We left the canoe beach sometime after 4 a.m. for our next trekking leg. There were 7 CPs between us and our bikes, and the remainder of the race was a big question mark because we would get the next set of race instructions when we reached the bike transition. Regardless of what lay before us, we knew that we didn’t have time to waste, because we now had less than 7 hours to finish without a penalty.
Time is screwy in an adventure race, especially a long one. 7 hours is hardly a drop in the bucket; for many people, it’s a full day’s work. But it’s only a fourth of our alotted time, and the grains seem to pour more quickly as the hourglass empties. Yes, it’s significantly longer than it took me to limp across the marathon finish line, but the miles are different in an adventure race, too. You’re at the mercy of the terrain, the maps, waning endurance, and your own judgement. Oh, and it’s pitch black out.
Luke set a blistering pace through the woods, and I focused all of my energy on staying on his heels; remaining upright as we tore through vines, thorns, and downed logs; and preserving my vision from the numerous branches that would catch on the paddles in his pack and snap back at my eyes. I took to holding a protective arm in front of my face. Throughout the death march, I was in awe of the way the guys were able to keep track of where we were on the map. Even when we had to pull up and check our location, their awareness of the terrain features made my jaw drop. “We could be on this saddle or this one…” Honestly, all I could have told you was that we were in the woods, in the dark.
Unfortunately, we pulled up one ridge too short and had to backtrack to make sure of our course. We found the CP we were looking for (22?) and two more, and then it was decision time. By this point it was around 6 a.m. We had 8 or so miles to cover before we reached our bikes and then guesstimated an additional 15-18 miles on the bike. We had around 5.5 hours to get to the finish line.
I bike, and I run, and looking at those numbers it looks like nothing. 8 miles on foot? 18 miles on the bike? Who can’t do that in 5.5 hours?? Maybe you think that, too. So remember a few things: we’ve now been racing for 23 hours, a large chunk of the hike is off-trail, we’re facing a good amount of hills on both the trek and the bike, and one more mechanical or medical issue could crush our chances of arriving on time.
Luke wanted to head back; Casey wanted to get one more CP.
In some ways, I think Casey is the male equivalent of a much stronger, much tougher me. As I was bouncing down the road to the racer meeting Friday night saying “I can’t believe it’s finally here!!”, he remarked that usually he was the one being laughed at for being so enthusiastic. I think he’ll always be that guy who wants to go for just one more because he’s a competitor to the core, and while I faded at the end I swear he and Luke only got stronger.
The upshot was that, after some discussion, Casey took over the navigation and we headed off in search of one more checkpoint. It was a high-pressure time to take over, for sure, and if someone had tried to hand me the map at that point I’d have curled up into a fetal position sucking my thumb. The pressure wasn’t relieved at all when some asshole was convinced she saw the CP as we crossed a reentrant. Seriously, I still feel like a colossal jerk about that.
We climbed a fairly steep hill on the side of the reentrant where we thought the CP would be, and it wasn’t there. Casey went, I thought, to look over the back side of the hill. Bob, whose feet and back had been killing him for much of the night, sat down, and I parked myself next to him to clear out all the crap that my holey shoes let in. Luke waited with us for a minute or two and, realizing Casey wasn’t coming back, went to check on him.
I’m not sure exactly what was said on the other side of the hill, but by the time the guys got back to us things were bad. They were yelling at each other, and Casey was set to quit the team and start back to New York as soon as we crossed the finish line. Luke wanted to talk to him about it, and Casey didn’t want to talk at all. While he wasn’t yelling at Bob or me, he clearly wasn’t interested in conversation…or a hug, though Bob got his way on that one.
So this an interesting situation. Though I don’t typically worry about my safety (from other people…from myself is a whole different story) during a race, the thought had crossed my mind that nobody was going to mess with me while I was surrounded by three big, strong guys. It had never occurred to me that we’d be out in the woods with them wanting to beat the crap out of each other…which is a little silly of me, if you think about it. They’re brothers, and I have mumble mumble years of experience watching my own brothers fight.
|Heading towards the trail while things were still very tense|
Nonetheless, it was definitely an uncomfortable time. It’s never fun to watch when people you like are angry with each other, and I’m not a fan of conflict in any case. Where early in the race I’d played chatterbox to get Casey’s mind off his cramping legs, I didn’t think this was a good time for those tactics. Bob and I struck up our own, very obviously diversionary, conversation.
“I like football, Kage. Do you like football?”
“Oh, yeah, I really like football. My husband loves it, too. He’s a huge Rams fan. It’s been a tough couple years to be a Rams fan…”
Our conversation segued from pro football to his and my sons’ (and despite what the guys will tell you, they aren’t that close in age to my kids!!) high school sports experiences. Since the brothers Lamb were high school athletes, the conversation turned to sports they played, and eventually, slowly, things began to thaw a bit. You’ll notice, though, that there are very few pictures in this segment of the race report, and that’s because it wasn’t a particularly happy time to be a Virtusan.
…to be continued…part 5