What I noticed about myself on this team is that I tended to race off and spend too little time planning or reading the map. At 8 a.m. we started to run. The weather was great. We had a camelback backpack for each person, under-armor shirt and pants and a shell pants and coat in the backpack. We carried little other gear. The only trouble we had on the first running leg was missing the first checkpoint after the walking bridge. We had to backtrack some along with other groups who took the trail to the left instead of the trail to the right. They were probably only ten feet apart, so we should probably have covered both. No big problem.
Started the canoe segment with little delay. None of us were probably expert canoers, but we made pretty good time going downstream. We stopped at the optional canoe checkpoint and lifted Terry onto the top of the floodwall on top of Dave’s back. We noticed that the Grijalva team got this checkpoint from the bike, which would have been quicker. We portaged the canoe without re-entry and transitioned to the bike.
So far,so good. Then the bad decisions and bad map reading started to haunt us on the next two segments. I can take responsibility for the mistakes, as I probably hogged the map and the passport. Again, I would tend to want to run off, figuring that we could figure out the map and clues later. It works if you are running in the right direction.
We decided to go to optional checkpoint “C” without any real thought about the distance. On top of that, we went there by going past the beet plant. As we started to get closer to the plant we realized that we probably should have taken a more northerly route and worried whether we would have difficulty getting to “C” without traveling on Highway 2. As it turned out, we were able to travel just north of the plant, crossed 2 without traveling on it, and were probably only a mile south of where we should have gone.
There were a lot of teams at Checkpoint “C”. They were all searching too far south, and so we joined them without really reading the clue. Eventually we found the checkpoint, and several other teams saw us find it. We put a rock in the bag with the passport and threw it across the muddy mess ravine to the closest team member and were on our way.
The next segments were OK, although we were wet after getting the checkpoint in the big culvert. We wasted no time and just jumped in there. We miscalculated by a mile going north and spent a few minutes looking under the wrong area when we were supposed to be in the swamp by the bridge, but were still toward the front of the group we could see. When we got to the next checkpoint in the ravine there was a woman stuck in the mud. She said she couldn’t get out despite her husband pulling on her arm. Terry and Dave helped get her out of the mud. (Dave’s advice to the husband was that you don’t need to pull that hard, just pull her steady. J) Seemed to work. That checkpoint was harder than the swamp.
Here’s where things fell apart. We decided (probably mostly me) to go for checkpoint “D” without really much thought. I was thinking at about six miles it was maybe 18 minutes out of the way. (Calculating at road bike speed—my mountain bike was rented for the day.) It took us forever against the tough wind, and we were pretty tired after we started to head south. We drafted, but we were going slow. It was tough when we realized we had to detour east a mile when we got close to the checkpoint, but didn’t’ want to chance it on a path through the trees. We took just a few minutes at the bike checkpoint, and there were a lot of teams there, some of which had gone to the extra bike checkpoints and some who had not.
We figured we were half done with the race, and we had used up a little more than half our time. The extra bike legs had kind of killed us, but we should still have been able to make it. The next run, however, sealed our fate.
We missed the first checkpoint after starting the run and had to double back. There were a number of teams looking in the area where we were, so maybe a lot of teams ran by that one too. I read the map wrong for the next checkpoint however. We came out on a field edge. I looked at the map and said that for checkpoints 13 and 14 we couldn’t be on the edge of the field. Actually what the map said was that for 12 to 13, you could be on the edge. From 13 to 14 you couldn’t. A number of teams were right in front of us, running on the field edge. We didn’t want to push the rules, so went down into the forest. Basically the “killing fields” started for us at this point. The checkpoint was to be in a drainage down from the end of the road. In the forest we could see no road. We spent about a week in the forest looking for this checkpoint. I was absolutely covered in burrs. We had similar problems at the next checkpoint. It was to be near the power line that was the most southwest. There were two strings of power lines. Another week in the forest here. Looked by the wrong power line. We were exhausted when we got out, and ran past the next checkpoint near the sewage lagoon. We probably covered three times the required distance on this run.
One thing I will say about my partners, neither of whom I knew real well. Both stayed positive. Both were determined. There was no quit in either of them. Despite the fact that I had probably influenced most of the bad decisions, neither of them were critical—at least in my presence. They were real fun to be with even when things went bad in the forest.
I was the slowest runner, and towards the end Dave would pick out a spot ahead and encourage me to run to that spot. Once we got there he would let me walk a little while and then do it again. It was pretty encouraging. We were about all in, but this got the job done.
By the time we got to the canoe area we had no time to try the formidable tree. That is my only real regret about the race—the tree looked really interesting. We canoed, lugged our bikes across the river and up the mud cliff and biked our way back with no more problems. We were the last team to finish, at about 6:45. We lost all of our optional checkpoints and would have been disqualified by 15 minutes but for the benevolence of Andy and the fact that there were only 3 three person open teams.