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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Perfect 10 (again)

This was BonkHard's third time holding the Perfect 10 orienteering race, Team Virtus's third trip to the event, and my first attempt at truly solo-ing the course.  In 2012, Luke, Bob, and I all registered as solos but ended up spending basically the whole day together.  The following year, we had an intra-team competition pitting Bob and Casey against Luke and I (a competition, I might add, that we won).  I've put a lot of work into improving my navigational skills this year and so again I registered as a solo, this time intending to actually race on my own.

Intending to, but not at all excited about it.  I was nervous about the potential for me to get really lost, and I knew there was no way wandering around the woods by myself for ten hours could possibly be as fun as hanging out with my team.  Anybody who knows me (and has been distracted from the map by my constant chatter) knows that the social aspect is my favorite part of racing, so it shouldn't be a surprise that on race morning I still hadn't committed to racing alone.

Or that I spent more time talking than looking at my map...

  IMG_1305  IMG_1317 IMG_1328

Eventually I sat down with the map. Thankfully the CPs are all pre-plotted; we just had to decide what points we were going to try for and in what order.  CPs had different point values: 100, 30, 20, and 10, so it was important to plan a route that would maximize your score.

Looking over our options
Because we've spent all of our time in the eastern section of the map in previous years, I wanted to try something different.  Since the other woman in my division, Yvonne, is a FAR better navigator than I am, I wasn't concerned about actually trying to win. I just wanted to get some good experience and plenty of miles for Skippo training.

Training Wheels

Luke and I independently planned an identical route for the first 6 checkpoints.  I always have a hard time with the first few CPs and was really happy that I wouldn't have to start alone...even though, for the first time ever in an orienteering meet, I knew where I was headed when the race started (and how to get there!).

The order that Luke and I ran together, though we took road and trails when possible rather than following the blue line.
I've been doing a lot of training in preparation for the Skippo 30K, plus Chuck and I intend to push the pace in our upcoming 12-hour adventure race, so I planned to run everything I could at Perfect 10.  Luke hasn't done much run training recently, but I've raced with him enough to know that wouldn't matter.

Pre-race team photo
"Running" at the beginning of the race.
The first mile or so of most runs feels awful, and this one was no different, but by the time we were on the trail I started to feel a little better.  Most of it was very runnable, though we walked parts that were overly rocky or rutted or uphill.  We had a slight bobble when we initially turned too early and ended up running into Gary driving the course, but we quickly corrected and found the checkpoint, at which point Luke sprinted ahead of me to get there first.  What a dick.

Photo credit: Erin Santos
From 19 we bushwhacked down to the trail, ran most of the trail, and then bushwhacked up the spur to get CP27.  From there we headed down to the road and took that to the creek south of 26, following the creek until the correct reentrant for 26.  Luke was doing all of the navigating, but I was following along on my map and checking in with him; I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before we parted ways.

Approaching 26, we saw Andrei and Erl from Gear Junkie/Wedali (one of the top teams around) and ran to get to the CP first, just to be stupid.  Of course, at this point in the race they had twice our score, but Erl was cool enough to pose for a picture showing us "ahead".

We totally had more fun points.
From 26 we headed northwest to the trail and then ran the trail to CP17.  I think this is the area where Jason Bettis ran past us, snagged the CP, and ran back past us again while we were still standing at a trail intersection checking the map. Then we took the trail north until it crossed the creek and turned northeast. We bushwhacked toward CP25 at the pond, running across this random abandoned picnic area and gigantic grill...or, as we like to call it, an awesome photo op!

Order up!

Waiting to be served imaginary food, like the princess I am.
After finding CP26, we headed towards CP16.  We followed the creek down the road to the west and decided to bushwhack across and up the spur to 16.  We trudged across a brushy wooded area until we came to a fence.  Just as Luke warned me about it and started to cross, I looked at the map and realized we were at a private property line.  Damn.  If you look at Alpine Shop's maps, they always block out the private property. We need to start doing that, because all of those red lines kind of run together on the map, especially when you're in a hurry.

We backtracked down the road and found CP16 right after Boom Boom Pow, leaving a turtle shell hanging in a tree so Bob and Travis would know we'd been there.  We hiked back out to the road and then up to the road junction where we parted ways, Luke heading north and me going west.  (Big thanks to Luke for writing up all of the route info for his own race report so I could just copy it! :D). In about 2 hours together, we'd netted about 90 points. 

The western out and back; if you look at the bottom right corner you'll see CP 38 sitting there all ignored. I may have skipped it because it was kind of a long way for just 30 points, but in retrospect I really wish I'd gone there.
From the intersection where Luke and I split up, I ran down the road until I reached the attack point for CP15, running into Boom Boom Pow along the way.  We all headed to 15 together, but I was following along on my map rather than just trailing behind them, so I felt good when I saw the flag.  After punching, I asked BBP where they were going next. I've really enjoyed hanging out with them at previous races, and I knew if I stayed close I was going to get sucked into sticking with friends and following along rather than navigating on my own.  They decided to go out to CP5 first, so I stuck with my initial plan of 37 next.

I ran down the pavement until my turn onto a gravel road that eventually petered out at a baseball field in the middle of nowhere.  I had just started to cross the ball field when I saw Alpine Shop's Jeff and Emily running along what appeared to be a trail on the side of the field.  If it's good enough for Alpine Shop, that's probably where I need to be... I made a quick course correction and jogged along the old dirt road until I came to the cool ruin where the CP was hung.


I happily ran back up the dirt and gravel roads and west along the pavement.  Several private roads along the way helped me to judge my progress (and seemed to take forever to come), and my attack point was the spur just after the last of these.  I found the CP with no problem.

So pleased with myself at this point.

I headed back to the road and then west again, still running unless I was going uphill.  I saw Jason again, confusing him.

"Where's your teammate?"

"I'm racing solo today!"

"What about the guy you were with?"

"Oh, him...we just had the same route at the beginning."

I ran into BBP as I was nearing the trail to CP5, and Stacey warned me that the trail could be easy to miss if I wasn't paying attention. Armed with this knowledge, I spotted my turn and found the correct reentrant with no problem.

I was really happy that it was hung allllll the way at the bottom of the reentrant.
I climbed back out to the road, seeing the GJ/Wedali guys on their way to 5, and retraced my steps until I was at the attack point for CP14.  I'd timed things well; my camelback was running low, and 14 was a water stop.  It took a little longer than I'd expected to get to the CP, so I was glad to see Boom Boom Pow on their way out, confirming that I was going in the right direction.

I took a couple minutes at the checkpoint to adjust my socks, which had slipped down enough that my shoes were rubbing against the back of my heel/Achilles area, and refill my water.  I felt really good about how I was doing.  In 2 hours alone I had added another 170 points to my score and, even better, nailed the navigation all on my own.  I started having delusions of a respectable score and imagining outscoring my teammates.  Maybe it could happen...

Things fall apart

After seeing GJ/Wedali again as they were approaching/I was leaving CP 14, I made sure to run the road towards CP22, not wanting them to pass me while I was walking (I counted it as a personal triumph any time I was running when I saw another racer).  I was very tempted by a powerline cut that seemed like it was surely the straight line to somewhere I wanted to be but resisted and took the road to my attack point for CP22, which was exactly where I expected it to be.  What an awesome day. What was I so worried about? I'm a great navigator! It's a mark of how blase about success I'd become that I didn't even take a picture of the CP.

My initial plan had been to follow the high point from 22 back out to the road and then run the road until the attack point for CP33 (that long spur). Flush with victory, I decided instead to bushwhack across the creek between the checkpoints, figuring it would be easy to find the spur...I just had to keep climbing until I hit the top and then follow it westish.  My navigational brilliance was confirmed when Andrei and Erl passed me as I was stopped at a downed tree putting band-aids over my raw heels (I'm so smart to be taking care of this before it becomes an actual problem!); if GJ/Wedali was going that way, it must be right!

Except I couldn't find the stupid CP.  Looking back, I actually think I was on the right track on my first approach but had second thoughts, backed up, and got all mixed up.  After all kinds of wandering around, I decided to take the spur back out to the road so I knew for sure where I was and then reattack.  I figured all I had to do was stay on the high ground and keep heading northeast, and that worked.  I was relieved to find the road...OK, I am where I think I am, now let's try this again.

This time, I think I ended up on the wider spur to the east of CP33.  (And Gary, if you read this PLEASE comment or email me and let me know if that sounds right!) Wandering around semi-hopelessly, I heard voices and hoped against hope that it was some noisy racers who'd found the CP.  Hiking downhill, I eventually saw water and realized it was just some people having fun on the lake.  Despair.  

I tried to think like Bob and Luke and use the terrain around me to help me figure out where I was. The finger of the lake I saw went sort of east-west, which narrowed things down.  Looking at the map now, I can see that if I'd been thinking clearly, I'd have realized that there was no campground/private property around me, which ruled out the little finger over Camp Red Bud, and I knew the finger above Camp Pin Oak was south of me.  At the time, none of that was clear to me, and after messing around for way too long, I finally gave up.  

I spent probably an hour and a half looking for that CP; I should have moved on way sooner, I even knew that at the time, but since my primary goal for the day was to improve my orienteering skills rather than get a high score, I really wanted to have the experience of getting myself out of trouble. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, but I did come across this cool old water tower.  And I didn't cry, which was a major accomplishment.

It's ok as consolation prizes go, but I'd rather have had the 30 points.
Once again I followed the high ground out to the road and did my best to shake off my lousy performance.  On to CPs 31 and 10!

31 should have been easy, just run the road to where it curves and then go west along that skinny ridge (or spur, whatever it is).  Instead, I cut in too early and spent a lot of time wandering around again.  I really didn't want to fail on a second straight CP, so I stuck with it but eventually gave up and hiked back out to the road, very thankful I could at least find that.

When I made it out onto the road, though, I was considerably south of my intended attack point. Realizing my mistake, I decided to give it another try from the right spot.  That worked much better, and I finally found the CP.  By this time, I was starting to look at my watch and get a little nervous about making it back to race HQ in time, and I wasn't the only one.  Another racer was hiking to the road at the same time I was. As I caught him, he mentioned, "I'm a little worried about getting back by 6."  Me too, buddy.  Rather than go after any other CPs, I decided to head back and maybe get one of the points near the start/finish line if I got back with extra time. 

Except....there was CP3, a hundred pointer, conveniently sort of on my way back.  I could run south along the road next to Pin Oak Hollow until turning onto the road back to the start/finish OR I could bushwhack across and hopefully pick up CP3 on my way.  If I missed it, so be it, I'd just hit the road and head south again. Not having learned my lesson, that's exactly what I did.

I (shockingly) did not walk straight to the 100-pointer, and I stayed committed to my plan of heading towards the road and not wasting any further time on wild goose chases.  I crossed a creek which I assumed was the one west of the churches and then totally failed to stay on my bearing for the short way to the road.  I hiked and hiked, finding myself trending north every time I looked at my compass and eventually coming out at a powerline cut bordered by a fence.  More private property!

I followed the fenceline until I could cut out onto a gravel road.  My map was folded so that just the section I was trying to be in showed, and I had no clue where I was.  The road went east-west; I needed to go east, so that's the way I turned.  Before long I came to an intersection; of course the cross road was unsigned, but since I needed to go south to get back to the finish line, that's the way I went.  I eventually passed a mailbox with a Kaiser Rd. address on it, but a glance at the small section of map showing failed to enlighten me.

Soooo, in my first two-ish hours I'd collected 90 points.  In my second two-ish hours I'd collected 170 points.  And in the next 4 hours I'd scored...50. Plus, I was lost.  It was now past 4:30 and I was resigning myself to coming in well past the 6:00 cutoff.  I envisioned calling Luke to ask for a ride: "Can you come get me? I don't know where I am."  A sign welcoming me to Lake of the Ozarks State Park was a small beacon of hope, though until seeing it I hadn't realized I'd left the park.

It's hard to be to motivated about going fast when you have no idea where you're going, but deciding that it would be better to realize my mistake sooner rather than later, I started running again.  Something finally compelled me to unfold my map, and that's when I saw it...Kaiser...about a mile north of where I had thought I was.  Many bad words were spoken, but at least I knew where I was now.

I tried to measure off the distance remaining to the finish.  It's not easy to do that while running and even harder when suffering race-brain, but I eventually figured out that I had around 10K to run in what was now around an hour and fifteen minutes.  I'm a runner.  I've run 6 miles plenty of times, and I'm typically capable of running faster than 12 minute miles.

My trip back
But I've never run 6 miles, carrying a pack, after running/trekking for 9 hours.  I had a chance, but it was a small one.  Thankfully the navigation was easy, all roads, and once I reached the Y-shaped intersection at the top of the picture to the left I was on familiar territory.  I ran every flat and downhill section, fast-hiking the uphills.  Running down the gravel road near CP26, I saw Sandy (who I'd met that morning in the campground bathroom) pop out of the woods with two SLOC members.  

I walked up the next hill as quickly as I could, and then started running. My very happiest moment was passing a sign that said 2.2 miles to the campground and realizing that meant only about 2 miles left to go and 40ish minutes to get there (Almost the exact same circumstances as when I did this race in 2012).  I was going to make it! I could stop running!

Except...I didn't want to stop running, so I didn't.  I could see 10-12 racers walking up the road along the airport boundary ahead of me, lining the side of the road like a string of war refugees.  Passing two of them near the bottom of a hill, I recognized Jason and Laura Elsenraat, the former owners of BonkHard (who had a great race with Laura handling the navigation). Great...with friends behind me, now I had to run the uphill (and by this point "run" was a very loose term).

I kept on running until I crossed the finish line with 16 minutes to spare... 

Photo credit: Luke Lamb
...and got my picture taken under the arch...

Photo credit: Mary Welter
....and regaled my friends with tales of my navigational non-prowess...

No idea what I'm talking about here, but it was clearly hilarious
I changed into some dry clothes, inhaled some delicious food, and hung around telling and listening to stories from the day.  Even though none of us placed, it was fun to cheer as some of our speedy friends collected their awards.  Finally we headed back to the campground, where I met the biggest spider I've ever seen and opted to go to bed stinky rather than shower with cold water.


We'd planned to meet up with AR friends who were camped at another site, but we made the tactical mistake of sitting by our own fire for a minute and never managed to leave it.  I hate that we missed out on the fun, but we had good company and a great time hanging out together.


After the race I told the guys there was no way I'd do Perfect 10 solo again next year, but who knows. I'd expected to be lonely, but I was so focused on the map that I never really was.  I'd anticipated tears within an hour, and that didn't happen either.  I'm disappointed in doing such a lousy job after a strong start, but honestly the day went far better than I'd hoped (plus, best I can calculate, I ran/hiked 24 miles, which makes for a good Skippo training day).  Overall, it was a great experience, and even if my performance was sub-awesome (I came in 47 out of 53), the day was anything but.

 Full results.

Oh, and I always assume that everybody else already knows what I do about orienteering, but since none of my teammates had seen this done, I'll share it with you guys.  Before the Babler O meet a couple years ago (a race where I did do a lot of crying) Dr. Fran showed me how she marked her passport.  Basically, she takes the CP clues and writes them in the corresponding box on the passport.  So in my example below, the clue for CP1 would be "trail junction", 2 and 3 would be "spur", etc.  I like that rather than writing the clue on the map because I'm always afraid my writing will obscure some vital information.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wedding Bells

My son got engaged last winter, and his wedding was this past Saturday. Mother of the groom is an interesting role; I had little to do other than help plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner and then show up at the wedding. It's really the bride's family's show, or at least this was, and I was fine with watching from the sidelines. I'm not much of a planner, and Kayla's mom did a wonderful job with everything.

It was an outdoor wedding, so my well-honed weather stalking skills were put to good use over the past week as monsoon season has hit our area.  The forecast initially looked bleak before giving us a bit of a reprieve, and by Friday night the weatherman was calling for cloudy and cool with virtually no chance of rain.  That made Jacob both happy (because he could play his soccer game that morning) and sad (because the football games he had to miss wouldn't be cancelled).


I'd made an 11:30 hair appointment, which was cutting it a little close but allowed me to go to Jacob's 10:00 game. Since I'll miss his last game I really wanted to be at this one, and being there meant I got to see him score three goals. :) Still, I haven't had an updo since my own wedding (nearly 13 years ago), and I'd kind of forgotten how much hair I have and how long it takes.  At 12:50 I was getting nervous. "Um...I don't want to rush you, but do you think my hair will be done by 1:30?"

"What time is the wedding?" (I'd actually mentioned the wedding time earlier but not really made a big deal of it.)


"Oh! I'll kick it up a gear!"

Thankfully she was finished by 1:15 (which was about when we'd planned to leave for the wedding), and I quickly paid and hurried out to my car, which I was dismayed to find covered in raindrops.  Not cool, Ma Nature.  I rushed home, crossing my fingers the rain wouldn't get heavier, ate quickly, did the fastest makeup ever, and then had to make my final decision on a dress.

I loved the dress, but it was short enough in back that it just wasn't the look I was going for.
And then shoes.  Jeff treaded the dangerous line of getting me moving without pushing too hard ("You're going to be late for your own son's wedding!"), ushering me out the door at 1:35, still wearing two different shoes and carrying my jewelry.

We got there with time to spare (and matching shoes) and joined the rest of the guests huddling beneath umbrellas and under trees.  The soft ground made walking in heels an adventure; you had to stay on the balls of your feet. The kids had wanted a small wedding, which is tricky when you come from a big family, and so it probably ended up bigger than they wanted while still leaving out people who'd expected to be invited. You can't make everybody happy, but it was wonderful to walk around before the ceremony and see all the people who were there because they love Daniel and Kayla.

I'd hoped to get by without wearing a cover, but temps in the 50's meant that comfort outweighed vanity.
The grandparents were seated, Kayla's brother escorted her mom, Daniel's dad escorted his wife, and Daniel walked me to my seat before going to stand in front with the officiant, his best friend since first grade.   The groomsmen walked in the bridesmaids, and then it was time for Kayla's dad to walk her down the aisle. She looked radiant.

Kayla and her father
Daniel teared up as soon as he saw her. Which made me tear up.

The minister, teary groom, and groomsmen. Daniel has the best group of friends. I love those kids.
The wedding party. I love the little touches they have in the clothes. The girls' dresses are slightly different, their shoes are different, the guys' ties are each a slightly different pattern in blue and yellow.
It was a short, lovely ceremony. Danny (the officiant) spoke, they said the vows they'd written themselves, exchanged rings, and were pronounced husband and wife.
Mr. and Mrs.
It's a little surreal that my child is someone's husband. It's been a while since he moved out and started supporting himself, but now he's married. He's always been more grown up than his years, though, so it's no surprise that he would be eager to take on the adult responsibility of marriage, and he chose well.  Kayla is wonderful; we've loved her since pretty much their first date.

But now he's married.  I'm a mother-in-law. And that's still super weird to me.  I don't really have anything else to say, so I'm just going to show you a few pictures from the day.

Flower balls hung from the trees
The H pumpkin for their last name was a neat touch
The "stage" all set.
Making their entrance to the reception
First dance
Mother-son dance

Father-daughter dance
So much love, so many smiles
Free video games in a side room made this the best reception ever for the kids.

Wedding reception selfie
Nathan wasn't able to get leave to come home, which was the one sad note of the day for me, but we brought him with us in our hearts and photographic form.

Friday, October 10, 2014

95 miles

Last November some friends and I biked on the Katy Trail from St. Charles (Missouri) to Hermann (also Missouri), a distance of about 63 miles, for lunch.  And then, of course, we rode back again.  It was, as the organizer titled the event, a long way to go for lunch.  It was also a lot of fun, as much as is possible while riding 111 miles, dodging rainstorms, and battling headwinds.  We had such a good time that we scheduled an encore last weekend with a slightly bigger cast.  Two new guys joined us for the westward journey, and we met up with a Team Virtus group of four who rode east.

This year I decided to play it safe and ride the short course version of the trip to Hermann.  Since I'm trying to actually train for this year's Skippo 30K, I wanted to save my legs so I could run the next day.  All of my dubious smarts, though, were used for deciding to cut mileage rather than calculating the actual mileage.

Let's see, it's about 60 miles from St. Charles to Hermann (actually 63).  And it's 27 miles, which is close to 30, from St. Charles to Augusta, so that means it should be about 30 miles from Augusta to Hermann (actually 36).  So if I start in Augusta I'll only be riding about 60 miles, which should be a light enough day that I can run tomorrow.

If that seems confusing, imagine how garbled it was with the numbers floating around in my head. In short, I'd neglected to account for 6 miles.  Because an out-and-back route doubles any mileage, at this point my ride was going to be 72 miles rather than 60.  And then, realizing I wasn't sure how to get to the Augusta trailhead, I opted to park at Matson Hill, adding another 5ish miles each way to my journey. Admittedly an 85 mile ride isn't an outlandish thing in my world; unless, of course, you're only expecting to ride 60.

At 8:30 Saturday morning, however, I waited for the long-haulers at the Matson trailhead, basking in blissful ignorance and the unfamiliar sensation of being early. So THIS is what it feels like to be the wait-er instead of the wait-ee, huh? Interesting.  Before long, Dave and Jim rode up to tell me the other guys were back a ways changing a flat, so we hung out and talked until everyone else caught up.  Jim had other plans for his day, so the rest of us set out for Hermann.

Mickey and Paul were leading with a pretty strong pace, one I knew wasn't going to work for me for long.  I called ahead, "If you're planning on riding 17 mph the whole way, you can just save me a seat at the restaurant!" They eased up, but the group spread out a bit.  I tried to settle into all-day mode, passing the time by making conversation with whoever was "lucky" enough to be in my vicinity.

Last year's (November) Hermann ride had featured unseasonably warm temps in the 70's; despite being a month earlier, this one was considerably cooler. The morning temperature was in the low 40's. One thing that remained a constant, though, was the wind. We're now two for two on Hermann rides with a nasty headwind, and this year no one had volunteered to tow me. The wind was particularly challenging for Joe, who was fighting it on a singlespeed, and Paul, a regular road rider who was tackling the Katy on a 14 year old tank of a bike.

I almost caused an accident when I slowed down to get out my camera without warning Dave, who was drafting behind me.  
We regrouped at the Marthasville trailhead (about the 17-mile mark for me, where I cheerfully thought I was halfway to Hermann).  Paul rode on ahead so he wouldn't tighten up, and the rest of us followed after a bathroom/snack break.  When I caught up with him, he mentioned that his bike wasn't working right and was hard to pedal.  Having spent time struggling alone at the back of a group, I hung out with Paul to keep him company.  Long bike rides offer a great opportunity to get to know people, and if my constant chatter was super annoying rather than a nice distraction Paul was nice enough to keep it to himself.

At one point Paul mentioned that we still had about 17 miles to go.  Looking at my odometer, I knew he was wrong because 17 more miles would put us way past the 30 I was riding.  "Ummm, I don't think that's right," I mentioned.  We discussed it a little and then rode on, both silently sure the other was incorrect.  Clearly if I'm not going to do my research I should learn to keep my mouth shut about details and not expose my ignorance.  Overall, the first 30 miles or so were pretty pleasant until they were up and I still wasn't close to Hermann.  Making matters worse, the cool weather had made it hard for me to remember to keep drinking, and my quads started cramping pretty badly.

Maybe this was in answer to prayers Paul was silently uttering, because I get quiet when I'm hurting.  I was relieved to see the rest of our group waiting (and waiting...) at the McKittrick trailhead, and though the slight climb to the highway into Hermann hurt, the gloriously smooth pavement more than made up for it.  I chased Dave down the shoulder, wanting nothing so much as to arrive at Wings-a-Blazin and get. off. my. bike.  I have to admit that as we passed the turn to the train station, I thought seriously about looking into a ticket back to St. Louis.

Riding up to the McKittrick trailhead, very happy to be near Hermann, very unhappy on my bike. Photo credit: Dave Beattie
We once again sat on the patio, though it was much busier this October than last November, when we had it to ourselves.  We had a great lunch -- though anything would taste good after riding 40+ miles through a headwind -- and thoroughly enjoyed the break.  Eventually my legs stopped hurting, giving me hope that the ride back wouldn't be a total sufferfest.  The Virtus crew arrived from the west, having dealt with some mechanical issues on their way, and we had a little bit of time to visit before getting back onto our bikes.

Robbie, Sarah, Luke, Becca, Paul, Joe, me, Dave, Mickey
My legs started hurting again as we rode uphill out of town; I had visions of 40 miles of cramps and tears, wondering what the chances were that Jeff would drive 2 hours to come and pick me up and then wondering who in the St. Louis area might be more likely to come to my rescue.  Luckily, we stopped at a gas station on the highway, and I picked up some ibuprofen along with a couple of candy bars and a gatorade, barely getting out the doors before ripping open the medicine.

I was a little slower starting than the guys, so I was still on the highway when they turned onto the trail, and they were barely in view when I rolled onto the Katy.  Any time I pushed much on the pedals my legs would start to cramp, so I shifted into an easier gear and resigned myself to soft-pedaling in the back for a while.  Looking at the time, I assured myself that the medicine would kick in within 30 minutes and I wouldn't be so sore any more.

Riding alone and trying to ignore my sore legs and appreciate how pretty the day was.
I spent the next half hour backing off any time my legs started to hurt, and my patience was rewarded when the medicine did indeed start working.  I finally reached Dave (Awww, that's nice...he waited for me...oh, nope, he's just not feeling it right now) and then Paul.  "This tailwind is SO much better than the headwind!" I celebrated, but hampered by his mechanical issues, Paul wasn't enjoying the same benefits I was.  Onwards...

The temperature had warmed up, and with the wind at my back I sailed happily along the trail, finally able to really appreciate what a beautiful day it was.  I knew the tailwind was helping me, but I didn't realize how much until I stopped to take a picture of the river and felt the wind pushing against me. Still I watched my odometer like a hawk and counted down the remaining miles.

It looked prettier in person.
Looking down the trail

I'd just gotten to Twenty-eight miles left...anyone can ride 28 miles...that's like a medium-distance Trailnet ride... when I caught up with Mickey and Joe where they'd stopped to regroup at the Treloar trailhead and regaled them with tales of Bob and Adam's visit there during a past ride.  Once the group was back together again, we took off, and from then on I felt like I was flying.  I'm sure that taking it easy for so much of the ride was a big help, as were the wind and the knowledge that my remaining miles were limited.  Whatever the reason, it was pretty awesome to be at the front of a group rather than playing caboose like usual.

Tailwinds are fun!
We regrouped in Marthasville and then Augusta, where Joe's lovely wife was meeting him.  While waiting for the rest of the guys, we were entertained by a very drunk foursome who were riding west from the Augusta Brewing Co.  One of the girls actually fell while standing over her bike, making me very glad we weren't going to be sharing the trail with them.  Joe wasn't so lucky, encountering them on the trail as he approached.  The four of them took up the entire trail, running him off into the grass and brush to the side, the second time he was run off the road in one trip.

As we stood there talking, a fox ran out of the brush and looked down the trail. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've seen one in the wild. Very cool.  It ran off before I could get my camera out and on.

Joe finishing up his 104 miles with a smile and a one finger salute to the organizer.
Paul opted to catch a ride with Joe and Ann, so we said our goodbyes and rode the remaining 5 miles to Matson.  I was feeling the miles by this point and VERY glad to have opted for the shorter distance, not bothered a bit by the fact that I had the least miles of the group for the day.  What did disappoint me was that, with 85 miles on my legs already, my planned Sunday trail run looked most unlikely.

We're running trails...where's everybody else?
As it turned out, though, with Bob and Chuck planning to join me at Castlewood, my FOMO was more powerful than my desire to sleep in.  I was running late, but I got there.  Since Bob hasn't been running much, we all stuck together and took it easy on our first lap; then Chuck and I logged another four before heading home.  Weirdly, it was the best run I've had since starting my Skippo training.  I felt great and had a blast.  If I could have gotten out of bed, I could have ended my weekend with an even 100 miles, but I'm not going to feel bad about 10 miles of trails after 85 miles on the bike and a weekend full of good company.

I'm their number one running partner. :)