I find out they had re- opened the gate for several runners, 2 moms whose kids/ spectators were waiting, a guy carrying an engagement ring wanting to propose to his girlfriend (who was the women’s winner), and when K came along, they told her to wait while they talked to the guards, but she took off and scaled a 6 ft fence to bypass the gate and bushwhacked it back onto the trail. So when I came along 5 minutes later (another Asian chick), they were looking for her and had already opened the gate for her, so they let me through.

Next day I saw Susan (who was only 30 min behind me at the last gate so had to camp, but made the first cutoff) and LiChym, along with the 8 other campers who apparently were treated to grilled trout, individual tents, 3 sleeping bags apiece and amazing views camping at Winay Wayna. They hiked down as a group and we did our tour of Machu Picchu and had trout pizza, llama steaks, and pisco sours but didn't brave the grilled guinea pig while looking out on the square, then a celebration dinner with the group, traditional Peruvian music and costume dancers, before getting ready to fly out to Lima. 

There is another long story about how we almost got stuck outside Lima airport for 12+ hours but luckily met up with some tour people who let us tag along their tour group to see Lima in 1 day before flying out. 

Lima is a cool city which is amazingly clean but has some of the worst traffic I’ve seen,
Franciscan cathedrals, the oldest running university in the Americas, pre-inca pyramids, chocolate museum, catecombs
(where someone decided to dismantle the skeletons in order to count them, then arranged the bones by category not person),

Bar Cordano, the oldest in town filled with locals eating pork sandwiches,

the Parque del Amour on the beach at MiraFlores, right next to the “suicide bridge” and tile art reminiscent of Barcelona.

Susan and I both tend to suffer from post-race blues, which I guess keeps us looking for the next high. But increasingly, I am just grateful, both for the opportunity to have gone to places like Peru, and equally glad to be back at the Oasis in Seattle.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

we've been robbed... and they stole the cats