So, you probably haven’t heard anything about this, but yesterday my team roller skied 100 kilometers. It’s a thing we do to raise money. It took us six hours and fifteen minutes, which, as endurance athletes, just doesn’t sound like it should be that hard. I did the same event a year ago, and seemed to survive it ok, so, to be honest, I just wasn’t concerned about the ski. It’s just a long workout, right?
Turns out, it was pretty hard. I survived, but I definitely would not go as far as to say that I thrived. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day, and, in comparison to last year, the highs were much higher. The lows were also much lower. Here’s the breakdown: hour by hour.
Hour 1: this is going to be easy.
I don’t know how it happened, but the first time I looked at my watch, it had already been 54 minutes. We had traveled 20K and were all “we are so fit.” We started talking about how we could get this thing done in 5 hours, how cool and wonderful the day was, how we loved the new pavement, the fall colors, and each other. Yeah, the first hour was a breeze.
Hour 2: It’s only been 20 minutes?
The gradual downhill stopped and turned into a gradual uphill and suddenly, every time I looked at my watch, we had only advanced another couple of minutes. We had put the pressure on ourselves to finish in 5 hours, because just a second ago we were so fit and we had to see it through. We picked up the pace and cruised, but this time uphill, which may or may not have contributed to the dark times that would arrive in a few hours.
Hour 3: I feel good
Don’t you feel good? I feel good. We’re all good. There were smiles and donuts (probably not the best endurance fuel, now that I think of it). We were taking off the K’s, striding up the hills, giggling with each other and telling stories. We recognized landmarks from our past 100K’s and kept on revisiting how at this point last year, things just were not going this well. Today would be a good day.
Hour 4: I feel bad.
Do you feel bad? The switch from classic to skate brought with it a significant shift in mood. Despite having double poled for our first three hours, my legs felt loaded. They were having serious communication issues with my arms. “This is a pretty painful way to raise money,” Erika said, as we began climbing one of those medium hills that simultaneously seems to demand neither and both V1 and V2. It was for this hour that I did not wear a heart rate monitor. I just didn’t want to know.
Hour 5: Don’t talk to me.
This was a dark hour. It didn’t matter who you were, or what you said, but if you said it to me, you were wrong and a liar. You were a wrong liar. Here, I stopped making eye contact and relegated my verbal interaction to single syllables. Actually, a single syllable: No.
One of my more bubbly teammates, Jessie, noticed the lag in energy and conversation at this point and did her best to fuel the conversation. “Since we’re doing 100K, would you guys ever consider doing an ultra marathon?” She asked, trying to pull us away from our barren, lonely minds. “No.” I spat. “How much would you have to be paid to do one?” She asked, not giving up. “Ten thousand dollars.” I said, it was working, that was five syllables. “Well,” she said, still working, “Would you rather do Leadville or Western States?” “No.” I answered. It was like kicking a puppy.
Hour 6: I love you guys.
“I love you guys, and I know that you love me, which means that I know that you love me enough to slow down, even though we’re almost to the end.” By this point, the men had finished their 100Ks and their first recovery beers and it was all about the women’s group getting to the end. From the beginning, we had mapped a route that was just short of 100K, and, from the beginning, I had reserved the feeling that it might be alright not to finish the whole thing. By the time we made it to the sixth hour, though, it became clear that we weren’t going to let ourselves do anything short of 100K, no matter how much our bodies told us to do otherwise.
“Just one more hill and it’s all downhill from there” we kept on telling ourselves. Again, everyone was a liar, but we were lying to keep each other going. That’s kind of the game you play in endurance sports, you just keep on telling yourself to conquer one more hill, then just one more, then just one more. We had made it to our last one and, as we smelled the barn, somehow found the energy in our lagging limbs to glide into the finish, counting down the meters and throwing our hands in the air. All five of us had skied together for the last six hours (except for when the #Annies had sprinted for preems, not the best idea, retrospectively), pulling each other up and down climbs, through corners and out of dark places.
We had done it. Together. And, while we weren’t in a hurry to do it again, we knew that a year from then, we would be eager to step to the line and revisit all of those places, the good and the bad, knowing we would pull each other through (also because we are cross country skiers and will still be poor in a year and need to fundraise…details).
Hour 7: the descent.
Riding back in the van deserves its own hour. They always say that the descent from the top of a mountain is more dangerous than the ascent, which we proved by way of illness and mishaps. As a result of my apple cider, maple candy, rice cake, sports drink smoothie brewing in my stomach, I didn’t make it too far through the ride before I pushed Andy out of the way with the intention of chundering EVERYWHERE. That’s also about the time that our back right tire flatted. The reason I feel compelled to mention these events is because once you go through something like 100K of full body exercise, other challenges just kind of become matter-of-fact. I wiped my mouth and Pat changed the tire in 13 minutes flat (punintended). We moved along and kept on trucking, because, that’s just what you do. It was hardly dramatic (which I usually am). Perspective.
In terms of the fundraising, thank you to everyone who contributed to my 100K. Every step I took yesterday literally and figuratively took me closer to my goals, and anyone who donated took part in that. I have yet to find out how much I raised, so I can’t say whether or not I’ll be dancing through my ski season, but, if you didn’t donate and want to make sure that happens, for good luck, follow the links below.
Visit smst2.com and donate online, designating that the donation is for Annie Pokorny in the checkout comments OR write a check to THE ELITE NORDIC FUND/ANNIE POKORNY and send it to:
07 World Cup Circle
Stratton Mountain, VT 05155