The Sea to
from the perspective of the racer and the support crew
As seen by the racer
The Sea to
Since the off-road Ironman I had planned to do this weekend was cancelled, I wheedled a spot from the S2S's sympathetic race director, and spent a few frantic days pulling together the gear and a crew (the race takes place on an open course with little support beyond transition locations and painted arrows on the roads). Thankfully, some generous friends offered up a kayak, paddle, and some pointers.
For example, Robin Hastings's brother tried to give me a paddling lesson on Friday. After watching me flail for a while, he said: "You know, my coach said sometimes it takes 1,000 miles to develop your form."
On the plus side, Kristin McCowan (a demi-goddess and great
humanitarian) offered to spend 18 hours driving all over
After cruelly dragging
Kristin (who is an amazing human being) out of bed at on Saturday, we set out for
Our little flotilla headed up the Piscataqua River under overcast skies, riding a following tide not quite strong enough to counteract a brisk headwind, dodging outgoing fishing boats, and marveling at Portsmouth's industrial scenery. A little less than two hours later, I transitioned to the bike, where the headwind slowly diminished and the sun eventually heated the day to about 85 degrees. The bike course rolls through many, many twists and turns for the first 30 miles, keeping the support crews guessing as they tried to follow the orange arrows on the pavement, and bikers from getting a good rhythm going.
My back decided to spasm early and often, although I finally settled in to a pattern of riding hard, grimacing, softpedaling, cursing, stretching, and riding hard again. Interrupted by a flat tire, I basically played math games, trying to fool myself that having done 4/9ths of the ride, I could easily make the other, uh (nine divided by four, add a zero...) 56 percent! And in another five miles, I would be halfway! And look, I'm more than four hours into a ten-hour race! The only thing to look forward to was Kristin (a phenomenal athlete as well as a saint) every 10 or 15 miles with fluids and Ibuprofen.
After 91 miles and a net gain of about 1,000 vertical feet, the bike gave way to a run of 4.4 miles, and another 1,000 vertical feet of gain up to Pinkham Notch. Along the way, another runner and I spotted a small black bear on the edge of the road, who looked far less threatening than the RVs barreling down Route 16 toward us.
I grabbed some water and gels from Kristin (whose car I will be washing for at
least a year) for the final 4.1 miles and 4,288 feet of vertical up the
Tuckerman Ravine trail, past hundreds of downhikers,
some of whom were shaking their heads and muttering about the
"loonies" racing up the mountain. After a surprisingly quick two
hours of clambering uphill, I got a whiff of the unmistakable
After an excellent post-race
barbecue, Kristin (who bravely drove a kayak-laden car up
As seen by the crew
The Sea to
An hour I've never seen before and hope to never see again, we start for
5:30 am Arrive at the start and scramble to get the kayak and Ken ready. I receive instructions, which I sort a pay attention to. Maybe I should write these down.
All the racers are in the water and are heading for the start, except Ken. The race director looks at his watch and then at me, "Where is your guy?" All I can say is, “Oh he'll be here.”
5:59 am Ken arrives, jumps in the kayak. "Kristin, one more favor" (this turns out to be a cruel, cruel joke) "flip the rudder down and give me a push." This is not possible from the beach so in I go (managed to kick my shoes off).
They are off, now I can relax a little. More importantly I can get some coffee.
7:30 am Kayak/Bike trans: I hope I remember all the complicated instructions. For example, how to put the front tire on the bike so that the computer will function. He told me no less than 3 times. I realize I'm blond, but give me a break.
7:50ish am Ken is safely out of transition and I'm left to gather all the wet gear.
Last kayaker is out of the water, he looks very familiar. Oh yeah, I dated him about year and half ago. This is shaping up to be an interesting day.
These hours are spent driving across NH looking for a good place to stop to "service Ken" (as he like to refer to it) and to make sure I don't get lost as navigation is not one of my strong points.
1:30ish Bike/Run trans: It’s hot with very little breeze, note to self: put bike clothes in the trunk. Despite Ken's flat tire and back spasms he is smiling and making jokes.
Run/Hike trans: More clothes that will be kept in the trunk.
Up the Auto Road of
4:20ish Ken finishes looking a bit worked, but happy and energetic. This is amazing to me. Adventure racers are definitely a different breed.
11PM Ken gets me home, with only a few more "one more favor"s. I'm so tired I sleep like a rock & feel great the next day for