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Too Cool "No Sweat" 2006 Race Report

August 26th-27th, 2006
Lake Travis, Texas
By Kipley Fiebig

So a month ago Dave Bogle asks me if I want to do the Lake Travis race this year. And I find myself saying, "yes, of course, let's do it!" What? Hadn't I sworn to myself that I wouldn't do this race again, after last year's episode where our team nearly spontaneously combusted in the relentless Texas summer heat? Why the heck did I say I would do it again? Damn my lack of willpower!

Well, nothing to do except try and get in shape. I'd fallen out of peak conditioning a bit over the summer, but with this race on calendar I suddenly had more motivation. We'd be racing as Team Backpacker/Massey's, along with Jeff Diamond and Julie Standing. Dave and Julie had just done the ten day Primal Quest in Moab in July, so they at least would be quite used to the heat. But Dave's feet had suffered from huge blisters in that race, so he wasn't quite yet back to full health for this one.

31 teams showed up at the starting line, more than last year. Apparently the difficulty of last year's race just made more fools want to try it this time. This sport sure attracts the masochists. We adventure racers need to form a support group to help ourselves with our issues. Of course, our support group would probably want to finish every session with a cross country run through the mountains in the blazing sun.

The race started with a short run around the Highland Lakes campground. We were given an aerial map of the camp with 5 plotted checkpoints to find. The aerial map was pretty detailed, so the nav should have been easy, but I managed to mess it up a bit anyways. At least there were 32 other teams to follow around, as we hadn't had time to spread out yet!

The next leg was a short bike on the trails of Pace Bend Park. It was a marked course, so we were just to follow the volunteers' directions and the flagging on the trails to get where we needed to go. Julie took a fall and bloodied up her shin a bit, but it didn't slow her down, it just made her look tougher.

The next leg involved a quick paddle across the lake, trekking through neighborhood streets to find three nearby points, and then paddling back to the start. We were only allowed to use one boat for the ferrying part, which was easy for us since we were planning on using one large boat for our entire team anyways. Our quick transition after the bikes got us back into second place, and we set out in our boat to chase down the leaders, Team Werewolves of Austin.

We caught up to the Werewolves while hiking to the first point. They're good friends of ours, so we traveled together and chatted a bit. A neighborhood dog decided that we posed a threat, and charged at us, barking loudly, and singled out poor Julie to harass before the owner came out to rein it in.

We overshot the second point a bit, but recovered quickly enough. Then we started running into teams that were coming from the other direction, as you could get the points in any order. Team Outcasts and Phat Free were both moving fast. Fortunately, we were able to finish the trek and made it back to our boat in first place.

The next leg had us returning to the boat again, and paddling it around the Pace Bend peninsula to the other side. Then, we left the boat docked at another boat ramp, and made our way back to transition on foot, navigating to a couple of points along the way. This section went quite well for us, as we found the points with no difficulties. The final part of this leg was a ropes course. First we got to do a zip line, where we climbed up a tall platform, clipped onto a long steel cable that sloped down, and then jumped off and slid down the cable. Fun stuff!

After that, we had to tackle another obstacle that involved climbing to the top of a tall pole, and then attempting to jump and grab a bar that was hanging in the air about five feet away from the pole. We found this part to be more scary then fun, and since there wasn't any penalty for missing the bar we just jumped off the platform to get it over with (they had us clipped in to a safety rope, of course).

Jogging back from the ropes to transition, we passed Team Outcasts on their way to the ropes. They'd overtaken the Werewolves for second place somewhere along the line, and they were much too close behind us for comfort. The real race was just beginning here, though, as the next leg would have us away from the main transition area for quite a long time. Our wonderful support crew, otherwise known as Dave's parents, helped us fill up our packs with food and water and plot the many points for the long journey ahead, and then we were off once again.

We trekked back to our boat, took a quick cooling dip in the water, and then started a long paddle up Lake Travis. The first part was all head wind, but Dave's expert steering kept us on track. Eventually we made it around the long serpentine curves of the river to where the wind was working in our favor. Our canoe was really a three person craft, but we'd installed an inflatable seat on the floor for our fourth person. You couldn't really paddle from that position, so we took turns sitting in the fourth seat and getting a break from the paddling. Fortunately the canoe was stable enough that we could change positions in the middle of the lake.

I studied the map carefully as we approached the end, as we didn't want to dock in the wrong cove. The lake was a lot lower than what was shown on the topo map, so our position was somewhat tricky to track, but we managed to get it right. Leaving our boat behind, we had to trek over another peninsula, finding a couple of points in the woods as we went. On the far side, we hiked down to the shoreline and followed the coastline to a set of awaiting boats the race director had setup to ferry us across to Muleshoe park on the other side of the lake.

We were quite a long way from home as this point, but race management had provided us with a mini oasis: they'd transported a gear box for our team, which allowed us to refill with food and liquids. They'd also transported our bikes here. One of our bikes had a flat tire, but we were able to change it and get moving before any following teams appeared on the horizon.

We had to bike to five points that were on the trails at Muleshoe, and another two that were outside the park along roads. We biked the southern half of the park first, and after getting the second point I realized we could turn around and jump out at a crossroads, to save us from doing an extra bit of trail. Then it was time to head for the points outside the park. I was starting to feel quite tired on the bike, but Julie was doing well, so she volunteered to tow me. Thanks, Julie! Then we got our second flat tire on the way back, which actually worked out great for me, as I just sat in the shade and ate and drank and recovered a bit while the rest of the team fixed it. Thanks again, guys!

Heading back to Muleshoe, we again passed the Outcasts coming the other way, and so we were reminded that there were still teams hot on our tail. At the park entrance we saw Phat Free getting ready to head out. We never saw the Werewolves on this leg, but discovered later that that was because they chose to do all of the Muleshoe points before traveling outside the park. We still had to clear the north side of the Muleshoe trails, which we did without incident. It turned out that we again had the opportunity to leave the trails early and cut back to the road after getting the final point, which suited us all fine, as we were ready to be done with the biking in the blazing heat.

Now, it was time to retrace our long route back. Drop the bikes at the remote oasis, refuel from the food box, ferry the management canoe back over the lake, hike back over the peninsula, paddle our canoe back down Lake Travis, dock at the Pace Bend boat ramp, and hike back to TA. Since we were going back the way we came, we pretty much got to see all the rest of the teams in the race coming the other way as we went along. It was fun exchanging words of encouragement with everyone. Even the teams at the back of the pack seemed to be in good spirits. The sun finally set during the long paddle back, and we were greatly relieved that we'd survived the heat of the day without anyone passing out. Not only that, we'd survived the super-long leg! Yay!

Our support crew was glad to finally see us again, and help us get ready for the final leg. It would be another trek around Pace Bend park to find some points on foot, then a final paddle to bring our boat back around from the boat ramp to the Highland Lakes camp. We hadn't used our "skip point" yet, so we didn't have to visit the farthest of the remaining five points. The first point was easy to find, as it was a repeat of a point we'd hiked to early in the day. The second point was down in a cove in a bit of a cave, and was a bit of a challenge to reach. The third point gave us problems: it was located on top of a big hill near the center of the park. I'd been hoping we could avoid a nasty bushwhack up the hill, so as we traveled around the hill we looked for a path leading up. But, we never found a path. At that point I decided we were far enough past the hill where might as well just go out and get the fourth point first, which was at the edge of another huge cove. Then, on the way back to our waiting boat, it was time to tackle the big hill point again, from the other side.

It looked like we might be lucky enough to find a trail up the hill from the other side, but it wound up turning the wrong way. So, it was time to bushwhack. Unfortunately, our first attempt up the hill failed, and we wound up on a plateau that was much lower than the hilltop. I was rather embarrassed that I was having trouble finding what is essentially the biggest hill in the park. We regrouped and tried it from a different attack point. In the dark we couldn't tell if we were climbing the right hill or not, but as we pushed our way through the brush the ground kept gradually going up, so we became hopeful. We came to the top, which was more of a large flat area than a pointed peak, so it was time to just wander around the top until we found the point. After a few minutes of searching, and wondering if we should just give up on this point and try for the other far point that we had originally planned to skip instead, Julie spotted it. Excellent!

It was another bushwhack back down the hill to the road, then a hike along the road to our boat. We'd spent so much time trying to find the one point on the hill that we had no idea if we were still leading the race or not. Nothing to do about it now other than keep moving. We got to the boat, and Dave was feeling a bit nauseas, so we gave him his turn in the non-paddling seat while he recovered. On the trip back we didn't see any boats ahead of us or behind us, but we couldn't see very far along the bending river, so it was quite suspenseful. Near the end we almost ran into some random folks out for a night swim, as neither of us saw the others coming. We pulled into the camp boat ramp to dock our boat for the last time... and there were already some boats there! It looked like someone had beaten us in. Oh, well.

We walked from our boat to the finish line, and wondered to ourselves if the boats at the boat dock belonged to racers, or if they were just camp boats. We didn't want to get our hopes up, so we mentally prepared for the worse. But as we came to the end, we got the happy news... we'd won, after all! The boats at the dock didn't belong to racers after all. Hooray!

We were very lucky that we didn't make any more mistakes, as Team Outcasts finished a mere nine minutes behind us. And then Team Werewolves of Austin came in six minutes after that. What an incredibly close finish to cap off about 17 hours of racing!

Thanks to Art and Robyn and all the volunteers for putting on another great race. Thanks to Dave's parents for being such a great support crew. And thanks to Dave, Jeff, and Julie for letting me race with them again!

Leg split times for this race

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