Interstellar Adventures

July 20, 2005

Mineral Wells Adventure Race Report

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 12:29 am

I knew Friday was going to be a busy day, but it turned out to be non-stop! The kids got dropped off at summer care, followed by a dash down to see Dr. Pain. This time I got my money’s worth. I’d had some tightness in my quad, and he and his assistant (yep, brought in the extra hands) worked me over well. Ouch. All new manners of pain! I followed this with lunch at Cafe Express with Judy & Christy, a brief shopping spree into Ann Taylor Loft to buy a cute dress on sale, off to coffee with a old friend that’s moving to Austin, then to Target to pick up some ‘supplies’ and finally back home to resume the packing.

Later than I would have liked, the packing was done, the car was loaded, and, just as the thunder rumbled and the clouds opened up, the bike was hoisted onto the back of the car and I was off. To pick up the kiddos that is. Had to run them up to the in-laws to spend the night before I could ‘officially’ head out.

With everyone in their places, I could get going. Or so I thought. BEEEEEP. The little yellow gas light came on. Grumble Grumble. One last ‘errand’ to run. Make that two. On the way out of town I had to stop at REI to pick up some Gu (Espresso Love and Triberry are my favorites!) and a pair of water shoes. OK. For real, headed out of town.

Except it was raining. Heading west, I could see clear skies ahead, but it was still raining in my precise location. It was dark behind me though, and the light in front and darkness behind were sort of metaphorical for me and how I’ve been moving forward lately. Starting off the weekend right! Positive signs!

So, I followed my directions out to Mineral Wells, Tx. I was hoping to make it out there before dark, because I’ve set up camp in the dark before, and it’s not fun. I got out to the park, made my way back to the race area, and found my teammates. Darin and Jerry were there when I arrived, and Darin had the TA set up. The pre-race meeting had just started when I pulled up, so I headed over to listen to Rodney, the RD from Steelsports Adventure Racing going over the ‘details’ of the race. Now, Adventure Racing is truly an adventure. Until the race starts, you don’t know what’s going to happen, when, in what order, what curveballs they’re going to throw at you, etc. You just hope you brought all the gear you could possibly need and enough food and water to survive.

Pre-race meeting over, I set up my campsite and our TA (Transition Area) for the race. Jeff, our fourth and final Acher, showed up shortly thereafter, and when all tasks were done, we were hungry! So, we headed off to Mineral Wells for some grub.

Except Mineral Wells is a small, po-dunk town. The only ‘restaurants’ I recognized were ones with a drive-thru. And I was NOT eating at one of those establishments the night before a race. As tempting as DQ was…

We managed to find an open restaurant. In fact, we barely made it. It was after 9:30 PM, and it appeared everything closed at 10 PM in this one-horse town. The four of us invaded a little Mexican restaurant called Pulido’s and decided on pre-race fajitas. Not bad fajitas for a little hole-in-the-wall establishment. The guacamole was even homemade and fresh. Good tortillas too.

After dinner, Jerry headed to his hotel in Weatherford, as did Jeff. Darin and I stopped at the E-Z-Go Mart for a few bags of ice. Giddy off good fajitas and anxious for the race, we were enjoying making light of the ‘sights’ this small town had to offer. We managed to make it out of the E-Z-Go without more than a few dirty looks and headed back to the park.

Facilities at this park were primitive. There was a building that housed the ‘toilets’ which consisted of a large room with a single commode sticking out of the ground. Uh oh. No flusher. Yep, a fancy hole-in-the-ground. Definitely decided after that first experience that the trail behind the TA was going to be a preferable potty. There were showers supposedly, but these were on the other side of the park. So, with no running water…I pulled out one of my seven gallons of water, lathered up my Olay face wipes and washed my face. Then, dunked my toothbrush down in the water jug and used the ground for my spittoon. Contacts even got cleaned this same way the next morning. Yep, I was a Girl Scout. I can make-do.

One of the campsites next to us had a generator going. Who knows what for I have yet to figure out. But, as of 11:30 PM, they still had it running. Now, I’d raced with these people before, so I knew them, and I didn’t want to be a grouch. So, I crawled into my tent, headlamp on, and tent-light hanging. Adjusted my bed mats, opened my sleeping bag, changed into my pajamas, and then stepped outside to remove the rain-fly for some ventilation. Opened all the ‘windows’ inside the tent, and then lay down to drift off to sleep. But that generator was still going. It seemed like eons to me, but I know it was probably only 10 or 15 minutes, and they finally shut it off. I could hear crickets and night songbirds and the occasional 18-wheeler drive by in the far distance. I could feel a faint breeze, and the rain from the afternoon had cooled the night air. I felt so peaceful. Alone, quiet, meditative, and anxious for the next day, I drifted off quickly. At some point in the night I must have got a chill, because I remember waking up and pulling out my extra blanket to cover myself. July in Texas? You’ve got to be kidding me.

At 4 AM, my alarm went off. TA opened at 4:30 AM, and even though I knew I couldn’t oversleep, I did have to change, and had taken my rain-fly off the night before. Then I heard the noise. Sounded like someone walking on the tarp in the TA less than 3 feet from me. ‘Darin?’ I whispered. ‘Darin, is that you?’ No response. ‘Darin?’ Nope. Not Darin. I grabbed my glasses and my headlamp and leaned over to the far window in my tent. Two beady little eyes reflected back at me. A raccoon! I knew I had left my food in the car the night before just to avoid any run-ins with critters. ‘Psst! Psst! Psst!’ I hissed at the bandit, and he ran off. But, bold little feller, he returned. I managed to shoo him off one more time, and then, the final time he came back, he ignored me, lifted the lid off the box, and grabbed his breakfast…a bagel. Shame I didn’t have any coffee to offer him as well.

I finally crawled out of the tent and found Darin…sleeping in his car. ‘Man! I had a whole other half of a four-man tent!’ ‘Nah, I like sleeping in my car.’ Guys…I will never understand.

Jerry showed up, sans Starbucks…evidently they don’t open until 6. So, I had to bum a cup of coffee from the folks next door. Folgers single pack, no cream. Still, good to the last drop.

We prepared our TA, Jeff arrived, we sorted gear, arranged food, checked over our bikes, tires, brakes, etc. Check, double check, triple check. Everything appeared to be in good working order. BEEEEP! The RD’s bullhorn sounded across the parking lot. ‘We need one front wheel from one team member from each team.’ Curve ball #1. Everyone else’s bikes and wheel sets are way nicer than mine, so I offer mine up. Still quick-release, I disengage the break, pull the lever, spin the knob and pull it right off. Run it on over to the RD tent, they ask our team name, pull a set of papers from a stack, weave it into the spokes and say ‘Thank-you’. I return to my TA, sans wheel.

Shortly thereafter, we hear another BEEEEP! ‘The race will begin in 15 minutes!’ they blare. 15 minutes late actually. At the pre-race meeting, Rodney had announced that there was a twelve and a half hour cut-off for the race. If you are in TA at twelve and a half hours, you can’t go back out on the next leg, and if you’re out at twelve and a half hours, you lose one CP for every five minutes you’re out beyond that. We sit around, ready to go, waiting for those final instructions. Final checks all around, Camelbak bladders full, food prepped, packed and ready. We wander over to the RD tent where the rest of the teams had begun to gather. A few last minute words of wisdom from the RD, clarification that the cut-off was still 6:30 PM even though we were starting 15 minutes late, and we are then informed ‘You all have a problem. One of your team members is missing a wheel from their bike. Your first task is to find that wheel. With the wheel, you will find your maps, passports and instructions for the first two legs of the race.’ Greatness! A little scavenger hunt. The RD gives us all the ‘GO!’, and a few dozen tiny beeps were heard as everyone started their watches. We headed down a gravel path, winding down to an amphitheater where all of our bicycle tires were stacked. I ran down and grabbed my tire and handed the set of papers off to Jeff. We raced back up the hill, back to the TA. Jeff and Darin set to plotting out the points on the map while Jerry and I reassembled my bike.

We got the first set of points plotted for what we knew was a water leg, except none of the points were anywhere near the water. Oops. Darin realized that the map was backwards, so we had to plot backwards. We quickly fixed our error, and then set to plotting the next set of points. I was passport princess again, and so I carried the ‘holy grail’ of the race. We lose our map; we hope we can find some nice team to share. We lose our passport, we’re disqualified. We leave our passport in TA on any leg, and we can’t punch our points and we’ve wasted tons of effort. It’s actually a very important job.

The first leg was actually a bike/trek. Two members of the team were on bikes, and two members of the team were running. Jerry and I grabbed our bike gear, and Darin and Jeff were going to hump it. We raced back down the trail way past the amphitheater. Coming to a cross-road, we turned right, and soon came upon our first point. Except it was CP2. We punch it and glance at the map and head back out. Except it was the wrong way. Except we didn’t realize it for about 20 minutes. So, 20 minutes in the wrong direction, plus 20 minutes back, plus time to get to the real CP1. Yeah, we wasted nearly an hour. No one person’s fault. Error #1. Check. Jerry and I took turns trading off bikes with Darin. We couldn’t get Jeff to ride. But he’s a natural runner anyway, and Darin, Jerry and I all have issues with our knees. I put in my share of trail pounding though.

Back to the TA, we knew we didn’t need to check-in, just immediately transition to the next leg. A paddle leg. We gathered up our gear and our boats and portaged down to the water. Jerry and I were in a 2-person Kevlar canoe. It only weighed about 40 pounds, so not too heavy and fairly easy to portage. Jeff and Darin were in a 2-person kayak, which weighed about 70 pounds, so a little heavier. Jeff and Darin were starting to fall back a bit, so Jerry and I sat down the canoe, went back and took the kayak from them and told them to pick up our canoe and carry it down the rest of the way. Yeah. If an RD tells you to prepare for a portage, take his advice and prepare for it.

We got a CP next to the boat launch. Launched our watercraft, donned our PFDs and water shoes and headed out. Carbon fiber paddles and a Kevlar canoe, towing a kayak. It felt good to have practiced with Jerry. He steered and sounded off the ‘HUP’ signaling me to switch the side I was paddling on. I concentrated on my ‘stealth stroke’ and we skimmed along the top of the water. Smooth as glass. No waves, no wind, barely a ripple across the surface except our own boat wake. We picked up our CPs fairly quickly. Took us a minute to find one, and I even jumped out of the boat in a shallow, but gooey muddy area to scan the reeds (no snakes, please, no snakes) for our CP. I decided it was further up the inlet, so Jerry and I unhooked Jeff and Darin, and we headed up the channel. Just around the river bend (I was so feeling like Pocahontas) we spied the point, punched it and headed back. Picked up one more CP on the way back, and we were done with our first paddle leg.

We left our boats near the launch and headed back up the hill to the TA. I would come to know and despise this hill. Checked in with the RDs and got the instructions for our next leg. Mountain biking again. Darin plotted points; Jeff, Jerry and I restocked and rearranged our gear. Last check on the bikes, especially mine since I’d removed my wheel. My tires had been a little soft on the first ride, so I added a bit more air. We headed out. The hill back down was fun to ride. High speeds, wind in your face, relatively little effort. We passed a few of the faster teams coming back/going out to the 4th leg. All shouted encouragement as we headed out.

We pedaled across the spillway, then back uphill to the trailhead. ‘Expect awful sand.’ the RD had said. Yep, he was right again. Awful sand. The only thing you can do is drop down to nearly granny gear and put your weight over the rear tire to try to gain more traction. Riding along the side of the trail was a bit easier traction wise, if not a lot bumpier. Looking at the points and the trail map, we figured we could make a sort of loop and get the points in order of 8, 10, 9, 7. We managed to find 8 & 10 just fine. But then error #2 hit us. Because of the way we were approaching it, CP9 was behind a tree in a blind spot for us. Plus, as we blew by it at amazing speeds, a pretty horsy was prancing by, so our heads were turned to the left admiring the fine steed, rather than swiveling right to find what we were really looking for. DOH! When we hit another point and it wasn’t the coordinates we were looking for, we realized our mistake. Back down the trail way, we ran smack-dab right into it, just where it should have been. On the way back out we found the last CP. Had to ride some nice rocks to get there. I was well proud of myself. Pushing myself at Northshore a couple of weeks ago paid off, and I found myself more confident going over rocks and uphill. I picked some good lines, and a couple of bad ones, but gutted it out and managed to stay in the saddle the entire ride.

We raced back to the TA and checked in for our next leg. A short 2-point skate/scooter/trek. Now, I don’t rollerblade. Never have. And, these scooters are like Razors on ‘Roids, and cost anywhere between $100-$400. Not at the top of my budget list. So, we were hoofing it. At this point, we also decided on our next gear acquisition. Coconut shells. Ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Yeah. That’s what they’re for.

One of the trek CPs was at the boat launch, so we grabbed that one quickly, then headed up to park HQ for the other CP, before heading back up that dreaded hill to the TA. As we were heading uphill, we came upon another team portaging their boats back from the final paddle leg. I don’t know how they managed it, but they also had their scooter bikes in their boats. So, I negotiated a deal. ‘We’ll take your kick-bikes back up the hill to the TA.’ I offered. At first, the dad (it was a mom, dad, son, daughter team) was hesitant, but when he realized we were running the same race (no outside assistance allowed, but teams in the same race can help each other) he relented, and we took the bikes back up the hill. Didn’t make it a breeze, but definitely better than walking.

Next leg was the rappelling/climbing leg. Darin and Jerry had their own harnesses, while Jeff and I were going to borrow from the climbing managers. We grabbed our bike helmets (safety first!) and trekked down to the climbing area. The rappel was first. This was the part I’d never done before. I’d climbed rock face over a decade ago, and had done a couple of climbing walls, but it’s hard to find a place to ‘practice’ rappelling. Good thing I’m a fast learner. We donned our harnesses, left our Camelbaks at the top of the cliff, and proceeded to rappel down, one by one. Darin first, then Jerry, me and lastly Jeff. I made Jeff go last so he could take a picture of me heading down. Selfish, I know.

If I would have known rappelling was this easy, I would have done it a long time ago! WOW! What fun! At the very end I did miscalculate my footing, and I bumped my leg into the rock wall. I got a little scrape on my shin, but that’s my biggest boo-boo from this entire race. It’s about the size of a dime. The climb was actually a bit more intimidating than the rappel. We had to climb up, hit the carabineers and then belay back down. I had to get a leg-up from my teammates to get up the first section. The foot-hold was about shoulder high on me. But, once I got up, I managed the rest of it pretty well, slapped the ‘beaners and belayed back down with no issue. We punched our CPs showing that we completed each discipline and headed back to TA.

Leg 6 was another paddle leg. We had seen other teams portaging their boats back to the TA after they completed their legs. After carrying the boats down to the water, and climbing that hill a couple of times already without the boats, I knew that I needed to broker another deal. There were several teams from our AT group, and I knew one of the support crew for one of the teams pretty well. So, I walked over ‘Hey Maria. Are Need 2 Bleed back from the paddle leg yet?’ ‘Yes, they’re on their way back right now.’ ‘Really, do you think they’d let us borrow their wheels after they’re done?’ ‘I’m sure they will.’ So I headed back to TA. Informed my team that I’d gotten a good line on a set of wheels to help portage the boats back to TA after the paddle leg. It would be in our best interest to dawdle a bit and wait for them to return. Just as we were heading out, they were heading in. I confirmed with the team that it would be OK for us to borrow their wheels, so once they got back to their TA, Jeff and I unloaded their boats, grabbed the portage system and carrying straps and headed back downhill with our loot.

Back in the boats, we returned to the Pocahontas point, as it was a re-punch CP. We knew another one of the CPs was directly across the lake from this point, so Darin and Jeff scouted a couple of other teams while Jerry and I got the Poco CP. We paddled across the lake and parked the boats in the shoreline flora. Exiting the boat gracefully (uh, actually this is where I nearly fell in the water doing the splits between the canoe and the rock I was trying to climb out on…ouch!), I climbed up the rock and onto the shore. ‘Watch out for snakes!’ the cluesheet said. ‘Snakes, why did it have to be snakes!’ Ugh. Jerry grabbed a paddle as a snake-deterrent stick and we headed up. Darin found the point pretty quickly, and we were back down to the boats. We padded back up the lake, around two points, and disembarked again. But, we eventually decided we got out too soon and paddled a few hundred yards up the shore. Got out again and began looking for the elusive point. Jeff and I had discussed that Rodney (the RD) was going to be tricky on this one, and had probably hidden the point between two of the many large boulders dotting the shoreline. Sure enough, I rounded a corner, squeezed between two 15-foot boulders, climbed up another rock, and BINGO! There was the point! YAY! I had officially ‘found’ my first CP! The other races the CPs were either right on trail, or my teammates had found them. I’m not just passport princess anymore! Back to the boats, we paddled back to just across from the boat launch, and I quickly spied what turned out to be just the inlet we were looking for. Climbed out of the boat again (eww…no snakes please!) among the reeds and muck and climbed onshore to punch the last paddle point. Make that two CPs I found in one day!

Done with the paddle. Pulled our boats to shore, lashed them onto the portage system and headed back uphill. We had to stop to make an adjustment or two once or twice, but we had enough rope that we managed to secure them (finally) and get back up the hill. Still not easy, but so much better than carrying those suckers back up the hill of hell.

Leg 7 was another trek leg. Straight down from the TA there was an old camping area with a rocky trail that led down to the shore, then ran along side the shore. There were four CPs on this leg, but we knew we were going to have to swim to get to one of them. At the TA we decided we weren’t going to swim because we didn’t have enough time. If we swam for one point, we definitely wouldn’t make the cut-off and get out to the final mountain biking leg where we could pick up 2 or 3 more CPs. Skip the swim. Sigh. I was looking forward to that actually. Oh well. Boom, boom, boom, we fast walked/trekked/jogged across the narrow, rocky trail and picked up the 3 CPs we intended to find.

Back to TA for Leg 8. The final mountain biking leg. We had to ride back across the park to the same sandy trailhead as before, except this time we had to go further into the trails to get the CPs. Three we knew were off the main map and we wouldn’t be able to get those. We knew where one was exactly (we’d been there earlier, remember, when we blew by CP9), and the other one was just a bit further up the trail than we’d been the first time. So, we blazed over to the trailhead in a mere 13 minutes. We decided to allow 20 to get back, and so we busted out some speed and blew right past the CP24 that we were looking for. The clue said on trail, but evidently it wasn’t. I didn’t know this, and the guys were blazing ahead of me. I figured I would round the next bend and find them waiting for me at the CP, so I wasn’t really looking. We weren’t the only team that blew past it though. There were four of us teams looking for the same CP at the same time. Found it, punched it, and headed over to the CP25 that we had found earlier. Punched it and headed back. There was one team, the Chubby Bastardos (I raced with them at Martin Dies), that we had been neck-in-neck with most of the race. I tried to keep up, but my legs were just shot on the bike. I don’t bike nearly enough, so I just kept pedaling as best as I could. I so wanted to beat them back to the TA or at least get back at the same time, but I just didn’t have it in me. Sigh. Train harder, right?

We made it back to the TA and the RD tent just as my watch registered 12 Hours 3 Minutes. We’d made it in before the cut-off by just about 12 minutes. WOW! We did great!

A couple of navigation errors, well, really more ‘paying attention’ errors cost us probably at least an hour and half of racing time. That would have been a couple more CPs, if not all 4 that we missed. The weather was perfect. My racing teammates were AWESOME. I would SO race with these 3 again, any race, any day. Jerry had never done an AR before, but his canoeing experience, biking abilities and great fitness level made him an excellent racer. He also had a fantastic, fun, positive attitude the entire race. Darin was our silent, strong leader. The dude can push it when he starts to feel that competitive edge, and he’s a great navigator. Jeff was an absolute rock. He ran that entire trek/bike leg right off the bat, and he is a really strong biker too. We ended up 13 out of 19 overall, and in 9th place in our 4-person co-ed division. We even placed higher than the Chubbies…they didn’t find CP18 on the paddle.

After the race was over, we decamped, broke down our TA, and packed up to head home. I was fully prepared to camp out again, thinking the race was going to be longer, but, disappointingly, I would get a hot shower and sleep in a soft bed that night. After we were packed up, Jerry and I took a few minutes to get in that swim that we missed on the trek leg. There was a little family beach down by the boat launch. We stopped there, waded in, floated around a bit, cooled off, managed to wash off a little bit of the dirt and then headed home.

I made it back home, unloaded my bike, brought in my purse and pillow, warmed up some Dora the Explorer chicken noodle soup…I was STARVING, but waaay to stinky to stop anywhere for hot food, took a shower and drank the soup. Then passed out from exhaustion.

This was the best race I’ve done yet. Not just from a performance standpoint, but I felt great, enjoyed every bit of it, even the hill from hell, loved racing with my teammates, and managed to come out of it with just a dime-sized scrape. Can’t wait till the next one!


  1. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading about it. Sounds like it was a rewarding, fun time! Are you suggesting coconuts migrate? teeheehee!

    Comment by Carnealian — July 20, 2005 @ 10:36 am |Reply

  2. Congrats!!! You have too much energy, I’m telling ya!! I like the first part about leaving. For some reason it takes me forever to finally get on my way too.

    Comment by Jolynn — July 20, 2005 @ 1:32 pm |Reply

  3. You told it all in great detail. Thanks for doing it.

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — July 20, 2005 @ 2:11 pm |Reply

  4. OMG, I cannot even imagine having as much energy or stamina as you have. Its inspiring to read!!!

    Comment by TrueJerseyGirl — July 20, 2005 @ 2:53 pm |Reply

  5. Congratulations! Completing that has really got to make you feel good about yourself. Sounds fun and exciting.

    Comment by Bone — July 20, 2005 @ 5:00 pm |Reply

  6. That’s sounds awesome; I’m jealous of the adventure.

    I’m not jealous of being back in Plano – I used to actually try to fry eggs on the sidewalk when I was a kid there.

    Comment by Salem Watchen — July 20, 2005 @ 10:38 pm |Reply

  7. Saw the film Descent about girls caving, is that something you’ve done too???????!!!!!!!!
    The film was scary enough without the odd goblins thrown in by the way.

    So what’s your secret to being so fit as i’ve been a bit under the weather of late and would love some tips for healthy happiness!

    Comment by Goldiemowling — July 21, 2005 @ 7:38 am |Reply

  8. Congratulations on finishing the race! 🙂

    Comment by FTS — July 21, 2005 @ 8:01 am |Reply

  9. Nice Blog!!!   I thought I’d tell you about a site that will let give you places where
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    Comment by TS — October 2, 2005 @ 2:39 am |Reply

  10. After we paid for our kids filmmaking summer camp we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!

    Comment by jon — October 2, 2005 @ 9:17 pm |Reply

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