Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rev3 Cedar Point Half Race Recap - Swim Leg

Almost two weeks ago, Mike and I raced the Rev3 Cedar Point Half. We had transferred our entry for the Rev3 Quassy Half that took place in June to the Cedar Point race. Back in June, we were getting our old house ready to go on the market and I was leaving for California a few days later, so it was in our best interest to transfer to another race.

Cedar Point was the only one that fit our schedule, so we went with it.

Saturday we went to the amusement park for race check-in and got our stuff. It did start to rain a bit while we were there, but luckily it stopped for awhile. There was a mandatory meeting, and since we had never raced a Rev3 triathlon before we figured it would be in our best interest to go. Also, quite a bit of the race course had changed due to construction, and later weather, so we wanted all of the details.

We spent the time in between check-in and the meeting by checking out the Cedar Point lighthouse. We love lighthouses so it was a good way to spend our time. 

 Pretty, pretty

At the meeting we found out all of the details of the race. Actually, while we were putting our race numbers on our bikes because of the mandatory bike check, we found out that the swim course had changed and that the bike and gear (for full athletes) check in was now optional. We decided to just rack our bikes in the morning because of the weather.

Mike and I did go on two roller coasters after the meeting, but then one of the rides we wanted to go on was closed due to a mechanical issue and then it started to pour. We decided to head back to our hotel since we didn't want to be on our feet for too long. We also had to stop at Dick's Sporting Goods for Mike so that he could buy a cheap watch, he forgot his Garmin at home! After dinner and some frozen yogurt, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.

 Personalized card, nice touch Rev3!

On the morning of the race, we didn't have to wake up very early at all. It felt weird waking up around 6am for a 70.3. Due to the full distance race, half athletes didn't start until 8:20am. When we got to the park, we were able to rack our bikes and set up our transition areas relatively easily. We checked our morning clothes bags since we didn't have any supporters with us and got our wetsuits on.

While waiting for the start of the swim, we were able to see the full athletes in the water. The swim course had changed due to the wind and we were now all swimming in the marina. The half athletes had to do one 1.2 mile loop, while the full athletes had to do two loops. Additionally, rather than having waves we were now going to have a time trial start with two swimmers starting every few seconds. Mike and I decided we would go together and tried to get as close to the front as possible. This was nice because if we had kept the wave start, I would have started 10 minutes after Mike!

After a moment of silence for 9/11 and the National Anthem, we didn't have too long until our start. We did see the lead swimmer for the full come out of the water (he did give his wetsuit to a spectator, which is against the rules).

Mike and I lined up, we were probably the fifth or sixth pair to get into the water. We kissed right before the start (to which the race director said, "I hope you know each other!") and shook the race director's hand, and then it was time to go!

We got into the water and after a few steps down the ramp, I started to swim. The water wasn't too bad and thankfully I didn't have to deal with lots of people! We swam out toward a 180 degree turn, and there were a few times when people got close to me but I wasn't having it. After the turn, I was worried about people coming from the other direction so I tried to make sure I was over to the right as far as possible.

One weird thing that happened to me during the swim was that I had an afterimage of either the sun, the yellow buoys or a combination of both. I couldn't really see out of my left eye because of this and I just hoped that I wasn't going to run into anyone!

After the 180 degree turn, we had a bit of a tailwind, but I knew that after making a left turn later on that the water was going to get a bit choppy. I was right. It was never the worst I have swum in, but it wasn't the best either.

After making the final turn, I just wanted to be done. I felt like the swim was taking forever (which it kind of was, my watch recorded 1.4 miles) and I was just ready for the next leg. The final red buoy felt like it wasn't getting any closer, but eventually I was approaching the swim exit.

I turned toward the exit and swam until my hands hit the ramp a few times. I stood up and then ran over toward the wetsuit strippers. They got my wetsuit off relatively quickly, and then the next part of the race began - the .5 mile run to the transition area.

Swim Leg (1.2 miles) - Jamie: 36:24, Mike: 32:35
Transition 1 - Jamie: 6:44, Mike: 6:01

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mini Mussel Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

Yes, I know, I should have recapped this BEFORE recapping our Ironman but that's not how life has gone this year.

Back in June, Mike and I were supposed to race the Rev3 Quassy 70.3. Due to needing to get the old house on the market and my trip to California only being 3 days after the race, we decided to transfer to the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 (next weekend).

Unfortunately, that meant we only had one triathlon this year prior to our Ironman.  We participated in the Musselman weekend for the fourth year in a row by doing the Mini Mussel sprint triathlon.

The adorable Macey

Luckily, our friend, Janell, was also racing Mini Mussel. She, her husband, Aaron, and their new dog, Macey, were our first visitors at our new house!

Friday night we went to packet pickup and then waited for Janell and Aaron to get to our house (also from packet pickup). We had dinner and talked with them before it was time to go to bed.

Geneva isn't too far away from Rochester, and thankfully, the sprint starts at 9am. We left our house and made the drive to the race start. We got there a bit later than we normally do, but not by too much. We all had plenty of time to get body marked, set up our transition areas and use the port-a-potties.

 The three of us before the race, photo courtesy of Janell

Mike was the first one to start off and then I went off a few minutes after him. Janell was two waves after me. I felt like we had been treading water for a long time, and later Aaron told us that my wave was in the water the longest, but finally the announcer said we had one minute until the start.

You may be able to spot me, I'm the crazy one

Then we were off!

Swim Leg (.47 miles) - Jamie: 11:55, Mike: 10:53

I started out a bit too fast, especially considering the swim leg of this race was our first open water swim of the year. Oops. I was able to slow down a little bit and then focused on getting to the turn toward the finish. A sprint swim is just so short!

I didn't have to fight for a position too much, and I did pass some people from the wave ahead of me. After a few minutes, I saw the buoy for the finish. I made sure to swim until my hand hit the bottom of the boat ramp a few times, and then I popped up out of the water.

Transition 1 - Jamie: 1:50, Mike: 1:46

I ran into the transition area, and got my biking stuff on pretty quickly. I felt slow, but that's probably because we also hadn't done very many bricks during training.

Again, like last year, I hated running over the cobblestones in my bike shoes but I made it to the mount line in a decent amount of time.

Bike Leg (16 miles) - Jamie: 58:42, Mike: 49:39

I just really don't like the beginning of this bike course. A few weeks prior to the sprint, Mike and I rode the 70.3 bike course which starts the exact same way. I struggle to push the speed on the slight incline the first few miles.

The bike was relatively uneventful, I felt like I was going somewhat slow but that was a given considering our lack of training at this point. I love when you get to the turn where the sprint bike course deviates from the 70.3 bike course. It is downhill and the only real place where you need to pay attention is when you ride over some railroad tracks, but of course the Musselman crew has everything clearly marked on the roads so you know what is coming up!

As I made my way back toward the transition area, I was wondering how the run leg was going to go. For some reason, running has felt the worst for me ever since my 50 miler back in November. I hoped that I would be able to get through it easily enough, but I knew that it was getting hotter out.

Finally, I turned back into the park and rode a little bit toward the dismount line. As I got there another participant was FLYING in to the dismount line. He really needed to calm down a little bit, it isn't worth it to hurt other people.

Transition 2 - Jamie: 1:55, Mike: 2:08

Normally I would take my bike shoes off, but I don't remember if I did or not at this point. I got to my bike and then put on all of my running stuff. As I ran out I felt heavy but I tried to push the pace as much as I could.

Run Leg (3.2 miles) - Jamie: 28:52, Mike: 25:57

Unfortunately, it was getting hot, but I was able to keep my pace under 9:00 pace for the first mile (as usual I took off way too fast!)

I am actually really, really disappointed in this run leg. I think I just gave in too quickly and I should have pushed myself harder (but to be honest that's where my mental state and view on my training was at this point in my life). I saw Mike about 1 mile in to the run leg, after I had been listening to someone who was just out for a run (not part of the race) yelling at everyone coming back toward the finish, "you're almost done!" I was not having it.

Luckily, she went away and I kept going. It was hot out and I grabbed some water at the aid station. I did walk a little before the turn around and I had seen our friend Mark making his way back toward the finish line.

When I started to make my way back to the finish, I saw Janell. She looked really strong!

I did walk a few more times (this is what I mean by pushing myself and staying stronger, oh well). As I got closer to the finish, I saw our friend Sarah! She looked great and I was really proud of her for doing the race!

The finish line is in sight! Photo courtesy of Janell

As I made my way closer to the finish, our friends Kathy and Jamie were cheering me on (they had come to our rescue during one of our botched training rides, so thankful for them!) Then I saw Mike and Aaron on the side lines and I ran through the finish line. As I did, Mary Eggers (the announcer), said, "here's Jamie, no stranger to the finish line!"

And with that, our fourth year of the Musselman weekend was over!

Finishing Times - Jamie: 1:43:14, Mike: 1:30:23

Even though this was my slowest Mini Mussel time yet, I was alright with it. I knew that our training was lacking and I still had a great time being at a race that I love.

Waiting for the awards, photo courtesy of Janell

We hung around for the awards since Janell placed in her age group, and then we spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Janell and Aaron. I was really happy to share this special race with Janell, and I hope she comes next year to race the Musselman 70.3 with us!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Recap - Run Leg

Did you miss the swim and bike legs? Check them out, here and here

After handing off my bike to a volunteer, I took my bike shoes off and ran through the transition area toward the tent. My legs felt so heavy, and I was worried. Thankfully, it seemed like the rain was going to let up a bit.

When I got into the changing area, I put my run stuff on quickly and then walked out toward the run course. I had no idea how the rest of the day was going to go, but I was determined to try.

Heading out of transition

Mike's parents did cheer me on as I left for the run, and then as I was walking/running away I heard my mom and dad cheer for me. They almost missed me, because of where they had been on the bike course and how fast I was in transition, but I turned around and waved to them.

I started running and as I turned I saw our friend, Andy. He cheered me on and I started to utilize ultra running strategies. I knew I was going to walk up the majority of the hills, but I tried to keep running as much as possible. My brother and sister-in-law cheered me on as I started the rest of the run, and I tried to stay positive. I knew it was going to hurt, but as long as I could walk I would make it.

The run course is a big out and back with a small out and back and a slight diversion from it on the way back. I was just focusing on walking up the hills as fast as possible and then utilizing the downhills and flats. Eventually someone tapped me on the shoulder, and it was our friend Ricky! He was on his second loop (I was jealous) and we talked a bit before he got ahead of me. He did use a port-a-potty so I got ahead, but then he passed me again.

I also saw, on the way back, another person from Rochester who we had met at the athlete meeting on Friday. We high-fived and I kept going.

The bike path portion of the race was a bit congested for me, and I kept looking for Mike (I must have missed him while he was either on the small out and back or the deviation from the out part of the course). I was holding decent enough paces, considering how shot my legs were from the bike and lack of training, and I just kept giving myself goals to reach.

 Mike heading out for his second loop

Right before the turn around on the out and back, Ricky passed by me again! He must have used another port-a-potty and I passed him. He made his way through the turn and I made sure he was alright, which he said he was and told him to go finish it (he did great!)

As I made my way along the bike path, I reached the one aid station before the small out and back. That's when I saw Mike! We high-fived, I told him this was hard and then he yelled at me before I walked away and he continued on to finish up his second loop. He signed "I love you" to me and I signed it back, and then we went our separate ways. I hoped he would finish up strong, he did look a little pale to me (and he said later he felt great the first 10 miles and then it was a little bit rough).

I enjoyed the small out and back because it was on a dirt path and then I started to go back on the main out and back. I also liked the small deviation from the main course because it was almost all downhill, and at this point I could still run the downhills.

Running by my mom and dad back toward the ski village

As I made my way back to the ski village, I saw my brother and Hanna. I was walking, and my brother told Hanna to keep up with an Ironman walking pace, ha (I guess I was walking faster than she was)! He then told me that my mom and dad were a bit further up, and I said I guess I should start running. I ran by my mom and dad while they cheered me on and then I got to the hills again.

As I walked/ran up the hill, a spectator said something to me in French. I said, "maybe, English only". I had been mostly smiling whether people were cheering in French or English.  I got closer to special needs (which I bypassed) and then I ran through the ski village.

This experience was amazing. I was able to pick up my pace because of all of the people cheering, but unfortunately I had to go right for my second loop rather than left for the finish.

I saw my mom and dad and brother and sister-in-law again and kept going. I was definitely walking a lot more the second loop, but I was just focused on getting it done. I told my dad that even if I had to walk until midnight that I was going to finish.

I was hoping that I would see Mike again, but I didn't. We must have missed each other while he was doing the small out and back or the deviation. I hoped he would finish, and just focused on my own race.

I was really hoping for a faster marathon time, but my legs and hips were shot. I had to walk a lot more and kept negotiating with myself for how long I would run. Sometimes it was only for a tenth of a mile, but it was better than nothing.

After I made the turn on the main out and back, it was starting to get dark. Luckily, there were some lights set up on the bike path but it was really dark in some spots. One time another participant going out asked me something, but in French. I said, "English only" and she must not have known English because she kept going. I felt bad!

I made it to the one aid station before the small out and back, and knew I didn't have much longer to go. I had already been counting down the kilometers. The small out and back was a nice break from pavement, but it was really dark!

I'm pretty sure I saw the final participant out on the course, since he had a cyclist with him. One other guy, still heading out, looked at his watch and said, "only 3 hours left"! I was getting tired and was a little out of it, but I knew I would finish.

The small deviation from the course hurt more this time because of the downhill, but I got it done. I didn't have much further to go and I just tried to run as much as possible.

As I made my way up those final hills toward the special needs area, I made the turn toward the ski village. As I walked a little bit, my brother and Hanna were there! They told me I was so close and where my mom and dad were along the finish line (although I still missed seeing them) and that they didn't know where Mike was. I must have looked concerned because my brother said, "oh no he finished, we just don't know where near the finish line he is!"

I started running, and they started running toward the finish, and then everyone was cheering for me. I high-fived so many people it was crazy.

As I neared the finish, I tried to find my mom and dad but I missed them. I did see Mike and we high-fived. As I neared the finish line I heard Mike Reilly. He was saying, "and here is Jamie, from Rochester, New York. You ARE an IRONMAN!"

 Ironmen x 2!

After all the adversity, the struggles, the doubts, I was a two-time Ironman.

It may not have been faster than the first time, but finishing was just as sweet.

I know we have more Ironman races in our future, and I am so thankful that I get to do this with my training partner in life and triathlon, Mike. I am so thankful for my family for coming to cheer us on and being there for us while we do this crazy thing we love. And for my friends, near and far, who support us no matter what, I couldn't ask for better people in my life! You are my friends who have become my family.

Ironman Mont Tremblant, you were good to us!

Run Leg (26.2 Miles) - Jamie: 5:40:27, Mike: 5:33:23
Finishing Times - Jamie: 14:41:19, Mike: 13:20:21

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Recap - Bike Leg

Did you miss the swim leg? Check it out, here!

After running along the red carpet and into the transition area, I grabbed my bag and ran into the women's changing area.

I didn't take too much time getting my stuff on and my stuff from the swim into my gear bag, and I decided to wait until I got to my bike to put on my bike shoes since I hate running in them. As I left the transition area, I heard Mike's parents cheering for me and I got on my bike after the mount line.

Heading out for a 112 mile ride

Admittedly, we did not train much on the bike this time around. Last time we had over 3,000 bike miles before Ironman Louisville and this time we were around 1,600 bike miles. Also, we didn't train on hills as much as the first time around and Mont Tremblant's bike course is pretty hilly. I knew that it was going to be a challenge this time around and I was actually worried about being able to finish the bike leg.

Regardless of my doubts, off I went. The first few miles were uneventful and I even hit over 30 mph one of the miles! Then, maybe 3-6 miles into my bike leg it started to spit rain. We knew that rain could potentially be a factor but I had been hoping that it wasn't going to happen. Unfortunately, it didn't get better for a long time.

As soon as it started raining, I knew that I was going to be more conservative on the downhills. We had never ridden there before and wet tires are no fun! Montée Ryan had some hills, but they were going to be worse on the way back. Since this race was in Canada, we had kilometer markers every kilometer. It was tough to see those, since they happened ALL THE TIME!

Since Mike had a 15 minute head start on me and he is a better cyclist, I didn't know when I would see him. It was pouring already and I tried to keep my sunglasses on, but I was sick of wiping them off and I couldn't see anyway. I put them on my forehead for the rest of the bike leg. At around 20K, I saw Mike! I waved at him, but he didn't see me. I was a little sad, but I kept going.

The bike course is made up of numerous out and backs and I had a little ways to go to the first turnaround. I hate turning around on my bike, but luckily they all went fine!

I eventually turned around on 117 and then made my way back. I could tell I had a headwind, but it wasn't too bad yet. I just focused on moving forward and tried to get up the hills as quickly and easily as possible.

There was a section on the bike course that took us through Mont Tremblant and we rode by where we had dinner the night before! We went through another turnaround section and started to make our way back toward the ski village.  I still felt pretty good, but the rain was getting to me.

Montée Ryan on the way back had some tough hills, but I made it through. I went by the golf course (and must have missed my brother and sister-in-law) and rode by special needs on the other side of the road. After a right hand turn I made my way back to the bike start and kept going on Chemin Duplessis.

I can't quite remember when I saw Mike again (it was either Montée Ryan or Chemin Duplessis) but I did and this time I yelled out his name! He saw me and said, "oh hey" and we kept going. 

At the bridge where a lot of spectators hang out, I started to look for my family and Mike's parents. I hadn't seen anyone yet so I was hoping I would see someone soon. As I made my way past most of the spectators, I saw my mom and dad. They didn't notice me so I had to yell out for them!

As I started the up and down section of the course, things started to get a bit sketchy. Pretty soon cyclists on the other side of the road started to indicate to slow down and then someone said there was a crash. Not too long after an uphill I saw a bunch of people on the ground! I tried to go by them without getting in the way and then right after that I saw some people standing on the side of the road with broken chains.

From then on everyone was told to go slower and there was a lot of communication between other cyclists on both sides of the road. And then again not too long after, there was another cyclist on the ground being held by medical or a race official. Someone near me was looking at them and almost got in my way, so I told him to stop rubber necking and keep going.

I was admittedly a bit shaken up at that point, but I kept going. The hills were unrelenting and my legs were already tired. And I wasn't even halfway done!

Finally, after two really bad hills, I made it to the turn around. If it wasn't raining I could have pushed the pace, but as my luck would have it it started to POUR! I was really concerned since I was getting cold. I just told myself to get to the second loop and reevaluate how I felt then.

The way back, luckily, wasn't as hilly and I rode by my parents again. This time they saw me, but it was brief. After a small out and back with a turn around, I started my second loop.

I was in a dark place at this moment because other than Mike briefly and my parents briefly, I hadn't seen anyone else on the bike course. I was wondering where they were and I was contemplating dropping out since I was cold, tired and my legs hurt. The rain wasn't letting up either.

Mike on Chemin Duplessis

As I rode by special needs (bypassing it), I saw two people on the other side of the road near the golf course. And there they were, my brother and sister-in-law! They cheered for me with the biggest smiles on their faces, even though they had been standing in the rain for a long time, and on I went. I knew I couldn't let them down. I had to at least attempt to finish the bike leg.

I didn't hit over 30mph this time around on the downhills since the roads and my bike were so wet. There was a tailwind on the way out and I tried to use this to my advantage since I knew the way back would be more challenging. Right around the 20K sign, I saw Mike for the third and last time on the bike.

I kept going and made it to the turnaround on 117. I was happy that there were only two more turnarounds left!  The roads were really wet and I was cold and tired, but I kept going. I knew I was going really slow and I just tried to get the bike done.

I did ditch a water bottle at one of the aid stations before the turn around so that I could get more Gatorade. I also was worried about my chain because there were a few sketchy moments when I put my bike back in the big ring, it was crunchy and didn't switch over very quickly one time. Luckily, I never dropped a chain! My bike did not like how wet it was, though.

I rode by my brother and Hanna one more time and then made the turn for Chemin Duplessis. As I rode by my parents again, I told my dad that I was tired. He said he knew, but onward I went. I really did not want to do the hills on Chemin Duplessis again (and Mike later told me he didn't know how he would do the run after that part of the course). The hills killed me this time, but I didn't walk my bike on any of the hills like some other people did. It was still raining, but it seemed like it was going to let up. I worried about my legs, they were starting to lock up and I really didn't know how I would run.

After making the final turnaround (yay), I made my way back to the bike finish. My mom and dad cheered me on as I neared the end and I made my way to the dismount line. I got off my bike and handed it to a volunteer. I also took of my bike shoes and ran into the transition area.

I was worried at how heavy my legs felt, but I had to at least attempt the marathon.

Bike Leg (112 Miles) - Jamie: 7:39:36, Mike: 6:29:52
Transition 2 - Jamie: 4:25, Mike: 4:56

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Recap - Swim Leg

I know, I haven't posted in a long time!

This year has been different. Mike and I bought a new house and I FINALLY closed on the sale of our old house. Two days before Ironman Mont Tremblant. To say that this year has been stressful would be an understatement. We only raced a few times this year, training was lackluster and we only had one triathlon prior to Mont Tremblant and it was a sprint (that I still need to recap, oops).

A few months ago, after we transferred to a different 70.3 later in the year, we even contemplated dropping out of Mont Tremblant completely. We decided to see how training would go, and while it was still lacking it went a bit better. We did complete two 100 mile ride/20 mile run weekends and we just went into the Ironman hoping we were strong enough.

We knew it was going to be different than Louisville and finishing was all that mattered. Ironman Mont Tremblant has fairly tough bike and run courses and we weren't going to have the nice current that we had in the Ohio River this time around.

 In the ski village

Organizing gear

Last Friday, Mike and I made our way to Mont Tremblant. My family was already there, lucky, and after a delayed arrival due to traffic Mike and I checked into the race Friday afternoon. It was hard to believe that our second Ironman was only two days away!

After our practice swim the day before the race

My bike ready to go!

Thankfully this was never a factor, but I was worried it wouldn't be a "true" Ironman!

The rest of the pre-race festivities went as well as they could, and I tried to not worry about finishing the race (but I have to admit there were still doubts). After a nice dinner with our families and our friend, Andy, I ended up going to bed pretty early due to a headache. I could hear the Olympics in the background and Mike finally joined me.

I slept really well and thankfully my headache was gone on race morning! We were staying in a condo and didn't have a far walk to the transition area. We got body marked and then put air in our tires and water/Gatorade in our bottles on our bike.

We had about a 15 minute walk to the swim start and when we got there my parents were already there. Soon Mike's parents joined us and Mike and I went to go get in the port-a-potty line. While it was long, it went relatively quickly and we put our wetsuits on right before the start of the race.

 Getting ready to start our day!

Mike's wave was already ready and lined up by the time we walked over there, but he was able to get through and join his wave right before it went off. My wave didn't start for another 15 minutes, so I just stood there trying to take everything all in. I knew the day would have challenges, but I hoped it would end with those four words we all wanted to hear.

As each wave went off, it got closer to my start time - 6:57am.

Finally, it was my turn. I was right in the front and Mike Reilly said we had a minute until our start. With some final words, we heard the start and we were off! We had to run into the water, but I didn't run very far and started swimming right away.

It took some time to get clear water, but eventually I did.

However, that didn't last very long. Since I am a good swimmer, I was in the front of my wave. After a few minutes I started to see orange caps and from then on it was chaos. I felt like I was in a washing machine because everyone was all over the place. I did find open water again for a little while, but I had to maneuver around people constantly.

I felt like the beginning was taking forever, maybe because I had to pass so many people, but eventually the red buoys indicating the turn were visible in the distance (I had been tricked a few times since one cap color was red, ha).

When I made the turn, that's when I felt the chop. It was pretty windy and I must have had a tailwind on the way out. I had to fight for an open water position and just focused on getting to the swim exit. Some people were right next to me or pushing on my legs and I just wanted to get out of the water.

I did look at my watch a few times just to see how I was doing. I could see the exit in the distance and as I approached it I kept swimming for awhile. It seemed like people were standing up really early and eventually I stood up and ran out of the water.

Mike running along the red carpet toward transition

I went over to the wetsuit strippers (my first time using them) and then started running toward the transition area. Mont Tremblant has a pretty long trek from the swim exit (which is in a different spot than the start) to the transition area. They try to make it fun by adding a red carpet, ha. Along the way I saw my brother and sister-in-law and they cheered me on.

I heard my mom and dad (I think) as I ran closer to the transition tent. As I ran inside, I grabbed my bike gear bag and into the women's changing area.

2.4 miles down, only 138.2 more miles to go!

Swim Leg (2.4 miles) - Jamie: 1:10:00, Mike: 1:05:59
Transition 1 - Jamie: 6:51, Mike: 6:11

Monday, June 27, 2016

Great Range Traverse

Last year a few friends of ours attempted (and completed) the Great Range Traverse in the Adirondacks. We weren't able to do it with them, but we had the idea to do it this year. We picked a weekend as close to the longest day of the year as possible and went with it. We hoped for good weather and picked our order for the traverse.

We decided to start at the Garden parking lot and end at the Rooster Comb trailhead. We worried about how to get to our car after the finish (the start and finish were about a 2 mile walk away from each other), but Mike found someone in an Aspiring Adirondack 46er group that we are in on Facebook offering rides to fellow hikers. We contacted her and she was willing to pick us up at the end of our hike.

Friday night we drove to the Rooster Comb Inn, a really convenient location for starting at the Garden, and got in bed around 9pm. We dozed on and off until our wake up call at 12:30 in the morning. We got ready and set out for the Garden. When we got there, I couldn't believe how many cars were in the lot! We paid for parking (before checking if there was even a spot) and I didn't think we would be able to park once we drove in. Luckily Mike switched driving with me and he realized we could park in the center of the lot bumper to bumper. He parked the car, went over to check us in at the register and as we were getting ready to take off another car pulled in.

They asked us where they could park if they couldn't park at the Garden. We gave them an option, but we noticed that they might fit in the center of the lot right in front of some barriers. We got the last two parking spots at 1:40am!

We took off, after Mike showed me what he wrote in the register, and started our day long journey at 1:45am.

 At Johns Brook Lodge, trying not to disturb anyone who might be sleeping

Mike loves this sign post

Since it was still dark, we had our headlamps on and tried to talk as much as possible to ward off any bears in the area (there have been sightings, but not really close to where we were). We passed a few tents as we hiked in on the Phelps Trail toward Johns Brook Lodge. The first 3.5 miles to the Lodge were really easy and we were holding steady at around 25 minutes per mile. We knew that wasn't going to last much longer past the Lodge, though!

The next 1.5 miles weren't too bad, we had never hiked on them before and we had a hard time finding the trail near Johns Brook at some points, but found it relatively quickly. I was definitely ready for some daylight at this point!

We reached a junction and had decided before the hike to take the trail to the right (Hopkins) that would eventually intersect with the Van Hoevenberg trail. The other option is to continue on the Phelps trail to Mt. Marcy. We almost immediately started going up. We slowed a bit, but not too bad considering we were now climbing and were going over harder terrain with rocks. We still hadn't seen anyone since the parking lot, but it was starting to get light out. We eventually ditched our headlamps and kept going. I was sad we started too late to see the sunrise on Marcy. Guess we'll just have to do that some other time!

The sun!


After connecting with the Van Hoevenberg trail, I started to see some signs of another hiker. I could see his wet boot prints and after almost 4 hours, we saw another hiker! We eventually caught up to him and when we reached the trail to Marcy he let us go ahead of him. The light was still really pretty out and we chatted with two guys who went ahead of their friends so that they could catch the sunrise on Marcy.

Taking a break, photo courtesy of William Hoover

Making my way to Mt. Marcy

 Off I go!

Lots of cairns leading the way

 Almost there!

We made it to the summit of Marcy right before 7am. We stopped to eat one of our sandwiches and took in the view. Marcy is the highest point in New York and didn't disappoint. We knew we couldn't stop for too long, so after taking some photos we kept going to our next destination.

Amazing views


 I love these mountains

We went back down the trail that took us to Marcy and took the Woodsfall Trail toward Little Haystack (non-high peak) and Haystack. We saw some other hikers while we were going down the trail to Little Haystack and one of them said, "wow you must have started early". We explained what we were doing and he said that they were doing the same thing, but stayed at Johns Brook Lodge to cut out the beginning that we did.

The range from in between Marcy and Haystack

Haystack in the distance!

 Pretty typical terrain for the day

The hike up to Little Haystack was a bit of a beast. Lots of rocks to climb over and I was annoyed with the weight in my pack. I was carrying a lot more than Mike (I brought our down jackets, just in case) and I was already over it. I decided to drop my pack at the junction we would take to head toward Basin after doing our out and back to Haystack. Mike kept his hydration pack so we could each still have some water. The views from Little Haystack were nice. You could see a lot of the range and Haystack in the distance.

On Little Haystack

Haystack - high peak #2 for the day

Ditched the long sleeve shirt at this point

 Mike took off his pants and I wore them around my waist the rest of the day

We made it to Haystack, after climbing over some more rocks, and took in the views. Mike said that this was his favorite peak so far of all the ones that we have done. We had to go back the way that we came and went over to Little Haystack again. We saw another hiker (who was doing a Great Range Traverse as well, and who caught up to us and passed us later in the day) heading out toward Haystack.

At the junction for the trail to head toward Basin, I picked up my pack and on we went. We were about 12 miles into our hike at this point.

Up the ladder I go

 Almost to the top of Basin, you can see where we were earlier in the distance

The beginning part of the hike down to Basin wasn't too bad, but then we had to climb over some steep rocks with very little hand or foot holds. We passed these four guys, looked like two father-son pairs, and when we got to the ladder section of the hike we all got up it together. One of the guys helped me on a trickier section. I think at this point Mike and I had already switched packs (since climbing up some of the areas with the weight was too difficult for me). Once we made it past the more difficult section we kept going and got ahead of the four guys.

The mountains are calling

Taking it all in on top of high peak #3 of the day

Right before the summit we took photos at an overlook. The views were pretty amazing. At the summit we chatted with some people at the top and then kept going. The trail down toward Saddleback had some trickier sections to navigate over and we started to slow down.

 Horrible (in my opinion)

I wasn't looking forward to the Saddleback Cliffs, but I tried not to think about it. When we reached the cliffs, however, I started to panic. I would get to a section and say that I couldn't do it, try to get my foot planted in a way that I felt safe and try to climb up, but then I would back down. I would eventually make it up (after Mike) and then the process would start all over again at the next section. At one point I remember just crawling on my hands and feet for as far as my body would go. It felt never-ending and I was worried that I wouldn't make it.

Psyched to be on flat ground

Thumbs up for high peak #4 of the day!


I know that I slowed us down significantly in this section and I really wish that I didn't panic as much as I had. We finally made it over the cliffs and I felt a bit better. We took some photos at the summit, that we had to ourselves, and ate a snack. Mike was running low on water and we knew we would need to filter some water soon.

We kept going and started to hike down toward our 5th peak of the day. The trail down Saddleback wasn't too bad. Some rocks we had to navigate down, but then it was a nice walk in the woods. We knew that there was going to be a junction coming up that we would be able to walk down to try to find water. When we reached the Ore Bed Brook Trail we took that instead of heading up toward Gothics.

We passed a tiny stream of water and kept going, but not too long after Mike asked if he should just filter from the small stream we saw. I said yes since I didn't want to waste too much time trying to find water and add too many miles. It may not have been the best source of water, but we filtered it and it was cold. A group of hikers approached us as we were sitting there filtering the water and Mike asked how long ago they had seen water. One of the guys said about a mile, so I think we made the right decision to use the slightly-sketchy water source. I worried that we didn't filter enough, though I still had quite a bit of water from the start, but we kept going.

I do remember that at one point I looked down and my hands were SWOLLEN. I think that between Basin and Gothics I really struggled. It was hot and these sections were the most nerve-wracking for me and I wasted a lot of energy freaking out.

I made sure to drink some Tailwind (that we were running low on) and ate energy chews here and there.

Gothics in the distance

We probably added about .25 - .5 miles going to get the water, but it was worth it. We got back on track and took the trail up to Gothics. The trail was steep and eventually some guys came down the trail. Mike asked if the cables were on the other side of the mountain or on the side we were on, and one guy said that they were coming right up. I was so glad this mountain had some cables to help assist us!

Up the cables

We climbed up the cables, and some sections that were really tricky without the aid of cables, and made it to an overlook. I had a feeling it wasn't the summit (and Mike agreed because he said that Gothics had a marker), but we took a break anyway. Two hikers were taking off as we got there, and Mike mentioned he was going to need more water. I made him ask them if they had any extra and the guy gave Mike some of his water. We were so thankful for this kindness!

 What a pretty day

 At the second false summit

After we left our overlook resting spot, we eventually passed another hiker (who looked like he was struggling). He looked up at us and said, "top, 5 minutes" (he must have been from Canada because he had a French-Canadian accent). Mike thought he meant it would be 5 more minutes for US to reach the summit, but the guy was asking us if the summit was 5 minutes away for HIM (heading in the opposite direction from us). We said we weren't sure (since we weren't) and said that if the overlook was the summit that it was only a few minutes away.

We kept going and reached another false summit, and then I felt horrible because depending on where the other guy came from he may not have reached the actual summit at all. After another minute or two of walking, we reached the real summit. Number 5 for the day (and number 10 overall)!

High peak #5 - Gothics

 We had to do a photo with the marker

Right before we took off to keep going, two hikers approached the summit from the direction we would be going. Mike mentioned to me that one of them was a runner from Rochester and we chatted with them for a little bit, and took their photo at the summit. We parted ways and Mike and I made the walk from Gothics to Armstrong.

I don't remember anything significant about the hike between these two mountains. Admittedly, it was around this time that we were contemplating ditching Rooster Comb (a non-high peak) and not doing a real Great Range Traverse. I was feeling alright in the breeze and in the woods, but the climbs and slow descents were taking their toll on me.

The trail to Armstrong
 Good views, I didn't know much about Armstrong so this was a nice surprise
 Us on high peak #6

It wasn't very far in between Gothics and Armstrong and we made it to the summit and sat at an overlook, taking in the views. We chatted with two other hikers who were there when we arrived and they told us about how difficult it was for them to hike Lower Wolfjaw and Upper Wolfjaw. They said that in between those two mountains was difficult, and I wasn't very excited about this information. The two women did mention that the hike from Armstrong to Upper Wolfjaw wasn't too bad, so after a few photos we kept going.

There were some tricky spots to navigate down and we had to climb down a steep ladder (and one of the rungs was missing!) I was pretty over the hike at this point, and I knew that Mike was struggling a bit. We texted (or at least tried when we had service) the person who was picking us up at our finish to let her know that we were going to be a lot later than we had originally thought and said that if she couldn't wait for us that we would just walk to where we were staying.

When the text eventually sent, she said that she didn't mind waiting and to try to replenish our electrolytes if possible (we still had a little bit of Tailwind each). The hike up to Upper Wolfjaw was demoralizing. There were some sections where we could really move and then, bam, we would be slowed down again by more rocks.

I could tell that Mike was struggling, and he was running out of water, but I just kept motivating him to keep moving. We would take short breaks when we could and rest on the steep sections in between the peaks. One guy that had passed us going up to Armstrong, passed us again going down toward Upper Wolfjaw.

High peak #7 - UWJ

We made it to a sign that said "Upper Wolfjaw, Summit 20 Yards" and went to the left to get our 7th high peak for the day. We took a break on the summit and tried to gather ourselves. We knew that we were still in for about 5-6 more miles of hiking.

The hike down Upper Wolfjaw wasn't as bad as I was expecting, but it was still slow going. There were some easier sections but Mike was having a hard time at this point. I was sharing my water and Tailwind that I had left with him and as we started to make the climb up Lower Wolfjaw he mentioned something about the Interior Outpost (where we may have been able to get some water, but it was a backtrack and would have added more miles). I said we had to keep going and asked him when the last time he had eaten was. He couldn't tell me so I made him stop and eat his sandwich. He said it was difficult to eat since he had no saliva (which I said that I didn't either) but I made him eat as much as he could. We eventually kept going and made the trek through the wooded summit of Lower Wolfjaw, our 8th high peak of the day.

On the trail to LWJ (and little did we know we'd be going to St. Huberts but from a different trail)

Putting on some smiles, but hurting on high peak #8 - LWJ

At this point, we were focused on getting to the end. I was able to get a text out to the person giving us a ride to update her on our status. She mentioned that we could take the trail to St. Huberts instead of hiking over Hedgehog (another non-high peak) and that she would pick us up there. Luckily, I checked my phone RIGHT before we got to this junction and I told her that we would go to St. Huberts.

I was scared for Mike during the final 3.5-4 miles. At one point he mentioned that he might need an IV and then later he said he didn't know if he could go 3 more miles. I wasn't going to let him stop and not make it out of the woods, so I kept him moving. I stopped drinking water and Tailwind (with the exception of a two small sips) so that he could have everything that I had left. I made him eat some more energy chews and tried to push the pace (without going too fast).

While it wasn't the easiest trail ever, the trail toward St. Huberts was a lot easier than the trail over Hedgehog that would have taken us to the Rooster Comb trailhead (but it was about a tenth of a mile longer). We were able to get in miles closer to 35 minutes, and the terrain was a lot easier. Unfortunately, since we had started later and ended up going slower than we had anticipated we were losing daylight.

We put our headlamps on around 8:45pm, and started to make noise because we saw some evidence of potential bears (there was a pretty big pile of poop on the trail). The other issue with going this way was that I felt the trail wasn't marked that well (or it was probably that we had never been on it, were struggling and it was dark). We lost the trail a few times and went back to the last place we had seen a trail marker and then found the trail again.

We got to a junction for St. Huberts via the W.A. White trail or a trail toward Snow Mountain. I made the decision to go toward St. Huberts (since that's where we were going), but apparently we could have gone the other way and hit the road sooner (and just told the person to pick us up on the road).

We could hear cars for the first time since leaving the Garden 19 hours prior. I asked Mike what drinks he would want when we were done (he said chocolate milkshake, Gatorade and water) and we just kept moving toward our new finish. We got to a brook crossing and walked over a bridge (after confirming that was the right way to go) and I saw buildings. We got to a dirt road and didn't know which way to go. I saw something that looked like eyes (and didn't want to be in the woods anymore) and lots of fireflies.

After struggling to read the map on which way to go, I texted the person picking us up and told her we were lost. She asked where we were and I gave a description and said we were on Lake Road (we just didn't know which way to go on Lake Road). She said she could drive on Lake Road and told us to walk toward the green building.

Finally, after 24.5 miles, 13,500 feet of elevation gain (or 10,000 feet, our watches have significantly different data) and 19 hours and 40 minutes, right before 9:30pm, we were done. We saw the person picking us up and she drove us back to our car at the Garden.

I wish that we had done the entire Great Range Traverse, but we got the peaks that "matter" done (the high peaks). The traverse put us at 13 high peaks total and we can't wait to hike more of them!

In hindsight, I wish we had been able to filter some more water (and we might have been able to somewhere else but it would have added more miles), but it was really dry out there. I am just thankful that we both made it out of the woods with just some sunburns, bruises and scratches!