Daily Mile led to me meeting Patrick, whose team's progress I then followed in the Berryman 36-hour, which got me hooked on the idea of doing an adventure race. I roped my brother into the 2011 Berryman 12-hour, and as part of my Adventure Racing 101 plan, volunteered at the Castlewood 8-hour to see what it's all about. My experience at that race led me searching out blog posts about it, and thus I came across Team Virtus.
The Virtus guys' posts were hilarious and just made me more excited about the whole adventure racing thing. AND...they were planning to hold an adventure non-race in the near future, just the type of thing for a wannabe to get her feet wet (literally, as it turned out). The date: Sunday, March 13. I looked at my marathon training schedule, and the non-race fell the day after my first 20 mile run. Ugh. Now, maybe the smart thing to do would've been to choose one or the other. But here's the thing, it's way too easy to start missing runs just because it's not convenient. I mean, it's rarely convenient to take 4 hours to go run. At the same time, the marathon's not my "A" goal for the year; the Berryman is. So...both it was!
The race was about 2 hours and 15 min from my house, so I had planned to stay with my aunt and uncle in Columbia, which is 1/2 hour away. If you read about my 20 mile run in the last blog post, though, you know it didn't go too smoothly. After drying my tears, limping back home, and soaking in a (miraculous!) ice bath, I still wasn't packed and was on track to hit Columbia around 11. Instead, I stayed at home and just left the next morning, which worked out fine.
I'll admit that I was a little worried how I'd feel in the morning after my long run, but I was pleasantly surprised (thanks again, ice). The only bad thing was the nasty blisters on both feet. I bandaged them up, took some ibuprofen, and gave myself until race time to limp.
|Heading west (or left, if you want to get technical about it)|
Note: all remaining pictures courtesy of Team Virtus. Thanks!
|Bob shows off the schwag and gives out directions|
|"This is a map."|
Directions given, packs fastened, and race about to begin, we all lined up at the starting scuff and took off.
|Bob looks like he's doing the running of the bulls.|
|Already in last place...for the time being. :)|
|Derrick, of Orange Lederhosen, shows off the stickers he "found"|
Clearly, that's not me, but it's a cool picture of the big tower near CP #1.
At CP#2, it was time to shed a layer. The day was warmer, I was working harder...and my shirt matched my socks.
|Grabbing a bite to eat|
At least, it was hard for me. Luke was good about asking if I needed to eat, stop, whatever, but accessing my food was another matter. I had stuck it in the top of my pack so it would be easily accessible, but that's only "easily accessible" to me if my pack is off my back. Also, I haven't been riding this bike for very long yet, and I'm still getting used to the different body position/balance, so I wouldn't have felt comfortable eating while riding (something I have no problem with on my other bike). A smarter move would've been to put some food in one of the side belt pockets.
|My bike and CP#2|
|RD Bob stops by to tell us that we're in the lead.|
|Someday, maybe I'll ride across this kind of thing.|
|Actually riding the bike|
|Great day to be riding!|
|This was a really cool area to ride through.|
There was a cool mix of terrain in the race. Gravel, trail, field/pasture...something for everyone.
CP #5 was also our first transition area and the mystery event. For this event, we had to push a sled around a loop at the campground. Being a girl, I only had to push the sled, while the boys had to push it with additional weight.
|Mystery event #1|
|Completely non-posed map check picture.|
On to the trekking section. I felt like I should run at least part of the time (new experience doing so with a pack, by the way), but my legs weren't in full agreement with the plan. We ran some of the trail towards CP #6, but mostly just downhills...and that didn't last for long. We found CP#6 with no problem (after I learned about the symbol for major power lines on the map), but #7 was more of a challenge. We could either take the trail around a hill and then climb the hill to get to the CP, or we could go over the hill and get the CP from above. I opted for the latter.
Rather than actually navigating to it (or near to it), though, I just went over the hill, which left me doing some searching until I found it. I was trying hard not to look at Luke, since I knew that he knew where the CP was. I think the clue was something like "rock outcropping". Naturally, I guessed the wrong way first, so he had to follow me over there. Eventually, I found the right spot.
|It was comforting to know that it was too cold for snakes. :)|
|I'll admit that this is posed, but it's an exact replica of what I was doing right before he brought out the camera.|
We walked a bit down the road before we found the trail. Or thought we did. A sidenote here: because I was the one "competing" (or non-competing), Luke left me in the lead. So if I say "we" did something dumb, you can assume it means "I" did something dumb and he followed me and helped me learn from my mistakes. Anyway, I got not very far down the trail when it pretty much disappeared. I stopped and asked, "Is this the trail?" He just looked at me: "I don't know. Is it?"
Surprising lesson #2: It's great to have a coach, but it's hard not to have a partner.
This isn't a knock on Luke. He was doing exactly what he was there to do: give me the tools to be able to navigate on my own. But the fact that he was doing that and that he knew the course meant I didn't have anyone to help make the decision. He'd help me see what the options were ("You could go further or you could go back", "Look at your map. Where's the creek on the map?"), but the decision was on me. I can be very decisive when I think I know the right answer, but not so much when I'm not sure. We decided to go back out to the road and look for the trail.
...where we saw Corey and Phil cruising back...
Orienteering Lesson 2b: (Often, checkpoints will be found near distinctive features...) but not necessarily obvious ones.
The clue for this checkpoint was something like "creek deadfall". I had learned my lesson about looking near lame little features like the rock that distracted me back at CP#7. And in the creek was a big ol' tangle of deadfall that I just knew had to house our CP.
|Deadfall near creek...not in.|
As we reached the creek, somehow it came up that Derrick had found a way to cross the creek without getting his feet wet. Now, keep in mind these facts:
- My feet were already wet.
- My wet feet weren't bothering me at all.
- I kind of got a kick out of wading through the creek.
|That's why they call me SuperKate...oh, wait...nobody calls me that. :)|
Orienteering lesson 3: Don't follow somebody else just because.
|LOT of thorns in there. My kids mocked my socks, but it's pretty clear which part of my legs were bare during the race!|
|Very welcoming terrain|
|If you look carefully, you can see that there are little tree trunks all over. Lots of branches to climb through.|
That section was mentally difficult for me. I didn't know where to go or really where we were unless Luke showed me on the map where we'd come from. I was definitely at that point where I just wanted to shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know. Tell me where to go." Of course, if you're out there on your own, that's not an option.
Using the compass to keep us headed in the correct direction (west, or right-ish, if you want to get technical about it), we eventually got to the power lines we'd used to navigate to CP#6. What a great feeling to finally know where we were again!
Orientation lesson #4: Known locations are golden.
I remember thinking, if not saying, that I was looking forward to getting back on the bike again. Looking at the map, all we had to do was follow the trail to the next few CPs. Easy!
|See this trail marker? I probably didn't.|
We thought maybe we were in the right place, but it didn't look right, so we rode further. Once again, there were power lines that crossed the trail. Hmmm...that worked out pretty well for us in the past...we'll just follow the power lines until we get to the trail. Great plan, except for the fact that we got about 20 feet and saw the fence that crossed our path. Pretty sure that the fence was blocking off "the Pit", we decided to follow the fence around until we could get to the other side of the Pit and catch the trail. And thus I was introduced to "bikewhacking"...bushwacking, while you drag your bike. I really encountered a wide spectrum of adventure racing components!
|View of part of the pit|
A funny thing happened on the way there. We came to a spot where we had to make a decision which way to turn. I just looked at Luke; for a second, I knew he was going to tell me to get out my map. I was so done, which must've been obvious, because he just told me which way to go. And then he assessed a 4-hour penalty on me since he helped me. Which led to a discussion of what a penalty consists of in a non-race. Is it a non-penalty since it's a non-race? Do I actually get a 4-hour credit? Why didn't I think of this earlier? If I DNF a non-race is it a non-DNF? Can you non-non finish? Does that mean you're already done? Double negatives are fun.
|Honestly, I can't believe I'm smiling here. It just shows what a camera whore I am.|
|Coming down the hill to the event. Who's in the back? Me. Bc I'm still a wimp on hills.|
|Derrick, setting the bar high.|
|I look like I'm about to take on water.|
|Darin, who spent a looooong day sitting outside in the cold (and helped me get out of the boat). Thanks!!|
|You'll note that I waited until after the boat ride to change into my warmer clothes...just in case.|
|Ummm...let's do this...after we get up the hill|
And then the wind kicked up. Oh, joy. Thankfully, at that point, Luke pulled around to break (the) wind. Oh, what a difference drafting makes!! Really, I can't thank him enough for that help because for quite a while then I could just hang onto his wheel and focus on pedaling.
|By the time we got back it was dark.|
|I love my bike, but I was soooo glad to be off of it.|
I've already been thinking a lot about things I could've done better. Of course, a lot of it is just experience.
- Pack my food in an easily accessible place.
- Not run 21 miles the day before.
- Don't follow other people (I'm guessing I'm going to learn this lesson a lot more)
- Ride more hills so they don't kick my butt.
- Get out and do more orienteering and bike riding.
|Best. bling. ever.|