This misplaced confidence endured despite my status as a solo racer and well-documented navigational woes, facts which in no way dissuaded me from indulging in some friendly smack talk.
My cockiness was in no way commensurate with my skill, but I like to think that's part of its charm. After all, trash talk you can back up is just bragging, right? I made this bet fully expecting to lose, but then Chuck decided to race and suggested teaming up. Since Chuck is a kickass navigator and his presence would completely change the spirit of our competition (the absolute certainty of me losing), I checked with Todd first to make sure he'd be OK with the change.
Todd didn't mind, and somehow Chuck's participation resulted in me becoming entangled in more bets, so I headed west on Friday with a target on my back and a banana cream pie with my name on it. I honestly had lost track of all the wagers I was involved in, but they just added another level of fun to the weekend.
|Multiple bets going on here|
I pulled into Dry Fork Campground excited to get together with friends and meet some internet buddies in person. Never actually meeting Brian and Todd (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) or Dave and Tim (Tardy Rooster) hadn't prevented me from exchanging friendly taunts across Facebook and blogs. Actually, I guess my only "contact" with Tim(e) had been advocating that he be saddled with Luke's accidental misspelling as a nickname, but like a foolhardy toddler, SuperKate knows no strangers.
It's a little intimidating to meet people who know you only by your own (self-created) reputation. I try to be the real me on my blog, but I'm definitely funnier on paper than in person. I wouldn't say I was worried about it, but it was on my mind. That said, I'm not a good enough actress to pretend to be cool, so they were stuck with the real me, take it or leave it.
|Several of the tents at our site|
We stayed up later and drank more heavily than perhaps is wise before a race, but luckily this was a non-race. Hanging out around the fire was a blast. Brian did his best to pin down exactly what my end of the WTF bet would be, and I put plenty of pressure on Chuck by assuring everyone that my choice of partner virtually guaranteed me a victory. There were many stories and much laughter around the campfire until the party broke up around midnight. Turning my phone to airplane mode to save the battery, I caught a rare signal and was able to see Todd's sweet good luck wishes on my Facebook wall.
|Clearly I wasn't alone in the trash talk aisle.|
I obviously hadn't had enough to drink because I had a terrible time falling asleep. Instead, I laid in my tent (that's right, Jill...TENT!) shivering and listening to snoring in stereo, which itself wasn't so bad, except it reinforced the fact that someone else was able to sleep. I dozed on and off, but at the sounds of the first tent zippers I was wide awake and pondering the eternal question: do I have to pee badly enough to get out of this sleeping bag?
|Nobody's moving too fast, and everyone wants to be by the fire.|
Despite getting a cold-assisted early start to the day, no one was in a big hurry to get moving for our 9:00 start. Luke and Bob headed to the other campground pretty early, and the rest of us slowly got breakfast and gear together. Emma, Derrick, Chuck, Lori, their boys and I were the very last ones to leave the campground, a mere 10 minutes before the pre-non-race meeting. Even so, we weren't the last ones to arrive at Pine Ridge; that distinction belonged to the boys of WTF, who got lost on their way to the race.
|Brian and Todd do the adventure racing walk of shame|
|Chuck works with the map...|
I'd have been in so much trouble on my own.
|While I'm interviewed by the competition (Brian of WTF)|
|Derrick gets things together while Bob and Luke fill us in on non-race details and Lori takes pictures|
As Luke and Bob went over directions, I looked around and realized I only knew who about half of the people were. Probably my biggest disappointment of the race was not managing to actually meet everyone, which sounds silly, but it's one of the things I was looking forward to after seeing all the names and comments on the Virtus blog and Facebook page.
|Some of the 23ish non-racers: Josh, another Wahoo, Steven, Allie E, Brian, Todd, Allie W, Dave, and Stephen|
Our late arrival precluded social hour, though, and now it was time to non-race.
|Pre-race game faces, all except Todd, who looks like he's already visualizing pie-in me. L-R: Justin, Allie, Stephen, Kate, Chuck, Todd|
The race started with a short run to the bikes, and then a marked bike leg to spread everyone out before the trekking leg. My sprint was hampered by Brian's grip on my pack, though, and I'm sure he gained miliseconds on my there. We jumped onto the bikes and flew towards the trail. We had a 1:30 cut-off to finish the initial bike plus trek, and as we rode Chuck asked me, "Do you have a watch on?" Ummmm...no. And neither did he.
Chuck usually races with Robin. They're a well-established and successful team, and since they've been partners since around 2007 they have their routine down. Chuck navigates while Robin is in charge of time and tracking distance. I brought none of these skills to the table, not even a watch. On the other hand, our initial trip onto the trails wasn't marred by my typical beginning-of-ride tentativeness.
I chased Chuck down the singletrack and into one of the fields I remembered from last year's race. Still not a fan of riding through fields, I was working hard to keep up with my partner and not at all looking at where we were going. I managed to pass Brian with an evil laugh right before riding through a cow gate...and promptly toppling over right in front of him. To his credit, while he laughed he did not ride over me as threatened on the internet.
The singletrack past the cow gate got rough, and I managed to fall over yet another time. This early in the race, and we were already pushing and lifting bikes...this could be a long day. As we made our way across a creek and prepared to push our bikes up the steep hill I remembered from last year's race, Bob came running up behind us: "You guys are seriously way off course."
It sounded like a mean prank, but it was unfortunately true. The thing about a marked course is that you actually have to follow the markings, and when the lead rider missed one, I think everyone else rode pell-mell after him. Unluckily for the leaders, they flew through the area before Bob could catch them and had to figure out the mistake on their own. We got back on track and climbed over the first barbed wire fence of the day.
Much of the race was held in the Mark Twain National Forest, and since cattle are allowed to graze in the pastures there, we had numerous fences to cross during the day...not to mention plenty of cow patties to avoid.
The next stretch of singletrack was worlds better than our off-course route, but it was still a challenge for me. I walked some of the trickier spots (and some that weren't so tricky, but the wimpiness that had been absent earlier had found me). Behind me on the trail I heard Adam call, "That better not be a Virtus jersey slowing things down!"
Walking down a rocky drop, I saw Chuck waiting ahead of me. "I bet you rode that, didn't you?" I asked.
"Yeah, but I flatted on it," he answered. Not just a flat, but he gashed the sidewall of his tire. While he set about putting a tube in the tire, I pulled out a GU for him to use to boot the tire. It was my first experience with peanut butter GU, and I was definitely taking one for the team, because I'm not a fan. We watched almost the entire pack pass us up while Chuck changed the tire, a much quicker process thanks to an extra CO2 cartridge courtesy of Josh from Team Wahoo.
|That's the smile of a girl who knows she'll be hiking in a few minutes.|
Tire fixed, we headed back onto the trail again, and I began what was to become a daylong conversation with myself. Robin could ride this...Robin wouldn't be walking this...Robin would be faster...I bet Chuck forgot how slow I am on the bike...he must be really glad I couldn't do that race next month... I'm a word class ignorer, but somehow I can't tune out that little voice in my head. The last stretch was smooth and fun, and I was very glad to hear voices ahead of us in the woods signaling that we were almost back.
We pulled back into the campground at 10:04, 54 minutes after we'd left and right in the middle of the pack. Of course, some of that pack had ridden significantly farther than we had, but still. It was going to be a long race.
We made a quick transition to the trek and ran out of the campground. Yeah, ran. Chuck made me run. I need to work on getting my pack adjusted better so it isn't bouncing around, but I was happy to be moving faster and catching up with some of the people ahead of us. We passed Steven, who was out on his first (I think) experience navigating solo, and then we caught up with Travis, Adam, and the WTF boys at the pasture.
Travis was moving at about the same speed that we were, so we ended up hanging together. He and Chuck were right on with their navigation, and I was asking questions so that I was hopefully learning something. "What's our plan?" "What are we looking for?" "So is that a ridge?" Steven caught up with us in the pasture. He was struggling with the map and asked if he could kind of hang with us. The whole time he did, he was asking questions and following where we were on the map, so he was doing just what he needs to do to get better. It doesn't teach you much of anything to follow blindly along (Kate).
Rather than bushwhack through the forest, we stuck to the fields as long as possible. It was nice catching up with Chuck and Travis, getting to know Steven a little, and meeting Kelly Sumner of Offroad Fixation, who I knew by reputation only. We cut from the fields into the woods towards our first trekking CP.The area we were racing in is just beautiful. Not necessarily a lot of epic views (though there were some of those), but beautiful nonetheless, and I know that the guys picked out some highlights for us to see.
While Chuck and I were officially racing as a 2-person co-ed team, we actually had a third racer accompanying us. My nephew's first grade class is reading Flat Stanley, and he had sent his Flat Stanley across town to me. Rather than tell his class about their own town, I decided to take Stanley adventure racing.
Our next trek through the fields took us past a bunch of cows. There were several calves chasing each other around. It was really cute, and I mentioned that they reminded me of puppies playing together. Travis disagreed, "You don't spend much time on farms, do you, Kate?"
|The cows gave us pretty wide berth, but I was still glad to get past this guy and his horns|
The next CP was in a creekbed, and after I marked it we snapped a quick team picture.
We headed back across the pasture until we reached the pond from last year's mystery event, and then we climbed more barbed wire into the forest again.
|All these fences made me really glad I have long legs, and Chuck's map case made it a lot easier to avoid getting poked or snagged. Other times we worked together moving wires out of the way so we could all get through|
The only time we hit a minor snag in our navigation was looking for the waterfall CP. We came at it from above and had a great time scrambling down the steep sides into the creekbed and then pulled up before we found our spot. That meant clambering back up and hiking along the top before we finally found the right spot and making our way back down.
|Getting down this wasn't too bad until I got to the vertical part. Then it made me a little nervous."]|
|Steven hiking up the creekbed as we look for the elusive waterfall CP|
Unfortunately, despite some rain earlier in the week, the wet-weather waterfall wasn't running. Fortunately, unlike some of the other teams, we never saw any snakes. I'll take that tradeoff.
|The picture doesn't really reflect what a cool spot this was. Big dropoff behind me. "The last time we saw Kate she was marking the CP...""]|
|Keep in mind...pictures never reflect just how steep hills are."]|