Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Dream Without a Plan is Just a Wish.

The Arctic Grand Slam of 2008 is now complete!!! My dream has come true as I have finished all 4 races well under the cutoff times. 6633 deserves a blog that is all it's own. In a nut shell, it was the most difficult 120 miles I have ever experienced. Just past the first checkpoint at the Arctic Circle, my wheels fell off. Literally. We were required to have sled wheels as many sections of the road were windblown and required wheels for movement. I had to sit down with my tool kit and put them back on and they never fell off again. The difficulty of 6633 was due in large part to the weather, the coldest I have ever experienced at -52. Then, let's talk about windchill. Nick and I were on Wright Pass in the Richardson Mountains, the gateway to the Northwest Territories. While we were heading up to the top, they had to close the road. They only close it when the winds are in excess of 100 kilometers per hour. I was blown off of my feet twice and my sled rolled 4 times. It was exhilarating and scary all at the same time. At 1:50 a.m. on Monday March 17, I left the warmth of the DOT heavy machinery garage and headed alone into the moonlit night . The magic of the aurora borealis and very dramatic mountain landscape inspired me to run like I had never run before (while pulling a 30 pound sled.)I smiled and felt like I was running in a dream. The end of the slam was 50 kilometers away. I hit several unexpected ground blizzards and delt with very high winds and snowdrifts for the next 25 miles. When I was 2 miles out of Fort MrPherson the wind suddenly stopped. The sun was shining and for the first time in over 50 hours, I was TOO warm!! Off came my Parka. As I entered town, many of the kind Gwitchen tribal people stepped outside in the balmy -30 weather to clap and cheer. When i arrived at Chief Julious School I saw the finish banner and I wa so full of emotion. I had completed the arctic grand slam! I had no frostbite, no blisters, and so many great and challenging memories, it almost seems necessary to write a book and tell the whole story. It was an epic adventure and goal that I am grateful to have achieved. What an incredible experience it has been. Thank you to all of you who have shown an overwheling and consistent support. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Special Olympics/Special Slam/Please Help

Please consider clicking on the Firstgiving link at the bottom of this page. Your donation will help ensure that the most special athletes of all have the opportunity to train, compete and enjoy an active lifestyle. No donation is too small. Thank you for your help!!!
Arctic Grand Slam for Special Olympics!!

6633-The Final Frontier-Canada

The final event of the Arctic Grand Slam will be a 120 mile foot race called 6633. The name refers to the latitude and longitude of the arctic circle. It will likely be the most difficult weather of the slam series, as the temperatures will stay below zero and the wind has a notorious reputation for blowing over high clearance vehicles. My sled is required to have a set of attachable wheels in case we run upon an area where the snow has been blown away. That said, why would I be so excited about going? ADVENTURE............I have never been to the Northwest Territories or any of the part of Canada we will run in. Most Canadians have never been to this part of Canada. It is full of beautiful mountains, frozen rivers, forests and many unknowns. The surface of the road is ice and snow with sharp, tire shredding rocks buried underneath. The Demster Road as it is called, is one of two roads in North America (I use the term road loosely) that cross the arctic circle. When I cross the circle on the Demster, I will have crossed it in both locations (the other is in Northern Alaska.) The Demster ultimately ends at the Arctic Ocean in the village of Tuk. A perfect ending for the arctic grand slam. I can't wait!

Special Olympic Fundraiser/Arctic Grand Slam

I learned last year at the Arrowhead 135 just how powerful it is to have a charity that can benefit from my participation in running races. I was the only finisher on foot at Arrowhead 135 last year as the -40 temps drove away most of the competitors. If I had not been pulling "Daniels Polar Express" the nick name for my sled which came from a child in my school who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, I might not have finished. Each time I looked at his picture and thought about what he had to deal with on a dailiy basis, I forgot about my discomfort and fatigue and pushed on. We raised a sigificant amount of money to help his family with expenses.
This year, I am dedicating the Arctic Grand Slam to our local Special Olympic Program. I have worked with special olympics for all of my 24 years as a teacher and can truly say it is one of the most rewarding and uplifting things I have ever participated in.
I hope you will consider supporting Special Olympics by clicking on the Firstgiving link below. Thank you for supporting this effort!

Susitna 100 mile Run, Wasilla, Alaska

On February 16-18 I ran the Susitna 100 in Wasilla Alaska. This race is run primarily on frozen swamps, lakes and rivers. With this in mind, you would think the sled would glide and it would be a very fast race. Just prior to the race over a foot of snow fell. The snow continued to fall through Saturday and Saturday night which escalated into a whiteout blizzard! The snow was so deep, there were very few areas where I was thinking "wow, this is almost effortless gliding across the ice." To add insult to injury, the snow covered and froze on my sled making it feel like I was pulling a cement truck! Anyway, the snow finally stopped on Sunday afternoon and the scenery began to reveal itself. The mountains and endless horizon that had been hidden by the snow gave me a renewed sense of energy and hope. The ice fishermen, bush houses, small planes and snow machines reminded me of the culture of living in the bush and this weather was just business as usual. The course is mostly flat with occasional sections of hills. It was a relief to hit the final checkpoint with plenty of time to finish the last 15 hours in under the cutoff. After just having run Arrowhead 9 days earlier, this was probably the most taxing race yet. I still loved it! Alaska rocks! 3 races down and one to go!!!!!

Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon 2008

On February 4-6, 2008, I ran race #2 of the Arctic Grand Slam, the Arrowhead 135 mile ultra-marathon. This race is held in International Falls MN and is part of the 135 world series that also includes Badwater 135 and Brazil 135. The course is very hilly with the exceptioin of the first 18 miles and the last 18 miles. It is a tough course especially when you are pulling a sled! Runners must pull a sled with a minimum of 15 pounds of survival gear including a -20 sleeping bag, 3,000+ calories of food, stove and fuel, insulated water containers, headlamp, whistle, and refelctive materials. By the time you add dry clothes/socks, more food, emergency parka and first aid kit a sled can easily weigh more than 22 pounds.
On Monday, it snowed hard all day and temperatures were in the 30's. The snow conditions made the trail very slow as there was not much glide for the sleds. The wolves howled lowdly that night-it was cool. On Tuesday the snow finally stopped and the temperatures dropped like a bomb. Trail temps on Tuesday night were -20 to -27. I was so exhausted from all the hard work of pulling the sled on Monday that I had to bivy in my -40 bag Tuesday night. I had Carles from Spain and Pat from Duluth join me for my trailside bivy. Our bags and shoes froze solid when we got up and ready to move out 2 hours later. The frozen shoes really beat my feet up. Wednesday was cold to start but warmed up nicely to about 5 degrees and sunny. When I hit the final 15 mile stretch, I knew I had plenty of time to get in under 60 hours. My final time was 56:22. This is one tough event. 2 down, 2 to go!!

The Nantahala Fria 100

On January 2-3, 2008 I began the first race of the innagural Arctic Grand Slam, the Nantahala Fria 100. The race is held in the Nantahala National Forest in Franklin, NC. The course is a 25 mile loop that is 80% single track and 20% gravel road. It has 12,000 feet of elevation gain and many rocks and roots. Mother nature helped make this a true arctic event by providing more than 6 inches of snow and ice, temperatures between 20 and -5 and windy conditions above 5,000 feet. Runners had to carry a small backpack as the race is self sufficient. I was able to finish this event in 29:55:11. One down, 3 to go!!!!!