Thursday, November 4, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
On Sept. 25 we went to San Juan island for San Juan Island Quest - went to bed at 1 am, woke up at 4 am and travelled for the first (or second?) ferry to the islands.
Very little sleep, but once the race started, it had little effect. The race was very different than the usual Washington races (Beast, Trioba, 4th DAR) - one third of the race for me was kayaking, the map was somewhat low quality, but it was bad enough for everyone - even local guys had issues reading it, the special tasks were extremely refreshing.
I came out of kayaking the very last or very close to very last one - my small kayak was certainly lower grade than the rest of the bunch dominated by some really nice double Northwest kayaks. But I might also be a rather weak kayaker, oh well. I started out fast, but was soon taken over by some fast folks including Roger and Yumay. Kayaking checkpoints where quite awesome - extremely large Out of kayak and an extremely fast transition - I kayaked in bike shoes and did not have bike shorts, so - out of kayak and ready to do bike polo. First two swings a miss and then finally a series of successful ones.
Biking navigation seemed confusing at first - I could not understand the distances and had trouble seeing trails, but after a while things came back. I went a long route around the smaller trails to get the furthest CP and then came back. One flat tire and adrenalin shaken hands while changing it. Some other teams had already gone through checkpoints I was getting afterwards, but at the end of bike I was the first. Well done.
The trekking was rather easy with the exception of tricky questions - good I know which country had kaisers and nobody wanted to know the 50 abbreviations of US.
Came back first for the last test - standup paddle board. Finish time 4:08. Second place - Roger and Yumay.
Big thanks to my wife who supported me with her friends and created pictures posted here.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The race began with a “prologue”. The prologue didn’t go as planned. We were zooming down a jeep track right into the notebooks of 3 law enforcement rangers. They wanted our names, addresses and phone numbers. We were not actually doing anything illegal, but in their opinion, our race director was. My understanding is that the conflict will be resolved in court sometime in the future.
With the prologue interrupted, the race organizers decided to make some changes. One was that the race would go “underground” and our spots would not be able to be tracked by our friends and family back home as this made for too much risk of the race being interrupted again later.
The start was staggered with each team leaving the hotel in 5 minute increments. Our time was 8:15pm; we were the 4th team to depart. We were to arrive at the race HQ 5 minutes earlier and then we would count down to our start time. This was the oddest race start ever – but it certainly set the tone for what was yet to come.
We ran out the back door of the hotel at precisely 8:15pm into the night. We crossed the highway and headed up into the hills. We were on roads, and we thought this would be fairly simple. But of course, navigating at night is never easy. We made our way, not super smoothly, but eventually we were passing CP#1 down our first rappel of many, into a canyon with hot spring pools and hanging moss on the walls. This led us down the the Colorado River for our first pack raft. Next, up another canyon, then a fun rock scramble where Druce led the way with ribbons. The next hour or so, was looking for our trekking point and the top of “adventure canyon” which was one of the best adventure race adventure's I have had to date.
The highlight of Adventure Canyon for me was the 30 foot rappel into the Colorado. The slopes below were steep, so we couldn’t stand on the edge of the river and blow up our rafts. I came up with the idea of blowing up the raft, then slinging it on my back, over my backpack. I thought I could lower myself down and then as I got close the water; just pull my feel up and lay down into the raft. Sure enough, it worked beautifully. Of course, there was a waterfall at the bottom, so getting off the rope quickly was imperative. Miles followed my lead and also had great success with the plan. Tom didn’t think through what he would do at the bottom, and because he was so buckled into his pack, he had a “turtle” moment at the bottom. Miles helped get Tom free while I pulled the rope (with much effort).
Soon enough, we were off to our next canyon and climb up and into the “survival trek” section of the race. This part of the race went very well. The sun was coming up and we were cruising. Soon enough, we were at the water station and CP2 at Robert’s truck. We filled up our bladders, knowing we would need every drop to make it through the trek before we ran out of water.
The survival trek was in shadeless desert; rising and dropping between peaks, occasionally on rocky ridges, and in the daytime, a warm 100 degrees. It was easy navigation and we were moving along well. Soon after leaving the water station, Tom’s attitude started to take a turn to the worried. He seemed fine physically, but mentally concerned. As we moved from T7 to T8, Tom’s pace slowed and we were taking breaks more often. When we arrived at the bathtub at T9, Tom wanted to call for a helicopter rescue. We still had about 30 oz of water, and plenty of food, so the level of alarm seemed to be out of proportion to the situation. We sat in the shade and considered our options. Eventually, Tom was ready to go on. We had about 5 miles to go until we reached the river and water. Along the way down a canyon, we took the long way around a difficult down-climb. This was a bit hard, and seemed to take Tom to a place he was not sure he could recover from. At that point Miles ran to the river (1.5k) for water and I stayed with Tom trying to keep him cool and calm until Miles returned. At one point, Tom was threatening he might die and I told him to take a "chill pill". He told me that was the most hilarious thing he had heard and that I was callous enough to tell someone with a broken arm it wasn't an emergency either. I agreed, a broken arm is not an emergency and also does not need a helicopter rescue. Tom insisted we call for help on our Spot. I agreed to this, but was pretty sure it wouldn't work in the canyon. It didn't.
I assured Tom that Miles would be back with water long before a helicopter team or race personnell could get to us, so he should just rest and wait for water. I fanned Tom with paddles, took out our pack rafts which had a few droplets of water for cooling, and tried to keep him comfortable. He fell asleep. Miles soon returned with water.
The water did the trick, and Tom was able to walk out of the canyon to the river and then pack raft to CP3 where we turned him over to his wife who was a volunteer in the race. We have not heard from Tom since this time, but I did hear that he was volunteering at the race for awhile before he returned home.
Miles and I were now a team of 2 and we needed some sleep. We were 26 and one half hours into the race, and our mental state was worn. We slept for two hours on the beach near CP3 in our pack rafts before finishing our 94K trek.
The next leg of the trek was up a wash with some scrambling then just navigating the hills of the desert. We arrived at CP4 in an exact line, filled up our water bladders and headed onward to Rosies Den. Miles and I were fantasizing about the milkshakes we were going to have at Rosies, but when we got there and realized they didn't have ice cream, we were happy to settle for a huge iced Pepsi (Miles had rootbeer). Per race procedure, we had to stay at Rosies for ½ hour, then would be driven to Roberts house where we had an additional 2 hour stop-over. We received 5 more maps and had to put our bikes together, so the time went by extremely fast. Miles did the maps, I made sandwiches, we both took a shower and I proved my lack of mechanical ability by trying to put Miles’ map holder on his bike…..debacle.
We headed out in the afternoon on our bikes looking forward to our 100 mile (163K) wheeled adventure. The first section was familiar and reminded me of our 2009 Desert Winds race. In fact, we did visit one cp that we had visited in 2009. The riding was fairly easy, and we were moving pretty well. In the late afternoon I felt tired, so we found some shade and laid down for an hour nap. It was one of the best naps of the race.
Some of the highlights of the bike leg was the tarantula we saw on the road; the coolest part was the way it scrunched up when we shined our light on it.
We got off course at one point and climbed up a big ridge now known as "wrong way ridge". We got back on track easily by going cross country and playing keep away from the barrel cactus.
Another section that was particularly fun was when we were trying to keep track of the power poles (we were riding below them) by making up rhymes to help us remember which one we had just passed. “Pole number one; fun in the sun, pole number two, I like my shoe". It kept us laughing as we rode through the night.
Later, we had 3 flat tires in a row…which was annoying. I got two, then Miles got one. We started patching the old one's so we wouldn't run out of tubes before our luck changed.
The flats stopped as we were rode out of the hills and into the dry lake bed called “Red Lake”. I am sure this would have been an amazing sight in the daylight. Our check point was in the middle of the lake. Miles set a bearing which we followed by choosing a corresponding star constellation. He put away the compass and we rode toward the star. In no time, we were at our point and another water stop.
One of the most difficult sections of the race came next. We rode out from the Lake on a sand road that threw me off my bike on several occasions. Of course, in the desert, you don't land on sand, you land on thorns. Ouch! Next, we rode on the shoulder of a hwy for 13 miles with a 15-25 mile head wind. We rotated lead every mile, but after awhile, this started to beat me down. When we turned off the highway after 13 miles,I thought the head wind would stop, but it didn’t . The next few Kms were not only into the wind, but now also in sand. My resolve was getting weaker.
Druce told us the bike would take us about 6-8 hours from Red Lake and that the ride was 90% ridable. I think he must have been high when he made this assessment. The ride up and over the mountain was at most 10% ridable – and went up for 3000 feet. He also told us the ride was 100% down hill from the top. The last 5 miles were a sustained climb to the TA. When we arrived there, I was beat.
We slept for a couple more hours, took our bikes apart and put them back in their boxes, and headed out for our final trek. The trek was broken into the “approach” and the “descent”. The approach was through “towns” with lots of barking dogs and finally to a large well where there was water stashed (more like hidden) for us. We took a couple more hours of sleep waiting for the sun to rise so we could easily see our way down our descent.
A Brilliant strategy. Our descent was flawless. We cruised. One huge, fat rattlesnake scared the crap out of us. It looked like it’s neck was expanded like a cobra. A heart racing moment. We saw burrows and prong horn sheep along this way as we headed to the “single hilltop” next to the shoreline.
Soon enough, we were in our pack rafts looking for a mis-placed checkpoint. Miles is so accurate in his navigation, that he realized when we had gone too far and instead of going another 10 minutes farther, we turned back thinking we must have missed the flag. Nope. The flag was misplaced. An extra 40 minutes of paddling for nothing... oh well, we got the point and it was a nice day in lake mojave.
When we reached the canoe TA, we were sure we were in the wrong place, as it looked like there was a party going on, not a race. The party was our team of dedicated volunteers and race directors taking a minute out to have some fun. Good for them! We rolled in, found our bags (which were different than when we started because Tom had made some switches); and started getting ready for the canoe and final trek.
Soon enough a police boat showed up. We thought we were going to have to stop the race so we quickly moved our stuff to one side and eventually snuck out the “back way” and into the water. We then acted like we were tourist paddlers, hoping the police would leave us alone.
Sure enough, the police left us alone and we were on our way to my favorite part of the race. The paddling was calm and easy. We originally thought that we would skip the cp’s and just paddle the 35 miles straight. Of course, this would have cut out a lot of adventure, and we quickly realized that we couldn’t resist any of the adventure of this race. It had just been too good so far!
We headed to canoe op1, which was up a slot canyon with 40 foot walls. On our way up I found an owl feather on the ground. I put it in my headlamp band. The canyon led us to 3 pitches of technical scrambling which I was happy to do. What fun! I got the point, then down climbed back to where Miles was waiting. We then saw an owl on the edge of the canyon wall. The owl was talking (in a high pitched “cheeeeepppp”. We sat down and watched the owl. It was repeating it’s call to another owl, which we saw when we descended down and out of the canyon. I wondered what they were chatting about. Probably the beautiful evening, the full moon and the warm and comfortable weather.
We ate a bit, then pushed off for canoe op 3 and 4 (we skipped 2 due to more technical climbing, which we didn’t fancy doing in the dark). Op 3 and 4 were a little tricky in the dark, but were just a hike up a wash. I forgot the pen, so the biggest challenge of these two points was remembering the 4 words (total) that were written on the posts. Miles was teasing me the whole way back to the canoe because remembering these words was harder than you might think and seemed impossible for me at the time.
We made a plan for sleeping later. We wanted to hit a beach that had a wash we could hike up in order to reach warmer air. This meant about a 3 hour paddle from midnight to 3am. About 2am my mind started playing sleep-deprived games and the hallucinations were amazing. Faces, dragons, hands, moving objects whew! Some cool stuff that usually only come with drug inducement. About 3:30am we were at our cove and slept to sunrise.
Upon sunrise, we headed out to canoe op5 and 6. These would be our last two checkpoints. We didn’t feel like paddling the extra 15 miles for number 7 and 8, so we knew we were almost finished with our race. Our pace slowed a bit. The thought of the race ending was, quite honestly, a bit sad. The adventure had been so, so much fun. Miles had been the perfect team mate and we had spent hours laughing and having fun. I hated to see it end.
We found 5 and paddled around to where we would find 6. Six was a bit hidden and it took us a little time to find it behind a rock. Once we found it, our next target was a place to jump off rocks into the river for refreshment. We found a great place and both jumped in a couple of times. We cleaned up the boat, got things organized, and headed for the finish line.
When we arrived at the finish line, there were volunteers to greet us and give us a ride back to the hotel. We knew we had the 3rd most points of all the teams; a super successful race in our opinion.
Our odyssey had ended. It was an amazing adventure that I will remember for a very long time. My feeling as I write this is a huge thank you first to Miles for racing with me and being the best team mate ever. Next my thanks go to Robert and Druce for creating a challenge of a lifetime!
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Lightning across the entire skyline, rattlesnakes, pine forests, grasslands….
One-thirty in the afternoon and all four members of team Verve arrived in our three vehicles at Chelan Falls at exactly the appointed time. Turk, Christi, Peteris and me shook hands, hugged, all meeting in ritual motions that began the race. Typically, the team checked in first and at this race the pay-off was to have our maps first when we finished the two gear drops.
First, two kayaks were packed with our gear at the edge of the Columbia River. Here, the Columbia is actually a narrow, north-south lake because of a dam downstream. We guessed about when we would return to the boats since traditionally adventure race courses are not general knowledge. The team received pieces of information that the race director deemed necessary at the time.
Then we drove 20 miles south to drop off the bikes. Then, another drive to the small village of Plain. We have been on the road 3 hours just with the drop-offs. After driving from Seattle, I have had my limit of driving but the race director has other plans. In my mind, I did a little calculation. If teams get to check-in at the end time cutoff, they won’t have much time with maps.
We loaded the yellow school bus at 10pm to ride back to Chelan. The ride is slow and tedious. WHAP! My head hits the window when I try to sleep against it. Concussion force. Christi bragged she had 15 minutes sleep.
Glenn Rogers, the race director, followed the bus in his vehicle towards the start line. Police lights flashed so the entire group of vehicles pulled over. You can imagine the consternation of everyone. In the end, it was a courtesy stop to tell Glenn about a taillight.
Amazing! You’ve got to give Glenn credit, among torches and banners, the race started right on time at midnight. I love the night starts. I just want to race, so let’s do it. The night is the best!
Glenn had us start with urban orienteering, like a street scramble format. We ran around Chelan finding landmarks and with Peteris as navigator, we finished the prologue section in first place. Go team Verve!
The first trek
The best moments in the race took place during the first trek. Team Verve is best when Peteris is navigating and we are on foot. The hills were beautiful, the stars were out. We talked about the constellations, the night birds and the mines we were sent to explore. These are the best moments in any race, the moments when the team is having fun and we are ahead of all the other teams.
The first trek
We came to the end of the urban scramble through Chelan in first place. Then we started to climb into the heart of the first trek, to an area called the "Little Butte" by the locals. I was shocked at how fast DART climbed past us in the beginning.
It was cool seeing everybody's lights throughout the hills. Practicing light discipline kept the constant ups and downs exciting. When we thought the teams behind us could see our lights, we turned them off, only using the moon to navigate. Then when we went over a ridge top, and down the opposite side, we turned the lights on again. Unfortunately the low light did lead to one near tragedy, Christi slipped, fell and struck her face on the ground. She saw stars.
I love paddling! Many adventure racers don’t.
Team verve doesn’t paddle well. That is just a fact.
The sun rose (sort of). It became light as we left the staging area, but because of the north south direction of the water, with the high hills on either side, we were still in the shadows.
After 7 hours of racing, in people with 4% body fat, getting wet from kayak paddle splash, it was not warm. In fact., Christi was starting to shiver. “Sorry, I have got to put on some more clothes.” She apolgized.
My thoughts were very simple. Do what you need to do. It is only ¼ into the race.
Funny that the paddle didn’t register on anyone’s best or worst moments. To me it was very relaxing and comfortable. With our comptetitors making up 20 minutes on us, maybe I was too relaxed.
The first bike
By Glenn Rogers with editing by M.
I loved how on the first bike loop if you looked north, you looked right onto the butte that you trekked the night before and the river you paddled down that morning This race pushed the limits of a 24hr race but it is great to see all these team push into what is almost a multiday race. The whole course had so much.
Our point isn't to punish you. We are trying to grow the sport. All the teams stepped up to the challenge.
The second foot section
The slope we climbed from the transition area from bike to foot, towards the next checkpoint, was very steep – and I mean very steep. The race director had labelled this the “procourse”, and it met expectations. There was no point trying to cut across the slope because of thick brush, so leading the team, I just zigzag up to the nearest ridge.
After getting the two footloop checkpoints, we head back towards the transition area and our mountain bikes. “Short cut.” Christi said. The mountain road goes off into the distance then turns 180 degrees to return below us. The skin on my ankle was already worn by my running shoes. Deep abrasions, frictioned into my ankles from the steep slopes on the first foot section caused me to think about another steep section, and another. If I really was concerned, I guess I could have stopped and covered the area, but I relied on the fact that we weren’t far from our bikes.
The plot thickens
I had hoped to be stronger on the bike but I think the trekking took a lot out of me and my feet. At the begining of the procourse I dropped some gear that I wouldn't need but at the end of the mt bike it was cold and the extra jacket and spare gloves I had been carrying for most of the race were in the transition box. Dam the bad luck!
Biking towards the finish line
The Worst Moments were definitely when I couldn’t stay awake while riding the last section of the race. My problem is that my Friday morning started at 5am. By the time we had driven to Lake Chelan, staged gear, prepped the maps, gathered our bins, boarded and rode the bus for 2 hours, and started the race; I had already been awake for nearly 24 hours. Twenty two-ish hours of racing later, I just could not shake the drowsy’s. I asked if we could stop for a 15 minute nap, and the answer was a resounding NO! It was too cold for everyone to stop (I thought “well we can get into a huddle to stay warm, can’t we?”) Anyway, I was a zombie and not very helpful to the team. It was definitely a tough hour for me, one of the toughest yet.
The race hangover
I struggle to wake up by moving my toes first and gradually my eyes opened to the uncomfortable brightness of fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Rolling over, my office floor where I lay was hard and uncomfortable. I guessed that I had been asleep for about 20 minutes.
Tentatively, I pushed up with my arms until I put weight onto my right foot. A more tentative first step onto the left side pained my knee and I limped forward to the office door. "Shit" I cursed out loud then hoped no one heard me. Luckily there wasn't anyone in the hallway as I limped along.
The thrill of the race, the glory of the finish line, and the grand outdoors had been left behind for four walls and a computer. My body felt like something important has been sucked out of the muscles. It must be like this when I get old. How many times have I gone through the completely drained feeling of post-race hangovers? It won't take long to recover - little by little, day by day.
Then I will get ready to do it again. Moab is next! Can't wait! But first I need to limp down to the restroom, and get back to work.
I have to say thanks to the spouses that supported the race. It always lifted my spirits seeing Petris and his wife together and on the procourse road run hearing him speak of her.