There's something special about Thunder Rolls. It could be the race director who'll give you a heartfelt hug and then celebrate making you cry. Or the legion of amazing volunteers who get as little sleep as the racers do. Or maybe it's the fantastic facilities of YMCA Camp Benson: pre- and post-race dinners, hot showers, and an air-conditioned cabin for after the race? Yes, please! Then there's the terrain of the region: multiple rivers, towering bluffs, punishing gravel roads, and ridiculously steep hillsides. Of course it's a combination of these things, all of which lay before us as we stood at the start line.
Chuck: Kate is so right (Man, I love the sound of that!), there is something totally special about Thunder Rolls and Camp Benson. The feeling of welcoming and excitement created by the volunteers, other racers, and the camp itself make this the most fun and challenging race of the entire year. The only thing she may have forgot to mention about the terrain are the acres of lush, head-high, hand-cultivated, and genetically-enhanced nettle that Gerry has imported from some secret lab just for our enjoyment.
|That's us in front of Tecnu. What this picture fails to show is that they'd lost their passport and had run back to find it. It also fails to show that they eventually won the whole thing. But what's important is that it shows us in the lead. :)|
|Chuck and Keith coasteering|
|These were his maps. (Photo credit: Donovan Day)|
We had a relatively quick (for us) transition. Being in dry socks and shoes was wonderful, and we pedaled off in search of CPs and, eventually, the canoe put-in. I really struggled as we hit the first hills; I haven't spent much time on a bike the past couple months, and it showed. Eventually my breathing got under control, and then the bike leg was pretty enjoyable. Chuck was flawless with the navigation, and before long we were turning on to the "bridge out" road that would lead us to our first bike CP.
|It always makes me laugh, the kinds of places we end up in adventure races.|
Sure enough, we found that the road did go on through the trees just past where Keith had stopped. It's easy to forget that our regular definition of road isn't adequate for AR purposes, where "road" can indicate pavement, gravel, farm roads, jeep roads, forest service roads, and the like. I still remember riding trails with Chuck and Travis during the CAC, struggling on the singletrack and hanging on by a thread to reach the road they promised ahead, only to dump out on to uneven, rocky, uphill doubletrack It was not a happy moment.
I didn't mind this road at all, especially when the barriers blocking off the bridge reflected in our headlamps. Success!
|Not sure why this bridge needs repairs...looks good to me.|
We laid down our bikes and shut off the lights. Volunteers would be transporting them to the canoe take-out, so we could leave our bike shoes clipped to the pedals but had to take our helmets. Chuck grabbed our paddles and paddle bag (I grabbed the paddles just fine, but left the paddle bag! Somehow in the transition shuffle I left it laying in the grass still full of all the food and water we had planned to use for the second half of the race), while Keith, being the the first one ready since he didn't need to change shoes, set to finding a canoe.
Having found that spending too long in bike shorts can be bad news, I opted to change into pants before the paddle, hoping that maybe my shorts (still soaked from my coasteering swim) would dry while we were in the canoe. That, as it turned out, was not to happen. In fact, almost dripping in the pre-dawn humidity, we were the driest we'd be for the next 18 hours. "Make sure to look your boat over carefully," Dave warned us. "One of them has already come back because it had a hole in it."
Thankfully, our hull was intact. Unfortunately, other parts were not, which we learned shortly after shoving off into the darkness sometime around 5:30 a.m.