Monday, July 16, 2007

Desert Heat Adventure Race #1 Report

Wakeup at 4:30 AM confused and think "am I flying somewhere" since that is usually the only thing that will get me out of bed that freaking early. Realize that today is the day of my first adventure race and I get to wear my new $8.00 dryfit shirt that matches my teammate's. Sweet, suddenly I have no problem getting up.


Since I don't really enjoy eating this early in the morning, I force down a granola bar and a Diet Rockstar. Yes it was the breakfast of champions and I realize that nutrition is not my strong suit.

Leave the house around 5:30 am to go pick up some friends who are also competing as partners in the race. We arrive at the Coon Bluffs (race start/finish/transition-area) at around 6:15 AM ready to roll.

Team Buck-I checks in at 6:30 AM (thats us, Go BUCKS) and receives instructions on how to compete in upcoming adventure race (AR). We read voraciously in order to figure everything out since this is our first race. Looking around, uh oh, there were around 30 other teams, many looking either very fit or very old and experiencely grizzled (you know what I am talking about).

There were basically 14 checkpoints on our passport that had to be stamped off with the whole race covering around 7 miles. The first 6 were located close by the TA and consisted of 3 small checkpoint flags that needed to be found along with 3 partner activities that had to be completed. These first 6 checkpoints could be done in any order. Checkpoints 7 - 14 had to be done in sequential order and we were given a topo-map to figure out how to get to them. These checkpoints were basically a little flag with a stamper (puncher) hanging from them that you punched in the little box on your passport. The course was along a river so we had that as our best navigational beacon. We also could leave our river tubing gear (PFDs and pumps) back at the TA for when we needed them. We examined the directions (we didn't have the maps yet) and figured out what order to do our first 6 checkpoints in.

At 7am, maps where handed out and the AR was on. We completed the first 6 points very quickly and efficiently and were doing fairly well at this point. Following that, we started out trail running for the farther checkpoints of 7 - 10 which were spread out over a couple mile radius over some cactus hills/small mountains. This was where wrong decision #1 occurred. We decided to try to stay along the river before cutting over to the dot on the map. We were running along a trail for while when lo and behold, the trail petered out along a cliff by the river. Our choice was to backtrack, or swim the river to the next beachy area and then try to climb out. Into the water we went which was deep with swift back currents at this point. We knew we were on the wrong track since we didn't have our life preservers at this point and the race organizers would not have liked it, but several other groups had made the same mistake so we weren't alone. The river actually felt amazing since we were already hot and sweaty and I didn't really mind cooling off.

Back on track we followed a wash up to the first checkpoint and saw a large group of teams who were not dripping wet (meaning not lost) so we realized that we had lost some time swimming the river, but oh how enviously they looked at our cool bodies. We tried to run as many of these cactus hills as possible to get past the horde and ended up doing the next three checkpoints very expeditiously while passing most of the teams. We made smart navigational choices here as well as used our loose rock cactus maneuvering skills and ended up hooking up with our two other teams of friends who were competing to hightail it back to the TA. Little did we know that our three teams were coming into the TA as groups 2 - 5 at this point. We seriously thought we were in the middle of the pack.

Tom and I finished the next stupid little game (using your partner to move some clips from one string to another) very quickly and pumped our tubes for the adventure tubing portion of the day. I must say I was hot and ready for water at this point. I think we were about 1.25 hrs in at this point. Team Buck-I was the first out of the TA this time and set out down the black paved road wearing nice hot life preservers, carrying black tubes and camelbacks. Let me just tell ya that Phoenix is already hot at 8:30 am, believe me. We had about a mile run on the road when we finally saw checkpoint 12 marking the place to head to the river. At this point, we were in 2nd place behind some amazing Monster Energy Drink sponsored adventure racers who finished the whole thing in like an hour. Again, we didn't realize our position, but we were pumped to be ahead of our friends and said "lets not let anyone pass us" promptly jinxing ourselves.

At this point, our map was worse for the wear (wet/dirty and stuck to itself) and we honestly hadn't spent much time looking at it in awhile. I asked Tom if there was a checkpoint on the river or if we could just cut across to it anywhere (we were about a mile from the river at this point). He heard that as "lets cut across the shortest path to the river" so we veered left leaving this nice sandy path that was veering right. This brings us to wrong decision #2. Halfway to the river, we looked at the map again, only to realize that checkpoint 13 was significantly right of where we had gone left and that we were going the wrong way. We had also left the nice sandy path and were currently bushwacking through Joshua trees and cactus up and down ravines. We started veering right then, but it was pretty depressing realizing we had just killed ourselves in the wrong direction and surely let a lot of people pass us. When we finally hit the river, we were unsure whether we still needed to go right or left and the heat and fatigue starting creeping in. The mind is tricky little beast and will use any excuse make you think you should just give up since you are already screwed. I finally made the executive decision that we hadn't gone far enough and that if we were going in the wrong direction, we would eventually figure it out and just tube down the river once we realized it. Better to go further the wrong way than not far enough in the right.

Twenty minutes later, we finally heard some noises on the river and saw some people tubing past us. This meant that YEAH we were going in the right direction finally but SHIT people had passed us in the meantime. When we finally got to the checkpoint 13 directly beside the river (which marked the tubing portion start) I was so happy just to get in the water that I didn't care that we had been passed by 4 other teams.

Tubing down a cold fast moving river after running through the desert for 2 hrs in heaven and I had to fight the urge just to sit back and relax. I am competitive by nature so very quickly my mind started screaming 'paddle faster, kick harder, lets go catch some people'! Its actually pretty hard to do since the river will take you as fast as it wants to. We caught 1 group and came pretty close to 2 others but ended up crossing the finish line (checkpoint 14) in 6th place (unofficially) at around 9:15 AM. Our good friends Ryan and Sarah got a sweet dog chain medal for 3rd place (okay it wasn't really that sweet but that's not the point) and my friends Angel and Alicia got 4th.

Tom and I feel very much in our hearts that without our little navigational mishap, we may have placed so we were pretty happy about that. Overall it was VERY fun, I think I am totally hooked on adventure races and we made a pretty good team. We plan on doing the next one if only to get another opportunity to beat our friends this time.

Fitness-wise, at the end of the race, I honestly felt like I could have kept on going and definitely want to try one of the longer ones that are more like 15 - 20 miles. I was feeling so good in fact, that my two friends Sarah and Angel and I decided to drive down to Tucson Saturday afternoon to play in a glow-in-the-dark frisbee tourney which lasted until 11:30 PM. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and happy in a way I can barely explain with words. Having spend the entire day outside pushing my body as hard as I can, this is when I feel most alive.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Congratulations! Great race.