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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Berryman again

I'm prone to post-race depression, but it hasn't struck as fiercely as usual this year thanks to the way my races have lined up like stepping stones across the summer months: June, Dirty Kanza and Stubborn Mule; July, my less than stellar Tour de Donut, followed by two weeks of vacation; August, Thunder Rolls; and finally, this weekend's Berryman Adventure Race.  There are a lot of good memories packed into this year already.

Berryman is the patient zero of my AR love story; it's where I first heard of adventure racing in 2010, following a casual friend's team (well, casual friend at the time; now he's one of my core adventure friends) and first hearing of Team Virtus via the wonders of online tracking.  It's where my brother and I did our first AR in 2011, stretching a 12-hour race into nearly 15, being disqualified for missing the time cutoff,  and spawning so many stories about "Jim and I" that my teammates now refer to us as "Gemini".  We returned the following year to finally become official finishers, re-learning some tough lessons along the way.

Travis photobombing "my brother Jim and I"
I've never raced a Berryman with Team Virtus, and I've never raced the 24 (or 36) hour version.  This year will be no exception.  Chuck and I are reprising our roles as "Age Before Beauty" (minus Keith, and we're both clear on the event date :D), and Bonkhard is only offering one option, a 16-hour race.  Practically a sprint. ;-)

I'm excited. The weather looks to be fantastic, I have an awesome teammate, and I've been training more regularly than my norm.  I'd like to tell you where you can look for updates, but cell signals are so iffy down there that probably the first update will be me facebooking the next day.  Whatever...it'll just make you look forward to my blog post that much more, right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekend update

Sandwiched between last weekend's friend-filled trip to southern Missouri and next weekend's return to the Berryman Adventure Race (sadly only a 16 hour instead of a 24), I stayed much closer to home this weekend.  Closer to home, but not actually at home much.

Friday night, for example, was spent at my school's first ever family campout.


On a surprisingly chilly September night (temps into the low 40's overnight), around 100 people camped out on our school field, ate hot dogs and roasted marshmallows, and generally had a really great night. There were a lot of new tents being pitched, so I'd guess a lot of kids (and maybe whole families) were having their first camping experience.  What a neat thing to get to be a part of!

We got there after dark on Friday night bc Jacob had had football practice, and we had to pack up early on Saturday morning to get him home for a soccer game (lost)...

Jacob throwing in the ball.
...and a flag football game (won)...

He got an interception that he ran back for a touchdown and a couple other good catches.
  ...before packing up to go to my father-in-law's for the annual kids' Survivor games.
Like soccer with bats

Shooting the ball with the slingshot...
...for the other kids to catch with lacrosse sticks.
After 4-5 hours of that kind of fun (I'll admit to having a very hard time dragging myself away from Gone Girl to watch/help/participate), we grabbed dinner and headed home, where we were treated to live music from the church carnival next door.

Sunday morning I was up early-ish to meet Mickey for a long run at Castlewood State Park. Glorious, fantastic running weather!

Way harder than it should have been, but what a lovely day to run!
I'd have liked to sleep in, but I'm once again signed up for the Skippo 30K, and as I mentioned yesterday on Facebook, every year I register for this race, barely train, and barely get through it.  Every year I think, If I can finish this without training for it, I wonder how I could do if I DID actually train?

This year I'd like to find out.  To that end, I've been gradually building my long runs on the weekends and doing one or two shorter runs a week.  It's still not what someone dedicated would consider good training, but if I can stay consistent it'll be a big improvement in the previous two years.

Of course, it's been a slow road back to any kind of running fitness.  I'm starting to see some glimpses of it, but I'm certainly not yet at the point where a 13-mile run is no big deal (my primary running goal) or where I could maintain 10 minute miles over the majority of the Skippo course (my stretch race goal).

But hey, the race is still a month and a half away, plenty of time for improvement for a girl who usually realizes mid-October that I'd better start training for that 18 mile race looming over me. Or plenty of time to lose interest, slack on the training, and show up on November 9 for yet another death march for my Skippo mug.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A weekend at the OT100

When Jim Davis started talking about holding a 100-mile, point-to-point mountain bike race entirely on the singletrack of the Ozark Trail, I figured it might well go the way of my ideas.  "Hey, this would be cool....squirrel!"  Instead, he set a date, conscripted his wife into finding a bazillion awesome sponsors and volunteers, spent a crazy amount of time clearing trail, and the inaugural OT100 mountain bike race went down September 6.  I thought for about 47 seconds about registering, but after spending my post-Kanza summer largely off the bike, I opted to stay home.

And then Bob went and volunteered Team Virtus to cover the bike drop and help out at CP4.  With my weekend largely free (though I'd miss Jacob's first football game), the opportunity to hang out with my teammates, cheer on my friends who were racing, and still be a small part of the race were irresistible. As an added benefit, I approached race weekend with zero stress except for the self-inflicted pressure of baking about 20 dozen cookies for the checkpoint.

I may have gone a bit overboard.
Driving to the bike drop was a bit of an adventure.  I managed to screw up the Google maps directions I'd printed out (helpful hint: "continue onto NN" does not mean "take an exceedingly sharp left turn onto NN") and took a highly scenic route.  The area is lacking in reliable cell signal, so my phone was no help, and "gravel road in the middle of BFE" was not specific enough for the GPS.  I finally made my way there with the help of the 13 year old road map lying on the floor of my car.

My hero!
Most of the work at the bike drop was long over by the time I got there, so I just hung out for the rest of the evening.  After admiring the lightning show for a while, I opted to put my tent beneath one of the canopies set up for check-in.  That was a good move: it poured for about 4 hours after we all went to bed, and my tent stayed nice and dry.


We were all up in plenty of time before the buses started dropping off racers for the start, so we basically tried to stay out of the way as everyone took care of last-minute prep.  It was awesome to get to wish my friends luck in person, and it was pretty cool that a couple of people asked me if I was racing.  Despite knowing the race was way over my head, it's still nice that people might expect me to do it.


Jim played the National Anthem, said a few words, and then the racers rolled off to the start while Bob, Travis, and I jumped into the truck to go help stop traffic at the road crossing ~2 miles down the course.  It was pretty amazing how far the pack spread out in just a couple miles.




Loved getting to cheer on some friends as they passed by. After packing up our tents/hammocks and loading the CP4 drop bags into Travis's truck, we all caravanned to the Bixby Country Store for some delicious biscuits and gravy. Breakfast handled, we drove to the Berryman Campground, site of CP4, to set up camp and maybe ride some trails.

My old faithful backpacking tent.

I really need to get myself a hammock,though.
The CP opened at 12:35, though the leaders weren't expected until around 3.  Of course, in typical Virtus fashion we didn't get around to riding until darn close to that.  Since Rte 66 Bicycles was in charge of the CP and didn't seem to need our help, we headed off for a short trail ride.

Cara and Emma!
In a rare treat, Bob's wife Cara and our friend Emma both rode along with us. Travis, perhaps encouraged by my earlier smack talk (which I utterly failed to back up), set a pretty strong pace which I was totally unable to match.  I can keep up pretty well on road or gravel, but on downhill-ish singletrack I'm really limited by my cowardice lack of confidence.  My slower speed was still fast for me, though, and I was having a blast. We all were. Every time we stopped to regroup, we had huge smiles on our faces.  The high point for me was bunny hopping a fallen tree (a small one) and clearing it with both tires, the first time I've managed something like that.

We hadn't been out long when the race leader passed us on the trail. Over 80 miles into the race, Dwayne flew by with a huge smile on his face, looking like he was out for a (fast) pleasure cruise.  Not wanting to be in the way, we cut out on the first fire road we reached, and we got to watch second place fly by from there.


The fire road ride was fun.  It turned into an impromptu intra-team drag race, and though I haven't yet managed to time an attack so that I can maintain my lead, Travis and I hit the gravel at about the same time, wearing the biggest grins ever.

Since nobody needed our help at the CP, we were free to relax for the rest of the day.  Bob had brought his grill/smoker and BBQ'd a ton of meat, and while dinner cooked I bounced between hanging out at our campsite, walking around talking to people who were there crewing or had DNF'd due to mechanicals or injury, and stalking the CP tent on watch for friends who were racing.  I didn't catch all of them, but I got to see quite a few and was blown away by how good they looked after 80 miles of singletrack.  So impressive.

The Sonas, showing they know how to celebrate an anniversary right.
Fast Kate

The rest of the evening was spent eating delicious BBQ and hanging around the fire, enjoying awesome company and perfect camping weather.  And then going to bed, bc we'd all managed around 4 hours of sleep the previous night.



Sunday morning we got up, enjoyed some baggie omelets courtesy of Travis, and very slowly got our stuff together for the sweep ride to the finish line.  When we finally set out, the trail was just as fun as on Saturday.  While I couldn't keep up, I could at least keep the guys in sight.  Seeing the tree I'd bunny hopped the day before, I smiled in anticipation, went for it, and totally blew it.

Bunny hop fail. Cleared it the first day with both wheels, blew it the second day. Btw, this tree looks considerably bigger in the picture than in person. Glad the tree I'm leaning against wasn't 6 inches closer or I'd have had a face full of it. #berryma
The angle makes the tree look bigger than it was.
Not sure exactly what happened, but I ended up hitting the tree, landing weird, and just about getting a face full of the tree in front of me.  I landed pretty hard and just sat there for a little bit.  A week later, I'm still wearing some sweet bruises from that crash.

We got going again, but before too much longer I noticed that bumps were feeling pretty hard in the back.  Flat tire. Boo! I managed to change it myself, with a little help from Travis, and while I was slowly managing that, Dan and Sam both passed us, surprised at how little forward progress we'd made.  My crash and flat had definitely set us back, but we weren't in any hurry anyway, just out enjoying the day and the ride, clearing away the course markings whenever we came to them.

The first 15 miles were pretty awesome. Usually after crashing I get way more tentative. I did walk over some downed trees I probably would have ridden (or attempted to ride) before falling, but overall I didn't suffer a loss of confidence.  I don't remember walking much at all; I felt great and had a blast being out on the trail with Bob and Travis.

Photobombing @bob.jenkins.7505  on the Berryman trail #mtb

Obviously having zero fun.
Even after the turn off of the Berryman Trail onto the Ozark Trail towards Bass the trail was fun...until it wasn't.  Somewhere around mile 15 I kind of forgot how to ride my bike. All of the sudden I was walking things I knew I could ride, things I'd have ridden earlier. Much of my confidence had evaporated without any real reason.  A couple of big climbs towards the end hurt, even walking them, and the guys had to do some major waiting on me.

The big tree across the Ozark Trail lean. #lookatmybikeleaningagainststuff #mtb #bikes #ot100 #ozarktrail #missouri
Pictures make a lovely excuse to stop riding.  Of course, so do huge trees across the trail.
By the time we made it into the finish line at Bass, I was worn out and knew two things for a fact: first, that not racing had absolutely been the right decision; and second, I really want to do this race next year.  In that vein, all I want to do right now is ride my mountain bike, which figures, because with my next big race being a 30K trail race, the bulk of my training time needs to be running.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thunder Rolls, part 3

(No snappy title for this one.)

With Keith's foot bandaged, my tears dried, and packs restocked from the forgotten canoe bag that race volunteers had kindly delivered with the bikes (thank you!), we pedaled away from the canoe takeout. I was delighted to be back on my bike though disheartened by how fried my legs were from the canoe. We only had about a mile to ride to the next TA (transition area), but it included a pretty big (though paved) hill. Keith motored to the top; Chuck had to walk*, so I walked too in the interests of team solidarity.

*That may not be entirely true. In fact:

Yeah, I definitely had to walk first.
As we rode, we noticed some damage from the storm that had swept through while we were on the river.

The tree in the background had been hit by lightning; apparently it was still smoking when some other teams came by. Crazy...or, in the words of RD Gerry, "perfect race weather"!
The roads in the park are a little confusing on the map, so we had to stop and think things through. John, the race photographer, caught our little pow-wow as he drove past.

Taking a moment to pose orient ourselves. Photo credit: John Morris
 A combination of re-reading the race book, looking over the map, and common sense led us exactly the way Chuck had intended before he started second-guessing himself.  Before long, we were riding into the TA and greeting our friend Chad and his daughter Maddie, who were volunteering there.

Chad gave us the map for the trek. The official cut-off time to be back at the TA was 8:00, but we had a self-imposed a 7:00 time limit in order to make sure we could finish the last o section/ropes back at camp.  Knowing this, we planned to go for the first 5 or so CPs and then evaluate.  We chugged Red Bulls, changed into trail shoes, and trudged off. Chuck jokingly said I was going to do all the nav for this section; I laughed, but since I probably feel more confident in Palisades than anywhere else I didn't rule it out.

For the time being, just lifting my legs was enough.  The guys were definitely moving faster than I was. Chuck led us to the first two CPs, up and down a powerline cut where I've spent waaaay too much time over the past few years.

Throwback to Thunder Rolls 2012 (Photo credit: Luke Lamb)

...and this year. Certainly no shortage of vegetation.
Because so many other teams had been through the area on the same route that we were taking, there was a pretty well-defined trail beaten down. That was kind of nice when tromping through the thick vegetation but less so when trying to get down some of the steep slopes without breaking a hip.  Figuring I'd end there one way or the other, I just started out on my butt. 
Apparently there was something poison ivy-ish on that slope. Ask me how I know.
After those first two CPs, I asked if I could take the map.  Right there is a clear sign that we weren't really in race mode at that point so much as enjoy the day mode.  My Palisades confidence is based on success during winter orienteering, when the lack of vegetation makes terrain much more obvious to novices like me; I had a much more difficult time with all the greenery, and in fact Keith is the one who spotted "my" first CP.  That was a little discouraging.  Relying heavily on Chuck, I sort of got us to the next one and then planned out our route to a third, which was located at the edge of a field.
Seeing the large swath of light brown on the map, I'd pictured a nice, open pasture. Instead it was corn. The visibility was awesome.
Keith was slightly ahead of us as I followed our progress on the map, watching for the point where we needed to cross through the corn.  Finding it, we called to him to turn.  We beat him to the other side and found the CP; since he wasn't there yet, we called to him again and told him which way to come.  He must've gotten all turned around in the corn, because he didn't show up.  We waited a little bit and then walked back into the corn, calling his name.


Nothing. A look across the field longways showed that it extended...well, a really long way.  If he'd somehow taken the wrong direction around the field, we were in for a heck of a wait.  I imagined calling Gerry: "We've lost our teammate in the corn!"  Chuck envisioned missing the cut-off and being disqualified.


We were so relieved when we heard a response.  "Come towards our voices!" we called and then -- the piece that had been missing before -- kept calling to him until he found us.  Together again, we punched our passport and headed for the hills.

Actually, we headed for the TA.  The next CP looked like it could put us over our self-imposed deadline, so we played it safe and ended up back at the bike drop in time to see Alpine Shop cruise in after clearing the entire orienteering course.  Machines!

I was really concerned about being able to do the ascent.  My body had come around somewhat from the paddle, but my arms and legs were still pretty wiped out.  I was having visions of myself marooned on the wall and forcing my team to DNF, so the rumor that the ascending wall had been closed down due to a return of the hornets was most welcome. We had a 10-mile ride back to camp where that rumor was confirmed, much to my delight.

Coming back to camp and passing the start/finish was hard.  Once you were "home" it seemed like you should be finished.  Instead we had racing to do.  The volunteers had to shoo me away from my socializing (I told you I was out of competitive mode) so we could finish the race.

The last section was a bike-o, where we rode our bikes near the CPs and then trekked to them.  Basically that meant riding as far as it made sense and then walking the rest of the way.  There were a couple land CPs on the way to the ropes. With the ascending wall closed 

we just punched the passport at the bottom and then climbed up for the rappel. I was not excited.  I don't know what my problem is: I've rappelled several times; I totally trust the volunteers and my equipment; I even enjoyed the rappel at last year's race; even so, I was terrified standing at the top.  Maybe part of the problem is that I've made no secret of my fear of heights and was around friends and felt no need to pretend.  Whatever. All I know is that if someone had told me I could skip the rappel and still be an official finisher, I probably would have, and I hate being the kind of person who lets fear get in their way.  "Luckily" there was no reprieve, so down I went.

You can't really see my face, but it wasn't a happy one.
As I inched my way down, I managed to swing both legs into a big horizontal crack in the rock, bashing my knee against the sharp edge and letting out a few choice words.  Unlike last year when I loved the rappel, this time I was just glad to have my feet on the ground.  In contrast, Keith had a blast on his first ever rappel, and Chuck did great too.
Chuck (and Keith ahead of him) climbing into the cave during the river section.
Ropes over, all that remained were three (I think) checkpoints that required us to get back into the water. Almost 24 hours after the race began, we were back where we started: hiking through the river after dark.We ended up kind of teaming up with a 2-man team, found the CPs without incident, grabbed the final CP at the luge, and headed in to the finish at around 10:30.

My very first move as soon as the finishing photos were taken was to change clothes.  Having my feet in dry socks and shoes for the first time in nearly 24 hours felt amazing. The rest of the evening was spent eating and socializing. One of the best things about Thunder Rolls (really, it's almost all best things.  Best things and nettle) is having the Camp Benson cabins for after the race.  Spending the night at camp means no rush to get to a hotel room or start home (unless you're Keith, who showered and left immediately after the race, but he's crazy); instead, everyone gets to hang around, visit, and talk about their races.  It's a big part of what makes this race feel so much like family.

Family who I'll see again in just over 5 more months at High Profile Adventure Camp.  And you should, too.  Your only regret will be waiting this long to go.

Monday, September 1, 2014

When it rain, it pours (Thunder Rolls part 2)

When we last left our intrepid trio, they were shoving off from the banks of the Apple River in the pre-dawn darkness.  I, for one, had seriously mixed feelings about the paddle. On one hand, I was delighted.  This was the first Thunder Rolls that my team has hit the river before daylight (we opted to skip the paddle in 2012, and we had some complications on the ropes that put us behind schedule in 2013).  Also, having endured a paddle at Stubborn Mule as the middle person in a canoe with no middle seat, I was thrilled to know that the Thunder Rolls canoes had three seats.  Finally, while the thought of tipping is never a particularly happy one, it's far less scary on a hot summer day than, say, during a 15* winter paddle.

On the other hand, my dislike of paddling is no secret. It's by far my least favorite discipline, and my heart had sunk at the pre-race meeting when Gerry told us the paddle was 22 miles.  With three of us in the canoe, it was more likely to handle like a barge.  And...wow was my seat uncomfortable.  It seemed really low, and somehow it sloped backwards, forcing me to either lean back at an angle or hunch way forward.  Suboptimal.

There was really no way to get comfortable, though I tried scooting around in different positions.  I have a semi-deserved reputation with my regular teammates for not complaining, and it's something I pride myself on, but in this case I made my discomfort clear enough that Keith offered to switch places with me after the brief trekking leg we had partway through the paddle.  Thankfully, before too long we saw the takeout for the trek and pulled over to the riverbank.

It doesn't look like hell on earth at all, but pictures never tell the full story.
After dragging our barge onto the bank, we were hit with a double blow.  First was the realization that we'd left our paddle bag, filled with water and fuel for the second half of the race, back at the bike drop.  Then we took a good look at our canoe in daylight and realized that my seat was broken.  Not just a little broken, but with the supports splayed out to the front and back (I swear, I didn't break the seat).  The guys tried shoving them back it place, but it wasn't happening.  For some reason, the knowledge that the problem was the seat, not me, made me feel worse.  It wasn't fixable, it wasn't a matter of just getting used to paddling, and I still had ~19 miles of river ahead of me.  But for now, at least, we were out of the canoe and onto the trek.

The clue for the first CP was lakeside, or something like that.  There were exactly zero lakes in the location we'd plotted the CP.  Because the lake hadn't been there when the map data was collected, Gerry also provided us a map of the lake printed from Google Earth.  Looking at it while we plotted points, I didn't have a clue what it was supposed to show us; luckily, Chuck was able to match up the curve of the river on the two maps (no small task since I think we had nine maps for this race) and figure out where the printout fit the course.

Finding the lake was easy; finding where the checkpoint was...wasn't as easy.  We made our way along the edge of the lake for a while, peering across to see if we could catch a glimpse of orange and white.  No luck. After a while, I mentioned, "I think it's time we get out that Google map." It's always nice to be racing with someone I know well enough to be comfortable making suggestions to.  My Virtus teammates have always been that way too; they've always included me in navigational decisions, but I've rarely had the confidence to speak up.  I worked really hard over the past year to improve my nav skills, and it was just for situations like this, to be able to give input when we weren't exactly sure where to go.  Between us, we figured it out and found the flag.

No shortage of vegetation
"We've got a big hill to climb now," Chuck said.  I replied something stupid about liking big hills because they made navigation easier than more subtle features.  That was true until we started hiking up a ridiculously steep, nettle-infested slope and I quickly remembered why I don't love hills.  As I gasped my way to the top, Keith waded bare-legged through the nettle.  I felt for him, because it was stinging me through my trekking pants; I knew it was way worse for him. Once we found the next CP he stopped and put on his rain pants.  Way better than nothing.

I don't remember much about the next two CPs, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Chuck: I remember - hilltop, to rentrant bottom, to hilltop, to rentrant bottom.  The clue for one CP was 'saddle', but there was no saddle visible on the 1-24,000 scale map, so we were a little concerned about where the point was plotted.  It turned out to be dead center in a saddle (too small to make the map scale) which was described as two Indian burial mounds during the pre-race meeting.  I would have loved to explore the mounds a little. 

Did anyone else giggle and mutter "That's what she said"?
Muddy slopes

Muddy reentrants
I did learn a couple valuable lessons on this leg.  One was Chuck's way is better. Every time I tried a slightly different (theoretically easier) line through the woods, it was disastrous.  I walked through a lot of thick mud and climbed over a lot of fallen trees in the hopes of maybe avoiding a little bit of climbing.  I also learned that trees are not my friend.  Holding onto a trunk to steady myself as I climbed down a muddy bank, I slipped and swung around the tree as if I was sliding down a pole, leaving some skin behind (I later also learned the hard way not to spray bug spray on a fresh abrasion).

With the end of that relatively short trek I was dreading getting back into the canoe but still hopeful that we might find a 2-person team to trade with, so I was heartbroken to see a 2-person team paddle away as we headed towards the beached canoes.  There was no lucky rescue coming; I was going to have to suck it up and deal with the broken seat.

Keith again offered to take the middle, and while I felt bad about him having to be so uncomfortable, I was all ready to accept his offer.  Then Chuck spoke up in a don't-kill-the-messenger mumble that made it clear how much he didn't want to say it: "...the lightest person really needs to be in the front or the canoe will start getting tippy."

Chuck: And I regret saying that.   In the end, maybe, general canoe loading rules would have been less significant than splitting up the bad seat and sharing the pain.

Or maybe not.  I like having teammates who know they can tell me shitty things that I need to hear rather than do something the wrong way to make me happy.

That was that.  We got into our assigned spots in the canoe and shoved off.  There's really no way to make 19 miles in a canoe interesting, so I'll give you the parts that stood out.

1.  Bringing the pain. It hurt. A lot.  I'd have been uncomfortable no matter what since the only paddling I do is during an adventure race, but the broken seat took things to a new level and I was constantly stopping paddling, shifting around, and trying (in vain) to find a comfortable position.  The guys were probably ready to shake me, but they never complained.  I'm disappointed in my lack of mental toughness here; the only way out was to finish the canoe, but I couldn't get past my discomfort and stay focused on paddling.  I did a lot of crying on this leg.
Dramatization. I told my class about the race and then used the experience as a think-aloud during our writing lesson. They remembered a lot of details, which was pretty cool. 

Chuck: 1a. Thats what she said.  I was sitting in the back watching the way she was scrunched up and hunched over, and knew how miserable it had to be.  Even with that Kate paddled more than shes letting on, there was some pauses, but we did long sections non-stop with a great cadence.  I looked forward several times at my teammates, one with a nail in his foot, and one with a back ready to break down into cramps and spasms, and was absolutely impressed by these bad-ass adventure racers.

If Chuck was any kind of teammate he'd have sliced his hand or something to even things out.

There were some snags in the river and a couple times Keith had to get out and pull us past something, but we all had to get out at this logjam.  On the plus side, we found a log to jam under my seat and raise it up a little bit.  It still wasn't good, but it was better.

On the minus side, now we were carrying even more weight.
Chuck: And don't think we didn't capitalize on all the jokes possible about someone dropping a log in the boat.

2. It's raining, it's pouring. I'm a notorious weather stalker, but after the repeated rains at Stubborn Mule I've stopped worrying so much about it.  Because of that, I hadn't even seen the radar picture of what we had in store for us.

Hmmmm...I wonder if it will rain...
Rain started on the little trek and fell on and off for the majority of the canoe leg. After a while, though, the sky started darkening and the winds picked up. Thinking back to the lunch ride to Hermann and the way I'd advised against putting on rain jackets in summery weather only to get pounded by a storm, I told the guys, "I'm going to pull out my rain jacket before the rain hits."  Minutes later, the storm reached us and the guys, too, were dragging out their coats.

My one non-fake smile of the canoe leg. How do you not laugh about paddling downriver in a rainstorm?
This over-the-shoulder shot took teamwork as I held the camera and Chuck directed where to angle it.
It was raining really hard.
The deluge came complete with thunder and lightning, two of my less favorite things when I'm in the middle of a river, but Keith kept assuring us, "It's 13 miles away..." and I hoped hard he was right.  We kept on paddling in the storm, which kept us a little closer to the teams who'd passed us.  We passed them back while they were sheltering under a bridge; well, first we had to beach our canoe and dump out the excessive amount of water we were carrying. Then we passed them.  Unfortunately, once the weather cleared they cruised past us again; that's how slowly we were moving.  I really need to improve my paddling.

3. Hallucinations and sleep paddling! If you canoe with your eyes closed, you're probably going to knock paddles with the guy in front of you, especially if he is paddling with his eyes closed.  And when my eyes were open, they weren't very reliable.  Over the course of the paddle, I saw a huge, red brick house (dirt riverbank), brightly decorated totem pole (tree), piano in the river (concrete block), and multiple bridges (trees).  It got to the point that I no longer really trusted anything I saw.


Eventually, after 6 hours and 45 minutes of paddling, we finally made it to the canoe pull-out, where I promptly burst into tears telling the volunteers about the broken seat.  We made a slow transition while Keith tended to his injured foot and I basically poked around.  This is another place where I need to up my mental toughness game.  First I wasn't able to keep pushing on the paddle; then, once it was over, I let it totally take the wind out of my sails and was in "poor me, that was so terrible" mode instead of race mode.

All the same, there was still racing to be done, so (eventually) we pedaled away from our friends at the canoe take-out and headed into Palisades Park towards the big trek.