In getting ready for the No Sweat race, my main goal was to survive. We knew it would be hot. We had scouted the ranch and knew that the "bike" trails could wear you down. We theorized that we might have to paddle upstream part of the time. And 30 hours is simply a long time to race.
Kip, John, Dave, and I drove ourselves and all our stuff up to Parrie Haynes Ranch on Friday afternoon. We were happy to have half an air-conditioned cabin for the weekend, and even happier to be sharing it with Jim and Rob from Team Moxie Pucks. If only they weren't so serious all the time :)
We did a rather non-Vignette thing and brought coolers with ice, plus we decided to TA out of the cabin. Anything to bring our temperatures down occasionally. Now we're officially spoiled.
It was an early-morning race start (6 a.m.). It turns out that the temperature outside is actually really pleasant before the sun comes up, I may have to get up early again someday to experience that. Robyn gave a detailed but succinct race briefing, then we got our maps with 10 minutes to spare before race start. We ran back to the cabin to get our gear and I managed to plot the west side trails onto the topo map before we had to return to the pavilion.
And... go! Leg 1 was a 4-parter, which we could divide up between us. Kip started plotting, and as soon as he had the bike point plotted, Dave figured out that he could take off and ride to it. John grabbed a puzzle sheet for me, then I was able to send John toward the river and Kip up the path toward the pond.
I sat down to work out the puzzles. We needed 4 of 5 correct in order to complete the task, with a 10-minute penalty for each that we got wrong. The first and third word problems came easily, and the second one took just another minute. But then I got a puzzled look. #4 seemed like it should be doable (what phrase does "MEREPEAT" represent?), but #5 appeared to be a song that I'd have to figure out. My "song man" is John, and he was down by the river.
Instead of wasting time, I turned in my 3 answers and started my 10-minute penalty. A couple minutes after that was over, Dave and Kip showed up. A few minutes later John came running up. At each checkpoint we found a one-word answer (MAN, NIGHTS, SHOES, FEVER), which we turned in to complete the leg.
Next was a swim in the river with our boogie boards. We threw our required gear into a trash compactor bag and dropped that into a big mesh bag for John to carry, grabbed our boogie boards, and ran down to the river.
Along with Teams Werewolves and Moxie Pucks (yay!), we jumped into the water and started floating downstream. The water was pretty low, so we walked some parts of it, floated down a few nice gentle rapids, and swam the deeper stuff. The big boogie boards were nice because we could alternate using our arms and kicking our legs/pushing off the bottom. Werewolves moved on ahead while we relaxed and didn't stress over going fast. It was nice and cool - our only complaint being that it would have been a real nice midday leg, but you can't beat a casual leg 2 for setting a nice pace for our race.
At the pull-out we were supposed to follow green flagging to the road, but the flagging disappeared at the hay fields. We tried a couple things and eventually walked with Moxie Pucks up a side road. It came out at a house - oops! We quietly walked out to the road, glad that we hadn't disturbed any dogs or people.
It was a nice jog back to the TA to get our instructions for leg 3. This one was a bit complicated - 2 bikes for a 4-person team (but not a ride-and-tie, as we still had to be within 30 seconds of each other), plus carrying our PFDs. We chose to start with me and Dave riding bikes. I towed John who ran beside me, while Dave towed Kip.
We rode out to a small wall with ropes hanging down. Dave climbed right up, then John hoisted me high enough so Dave could grab a leg and haul me over. Kip and John had no problems following us up, and soon we were back on our way. I ended up with the map somehow, but John gave some good input and we found our way to a fenceline.
There we saw the Werewolves going off to the north. We selected an alternate route on known trails, and this seemed to work well except there was a bit extra descent/climbing that I hadn't noticed. Still, when we reached the fence corner near the bike drop, we heard Ashley from Werewolves behind us. We did a bit of Zen Navigation and came upon the CP flag where Dave and I had to give up our bikes.
We moved out to the road and started walking/jogging along. It looked like quite a ways to the start of the paddle, so we took it easy. At the bottom of the hill we came across a barrier and sign that read "Bridge Out"- interesting. Art showed up on the other side of said bridge to take pictures, while Robyn pulled up behind us. With such an audience, we considered taking a running leap over to the other side, but once we saw how wide it was we decided that wasn't an option.
One little creek crossing later and we were on our way again. A couple more kilometers on roads found us at the big bridge with our boats. It was a long, steep slope down to the water, and luckily Art's brother (the volunteer there) called down to make sure we had punched the CP. John ran back up to do just that, then we got on the water with Werewolves right on our heels.
The Lampasas River wasn't super high, but high enough for a nice little downstream paddle. It had been forever since we downriver paddled, and it was a really good reintroduction - mostly pretty easy stuff, but with ways to optimize our speed and stay in the fastest current while avoiding the shallows. John pointing out some big fish and then we saw something else - it's a turtle? Sure enough.
One of the rapids was interesting, because of a large tree across the right side of it. We watched Dave and Kip as they figured out where the deep channel ran and then bumped off the tree to get around it. No problem. We headed toward it, John telling me that we'd have to pull hard to get across that spot. John (in the front of the boat) ended up doing a draw stroke that put the front of our boat up on shallow rocks unexpectedly. So instead of the current taking the front end around to the right, the boat got hung up there while I drew the back end away from the tree. We were now facing upstream, but at least we missed the strainer!
After floating past the tree and turning back around, the rest of the paddle was uneventful. We didn't push, just enjoying not being hot yet. We beached the boats on the sand/rockbar and headed up to the TA to check in. Leg 4 was mostly a bike, except we started with the other two bikes on the way to the bike drop. I rode Kip's bike and Dave rode John's, as Kip and John graciously offered to run again. At least it wasn't as far this time.
Soon we were on 4 bikes again and back on the road outside the park. We started southwest, electing to get two checkpoints towards the river before the northern ones. Several teams were trekking along the road on the way to their boats, and many of the legs continued to overlap with previous ones. Most of the day we didn't feel too alone out there, and it was nice to greet teams and cheer each other on.
Riding roads was pretty enjoyable. With the bridge out, there weren't many cars on one part of the leg. The hills weren't too steep or long, and Kip and Dave took turns leading our paceline. We found checkpoints at a cemetery and under a bridge, then decided to turn around and retrace our steps to avoid a couple big hills in exchange for a bit of extra distance.
Soon we were traversing the northern section of the map, finding CP's at an intersection and another bridge. Dave started drafting off me, and we learned he wasn't feeling too well, but we didn't need to push hard for any reason so we figured we'd go slowly and let him recover. Along the way we saw Team Moxie Pucks again, yay!
We came back to the park, tossed our bikes over the northern gate, and started south on trails. We wound around, greeting one team starting the leg going a different direction, and eventually found our last bike CP by a pond. On the way back to the TA we took one slight mis-turn and ended up down by the pond Kip had visited on leg one. We named it "Kip's Pond" for future reference, and John dived in to cool off briefly.
Back at the TA we learned it was time for a trekking leg, with high ropes (Woo hoo! says John). We stuffed ropes gear into packs and headed out. Just then we saw Team Werewolves starting this leg at the same time. We walked down the road together and chatted for a bit about being tied for the lead after 4 legs. They started fast-walking while we held back a bit because it was starting to get warm.
We followed them up to the high ropes course and learned that we would be taking turns going up a climbing wall. There were two belay ropes, so both teams could be on the wall at the same time. I hung back and watched while the Werewolves and my teammates worked their way up. Kip told me that the left side of the wall was harder than the right side, and some of the hand/footholds would spin when you stepped on them.
Teammates also took turns belaying each other, and we learned that the belayer could help pull the climber up the wall. Soon the Werewolves were done and gone, and it was my turn. I needed a lot of help just scrambling up to the first foothold, then I had to hang out there and catch my breath. John (with Kip helping pull on his harness) did a great job keeping the rope tight and giving my extra boosts while I worked my way up the wall. He also gave me tips about which holds to use. I hoped my arms and legs wouldn't cramp up, that could be bad. Eventually I got to the top, rung the bell, and sat back in my harness to be lowered down. Phew! That was exhausting.
Heading north, we trekked to the east fenceline and found a CP on the fence. We could feel the heat of the day coming on, and there were few trees in that area, so we took it slow and easy. Dave still wasn't feeling great, so John started towing him as we trekked along. We watched the big water tower in the distance as it got closer and bigger. The water tower itself wasn't so imposing as the hill it was sitting on.
Finally we were at the bottom of the hill, and it was a long, slow climb, with a couple stops in what little shade we could find. We hadn't seen any sign of the Werewolves and we wondered if they had skipped this point (all teams were allowed to skip one CP sometime during the race, in return for donating canned goods).
At the top we were rewarded with some ice pops in a cooler - yay! We also chatted with the Marilyn, the CP volunteer, who said she hadn't seen anyone else before we arrived. The downhill to the north was easier footing than the climb up, and some of us took a salt tablet to combat puffy hands and muscles twitching/threatened to cramp.
Kip and I navigated on trails and pace counted to find another pond with our next CP. We continued back to the south, bushwhacking briefly as a shortcut (nasty underbrush), then finding the red trail we had ridden earlier. The next CP was up a creek, so we tried to follow alongside it but eventually had to push through more crap to get to the water. We found the CP flag and decided to go back via the creek instead of bushwhacking back out. Our feet had been wet for a good percentage of the race so far, but on the plus side, the cool water was nice to splash in.
Passing Kip's Pond again, this time none of us could resist it, and we all took a nice dip. John tried to find the sunglasses he had left at the bottom of the pool during his dive in the last leg, but wasn't successful. Time to move on. On the trek back we ran into the Werewolves who were going to the CP we just found - ? They mentioned something about a navigation error.
While we were talking about the words on the leg 1 checkpoints, John told us that Robyn said they were related somehow. We had a brain flash and realized that they were BOOGIE words! We were excited to relay to Robyn that we had figured it out, but I guess there were no bonus points available for that. So you think you can boogie?
Back in the cool(er) cabin (the AC unit tried real hard but was a bit overwhelmed). We plotted the next points while Dave rested. He still wasn't doing well but was game to continue. Kip and I focused on route strategy for the east-side bike points, while I lobbied to skip the one faraway point on the west side. Eventually we got our route settled and agreed to skip that point.
We started on the road toward the park entrance. We jumped into the park via a gate, rode up a trail to CP18, then back out to the road. John started towing Dave as we headed up Maxdale road, and Kip did great nav up to CP17, in a draw just off the road. We rode up to the Equestrian entrance and on trails up to one checkpoint, and then down and around to the next 2 CP's, finishing at CP20 on Cosper's Cut.
As the shadows lengthened, the day started to cool down, a nice relief. We tried to work out Dave's stomach issues, giving him a salt tablet and telling him to stop drinking for a while. As far as I can tell, he had an electrolyte imbalance (not enough salt for the high amount of liquid he drank), and that takes quite a while to recover from. If you're not careful, you can even get into serious trouble with hyponatremia, so that was a worry.
We rode back along fencelines and roads, coming back into TA around dusk. We were in the lead but figured Werewolves weren't far behind. On the flip side, Dave was not recovering and we weren't sure how long he could continue racing.
The next leg was a paddle plus trek. Dave rested while we plotted, then he told us he was ready to paddle, especially since we still had a bit of daylight left and it would be easier now vs. later. So we headed down to the river and put our boats on the water. We could see well enough not to need our headlamps, following the water flow the best we could and trying to remember what we'd seen during the boogie board section earlier.
We managed to ground the boat only a couple times, requiring a short walk back to the deeper water. The main challenge was the tiny gnats flying around above the water, into our eyes and noses and mouths. Luckily the paddle didn't take us very long, and soon we were beaching the boats for the last time. We met Robyn there along with Deanna who had come along to guard against snakes. I'd say that snakes are misunderstood, except I didn't know there were snakes in that river when we had been boogie boarding...
Robyn directed us to the correct exit from the hayfields, then we headed back through the gate and into the park. We followed a trail to a scenic overlook, and even had a bit of a nice vista with the bright moon illuminating the landscape. John continued to tow Dave, who seemed to be maintaining but not improving. We found a CP next to a pond and then one in a creek.
Back over to the west side, it was a long, dull trek up the fenceline and across to a CP on another fence. The last trekking CP required some accurate pacecounting and then some searching, so that kept us motivated. And happy when we found it without too much trouble. We started the march back to the TA, noting a new punch hanging at Kip's pond. Our theory, hopeful and misguided though it was, was that there was one more leg. My feet, and Kip's also, were starting to blister, and we were all getting tired. However, something cruel was about to happen... real soon.
We came into TA and Robyn dropped the bomb that there were actually TWO legs left. Ouch. We went back to the cabin and Dave determined that he couldn't continue on, he was feeling so sick and couldn't recover. We debated options and decided to sleep for 40 minutes, then get one CP on each of the last two legs for an official finish.
John chatted with Jim and Rob, who had also been doing great until Rob had stomach issues. We got up and moved out, then they moved into the sleeping quarters. It was a gentle bike ride out and back to a bridge where we tagged one CP, then a long slow walk back to Kip's pond for our last checkpoint of the race. We saw teams Werewolves and Outcasts here and they all were looking strong.
It was a bummer not to finish the whole course, but Dave was an incredible trooper to go as far as he did while feeling awful for much of the day and night. I do need to figure out better foot management for races where our feet are wet much of the day, because my blisters would have been the limiting factor if Dave had been able to go on. Other than that, we survived the heat, made good nav decisions, and raced well as a team. Thanks for a fun day, teammates! And thanks Art and Robyn for a well-designed, fun course!
A ten minute video of this race
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