Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Equinox Travese: I Sort of Hated It But Am Glad I Did It, Part II

So where was I?

That's right, blazing knockers.

We so loved the rappel. Alas, no pictures apparently exist of us loving it, so you are stuck with a photo of us running back to transition.

One day our legs will not resemble twigs and we will acquire a muscle. Today was not that day, however.

We tossed (or, gently placed, as I was using a borrowed climbing helmet) our climbing gear into the trunk and I was thrilled at how organized I was -- knowing I'd be drippy from the paddle, I'd organized a change of clothes, complete with Body Glide and a pre-lubed sports bra. No chafing was my pre-race mantra.

I yanked off my tri shorts, and pulled on some bike shorts for a grand total of 1 second of nakedness. Pulled off my jersey and sports bra, grabbed the Body Glide, pulled off the top and began to apply to the girls. Except it was hot out. And the Body Glide had been in the trunk of my car. Molten Body Glide poured down the boobs and all over the trunk and outside of my car at a temp of about a trillion degrees.

It was sort of awful. I yelled.

Bill, however, laughed. And laughed.

Glad I could amuse him.

In front of us was a 15-mile trek back to the bikes. We started off sort of slowly, up a steep, steep and also steep technical trail. We eventually found ourselves well above the river we'd slowly paddled down and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the hills and the water. Nice.

Soon we had a navigation decision to make -- take the longer route along the trail or dive down back to the river, swim across and run back on a flat, gravel trail. The longer route was probably safer, and I am not a risk taker. But I was already sort of grumpy and just wanted to get it over with, even though we still had up to 40 hours of "racing" ahead of us.

Bill basically left the decision up to me. But I am married to him and all, so I knew what he wanted to do and decided to suck it up.

"Let's do the river thing, " I sad, while grabbing a map from him to make sure the route made sense to me.

It did, and we barreled down a steep jeep road until it ended and crossed railroad tracks. We found ourselves in front of a 30-yard bushwack to the river. It didn't look bad at all, and from what we could tell on the map we were going to be crossing at one of the narrowest points of the river.

Then I heard a noise. Sort of sounded like a giant cricket right in front of me. Except it was still daytime. The sun was slowly setting, but totally still light out. I looked down about 5 feet in front of us just as Bill did.

This is what we chorused:
Bill: Sweet! Awesome! A rattle snake! I wish we had a camera!
Me: Rattle snake! Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. It's going to kill us. I want to kill it. A damn rattle snake. I hate snakes. God, is it gone!? Get me the hell out of here. I quit. I am going home and taking up knitting. I HATE THIS.

Bill: What part? The snake part, or all of it?
Me: All of it. I just want to be done.

At that point in the race, it' was sort of like saying you want to be done at the 800 meter mark of a 5k. But our only options were to work our way up the few miles we'd just barreled down or bushwack and cross.

So cross it was.

The bushwack was fairly easy. We worked our way down to the river quickly and decided that crossing looked more solid about 100 meters upriver. We bushwacked a bit more and then I hopped into the water with my pack on my back. And I sunk like a stone. I went under and realized that my pack was preventing me from doing anything even close to a swim. I worked my way back to the surface and Bill basically grabbed me by the face, pulling me back to the bank.

I'll follow you into the park, through the jungle and through the dark, moats and boats and waterfalls.

But the song forgot the part about rattlesnakes and drowning in a river with a backpack on your back.

"Uh, I don't think I can do this with a pack, " I said. "And it's really deep."

Bill liked the challenge, fortunately, and clipped my pack to his front, encouranging me to just swim across.

So I did. It was fine. While narrow, the river was a bit over my head for much of the way but I was able to step on a few boulders and didn't have to exceed my meager swim skills. Bill zoomed across and we scrambled up the river bank, he tossed me my pack and we started to run on the easy trail.

We still had about 6 miles to go of just straight running. In a road race this would have been cake, but in an adventure race I tend to mentally prepare myself for the fun of changing terrain, pauses to glance at maps, something other than the feeling of plodding along on the treadmill.

We reasoned that we were decent runners and that running would make the boring be over sooner so we mostly ran (we did a few sections of 5 minutes of running with two minutes of walking) until we got back to our bikes.

And miracle of miracles, we'd gotten ahead of a ton of teams, thanks to our decision to cross the river. We found ourselves more toward the front of the pack, working our way up from second to last.

This is the face I make after seeing a rattlesnake.

We refilled our water, ate some of our stashed food, threw on our bike shoes and helmets and were on our way through the small town of Confluence. We stumbled upon Val and Russel and traveled with them and a solo racer who was along for the ride. Then Russel's back bike wheel basically fell off. We tried to help them think of ways to fix it, but we were amazingly unhelpful so we decided to continue on.

We acquired the solo. Turns out his name was (and still is) Kevin, just like our cat. We rode hard-ish for about an hour and then realized we had no idea where we were. We stared and stared at the map for what felt like hours. I tried to Magic Eye it, like the way were supposed to go would just pop to the surface. A bored truck driver eventually pulled over -- fortunately he, and the lady of the night he had with him, was amazingly friendly. He told us where we were -- basically right were we started. Somehow we managed to do something terrible. We went in a 15-mile circle and ended up just a few miles east of Confluence.

AYFKM? FML. WTF. And all the rest. And then it got dark.

We regrouped, relocated and, thanks to the hand-drawn map that turned out to be the most useful navigational tool we had all weekend, were eventually on our way.

Finding CP 6 was quite the event.

"Kevin, this is one of the most amazing moments we have had in our marriage, and I am happy you could be here with us for this event," I said.

"It's a privilege," said Kevin.

I had never been so happy to see an orienteering punch in my entire life. I wanted to kiss it, but I was too tired and grumpy. Surprisingly, other teams pulled into the CP as we were on our way out. I was entirely demoralized, but at least I had company.

On to CP 7 we went. Except not.

Disaster. Complete disaster.

To make a long slog with the bikes short:
Labyrinth. We overshot where we thought we should be. We found where we thought we should be. We rode up, down and over hills, convinced we were well on our way. As were the other teams around us. As was Kevin. We were, in fact, well on our way in the wrong direction. Terrible. We realized we were lost and we figured out where we were but we had no idea how to get where we needed to be. It was cold. It was dark. It was the middle of the night. I had on every article of clothing I had brought, plus a giant shirt of Bill's on top. I still shivered and shivered. I reminded myself that we promised each other that we wouldn't drop out when it was dark -- the sun always makes things seem better.

After much staring at the map, some napping, some eating and drinking and a bit after sunrise, we pulled into CP 7. I couldn't have cared less.

"How are you guys doing?," an enthusiastic volunteer asked.

"Terrible. This is boring. I am not having fun. Can we quit here and have you guys drive us to the finish?." I whined.

"Uhhh... you will regeret it if you drop out," the volunteer said. "Are you healthy? Are you feeling okay? Just keep going."

We learned we were short-coursed and would be re-routed past an optional bike and orienteering section. Fine by me and my surly self.

"Dude, this is the worst race ever. I'm not having fun. I hate this."

Fortunatey this CP had plumbing and Bill went to resupply our water. I sat on a rock and made sure I was as pissed off as humanly possible. I pulled out my cell phone (I'd say it was against the rules, but we never actually got any race rules/guidelines/etc. and even if it was I couldn't have cared less at the time).

I texted Abby.

"I am not having fun. This is boring. We got lost. The worst."

Me pointing at my imaginary friend.
I asked Bill if we could drop out. He said no. The next CP, he said, was close. He showed it to me on a map. It did look close. He promised we could drop out there if I wanted. I agreed and we got back on the bikes. Bill was right. We easily found the next CP, and then the next, pulling into a manned transition to an orienteering couse. "What do you want to do?," he asked.
My smile lies. I was grumpy as hell.

"Let's go get one point, and then quit," I said. He agreed, and Kevin seemed happy to follow along, glad that we were no longer wandering aimlessly around. We looked at the O course, changed into our runing shoes, dumped all non-mandatory gear and were on our way.

Does this backpack make my ass look fat?

This photo marks the first time I've ever used a map in a race all on my own
like a big girl, understood where we were and how to get where we needed to go.
Thanks to the random dude who followed us around with a camera to capture this
major event in human history.
We snagged an optional point pretty easily, Kevin carrying my pack for a bunch of the way because my back was starting to hate me. On our way back to transition Bill began to stagger like a drunkard. He tipped over and immediately fell asleep in the shade. Kevin pulled over to call the missus and I sat down, too hot and too covered in flies to try to sleep. My left foot hurt. I pulled off my sock and shoe. A giant blister  on the bottom of my foot in the shape of Florida, panhandle and all, shined up at me. Grody. Bill was using his pack that contained the first aid kit as a pillow and I felt bad waking him up to snag our blister popping materials.

Kevin didn't have any, but he did have a knife and some alcohol swabs. I swabbed the knife, swabbed the blister and stabbed the knife into the bottom of my foot. Nothing. I pushed harder. Nothing.

"I don't think I can do this,"  I said to Kevin. "It's soooo gross!"

"Just stab harder," he encouraged.

So I did. I pushed the knife until it broke the skin. What happened next was so amazingly disgusting I am throwing up in my mouth as I write this -- pus flew out and landed on sleeping Bill's leg. Like, ounces. But my foot immediately felt amazingly better.

"I feel bad for covering Bill in foot pus," I whispered to Kevin.

"I am guessing he will wash those pants before he wears them again anyway," Kevin offered.

Good point. We woke Bill and were on our way back to transition where I announced to race officials that we were dropping out. They stared at me and told us to go sit inside for a bit. So we did. I was tired. I was hot. I was completely apathetic as to what happened next.

"Can we be done?," I asked Bill.

"It's entirely up to you," he said.

Worst answer ever. He was clearly willing and able to continue but my apathy was getting the best of me. We had three options: Continue on and try for an official finish, bike back to the finish without snagging any more points or wait around for someone to drive us back to our cars. The race people told us it would be about 8 hours until we could hitch a ride.

All options sucked. Trying to finish sounded impossible. Biking back to the finish with nothing to show for it sounded pointless. Waiting around for hours for a ride while other teams came and went on their way sounded demoralizing enough to quit the sport forever.

You already know that we finished. To find out how we got there Part III will be flung your way at some point in the future.


Mallory said...

That body glide does not sound fun....

Kate said...

OK, I actually read this at work, which will let me read your blog but then throws up the block when I go to comment, but I laughed so hard that I had to come back and comment tonight. The part where you're popping the blister and whispering to Kevin made me laugh out loud. You're a heck of a storyteller.