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Too Cool Spread Your Wings 2009 Race Report

May 23, 2009
Rocksprings, Texas
by Kipley Fiebig

Dave Bogle, Jason Mittman, Julie Standing, and I traveled to the remote and beautiful Camp Eagle for Too Cool's 24 hour adventure race. It rained the night before, so the area was getting quite muddy.

At 8am the race started with a short run to the river, then each teammate had to take turns swimming across to the other bank to retrieve a poker chip, and then swim back. We brought along some fins we could strap on over our shoes, which helped, and so we hustled back to the checkin after the swim in second place, just behind team iMoat.

Next up was a bike leg. They had us skip some of the usual trails, and we stayed on jeep roads for a bit, and then had us ride some of the normal trails backwards from how we usually take them. Seemed like every trail was muddy and slippery. And when it wasn't muddy, it was rocky and slippery. Despite the nasty conditions (or maybe because of them), we managed to keep iMoat in sight for the first half of the bike, when Dave's bike got a flat and we had to stop to change it. 3 or 4 teams passed us while we changed the tire, and then we were back on track. Then Jason's wheels slid out from him at one point and he took a nasty fall, hurting his back, though fortunately it seemed to be more of just a painful bruise than a scarier back injury. We limped our way back to TA still within about ten minutes of the leaders.

Fun water leg next. It started by sliding down the new 150 foot slides into the river, awesome! Then a swim to the floating "iceberg", which we had to each climb to reach the checkpoint on top. Then a couple more points located underwater, tied under buoys. Good stuff. We finished up the leg and geared up to chase down iMoat.

Next was a short bike/trek leg up to the top of the rappel overlook, and down into the stream below it by Armadillo trail. Since we were allowed to bike or trek, we left our bikes on the ridge, and took a shortcut bushwack on foot straight down into the stream, got the point, and climbed back up to our bikes. The alternative would have been to ride the entire Armadillo trail, which is long enough and technical enough to be worth skipping. We then biked across the ridge, got the point at the overlook, and took the steep downhill to the bridge over the river. Just before we reached the bridge we encountered iMoat heading the other way, as they chose to do the points for the leg in the reverse order. The final point was a couple miles south down the road and in a culvert, then it was straight back up the road to the checkin. We finished the leg in first place, having passed iMoat. Probably due to our route choice/shortcut.

Leg five is a short trekking section. The first point we visit turns out to be a rare error by Too Cool... the numbers they gave for one of the points were off by a kilometer, so it plotted in the wrong space. At least the plot was close to transition, so when we couldn't find it in the area we were able to run back quickly and report the problem. They radioed Art and Robyn in, who looked at the plot and confirmed it was off, and they gave us the corrected spot. And a time bonus for having to deal with the mistake. Sounds good to us, off we went, still in the lead despite the delay. At the newly-corrected location for the errant point, we see a big hill with a bumpy road traveling down it. The volunteers at this spot give us a two-wheel kick scooter, and we take turns riding it down the hill, and then kicking it back up to the top. It was very fun for us. It was less fun for teams that got there an hour later, when the rain had kicked in again and turned the dirt into mud that stuck to the scooter tires!

Off to get the other two points on the trek. Here, I make a huge error... while running along an old jeep road, I somehow take us way past the draw we were looking for, and enter an incorrect draw above it. After fighting our way up the draw, we finally decide from the direction that it's heading that it must be wrong, and so we cut up and over down into the correct draw. So we thought... this second draw was also the wrong draw. Fortunately, we were able to figure out that it was wrong rather quickly this time, but still, it meant that we had to climb up and over again to get back to the correct draw (that we'd run right past thirty minutes earlier). D'oh! Fortunately, we came down into this draw right at the perfect spot to land at the checkpoint. By now there were other teams in the area that had caught up to us while we'd been doing our unnecessary drainage exploration. What's worse, we still had one more point to get on this leg, and other teams were already heading back to start their next leg. Nothing to do but climb up to the ridgeline to get our final point on the fenceline, and then cut straight back down to the main road and run back home. We caught up to the Knights of Ni on the run back and said hi to them right before we got the instructions for the next leg.

Leg 6, bike/trek. Another bike section? They never bike three times at this race! And on these slippery trails, we're not looking forward to it. But, it is what it is... and what is is a rather long bike. As we get on our bikes to head out, we find that Dave's other bike tire has a flat... so Jason and Dave quickly change it, and we're ready to go again.

The first point on the bike is a special test, where we have to either unscramble a bunch of letters on rods to form a sentence, or push two large cubes across a field and form two words between them on the other side. We can't immediately spot the sentence in the rod word scramble, so decide just to do the more brawny cube push. It was a very "Survivor-y" type special test.

The general plan for the rest of the leg is to bike on dirt roads where we can, until we get close to a checkpoint. Then we drop the bikes, run to the checkpoint, run back to the bikes, and repeat. We decide to do the loop counter-clockwise. Dave performs great on the bike nav, and then we work together on the nav for the treks to the points. The route choice gets very interesting at the end of the leg, as there's no clear optimal way to reach the last three points. We then also have to find a way to bike out of this section and back to the start, and there also isn't an obvious "best way" to do so. One method is to leave our bikes for a while and do a lot of trekking in and out of ravines on foot before looping back to the bikes. But we come up with another, riskier plan than involves biking to the far points first, and then taking our bikes down into the huge ravine with us, getting one checkpoint at the top of the draw along the way, and then another at the bottom of the ravine along the stream. The advantage of this method is that we can simply push/ride our bikes along the stream straight out, as the ravine eventually connects to the last part of the Armadillo trail. We just have to be able to get them down there. We decide to give this bold plan a shot, and start carrying our bikes down the steep ravine. We see some teams on foot climbing up the ravine, looking quite confused as to why we have our bikes with us. But we keep going, and fortunately there's not too much brush in this section to get in our way, and then we're at the bottom. Success! Travel along the bottom is fairly quick, and soon we hit the trail and ride our way out. All in all, it felt like a good route choice.

When we make it back to checkin, we find that we've passed iMoat to take the lead again, so I guess our gamble paid off. Time to do some paddling, and ropes! We paddle our boats to the lower dam, then drag them ashore and run to the bottom of the ropes circuit. Helpful camp volunteers get us in the harnesses and give us "lobster claws" to clip into the sherpa line. We follow the line along the slide of the cliff, and then climb up to the overlook for the rappel. They were using the big rappel this year, that we'd never had a chance to do before at this race... 150 feet high, with overhangs! Yay! One at a time we go over the edge and slide to the bottom. Jason sets a speed record for the descent that impresses everyone. I'm the last one off the line, and my teammates ask if I saw iMoat at the top (I hadn't), as they had seen Tracy on the Sherpa Line heading up. Nothing to do but keep moving... we don't want to relinquish the lead again!

More paddling upstream, portaging over all the dams, to get the upper river point. Then turn around and paddle back down. We encounter iMoat paddling upstream. Dave had been keeping a timer from when we punched the point... it was nine minutes until we passed iMoat heading the other way, so we figure we have about an 18 minute lead. But we had heard that they had been awarded even more bonus time than us. So they were definitely too close for comfort.

We receive the final leg, which is, not surprisingly, a big trek. We throw headlights in our packs and head out. The first point is a new cave, and we know from experience that the caves can be hard to find in this region. Fortunately, we kept running into teams doing the shorter 12-hour course coming back from the cave, and they keep us on track by pointing us the right way. Jason finds the cave, and heads in with a headlamp to get the point. Up over the ridge and down the other side to a point whose clue is "labyrinth". We figure this will be a point that's located in a maze of trees or brush or something, but turns out that they had build an actual maze in the middle of the woods, but using a huge roll of fabric to make walls around various trees to form tunnels you have to walk through. Too cool! Of course, since there were no rules on how to do the section, we decided to just keep stepping under the walls (there was a gap between the fabric and the ground) to cut our way into the middle of the maze. Another 12 hour team was there too, so we all agreed to spread out and search and we'd all yell to each other if we found the point. Julie found it, everyone made their way to her to punch it, and then it we were done. Neat!

The next points were fairly straightforward. We had the choice to cut directly to one point, or take a longer route that stayed at the same elevation and followed a road, and we choose the long route as we could run it and not bushwack. Then there was a point near the second windmill, no problem. The final point was east of the windmill in a "hilltop clearing". Since we still had daylight we were able to follow a series of clearing-paths, and spot the faint hilltop through the trees in places. And so we were able to walk right to it. The teams who attempted this point after dark found it to be much trickier.

We jogged back to the finish line. Since we hadn't made any mistakes on this last leg, and had been moving pretty fast, we felt it would be fairly unlikely that iMoat could catch us. And sure enough, we finished in first place. It took us less than twelve hours to finish the 24 hour course... it was still daylight! We took advantage of this luxury by packing up our dirty boats and bikes and gear while it was still easy to see, and not raining for once.

Thanks to my teammates for a great race. All three of them took turns towing me on the bike legs at different points (THANK YOU!). With all the rain, that turned out to be way tougher biking than I was expecting! But all the other cool parts of the race definitely made up for it!

Video of the race

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