Once a source of "Not all you want to know about Texas Adventure Racing," but now just some "leisure" adventure through the eyes of "The K-SPoT"

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Paddle not much a Breeze at Somerville

So, can I get a break one of these races? Okay, I’ll concede that a lot of other teams probably made the same mistakes that I did, but I really thought this would be the race where we would break out of our slump of bonehead decisions. I mean, we even had a seasoned vet in Tom to substitute for Mikey for this race. Not so. Lake Somerville posed navigation that was a lot tougher than Too Cool’s inaugural Big Chill 24hr race. To my dismay, the race chewed up and spit out my skills early in the race.

We started with a special test where teams had the option of having one or all teammates get clues at 4 different checkpoints. Of course, splitting up according to each person’s strengths is the best choice in this situation, so that’s what we did. One of us had to swim to a checkpoint (obviously not me), one had to scooter to a checkpoint, one had to do a mind bender puzzle, and one had to trek to another point. There was a little discussion between Andrew and me about who would do the mind bender and who would do the trek, but I finally decided to do the trek since I was more familiar with the map at that point. We did really well and were one of the first teams to finish up that leg.

Then came the (horrible) paddle leg. We shot out of transition and were the 2nd team on the water, but quickly zoomed into first because we kept our paddle cadence high. Now, this lake is not a natural lake but a man-made lake, so many times the maps are not that accurate or up to date with respect to water level. This foolishly didn’t come to my mind as I looked for the entry to a canal we had to take. It was no where near where I thought it should be, so I was thoroughly confused. The team we had passed now caught up and kept paddling forward. I made a basic navigational error which was following them. We found an entry, but we would find out very later on that this was not the “right” waterway. It was full of trees and was very shallow—we had to portage our boats through most of it. Then, we saw MOAT coming up on us…another reason I thought things were swell. They then began to portage along the prairie, no longer following the “canal”. I thought it was a good idea since we didn’t know how choked up the rest of the “canal” would be. After a couple of hours of pulling our boats around, with no one else in sight, I finally bring us to the pond for which we were searching. We get to the next checkpoint and several other teams are right on our tails! What the heck happened?! We thought, if they had to portage too, there’s no way they could have caught up to us…this was the first indication that something was horribly wrong. Anyway, I’ll stop talking about this leg because it’ll take too long to finish and it’s already too painful to go on.

After somehow making it back to transition, we found out Dead Reckoning was dead last. That’s us, by the way. Quitting was definitely filtering into our minds at this moment. Knowing that Rick would never forgive us if we did stop, we kept on with the scooter leg, which was pretty short and simple. Then it was a long trekking navigation leg. It didn’t take very long for me to stumble again, as we started running into fences that weren’t supposed to be there and the race director said that we wouldn’t have to jump fences—we would be out of bounds. Agonizingly, we eventually found our way around to the checkpoint, but I was again losing confidence. Every other point on that leg became a struggle. We then encountered another special test where we had to build a raft out of twigs, branches, army ponchos, nylon ropes, and milk jugs. After that, we had to float one member around a buoy and back. That was fine. We then continued on to one more checkpoint and back to TA.

Next was the long bike section, where I was thinking we could make up a lot of time. But, my body thought otherwise. It was hot (in the 90s again) and I had thoughtlessly tried to match Andrew’s speed going up a hill. That put me at my max heart rate for a prolonged period of time and put me over the limit. I was overheated. I pushed on, but had to stop in the shade periodically to collect myself. I momentarily gave up my navigation duties to Tara because I couldn’t think straight. Although we were still catching up to and passing teams, we had slowed down considerably because of me. It started to turn back around when, at one of the checkpoints, the race director placed icee pops! This was out of the blue and was a lifesaver for me! Plus, the temps cooled as the sun was going down. I started to get my strength back and I was back close to 100% for the last couple checkpoints and drove the bus on sections of pavement at around 20+mph. I got over my heat illness.

Next was the very long paddle leg. By this time, the sun was setting, so we would have to navigate mostly at night, which makes it interesting since some of the points are on islands in the middle of the lake. It started out okay as I was still able to make out the silhouette of the land once I figured out the right bearing. Then came the invisible island. I set a course almost straight north and there was a silhouette I thought was the island I was looking for. We paddled along and I periodically checked the compass to make sure we were still on course. Plus, another team which had a really good navigator (Aaron) was behind us, on the same line. This stretch of paddling seemed a little longer than I thought it should be, but I didn’t sweat it because I still could see the silhouette. We arrive and go scrambling for the point. After several attempts by me and the other navigator, we couldn’t find it. We then split up and as I was going to find the other checkpoint that was also supposed to be on this island, I discover that this is not an island! There are roads and street lights and music blasting just across the way! This was not happening to me. I completely missed the island and continued on to another park! This was then verified when the other team met us at our boats and told us they asked a group of partiers where we were. At that point, I wanted to just join the party and call it a night. Now I figured we would be fighting for last place again—this little detour probably cost us another 2hrs. We then made a pact with the other team to go ahead and team up to find the remaining points since we weren’t really in the competition anymore and we were going pretty much at the same speeds. We now made a bearing for the right island and the rest of the paddle leg went okay. After finding the last point, the pact was off and we sprinted back to TA.

When we landed, I was surprised to see that there were only 4-6 boats on the shore! That’s when one of the guys in our support crew told us that we were in 3rd place! Apparently, a lot of the other teams were also having problems with the night paddle navigation and were getting lost—there was actually a third team already in from the paddle, but they had not completed the course. So now it was our team and another HART team, the one we had the pact with, vying for 3rd! It was from contemplating DNF’ing to now possibly being 3rd.

The last leg was another long trek navigation. Even though we had about 5hrs to complete it, the checkpoints were spread out all over the park, so I wasn’t sure if we could get them all. So we just went along and figure to get as many as we could before the 8am cutoff. But when we had one more checkpoint to get along the way back and had about 1.5hrs left, I knew we could get them all. We got them all with time to spare, so we just walked in the rest of the way since we knew we had 3rd locked-in—Aaron’s team had not picked off all the points.

With 10-15 minutes to spare, we jogged into TA finishing in 3rd. We then found out we were 1 of the only 3 teams to get all the checkpoints, indicating the difficulty of the navigation. So, again, I learned to never give up and that race directors occasionally show their heart in the form of icee pops. Thanks again to Too Cool for another great race!


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