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Adventure Race This Past Weekend

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  • Adventure Race This Past Weekend

    Ok, I'm not much for "yeah me" kind of posts, but I took on a pretty decent challenge this past weekend and am still pretty amped up over the events, so wanted to share it with you guys.

    This was my first race since a little falling incident I had 5 months ago that left me pretty banged up. It's part of a post I put up on an adventure racing website this morning. The race was slated to be 40 hours/100 miles in the mountains of NC.

    Weather for the weekend (particularly Saturday) was predicted as follows: highs up to 49/lows around 36. Rain with chance of snow showers.

    What we ACTUALLY had were highs in the mid-30's/lows in the low 20s (with sub-zero temps with the wind chill). Winds at 40-50mph with gusts up to 70mph. 6 inches of snow with drifts up to 2 feet.

    80 teams started the race and only 5 finished a shortened course. 27 teams withdrew from the race after the first paddling leg, in which more than a few teams took a swim.

    By the time we withdrew from the course we had covered 57 miles over 16 hours, and were in 43rd place with 51 teams still on the course:

    "The race started at 10pm on Friday. The paddling section went fine during our quest to find the 4 checkpoints. The water was choppy for sure, and the rain varied from light to very heavy throughout the search, but we managed to make our way through the lake fine and found the CP's pretty much without incident. At that point we were cold but not freezing, and still felt reasonably good.

    We got CP1 last at the far end of the lake, and the travel back to the TA was sheer torture. Temperatures started to drop quickly, winds picked up considerably, rain turned to freezing rain, and the water got extremely rough.

    I can't even tell you how many hours it took us to get back to the TA. Visibility was near zero, the water was so rough we almost capsized two or three times, and progress was extremely slow. There were times we realized we were making no forward progress at all. Our body temperatures were starting to drop, hands and feet were wet and frozen, muscles were tight and sore, joints were frozen in place, and it got to the point where paddling just freakin' hurt but we kept moving on. It really became an exercise in grim determination.

    By the time we got back to the TA it was 5am. We were hypothermic. We could barely walk or talk, couldn't feel our hands and feet, and were all shivering uncontrollably.

    We made our way to the TA, checked in, and the race organizers told us to get up to the restrooms (we were told that the mens was warmest - so that's where we headed). There were a couple of guys in the restroom whose boat had capsized during the race, and they were still trying to warm up. Thank goodness they were there 'cause we were literally incapable of any fine motor skills - these great guys helped undo our shoelaces and took off our shoes and socks, unbuckled PFD's, and generally helped us take off soaking wet clothing. They also went looking for our support person while we were still trying to get into dry clothing and warm up.

    When we got back to our support vehicle our support person had sleeping bags set up in 3 different areas of the vehicle. We asked her to wake us in 30 minutes, and everyone promptly fell asleep. Half an hour later we were warmer, drinking hot chocolate, and getting set up for the bike leg.

    We all felt a lot better, but I had a lot of problems with the first couple of hours of the bike. Legs didn't want to work and heart rate was too high. Thank goodness things eventually did start to warmup and we started to motor on the bikes for real.

    At that point we were dealing with wind, fine sleet and snow, but it wasn't sticking to the ground. As before we were cold but not freezing, and actually felt pretty good.

    By the time we got to CP6 we felt great, and felt even better when we found out that a good number of teams had withdrawn either during or immediately after the paddle. We also learned that bike teams were beginning to withdraw because of the cold. "We've got this race" we were thinking - we can do this. We felt that good at that point.

    As we continued on the weather started to get worse. Temperatures were still dropping, winds were really starting to pick up, and small flakes began to turn to bigger flakes (and stick to the ground). Our hands and feet started to get wet, and then get cold (and then colder).

    By the time we were looking in earnest for CP8 I was becoming aware of the fact that my brakes were starting to go. I had back brakes but no front. When I told the guys, I learned that one of my team-mates had front brakes but no back. Accumulations of snow started to build, and even though we were never lost, and we were pretty sure where we were, we never did find CP8. We started looking for real when we believed we were close, but obviously blew right by it - lost in the snow somewhere "back there".

    Eventually we came to a steep downhill that led to a road intersection. I was completely fixated on getting down the hill in one piece, because somewhere on that downhill I realized that this was very likely the last piece of braking ability I had. I had to work very hard to keep the bike under control, going too fast, unable to slow down without a huge amount of effort. Eventually I got to the bottom, and slowed down enough (as I was beginning to head into the intersection of the road) that I could put my feet down and finally stop. I turned around and told the guys my brakes were done for real. And then I finally had a look around to see where we were at.

    I think it was an "oh $hit" moment for all of us at that point. All hell had broken loose with the weather. Winds of at least 40mph or more and heavy snow coming in sideways at us. There were tall trees on both sides of the trail we were just coming off, and we were at a major road intersection - so there was no shelter of any description around us.

    Between the weather, our body temperatures, and our bike-brake-status (none on mine, failing on my team-mates) we made the toughest but safest decision we had to make for our team - we dug out the radios and emergency blankets.

    Race HQ wanted to know if we could make it to CP9. Because we had missed CP8, the road we were now on wasn't on the map, and we did not have brakes, we knew that we were unable to make it to 9. We also told them that we did not require medical attention, but that they needed to get here within the next hour or we WOULD need medical help.

    Thankfully a wonderful lady in a very big (and very warm) car, stopped and allowed three strange looking (and cold and dirty) racers to huddle in her vehicle until help arrived. We are eternally grateful for the kindness of a stranger.

    As the rescue people were loading our bikes onto the vehicle, we could hear B on the radio reporting that many other teams were also withdrawing - obviously the weather situation was deteriorating rapidly for others further along in the race course.

    Got back to CP9 and the building was full of cold and wet racers, and obviously concerned race officials. We warmed up a little until our support person arrived to take us back to a tent that she had set up for us at CP14. Ate, slept, and got up Sunday morning to blue skies and sunshine.

    So many people to thank:
    My other team-mates, VW and JK. These guys were rock solid throughout our race experience, and I can't think of anyone else I would rather freeze my @ss off with, than those two guys.

    Our support person VMH. She was the most unselfish, upbeat, giving, competant and patient support person we could have asked for - even when 3 adult and competant racers rapidly began to turn into whining and demanding babies. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Our families back home who knew what the weather was doing, were worried about us, and were trying to get info on how we were holding up.

    The guys in the mens bathroom at TA1. They were cold but we were colder - and whoever you are, thank you for being there.

    Some mountain lady with a big 'ole warm car in the middle of nowhere.

    Race volunteers - to a man your patience and support were a gift to all of us.

    Other teams we met on the course - your physical and mental strength, your ability to laugh, your tenacity, and your ability to overcome adversity were (and are) an inspiration. I am very proud to be part of such a great group of people.

    Race organizers - T, all I can say is start giving sacrifices to the good weather gods. The course was great, the race was well organized, and I congratulate and thank you in a very big way for all of the effort you put forth before and during the race to make it happen. You did good."

    That's about it. We were obviously disappointed that we didn't finish the race because we were stoked and had prevailed during the paddle when so many hadn't. But we can take some small satisfaction in that the weather smacked down everyone, and not just us. Another one coming up at the end of the month and we'll give it another shot.
    Last edited by krj; 04-04-2005, 07:49 PM.

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