Interstellar Adventures

March 8, 2005

Dog Run

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 10:20 pm

WOW! Wrigley, Tori & I ran nearly 7.75 miles tonight! It was a great run! I know I’ve posted a pic of Wrigley before. She’s my 60+ pound lab/mix. Tori is my little sausage roll. She’s a ~23 pound Terrier/Chihuahua mix. Chihuahua head on a Jack Russel-sized body. So, you see I have a slight “sizing” issue between the two of them. So, I bought a new harness for Tori, which ended up not fitting her, so I had to use her old one, which I hate. I bought Wrigley a harness since she didn’t have one, and I bought a “coupler”. This has two claw-clasps on either end, joined by a ring, which I clamp the main lead on. I brough both their leads in case this “coupler” thing didn’t work out well…it was our first time.

I can’t remember what time I left, and I forgot to start my watch, so my best estimate is that we were out just under 2 hours. This time also includes fitting the new harnesses, coupler and leash, and then getting out the gate without having my legs taken out from under me by the coupler and a dog on either side. (They wouldn’t try to clothesline me would they?)

We walked from the house to the park trail, which is about .5 miles, and then we ran for a bit, stopped to say hi to a few other dogs, and, between me and Wrigley (Tori won’t drink from the waterbottle…she just laps the drippings off the ground) we quickly ran out of water. I had planned on refilling at the park water fountains, but the lovely park people haven’t turned the water fountains back on. We made it to the end of the trail and turned around. There are no convenience stores anywhere near the trails, and I hadn’t brought any money for that matter, so we spent about 20 minutes looking for a hose on the side of someone’s house near the trail. The first spigot I tried didn’t work, and the other one I saw was too far into the bushes for me to take the dogs and stay out of view of a window…this is Texas…we allow concealed handguns…I didn’t want to end up shot for a little bit of water! So, we ended up using a water hose attached to the side of a church. It was cool and wet…exactly what we needed to make it back home. Now I have a new shopping item…a doggie backpack so they can carry their own water!

I say we were out under two hours tonight…I don’t know for sure. We walked to/from the house/park, which is about .5 miles each way. We also had to stop and say hi to a few other dogs, or wait for other walkers/runners to pass. My Wrigley is still a puppy, and likes to jump and greet people. Tori is just a spaz and runs up to anyone who comes near. Didn’t need an incident, so whenever we passed someone (which wasn’t that often) we pulled over to the side of the trail and waited for them to pass. But man, when we were running tonight, we were running fast (for me!). I’m willing to bet that I ran under a 12 minute mile tonight…like I said, running fast for me! It was one of the best runs I’ve had in a long, long time! My gait felt really good, like I was actually “running” not my usual “shuffle trot”. I even forgot my knee & ankle braces, yet I feel great! No pain! Let’s hope I continue to get better! I’d like to be somewhere in the middle of the pack in these races rather than at the end…Doh! That means I have to run more. But, with Wrigley & Tori as my running partners, I won’t have a problem with that. And my little head-lamp too. Between the dogs and the light, I don’t mind running at night. Yay! Good night! If I can get to sleep…I’m full of energy now! Wheeee!

The Chubby Chronicles Volume 1: Alligators and Mud and Racing, Oh My!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 11:34 am

Challenge 1: Packing & Organization

With my gear list in hand, and gear spread all over the living room, I attempted to organize myself for my first 12-hour Adventure Race (AR). This was not an easy task. ARs are set up to where you know where to show up, the approximate terrain, and which activities you are going to do for an approximate distance, but you don’t know what order you will do them in, how long they’ll really be, what the exact weather conditions will be, or what part of the terrain conditions you’ll be in. This makes it hard to know which clothes to bring. So, I brought pretty much anything I thought I could use. I had an extra pair of dry socks (and jog bra!) with each group of clothes, and everything was stuffed into gallon plastic bags, compressed as they were sealed and then stacked into my gear box. My gear list included:

bike shorts, long tights, water proof pants, trekking pants, 2 short-sleeve base tops, 2 long-sleeve base tops, light jacket, water proof jacket, 2 hats — 1 water proof, socks (6 pair I think!), 2 pair sock liners, jog bras, compression shorts, rain suit, water shoes, trail shoes, running shoes, bike, camelbak, extra bladder (for the camelbak), head lamp, 2 pair gloves (for bike & paddle), slime bike tubes, pump (I ended up losing this), sleeping bag, PFD (Personal Flotation Device), sunglasses, towels, helmet, gaiters, knee/ankle brace, batteries, moleskin, sunscreen, Vaseline, card table, food, street clothes, toiletries…

Ugh! The list was long. Bye-Bye Bonus! I’ll use it all again though…I will!

The Chubby Bastardos and Cubby DeLites consisted of Dub (Chubby Beaver), Jay (Cubby Ewe), Lorri (Chubby Fudge), Lyence (Chubby Show), Toni (Chubby Time), Tammy (Chubby Tam), April (Chubby Ape) & Me (Chubby Egg)!

Teams Chubby

Challenge 2: Half the battle is just getting there!

Our 8-person team was running under different schedules that weekend. A few of the team went down on Thursday nights to secure our cabin and shelter at the park. Tammy had constraints around her kiddos, so she and Dub came down together on Friday evening. That left Ape & me as traveling partners. Yay!

Ape had to work Friday morning, and I’m perpetually fashionably late, so the extra time was welcome for me. I checked, double checked and triple checked my gear list before I finally packed up the Jetta. Kid seat out, back seat down, gear bin, suitcase, cooler, bike rack, bike…all got loaded in. Looking at the remaining space, I sure hoped Ape didn’t have as much gear as me!

Wearing my pig-tails, I jammed to some disco as I headed across the PGB on the way to pick up Ape. Wooo! Her gear bin was smaller than mine, and her cooler and bag fit perfectly in my car. We couldn’t squeeze much more in…or so we thought.

Back across the PGB to 75S which, passing downtown, turned into I-45S. Headed to Huntsville, where we would then “take a left”. Traffic was light, and we talked for a bit before turning to the CD case for some entertainment. I didn’t know what kind of music Ape liked, so I brought a good mix of some of my faves. Al Green’s Greatest Hits, Franz Ferdinand, The Darkness, Jane’s Addiction, Modest Mouse, Dido, John Mayer, OutKast (Speakerboxxx & The Love Below), John Mayer — Heavier Things, Norah Jones, Pure Disco, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, David Allan Coe — For the Record, The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, The Greats of Swing, Pete Yorn, James, The Killers, Velvet Revolver, The Hives, David Allan Coe — Johnny Cash is a Friend of Mine, Good Charlotte, & Def Leppard. Whew! All good road music.

We stopped in Huntsville for a potty break and to figure out where to “hang our left”. I was also noticing a strange noise coming from my right front tire well. Inspecting it after I got out of the car, I realized my tire-well liner had come loose and was rubbing against the tire. I hoped it would hold until we got to Jasper. Silly me.

Dove, the cashier at the Pilot truck stop was quite helpful, if slightly inaccurate with her directions. I purchased some PB&J, bread, plastic ware, mayo (to go with tuna I had packed) and paper towels. I knew I couldn’t get away from home with everything that I needed! We followed Dove’s directions, and I started to wonder if she had steered us in the right direction. I mean Huntsville is nice and everything, but the various prison units on every other block started to creep me out. And, when Ape said that she had graduated from SHSU (in Huntsville) and that she walked past death-row every day on the way to class (it’s right in the middle of the university campus!) I really got the chills.

My right front rear well was continuing to make more noise, and as I attempted to take a left turn, a very loud grinding noise caused me to immediately pull into the very scary-looking gas station at the corner. There were about half a dozen men standing around outside, and several cars at the pumps. I rounded the front of the car, and re-checked the liner. It had come loose even more. I was going to have to perform an extraction. With my bare hands I grasped the mangled heavy-duty plastic liner. I pulled. It didn’t move. I re-positioned my hands and pulled harder. About half of the liner popped off quite easily. My hands, covered in road-grime, couldn’t get a good position on the remainder of the liner to free it from the brads holding to the wheel well. Fortunately, I travel prepared. Not only do I have a socket set in my trunk (this is totally unrelated, but I shocked Jay last weekend…he thought I had it in my camelbak while I was biking!), I carry several sizes of Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers in my car console. I grabbed the biggest flat-head I had, and attacked the last of the liner. It took some prying, a bit of kneeling and grunting (all good physical activity should involve some modicum of grunting), and part of my pig-tails falling out of the bands, but one last tug and the entire liner was free. I stood triumphant in the pitted gas station parking lot on the corner of a seedy street in Huntsville, liner in hand, and searched for the nearest garbage can. Luckily, a jumbo plastic can sat in the middle of the pumps. As I walked over to trash the chewed-up liner, a woman in an old Buick looked at me through the window, gave me a huge smile and a big “thumbs-up”. And the half a dozen men previously standing outside had moved their BS talk indoors. Chicks rule!

I washed my hands in the gas-station bathroom. That was a near-adventure in itself. The bathroom was located behind a door that said “Do not enter, employees only.” I finally asked the clerk behind the lunch counter (BBQ sandwiches and such) if there was a place I could wash my hands. Over the bottles of variety-flavored Mad Dog 20/20, he motioned towards the “Do not enter” door as he made the lady in front of me a sandwich. I went through the door and found a tiny bathroom with a toilet, no paper, no soap and no paper towels. I quickly rinsed my hands in the water that trickled out of the tap, and then back through the “Do not enter” door, averting my eyes from the woman who was buying a sandwich from the guy that worked in a place with a bathroom like that!

Back on the road, we found the correct path to 190E. This would take us straight to the entrance of Martin Dies Jr. State Park. Up and down hill after hill. Sort of mini-hills really. It was getting dark. The sights along the side of the road were interesting. Nice houses with fenced in land, followed by a house that looked as if it would fall over if you sneezed on it, with the new house the owner of the falling-down house had built directly behind. I was amazed by the state of some of the homes we passed.

We hit Livingston and spied a Wal-Mart. Yes, I had remembered something else I needed. When checking my bike that morning, I had a flat rear tire (good practice on detaching/reattaching the wheel from the rear derailleur) and I only had 1 slime replacement remaining. I needed a couple of spares. Ape wanted to get a chair for the TA. So, we stopped to shop. Spilling out of my Jetta with gear and stuff packed nearly to the roof, we joked that we were traveling in a clown car. Cue Circus music here.

In addition to the tubes, I needed a waterproof camera. But when I spotted the cute $.94 handkerchiefs, I forgot all about the camera. I did manage to remember the tubes, and when we found the chairs, they were on sale for $7.94. I got two…one for me and one for the hubby. We checked out, drove across the street to the RaceTrac, my gas light having come on just as we pulled out of the parking spot.

Refueled, stocked-up (almost) and ready for dinner, we still had about 45 minutes left to go. In the quickly deepening twilight, we quickly made our way to the entrance of Martin Dies, Jr. State Park. The park is located between Woodville and Jasper, TX, near the Texas/Louisiana border. From Dallas, it takes approximately 5 1/2 hours to drive. We arrived at the park just after 7:30. As we drove down the entrance to the park road, we saw a small wooden sign that read: “Alligators exist in this park. Do not feed or annoy.” Alligators! No on said anything about alligators when they told me about this race. Great.

Challenge 3: Pre-race setup the night before

There was no one at the Ranger station, but there were cars parked at the Nature Center building. As I looked in the window of the building, it looked as if it was a bridge club night. The Ranger inside informed us there was no entrance fee to the park since we were part of the race, and the heated cabin I mentioned that we had rented jogged his memory (there are only two in the park) and he pointed us to the correct cabin/shelter area where half our team had camped out the night before.

We found the campsite, unloaded our bikes and then headed back out of the park towards Jasper for dinner. We had mandatory 9:15 pm pre-race meeting to make, and our last hot meal for at least 24 hours still to eat. I called everyone’s cell phone number and got voicemail all the way around. Where were they?! Finally, one of the girls called me back (weak signal area) and told me they were eating at Elijah’s Cafe. Blue and pink neon on the right side of 190, just into town. Took us about another 15 minutes to get there. We sat down and perused the menu…fried, fried and more fried. Friday night special was “all-you-can-eat” fried catfish. Pass on that. I chose the small chicken-fried-chicken, with fried okra, rice & brown gravy (on the side) and a salad. Hot rolls & cornbread came with the salad, and the butter had a slight honey-flavor. A pretty good “last-supper” for a town of less than 8,000 people.

As we headed back towards the park, Ape & I debated if we had time to stop at ANOTHER WAL-MART! We needed batteries and the waterproof camera still. We stopped and were in-and-out in less than 10 minutes. That’s a record for anyone in a Wal-Mart!

Back at the park we made it to the lodge just in time for the pre-race meeting. Dub & Tammy had just arrived. Rodney & Katrina (Race Directors — RDs) went through the rules, but didn’t reveal any details about the race that we didn’t already know. We weren’t going to cross 190, we would leave the state park property, the race would start promptly at 7 am. Starting at 6:30 am, Rodney would circulate, announcing a count-down to the race start. After the race we would have hot chili waiting for us. Team Chubby made Rodney promise no one could get a second bowl until Teams Chubby finished the race. Everyone laughed except those of us on Teams Chubby. We were serious.

We set up part of our Transition Area (TA) that night. We set up the EZ-Ups, laid down our tarps, and put out some of our gear. Each of us had a corner of the tarp where we set up our chairs, and set down our gear bins and coolers for replenishment/costume change at each TA stop. We then headed to the cabins to assemble our beds, ready the rest of the gear, and calm our nerves. Ape had done this before, but the rest of us were maniacs with all the stuff we had. Ape was the first to lay out her clothes and climb to the top bunk and go to bed. The rest of us had no clue what we were doing. Ape, Lynece, Tammy & I were sharing a heated cabin with bunk beds. Dub, Jay & Lorri were “roughing it” in a shelter next door with sleeping bags. Toni strung her hammock up between two trees and rocked herself to sleep. I finally managed to stop my OCD packing and repacking of my camelbak, laid out my base clothes and tried to sleep. Finally, just after mid-night, I dozed off.

Challenge 4: Keep Up! It’s race time!

I didn’t hear my cell phone alarm go off at 5:15 am, but fortunately others in the cabin did. I rolled out of bed, well, really climbed down out of bed and was ready for my morning cup of coffee. Lynece had brought a 12-cup coffee maker, but I then realized I had forgotten something else…my coffee cup! What was I going to do! Oh well, I didn’t end up having time for coffee anyway. I put on my clothes and then gathered up my bathroom stuff and went down to wash and insert my contacts, brush my teeth and pull back my hair. Again pig-tails, but secured in three sections to accommodate and hold back my layers. Don’t need hair flapping in my face while I’m doing any of this crap. When I entered the bathroom I heard someone taking a shower. Uh, ok. You’re just going to get dirty and stinky anyway…she even dried her hair with a hairdryer. I couldn’t scoff at her too heartily though…she would definitely be finishing before me.

Back at the cabin, we loaded up the bikes, coolers and gear bins back in the Jetta and drove the 1/4 mile down to the TA. We unloaded, and started to organize. Dub and Jay were offering helpful hints. Ape was sitting back, all relaxed, while I looked around aimlessly, not knowing where to start. I had on pants, socks, shoes, base layers, jacket, etc. My camelbak was full, I had eaten a Special K bar, a Boost energy drink and a couple of Power Gels. I was ready to go! Sooner than I was ready for, we got the final call to head to the front of the lodge. All the teams were lined up next to each other. Teams of 2, 3 and 4 person, all-male or co-ed were waiting for the start. Rodney asked if all team captains were present, asked if they all had a folded up piece of paper, and then, very unceremoniously, yelled “GO!”. That was it. The race was on.

We started with a mini-race to break the teams up. 3 points, find 1 each on a paddle, trek or bike. Jay & Dub plotted the points, and we all put on our paddling gear. After a moment of confusion about which event we would really start with (the points were rogain…we could find them in any order), we continued readying ourselves for the water. We grabbed our canoes and paddles and hurried down to the boat launch. I was paddling with Dub, Ape with Lorri, Toni with Lynece, and Tammy with Jay. We managed to get in the boats without too much hassle and headed off, following the other boats. Several of us arrived at the first Check Point (CP) at once. For a moment, Dub considered getting out and finding the second point, but Jay & I had heard that we had to go back to the TA after every point.

Wait for us!

Smooth as glass

Back at the TA, we prepared to trek to the 2nd point. Teams Chubby don’t run. Running is for extreme emergencies only…1) we’re going to miss a cut-off, in which case we are running for the TA as fast as we can, or 2) we’ve missed a cut-off and the RD is trying to find us to take us off the course, and in this case we run away from them as fast as we can. Usually this is at night, and we turn off our lights to avoid detection.

Anyway…off on the trek. We see some guys running out on the other side of the trees, and for a moment, I speak up and say, ooh, maybe we can shortcut that way. No, go around. Listen to your navigators. So, we fast-walk down the road, round the corner to the nature trail, and find our way to a bridge that connects to a small island. As we walk onto the island, we pass the Green Achers. They are another AT team, and I know the girl on their team, Lauren, aka RoxieRojo, and now, aka Foxy Roxy. We passed each other several times during the race, each time cheering each other on. Looking for the CP, we had to cross over a big mossy log, which also happened to have a race photographer posted on the other side. When one of the girls in front slipped and fell, straddling the log, I opted for the mushy path that I could jump across and still get to the same trail. Too early in the race to hurt myself. We quickly found the CP after crossing the log, and on the way back across, I got my first taste of the real Team Chubby. Chubby Beaver mooned the photographer the entire way back across the log. That takes talent. Mooning and crossing a mossy log with your pants part way down. LOL Dub!

After we crossed the bridge back to the mainland, we decided we could have indeed short-cutted on the way to the CP. We took the short-cut back to the TA, and readied ourselves for the bike. Helmet only though, and bike shoes if your pedals required it. We would be back in less than 15 minutes. 3rd CP found quickly and back.

At the TA

Chubby Beaver: Navigator Supreme

We checked in to the race HQ table for our next set of race instructions. This was a 3-point trek/scooter section. We had tried to rent scooters, but the guy “never got” 3 of our emails. So, we borrowed from Team Need to Bleed another AT Team. One of the members of NTB, Mike, has a great wife, Maria, who does a lot of support for their races. She offered us their four scooters, and we found four more, 2 from another team and 2 rentals that had already been used. These scooters are exactly what they sound like. They’re the two-wheeled, move-under-your-own-pushing-power “Machines of Torture”. Think Razors on ‘roids. They had MTB tires (small ones), shocks, and brakes. We didn’t need the shocks (paved park road) or the breaks (no hills to get going too fast on). I’m not sure if we would have been better to have trekked this portion. Only Tammy & Jay liked the scooter section. I was OK on it for a bit, but you have to switch pushing/balance legs. And, my height required me to bend my knees the entire time. As long as I was balancing on my left leg and pushing with my right, I was OK. But if I had to keep my right knee bent and push with my left, I was in pain. Note the knee and ankle braces on my gear list. I need a transplant of my right leg. We found our 3 points, each right on the park road from the TA to the Nature Center at the park entrance and back. The scooter was a lot more work and a lot less fun than I thought it would be.

TA & Beer pit stop…wait, that’s not beer…or is it?

April & Me

We checked in again and received our next set of instructions. A 5-point paddle section. “Plan on being out at least 5 hours” the guys said. Water proof pants, jacket, hat and water shoes (neoprene booties like SCUBA booties), gloves, full camelbak and lunch. Maria made me 2 PB&J sandwiches. These were so good. NTB was never in TA at the same time as us, so she helped us while we were in TA. Maria rocks as race support!

We got back in our boats. This TA stop was a little long. But, this turned out to be fortuitous, as Jay realized while he was sitting in the boat that he had left our Passport in the TA. A Passport is your lifeline in an AR. You lose this, and you lose all proof that you found your points, and you are disqualified from the race. Had we gone out to the first point and realized it was missing, it would have been very bad. Maria ran back from the dock and grabbed the Passport for us and then we were off. As we paddled off, I was watching for any signs of “floating logs” that could be alligators in disguise. You never know…

Ape, is that a ‘gator back there?

The first two points were on the lake. We found these no problem. Well, getting out onto the lake was a little bit of a problem. There were these giant floating water plants that created channels and barriers on the water. At one point, we had corralled ourselves inside one of these areas, and we had to “go over” the plants. This is like trying to paddle on the beach. We basically pushed ourselves over the top of the plants with our paddles. It was pretty tough. We found CP1 and paddled back around the island to find CP2. While Dub & Jay were debating where the end of the island was, I spied a strange shape in the water. After finding the second point, I also got a taste of Chubby Beaver’s paddling prowess. Men have an advantage over women in the “gotta go potty” area while canoeing. By parking in a relatively stable area, near a tree branch or whatnot, men can stand and go out the side of the boat, no problem. Not so for us ladies. I had to go, but I needed a dry land stop. Dub told me to sit back, and I suddenly felt as if someone had put a small outboard motor on the back of our canoe. We had wake and lift in the front! Wow! So, I ducked behind a tree, and went in the woods for the first time since I was a kid. Boy, all the fun I’ve missed out on.

Waterplants all over the lake

Pushing through the water plants


Back in the boats, we started looking for the 3rd paddle CP. We were looking for an inlet behind an island. Having checked out a few possibilities, we didn’t think we were ever going to find it. Then, we suddenly see another team (NTB I think) coming out of nowhere. We turned our boat around and hurried over to where they came from. We found a tiny channel-ette, no more than 3 feet wide in a bed of water plants. We paddled up it a bit and around a bend and came out in a stream. This was it! Less than 50 yards more, and there was the 3rd CP. Only two more to find. I didn’t understand why they said we would be out so long. It’s been just over an hour, and we already have 3 of the 5 paddle CPs. Little did I know.

Inside the channel-ette


We continued to paddle up the stream…notice I say up the stream as in against the current. The stream got a little wider, and we passed a few other turn-offs. Then suddenly, we came out on the big river. We were just a mile or so down river from where the Neches and the Angelina rivers joined. Dub kept us on the inside bend of the river, sometimes having to paddle across the middle. I learned that the inside bend is where the weakest current is for you to paddle up-river. If you stayed in the middle, or especially on the outer bend, you would kill yourself going nowhere. We reached the junction of the two rivers and headed up the right fork. I was amazed at the “mixing” of the water. There was an area where you could clearly tell the rivers apart…one was very muddy and the other clear. Dub said the muddy side was probably a lot of farm run-off. Jay & Tammy even took the time to “rescue” a cooler out of the river. It was filled with ice, no beer. Bummer. Over an hour later, we finally reached the next CP, 2 miles upstream. We passed other teams on the way, headed back. We cheered and waved at everyone. Our team definitely had the best attitude & spirit!

The 5th and final CP was still another 2 miles upstream. Dub & I and Tammy & Jay were pretty fast in the boats. Ape was getting tired with a sore shoulder, and Lynece didn’t have much experience steering the canoe, so she was getting worn out too. Since we were racing as a team, we had to slow down to let them catch up. If we got caught too far apart, we could get penalized by a race official. As we neared the 5th CP, we discussed how we were going to get there. We could portage our canoes across a small peninsula (the canoes had to be at the CP for it to count), or we could go around a horseshoe bend in the river around the peninsula and get to the same CP. Around a bend, I saw some guys standing onshore. They race officials hanging out at CP5. Then through the trees I saw the CP flag. “We’re portaging” I decided. “I can see the CP from here. No way are we paddling around!” So, we beached our boats. Dub and I were kind of off to one side from the other three boats. They all started to unload their boats. But, as I stepped onto the shore, movement on the ground startled me. Each step I took flushed out dozens of spiders! Gaaaa!!! I hate spiders. They were all over the ground. I didn’t want my gear infested with these little creatures, so Dub & I hauled the boat with gear and all across the peninsula.

We punched our passports, and then had to complete our first “special test”. A cargo net had been strung between two trees. Each team member had to climb to the top of the net to the top so that your armpit could clear the top of the net. Pretty easy, but awkward in my neoprene booties. This done, we hauled our boats back to the other side of then peninsula to launch out. We paused briefly for lunch. Jay had grilled some chicken breasts the night before. We had hoagie rolls, chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese and ranch to dress our sandwiches. We had BBQ and plain Pringles, and someone even produced a couple of XX (Dos Equis) beers. Oh, I forgot. It’s a rule that if you race with the Chubbies you have to have at least a sip of beer at every visit to the TA. What fun! And, again, Dub graced us with a full moon. A photographer was buzzing up and down the river, obviously waiting for us to get our butts back in the boats and get on the water for a photo op. Dub decided he was worthy of a moon.

We finally got back in the boats…Dub and I again launching from Spiderville. I just knew I had picked up a creepy critter while we were stationed. The thought of it gave me the goose bumps. We had a few photos taken of us by the photographer. I even managed a “raised paddle over the head victory” pose. I’m a dork. I know. But, Dub was being evil. We had, in fact, picked up a 3rd passenger in our boat. I yelled as it scrambled over my bootie. Dub started to laugh. Our passenger got squished. He had seen the evil little crawly-thing, and he didn’t say a word. I guess he had to get a laugh some way…

The only “Alligator” we’d see all day

Heading back down river

It took us about 4 hours (including lunch) to get up the river. It took us less than an hour to get back down. The power of the current was amazing. I’m just glad we paddled up-river first. I wouldn’t have made it had I had to paddle up to get back! The whole day had been overcast, and now, with the time of day, a faint sun shown through the clouds, reflecting a burn onto the flat water. Faster than I expected, we were back at the turn back into the channel-ette. Entire paddle lasted just 5 hours! My waterproof gear had served me well. I was completely dry. Even my head. I’m sure between my own paddle drips and Dubs spray, I had quite a bit of water dropped on my head during those 5 hours, but I didn’t feel any of it.

Back onto dry land. As we entered the TA, Maria came over to tell us not to check in until we had completed our TA. Once we checked in we would only have 3 hours to complete the trek portion of the race. We finished our TA as quickly as we could. Jay went and checked in, and came back with some bad news. The trek had 5 CPs. But, we had to be finished with the trek and out on our bikes by 7 in order to be allowed to finish the full course. In addition, each 5 minutes we were late back, we would lose a CP credit. One team had been 30 minutes late and lost all their CPs for the trek. They promptly quit the race. Rules is rules. As we were completing our TA, we heard howling…the winning team was riding in! And we still had 2 legs to go! Werewolves of Austin won the race in under 8 hours. One of the racers knew our Dub & Jay, and asked if we were just heading out on the trek. We were…and he offered to give us some hints about finding the CPs. That’s pretty cool. Teams don’t usually help each other, but we were obviously no threat to them, so he helped us out. Thanks Kip! We chose to only go for 3 of the 5 CPs on the trek. 2 were just too far out of us to get in the time allotted.

Tammy & Me

Action in the TA

We dashed down the road, practically running (remember I said Teams Chubby don’t run unless forced to? this was one of those situations). We found the trailhead and turned off the park road. But, less than 25 yards into the trail, Dub held up his compass, stared off into the woods, and started bushwhacking. Follow the Beaver! Then, we came upon a mass of swamp water. Beaver didn’t pause one iota. He splashed through, water coming up over his knees. I stopped and watched as the rest of the team splashed off behind him. Follow the Beaver! Ape and I brought up the rear. We took pictures lest no one believe us. It’s true!

Trudging through the swamp

We landed on a logging road in front of a deer blind. This would be one of our markers for our trek and bike. We headed off towards another logging road, turned right, splashed through some more knee-deep water, turned left at the next deer blind and found CP1 of the trek just around the bend. Back through the water, to the main road, and down 500 meters. Turn right on another logging road, splash through more water (you seeing the theme here?) around another bend, bushwhack a bit, and found CP2 of the trek. Back to the main logging road, down a few hundred more meters to another logging road…I don’t think this one had water…a bit more bushwhacking, and CP3 was bagged. I thought we had found them all really fast and asked if we could possibly get 1 or 2 more. Dub showed me the map. No, the final 2 were waaaaay out. No chance of getting them and getting back in time. So, back down the long logging road in nearing twilight. Instead of going back through the first swamp water, we headed further down the road. We found one of what would be a bike CP. At this point, we dove into the woods, bushwhacking through mud up over my ankles, nearly losing a shoe, through 3 more streams, around another giant log, and finally spilling back onto the park road. We all turned on each other’s blinkers, as the dark was quickly setting in around us. We made it back to the TA just in time.

But wait. The rock-climbing wall. We had seen it when we arrived the previous night, and had a hunch that we would be ascending it at some point during the race. We had arrived at that point. I don’t like rock-climbing walls. The last time I went climbing was over 12 years ago. A couple of years ago I had gone on a trip where we stopped to play at a place that had a climbing wall. I made it about 5-6 feet up, and I had to quit. I have no upper body strength. But, I discovered the secret is to use your legs, not your arms. The wall had 3 difficulty levels. Easy (red hand/foot holds), Intermediate (yellow hand/foot holds), and Hard (blue hand/foot holds). It basically broke down that 2 people had to do blue, 2 people had to do yellow, and the rest could do red. Fortunately others on the team were more skilled than I, and I was able to easily cop out on the red section. It was still challenging. We had to get to the top and push a button that set off a siren. The belay was “self-belaying”…the wall belayed you! I was scared to get go, but the belay caught quickly and I floated down to the ground.

We grabbed our bike points and hurried to our TA to plot and prepare to do a little night riding. Once we were just about ready to head out, it started to rain. Crap, crappy, crappy, crap. I went back for my waterproof jacket. I should have also thought to put on my bike shorts, but it totally slipped my mind. Ooops. I would regret this later.

Plotting points in the TA at night

By now, it was totally dark. I had on my Pretzl head lamp, and had my CatEye bike light and an extra bike light I was glad I had brought strapped onto my handlebars. This was going to be fun…or not. We pedaled off quickly to the park road, and stopped at the point we had spilled out of the woods from the trek. Bushwhacking with our bikes, we cleared the water and mud-pits with our bikes on our shoulders. Carrying the bikes, ugh. I previously said I had bought a new bike. But, on a limited budget, I couldn’t afford an aluminum frame bike. At that point, I was wishing I had won the lottery and could have spent five grand (yes, $5,000 is about the upper limit of spending on these bikes) on a primo bike that didn’t weigh as much as the steel beast I was schlepping through the swamp. That being said…donations to the “Chubby Egg Cool Ultra-Light MTB” fund will be accepted. I have a feeling I’ll be saving for awhile…

Finally onto the logging road, we grab the first CP at the road-side, then re-mount our bikes and bounce along the rough trail, strewn with chewed-up tree parts. I started in a bit of a panic. I’m not real comfortable on the trail, and I had never ridden at night before! After a bit I finally calmed down some, but I was pretty tense the entire ride. We hopped off onto the same trail as we had found the Trek CP1 on, carrying our bikes over more mud and water. We located the bike CP2 and headed back to the long logging road we had been on earlier in the day. After going down that road, we turned at a small metal lean-to shelter. Two racers were parked under it, attempting to stay out of the rain. We had seen these two guys a few times throughout the day. At first I thought they were buddies, then maybe a father/son. But I went back to the buddies scenario, and racing as a two-man team. We stopped to see if they were OK. “Ah, my buddy’s knee bonked on him, and we’re just resting up to get back.” “You sure you want to quit…you’re almost done!” “Nah, we’re done.” the other guy said, “My knee’s got nothing left.” So, sadly, we left them contemplating their race under the lean-to,

The road gradually became slightly paved. Paved a long time ago, and never maintained that is. The road was full of pits, water and mud. Yuck. We kept trying to avoid the big holes. We would turn off the pitted road onto an “unimproved” road (improved in relation to what? the pitted field behind us???) and we ran into a lot of mud. Using granny gear (1st crank on the front derailleur, 1st crank on the rear derailleur) we’d spin just enough to try to stay up in the mud. This worked most of the time, but I still ended up in the mud on my rear four times that night.

We were knocking off checkpoints like hockey players’ teeth. We finally found the last point, and were ready to head back. Unfortunately, my mud-pit falls weren’t the only ones of the night. Dub couldn’t avoid a hole because I was on his right, and he couldn’t go left, so he crashed into the hole. Ape was right behind him, and they had a spectacular bang-up. Ape got the wind knocked out of her for a second, and she hurt her calf. By the time we got done with showers later that night, the bruise was already starting to develop and was going to be UGLY.

As we made our way back to the main logging road, I had to stop at the metal lean-to again. I had gotten a speck of dirt in my eye (surprise surprise since I was covered in mud from head to toe), and my wearing gas-perm contacts inflamed the situation. I finally just looked up and let the rain wash it out.

Back on bike, and another fall. We’ve go to be there soon! I know it. I must have been the only one that was “ready to be done” and out off the race course. But, it’s a team sport. We all have to finish together. The only way I was getting out of there was on my own power. No one was going to carry me. So, I had a few tears well up…when I get tired, I have to cry it out, and then I’m OK. I don’t stop. But I can cry and race at the same time.

We get back to the swampy bushwhacking section. Almost there. The road is just on the other side. I’m pushing my bike through, then all of a sudden I was stuck. I looked down, and with my headlamp to see, I realized a stick at least 1-1/5 inches was jammed between my chain, my derailleur and the frame. Grr. I pull, it doesn’t budge, Tammy comes back to help, and she breaks the stick off for me. I am then able to detangle myself from the tree. Putting the bike on the other side of me, I quickly lose my balance and the bike falls over, then I fall over on top of the bike. I get up and yell at my bike, “Eff, Effing, Effer. Eff, Eff, Effer!”. This works. I have no problem with it now…I’m fine and can rejoin the group. We make it back to the road. While still in the woods, I can see the lights of the Green Achers just as they pass us. I sprint it to the road…maybe we can still catch them!

Alas, no. We get to the road and we pedal in just as fast as we can. No prize purse for the Chubby Beavers. We were the last team to finish the race…by 1 minute! But, we got 9th and 10th. It’s not the fastest in…it’s the fastest in with the most CPs found. 16 hours and 5 minutes of racing. Hot chili waiting for us at the finish. Dry, warm beds just calling our names. But, first we had to at minimum take our food to the cabin. Didn’t want to attract coons and bears. We pack up and head to the cabins, shower and pass out in our beds. I don’t know how I made it to the top bunk.

Challenge 5: Making it Home & Recovery

The next morning, 7 am came too early. We were up and packing our gear. We still had to dismantle our TA, repack our cars, sweep the cabins and head out. We stopped back in Jasper for breakfast again. Golden Corral breakfast buffet. Mmm, it was good. Too quickly, we were back in our cars and headed home. I made it to Livingston while April slept. But, I was so tired my eyes were drooping. Best to let April drive some, and take a rest myself, drink some coffee and some water. I wake up when we hit Huntsville, and just a ways more up 45, we stopped to switch off. Around 2 pm, I call my hubby. “Hey! How’re you doing?” he asked. “We just now finished.” I say, tiredly. “What?!?!?!” he exclaimed. “Ha Ha! I’m kidding. We’re almost home.” I answered. I had him going there for a minute.

We make it back to Aprils’ house by 4-ish, and I’m back home soon thereafter. April left her phone in my car, and her roommate, Becky came to get it. What a great roommate. I finished unloading my car, then met the hubby and the kiddos at Chuck E Cheese. I got in 8 games of Skeeball. What a fun game!

For my first long AR, this was a great one. I got out of my “comfort zone” several times. But, it’s all about pushing the limits of what you think you can do. How far did I go? I’m not really sure. I know the paddling was over 7 miles. The bike was ~20 miles, and between the trekking, scootering, pre-biking, and pre-paddle…maybe 40-50 miles.

Dub & Jay are fantastic navigators. Dub has some sort of homing beam built in on him. He can find a CP anywhere. He sniffs them out like a bloodhound. I would totally race again on this distance and with this team. Heck, with any team that will take me. I had a great time. The race that’s on this upcoming weekend is Paradise on the Brazos. I want to try it so bad, but, it’s a 18 hour race, which means I’m out at least 24 hours. And, I don’t think DH/PC would appreciate me playing hard two weekends in a row. I’ll have to wait for another race. Hopefully soon. I’d love to do one as a 2-person team with my DH/PC. There are quite a few short ones we can experiment with first. Gotta study that nav!

Thanks for reading my race report. Sorry it’s so long, but I’m detailed. And, the adventure begins when I take that first step out the door, and ends when I pull back into my driveway. I’m sure if you were bored, you bailed out a long time ago, so you didn’t even make it to this point. Or, if you skipped ahead…bad reader. Never skip ahead. It ruins the plot the author worked on for so long.

Until the next time…

Upcoming events:

3/12 — Athens YMCA Tri (very tentative and highly unlikely)
3/26 — Grasslands Trail Run — half marathon — DH/PC and I will be running together again…well, he far ahead of me, but we’ll be at the same race — this also counts as a half-marathon for my “Half to Run” effort.
4/2 — Hog’s Hunt 25K at Huntsville state part (very tentative…back to back trail runs?)
4/3 — Fast and Furious F-1 Duathlon Grand Prarie — if I don’t do Hog’s Hunt, I will do this
4/9 — Try-Paris 2005 Paris, TX — will try to get DH/PC and my BIL (brother-in-law) to do this as well

That’s as far as I’ve thought ahead…well, I lie…I’ve got a whole calendar with events posted practically every weekend. But that is as far as I’ve committed to myself in my brain.

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