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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Duluth wrap up (part 2)

So Jim has mild hypothermia with blue lips and we're on the verge of being pulled from the race.  It's 11:20 pm and we're told that this section has a cut off at 2 am and that no team has come back into the TA yet and the top teams have been out for nearly 3 hours already.  Things look bleak.

Tammy takes Jim into an industrial sized porta-john (handicapped accessible!!!), strips him down, and gives him some of her dry layers.  Pat and I get organized to depart and then make it a party in the potty.  Being out of the wind with 4 bodies in the plastic structure generates a surprising amount of heat and Jim's chattering teeth start to calm down (slightly).  We decide to go for it.  Opening the door we set off quickly across the parking lot shouting over our shoulders to the volunteers - "he's fine!  see you later!" and trying to get away before they decide to see for themselves.

I've taken over navigation from Jim so he can just focus on moving and getting warm, and I hook up a tow to him as well so i can force the pace a bit.  Off we go.  We're moving quickly and soon see two lights coming towards us on the road.  It's Logan and Erik, who are still looking for CP 8 (the first on the trek) and assure us it's not further down the road.  They're young and fit and so running around like crazy - confident that it must be back the way we came or else they'd have seen it.  But it's not... it's up a trail 50 feet off the road - a trail they had 'explored', but somehow missed the point.  So be it.  They run off ahead again like antelope.

Logan Evans of Team Young Guns
As we headed to CP 9 we saw the first place team pass, heading back to the TA.  they reminded us that we shouldn't be traveling on the road between 8 and 9 (oh, the fine print they put on the maps....) and so we backtrack and take a trail.  none of the trails are on the map so we estimate our direction and distance and finally make it to the shore of a lake and start bushwhacking SW towards the CP location.  We run across Young Guns again as well as two other two person teams, working together.  It's nice to see people again - and Jim is finally warming up.  This is a cool section of the race because it's 'adventurous' and fun (as crashing around in the woods at night tends to be, at least for the first half an hour....) so we're in good spirits as a team.  We're estimating our position by taking bearings to shadowy islands in the lake.  Logan and Erik in there haste have worked way too far along the coast and are out of earshot (we try to call to them) when we luckily stumble across the CP, right on a trail, 100 feet back into the forest.  We have no particular affinity for the other two teams (although i'm sure they're all nice chaps) and so try to keep our discovery a secret and quickly set off down the trail.  Eventually the trail joins another and there is a sign with a map of the system.  Upon seeing the map Jim says - 'hey - that's the map that we have in the map case!  i'd seen it but just assumed it was a mt. bike map....'  So of course were bummed that we wasted so much time looking and bushwhacking when had we consulted the correct map things would have been very straightforward, but the bright side is that had we done so, we'd have missed out on all the fun looking and bushwhacking.  Ah, the conundrum.

Then comes my navigational high point..... the trail map shows a nice, direct line to the next CP - a red line that heads to and then across a narrow arm of the lake.  we head that way but i stop us after maybe 500 feet.  We're travelling on snow-mobile trails.  it's not snowing.  The lake won't be frozen.  There won't be a bridge.  We turn around.  heading back we see the foursome run by us and nod hello.  20 minutes later, having taken the long way around, we see their headlights again, far across the lake where the trail dead ends into the water.  I shout out condolences about the missing bridge and we jog on.

We get the last CP at about 1:40 AM.  we reason that with our time credit we should have a cut-off at 2:30 rather than 2 am and so have 50 minutes to go the 3.5-4 miles back to the TA (all good dirt road).  Doesn't sound hard, but Jim isn't a runner (in fact, in june he couldn't run a mile continuously!).  He had been training hard though, and was about to be tested.  We set up a 'schedule' of 100 steps running and 60 steps walking - pushing the pace (for jim) on both legs so that we were hoping to average about 5 mph or so.  I kept worrying that this pace would get too hard eventually (and it turns out Jim did too) but it never did - in fact, he did so well sometimes we'd run twice as long before walking.  We made the TA with about 10 minutes to spare - woo hoo!

Erik Sanders of Team Young Guns
Back in the boats for more paddling against the wind.  Jim makes up for his running ability with his paddling ability, but (no offense guys) Tammy and Pat aren't great paddlers so it was a bit slow.  Tammy switched boats and so was in front of me, and i gave her a couple of bonks in the head with my paddle as i struggled  to keep us straight using draw strokes with a strong cross wind and whitecaps.  By the time we beached we were freezing again and weren't having as much fun.  The 10 minute mandatory boat cleaning period was grim with hands that lacked any semblance of manual dexterity - but we managed and headed to the fire that was still going, generously tended by the volunteers.

We got trapped at the fire for a LONG time.  The four guys from the missing bridge were still there (they'd skipped the last CP - we hadn't been aware this was even an option - more on this later) but left shortly after we arrived.  Logan and Erik arrived to join us after 10 minutes or so.  Everyone else stripped down and tried to 'dry off'.  I just wanted to move and warm up on the go, but knew that the morale boost provided by the blaze was what the team needed if we were going to keep going, so tried to bite my tongue and let them enjoy it.  Eventually things got put away, people got dressed and we were finally ready to head off, and left Logan and Erik alone to enjoy the last few moments of the fire (which the volunteers informed us was being put out at 4:45 am, 15 minutes away).  We expected them to catch up with us quickly.....

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