Monday, June 11, 2007

Crew Minion Wrestles a Mammoth

Dear Diary,
This weekend is my first adventure race in goodness knows how long, and I am AMPED! Today I'm racing with Jim and his friend JohnEric from work. The race is in a town called Crystal Lake, and boy is it pretty out here. We had to get up at some stupid hour of the morning to prepare, and I'm a little pooped, but other than that, I feel good.
I'm wearing a very sexy girdle around my waist because I tweaked an oblique muscle recently, and Jim's just come off of finishing an Olympic distance triathlon in the very hilly Elkhart region of Wisconsin, so we probably won't win, but oh well.
My favorite item of clothing this week. Ain't it purty?

Jim looked pretty strong finishing the Elkhart Triathlon. Let's see how he does in the race today, shall we?

It's JohnEric's first adventure race EVER, so I guess we'll just try to finish happy.
The Woolly was in danger of becoming extinct earlier this month, so we were happy to learn that our registration, and quite likely the registration of our friend Hans' team, pushed the number of teams needed for the race to go on over the edge. There are eleven teams, running the gamut from seasoned racers to triathletes to newbies.
Pre-race is busy. Pre-race meeting involves our standard Leave No Trace presentation and general rule review by race director Joe Davison, who also adds in the incredibly good news that he's procured two cases of beer for post-race consumption, and then we get our maps.
These are the world's biggest fricken maps (practically five feet tall and over four feet wide), but we are able to cut them down to 2x4. The course will cover between 40 and 60 miles, depending on whether or not we make smart route choices. We'll start on a canoe leg to retrieve a raw egg from the beach, canoe back turn in the egg, and take the first bike leg to an O course. From there we'll take our bikes 15-20 miles up to Wonder Lake, then canoe down the Nippersink Creek to a take-out, from whence we'll navigate our way back to our bikes and then back to the finish line.
Race start was hectic. Joe assumes a very casual stance in front of the races and bellows, "Forty-five seconds to race start!" I jump and sort of freak out, and then I promptly dump the boat. Twice. Why, yes! There are pictures! Support crew for the Brothers Grime got all of the actions on camera. Maybe I'll post them later. Maybe.

The maps we actually got were a LOT bigger than this.

JohnEric and I laughed our little rear ends off, while Jim stewed in the front of the boat. He is angry all the way out to the beach where we were to retrieve our eggs, and then he makes me all anxious when I get out of the boat to find the egg. See, the thing is, they are up on the beach like four feet from where we docked the boat, but he's screaming at me, telling me I'm going the wrong direction, and I get all flustered and end up running all the way down the beach, like, a quarter mile, and then I have to backtrack until I find the eggs sitting right under a huge neon-orange construction cone. Fortunately, four other people follow me out there. [I am SO not going to the prom with Jimmy. He's mean.]
After I hand over the egg to Joe, we run to our bikes and try to start the ride. We're missing JE, though, and then we spot him rinsing off his little feetsies in some water. Who rinses off their feet in an adventure race?
We hustle out of there and, with another team hot on our tails, make it over to the first test, which is on a ball court. We have to shoot a free throw, a three pointer, and make a volleyball serve into a hula hoop. I was kind of hoping I'd get to use the hula hoop to hula in, but that didn't happen.
We zoom off pretty quickly. Jimmy makes a minor navigation error and almost crashes us all, but we get over to the O section safely, where we immediately get fouled up on the first point.
We end up nailing all of the other points, although we spot Hans' team coming out of the woods well ahead of us, and, after another few minor errors that involve backtracking, we get back to the O start to find that we are not, indeed, last.
We hot-foot it out of the O-meet area and start the long ride north to Wonder Lake and the canoe put-in . I am really enjoying the flat terrain and sound of the crazy cicadas humming, and then I look down and see that I've acquired a hitchiker.

A new friend!

I guess we must've be flying, because that little booger stays on me until we stop.
I am thanking goodness for my road bike and speedy road shoes when I see the first...big...hill.
Hello, did someone forget to tell the Flatlanders that hills hurt? JE, who is sweeping to make sure I didn't get left behind, mutters, "holy candy!" and zips past me to the top of every hill, standing in his saddle.
We pass the Brothers Grime at some point, sitting on the side of the road changing a flat. It is the first of three for them that day, a fact that gives us only a minor edge over this strong team from Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Illinois.
Two big hills later, I am huffing to the top, watching Jim and JE circle around like vultures while they wait for me, and then I spot the convenience store. Jim asks if I wanted to stop to refuel, and I say, "Ur..Eeee...OK." I creak to a stop, and JE decides to take the opportunity to refill his bladder and his belly.
Little did we know that he was stopping for a picnic.

Ten long minutes later, we continue on the final 4 miles to the put in, where we are greeted with fresh fruit (oh joy!), treats for trash (oh boy!), and the news that the first team has come through nearly two hours ago and still not been back ("holy candy!").
We grab an apple and a cookie, and were off.
We navigate the twisty turns and the easy water of the Nippisink Creek in perfect weather. The red-winged blackbirds are everywhere; the other people on the river look at us in amusement, and the prairielands and rushes of Glaciers State Park make the whole trip seem like a really amazing dream. I've read about the praries before, but never had a chance to experience them first-hand. We catch up to the Brothers Grime, who had passed us while we were refueling at the canoe put in, only to be overtaken by them fairly soon afterwards.
Then come the trees. High water and many fallen trees lead to one member of Brothers Grime losing his helmet. Well, he may have lost his helmet, but I almost lose my head when Jim grabs a branch to prevent from colliding with it and then (with warning) has to let it go as we pass by underneath and it whips towards my head. Yikes!
There are a few tiny little rapids, during which I, sitting in the bottoom of the boat, become almost scandalously well acquainted with a few rocks and roots.

Our route on the Nippersink. Maniacal trees and rocks not illustrated. Put in and takeout (red and green, respectively) clearly marked.

An hour later, we pull out and visit the potty. I eat a few more Tylenol (girdle is nice, but of less help than, say, a few Percoset might have been), and we set off just behind the Brothers Grime.
We assume a leisurely but smart course, choosing to walk to stave off any more pangs from my peevish oblique, and then we take a good look at a park map and chart a route straight through Glaciers that allow us some great up-close encouters with a few frogs, a toad, a ton of butterflies, some hardy prarie grass, and then...oh, then, accursed thistles.
Prickly prickly. Jim disappears from sight. See, his philosophy is, "The faster I get through this, the faster it'll be over," which translates to me as, "Screw my teammates, I'm getting the hell outta here!"
JE and decide that a wade through the creek would put us on better, less prickly ground, and we are right. We muck our way back to the canoe put-in and are shocked to see that Hans' team, which had been well ahead of us before this leg, were still not back. We worry marginally, and then I become rapidly elated at the thought of finishing in a better place than we thought we'd be. Why, no, it wasn't very sporting of me.
The ride back (16 miles) is no fun. We keep a pretty good 17-mile-an-hour clip for about the first third, and then I get cranky, and then I have to be pushed up a hill, and then, finally, oh wonder of wonders, we pull into the race finish at a whopping eight and a half hours after race start, and in sixth place. We are solidly middle of the pack, for sure.
Hans' team, having gotten lost in Glaciers and attacked by a renegade bunch of cicadas as well as having had a water bottle thrown at them by a bunch of jackass teenagers on the roads, pulls in shortly after that despite two flat tires, and then, a team who called themselves The Quitters, who had pretty much been hot on our tails the whole race. The Brothers Grime, having suffered three flats, come in shortly afterwards. The final team to come in was no team at all, but one single female, who had finished the race after both of her teammates had dropped out. Pretty ballsy, if you ask me.

Hans looked like this after the race. Then he got up and ate a whole watermelon and drank a can of bad beer.

All in all, it was a wildly successful race for everyone involved. We had a terrific time. Big thanks to Joe for hosting and creating the Big Woolly, and for hosting the ARFE programs.

1 comment:

JD said...

This is your editor calling:

"...standing in his saddle." Uhrm hrmmmm..

Unless your race was sponsored by Cirque du Soleil, I think standing in the pedals is more like it... and over the saddle...