Adventure Race (pt 2)

As we turned the corner on the way to the canoe ramp, we decided to take refuge at the gas station on the corner.  We picked up some provisions (Sports drinks, Combos, etc.) and used the bathroom.  While I was standing around waiting on my team to finish up a guy walked up to me.  "Are you in the race?"  "Yes, why?" "Well, turns out it's taking the lead teams longer than they thought to finish up the canoe section.  They decided to not let anyone else start the section after 6:45pm."  It was 6:50, we had just missed it.  On the plus side, not finishing the canoe section didn't count against our officially finishing the race.  And we got bussed to the take-out location to start the next section.  On the negative side, this was the one section of the race I was really looking forward to doing.

As we waited for the bus we chatted with a couple other teams.  We also ate our Combos.  Frankly, they were the best Combos I've ever had in my life.  After over six hours of moving, the combination of pretzel and pizza flavored filling was heavenly.  We talked about how amazing they were for the rest of the race.

We arrived at the take-out site greeted with quizzical looks from the teams who actually did the canoe section.  The next part of the race was orienteering and bushwhacking.  Stephen was a great help with this section.  Mad props to his land navigation skills!  Instead of taking a long way around this hill to get to the ridge, we climbed straight up.  This was a bit taxing on my already tired self.  I was really impressed that we found the check point at the top of the ridge.  We then had to bushwhack through blackberry bushes. Good thing we all had long pants to put on for this area.

As the sun went down we saw an amazing sunset.  It was time to break out the headlamps.  My Princeton Tech has an amazing ability to produce daylight.  One section went walked through was covered by about a foot of leaves.  It reminded me of walking through snow.

After a couple hours we found ourselves in what looked to be someone's private property.  This was a bit disturbing because we were pretty sure someone was going to come out of the house and shoot at us.  After we found our way off the property we saw the sign that said, "Private land designated for public use."  Whew.  That was a relief to know, but information we could have used a half mile earlier!

We ended up walking down a road for about an hour before we arrived at the beginning of the last section.  They had moved out bikes from the drop off to this new location.  We decided to take a 10 minute break before we jumped on our bikes and headed off.  It was around 2am at this point.  This may not have been the brightest idea.

To be continued...

24 Hour Adventure Race (pt 1)

70-90 miles.  Paddling, running, biking, and bushwhacking.  24 hours.  What the crap was I thinking?!?!  I'm not sure what delusional frame of mind I was in when I agreed to join a four person team for a 24 hour adventure race.  A race that was taking place in the Blue Ridge Mountains for West Virginia.  Training for those conditions in Orlando was going to be a bit of a challenge.  And I would find out very early into the race that I was not prepared.  Unfortunately, this realization came in hour one.  We completed the race another 18 hours later.

Our four person team met in Annapolis, MD.  Two of us flew in from out of state, the other two were from the Naval Academy.  The first day was spent searching for bikes.  Since two of us flew in, we didn't come with mountain bikes.  We borrowed one bike from a crazy adventure racing guru USNA student and another one from student none of us knew.  The other two people had their own bikes.  One of those bikes was made overseas and the brake system was backwards from a US bike.  This wouldn't have been a problem expect the owner didn't ride it.  He rode another bike.  This caused for a couple braking, bike flipping issues on the trail.  We had two bike riders using brake systems that were opposite to what they were used to.

After driving around town and gathering the bikes we headed out to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The drive was a bit tight.  Two of us were sharing the back seat with a couple front bike tires and other random race stuff.  We arrived at our hotel in the late evening, repacked our gear for the race and went to bed.

The next morning we went to the lobby to have our pre-race breakfast.  It was a bit difficult trying to eat with the race nerves building.  I believe I slowly ate a bagel and some cereal.   Soon we were packed back in the car and headed off to the race.

The race was sponsored by Odyssey Adventure Racing.  If you are unfamiliar with adventure racing, the length varies from a few hours to a few days long.  They usually include several different activities.  The race is not marked out, that's the adventure part.  When you check in for the race you show them all the required gear and get your map and coordinates.  The next thing you do is take your map and mark out the checkpoints.  The purpose of the race is not only to finish in a decent time, but also to hit each checkpoint along the way.

****As a side note.  I'm not sure how we managed to get past the gear check-in with our bike repair kit.  I'm not sure we had  anything we needed, or could use.  We definitely would have been finished if any of our tires blew out because we brought no spares.  And frankly, none of us knew how to repair a bike if a chain broke, tire blew, etc.  Oh yea, we were totally prepared for this race.  Not to mention one of the bikes already had issues.  The front tire was losing air throughout the race.  We pumped it back up at least three different times.*****

The first part of the race consisted of a run to spread out the teams.  Then it was on to the first biking section.  That section lasted approximately 5-6 hours.  We only got lost by about a mile.  This was impressive since we ran into some 'experienced' adventure racers who got 15 miles off course.  And we found a bunch of ripe blackberry bushes.  At one point we passed a group who were fixing a chain.  They gave us some good advice, "as long as you are moving forward, you are going in the right direction."

At one point in this section the rest of my team had gotten ahead of me (this happened most of the race actually).  I was going down a section that had a switchback on it.  When I turned the corner my bike flipped over me.  I laid there for a moment, realized my team was out of shouting distance for help, and I really hurt my pride more than my body.  So, I got up, got back on my bike and continued to ride.

Some time during the biking section I pulled my upper left calf.  I concluded this happened because I was resting on that leg during the downhills and it was putting a ton of strain on it.  This happened about 2.5 hours into the race.  Probably not a great idea to continue for another 17 hours, but I wasn't going to let down my team.  Plus, I paid $175 to run this race and I was going to finish it!

At the end of the first biking section we had to run about 2 miles to the paddling.  Along the way we stopped by a Trail Angel's house.  Trail Angels are folks who take care of people hiking the Appalachian Trail.  She was really excited to see us and let us fill up our hydration packs.  She was disappointed that she didn't know about the race, or she would have put up a tent and had refreshments for the racers.  God bless her!

After leaving her house we ran to the pier for the canoe section.  We were not prepared for the surprise waiting for us there.

To be continued.....

Praying My Way to Hawaii

In the fall of 2000 I found myself living in what was once a bustling coal town.  Doesn't sound appealing yet?  What if I told you I woke up one morning to find that my room smelled.  I left my room to discover that the whole house smelled.  After breakfast I left the house to find out that the entire town smelled.  I also lived close enough to the Ohio river that I could both see and hear the dynamite blasts from a hill in West Virginia.  If these descriptions haven't sold you on the amazing beauty of Steubenville, Ohio I'm not surprised.  I felt the same way.  And that's why I needed to get to Hawaii in October.

My sister and her family were currently living in Okinawa, Japan.  That fall, my parents and I decided to meet them in Hawaii for a vacation.  Since the weather in Ohio had been cold and dreary since late August, this trip was the highlight of my fall.  I had talked to some friends from school about getting a ride to the airport.  They agreed to pick me up at 5:45am and drive me to the Pittsburgh airport.  It's about a 45 minute drive.

The morning of the trip arrived and there I stood in front of the house, in the freezing cold, waiting.  I waited for about 30 minutes.  At this point I had to make a decision.  Should I continue to wait or jump in my truck and park in long term parking.  My flight was to leave just after 7am.  Giving up hope that my friends would show, I jumped in my truck and hauled it to Pittsburgh.  I later found out that all my friends slept through their alarms.

On my drive to the airport my truck kept making a strange vibration.  I would later find out this was a combination of my fuel pump going out and a leak in my transmission fluid line.  At the time it was just known as the mystery problem that could possibly hinder my trip to Hawaii.  This was my first bout of intense prayer for this trip.

I pulled into the airport with a limping truck and ran through the terminal.  Good thing the Pittsburgh airport isn't very big.  I got on my plane with minutes to spare.  After sitting down and getting situated in my seat I felt a huge sigh of relief.  I was on my way to Hawaii and leaving Ohio far behind for a few days.  Then the next glitch happened.

From the cockpit the pilot announced that they were having trouble with one of the engines.  The mechanics were going to look at it, but it may mean delaying the flight.  "NO!! This can't happen.  I need to get to Hawaii!"  After the initial shock ran through my body and I started to get really sad, I began praying once again.  Ten minutes later the pilot came back over the speakers and said they fixed the problem and we would be leaving shortly.  Whew!  I'm not sure how many more moments like this my nervous system could take, but I was glad to be up in the air.  Off to Houston, TX for my layover.

The layover was long enough in Houston that I wasn't rushed to the next plane.  Finally, I was one plane ride away from Hawaii and I was already many hours away from Ohio.  The plane loaded and tookoff without a hitch.  Then, when we were in the air for about 30 minutes the announcement came.  This time the problem dealt with air pressure.  The pilot announced that, "We are having trouble stabilizing the air pressure in the airplane.  We are working to get it fixed, but if we can't we will have to turn the plane around and return to Houston."  "Oh no!  I need to get to Hawaii.  We can't turn around!"  I believe I actually hoped we'd get far enough from Texas that it would make more sense to continue to Hawaii instead of turning around.

And once again I was asking for a little help from God.  And once again after about 10 minutes of praying, the pilot announced the problem had been corrected and we were continuing to Hawaii.  Finally, I could go to sleep and dream of a warm beach that was far, far away from the bleak blandness of the Ohio valley.  And six hours later I safely landed in Hawaii.