Authors note: Twelve hours of adventure racing gives you a lot of time to think about what you are doing, what you’ve done right, and most certainly, all of the things leading up to that very moment that you’ve done wrong. And if you’re me, an athlete with a brain that never ceases to be quiet, twelve hours of adventure racing makes one hell of a long race recap.
If you’ve grown to enjoy – or at least tolerate – my novel length race recaps, I’m pleased to present you the following story of “Team HSEC tackles (and emerges somewhat unscathed) The BEAR adventure race”. If you want to compare this recap to an adventure race itself, consider this expedition length. Bring plenty of snacks.
But if you just want to cut to the chase (and I can’t blame you), skip ahead to where I begin to question my life choices, somewhere around checkpoint 13. Enjoy.
The Kind of Fun You Love to Hate:
Though I’ve yet to discover the original source, at some point, someone coined the “types of fun” scale. It goes a little something like this:
Type 1 fun is fun while it’s happening. Examples include: laughing hysterically over an inappropriate card game with friends. A thrilling – but not so terrifying – water slide ride. A 5K obstacle course race that involves a ton of inflatables and a just enough mud to make you feel like a little kid again.
Type 3 fun is…just…not fun at all (yeah, I’m jumping around a bit). Examples include: a camping trip when it rains the entire time and your tent fills with three inches of water, soaking every piece of clothing and sleeping equipment you brought with you. Or, as my kid can attest, a visit to the playground that involves jumping off of a swing only to lose 1/3 of your pinky finger. No one ever looks back on type 3 fun and thinks “haha, that was actually pretty great, dontchya think?!”
But the last “type of fun”, type 2, is the version of fun us endurance athletes often reference, and have a self proclaimed love/hate relationship with. Because you see, type 2 fun is still absolutely miserable when it’s happening. You hate it, you question your life choices, you wonder what the hell is wrong with you that ever made you willingly sign up for this ridiculous idea of “fun” in the first place, you swear this is it, and you’re never doing this again. But once it’s over, you can’t help but think “that was amazing, I’m so glad I did it and I can’t wait to do it again!” An example?
The BEAR 12 hour Adventure Race.
It is no secret that my husband Geoff, our teammate Brian, and I are relatively new to the sport of adventure racing. Geoff had done a handful of races over a decade ago while living on the West Coast. He (finally) suckered me into the sport back in 2019, and we dragged Brian into the fray this year. Despite our lack of experience, we’ve held our own, placing first overall in the 3 hour at the Independent Republic AR back in 2019, first in our category at the 10 hour Palmetto Swamp Fox AR in 2020, and second in our category in the same race this year (2021).
What we lack in adventure racing specific skills, we make up with in overall endurance, strength, and general sporting experience. I’ve been a runner for over 15 years, and deeply involved in the ultramarathon world for the last 7 of them. Brian has a background as a triathlete and also dabbles in ultras. Geoff…well Geoff has been doing insane/extreme sports long before the internet was a thing. All three of us are self proclaimed “gym rats” and love to strength train in addition to endurance sports.
And, as it turns out, I’m pretty good at reading a map, a skill it took me about 38 years to discover.
But, despite all three of us originally hailing from the mountains of New England…all three have us have spent the last 6 years (or more) living and training in sea level, zero elevation, we’re not even kidding when we say it’s flatter than you can imagine, Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
We knew, without a doubt in our minds, that the BEAR Adventure Race, put on by AR Georgia and held in the mountains of Northern Georgia (Blairsville, to be exact), was going to kick our asses.
We just didn’t know how bad.
Geoff, Brian, and I wake up with our alarms at exactly 3:15 am. Yep, this particular adventure race starts with the discipline of not hitting the snooze button on your phone. Especially considering it’s a mere 46 degrees out – far too cold for these coastal dwellers who are still quite used to (and enjoy) 85 degree September days to be willingly crawling out of their warm sleeping bags.
We get ourselves ready for the day at our campsite, and then head over to the bike drop, arriving just minutes after it opened at 4:30 am.
Upon arrival we’re given our team number/bike bibs (this runner/non cyclist has no idea what you call those, so “bike bibs” it is), Brian gives Geoff and I good natured hell at not knowing exactly how to rack our bikes (always keep a triathlete handy!), and we joke with another athlete near us about how we all missed some holes on the bike numbers with our zip ties. We collectively blame it on the fact that it’s really early.
Bikes secured in their spot for the next – who knows how many hours – our next stop is race headquarters, and the start/finish line, at Meeks Park. When we check in, we are given our bib numbers, reflective vests, t-shirts, and the ever illusive maps.
Oh, and I finally get to meet Tracey of AR Georgia. Do you ever find yourself with a Facebook acquaintance that you friend because you have some things in common, but realize that beyond your similar hobbies, they are really freaking funny and a cool human being and you hope you get to meet them in person one day? That’s Tracey.
After getting a hug from Tracey and some quick but “it’s really damn early” friendly exchanges, Geoff, Brian, and I snag one of the picnic tables under the pavilion and get to work mapping out our course. For this particular race, the maps we are given are pre-plotted with check points. In my newbie observation, there seems to be a 50-50 split among more experienced racers as to whether or not they enjoy plotting their own check points using UTM coordinates, or prefer the race director to provide pre-plotted maps. Personally, I enjoy plotting, but I fully recognize that’s probably because I haven’t done it ten million times already. I’m sure it’s a skill that probably gets old after awhile.
Nevertheless, the perks of a pre-plotted map is that there’s NO WAY you’re going to mess up while half-asleep-plotting at an early morning hour when you’d normally be sleeping.
Speaking of half-asleep, our team assembles what seems to be a good plan of attack for the race.
Also half-asleep, I fail to really look closely at the closeness of the topography lines in some of the sections of our plotted route.
Half-asleep, I’m oblivious to the ass kicking I’m (we are) going to eventually receive.
Check Points 1-3
Race director Jeff Leininger gives us the basic rundown of the course, including safety measures and of course, the race rules. All is fair in adventure racing, except for GPS*, using roads that are marked off limits on the maps, and in this particular race, bushwhacking through Meeks park.
(*note: I took my COROS watch off, pressed “start” minutes before the race started, then tucked it safely away in the depths of my pack, along with my car key and cell phone. I wanted to have the general GPS data for after the race, but absolutely did not take one single peak at it during the race.)
The race starts promptly at 7:00 am, and EVERYONE, all 75 teams (probably close to 150 or more racers) go in the same direction, towards check point #1.
It’s actually quite entertaining to stumble upon the queue waiting to gather their punch. Imagine endless runners wearing headlamps standing in line for a port-a-potty before a trail race start, and you’ll know exactly what it looks like. Except, the clock has already begun ticking down the 12 hours.
While standing there waiting for Brian’s turn in the line, I notice some teams head off trail and across a big parking lot towards, presumably, another part of the trail. But, Miss “take the race directors words literally and do not cheat” Heather reminds her team that there is NO bushwhacking, so we run probably an extra half a mile or more on this gravel trail that literally goes around a field and aforementioned parking lot…while watching endless other teams cut across.
It’s in that moment I realize that when the park asked the race director to not let the participants off trail, they probably meant “do not stomp through the woods and ruin precious plant life”, not “do not cross a parking lot”.
Mistake #1. I’ll take the blame.
Check points 2 & 3 are impossible to miss, there are so many racers out on this trail section that you can’t help but notice when a handful are stopped gathering their punches. This first trekking section is over before we know it.
Check Point #4
We get down to the rivers edge to grab a canoe. All participants of The BEAR are provided boats. While you can bring your own paddle gear (and if you did, you had to carry it for the entirety of the first trekking section), everyone had to use the boats provided. For some solo racers, that meant kayaks. But for the rest of us teams, it was big red Old Town Canoes.
Now, Brian, Geoff, and I have been practicing our paddling a lot over the last year. Both of our households made what I lovingly refer to as “Covid-impulse-purchases” in the forms of kayaks and canoes. More of them than I should probably admit – between our two homes we have a regular floatilla. But I digress – the important thing to focus on is that we’ve been practicing our paddling.
But what we hadn’t practiced was three of us paddling in one single canoe.
We literally have a rocky start – as in, we hit a handful of rocks in the river within the first 200 yards – before Brian and Geoff fall into a paddling rhythm.
Please enjoy this video of us hitting a rock.
I’m in the middle of the canoe, putting me at a huge paddling disadvantage, because I’ve got the shortest arms and I’m in the widest part of the boat.
As the physically weakest of the three of us in this particular discipline, it makes more sense for me to simply stay out of the way (I couldn’t keep up with their cadence and would end up slapping their paddles), and sub in when either Brian or Geoff need a break.
So that’s what I do, and it works really well. We are flying on the water, passing other teams consistently right from the start.
As the navigator of our team, I’m focusing on…you guessed it… navigation. The morning has given us an incredibly thick layer of fog that’s even thicker on the water. So thick that we can barely see 20 yards ahead of us at any given time.
I’m paying close attention to the turns in the map, and matching them with the turns in the river, as well as what I have nicknamed “water cul-de-sacs”. I’m sure there’s a more technical term for these coves, but considering the lake is littered with massive million dollar homes, cul-de-sac just feels right.
Fog aside, we’re cruising along, and the terrain I can see matches up with the terrain on the map, so I’m relieved and a bit proud when CP #4 appears right where I expect it to be.
CP punch obtained, our next team “obstacle” if you will comes when we reach a point on the map where we had previously decided that if it looked passable, we were going to portage the canoe. (Portage, for those unfamiliar, means get out of the water, carry your boat across land, then put it back in the water on the other side) As we get closer, we realize it does, indeed, look passable. But goodie-two-shoes Brian and Heather both decide that this peninsula, littered with massive houses, must be private property, and we shouldn’t tress pass.
So we go around.
We’re confident in our decision, until we finally reach the other side of the peninsula, only to find teams we had long ago passed are now ahead of us once again. Clearly, they portaged their boats.
Mistake #2. Brian and Heather both to blame.
Nevertheless we push on, still confident in our paddling skills. We catch up to, and once again pass these other teams.
And then just like that, I’m lost.
You see, I haven’t exactly finished reading “Squiggly Lines” yet, and had ZERO idea what the purple outlined – space, for lack of better terms – meant in the middle of the lake. So when we stumbled upon an island that wasn’t on the map, I’m all sorts of confused. But the island seems too small to be the purple blob on the map, so now I convince myself the land mass in front of me is an island as well, and must be the purple blob.
“Hey Nav, do you know where we are?” my husband calls from the back of the canoe. He really, I mean REALLY loves this sport, to the point that he has given us all official sounding nicknames. I am no longer “Heather” or “wife”, I am now “Nav”…
…and I have no idea where we are.
I fumble around with my compass and stare at the map while assuring my team I have everything under control. But the truth is the fog has made navigating pretty difficult for this newbie navigator. I know we’re headed in the correct general direction – the perks of being on a river after all. Another land mass appears in front of us, and a number of teams are heading for the shoreline. It’s then that I DO know where we are…it’s just about a kilometer ahead of where I *thought* we were.
Does this count as mistake #3, if we end up where we wanted to be SOONER than I thought we would? My husband would say yes. I’m going to say “I meant for that to happen.”
We get to land, portage the boats a short distance, and then we’re back on the water for the final push to another shoreline where we will get out for Trek #2.
Check Point’s #6 – 9
We enter the cove where we’re told to secure our boats, and stand up. Immediately I realize I’m absolutely frozen. This is no surprise for those of you know me, I absolutely suck at body temperature regulation at anything below about 65 degrees. It’s hovering just below 50 in the fog, and I’m absolutely, utterly soaked.
Such is life in the middle of the canoe.
In the 5 minutes or less it takes for us to secure our canoe, ditch our PFD’s and rain jackets, I’m shaking and quickly losing focus. We can visibly see CP #6 right on the shoreline, so our team grabs it, then we start stumbling into the woods.
Captain Geoff asks Brian and I if we actually have a plan or if we are just following the other teams.
I believe both of us simply responded with chattering teeth.
I’m certain there were some eye rolls and lectures about “this isn’t how you are supposed to adventure race” from Geoff (“follow the flour, not the hashers” if you will), while Brian and I (or at least I) bit our tongues like a couple of teenagers being lectured about leaving lights on in rooms we are no longer actually in. (Yeah, we know you don’t actually own the electric company, Dad…)
But eventually we are headed in a direction of our own choosing, with a clear plan. My PERSONAL plan is to just run, as I know it will warm me up. And within about 5 minutes, it does. Navigator Heather is back in the game.
We work our way backwards through CP’s #6-9, traveling clockwise around the ATV trail loop. None of these check points are hard to navigate to or find (which is a good thing, because I left my compass in the boat during my bout of pre-hypothermia. I whisper this fact to Brian at some point, while emphasizing “DON’T TELL GEOFF!”).
But to say they were “easy” to get to would certainly be an understatement – at least for us flatlanders. We climb, descend, climb, and descend again up and over some relatively steep and long climbs.
Geoff is flying a head off us all while shouting “150 MILLIGRAMS OF CAFFEINE, BABY!”, quite proud of the caffeinated SIS gel choice he made at the beginning of this trek.
Brian is hovering just behind me, and while I don’t want to speak for him, I’m pretty sure he is mumbling about how stupid elevation gain is in general. We all deal with the pain cave in our own way.
I’m in the middle of our trio. Zone 4, labored breathing? You betchya. But mentally, I’m fine. Cracking jokes even. I credit the year I spent endlessly climbing at a 15% grade on the treadmill, training for the Georgia Death Race, which was held in this very same part of the country. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m good at climbing (and I’m certainly not fast) but mentally and emotionally, I know how to put my head down and get it done.
Eventually we make it completely around the loop and back to our boat.
There’s only a couple of boats left in the cove. While our team had decided that we were simply here for the experience and had absolutely no business being competitive, I will admit that seeing just a couple of canoes left took the wind out of all three of our proverbial sails. We had zero idea where we were in the overall pack of racers, but this made it appear as though we were most definitely in the back.
Check point #5
Nevertheless, we get back in the canoe and start paddling towards CP #5 and eventually, TA #1. As we round the corner of the cove, we’re suddenly hit with a view that changes our attitude immediately: dozens and dozens (and dozens) of canoes and kayaks parked on the shoreline around the corner. In fact, there are still teams paddling TOWARDS us, having not even made it to this trekking section yet.
We’re not doing so bad after all. And while again, it ultimately didn’t matter and it was still so early in the race, this gave us a mental boost we all needed.
We make the relatively quick paddle across Lake Notely towards Check Point #5. This one is on a point not terribly far from TA #1. I volunteer to climb out of the boat and grab the CP. I definitely once again fall into the classic mistake of following other athletes, and head towards the direction of where another racer was coming from. Turns out, he was NO WHERE NEAR the CP, so I definitely stumbled around the forest for a few minutes looking for the CP. Race rules state that you and your teammates must remain within 30 Meters of each other at all times. I won’t lie…we were definitely stretching the outermost limits of that measurement with this one. Nevertheless, I find it, I’m back in the boat, and we’re off to TA#1.
TA #1: Paddle to Bike
We hit the shoreline at TA #1 and not-so-lovingly bid farewell to our flooded canoe. Seriously, HOW did we get so much water in that boat? We grab all of our now waterlogged gear, and spend a solid 5 minutes or so at the transition area.
I hand in our first punch card to the volunteer (all CP’s cleared) and get punch card #2. I also grab some Cheetos from the aid station – thank you AR Georgia, for these are more than calories, they are like a tiny, dusty, neon orange hug for my soul.
I get my helmet on, shift some nutrition from the back of my pack towards the pockets in the front, put my pack on, and suddenly realize the thing must weigh 50 lbs. OK, that’s a slight exxageration, but everything I wore for the paddle section is now soaked and HEAVY.
I recall a point before the race where I said “I’d rather sacrifice a light pack for making sure I’m actually warm during the race” and now, here we are. Heather is eating her words.
Bike Section #1, part 1: The Long, Winding, (Paved) Road.
Check points #11 – 12
Now is the point I mention to you, fair readers, that I chose to bring Fatty McRanchPants (yes that’s what I, a grown adult woman, named my bicycle), my beloved Surly Pugsley fat tire bike, to The Bear Adventure Race. Why, one might ask? Well because it’s the only bike I have right now that really fits me well, and I like it. Whether or not this was a wise decision will be left to those who know far more about mountain biking than I do.
He’s heavy, but he’s comfortable.
(Note, because of my lack of cycling skills combined with my fear of road riding – more on that soon – the GoPro didn’t make too many appearances on this section. So here’s a picture of me and Fatty at the finish line. But before we get to the finish, I have so many more stories to tell.)
So we start this particular bike section, which we anticipate being one of two bike sections. Our first, oh I don’t know, two miles or so is up a paved hill. As a self proclaimed “not cyclist” who learned how to ride in Myrtle Beach (aka, I have no idea how to climb) I’m a little grumbly at how hard this is already. Which in retrospect is hilarious, because this is NOTHING compared to what I’m about to face.
We finally make it to the top of this first hill, take a left on a very short section of main road. Confession: I’m terrified of riding my bike on major roadways. I know far too many people who have been hit by distracted motorists, including my older sister, an Ironman triathlete who literally broke her back in a car vs. cyclist accident. Fortunately, this section is incredibly short, and we turn onto another back road.
Which is, naturally, uphill.
It’s fine though, because at least this time I’m off of the main roads and on dirt. The one vehicle we even come across is an older gentlemen driving a sports car (down a dirt road), who stops completely, and gives us a huge smile and double thumbs up as we pass him.
In fact, I’ll take the time NOW to say that despite the massive amount of vehicles we passed over what would be about, oh I don’t know, the next SIX HOURS of riding (spoiler alert), and despite the fact that race director Jeff gave us a pre-race speech about what to do if/when we encountered aggressive drivers…the people of Blairsville, GA were amazing. They all gave us space, they all slowed down, and so many of them cheered us on. It was awesome.
But, it didn’t stop my fear of riding on the road.
Less than a kilometer after we climbed the dirt back road, we were back on another well traveled paved road, for at least another almost 6 kilometers. And at some point during that stretch, we:
- Collected check points # 11 & 12
- Climbed, seemingly endlessly on our bikes, and
- I had a mini melt down.
At some point Geoff says “DUDE- are you really freaking out right now?” (here I thought my new name was “Nav” not “Dude”, but I digress). I can tell he’s slightly annoyed. We pull over to the side of the road so I can catch my breath, choke back the tears forming in my eyes, and eat something.
I am no stranger to doing things that I am uncomfortable doing. It’s why I participate in these wild sports But there is a visceral fear running through my blood in that moment that I can’t seem to shake. But I know we aren’t even halfway into this race, and I know that I can’t let my team down. So while I consciously decide to suck it up, I verbalize that decision by saying (albeit, rather snarkily) “well if today’s the day I get hit by a car, so be it”.
They both assure me that they’ve spent THOUSANDS of hours road riding in their lives with zero incident, and that statistically, I’m safe. I won’t lie and said that sentiment reassured me, but nevertheless I knew I had to get over it.
So I did.
Bike Section #1, part 2: There’s No Such Thing as Downhill
Check points #13 – 14
In a classic case of “be careful what you wish for, shortly after my minor break down, we turn onto a dirt jeep road/trail.
And we stay there, for the next 9 miles (15.5 km). Which doesn’t sound that bad, except that it was 9 miles uphill. Excuse me, UPMOUNTAIN. Climbing from 1,834 feet to 3379 feet approximately, which took this sea level team around 2 and a half hours to cover.
I swear I’m not complaining, I’m just putting a big emphasis on SEA LEVEL LEGS.
And Type 2 Fun.
About three kilometers into the climb we start looking for CP #13. Looking at the map, this one was clearly a ways off of the trail/road, and right on the tippy top of a knob. A knob, for those unfamiliar, is a prominent rounded bump or peak along a mountain range, particularly in the Appalachian mountains, which is where we happen to be.
Now, a knob is actually a cool place to put a check point because unlike some less obvious mountain peaks, you can absolutely tell when you’ve reached the summit. It’s very obvious to look around and see the mountain dropping 360 degrees around from the point where you stand.
So, when we headed into the woods to try to find this CP, and didn’t stumble upon it after a solid 5 minutes of uphill hiking, I told Geoff to keep going…we weren’t at the top yet.
Mr. 150 mg of caffeine takes off blazing the path for his weary teammates, and I’m delighted when he yells “FOUND IT!”
Score another one for Nav Heather who most of the time knows what she’s talking about, but still, needs to read Squiggly lines.
We head back to our bikes, and I somehow run into and get stuck on every thorn and picker bush available. We once heard world champion adventure racer Nathan Fa’avae refer to “bushwhacking” moments like this as “jungle bashing” (in his awesome New Zealand accent, of course) and I laugh thinking about how this undergrowth, while angry, is nothing like the swamp we live in back home. Or an actual jungle. So I’ll take it.
Then I proceed to fall out of the bushes. Jungle bashing indeed.
But this, my friends, is about the time when my joyful laughs and cheery “WTF” comments (sorry about that) subside, and the proverbial “Pain Cave” opens it’s arms to welcome me…as well as Brian.
But seemingly not my caffeinated husband, which brings me both pleasure (someone is keeping our team moving! this is a good thing!) and frustration (namely, I’m jealous of his fitness and hill climbing legs. Let’s call it like it is.)
We climb on our bikes for what feels like forever. It was really, really, freaking hard for me, with my limited cycling skills, and total lack of climbing experience. I didn’t have my heart rate monitor on, but my RPE tells me that I was well into my anaerobic zone.
Fortunately, Geoff has become hooked on the AR on AR Youtube Channel, and with the virtual help of Adam Rose, fashioned us a bike tow line out of a dog leash. I’m not even kidding. And once I got the hang of it (and stopped fearing the leash sending me into the bushes, sling shot style), it worked.
Always try new things on race day, I always say.
Geoff is so strong (150 mg of caffeine!!!!) and his assistance certainly aids in my climbing ability, though I’m still struggling physically. Mentally, I’m hanging in there. I’ve spent enough time in the ultramarathon world (especially in the 100 mile distance) learning how to suffer, so I manage to escape this day without a single “woe is me” feeling about how physically hard this is. I know how to disassociate from those feelings and get the work done, knowing the finish line will come around eventually. It always does.
Nevertheless, on this never-ending climb, I vacillate between the following four thoughts:
- This is stupid, I’m never doing this again.
- I am the weakest athlete on the face of this great, green (really hilly) earth.
- Now I know what I need to focus on in training for next time.
- This is stupid, I’m definitely going to do this again next year.
Repeat, ad nauseum.
We find CP #14, but then struggle to find #15. In fact, a group of other racers is stopped as well, right where we think it should be, and none of us have any luck. At this point, having found 14 check points without much difficulty, coming up empty on #15 was definitely a blow to our already crumbling egos. After about 15-20 minutes, we give up.
It’s around this time that our team has to have “the talk”
You know the one, the “we have a really long way left to go, and not nearly enough time left to do it, what are we going to do?” talk. At this point in the race, we still have:
- four check points to find on this biking section
- another 17K or more (that’s just a rough estimate looking at the map) before we hit mandatory TA #2
- another 6 CP’s on foot, through some serious elevation and “knobs”
- have to find our way back to TA #2
- another 5-6K of biking through downtown Blairsville, that the RD estimated should take anywhere from 30-40 minutes or more.
And we only had about 2.5 hours left to do all of that.
Team Captain Geoff says the words that I am only somewhat sad to hear: “let’s play through”. Meaning, let’s cut our losses and try to get back to the start/finish by the 7 pm cutoff, so we don’t lose any of the check points we’ve already earned (per race rules, you lose one check point on your score for being even one second late, then another point for every 15 minutes after that). While it’s never fun to admit that a course that has defeated you, I know this is the best decision.
BUT WAIT – the fun isn’t over yet.
Bike Section #1, part 3: Gravity, Pitbulls, and Rush-Hour Traffic
Check Points # “I thought you said play through”, as well as 18, 19, & 26.
Highlights of this last section, because at this point I’m certain you are ready to take a “DNF reading Heather’s race recap”
- After a few more miles of climbing, we finally hit the downhill section. It’s twice as steep as the climb, and while Brian and Geoff are loving it, I’m squeaking my breaks down that mountain akin to a Grandma driving to church on Sunday. Basically, what matters here is that you understand I’m just pretty much always afraid of my bike. Pavement, uphill’s, downhills, doesn’t matter.
- At some point Geoff asks when we should start looking for CP #16, to which I shout “YOU SAID PLAY THROUGH, CAPTAIN!” and he remembers that, oh yeah, he did say that. We keep going.
- Just when I thought we took a wrong turn and we’re lost in the woods forever, we stumble upon pavement, and a woman in a mini-van looking for her lost dogs. I tell her we didn’t see them, but I’ll keep my eyes open (I’m not sure what good that would have done her though, we definitely didn’t get her number. Nor did I know if my phone, buried somewhere in my pack, survived the great-canoe-soaking. )
- We hit a long stretch of major roadway, at around 5:30 pm. There is endless traffic, it takes us forever to cross the road. The “fight or flight” side of my brain knows I should be terrified, but the “I definitely didn’t eat enough calories today” part of the brain is too damn tired to care. Hey! I found the solution to my pavement cycling fear: glycogen depletion.
- We survive the main road, turn to a side road, and find the aforementioned dogs. I see a good sized pit-bull and another dog on the heels of some racers about 20 yards ahead of us. I ask Geoff to stick close to me – another thing I know nothing about when it comes to cycling is what to do when a dog tries to bite you. But fortunately, these puppies are the “goodest boys” , and I feel awful that the sweet pit-bull is whimpering a bit as he follows closely behind Brian’s rear tire. I quickly envision an “Arthur” moment, but then the dogs are distracted by a leashed dog in a yard we pass, and they are gone. I’m back to focusing on the hills.
- Because yes, there’s seemingly never NOT more hills. What a reminder of what life is like outside of Myrtle Beach.
- Brian runs out of water.
- Geoff runs out of water.
But finally, we are on the last stretch, making our way into downtown, and find the very last checkpoint of the day: #26. It’s hanging just outside the Old Court House in the middle of a roundabout. I head over to punch our punch card victoriously…
…only to remember we never made it to TA #2, so we don’t have the appropriate punchcard for this section.
I punch it anyway.
Somehow we make it to the finish line with about 21 minutes to spare.
And somehow, we actually initially finish in 28th place out of 65 total teams, and 4th out of 10 teams for our division, for check points vs. time.
But, because adventure racing is an adventure until the very end, missing TA#2 put us on the Short Course list only. Which means we placed first in our division for the short course, or 7th out of 10 coed teams of 3-4.for the whole entire race.
Confused? Don’t be. All that matters is that we finished.
A classic symptom of Type 2 Fun is saying, while in the middle of it, “I’m never doing that again.” And in the BEST cases of Type 2 Fun, it takes you many, many days before the “I’m never doing that again” shifts to “let’s check the calendar to see if we can fit this one in again next year….”
While I can’t speak for Geoff or Brian, that’s exactly where I find myself today: I can’t wait to try again.
AR Georgia put on an INCREDIBLE event. It kicked my butt, more than I thought it would. But it left me feeling that clearing a course (code for collecting all of the check points) of that difficulty is something within my grasp. It’s just going to take some more focused training and more adventure racing experience.
A massive thank you to my husband Geoff (Captain Caffeine) for getting me into this sport (even if it took years of patience and pestering), being patient with me as I navigate my way (literally and figuratively) through new-to-me disciplines, and for towing me (this time literally) up the mountain. We sure do have a lot of fun together.
And another huge thank you to our teammate Brian – my comrade in suffering, and cohort in making the types of adventure racing mistakes we found funny, but definitely couldn’t tell the Captain about. Thank you for teaching me how to properly ride my brakes as I try to avoid careening off of a mountain. I’m really glad that out of the three of us, at lest two know our right from our left.
Cheers to so many more adventures in the horizon.