We ended up at the Tower, which had pizza and Mexican food, which may be the best combination ever. There was a little bit of a wait for the tables, so Mickey and I stood inside while Scott and Neil made nuisances of themselves by plotting their map on the sidewalk directly in front of the door. After stuffing my face with steak fajitas and Blue Moon (pre-race carb loading?), we went back to the ranch. I got my pack ready for the morning and started to get ready for bed, when the 4-person coed team Off the Front arrived. They asked if I minded if the guys stayed in the cabin, which I didn’t and I hung out in my bed and eavesdropped on them doing a final gear check and talking about strategy and clothing. They won last year and I had read Karen’s race report before the race to get a feel for what to expect. This was only my second AR, so it was good to listen to an experienced team make plans, even though they probably thought I was a total creeper. Before too long, Super Kate and her sister-in-law, Kristy, arrived, so at least I knew people then. Once everyone was ready for bed, one of the Off the Front guys turned on a noise machine to the soothing sounds of raindrops, which only partially drowned out the crinkly noise my mattress made every time I moved. It was great to fall asleep to, but not so great when I woke up at 3am having to pee and the only bathroom was far away across a mostly-deserted boy scout camp. (Mickey: I only wish I could have fallen asleep!) Maybe next time frogs and crickets would be better.
Alarms started going off a little before 5 and everyone was chatting as we were getting dressed. I joked that if there was no coffee at breakfast, I had a Jet Boil and coffee in my bag and would be selling cups for $10 each. A couple of the Off the Front guys said they would be first in line. We made it to the dining hall about 6:00, where I met up with Mickey to do some last minute route planning. I saw Dave and Jules, who got in late the night before, plotting their map. Dave’s morning face looks like grumpy cat, so I left him to his plotting. (Mickey: Dave was definitely under duress trying to plot UTM with all of those people milling around talking, and only a short time until the race start.) After getting some orange juice, yogurt, and a granola bar, I watched a staff member make several comical attempts to make coffee (pour water in machine, watch water pour out all over counter, wipe water off of counter onto floor, repeat. Over and over. Give up and barricade off the lake that had formed on the floor). I briefly considered going back to the cabin and making back my race entry by selling coffee, but, sadly, there was not enough time.
About 6:30, we went outside to an amphitheater area and got some last-minute instructions on some checkpoints that didn’t have flags (2, 13, 14, and 15) and that a couple checkpoints were on private property. (Mickey: I completely missed that part. I must have been noting the lack of flags and location hints for CP2, CP13, CP14 & CP15 on our map when he mentioned that. Glad you were paying attention!) After they told us to go, people scattered. We ended up taking a different route to TA1 than we had originally planned but everyone but us (or me at least) seemed to know that there was a trail that led out of the amphitheater area to the road that led down to a suspension bridge across the lake. Crossing the bridge with all of the other racers in the dark was disorienting, sort of like running across a line of SUP boards tied together. I wasn’t sad when it was over and I thought, “Whew! Glad I don’t have to do that again!”
After trying and failing to not get my feet soaked running to TA1, Mickey and I worked together to get running shoes clipped to our packs and got on the bikes. We made a wrong turn almost immediately, turning left onto the gravel road instead of right. Thankfully, we realized our mistake pretty quickly and turned around. We started using the tow as soon as we hit gravel and we continued to use it for most of the first bike leg. It really helped keep me pushing. I did ask Mickey to slow down on a steep downhill between TA1 and CP1, but that is because I’m a chicken on downhills and really need to work on that. We located CP1 in a dry pond without any difficulty and headed for CP2. On the way, we passed Off the Front, who were in first, and then Scott and Neil, who we thought were in second, going in the opposite direction. When we got to what we thought was the checkpoint, we looked, but there was no flag. We backtracked, looked more, and then decided to go further. It was around a corner and down the road a little ways. It turned out that the coordinates we received for the point were off by about a kilometer. (Mickey: Looking at the map after the fact, this was obvious. Hindsight… At least we didn’t waste as much time as some other teams.) When we were leaving CP2, we passed a group of people, including Scott and Neil, up the road looking for CP2, and we were excited at the thought of possibly being in second. We passed Super Kate, Kristy, Chuck, and Patrick on the road. I waved and Kate yelled that she thought we were in second.
CP3 was a skills challenge, the tomahawk throw. Mickey took this one while I planned our route to CP4. He got the hang of it quickly and we were on our way down a reentrant to a creek, which we followed without too much difficulty to CP4. On the way, the lanyard to my compass came loose and I dropped it. I found it quickly and tucked it away for safekeeping. After taking a muddy trail up the hill back to our bikes, we headed out on the gravel back to the boy scout ranch. We had to take the same slimy trail that we had previously run up in the morning to get down to the CP5/TA2, which was a fire-starting challenge. I changed my shoes and planned our route to CP6 while Mickey made quick work of starting a fire in a cut in half 50-gallon drum that had to burn through a string across the top. He changed shoes too and we started bushwhacking to CP6.
As we pushed through thorn bush after thorn bush, I began contemplating what I could wear to work on Monday that would hide the scratches that were accumulating on my arms, neck, and the little bit of exposed skin between my socks and tights. About the time I decided that only a burka would do, Mickey suggested taking a longer route that would keep us on the road. I agreed and we changed direction. About that time, he offered me a cheese and salami tortilla roll, which was delicious. We jogged where we could, but running is not my strength and I was lagging behind. Mickey offered to carry my pack and after I gave it to him, I was able to go a little faster. We ran down the steep downhill that had scared me earlier on the bike and ended up on a long stretch of pavement that we jogged/fast hiked until we got to CP6, the slingshot challenge. Neil and Scott were there when we arrived, having taken a more direct route there. We had initially planned to have me do the slingshot challenge because a bonus point was given if only one member of each team accomplished the challenge. The volunteer staffing the challenge told us at first that we had to wait for the other team to finish before starting, but he gave in and let us shoot at the same time. (Mickey: My incessant whining paid off!) The task was to use a slingshot to shoot soda cans off of a piece of wood set across sawhorses. You could use rocks or some Ol’ Roy dog food that was provided. We were told that the first place team, Off the Front, had used all four members firing at the same time and that it had taken about 20 minutes for them to knock over the required 5 cans. About 10 minutes after we arrived, Neil got his last can and they were off, having earned the bonus point. I shot about 10 rocks and then suggested to Mickey that he help too, or we would be there all day. We might still be there, actually, if I was the only one shooting. He ended up getting 3 cans I got the other 2, after about 10 more minutes of shooting. (Mickey: This challenge was 99% luck. It’s BS that it cost us the race. But, kudos to Neil for getting it done by himself.) Two more teams arrived while we were shooting, so it was a firing range of rocks and dog kibble.
After finally finishing with the slingshot challenge, we hit the road again to take a slightly longer, but much faster (for us) route to CP7. We missed the clearing where we were planning to turn by about 1/3 of a mile, but realized our mistake and backtracked. (Mickey: Good catch by Amanda!) Mickey carried my pack for most of this as well. We found CP7 in a deep ravine easily and tried not to be obvious about its location because a couple other teams were walking around in the area. CP 8, 9, and 10 also went quickly and we stuck to our strategy of taking the roads and clearings as much as possible. (Mickey: While this strategy definitely added some distance to our route, it paid off in the end. We spiked every CP on the foot orienteering section, and saved ourselves a lot of physical stress not bushwhacking through the sticker bushes.) While we were walking between 9 and 10, I noticed a thorn sticking out of my forearm. I pulled it out and the next time I looked down, I had a nice trail of blood down to my hand. I probably should have put it back.
We broke through the woods on the dangerous end of the archery range, which happened to be CP11. After we were told that we were the first ones there and were in first place, Mickey and I said some words that Scott would probably edit out of the blog. We hadn’t seen anyone since CP11 and had no idea how we were doing compared to the other teams. Hearing that we were in first, even though we knew that Neil and Scott had earned a bonus point at the slingshot that we didn’t get, gave us a huge boost of energy. I completed the archery challenge and we took off down the road to TA3 to get into canoes. Since I had more paddling experience (though not much with canoes), I sat in the back and steered while Mickey paddled in the front and navigated. We got CPB first, a good decision Mickey made based on the wind direction, and then A, with no problems. While we were on our way to A, we saw Off the Front come down to TA3 and get into their canoes. They went in the same order as we did and we passed them in the middle of the lake. We finished the canoe and started heading for CP12, the rock wall. Thankfully, Mickey realized before we had gone too far that 12 was supposed to be gotten by bike, so we went back to TA2 and retrieved our bikes. While we were on our way, we saw Neil and Scott, who should have been heading for the lake, following us. We told them they were going the wrong way and finally they decided to trust us (admittedly a risk) and turned to go to the canoe put-in. (Mickey: It’s like they didn’t even trust their own teammates…)
After crossing the scary suspension bridge two more times, once with the bikes, which was super fun, we rode to the rock wall. We had left our trekking shoes on after getting our bikes because we knew we were going straight to the wall, so we just had to get harnesses and helmets. I climbed first, trying to ignore my fear of heights which made me feel as if death were imminent as I got higher and higher. When I made it to the top, the person helping us at the top clipped me to the center support pole and then Mickey started climbing. Despite never having climbed before, he did great. I knelt by the edge and tried to encourage him. The staff person told me I could stand up if I wanted and I wouldn’t fall because I was clipped in, but I preferred my head to be as low as possible. Mickey quickly made it to the top and we rappelled down, one after another. (Mickey: Amanda totally rocked the rappel! The volunteer at the top was super impressed.) I was glad to be back on solid ground. Right as we finished, Off the Front rode up on their bikes. We changed into our bike shoes, swapped climbing for bike helmets and took off for CP13. Mickey said he thought it was down the road that went behind the women’s cabin and I thought it was down a different road. We went with my road, which ended in a very muddy clearing, but no sign of a “Yellow Trail” which was the clue. We back-tracked back to the area where the rock wall was, where Off the Front was still climbing. We took the main road that lead out of the scout camp to a maintenance shed with a bunch of kids’ bicycles outside of it. After looking at the map, we decided to bike-whack our way to CP13, so we took a faint trail that led us into a creek bed. We followed the creek bed for a little bit, lifting our bikes over logs, before heading up a super steep hill to higher ground. To get up the hill, I was lifting my bike as high as I could while keeping a hand on the brake and then using my bike to pull myself up. I was starting to get discouraged, but I kept telling myself that we only had 3 more checkpoints and then to get to the finish. When we got to the top of the hill, we had the terrible realization that we were in the same clearing where we had been before on our first attempt to find the trail. We then went with Mickey’s original idea, which was to follow the road behind the women’s cabin, but that was a dead-end as well. After looking at the map, we decided that more bikewhacking would be a fun thing to do and we headed off down the hill toward the lake. (Mickey: We completely botched this part of the race. It probably cost us close to an hour, and a ton of fatigue. I still don’t know where the heck that trail starts…) We finally saw yellow paint on trees that signaled that we had found the yellow “trail” (I use that extremely loosely because it was as if someone on acid wandered around the woods painting random trees and that was considered a trail). Mickey initially headed left to find the checkpoint, which was just a punch with no flag, but I happened to glance right and saw it about 100 yards down the trail. We punched that and began to ride down the trail toward CP14 and 15, which were on the Orange Trail. CP14 also had no flag and again, I just happened to notice the red punch as I was walking past it. If you missed it, it would have been very difficult to find from the other direction. (Mickey: Amanda did an awesome job of spotting the punches on this entire leg.) As we progressed down the trail, we would ride a little, but had to mostly push our bikes because the trails were so muddy. We were both getting quiet and I caught myself staring down at my feet as I was pushing my bike. I had to keep reminding myself to keep an eye out for CP15. As I looked up, I realized that I couldn’t see any orange trail markings and I had a bad feeling that we had missed a turn-off. I yelled up ahead to Mickey and we backtracked until we picked up the orange paint again. (Mickey: Another good catch by Amanda!) The trail did turn and shortly after the turn, we punched CP15, which had no flag, on a downhill.
That was the last CP, but the end was still not in sight. We still had to make it around the end of the lake and back to the dining hall to finish. At different places on the trail, we saw foot prints and tire tracks so we thought Off the Front may had found the trail easier than we did (it would have been difficult to take a worse route than us) and gotten ahead of us. We tried to loosely follow the trail markings, but they weren’t much help due to the condition of the trail. We went through a marshy area where we had to practically throw our bikes across the water and then jump after them to get across. I shortly gave up that strategy and started walking through the water, as my feet were already soaked. After more thorn bushes and more cursing, which I’ll leave out because Scott thinks kids visit the blog, we saw buildings. We had one more steep, brushy hill to make it up and then we pushed our bikes around the back-side of the dining hall. We were told that we finished first, which was great news, but we knew that Scott and Neil, had a bonus point that we didn’t get. They arrived about 15 minutes after us and they did, in fact, have one more point than we did, so they won. I am still incredibly happy with our second place finish (first in 2P coed, but we may have been the only ones in that division) and I’m proud at the way Mickey and I worked as a team and kept pushing through that last hour even though we were both incredibly frustrated with the difficulties through the last section. (Mickey: There’s been a lot of joking throughout this race report. But, seriously… For anyone wondering, Amanda is one seriously tough chick. Yes, we did some towing on the bike. And, yes, I may have occasionally carried her pack for her on the trekking section. That’s just good strategy and her being smart enough to accept help when it made the team faster. But, she totally impressed me with the way she pushed through on the last section of the race. We did a TON of bikewhacking, some of which was completely fruitless & deflating, but she powered through it all, and kept her head in the game until the very end. Respect.)After lots of burgers, brats, and Gatorade, Mickey, Dave, Jules, and I received our TeamBOR balls and Mickey and I got our medals for winning our division.
We then had a TeamBOR group shower. Just kidding. Kind of. We were in different stalls, I promise. While I was getting ready to shower, I found a bunch of sticks and, surprisingly, my compass, in my sports bra, where I had forgotten I stashed it because I didn’t have any pockets handy. We made plans to meet in Hannibal for food and drinks. On the way, Mickey and I sent pictures of ourselves with our medals on to our teammates to remind them how awesome we are. We also wore them at dinner in case anybody forgot. (Mickey: We really were pretty awesome. ☺ )