How hot would it get this year? That is the question that just would not stop running through my mind going into this race. I have come to realize that I don't do so well in very hot races. So, why do I do this race every year when I know this information? Likely for the same reason that anyone does and adventure race (if someone knows, please tell me). Our team this year would be myself, Kipley Fiebig, Julie Standing and a new person to us, Jason Martin. Both Marcy and John were not racing this year as they were preparing for the GTA and did not want to kill themselves at this race. At this race last year, I got very sick from heat and food and was barely able to finish with great help from my other team mates. I was determined to train better this year and not let that happen again (well at least that was my plan). This year's race was once again at Parrie Haynes Ranch near Killeen Texas.
We were given the maps, and park trail maps about an hour before the race which was nice for a change, as normally we don't get them until race start. This allowed us to copy out of bounds areas onto our maps prior to the race start. A few minutes before race start we were told we would need no mandatory gear for the race start. Since we knew there was a river boarding/swim leg we assumed that is where we were heading, so we kind of positioned ourselves closest to the river. Once the RD said go, we opened our first clue sheet and it was in fact river boarding, so we quickly ran down the hill, grabbed our PFD's and river boards then followed a marked trail up river to the swim start. We were the first team in the water, but the rest of the folks were just steps behind us. I say steps because the river was so shallow, that everyone just walked down the knee to hip deep water. I think there was one short section that we actually swam. Getting out of the water first was a big advantage as the small cliffs got very slippery after people started going through.
Back in TA we were give our next leg of the race, which was a paddle leg. We quickly plotted the 2 points on our map. One was upstream and the other downstream. We got back to the boats quickly, but a couple other folks were already putting boats in the water, so it was a bit crowed (and folks were still coming out of the water from the river board leg). There were actually 2 races going on at the same time, we were in the 24 hour class, but there was also a 12 hour race at the same time. We quickly jumped ahead on the paddle leg and had to dodge folks coming downriver with river boards. The water was very shallow, but we were able to paddle some. We had to get out several times going upstream. Team Backpacker, good friends of ours, were right on our heals, but we seem to do better at getting in and out of our boats. We made it to the first upstream CP first and turned around to head downstream. It was still early in the race, and there was a whole armada of boats coming at us, so we had to dodge the oncoming boats and look for water deep enough to paddle in. The farther we went downstream the more shallow it got. It seemed like we spent as much time pulling our boats as we did paddling, but at least we were going downstream. We slowly put a gap between the teams behind us, but then we started to catch some of the 12 hour teams. The 12 hour teams did not do the upstream paddle portion. We finally made it to the boat takeout. We were the first 24 hour team to arrive. We were told to take our PFD's back to TA with us. This meant we were likely to have another river board leg later, which would be no fun since there was really no water!!
We ran the several miles back to TA on the main park road. As usual, Julie was out front telling us to run faster the whole time. Back in TA, we got our next set of instructions which was a biking leg. There were 4 cp's of which one was a special ropes test. We plotted the points and headed out. Everyone was feeling pretty good at this stage of the race. It looked like mostly a bunch of road riding. We hit the ropes special test first, which was a simple cargo net with the punch up on top. Jason scampered up the net and punched the passport with no problem. We then chose to head out on the trails toward the road. It meant some uphill biking on trails, but that was fine. We knew we were close to the main roads when the chorus of the hundreds of dogs was heard. It must be some sort of requirement to live in that area to have a minimum of 20 dogs in your backyard. House after house just had tons of dogs (of which none were happy to see us riding through the woods). The remainder of the points were on a large road loop, so we made good time hitting those points. We saw team Backpacker and Werewolves riding the loop in the opposite direction as us. We knew both of them were stronger biking teams than us. We made it back to TA first and were given our next leg which was a trekking leg. Back in our transition area, we found Joe Lee, a member of Team Backpacker. The heat had knocked him out on the bike leg so they continued on as a 3 person team.
There were 5 CP's on this leg. We had a good plan for all of these points. In this race, we are allowed to skip any one CP during the race. This leg had a good CP to skip as there are 2 "mountains" - OK, big hills, and one of the points was up on one of the mountains. We all felt pretty good, so we figured we should save our skip point until later in the race. The funny thing was that we could see this CP flag from several miles away as it was at a scenic overlook. We had never been up this mountain and no trails were shown on our maps. We just bushwacked our way up the hill and hit the CP. As we figured, there was a trail down the other side, so we took that trail down after punching the CP. We finished up all the points on this leg and got back to TA, still in first. It was a bit cloudy which helped, but it was still getting pretty darn hot. The heat was starting to affect me, well, I think it is less the actual heat, but my ability to not effectively eat while it is so hot. I have a tough time consuming calories in the heat.
Back in TA we were give our next leg, which was another river boarding leg. We were to riverboard all the way down river to our boats and then paddle our boats back up to the original boat launch. I looked forward to this as I figured it would give me a chance to cool off my core temperature a little bit as I was getting pretty warm (well we all were except for Julie). I should have realized that we actually would not be in the water any based on our earlier paddle. It was really a long hike down the river. It was just trudging from one sandbar to the next. I don't think we got in any water more than waist deep the whole time. We did see Team Run Amok (a 12 hour team) leading the 12 hour field heading back upstream. It took about 1.5 hours to walk all the way down the river. The most frustrating thing was the tons of small rocks that worked into our shoes during this walk. We got to the boats and headed upstream. We barely paddled going downstream, so we knew this would be another hike a boat section. As we headed upstream we saw Werewolves coming downstream. A bit later we saw the 3 members of Team Backpacker running full speed downstream. They were really moving fast. We finished the leg and headed back to check in at TA.
Next up was bike/trek leg, meaning we could bike as close as we want and then trek the rest of the way to the CP. I was still hot, but not feeling too bad at this point. Last year at this time, I was completely dead. I was keeping up well with my fluid intake, but still having a harder and harder time consuming calories without getting nauseous. There were 7 CP's on this leg and one of them was the ropes course. We would have to carry our ropes gear for this whole leg. We hit the ropes first as that can be a bottleneck. This was a rock wall climb. Fortunately they said they tightened all of the loose holds for this year (last year, there were many spinners). We had to belay our own team. I had my harness on about the same time as Julie, so she went up the wall first with me doing the belay. We were allowed to help "tug" our team members up with the belay rope, so at a few sections, we were able to simply pull her up the wall. Everyone did the wall with no problem and we were all off. Kip was doing the navigation to this point and really doing a great job so he continued on with navigation. All of this leg was on park trails which ranged from old roads, to trails, to very rough rock gardens. I recall Jason cramping up a couple times during this leg, but he said he was good to go and we continued on. Near the end of this leg, Jason started feeling very badly. Back in TA, the medic came by and told Jason he needed to quit. That did not sit well with anyone, especially Jason. He drank some Heed and a few other things and we were off on our next leg, a trekking leg.
For as bad as Jason felt at the end of the previous bike leg, it sure did not show after about 5 minutes of trekking. He seemed to make a full recovery. It was soon to get dark as we started this leg. We had a good plan for this leg, but Kip quickly pointed out that one of the CP's would be rather tricky (CP20) as there was not a good close attack point for this one. I was walking slowly on this leg. It was not that I was feeling terribly bad at this stage, but I was certainly walking slower than the rest, so Julie OutStanding would not have us walk slower, so she hooked me up to a tow line to improve my walking speed. We hit the first CP no problem, then it was off to the soon to be famous CP 20. We hit the area after dark, but I don't think it have made any difference even if it was not dark. This point was in a side draw off of a main creek. We hit the main creek and headed up the creek, but could never find the side draw. We found a couple, but they quickly went away. After about 25 minutes, Kip decided we should move on and use this as our skip point. This was a bummer to all of us as Kip's navigation had been 100% up to this stage, and our skip point would not save us any distance since we were sure we were close to the flag, but just could not find it. So we moved on, and as we did we were pretty sure we heard the voices of Team Backpacker coming into the area. After the last CP, we were heading back to TA. I was feeling poorly so I decided I should really try to eat some more food. Not a good idea, as I got pretty nauseous, but held it down. Back to TA, we were give our instructions for our final leg. It would be a bike/trek leg. I still had a fairly upset stomach going back to our transition area, so I asked for 10 minutes to eat and take in some food. My team members were great. They brought me all kinds of stuff…. Well maybe just one too many things. I took in a bunch of fluids and food. Then before we set off, I tried to get one more pack of gel in my stomach. As soon as I swallowed it, I had to call for the cabin trash can!! I told everyone I need it IMEDIATELY! Well, up came all those good calories, but at least now I felt better.
We headed out on bikes and quickly wished we still had our skip point left as there was one CP very far out of the way and on top of the only other mountain in this park. Too late now, we had to go get it. We hooked up a bike tow to Julie OutStandings bike as she still felt like a champ. She helped tow me up the hills, and we still beat everyone else to the top!! I actually recovered pretty well on this leg and felt pretty good by about half way through this leg. We hit all the CP's just fine, although there is now a nice new large power line cut through this park that is not on maps and was not there last year. We moved well for this whole leg and headed for the finish line. We had led up to this stage, but we did not know what any other teams had done with their skip point. We pulled into the finish line and were told we were the second team to arrive. Team HFAR knights had arrived 13 minutes earlier. I had not mentioned them previously in my whole report for 2 reasons. First, I don't think we ever saw them on the whole course, and secondly they were not a team that we have historically have had to keep a close eye on. Well, times have changed, they almost beat us at a previous race, and now they clearly beat us at this race. We will make sure to keep closer tabs on them in the future as they are obviously a team that can win in future races. Team HFAR knights had saved their skip point for the last leg which saved them a ton of time on the final leg and allowed them to jump past us for the win.
Well, it ended up getting pretty hot, but likely not as hot as 2007. I still got sick during this race, but I did feel much better than in 2007. I am sure I will forget all of this again the next time I see a hot race on the calendar and immediately sign up. We were treated to a great post race breakfast the following morning. This allows everyone to swap stories and show race wounds. Thanks to TooCoolRacing for putting on another great event, and thanks to all the teams that are always so friendly out on the course.
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