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.....