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.|
|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"!|
|Taking a moment to |
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.|
|Apparently there was something poison ivy-ish on that slope. Ask me how I know.|
|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.|
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
|You can't really see my face, but it wasn't a happy one.|
|Chuck (and Keith ahead of him) climbing into the cave during the river section.|
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.