Monday, December 8, 2008

Achieving Mediocrity on Very Little Sleep

Saturday was the Desert Rage Finale Adventure Race.

Important Numbers:
3... 17.... 7 1/2... 0

That is a team of 3 (Irene and I let her husband, Brian, join Storming the Castle) going 17 miles, for 7 1/2 straight hours of racing all on 0 hours of sleep. Damn, I'm tired. Perhaps I shouldn't have gone out dancing the night before? Though I went home early from the club, I could not sleep at all. Finally I got out of bed around 2:00 am and just waited for it to be 4:30 so I could go meet Brian and Irene.

The race started at 7:00 am. We were a little late arriving, so our race started with going through the start line and then parking the truck and boat trailer, going potty and then finally actually racing. It was still dark when the race started so we had to plot the course by means of a flashlight. It was also freezing cold!!
The first phase of the race included three checkpoints - one trekking, one biking and one paddling. We started with the trekking, mostly because the idea of getting on the lake when it was so cold out was completely appalling. We did great on the first checkpoint, though jumping down this little cliff might not have been the best route to take, but so far, so good.
Then we paddled this canoe for the second checkpoint. Most of the other, experienced teams had kayaks, but we couldn't find a 3-man kayak to rent, so we went with the very slow, very heavy, very tippy canoe option. It was a fiasco. We were literally going in circles for a time. At one point we almost dumped ourselves into the lake. We rolled so far to the side that we almost had water over the gunwale (I took rowing once so I know fancy terms like this. I quit because I sucked at it...should have thought of that before this race). Of course, we overcorrected and almost tipped the other direction. However, the fates smiled on us and kept us dry and alive. Finally, we figured out the best way to maintain course, but wow, was it slow-going! We rowed that frickin' canoe for 2 miles. It was horrible.

I was so relieved to be out of the boat that I was almost looking forward to the biking portion. Some people have a fear of heights or a fear of spiders and greatest fear is this:Which is why much of the time I "ride" like this:
The biking portion was a 3 mile ride up a mountain. Two parts of the trail were so steep that even real mountain bikers had to walk their bikes up. If you click on the below picture to enlarge it, you can see the trail we rode up and the elevation gain. We started at the lake. It was brutal. During most of the ride I was re-thinking my decision to not ride a bike at all since the last race in September.
This was the final segment of the bike leg. Everyone (not just wussies like me!) left their bikes at the bottom of this and hiked up to the summit.
I was very happy to reach the biking checkpoint!
Then it was 3 miles back to the transition area. I rode the majority of those 3 miles, but had to walk the bike down the really steep parts. The whole thing was terrifying. Brian rocked the bike portion - too bad he had to waste so much time waiting for me and Irene to catch up.

The next task of the race was remote orienteering. One person (Irene) received a map with checkpoints. The other people (Brian and I) got a map with no checkpoints. Irene was sequestered at the beach and had to direct us to the three checkpoints via radio only. She is a great communicator so we had no problem with mapping the checkpoints. We did have some difficulty finding one of them, but Irene talked us to the right spot. Yay for Irene!

Then we had to paddle again. AGAIN!? Good god. On the plus side, by this time it was warm out and I was no longer quite as scared to dump the canoe. But, again, we sucked on the way to the checkpoint. Going in circles was really embarrassing while all the cool-kid kayakers zoomed right past us! Ergh.

The last portion of the race was a zinger of a hike. The checkpoint was at the top of a mountain. A mountain covered in these, that is:All three of us at one point during the race were attacked by a cactus. Both Brian and Irene were done in by these jumping chollas. I don't know the names of the cacti (that's right...plural) that got me. I got one on my shin that wasn't too bad, though there are still bits of it embedded under my skin. Later I was squatting down so that Irene could use me as a step to get over a barbed wire fence and when she stepped off I lost my balance and smacked my hand down into a pile of cacti. Yeah, that hurt! A LOT.

The hike to the last checkpoint was about 2 miles out. We started this last task at 1:00 pm and since about half of it could be done via a road, we hoped to finish by 2:00. Yeah... not so much. We overshot our target by a good 15 minutes and had to backtrack, which led to some bickering among my other teammates and a lagging of spirits. Then we had to climb a really steep incline while dealing with the aforementioned chollas. The race was advertised to take 3-6 hours. We were already almost at hour 7. Did I think about quitting? Oh, yeah... But we stuck it out, finally found the final checkpoint and booked it back to the finish line. At 2:30 pm we checked in as the 5th place finishers. 5th place - woo hoo!, right? Well, there were only 7 teams who did the short-course. But 5th out of 7 means that we were not last! So, WOO HOO for mediocrity! And did I mention that I had no sleep the night before?

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