Michigan Coast to Coast Expedition AR, 4-Day Race May 30 - June 3, 2006

Six months previously, our team, WEDALI, registered for the 2nd annual Michigan Coast to Coast adventure race. We raced the MIC2C last year, however for 2006 they added a day and many more miles. We started training in earnest in February, with weekly long run/spin sessions. We added a triathlon and a half marathon to our training schedule, to ensure that we were getting the long miles as well as the quick sprints. As the race date approached, we finalized gear, schedule, and support crew. Eager for our biggest race of the year, we packed up the John Deere suburban (thanks Kent and Sue for allowing us to use it again!), and headed to Frankfort, MI on Sunday, May 28.

12:30pm – we arrived at race headquarters at a beautiful resort right on the shores of Lake Michigan. We checked in, and headed over to gear check, bike check, and navigation check, after which we received all maps and some UTM points. During gear check, the race staff continually commented about our lightweight minimal gear. We managed to pass a 2 gram plastic spoon with no handle for the backpacker’s trowel, a few pen compasses, and utility knives cut down to the smallest possible length. All of our gear is modified in some way – tags cut off, excess fabric removed – my teammates’ obsessive quest for the lightest gear will definitely save us some weight and hopefully help us in the long race ahead. We also race hardtail mountain bikes (with just a front suspension), and we were advised by the bike check volunteers that all other teams were using full suspension bikes. Bah – who needs it! Generally they are just heavier with more parts to break, and we were confident in our strategy. The rest of the afternoon found us plotting points, arranging gear, and trying to figure out how the race would play out.
6pm - Al and Ann Lund arrive in time to join us for dinner. We headed to a great restaurant overlooking the lake and loaded up on an excellent pasta meal to help fuel us for the race. We are able to catch the sunset from our lake view, and decided on a post-dinner walk along the coast and to the lighthouse. It was beautiful, and looking up in the dark starry sky we took a short respite from the pre-race madness, enjoying the waves crashing up on the rock face, and the sounds of the surf on the beach.
11pm – lights out! Justin decides it is time for a haircut, and shaves some go-fast side burns, aerodynamically shaped for speed.

– Pre-race meeting. We received all instructions and more UTM points. We spent the rest of the day plotting points, choosing routes, getting our gear ready, and conferring with the support crew to make sure everyone was on the same page. Molly was so organized that she even wrote down what we wanted to eat at each transition area. After having been strict with my training diet, I thought one of the big plusses of this race was simply the opportunity to indulge in fabulous fattening carbohydrates!
5pm – What do you know, we actually have the vehicles loaded up on time and are driving north to drop off bikes. This bodes well for the start of the race! We leave the bikes where we will pick them up after the initial 8 mile coastal run, and then drive north to the starting line at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.
6:15pm – We parked, and scouted the starting area. A photographer snapped a few pictures of our team, and hung around chatting. After awhile I noticed that it was just the two of us talking, and he discretely inquired as to my status – I tried to dissuade him, however the offer of a post-race beer still lingered. My teammates grabbed and pulled me away for a last minute dash to the bathroom – whew what a relief!
6:45pm – Teams started lining up on the beach between the Salomon blades (20 foot vertical flags), and there were more pictures, along with plenty of hugs from Molly, Ann and Al. All 30 four-person teams were eagerly awaiting the race, checking out other teams. Is it just me or does everyone else look really tall and lean – I felt like we were surrounded by world class triathletes – did I mention that they were all really tall? Our short little hobbit team huddled together for one last group hug.

Stage 1: Trek 8 miles, bike 37 miles
Time: 7pm Tuesday
Count down and GO! The race started with a coast line run over varying terrain – sugary sand, slippery rocks, and wet muck. Early on some teams were all out sprinting. We backed off and tried not to get caught up in the mayhem – as Justin said, this race wasn’t going to be won or lost in the first 10 minutes. We settled into a moderate run, and tried in vain to keep our feet dry. In no time, we were able to see the Salomon blades on the beach where the bike drop was located – how did we get here already? We arrived at CP1/bike drop in 7th or 8th place, with the beginnings of blisters already forming. Running along the beach is a much more romantic idea than the reality – it is really tough on the feet, and set up some competitors for disaster later on in the race.
We had strategically left our bikes near the CP1 check in and the bathrooms – a quick stop and we hopped onto the bikes, carrying our trekking shoes with us. The next section was a fast 37 miles on pavement and gravel for CPs 2 and 3. The key to this stage was route choice – guessing which roads would be paved, which would be solid 2 track, and which would be slow sand. Justin and Scooter had laid out a great plan, and we advanced a few positions during this leg, despite the loss of daylight and night setting in. Our team arrived at CP4/TA1 in 4th place; Molly, Al and Ann had cold drinks and sandwiches for us to take in the canoes. A hurried transition to paddling gear, during which a published picture is taken of Justin’s gear tote – a fact which he goads us with post-race. (Background – 3 members of the team have the same type of gear totes, which makes it easy to pack and stack them. Justin has a completely different design, which he strongly argues is better, a fact which is refuted time and time again by the majority of WEDALI and support crew).

Stage 2: Paddle 28 miles
Time: 11:40pm Tuesday
It was dark, and Scooter was having some issues with his stomach. Due to these factors and our game plan for large open water sections, we decided to all sit in one canoe and tow the other (race rules required each team to take 2 canoes). Justin rigged up a light-weight tow system that trailed the canoe pretty well. We knew that we were faster with 4 in 1 canoe than 2 and 2, but what will be the affect of towing the second canoe? Another factor is that our team is not strong on the paddle sections, despite our training and instruction. We know that we will not hold this 4th place, due to the 90 miles of canoeing in this race, but it was fun to be up with the lead teams at least for a little while. We were alone on the water for a few hours, and then got passed by 2 teams. We were messing around with the drop seats, trying to eat and drink, and loading up on caffeine – who is paddling this thing anyway? The weather took a turn for the worse – it started raining, however it was still a warm night and we were comfortable on the water. Then the thunder and lightening started, lighting up the whole sky and scaring us closer towards shore. About 30 minutes earlier, we passed close by a coast guard boat, who was still trailing us. We figured that if the storm was close and imminently threatening, they would signal us off of the water. We continued paddling, and soon enough the storm passed.
Up to this point, we had strict instructions to stay within 100 feet of the shore. We reached the waypoint marked on our maps, and a volunteer in a boat signals us to make the open water crossing of a bay on Lake Michigan. It was windy, raining, and the waves were tossing our boats around.
After a bit of confusion as to the correct route, we paddled into the harbor for CP5. Another team was close on our heels. We landed first, however there was a single narrow staircase up the steep shore. As we were bailing the water from our canoes, they pushed past us with a few not-so-friendly words, forcing our canoes back into the water. We followed up the staircase shortly after, and Erl noticed that they have dropped a paddle. At this point I would have left it, but he carried it up the stairs to CP5. After a short portage, one of their boats was in the water ready to go, and their second 2 guys were way behind us, not even in sight. They asked us “are our 2 other guys ok?” Hmmm – interesting team dynamics – this makes me thankful again for the great camaraderie and friendships that we have on our team, always looking out for each other.
Back into the canoes, struggling to stay awake during the tough hours of 3-5am. Scooter was still having problems with his stomach – I was worried that he hadn’t eaten or drank much during this section. His wrist was also bugging him – it was extremely swollen from using a feathered paddle setup – I hoped that we could tape it up and get thru the other paddle sections to come. Sun rise hit at 5:30am, and woke us up. We moved onto a river section, and paddled upstream on a fast flowing river. About ½ mile from CP6, we had to get out and pull the canoes. The team Ausable River Rats caught up to us, and we exited the river just behind them to check into CP6/TA2. Our priceless support crew has been waiting up for us all night, and had breakfast sandwiches, cold drinks, and coffee ready. We convinced Scooter to try some soup and water, and changed clothes for the next bike section. We were in about 9th place at this point.

Stage 3: Bike 28 miles
Time: 7:45am Wednesday
Again, the key to this biking section was route choice, and we were mostly on paved and gravel roads. The rain from previous days was a blessing – the sandy roads were a bit compacted, and it was much easier and faster to ride. I recall that we grabbed CP7 and CP8 on this section; the details are a blur. I remember a lot of sand, and that we didn’t see any other teams. We finished this section quickly, and flew up a gravel road to CP9/TA3, which was located in a remote field. Feeling good, we taped up our feet and applied massive amounts of Hydropel in anticipation of the long trek ahead. We were in great spirits, wide awake, and Scooter’s stomach issues seem to have passed. 9th place and holding!

Stage 4: Trek 48 miles
Time: 11am Wednesday
We loaded our packs with pizza and sandwiches, and started out running the roads and trails to get CPs 10, 11, and A (the manned cps are numbered, and the unmanned are alphabetical). Our route to CP12 was a bushwhack directly to the plotted point. We searched up and down the west coast of the lake for the checkpoint, but to no avail. About 150 meters away from the water, and south of where we plotted the point, we found CP12. In retrospect, it does look like the plotted UTM point was off by about 150 to 200 meters, however, the instructions were correct – that the point was at the end of a 2 track road. The gracious volunteers had cold coke and candy for us, and we were off on a run to try and maximize daylight. We grabbed CP13 which was at the cabin of one of the race staff, where the volunteers offered us some fresh baked cookies – yum!
Justin expertly navigated to CPB, and we were still running at this point. The day was overcast and not too warm – ideal for running especially as evening drew near. Onto CP14 which was located at a lumber museum, where we filled up with fresh water and got some much needed bug spray from the volunteers – the mosquitoes were ruthless! We were still in 9th place, and hadn’t run into any other teams. At this point I was on tow, as I had started having some issues with my feet a few CPs back. I stopped and drilled out my toenail, taped up some blisters, and was ready to go again.
CPC included a river crossing, at which point we saw another team crossing back the other way. Hmmm – had they missed CPB? Did they not get the update to the instructions that CPC was on the east bank and not the west bank? We moved on and got the CP, still running and with lots of daylight left.
Now we arrive at the point in the race where our relatively fast pace comes to a screeching halt. We were looking for CP15, which was in the middle of some military training land – specifically used for tanks. As our race directors warned us, the tanks had cut trails thru the woods indiscriminately and profusely, resulting in many trails going every which way that were not represented on our maps. This would be a crucial piece of information that would thwart and mislead many teams. We tried trail after trail, trying to read the topography on the 1:31,000 scale maps (not an easy task), circling back, going back to known points, trying all the orienteering tools and yet always wandering around the same areas. We heard a few other teams, and after a few hours, we were alone with darkness fast approaching. More wandering around, guessing at where we were, trying to make the topography around us match the map. At this point, Justin was falling asleep, and Scooter had the maps. I was pulling Justin along as he was sleep walking, trying to keep him on the trail.
After more wandering around, we finally decided to go back to a completely known point a few miles south and west. Once we arrived there, we looked for some northern trails to get us to the CP, however nothing was matching the map – were we on the road we thought? It was cold, and everyone was falling asleep. At about 2:30, we decided to make a fire and sleep for the night, as the sunrise at 5:30 would wake us up. We pulled out our emergency space blankets (who ever thought we would use these things?) and fell into an exhausted sleep. I awoke shivering and shaking, and saw that Erl was doing the same – we huddled for warmth, and soon Scooter joined us. We got up and moving with the sun, and soon figured out we were on a road a bit south of where we originally thought we were. We headed back north, and wound up on the same trails and features that we were on the night before – we had to try something new. We still hadn’t seen any other teams, and when we tried to call race headquarters last night to inform them that we were still ok (just a bit lost), we didn’t get any cell phone reception. I silently wondered if the race was still even going on, or if it had been canceled and the CPs removed. I fully believed that we were out of the race for sure, that we would be short coursed if not completely done once we found CP15, since we had spent so many hours trying to find it. I pondered what kind of race report I would write – so different from the cheerful stories of leading the race, a fast pace, joking and laughing with other teams, with a bit of luck thrown in. We wanted so badly to do this race, the whole course. We had hoped for a finish in the top 10 (or top 5 depending on the competition), but with this turn of events I was convinced that we would pull a dreaded DNF or get short coursed at best.
We finally decided to take a northern bearing from Duck Lake (the one feature on the map that we were sure about) and Scooter diligently pace counted 1 mile – not an easy task. We arrived at yet another trail that wasn’t marked on the map, and pondered our position. We ran into another team at this point, who had also been looking for the checkpoint for 3 hours. After another look at the map, we decided that we might actually be in the series of depressions just south of the checkpoint – a few meters north and we ran into CP15 – at last! As joyful as we were to finally reach the checkpoint, we realized that we were not even halfway done with the trekking section, and our food supplies might run out. Luckily, the generous volunteer at the CP gave us water, granola bars and dried fruit – we were so thankful and it gave us hope for the rest of this monster trekking section. As we were walking away from the CP, Scooter told us the good news – after being MIA for about 10 hours, we have only slipped from 9th to 12th place and were still in the race!
With renewed energy, we took off running for CPD, and ran into one of the race directors who kindly offered cold water to refill our pack bladders. He radioed back to headquarters (which eventually reached our support crew) that we were ok, and actually running between the checkpoints. Justin and Scooter were back in the groove and found CPD with no issues, and we were onto CP16, which they found in record time.
On our way running to CP17, one of the race directors passed us in his truck, and was concerned that we would not have enough time to make the 8pm cutoff for this section. We basically need to be done with the trek and out of the next TA by 8pm – and there were a lot of CPs to get until then. He suggested that we might want to skip the unmanned CPs and short course it to the TA. We had our hearts set on doing the whole course, so we run into CP17 where our support crew has left our PFDs (life vests) for an optional swim section from CPG to CPH. We have not decided if we will swim or not, but have to take the PFDs with us. They also tell us that the 14 mile orienteering section in the next stage has been removed completely from the course – so this is really the last portion on our feet – hooray! It is now 2:45, and the race directors set a rather arbitrary 3pm cutoff for the next part of the trekking section – CPs E through H. We have faith that we can get them and make the cutoff, so setoff at a good pace. We grab some more water and Little Debbie snack cakes, and are on a fast pace to CPE. We spend about 70 to 90 minutes on this checkpoint, not going far enough north initially. Once we decide to simply shoot a bearing and pace count everything, the rest of the CPs fall into place and we are able to pick them up in short order. Even with this expert navigation, the CPs are miles and miles apart, and our feet are in bad shape, especially mine and Erl’s – a mass of blisters and dead toenails, everything swollen so that our shoes are painfully tight. At CPG, we decided not to swim, mostly because our packs would get soaking wet and weigh us down for the rest of the trek. We also wanted to keep our feet dry, to avoid more damage. I was on tow most of this time, and the mosquitoes were swarming again. We were dangerously low on food and water, and racing the cutoff time. At last we found CPH at about 7:15, and realized that we needed to run the last 3.5 miles into the resort. It was rally time, and we dug up whatever we had left and ran for the next 35 minutes, anxiously checking our watches – is it possible for us to make this cutoff? Al met us on the road near the resort along with a race official who informed us that the cutoff had been extended to 10pm. We relaxed our pace a bit, relieved that we can spend a few hours in the TA recuperating and off of our feet. We jog into TA4 at 7:50pm, triumphant that we found all the CPs, were not short coursed, and still have a few hours to regroup. We felt back on track and ready for the next challenge. Due to our team finishing the entire course up to this point, we were in 8th place. At least 10 teams had dropped out of the race at this time, and many others were short coursed and are unranked. Molly nicknamed this portion of the race the death march, due to the condition of most teams as they straggled in.
A word about the location of this TA. It was situated in the parking lot of a swanky golf resort, complete with luxury condos, meticulously manicured greens, and rich, pampered guests. It was a clash of 2 different worlds when their slovenly, drunken paradise was rudely interrupted by hundreds of bedraggled racers, rusty support crew vehicles, and canopies hogging the parking spaces for their Cadillacs and sports cars. Racers and support crew were strewn about the resort, with wet, muddy, stinky gear littering every open space.
Grateful for the comfy chairs, hot food, cold drinks, and incredible support crew, we spent 2 hours in the TA eating chicken pasta, cookies, and anything not nailed down. A medical volunteer was helping teams with feet issues, which were numerous after the hellish trek. Erl got his blisters worked on, a painful ordeal that lasted 30 minutes, while I took the opportunity to steal a nap. Molly read website shout-outs from our friends and family, along with Lynn’s motivational card (thanks!). As we tried to pull on our biking shoes, Justin asked “Who shrunk our shoes? Did you guys put these in the dryer?” Our feet had swollen so much that we had a tough time cramming them into our biking shoes, despite deliberately bringing larger sizes, removing the insoles, and wearing the thinnest socks possible. On Justin’s excellent suggestion, we had previously packed our toothbrushes in our gear bins and took the opportunity to use them after 2 days of going without. Erl grabbed his toothbrush and said “It is time for me to brush my feet. Ops, I mean teeth, heehee!” We were tired to the point of delirium, irrationality, and incoherence after racing hard for over 48 hours. We finally pulled our exhausted team together and left the TA at 10pm on bikes.

Stage 5: Bike 80 miles (14 mile O-section removed)
Time: 10pm Thursday
Relieved to be off of our feet, we gratefully sat down on our bike seats - ouch! We were all experiencing some soreness and chaffing – this will not be an easy ride. It was now completely dark and we were on fast paved roads, but Justin was having trouble seeing the maps, thoroughly exhausted from the tough navigation the past 32 hours on the trekking section. We pulled over on a side road, and Justin and I stole a 10 minute nap while Scooter took the maps and worked on distances and road names with Erl. We got back on the bikes, and made our way onto gravel and sand roads. Justin and I were still fighting the sleep monster, and trying to focus on the road. We punched CPI, and then moved to another side road so that Scooter and Erl could figure out the mileage and route to CPJ and beyond, while Justin and I grabbed another 40 minutes of sleep. Back onto sandy roads for a few more miles, and then we turned onto the High Country Pathway hiking trail. This was some awesome singletrack that had lots of twists and turns, logs and roots, and we were having fun riding it. We arrived at CPJ, and decided to keep moving. At about 3am, we were still on this trail, and since it was relatively warm in the woods, we decided to catch a few hours of sleep. Waking at 5am, we decided on 15 more minutes of sleep, and then we were all up and on our bikes, refreshed and moving fast. Justin took the maps again, and we were spinning along, feeling good, enjoying the sunny morning. On our way to CP19, a fawn and its mom crossed the road in front of us. The fawn couldn’t make the jump over the fence, so laid down in the road trying to hide. It was maybe a few weeks old – tiny and fragile with its legs all splayed out and huge brown eyes looking up at us - just about the cutest thing I have ever seen. Back on track, we arrived at CP19 in short order. The volunteer advised us that we needed to step up the pace in order to finish this section before the 4pm cutoff time, as lead teams were taking longer than expected.
The next CPs (K, L, M, N, O, P and Q) were unmanned, and we ran into a few other teams along the way. We were slogging through some really deep sand on the roads, alternated with fun singletrack on the High Country Pathway trail. On our way to CPQ we rode over a section of this trail named the Old Railroad Grade. We soon figured out that the trail was build directly over the old railway, including the original railroad ties – ouch! This was an incredibly bumpy ride on our hardtail bikes, and at this point I could see why all the other teams had full suspension bikes for this race. This section also took us through some mosquito-infested swamps which gave us incentive to move quickly. As the morning turned into afternoon, the weather heated up and we were consciously drinking more water and popping eCaps every hour or two. Back onto the thick sand – I must have fallen a dozen times, and even Scooter who is a technical whiz on the mountain bike took a few spills trying to find the best line. Finally we reached CP20 on a gravel road, where we awoke the volunteer who seemed about as sleep deprived as we were. Onto CPR in a state park where we got to ride more singletrack, and then we made our way towards CP21. This was where we would have dropped our bikes for the 14 mile foot orienteering section. Since this section was removed from the race, we instead had a 7 mile hammer-fest on paved roads to CP22/TA5.

Stage 6: Paddle 48 miles
Time: 1:45pm Friday
At the previous TA, Molly told us that Team SOLE always ran into the transition areas yelling “Team SOLE, 2 minutes!” even if they were taking 5 or 10 minutes. Aside from making their team hurry in the TA, it was also a psychological tactic for other teams that seemed to work well, seeing as how they were in first place. Biking to the TA, we decided to say “Team WEDALI, 1:59!” Which we thought was funny – we did want a fast transition, but figured 10 minutes was about the least amount of time we could take. We rode into the TA at a fast past at 1:30pm, over 2 hours before the cutoff. We grabbed some excellent burgers that Al expertly grilled, more sandwiches and cold pop, changed into our paddling clothes, and headed to the canoe put-in.
The whole team was dreading this 48 mile paddle; Scooter because of his swollen wrist, Justin because it lulls him to sleep, and Erl and I because we know that paddling is our weakest discipline. In retrospect, this section actually was one of my favorite of the entire race. We had the pleasure of paddling our canoes downstream on a curvy fast-moving river, on a sunny beautiful day. We were off of our feet, some of us shed the bike shorts, relaxing in tevas and comfy clothes, enjoying the sunshine. Erl and Justin became experts at maneuvering the canoes through tight 90 degree turns, and we managed to keep moving at about 5 mph. We scarfed down fresh fruit, hamburgers and cold pop, and I was thinking what a wonderful opportunity we had to canoe down this river, and participate in this crazy thing called adventure racing.
The river started to widen out, and we lost the fast moving current we had enjoyed up to this point. Scooter and Justin were having a tough time keeping up with us – what was going on? It turns out that they had grabbed a bum canoe – it was missing the supporting metal bars that line the inside of the canoe, which affected the streamline and slowed them down. They loaded all of their gear into our boat in an effort to help even out the boats, but it was a fruitless endeavor. After about 6 hours of paddling, we arrived at CP23 which was a dam crossing. We spotted Molly jumping up and down, running in circles about ¼ mile away – how cool that our support crew was there to cheer us on! The race directors and volunteers at the CP told us that we were in 7th place due to a team dropping and unless we really screwed up, we should hold that spot.
As we continued paddling, we noticed a small storm that dropped some rain on us, but we missed the worst of it. The team directly behind us wasn’t so lucky and got caught up in the storm, eventually having to drop out of the race due to coldness and inability to stay awake. We paddled for a few more hours, and then darkness set in. The mosquitoes were fierce, swarming around our headlamps, making it difficult to even breathe much less see. I started talking to Erl to stay awake, and when I would stop paddling for even 10 seconds I would get shivering cold. I dug out all the warm clothes and space blankets I had and was still shivering. I had to raid Scooter’s pack to find some neoprene gloves, which helped tremendously. We finally made it to CP24/TA6, where we all changed out of wet clothes, grabbed some hot soup and coffee, and prepared for the final stage. At this point it was 12:30am and we decided to push on through to the end of the race, rather than get some sleep. We were all pretty much at the end of our ropes – mentally and physically exhausted, the sleep deprivation over the last 4 days taking a huge toll.

Stage 7: Bike 18 miles, Ropes, Paddle 12 miles
Time: 1am Saturday
We left the TA on bikes, and traveled 4 miles on pavement to the first ropes section - a traverse and CP25. We geared up with all of our climbing regalia, and Justin was the first to hook into the traverse over a sinkhole. This turned out to really be a traverse and not a zip line. He had to pull himself along the rope about 70 feet, and when he finally reached the other side yelled “this is really tough!” We figure that he was just kidding, so we laughed and said “yeah right.” He said “no, seriously, this is really hard!” Nothing to do now but go for it. Erl and I wound up with the crappy pulleys and our zip was about 40 feet, with the traverse about 100 feet, which had us doing the hand over hand to get to the other side. After paddling for 90 miles, and hauling a pack around for over 3 days, our arms didn’t have much left and we had to dig deep to make it to the other side. As we were finishing up the traverse, Justin rappelled into the sinkhole to pick up trash (another team challenge), and ascended back up to join the team as we geared up for another biking section.
Back on the bikes, we traveled 5 or 6 miles to the next ropes section. We were on remote gravel roads, completely uninhabited, with no lights or signs of life. I felt totally sketched out, so sleep deprived that I couldn’t trust my own senses, and worried that we would fall asleep on our bikes. We decided to take it slow, and keep each other from going into orbit by keeping constant chatter, and trying to watch out for each other. After 6 miles, we arrived at the rappel/ascend ropes section and CP26, where we had to wake up a race director. We walked over to the rappel, which was 80 feet off of a bridge into another sinkhole, this one complete with a waterfall. We were so tired, and made sure to triple check everyone’s harness and gear. The rappel was incredible – very fast and surreal due to the sleep deprivation. Scooter went down first, with Justin finishing up last. We regrouped at the bottom, and hooked up our gear for ascending. Scooter went up first – I swear he flew up the rope, followed by me and Erl. We decided to use only 1 foot cord, to carry less weight, and it worked just fine for the ascend. However, by the time I reached the top of the ascend and the bridge, my arms were shaking so badly that I couldn’t unhook my gear. We had totally tweaked our arms on both ropes sections, and we still had an 12 mile paddle to finish the race.
On the bikes again for the final 8 miles to the canoe landing. We were falling asleep, and tried telling stories and bawdy tales to stay awake. By this time our feet and legs were so sore and blistered that it hurt just to unclip from our bike pedals – we just had to keep moving! Justin was so chaffed that he pedaled the entire last section standing. Limping along, we finally arrived at the campground for CP27. Our friends on team Albatross were sleeping by the fire – apparently they made an attempt at the final paddle but had to come back and catch a few zzzs. We grabbed a few canoes that still had glow sticks attached from other racers that had finished before us – we thought this was a lucky move at the time, but it proved to be a poor choice of canoe in the end.
The sun was rising on our last day of the race as we pushed off for the final 12 mile canoe section. We tried to rally to the end, but we were so tired and Justin and I were falling asleep mid-stroke. We decided to hook the canoes together and tow Scooter and Justin, and made it to the first of 3 portages. Erl noted that our canoe was about ¼ full of water – how did that happen? Turns out that the canoe we chose had a hole in the bottom from previous racers dragging the 85 pound behemoth thru the gravel portages. We were informed that this type of abuse on the canoes would result in an hour time penalty. Erl worked a little magic with some duct tape, at the same time team Albatross landed at the portage site as well. Keith was sporting glasses with only 1 lens (never got the full story there), and Justin just stared opened mouthed at Keith, not comprehending what he was seeing. Keith giggled hysterically and suggested that we needed to pull Justin back from orbit. They quickly passed us up on the portage – one key to being a larger team is that these huge canoes are easier to carry, as they are a smaller percentage of your total body weight. These tanks weighed almost as much as Scooter. Back in the water on the other side of the dam, we paddled a few more miles to the next portage, which was another ¼ mile carrying the canoes up and down a few steep hills. Justin was falling asleep and doing some “air paddling.” Scooter looked back and saw Justin’s eyes closed, but his arms were still moving the paddle. Unfortunately, the paddle was not in the water, so his efforts were for not. We wound up hooking the canoes together, to pool our dwindling energy together to get to the finish line.
We paddled some more miles to our last portage, which was in the middle of Alpena, our finish town. We avoided the huge rapids since our mental and physical states were such that we may not have gotten through them. We paddled through the outlet into Lake Huron, and rounded the corner for what we hoped was a short distance to the finish line. On the horizon I spotted the Salomon blades waving in the wind. A collective groan went up from the team – we had at least another ½ mile on the waves of Lake Huron. Our boat was filling with water again, and the sloshing from side to side was getting old. We tried to rally again to the finish, however Justin was still falling asleep. I tried to motivate my team to the end – all I could think about was getting out of those clothes and into a hot shower - but my attempt was in vain as we plodded along at a painfully slow pace. Finally we got close enough to see Molly, Al and Ann on the shore cheering us in. We beached the canoes at the finish line, took a minute to stand up on our aching feet, and hobbled across the finish line for one last triumphant, exhausted group hug.

Post race:
After getting home on Monday, I stepped onto the scale. What?! How had I gained 10 pounds? I knew the support crew kept us in scrumptious food – pasta, burgers, pizza (all the stuff I skipped during training season) – but dang! Perhaps it had something to do with my cankels (calf-ankles – our feet and legs were so swollen that there was no ankle or foot anymore – just one huge calf). I was lamenting all the junk food I ate during the race – did I really need 11 homemade chocolate chip cookies? Or the gigantic handful of candy bars on the trek – I was so ravenous I almost ate the wrappers as well. Tuesday I lost 3 pounds, and woke up Wednesday morning down 5 more pounds – coincidentally, I could now also make out my feet from my lower leg. Thursday I shed another 3 pounds and could now see each individual toe – whew! I was almost ready to reconsider this whole adventure racing business – there are a lot more fun ways to pack on the pounds than pushing yourself 300 miles across a state (think fruity umbrella drinks on a tropical beach).
Even more so than my weight, this race was a roller coaster ride for our team. We had such highs and incredible lows; from running with the lead teams to being hopelessly lost and wandering in circles. Through it all, we persevered, kept faith in our team, and completed the goal we had set out to accomplish. To finish the 2006 MIC2C in its entirely, every last mile (and those that we chose to add) with our full team intact, making all time cutoffs and crossing the finish line hand in hand.

(C) 2004-2007 WEDALI adventure racing