Interstellar Adventures

June 5, 2005

Rock Stick Challenge

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 11:41 pm

I have now completed my second Adventure Race (AR). I think this one was harder than the first, but mainly for reasons of the conditions during the day. 55 and overcast in February is pretty much perfect conditions. Sunny, 90 and windy in June, not so much.

This time I raced with the Green Achers. A faster team definitely and I was challenged to keep up. Darin, Jeff and Dwight were my partners in crime this time around, and they were awesome guys to race with. I had previously considered doing this race with another female and navigating myself. Boy, am I glad that I didn’t. This was a tough race navigationally as well, and the points were well hidden. The Race Directors (RDs) were going to give you your money’s worth!

I finished my packing and whatnot the Friday night, and managed to crawl into bed by 11. The alarm went off at 4:50, and I crawled out of bed at 5. Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person? Anyhow, coffee made, dogs fed, grear on, packed up and scooted out of the driveway by 5:45, I was on my way.

I arrived at the race site at 6:30 am spot on and located my teammates. Darin was in progress setting up our Transition Area (TA). I unloaded my gear box, cooler, bike and chairs from my Jetta, re-parked my car, checked in the with RDs (gotta sign the waiver that you agree to die and not sue them) and proceeded to prepare myself for the start. Due to my excellent packing skill, I actually got to relax a bit and spend a little time joking around with my team.

Pre-race meeting was held pretty much spot on t 7:45 am. The RDs explained the rules, handed out our packets and then gave us a minute to gather up our gear for the paddling leg. The official “Go!” was given promptly at 8 am. Darin opened our envelope and he and Jeff plotted out the points together while Dwight and I looked on and continued preparing for the paddle leg.

We ran over to the boat-staging area, grabbed our canoe and proceeded down to the shore to put in. Dwight was in a kayak, and Darin, Jeff and I were in a 3-person canoe. After some inital struggles with steering, Jeff and Darin switched seats, where Jeff quickly agreed with Darin that it was hard to steer! The canoe was rather unwieldy, and when I paddled (sitting in the middle) on the right side of the canoe, we immediately started to veer left. This meant that I had to paddle on the left side of tha canoe only. Needless to say, that was a bit tiring. After paddling nearly two hours, we finally found the jumping off point to start the trek.

We pulled our canoes and kayak out of the water and lined them up with the rest of the watercraft. After receiving some brief instructions from the RD manning the canoe area, we set off to find our trekking points. The day so far had remained overcast, but the sun was battling the clouds and would eventually win. We trekked/jogged along bike and horse trails, and soon came upon several teams looking for checkpoints. We found point 1 quickly and proceed to point 2. This one was a little more tricky, and, veering slightly off course, we ‘accidently’ found point 3. We checked our map and agreed to proceed to point 4, and catch 2 on the way back. This involved quite a bit more trekking/jogging/bushwhacking before we located the point. These points were well hidden in the vegetation! Points 5 & 6 were further out, so we had quite a hike to get those two, but found them without too much difficulty. Looking at our map, we hoped that we would be able to trek directly across to point 2, but quickly realized that we would have to head back the long way. The area was surrounded by private property, which was strictly off-limits.

It was early on the way back to catch point 2 that I took quite a nasty spill. I don’t know whether it was a rock or a root or what, but I found myself face-planted straight into the ground. My knees and left hip took the brunt of the fall, and momentarily I had the wind knocked out of me. My legs were already torn up from thorns and underbrush, and now I had a bloody knee to top it off! I checked the damage and determined that I had simply scraped it up quite well, but nothing deep that would prevent me from moving on. I could bleed it out! The day was heating up quickly, and we determined that most of us were nearly out of water, and none of us had any food or nutrition of any significance with us. We had not anticipated being away from the TA for this long, which was to cause us more problems down the road.

We made it back to the area where we thought that point 2 was located, and spent quite a bit of time locating this final point. Several other teams were also stumped by this point, and we found it first, then headed back to the boat launch. Fortunately the RDs had placed extra water at the launch, and we were able to take what we needed to make it back to the TA. We took a quick dip in the lake to cool ourselves off before jumping back in the canoes heading back. This would be easier imagined than done.

As the day had progressed, the wind had picked up significantly, and the traffic on the lake had increased dramatically. Where we had slight chop on the way down in the morning, we were faced with large, white-capping swells, punctuated with boat wake. If a lake could go uphill, it certainly felt like we were battling. Darin started to have cramps in his legs on the paddle back, likely a result of the lack of water and nutrition. My trekking tiredness and the pain in my legs from my fall had waned slightly, but the sun and the water conditions began to drain what little energy I had left. My desire to get the heck out of the boat soon was my only source of power. Twice we had to pull to shore to dump water out of the boat. Just around the next bend we kept thinking, but realized that we had to make it past a wall that seemed a hundred miles away. At this point I am going to pause, and for all you boaters out there, make a plea. If you see people in a canoe, GO THE OTHER WAY. It is not funny for you to drive so near to us, cut in front of us, and try to make your wake swamp us. Use some common sense and try to imagine that if you were not in your big, fancy, fast boat and in our canoe instead, how would you like it if we caused you to tip? Not nice, eh?

As we approached the marina we had launched by, the conditions grew even worse. We would have to cross the marina entrance that was heavily trafficked. The chop was so bad in this section, I attempted briefly to bail water out of the with my shoe. But, the water was coming in faster than I could get it out. Waves were crashing over the bow of the canoe, and as we got further past the mouth of the marina, the chop got higher, and we bounced over wave after wave. I soon came to realize that if we didn’t get to shore quickly, the canoe would sink. I warned the guys that we needed to paddle to the nearby rocks or we would be under and in a precarious position. We managed to manuever the canoe over to the rocky shore and scramble onto the rocks without tipping the canoe over. Had we leaned to the left, we would have fallen out and been bashed against the rocks by the canoe. Darin and I held onto the water-logged craft for dear life from the rocks (I had paid for the rental!) while Jeff dared to descend into the water and push from behind. We managed to roll it up onto the rocks. We knew there was no way we would be able to get back into the canoe at this location, so I scrambled up the rocks and confirmed that the boat staging area was just down the same peninsula. So, we carried the boat up over the rocks and portaged it back. Dwight put in further down and met us at the staging site. We confirmed with the RD that another canoe had also had serious issues with sinking, and learned there were still two other teams out. We weren’t last!

We jogged back over to the TA and lamented the fact that our paddling/trekking leg had kept us out for 10 hours. This was supposed to have been a 6-10 hour race. Something was off here. We soon learned that other teams had difficulties with the paddle as well, and felt it needed some adjustment, so it wasn’t just us. At the TA, we obtained our next set of points. Due to the lateness of the day,and the fact that we had not prepared for being out in the dark, the RDs took several of the biking points off our list. We would not be able to search for these. We refueled, changed socks/shorts/shirts, filled our packs with more fluid, and left the TA on our bikes in around just 30 minutes.

We started down the biking trail, and I tried my best to keep up with the guys. Biking is definitely my weakest skill. I do pretty well, but I just need more practice and more confidence. This will come with time, I know. Just as things were going fairly well, I suddenly started to feel very ill. They guys had stopped to look at the map. I dismounted from my bike and made my way over to the bushes. My stomach started to rebel against the nutrients I had tried to provide to my body. I started to feel shaky and dizzy. I had never felt so ill without actually having a fever. We managed to find one more checkpoint before night set in. Not having more light than my Petzl headlamp, we pushed our way back to the TA, and finished the race at 9:42 pm.

What a day! The paddle was killer. The trek was fun, except for my fall. The bike was nerve-racking and not as much fun as it could have been if I felt better. Lessons learned from this race? Always pack more food than you need. Extra isn’t a problem, not enough is definitely an issue. I would also try to figure out a way to carry extra fluid. I had two bladders in my backpack, but I still almost ran out of fluid. My teammates had only one bladder each, and they definitely ran out of fluid, which is just dangerous. And, by not having enough nutrition and fluid, our bodies started to work against me. Even though I finally got nutrition, it didn’t have enough time to kick in, and that’s why I got sick. Planning ahead for contingencies is an important part of racing.

Overall, despite the obstacles, it was a great race. Darin did a great job at navigation. Dwight was an excellent aid in navigation, and did a great job bushwhacking to find those points. Jeff was simply a monster and kept the pace fast and forward-moving. I was happy I was able to keep up with them. Well, I hope I actually kept up, and didn’t hold them back. Thanks guys for a great day and a great race. Pictures will be posted shortly. I have to use up the roll quickly tomorrow. I’ll try to make it for one-hour photo. Didn’t have a chance to take as many pictures as I’d like, but I got a few good ones (I hope).

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