At 5:15 or so (I’d taken off my watch about 8 hours in and had lost track of time) Sunday morning team Bees’ Knees crossed the finish line of the Rev3 Epic Adventure Race, soaking wet, chilly, slathered in mud and happy.
And not in last place, either.
It only took me one mental near-meltdown, seven Gus, a bag of beef jerky, three bags of peanut M&Ms, two hotdogs, three slices of pizza, two Stinger waffles (my new favorite race food, delicious, packed with calories), three Snickers bars, four containers of Pringles, one packet of Sharkies, eight mini powdered sugar donuts, four string cheeses, one single gummie bear, 100 ounces of water, three bottles of Heed, two packs of instant Starbucks coffee, one bottle of Five-Hour Energy, two raincoats and three lovely teammates to get me there.
Fortunately, my mental near-meltdown came a day before the race actually started. Usually it happens at about hour 20 of a 24-hour race, but I guess it was for the best that I freaked out a bit before we even left our house – got it out of the way early.
Bill, Val and I headed down to Virginia Friday morning. Along the way we learned that, due to high water levels that hadn’t crested yet and more rain on the way the paddle portion had been cancelled. A bit disappointing but not as disappointing as getting washed away forever in a raging river would have been.
We met up with B.J. (and B.J. and Val met for the first time ever). Check-in was as straightforward as any 24-hour race could have been. No gear check, maps already plotted, straightforward instructions and a few warnings about the weather (flash flood, tornado and thunderstorm warnings for most of the day and an inch or two of rain) and we were off to organize gear, eat pizza and sleep before the 7:30 start Saturday morning.
I actually slept a bit – better than I usually do before a race. Woke up to a bit of rain, some donuts, coffee and a banana and the Bees’ Knees headed to the start in Shenandoah State Park.
Our cars would serve as our transition area, giving us easy access (perhaps too easy) to all of our junk, food and dry clothing a ton of times throughout the race. For an unsupported race it was about as supported as it could get.
After a quick pre-race meeting we were off. A 3-mile gearless run on straightforward trails through the park to a checkpoint where passports for the first bike leg were handed out. It was tough for me to keep the adrenaline in check – I wanted to sprint off but knew that wasn’t wise as hours and hours and miles and miles were ahead of us.
We were back in transition soon enough to pick up our bikes. After my first public pee for the day (I’ve never been so naked so many times in public in my life as I was for this race) we were off for a 55-mile ride on real roads and a few gravely patches. The original course had called for the bike to be along Skyline Drive but the possible government shutdown last week and a last-minute permit denial led to a new course designed just a few days before the race.
We moved along fine, first crossing a bridge that was mostly under water as the rain began to fall harder. And then harder. I had on an UnderArmour base, arm warmers, bike jersey, bike cap, helmet, raincoat, bike shorts, thermal bike tights, ski socks and lobster gloves along with activated hand warmers strategically placed in pockets, in my cap, in my gloves – sounds excessive but I knew that once I got cold I’d never get warm.
After about two miles we were splattered in mud. I laughed at B.J., whose face seemed to be completely covered, until Bill and Val pointed out that every inch of my head was apparently buried in mud.
Our pace was decent enough and I felt solid on the climbs – when I got a bit tired I’d think of the hours in the basement on the trainer and the miles of hill repeats, reminding myself that the climbs in front of me were what I’d trained for and I was able to get going again. Managed to coordinate pee breaks with B.J. punching the checkpoints. To anyone out for a rainy but scenic drive on Saturday morning in Virginia, I am sorry that my half-naked self was part of your view.
I was cozy in my 8 trillion layers and my hands were actually warm despite the fact that the gloves were sopping wet. REI Novara lobster gloves, I salute you.
The downhills were fantastic – we’d crest the hills and then stay off our brakes, zooming down at speeds in the high 30s. Probably not the most wise thing I’ve ever done considering the pounding rain, but we fortunately all made it down safely.
A special shout-out to Val who, I am pretty sure, set a mountain bike landspeed record on the last descent, prompted by rumbling thunder and increasing wind. She wanted off that mountain and the rest of us followed close behind.
We pulled into a parking lot that was originally the site of the put-in for the paddle. Instead of riding the river we rode in a van, our bikes towed behind, back to transition. The van was the best thing ever. Warm. Warm. Warm. Also warm. And dry. I downed about 900 calories during the 30-minute ride back to transition and felt just about totally fresh by the time we reached transition.
We had about 6 miles of trekking to two checkpoints ahead of us before heading out on the actual orienteering course. The two points seemed random, not challenging (on roads and my directionally challenged self probably could have found them without assistance) and were sort of boring, but they were mandatory so off we went. The first point involved crossing the bridge that we’d ridden over to start the bike. Water was even higher than earlier in the day and we carefully worked our way across. By the time we snagged the second point the race directors closed the first point out of concern for the rapidly rising water.
We found ourselves back at the car and absolutely drenched. Amazingly, the rain stopped and the sun peeked out a bit. Bees’ Knees and the other teams in transition stopped and stared, muddy faces turned upward toward the sunshine. People cheered. People clapped. It was clear, however, that this respite was temporary as dark clouds were working quickly to cover the sun.
I considered completely changing my clothing. My bike shorts were disgustingly soaked and everything else was covered in mud. More public nudity? I looked around – Bill and B.J. were plotting points for the O section, Val was refilling water bottles. And then I realized that the navigator for the team set up across from us was sitting in the tailgate of his SUV plotting. Naked. Entirely naked, hanging out in a trunk, plotting. That was a first.
So inspired, off everything came, peeled off layer by nasty layer. On the dry stuff slowly went. At one point Bill looked up from the map and saw me standing there with nothing on but a pair of ski socks.
“Are you just going to wear that for the foot section?” he asked.
Much to his dismay I pulled on a pair of tri shorts, running tights, dry ski socks, trail runners, a base layer, another bike jersey, dry arm warmers and a hat. Bliss! I felt so warm and cozy. We packed a bit more food, and, as an afterthought, I threw my Gore-tex jacket into my pack on top of my already wet raincoat, just in case.
Off we headed for 7 or so hours on foot, packed with all sorts of highs and lows…
I need to catch up on some sleep before heading back to the job tomorrow. Don’t go anywhere though – part two of this riveting, photoless, long-winded race report will be up soon.