Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cross Country Ski Marathon

Wow! What an event. First, the great news - our team raised over $290,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! I raised $5555, with a whopping 56 donations! Thanks so much to everyone who was able to donate.

Now onto the race details - as many of you have been asking. First, a note about the race itself - over 2000 people ski either 25K, 40K or 50K races. 99% of these people are amazing skiers (why else would you be racing?) including former olympians, national team members, etc. Half of the remaining 1% is our team. Not to be negative, but we're definitely not professionals. We tend to come in last in all of the races, although we do have a few strong skiers who finish in the bottom third. I decided after doing a "test" ski the day before that I would do the 40K race instead of the 50K race - I was not feeling my strongest and decided it was more important to me to enjoy the race rather than struggling through and being miserable. The extra 10K distance was not so much the issue - that it's up one very steep mountain was really the kicker.

That may have been the wisest decision I've made - ever? Let's paint a picture for you of race day: temperature: 4 degrees at the start at 10:22am. No, that is not including windchill. When you ask someone in Anchorage (as I asked my friend Adam many a time) if the temperature they just said (-10 for example) is including wind chill, they look at you like you're crazy. Why would they include that? Nope, this was just plain old 4 degrees. Adrenalin and panic go a long way to keeping you warm, as does the incredibly intense cardio of cross country skate skiing, so I started out only with a thin wool layer, and a pretty thin Apex jacket and pants (like a dense fleece). My feet were blocks of ice to begin with, and never warmed up. As this hadn't happened previously, I thought maybe I'd been over zealous and tied my shoes too tightly, but of course never bothered to loosen them at any of the feed stations.The only other equipment issue I had was the freezing of my breath (fog) on my glasses. Take them off, and freeze your eyelashes together. Keep them on and see nothing except a grey blur. So, I compromised. I kept them on, but pushed them down my nose whenever I had to go down a big hill so I could see the turns. That only lasted about 10-15K, then they defrosted. They tell me it was about 19 degrees around the time I finished! Balmy.

The race itself was really tough, but a lot of fun. Most of us realized our camelback water bags would never stay liquid, so rather than carry a backpack of ice on our backs we opted to ski without water. For me, this was especially scary - I am a water fiend and was concerned feed stations every 7K would not be enough. Turns out it was fine. It's not easy to drink from a little paper cup with a mitten on and a long pole strapped to your hand while moving, but it sure was fun trying. I actually would stop and get a few refills since 4 ounces every 7K was not going to be enough. Seeing as how my time was really not going to be affected much by a few extra minutes here and there, I didn't stress about it.

One of the coolest things was seeing all of the really fast people go by, since the 50K starts after the 40K. About halfway through the leaders came flying by, and everyone else in order of decreasing speed thereafter. So cool! My friend Adam who won last year came in second, I was really happy to be able to cheer as he went flying by. The other really amazing part of the race was the scenery. Gorgeous! I have posted some pics to my Flickr account, but none of them are from the race track itself, they are just from around Anchorage.
Lastly, skiing by my teammates at times and cheering for each other was really great.

I actually reached all of my goals too - I didn't stop at all except at feed stations, not even on that last long hill. I raised over $5000 and I finished the race! I look forward to having some loftier goals for next year, and maybe convincing some of you bay area folk to do it with me!

Here's a pretty funny picture of me looking like I'm about to fall over!!! My coach calls it relaxed.

Right before the race I got amazing news that after only 3 chemo treatments, Leanne's stage 4 lymphoma is 95% gone!! What fantastic news, and only 6 weeks or so after her diagnosis. If you haven't checked out her site yet, please do, she can use all of the support we have to offer.

My training blog if you're interested:

Thanks again, everyone, for all of your love and support both financial and otherwise! I could never have done this alone. Extra huge thanks to Adam who helped me out beyond expectations in Anchorage and is more than generous!