After a 12 hour drive, we arrived on Thursday afternoon at the French
Lick Springs Resort in Indiana, where all the action would go down for
the 30 hour, 3-man teams race. We busied ourselves with last minute
gear arranging and team strategery, and Justin decided to try his hand
as a seamstress by inventing some garbage bag pants for the mandatory
gear list waterproof bottoms. After a bit of parading around, we convinced
him that the plastic and duct tape masterpiece was better served left
in the hotel room. Onto the gear check, pasta dinner and pre-race meeting
– all maps would be handed out at 5am – woohoo we get some
sleep! The evening saw us messing with more gear (my teammates are hardcore
gear-junkies – I just stand around and watch as they harrange
and agonize over how light they can get their packs). 11pm – lights
3:30am alarm (anxious Scooter
urging us onward), down to the TA at 3:45; to our surprise there was
NOBODY there… We didn’t even know where the TA was supposed
to be exactly. We saw a bunch of “expo” tents setup, and
finally saw another racer and asked “Is this the TA?” Racer:
“I hope so, because this is where we setup our tent.” Light
bulb! Doh! All the “expo” tents were actually team tents...
We were pretty humbled, and I wondered how our little rag-tag team would
hold up against these professionals. We set down our little tarp, dwarfed
by the tents, chairs, and gear of other teams, and laid out our gear,
nervous about this national race we were about to start.
5am maps! Scooter and Justin
plot points – what is this?! A wrong UTM coordinate? Scooter and
Justin were right on and realized the error in seconds. Happy to have
a job, I ran downstairs to the race officials, got the correct point,
and tried to help the team by running around getting food, getting gear
ready, and trying to shake the feeling that I was in way over my head.
6:45 down to the TA, last
minute scramble, then run to starting line – 150 other racers!
6:55 everyone sings the national anthem – sends shivers down my
spine. Standing at the start line, the team feels lopsided and too small
– Erl is on the wrong side of the spectator fences – how
are we going to race without him?
6:58 – 2 mins to go! Molly and Erl cheering us on from the sidelines,
and we have a big team hug, and say “Let’s have fun!”
“Let’s have a great race!” And scream/shout with adrenaline
racing, eager to jump in and see how this little MN team can play with
the big boys.
7am – gun! The race is split into 3 sections: run-paddle-run,
then bike-paddle-bike and finish with bike-orienteer-triad (1 on bike,
1 on scooter, 1 on foot).
We start off with a moderate mid-pack run to CP1, not wanting to expend
too much energy on this 2 mile beginning run. Many teams are all out
sprinting, and we already see teams having issues, as one group high-tails
it back to the hotel to grab a forgotten passport (doh!). On our way
to a hilltop for CP1, there are signs with arrows pointing the way,
and Justin asks loudly “Which way do we go?” No reply from
other teams – they are all too serious at this point and don’t
enjoy his levity. We are still in mid-pack at this point, and run down
a big hill to the Baden hotel – quick in and out for CP2, then
to the 3-man plastic canoes, which we found out were EXTREMELY tippy!
A 12 mile paddle, cold water, and 7 log jams, where we saw numerous
teams flip their canoes in the rapid current – brrr! As paddling
isn’t our strong point, we got passed by a handful of teams, but
managed to make up some spots by kicking ass over the log jams. At one
log jam, there were 5 teams backed up, waiting to get around the jam
at the easiest point on the left side. Justin makes a split-second call
to go right, and urges us “Ramming Speed!” So we hit the
logs, and then got out to pull our canoe along, while precariously balancing
on the floating logs (and garbage), at times sinking down to our necks
in the frigid water. There were a few eventful portages, including scraping
the canoe over a barbed-wire fence, but we arrived unscathed (the same
can’t be said of our canoe) at the finish, and portage to Erl
and Molly, who proceed to take pictures as we shiver and shake from
the cold, trying to transition from the paddle to the run. At this point
we are in about 20th place. A few teams only made it this far into the
race before the dreaded DNF, wracked with hypothermia due to the 35
degree weather. Onto the Adventure Run. This included 4 trekking checkpoints,
roughly 5 miles, which Justin navigated to like he had placed the points
himself. No problems here, and we ran back to the TA in high spirits
to check in.
We ran to our little tarp, swapped shoes, grabbed food, water, and were
off on the bikes. On road for a few CPs, where Justin’s route
choice proved to be genius again – found the shortest route with
the least hills (probably because he knew he would be hauling my ass
up some steep ones later). Then the bike leg took us off-road, around
a huge lake for a few CPs. I was being cautious, and held my speed in
check, not wanting to crash and risk anything that would endanger our
chances at finishing, like a broken bike. No such luck - I crashed anyway,
going down a steep little hill with a sneaky 90 degree turn in the middle.
Bam! On the ground hard – I rang my bell pretty good and got a
little freaked out, but the guys were way ahead of me so I got right
back in the saddle.
We finished the mtn bike
section, then a few more miles on road to the second (and thankfully
last) paddle section. During the 8-10 mile paddle, we got passed by
4 teams, getting 2 CPs. Our spirits were a bit lagging, being passed
and wrestling with the boat that ALWAYS wanted to turn right, so Justin
thought it would be fun for us to talk like pirates.
To other teams.
“Ahoy Maties!” “Shiver me timbers!”
Scooter was having none of it, in a bit of agony over an old shoulder
injury, and the other teams mostly tried to get away from us asap. However,
this didn’t deter Justin, and I joined in with my parrot imitation
(which I think is GREAT, but it didn’t draw rave reviews from
my teammates). With the finish in-site, we put in a huge last effort
to the shore, still struggling with our forever right-turning boat.
A quick TA and back on the bikes for a road ride, back to CP 5/10/14.
We checked in and then tried to quickly get on a separate mtn bike section,
but were foiled by Johnny Law. A police SUV was blocking the way to
the trail – Justin and Scooter whizzed by him, but I got stopped
and harassed – he wanted to see our permits (what?!), eventually
I raced off, realizing he couldn’t follow us in the SUV, and had
no chance of catching us on foot, given the beer and doughnut diet he
obviously stuck to religiously. Onto the trail – really muddy
– Scooter fell, I fell, Justin fell. Finished this section of
mud and muck, and then on-road again back to CP 14. We realized the
sun was setting and bust ass to finish in daylight – 7.5 more
miles of mtn biking to CP 19, then road ride back to the TA. All in
all, about 30 miles of mtn biking, and 30 miles of road biking. We are
in 13th place, and happy to be there!
Back in the TA, we grab trekking gear, more food, water, and checkout
as team Outtek is checking in. It is dark at this point, probably around
8pm or so, and we head out for the 8 – 10 mile road ride to the
Farsta/orienteering section, where we drop the bikes, change shoes,
grab maps and head out fast on the 1st loop of 2, each with 8 checkpoints.
So fast that we didn’t realize there was a key on the map, which
gave details about the checkpoint locations... 1st loop: Justin, in
usual form, hits all the check points quickly, and we are running on
the trails, and doing a fast hike on the bushwhack, feeling really good
at this point. We clue into the map key, and make good time to CP5,
where Molly and Erl are a welcome site – hunkered down in their
sleeping bags, urging us onward. 3 more checkpoints to finish the loop,
and then back to the orienteer start to get the second map, hot soup
2nd loop: we got to revisit
4 of the CPs that we had hit before, so this loop takes less time, maybe
1 ½ hours or so. I am starting to feel the fatigue, and furiously
chew some caffeinated gum for a boost. Our little team is chugging along,
still joking, but feeling a bit weary. The bushwhacking is taking a
mental toll, with all the millions of thorn bushes and vines to fight
thru. CP5 to see Molly and Erl again – I can’t believe what
a mental/emotional help it is to see those guys again. They tell us
we are in 6th place – I can’t believe it – how did
we make up 7 spots? Another 30 mins and the boys stop in the woods to
check the map. I catch up, and put my hands on their shoulders - they
both look up and say “whats up,” and realize I could use
a hug – group hug, shouts and slaps on the back energizes me and
touches my heart to know these guys care and are looking out for me.
Onto CP7 – we are still running the trails at this point (we see
most other teams walking), and we pass a team who decides to follow
us. Near the CP, we canvass the bush to find the flag. Scooter nails
it, but doesn’t want to give it away with the other team so close.
Scooter “Justin, I don’t think it is here, ca-caw.”
Justin: “Scooter come this way.” Scooter: “I think
we are in the wrong place, CA-CAW!” Justin finally catches on
that the ca-caw means he got the CP (our secret signal discussed pre-race),
and we move on.
At some point, I asked
Scooter, who has the amazing male ability to filter out all female voices,
what time it was. No response. I wait a respectable few minutes, huffing
and puffing along the trail, and then politely ask again. Scooter: “No.”
Justin and I try to guess what time it is, while running, but Scooter
was not wavering on his resolve to keep us in the dark. Apparently he
thought we might get tired if we realized it was 1:30am and we had been
racing for over 17 hours. On our way to the last CP of the farsta, we
are running down a gravel road, and see a pickup truck with 3 (ostensibly
drunk) men pass us slowly, then hit reverse and squeal back towards
us. Scooter, “Should we hit the woods?” Justin, “Hell
yeah!” We run into the woods. Drunk townies; “Whatch’all
doin?” Us; “Racing.” Drunk townies; “Good luck.
Want some cold beer?” As tempting as it was, we declined, and
finished the second loop shortly. Now for the triad – I switched
to bike shoes, the guys grabbed the scooter and we hit the gravel road.
Only 8 – 10 miles to the finish! I road my bike, carrying 2 packs
and towing whoever was running, and they swapped running and scootering
every ½ mile or so. They devised a pretty good system, and we
made good time, flying on the downhill, always worried about a team
passing us, although we never saw anyone else on this section. The last
few miles we decided to kick it up a notch into town:
…we are entering the hotel parking lot…
…see the banners, lights, and people at the end…
…grasping hands 15 feet from the finish line…
…crossing the finish line at 3:16am…
…I still can’t believe it is happening – we finished
the race! We check the standings - 6th place?! How did we manage that?
More group hugs, a few pictures with huge smiles on our faces, and Joe
hangs medals around our necks. I feel better than if I had won the Olympics.
4am decide to leave all the nasty, muddy, stinky gear outside and get
some showers and sleep!
9am Molly and Erl back – group hugs and congrats!
10:30 breakfast – damn did we work up some appetites!
12pm outside to deal with gear and chat with other racers. One thing
that really strikes me is how many teams just fell apart during the
race, especially as the hours ticked by. This is where we really shined
– we grew closer and more supportive as the race went on, whereas
other teams dissolved into fighting, bickering, and not looking after
6pm banquet! open bar, dinner, slide show, and I challenge Molly to
a drinking contest (possibly in my own mind, since she teetotalled with
just 1 beer).
7:30 awards – we graciously accept all the great gear, including
new bike tires. I am still astounded at our incredible finish, at how
strong our team is, and how much we accomplished this year.
8:30 live band Xanado – we are the first people on the dance floor,
partly because Erl was so taken with girls in the band, the “sparkly
hot chicks.” We have a great time dancing for hours, and show
everyone what MN is made of in the limbo contest. The last song of the
night is “We are Family,” and Justin grabs Scooter from
the sidelines, and we dance in a tight circle, all 5 of us, arms around
each other, smiling, singing, laughing, and hugging. The meaning of
the song stikes us all; I love these guys like my own brothers and sisters.
We are family.