Friday, September 7, 2012

Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run

Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run  25-26 August, 2012
or as I like to call it:  Into The Heart of Darkness
Training:  Training for this began in March after we returned from Tunisia.  I had a rough 6 month training plan of gradually longer weeks of running mileage.  I was in OK shape to start from skiing that winter but I was not in Ultra shape which was rapidly proved at the Chuckanut 50K on March 17.  I finished but it was slow and not pretty.  The only other race I ran during the summer was the Redmond Watershed 12 Hour Race where I covered 60 miles.  That was the longest single run I had ever done before the race.  Otherwise I just did a lot of local running (Discovery Park, the Issaquah Alps - Rattlesnake, Tiger, Cougar, and Squak Mountains, hill repeats on Mt Si, and trips up the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.  Kathleen and I mixed that in with road trips to the Columbia River Gorge and the Wasatch Range in Utah.  Weekly mileages slowly increased to a max of 100-110 miles per week for a few weeks before tapering to rest up for the race.  I was pretty sick of running by the end of summer.  When you are trying to run 70 to 110 miles a week (and work) you don't have much time for kayaking or climbing. 
Final Preparation:  The race started and ended in Easton, WA so we went and spent the night before at the condo at Alpental.  A friend Mindy was also running the race paced by her husband Jared so they came up and spent the night with us.  Dinner was lasagne, garlic bread, a big salad, and even two beers.  No sense in changing my usual routine right before the race.  Drop bags were checked one last time and final plans were made.  I only had two drop bags since I planned on having a crew person and my truck available at various points on the race.  The morning of the race we got up at 6:30am for the 10am start.  Often these races start at 5am so it was nice to be able to "sleep in".  We ate breakfast, geared up, and headed for the start about 15 minutes down the road.  After checking in, saying Hi to various friends, eating some sausage at the Firehouse Breakfast, and listening to the pre-race briefing it was time to get my game face on.  Then 10 minutes before the start Kathleen luckily checks her phone and finds out that my crew person wasn't going to make it.  In a mad panicked scramble I had to rearrange and create new drop bags.  It ended up being fine but it was not a stressor I needed right before the start.  They played the American and Canadian National Anthems with the Canadian flag hanging from a hockey stick.  It was during this that I managed to have a zen moment of calmness as my brain centered on what was about to happen. 
The First Third To Tacoma Pass:  I placed myself at the back of the pack at the start.  My race strategy for the first section up Goat Mountain and Cole Butte was to get stuck in traffic to slow me down as I tend to let my race nerves and adrenaline cause me to go out too fast.  In the first mile we passed a house with a llama running along the fence with us along with some dogs.  This llama was either young or had a haircut making it look young.  It really should have been at the end of the race because there was no way you couldn't smile when you saw it. 

The entire day was going to involve eating/drinking, managing my electrolytes, and metering my physical effort.  I started my goal of eating every 30 minutes.  Some sort of quick energy gel on the half hours and real food on the hour.  During this first section I had a homemade Pastrami sandwich on a roll with avocado and cheese that made several people jealous.  My strategy worked as things were bunched up at the start of the race and I would often be in a line of 5 to 15 people.  When there were chances to pass and reshuffle it would occur but it had the intended effect of making me take it easy during the hottest part of the day.  About 3/4 of the way up I couldn't believe how easy the climb felt compared to when I had done a training run up it.  Then I remembered the training run was deep into a 100+ mile training week while now on race day I was fully tapered and rested.  We had been told that the Cole Butte Aid Station (10.8 mi) would be water only this year because of bad road conditions so I just expected some jugs to be on the side of the trail.  To the runners joy there was a 4x4 pick-up with volunteers filling our water bottles and a cooler full of popcicles.  Awesome in the heat!  The next section was down and then up 1500' on road which helped spread the runners out and shuffle everyone into their respective speed groups.  It was here that I had an earlier observation confirmed that I was gaining/passing people on the ups and flats at my natural pace but I was always getting passed by these same people on the downhills.  I just kept running my race and didn't worry about what other people were doing.  The Blowout Mountain Aid Station (15.2 mi) at the end of this section had ice cold fruit smoothies.  Delicious and I gave myself brain freeze guzzling it down....not your typical running injury.  I staggered a few yards along clutching my temple and then I was fine and it was soon back onto single track and the Pacific Crest Trail.  This was a an absolutely gorgeous running trail.  Rolling hills, smooth soft trail, and very scenic.  It was easy to make good time here and at the pace I was metering out it felt effortless.  I pulled into the Tacoma Pass Aid Station (23.3 mi) at 5hr 31min which had me on track for around a 30 hour finish.  Kathleen met me there as this was the first crew access point.  There was a mix up with the drop bags but after a brief freak out I realized there was nothing in it that I really needed that I couldn't get at Stampede Pass in 10 miles when I would see her again.  A brief rest and then off again.

Tacoma Pass to Stampede Pass:  This section I ran with Jill from Reno who I had met in the Port-O-Potty line before the race.  This was the late afternoon section and again it was a beautiful rolling piece of trail with great views on a perfect weather day.  Couldn't have asked for nicer conditions. 
Stamped Pass to Hyak:  This was my Molly Rose section.  At Stampede Pass (34.5 mi) where I picked up my headlamp I heard that my friend Molly wasn't that far ahead which I found surprising.  She is a far more talented runner then I am and has the added benefit of youth (she ended up being the youngest female finisher in the history of the race) but she had had some nausea and other issues earlier in the day.  When I reached the Meadow Mountain Aid Station (42 mi) there she was.  She got a big hug and then she was on her way out of the station as I rolled in.  It was here that I started noticing that there were some people around me looking really rough - moaning and shivering with the 10,000 yard stare.  The Olallie Meadows Aid Station (47.7 mi) was reached right before it got completely dark.  Molly was there and together we recharged ourselves by eating a bunch of pirogues with yogurt.  We decided to run the next section to Hyak together.  This may have been my favorite part of the race.  Molly is a great Montana mountain girl that is focused and an excellent runner.  When I was her age I was busy partying and on the fast track to nowhere.  It rapidly got dark after leaving the aid station and we switched on headlamps.  2 lights is better then 1 so it was nice to have someone to run with.  Along here we passed Mirror Lake where there were a bunch of people camping.  People were partying and there was one tent set up next to the trail where out of the dark a voice would urge the runners on.  Eventually it was time to split off the PCT and drop down a steep road with lots of loose rocks.  It was in here that Molly and I had a runners endorphin overload telling each other how we couldn't imagine doing anything else, anywhere else, and that we were really glad that we were able to share this experience.  Shortly after there was a section through the woods to get down to the Iron Horse Trail and the Snoqualmie Tunnel.  This bushwhack was so steep that there were fixed rope lines to help people down it.  These ropes came in useful as I slipped toward the bottom and would have gone ass over teakettle backwards without them.  I also dropped a water bottle in here but fortunately was able to recover it.  This section reminded me that all race directors have a little sadistic bastard in them.  The last section before Hyak was a 2.5+ mile run through an old railway tunnel with an icy wind blowing through it and mice in places.  We caught up with another acquaintance, Sofia during this section before she pulled ahead again. 
Hyak to "The Trail From Hell":  Hyak was were we picked up pacers.  Kathleen with me, Dan Sears with Molly.  When we got there it was shortly after midnight.  The first 53 miles had gone great but at Hyak was the first signs that the wheels were starting to wobble.  Once it had become dark it got chilly (high 40s, low 50s) which was fine if I was moving but since I was damp from running for 14 hours I quickly started to shiver violently when I stopped.  I think it was mostly because I was so cold that as I started to drink some chicken noodle soup the first two swallows were instantly puked back up.  I wasn't nauseous at all.  My stomach just rejected it.  I shrugged it off and then finished the soup with no further problems.  I grabbed my fleece and because I was so cold took off fairly quickly ahead of Molly.  The next section was a long road up and over Kecheelus Ridge.  It got surreal in here.  There were people camping nearby so at 3am we could hear gun shots which didn't bother me that much but the Roman Candle going off annoyed me since not 2 weeks before not that far away there had been a major forest fire where over 70 houses burned in Cle Elum.  The aid station at the top of the ridge (60.5 mi) was a small affair where I had more soup - my aid station food of choice deep into these runs.  The entire time we were there a guy sat unmoving on a chair completely buried in a teepee of blankets.  On the way down the ridge we were passed by an old white hair guy with big bushy beard and flamboyantly colored shorts screaming down the hill at breakneck speed.  I asked out loud where in the hell he had come from and one of the other runners said he was the guy under the blankets.  I ran this downhill and by the time I reached the Lake Kachess Aid Station (67.9 mi) I needed to be put back together.  It was also on this downhill that I really started to feel that there was something going on in my right ankle.  I hadn't done anything traumatic to my foot so I figured it was tendonitis.  I was now 2/3 done with the hardest 1/3 ahead.
"The Trail From Hell":  Another friend Justin Jablonowski was at the Lake Kachess Aid Station and he helped get me recharged.  It was 4am and this was mentally the low point.  I ate well, sat under a blanket, and got ready.  However, every time I tried to cinch the waist belt on my running vest I would come close to puking.  I finally got it together and felt good the first mile or two of the Trail From Hell.  This section is really rough with logs and rocks to scramble over and across, lots of short steep ups and downs, and big drop offs on the side of the trail.  It is very hard to get any kind of rhythm in here and the 6 miles took me just under 3 hours.  Halfway through it is when my ankle officially started to hurt from the rough terrain.  At the beginning of the trail I was catching up with people but did not have the energy to pass.  Right around the time my ankle started to hurt I got nauseous again and decided to let myself puke.  A quick retch of 1/2 a Gu packet and I felt better.  Not long after the sun came up.  When we reached Mineral Creek I expected to have to wade across the water but someone had built a log bridge so my feet happily stayed dry.  When I pulled into the Mineral Creek Aid Station (73.9 mi) I was in ugly shape again and had my other low spot. 
Mineral Creek to Thorpe Mountain:  The 7 mile road climb from Mineral Creek to No Name Aid Station was a long hike with brief moments of running when I could.  We chatted the first part with two college kids from Vermont (Williston and Middlebury) - a runner and his pacer with his parents as crew.  He said that his parents kept telling him what a good job he was doing and that he really should stop.  Typical parental mixed messages.  By the time I reached No Name Aid Station (81.5 mi) I felt much better then I had at the bottom of the hill.  Laura Houston and her band of merry volunteers fed me chocolate chip pancakes.  Usually it was Kathleen urging me down the trail but at this aid station I had to tell Kathleen that the social hour was over and it was time to move on.  Back into the single track we went with extra pancakes in my pockets for later on.  My ankle all during this time was becoming progressively more sore but we made it over to Mt Thorpe, dropped our packs for the short up and down, and I even managed to smile from Glenn as he took photographs near the summit.  On the way down Thorpe I felt a blister pop up on my left foot that was bad enough that I had to take my shoe off and lance it.  I knew I couldn't have two painful feet.  On the way up Thorpe I had thought (but did not want to say out loud) that I was worried that Molly had dropped.  At certain locations we had been able to see far behind us down the trail and there was no sight of her.  Then as we were coming down Thorpe there she was going up, bubbly as ever.  When she caught up with (and passed) me at the Thorpe Mountain Aid Station (84 mi) she asked me what we were going to do......."Slay the Dragon!" at which point I jokingly threatened to throw a rock at her. 

Thorpe Mountain to Silver Creek:  These last 16 miles I was not moving fast and it got progressively slower as my ankle was officially jacked.  Otherwise I felt ok for a person that had just run 84 miles.  I never had a doubt that I wasn't going to finish.  However this was where Kathleen had a freaky occurrence.  She had felt totally fine and I was definitely not pushing her effort.  My jog was a fast walk for her.  Acutely at about the 86 mile mark she got violently ill - projectile vomiting, the sweats, and feeling faint.  This first attack I didn't see as I had crested over a hill in front of her.  After I waited a couple of minutes she came along and told me what was going on.  We both limped into the French Cabin Aid Station (88 mi).  For some reason I had it in my head that I would have 11 miles to go.  When I heard it was 12 I felt crushed.  For some reason 1 mile made a huge difference at that time even though it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.  After eating some bacon, soup, and quesadillas and getting some Ginger Ale into Kathleen we thought we were good but we only made it 100 yards out of the aid station before Kathleen started to violently get sick again.  There was a LOT of fluid coming shooting out of her and again she felt faint.  Thinking about it later we guessed she had gotten food poisoning just from how fast it came on, how violent it was while it lasted, and then it was over fairly quickly though she felt drained for days afterwards.  She thinks it might have been a salad she ate earlier in the day that probably sat outside the cooler too long.  She was obviously really sick and at that point potentially a liability.  I told her that if she came with me and got faint on the trail that I was not going to leave her.  She did not want to rely on a guy who had been running for over 24 hours to rescue her.  There was an aid station 100 yards away with friends of hers who could help her.  I was "ok" and could make it without her.  She was in tears because she really wanted to run me home but she realized what I said was true.  She went back to the aid station and eventually got a ride back to Easton though she got sick several more times on the car ride down.  I started the long descent along Silver Creek.  Now that I was alone I found myself wishing I had my I-Pod again which I had ditched in the car at Hyak.  At this point I didn't care about time or place in the race.  Whether I finished in 29 or 31 hours made no difference as long as I beat the 32 hour cutoff time and earned my belt buckle (the prize you win for running these crazy races).  In the Silver Creek section I calculated that while I didn't need to run fast I couldn't just hike it in.  I made a conscious decision to stop the pain in my ankle and start running and somehow it worked.  I must have had enough endorphins going through my body that while I could still feel the throb it wasn't pain.  The steep switchbacks at the bottom never seemed to end but eventually it spit me out at the bottom of the hill. 
The Homestretch:  I found Rich White and Mindy volunteering at the Silver Creek Aid Station (96 mi).  "You can run 4 miles".  I had a popsicle and grabbed two Roctanes before Mindy told me that I needed to be on my way.  Down in the valley in the sun it was really hot, even at 4pm.  I half ran, half walked the first bit but once I reached the pavement I knew that I had time and that I could walk the last two miles.  I was visibly limping at this point.  Here I caught up with Sofia who I had last seen in the Snoqualmie Tunnel which meant she was struggling also.  Michelle Maislen Pichard was pacing her and graciously asked me if I wanted to use her trekking poles which I gladly did to take a little pressure off of my ankle.  Lots of people passed me these last 2 miles but all that mattered was finishing and getting my belt buckle.  As I walked the last stretch of railroad tracks Glenn came out to take some finishing pictures of me.  I didn't find out until later that he had fallen hiking out from Thorpe, split his chin open, and broke his hand.  Kathleen was also there and came out to accompany me the last couple hundred yards.  I was happy to find her there since I wasn't sure where she was going to be or how I would find her.  As I reached the last 15 yards the realization of success and having done such an incredibly hard thing overwhelmed me and I started to cry.  What an awesome feeling to finish and finally be able to stop moving.  100 miles.  31 hours, 14 minutes, 54 seconds. 

The Aftermath:  There was a chair right at the finish line that I plopped into.  Shoes came off and I was horrified by the size of my ankle.  I am glad I had never looked at it until the end or I would have been really freaked out.  I hobbled over to the race director Charlie Crissman, shook his hand, and got my buckle.  Then I sat down.  Dan Sears brought me a bucket of ice water but I couldn't handle leaving my feet in it for very long.  Glenn gave us a ride back to the truck and then we spent the night at the Alpental condo again.  For the first 48 hours I could slowly walk as long as I had a chair, table, countertop, or wall to help support me.  It was worst when I had been laying down or sitting for awhile.  If I used it a little bit it would start to loosen up.  An ACE wrap, lots of ice, and a compression sock helped with the swelling.  Besides my right ankle I was in pretty good shape.  A little joint soreness in my knees but not much muscle soreness.  I guess I was better trained for it then I had thought going into it.  I had to work 4 days after the race.  My ankle still didn't want to bend so I was limping pretty hard until that afternoon when suddenly I could feel the tendon start to move in the tendon sheath again.  It felt sticky inside my foot which felt weird but not painful.  My limp improved greatly as soon as this happened.  10 days later I am running and biking again.  

In hindsight I would agree with all those people who told me that running a 100 miles was stupid.  It is a pretty dumb thing to do.  It is also a pretty incredible thing to do.  I have (understandably) never had a runners high that big.  Everyone I came into contact with during the experience (volunteers, fellow racers, friends, and most specially Kathleen) I had a huge sense of appreciation and kinship with.  While I have no plans in the future or a specific race in mind I would not be opposed to doing this again.  It was an incredible journey. 
(Most photos courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Escape from the Bermuda Triangle

                             Bermuda 2012 - Four Men and a Goat

    Let me start off by saying that I did not approve of the trips slogan from the instant I heard it.  My brain immediately goes to a place I do not like but Gib said that was the point.  The trip was from Bridgeport, CT to the island of Bermuda and back.  My Dad and Scott Smith went both ways.  Gib and my brother Tom sailed the outbound leg while Gregg Gallatin and I sailed the return voyage.  During the planning stages Gib's wife jokingly worried about what we would do for milk and suggested taking along a goat.  The idea was quickly latched onto and became a running joke.  On the outbound leg of the trip besides one day of calm they had excellent weather and winds, both in wind speed and direction.  This got them to Bermuda in just over 5 days.  The goat jokes kept escalating during that time so that when they arrived in Bermuda and were asked by customs whether they were importing any livestock they were barely able to keep from cracking up and getting the boat quarantined.  After I arrived while on a run I discovered some loose goats so Tom and I considered getting drunk and stealing one.  We decided not to for three good reasons (and if you can think of three reasons not to do something maybe that is a sign that you shouldn't do it). 1) While we thought that Dad would see the humor in our stunt he would probably not be happy with it being tied to the mast, scuffing the deck with its hooves and shitting/pissing on it.  2) We were going to have to cut a fence into a military installation to extract the goat.  And 3) It's wrong to steal things that don't belong to you.
    I flew into Bermuda on Saturday, got through customs, and found the boat without too much difficulty.  This was the week of the biennial Newport, RI to Bermuda race with 165 boats entered so Bermuda customs was very prepared for a bunch of sailors to be flying in and out as crews changed.  The types of boats range from normal cruising yachts like ours to the most absolute cutting edge technology open ocean racing boats on the planet.  The fastest boat, The Rambler, was able to do the crossing in 39 hours 39 minutes (shattering the previous record) but due to the handicapping system only earned 2nd place in its division.  These boats would be approaching Bermuda as we were leaving.  After hanging out in the town of Hamilton for a couple of days and exploring the island some we had a favorable weather forecast so it was time to put to sea and see what Neptune had in store for us.  Here is the breakdown of the main events of each day during the 8 days it took us to get back. 

Day 1:  Monday, 18 June 2012:  We left the Royal Hamilton Dingy club to go to the town of St. George where the customs dock is.  At this point both crews were aboard along with Peter, a local farmer and friend of Gib's, who had familiarity with the channel markers through the reefs we had to pass.  This took about 3 hours and it turned out there was a long line of boats for the fuel dock and motor boats kept crowding in ahead of line.  At times there was yelling going on between boats.  We decided to avoid the nonesense, tied up to an empty pier and just took jerry cans by hand to the fuel dock.  We were also able to go to the grocery store for last minute provisions and check out through customs.  Good byes were said and the homebound crew set off for the open ocean by mid-morning.  The first day and night we had good winds and made some miles.  This was the time when we were passing the race fleet on their last leg in.  With so many boats involved they were scattered all over.  Some passed miles away but some ended up being within 100 yards so that crews could wave to each other.  During the day it wasn't so bad but at night it was nerve racking trying to figure out if you were on a collision course or not.  By morning the last of the race boats had gone by.  During this day I was queasy.  In the past I have tried most seasickness medications (Dramamine, Meclizine, Scopalamine Patches, and Phenergan).  Despite the medications I get sick, get it out of my system, and then recover.  My Dad calls me a "functional puker".  That night as soon as I went below decks I got sick but my Dad has a bucket on board that is decorated with a variety of stickers and other flair that says "John's Bucket - Thar She Blows!" with a picture of a whale on it.  After that I went to sleep but when I woke up I still didn't feel well.  At that point I started to worry that if I didn't get my act together soon it was going to be a VERY long week.  However after another 4 hour watch on deck and another nap I woke up feeling absolutely fine and starving to death.  For the rest of the trip I was fine even though we had rougher conditions later on. 
Leaving Bermuda behind

Day 2:  Tuesday, 19 June 2012:  By morning the winds had stopped or if there was a little bit of wind it was dead ahead so we had to tack.  Minimal forward progress was made.  There is a limited amount of fuel on board and this was needed to charge the batteries a few times a day.  When the motor was on to do this we would be able to grab some miles homeward but this only helped a little.  In the summer what is known as the Bermuda High tends to set up in this area.  High pressure makes for wonderful weather but piss poor sailing.
    Nighttime can be the scariest of times on a boat when you can't see the waves or what is going on in the rigging or it can be the most magical of times.  This night was one of those magical times.  It was a new moon and being in the middle of the ocean there are absolutely no lights except the dim glow of the instruments and navigation lights.  When there were clouds on the horizon you could not tell where the ocean stopped and the sky began.  We were just floating in a dark bubble but since mostly it was clear out the amount of stars and the intensity of the Milky Way was breath taking.  I hadn't seen a sky like that since living in Vermont on those crystal clear 30 below zero nights but now there were no trees or hills on the horizon.  Constellations, planets, shooting stars, and satellites were all readily visible in a slowly spinning dance around the North Star which basically was where our heading was.  The dance of light continued into the water around the boat and in its wake from the phosphorescent bioluminescence twinkling like the fireflies I used to see as a kid.  If I stared too deeply into the flashing lights I would lose my sense of depth perception and have the feeling that I was falling into it.  Between the 3 miles of water underneath the boat and the sky above I felt pretty small and insignificant.  In fact the entire solar system felt pretty small and insignificant. 

Day 3:  Wednesday, 20 June 2012:  The complete lack of wind continued through the morning.  It is amazing how flat the middle of an ocean can be.  Barely any swell and no wind waves at all.  At this point we realized that we needed to be aware of food, water, and fuel consumption because we were going nowhere fast.  In fact we were drifting at 0.4 knots/hour deeper into the Atlantic Ocean.  Wildlife to this point had been Greater Shearwaters, White Tailed Tropicbirds, flying fish, lots of Portugese Man-O-War jellyfish, and then midmorning were visited by our first of several pods of porpoise jumping around and playing off the front of the boat.  Around 9pm the wind finally picked up and we started moving again.
Sunset at end of Day 3

Day 4:  Thursday, 21 June 2012:  Steady 20 to 23 knot winds from a good direction made for some fast sailing but for the biggest waves and swells of the trip (10-15 feet).  It was a very bumpy herky jerky ride.  A couple of times a minute the waves would set up so that the front of the boat would come slamming down into a wave.  This would stop a lot of the forward motion and if you were below decks it was like someone was outside periodically beating on the side of the boat with a baseball bat.  I can sleep through a lot but even I had trouble that day. 

Day 5:  Friday, 22 June 2012:  In the middle of the night a thick fog developed and by morning everything was soaking wet.  The fog burned off in the morning and then we proceeded to have a sunny warm day with fairly calm seas and 16-18 knot winds from the perfect direction.  We made good speed and it was exactly the kind of day our spirits needed at that point.  In the early evening we started to enter the 60 to 90 mile wide Gulf Stream which was potentially the most dangerous section of water we had to cross.  This was about the halfway point of the trip.
   Dad as we cross the Gulf Stream

Day 6:  Saturday, 23 June 2012:  As we finished crossing the Gulf Stream the winds died down and we used the motor to get out of the strongest of the current.  The water is so powerful that at times despite motoring to the North-Northwest the boat was actually moving due East over the ground.  We calculated at this point that we had some fuel to spare so used the engines more when the wind died down.  Mid-morning clouds started to build and by midday a cold front stretching from one horizon to the other with visible lightning making its way toward us.  Sail was shortened and the hatches were secured.  As it approached you could see the wind line coming at us by the rippling of the water.  Within seconds the wind went from basically zero into the 20 knot range.  Shortly after you could see the rain line approaching and that's when it really hit the fan.  The winds jumped up into the 40s but then the gusts knocked out our wind speed indicator.  Visibility from the driving rain went down to 100 yards.  Lightning and thunder crackled and roared all around us with the nearest strike being within 1/2 mile.  The worst of the squall lasted about 30 minutes and by 1 1/2 hours it was basically over and we were back to sailing.  That evening I saw the first boat I had seen in 4 days.  All night we could see the lightning from the storm raging behind us and were super thankful that we weren't trying to cross the Gulf Stream then.
  Approaching cold front
  Watching the approaching storm

Day 7:  Sunday, 24 June 2012:  My watch that night began at 0400.  Coming on deck we are informed that there are two fishing vessels ahead (presumed fishing vessels it turns out) on either side of us that have been there awhile.  We have been trying to save electricity (and therefore fuel) for the last several days and since noone has been around we had the radios turned off.  Just as it was becoming light out one of the boats crossed in front of us, circled around, and then came charging directly at us with all its lights on and blaring its horn.  At this point my Dad turns on the VHF radio to see what is going on and we are informed that we are in the middle of a live fire naval exercise and that they have been trying to hail us for hours.  An entire ocean out there and the US Navy has decided that they need to blow up that little section of water at exactly the time we need to cross it.  We are told to go immediately South (ie: back towards Bermuda).  We decide to turn East which is still in the totally wrong direction for us but beter then due South.  At this point the other boat (USS Ryan T. Miller) is shadowing us off the port side and then a naval spotter airplane starts making passes over us at 500 feet.  They hail us again.  "Sailing vessel Sierra Hotel.  Declare your intentions!".  We explain that we are overdue by 2 days and low on fuel needing to go Northwest.  Eventually they compromise and allow us to skirt the edge of the exercise area but both the ship and plane escorted us until we were out of the area.  Who knows but we probably wasted several 100s of thousands of tax payer dollars and pissed off an admiral by delaying their exercise for a few hours.  By the afternoon we were close enough to the mainland to pick up FM radio stations and chatter on the VHF radio (which was now left on all the time).  Being a weekend there was a fair amount of chatter and being off of New York some of it was quite foul mouthed.  At 7:48pm "Land Ho!!!" could be cried as Montauk (the eastern edge of Long Island) was spotted.

  USS Ryan T. Miller
  Spotter Aircraft

Day 8:  Monday, 25 June 2012:  King Neptune wasn't going to give us the last day easy.  We lucked out and timed our arrival to "The Race" perfectly to have the flood tide help push us along.  This is the narrow entrance into Long Island Sound.  Since a large volume of water passes through here the tidal currents can be quite strong.  The forecast called for thunderstorms after midnight but they managed to hold off until morning.  The first squall line hit us shortly after 8am and was nowhere near as intense as the first storm we had had.  However, about 2 hours later lightning could be seen ahead of us again.  This time the clouds were scary looking.  They were green in color and seemed to glow from within.  We went to minimal sail right before it hit.  Once again visibility went down to nothing.  I just watched the compass which had us going straight despite my brain telling me we kept turning right.  The rest of the crew kept an eye out for other boats and lobster pots.  This storm was also successfully withstood despite some near lightning strikes.  As these clouds passed we were then able to see Bridgeport about an hour away.  At this point the attitude became "Christ!  What next?".  We decided that we hadn't had hail yet and then decided we wouldn't be surprised if a plague of locusts descended on us or it started to rain frogs - poison dart frogs at that.  I also suggested we might sink in front of the yacht club pulling into the marina.  Scott's idea was that since his boat was in the slip next to my Dad's that we would crash into it and both boats would sink.  Fortunately, none of that happened and we arrived back at the slip in Captain's Cove shortly before noon with both the Customs official and Gib with a tray of Bloody Mary's waiting for us on the dock.  Final Tally:  7 1/2 days.  750 miles. 
  Green glowing thunderstorm clouds

  Safely back in the slip