We were to meet at and leave Alpine Shop in Kirkwood Missouri in two Trailblazers, one with myself, Scott Shaw of Crestwood, MO (TeamBOR1), Dave Cortivo of Imperial, MO (TeamBOR2), and Kevin Minton of Kirkwood, MO (TeamBOR2), and another with Neil Dickhaus of Eureka, MO (TeamBOR2), Paul Frisbee of Rolla, MO (TeamBOR1), and Kevin Edwards of Rolla, MO (TeamBOR1). It was all to be organized and on-time, but Trailblazer 2 headed straight out from Eureka skipping Alpine Shop altogether and Dave insisted on waiting for a Taco Bell breakfast behind a huge man that was ordering for himself or his entire workforce. Trailblazer 1 was now running late and didn’t meet up with Trailblazer 2 until lunch at One World in Peoria, which we barely came to an agreement upon. Mutiny, Anarchy, and Murder were all discussed in Trailblazer 1 for the fear of missing the ascending practice. Our pin-up girl waitress turned the channel to the Outdoor channel and peace returned to the world. We made it to the event in Mount Carroll with time to make the ascending practice, so Minton and I were happier. I found that I didn’t care for ascending much at all.
We set up our gear in our cabin, ate dinner, attended the pre-race meeting where I was happy to find that we could ditch much of our gear altogether and stage some other gear, which took a lot of weight off my shoulders literally. We bought some gear, plotted our course, got dressed in our cabin, checked our packs, dropped off the bikes, headed to the start, prayed, and tried to take pictures in the dark before the National Anthem.
The race started at 12am with a short run to the river. Alpine Shop made an immediate wrong turn, but still managed to beat us to the water. We were in the front pack as we hit the water but quickly started getting passed as we took turns falling. Paul was out front and my headlamp was glued to him, but I knew both our navigators and our maps were behind us, yet I could still see headlamps in the river ahead of us so I kept up with Paul. I watched as Paul went deeper and deeper and then the coasteering turned into swimming. I knew I would be swimming longer than Paul since I am shorter and thought “poor Dave.” I found a hatred for coasteering; as I ran in the rocks I continued to turn my ankle, fall, bang my knee on stealth rocks, fall face first in the drink, get up, and repeat. I tried many different methods and found that moving through the mud, sinking my shoes deep into the mud, pulling up hard and hoping my shoes were still on, was better than banging my knees into the rocks. Neil took a nice gash to his leg that got infected by some weaker form of a flesh eating bacteria, which healed a few weeks later. Running and swimming quickly turned to walking and swimming, so I tried to estimate our speed and distance. Knowing that I can easily walk a 15 minute mile fast pace and a 20 minute mile slow pace, and we had only two miles of this nonsense, I tried to figure out what time we would exit the water, but I kept falling, so I found it was too hard to concentrate on time and just focused on being vertical. We climbed a little water fall and were out of the river thinking we were next to dead last. CP’s 1-3 complete. Coasteer 1 = 2 miles?
We arrived at the bikes and were amazed at how many were still there. I quickly transitioned and watched in horror the time it took my teammates to transition. Edwards told me he was slow transitioning, but if I would have known I would have taken the time to change my socks. We headed to the road and made an immediate wrong turn and found our way and then discussed if we actually were heading the right way. Since I didn’t have a map in my hand I tried to help by giving the navigators road bearings. We traveled through the night in a blanket of fog while trying to dodge frogs that were crossing the roads. Edwards and I were out in front and losing the rest of the group fast. I looked down at my computer, realized my headlamp was off, started feeling my legs burning, turned my lamp on without crashing, and looked down for a second to see 30mph on my readout. I thought, ”that must be wrong.” Edwards started pulling away and I quickly caught back up with him. Now I am thinking, “Can I maintain this pace?” I glance many times back down to my computer and it’s reading high 20’s, “dang we are hauling” I thought. I told Edwards, “Hey, the guys can’t keep this pace!” Edwards tells me he is frustrated with our time and results so far. I tell him that we are either going to lose the group, get disqualified, kill our teammates, and I personally don’t know how long I can maintain this pace and we need to slow and wait for them. We decide to wait at the next intersection and re-group. We ride through the night, cold, wet, over a sketchy bridge, into town, arrive at the canoes, slowly transition, and enter the river. CP’s 4-8 complete. Bike 1 = 27.8 miles.
We get in the canoe and immediately get stuck. Both of our teams are stuck in the shallow water and jagged rocks. I still have my wet coasteering socks on so I jump out with Paul and start pulling the canoe to deeper water. We keep Edwards in the canoe to keep him and the maps dry. It gets deep again and I start paddling hard, steering through many obstacles, and smacking Edwards paddle every time he attempts to paddle. Night becomes day and we are still paddling, but TeamBOR 2 is nowhere to been seen. Paul and I get a good rhythm going and I try to convince Edwards to not paddle, or all three of us paddle in unison, and let me steer completely. I try to minimize my paddle strikes on Edwards paddle. We get to the first take out and wait for TeamBOR 2, several teams arrive and they tell us that they saw them flip and they are collecting their gear and draining the boat. TeamBOR2 arrives. CP 9 complete. Row 1 = 3.3 miles.
We trek up into the woods, around a lake, through stinging needle, and collect the check points in that area. We struggle through intense thickets and nettle to get back to the boat. I decide to use my newly acquired coasteering skills to go up river to collect the boats and bring them back down to my awaiting teammates. Trek 1 = 3.4 miles.
Back in the canoe I feel strong and paddle for all its worth, loosing TeamBOR2 again, Edwards mentions that Paul said I would be hurting from the paddle, but I shrug that off and continue to paddle. It starts storming and we take a quick break under a bridge. I start getting really cold so I put my rain jacket on, drink, and bail the boat. TeamBOR2 arrives and we give them the chance to do the same. We head out and quickly lose them again. Before we enter the Mississippi I mention that when we get to that bridge ahead I need to stop and eat because I am feeling light headed. I see Edwards looking at the map strangely, Paul looking out in the distance strangely, and I think I may be hallucinating. It wouldn’t be the first time I have done so in a race. Edwards asks me what I said and I asked if there was a bridge on the map and he repeats, “no.” I reply, “I need to eat now.” The bridge vanishes and we continue on and pass a bunch of teams. We find our secret portaging spot and wait for TeamBOR2. I eat again and watch the boats I worked so hard to pass catch us and pass us while Edwards scouts the portage. TeamBOR2 arrives, eats, and we quickly portage and come out in front of all the teams that caught us plus some. We struggle through a lily patty mine field and exit the water ahead of the other boats. CP’s 10-16 complete. Row 2 = 17 miles.
Now there is a long transition that gives me the opportunity to wring out my socks but I don’t want to change them yet. We head to the bikes and climb the steepest hill I have ever seen and Edwards scolds me for trying to ride it; so I walk it. We get to the top and I realize I am completely out of water, so I find a camp spigot and fill everything I have, my bladder, my empty Gatorade bottles, and add in a little Zip Fizz to the bottles for good measure. TeamBOR2 arrives and we are off again. We ride to the next transition and I finally change my socks, drink another team’s non-caffeinated energy shot, and trek into the woods. Bike 2 = 2.8 miles.
The sun comes out for a minute and cooks us. I pray for the rain to return, which it does. I hug this enormous tree and tell Minton to come and feel this tree emitting cool air. He walks over and says it is shade and I should eat and drink again. Dave makes me put electrolytes in my bladder and we trek on. I am not use to eating as much as I was, since I was on a low calorie diet cutting weight before the race. That is another story in itself, but let’s just say that my diet led to a couple bad mountain biking crashes during training. So I don’t want to get light headed or hallucinate, so I eat every hour on the hour no matter if I am hungry or not, but now I feel sick. I need to either throw up or poop. I debate whether it is more embarrassing to throw up, poop your pants, or poop in the woods. I rank them most embarrassing to least; poop pants, throw up, poop in woods. I quietly head off while the teams are searching for a check point and find a spot with minimal nettle. I feel so much better now and return to the group and Paul immediately knows what I did. We trek and slip and trek and slip for an eternity until we know we need to head back to the bikes due to time constraints. CP’s 17-46 not so much complete. Trek 2 = 5.6 miles.
On the bikes we return to the camp at twilight, but on the way Minton and Edwards have a serious hill climbing competition that makes me proud of both of them and makes me glad I decided to sit and spin my granny gear. I decide to stand and climb one hill, and then when I had, I decided not to do it again. We enter camp and Edwards crashes right in front of the race committee and we grab our climbing gear and head into the dark woods. We ride and trek and ride and trek. I notice how well my bike shoes do in the mud and curse myself for not wearing them all day. Edward’s flats; we decide there is not enough time to change it, and we stash the bikes. Bike 3 = 10.7 miles.
We find out the “ascend” is cancelled due to rain or hornets and I am relieved to hear it. We climb to the repel and Paul is gone in a flash, Edwards goes upside down, but is super cool, and is like this is no big deal and rights himself and is gone. I think “Hey where did everyone go.” Minton is looking like he crapped his pants and is preparing to die. He does some funky sit stand maneuver and he starts climbing back up the rope as the race official is screaming at him to go down, not up! He is out of sight and I am last to go. I start off and the rope stretches and I hear a loud clanging. I tell them I think my carabineer let go. The official screams for me to stop. I look down, see I am attached, and tell him “I am ok, but that scared the S@#t out of me!” He agrees and I drop over the edge and start flying down. I get yelled at for going too fast and Dave tells me to enjoy the ride. I yell that I am. I think, “When do I enjoy going slow?” I get down and Minton is making love to the ground and scaring female racers with tales of death and mayhem. We find out much later that he does have an injury the size of a baseball on his shin from slamming into the cliff. We coasteer search for the cave and I find it. I head into the cave and it quickly splits in direction. Dave and I go straight and I yell to the others to go left. I’m moving through the ice cold water quickly and bats start flying towards my face. Dave is behind me and starts yelling bats, so I yell bats, and more fly past me and I giggle knowing they are headed towards Dave. I make it to a dead end and hear Dave yelling that they found the check point, I am now Indiana Jones trying to out run the huge rock ball, and I exit as quickly as possible! CP’s 47-52 complete.
We cross the river and climb a cliff to get another check point and then instead of going back down Edwards and Paul decide to scale the cliff to the next check point. I notice only Dave is with us from TeamBOR2. I yell for the others to come up and an argument starts. I am now trying to keep an eye on both teams and Minton makes it to the top but is mad as Hell. We can tell because he stands in complete darkness with his arms crossed. Dave and I try to talk Edwards and Paul out of their suicidal idea, but they were not stopping. I finally get my hands on Neil’s map and realize immediately that the point is in the river. Minton, Dave, and I head down and I leave TeamBOR2 on a sandbar. I coasteer to the check point, realize I don’t have the passport anymore, and my teammates are above me on a cliff. Other teams are yelling at them that they are going to fall to their deaths. I stand there illuminating the check point and teams keep thanking me and punch their passports. Now I am mad as Hell. I make my way back to TeamBOR2 and TeamBOR1 is standing there. I angrily make my way back to the check point trying to remember the route I took but since it is in the river it is easy. We head back to the bikes and walk them to the finish, leave them there, and head to the last check point, the luge. Dave and I are the only ones that want to try it after a woman comes somersaulting out of it and has road rash all over her body. She tells me that it’s dangerous. I tell her the entire race is dangerous, she agrees. I get mad because no one will punch the passport or do the luge. Dave promises me we will come back in the morning and luge. Paul yells at me to stop blinding everyone with my light and get out of the way so they can punch. He is really mean and hurts my feelings, wait I don’t have no stinking feelings, so we run to the finish and cross the line together six across. CP’s 53-55 complete and finished 11:24pm 08/23/14. Trek 3 = 6.3 miles.
We eat, drink, shower, drink, talk, drink, drink, drink, beer that is. I have been awake for 44 hours and moving for 24 of those and I feel pretty good. I look over and Paul is passed out smiling. Neil is about to pass out. We are the last team awake. We crash in the cabin, Neil snores horrendously, and Paul continues to smile, asleep.
A few hours later we awake and Dave and I go luge. It was epic!
Total bike 41.3 miles, Total row 20.3 miles, Total trek 15.3 miles
TeamBOR – Ahab