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Primal Quest 2003

September 5th-14th, 2003
Lake Tahoe, California
By Sheila Reiter, Team Eco Austin

This morning, Thursday 09/18/03, I read the race report sent out by Steve Daniel of Team Vignette. At the end of the race there was so much of what had transpired that I had already forgotten that I was so very impressed by the level of detail he could recount. So I've decided to edit/plagiarize what Steve sent to try and include more of the race than my own sleep deprived gray matter seemed to retain.

The Subaru Primal Quest (SPQ) is an expedition length adventure race. For those who don't know, adventure racing is a multidiscipline sport with events having base disciplines of trekking, land navigation, mountain biking, paddling and some sort of ropes course. Expedition length usually refers to races longer than 3 days. The 2003 SPQ was a 10 day race that included all the disciplines above plus caving, orienteering, and a scooter section.

How we got there

How we got there is a multi-part story. From the day that Vignette successfully got a slot in the registration lottery, I had race envy. I supported Vignette at SPQ last year and knew that I could not support again. I would have to be in the race. Teams are always looking for female teammates with certifications but I did not want to race with strangers. From last year's support crew, Rob Butler got a waiting list spot in the lottery and Steve Daniel would be on Vignette's team. Another friend Brian Rooney got a lottery spot but work and illness put his spot up for grabs. It is a convoluted tail but Rob Butler took Brian's spot and joined up with the Rattlesnake racing group to form a team. I was offered Rob's waiting list spot. It was something like 20th. The staff at SPQ told me to assemble a team and start training like I was going.

I knew my friend and racing partner Art Cook would be up for it and would be moving back to Texas from Colorado in time for us to do some training together. One down. I then called John Beard of the original Vignette in France where he is currently living with his wife Marcy. I knew he could not stay away. Two down. Knowing how weak I am on foot, I really wanted to finish the team with another male, someone I knew preferably, but no one was available. Meanwhile, my racing friends were telling me to contact Robyn Cantor, a very strong local female - someone I knew but had not raced with. I did and she agreed. Next support crew. I put out emails to the lists I knew and put up notices at Bicycle Sport Shop. A long-time Austin friend Wanda Hubbard was retiring from UT had some time and volunteered. Kelly Oden who works at the bike shop and has family in the Lake Tahoe area also jumped on board. Team Eco Austin complete!

So we started training (minus John) - boring, necessary stuff. A couple of 24 hour and one 36 hour session intermixed with a lot of ropes work. Thank you Brian Rooney for all the rope set ups.

About 3 months before the race we received the call that we were off the waiting list and were going to Tahoe. That's when we found out that Robyn is claustrophobic. Did I mention the caving section?

The logistics of going to a race like this are enormous. There was so much surfing of the Internet for the cheapest most appropriate gear. So much to assemble, not just for ourselves to race but also for our support crew to live and take care of us for 10 days. Art bought a conversion van and we borrowed a trailer. Kip of Vignette also bought a van and a trailer. It was with both vehicles that gear, racers and support for 2 teams traveled to Tahoe (thank goodness a couple flew in).

We arrived on Sunday night August 31st and stayed at a hotel a block from race headquarters and just up the block from the race start. We spent most of our time the next several days organizing gear either for the race or for the skills testing. For skills testing the race organizers had our team ascend then rappel the face of a 6 story parking garage - we all did quite well. We then had to do water skills with a long swim in the cold water of Lake Tahoe and various maneuvers using the boats we would use in the race; a 4 person sit-on-top kayak and 2 person inflatable kayaks for the white water. Robyn and I found that girls with breasts wearing lifejackets (pfd's) can't get back into the inflatable boats. A very funny thing to watch.

Race start - Paddle (Start - CP3/TA1 35 miles)

The race was to start with a 35 mile paddle on Lake Tahoe in the 4-person boats. After a restless night, we were up early for the 8:30 am start. We were to go to the beach, rig our sail on our assigned boat and receive the emergency phone and GPS that we were to carry with us for the whole race. The morning was clear and the mountains surrounding the lake were beautiful. Along the beach were 85 boats ready to start.

Upon arriving at the beach we received instructions that 2 team members would paddle the boat about 100 yards out into the lake to a buoy and wait. The other 2 would run down the beach and swim to the boat. John and Art agreed to be the swimmers. I did not envy them as it was a very chilly morning and the water was cold. John of course shot off with the gun and so Art was pooped by the time they had to swim. Robyn and I waived yellow jackets in the air for them to see. We ended up being in the last 10 boats to be off - but we were off and there were many days of racing to go.

I was in first position in the boat, followed by Art, then Robyn, then John as rudder man. I set a pace that I thought was strong but maintainable for 35 miles. We are not a paddling team but passed a couple of boats then pretty much just held our pace. We did see team Rattlesnake and stayed with them for a while. It was soon apparent they were just on cruise and close to the 2nd check point (CP) they sailed away and we did not see them again during the race (another story I'll leave to them for the telling). As with all the disciplines in a race this long, you tire of doing what ever you are doing long before you get to change to something else. This paddle was just the first example of this. I personally was sore in the butt before we got to #2 of the 3 CP's.

Near disaster going southwest from CP2 to CP3, the finish of the paddle section. Kelly's father (Joe was a valuable part of our crew for a short time and provided great local info) had warned us of winds from the south in the afternoon. Soon after leaving CP2 the winds picked up and within a short time were blowing hard in our faces. There were 3 foot waves with whitecaps crashing over the boat - front position was now a very sucky place to be. We were paddling hard only occasionally taking necessary breaks to rest, eat or drink. There was a feature on land off to the west that I kept watching and for a good while it seemed as though we were not making headway. We saw teams in the distance sending off distress flares and soon found out why. We came across more than one boat swamped and sinking. Some teams were hanging off the sides trying to bail their cargo holds between waves. Other teams were assisted by the rescue boats. Rescue staff would haul up the swamped kayaks and drain them and send the teams back on their way or they would tow the teams to shore. The towed teams would receive a 1.5 hour penalty to be served on shore. We determined that the heavier the team, the lower the boat rode in the water and so was taking on more water through the cargo hatches. We were lucky in that we all weighted 140-150 and our boat road fairly flat and high.

We finally made it to shore a long 9 hours after we had started. We were all shaking terribly and still had to unload the boat, drain it and then carry it about mile up hill to our first transition area (TA) and waiting crew. The crew was great. We quickly had warm soup, a warm van to change in and dry clothes. I have no idea how long we were there but moved as quickly as we could to transition to the next leg on the scooter.

Final notes about the first paddle - Art never hit me in the head. Peeing in a boat while paddling is not natural. When a race organizer hands you a piece of electronics and says don't worry, we've made it water proof, don't believe them.

Kickbike (CP3/TA1 - CP4/TA2 28 miles)

The next section of the race allowed racers to travel on foot, by roller blade or scooter; the method was our choice.

Our team chose scooters. A race in the mountains seemed like a bad time to learn how to roller blade. Three of us decided on Kickbikes. Technically a scooter, the Kickbike has a road bike (700cc) front tire and a recumbent bike (16") back tire. Most scooters have tiny rollerblade like wheels. It also had brakes, which is an advantage on the down hill sections as compared to rollerblades. Although a team that can roller blade well is slightly faster than a Kickbike, not too many teams were great at rollerblading. Art choose a different scooter called a Xooter. The Xooter has 8" wheels, is not quite as fast on a downhill but faster on the climbs so he was going at the same overall rate as the rest of us.

We rolled out just as it was getting dark, maybe 7:00 ish. Overall this was a very fun section. We traveled on a nicely paved bike path first along a wooded highway but then along the Trukee River, and up and over Donner Pass. The only real problem was that John injured his wrist during the paddle - a tendon over use type of strain and was in some pain. This would be a recurring problem for him. Robyn and I had some wrist problems during this section as well but as I recall they went away.

Bike (CP4/TA2 - CP9/TA3 130+ miles)

At the top of Donner Pass our wonderful support crew once again greeted us. The Kickbike leg had taken a bit longer than we thought. Seems like I had to stop every 2 seconds to go to the bathroom (one end or the other - a persistent nuisance throughout the race) and the hike up Donner was slow going.

At this transition we decided to sleep. I stayed up too long working with gear as this was the first bike transition and the crew did not know where some things were. I got about 30 minutes where the rest of the team got an hour or more. This would be a big problem later in this leg.

From lack of sleep, there is a lot about this section that is fuzzy. What I remember is the first leg out to CP5 being a long descent on a bumpy rutted jeep road, Soda Springs road I think. We all took this more slowly than I would have liked but I personally hated my helmet light and felt I could not see well enough to pick up speed. I don't remember CP5 or much of the ride from there to CP6 - there might have been a CP in a park in there somewhere. I know that we climbed for an entire day. I don't know how that is possible but it is what we did. During the heat of the day John was having problems and I was sleep bonking. We stopped 2 times for 20 minute power naps. John ended up taking the pack off of the back of my bike during this time. I found you just can't move when you are that tired.

From CP6 to CP7 we saw a sign for Uncle Tom's cabin; have no idea what that is. Later we were blessed with Robb's Icehouse where we got water, snacks and a hamburger!

More road riding got us through CP8 where we had to take the Pony Express Trail. We seemed to have some trouble finding the trail head and made some false starts but eventually found our way. We saw teams on this section that were suffering from hydration issues caused by the day's heat. One team had to call for medical aid at this point with a member having severe nausea. Here it was Art's turn to need sleep. I think we pepped him up with some food. His bike shoes became the causality of this leg and had to be duck taped to his feet to keep the soles on. After the Pony Express Trail we got to be on good jeep road for a while and then forked off to a bike carry fest. We had to slog up a mountainside drainage called an OHV (off road high clearance vehicle) road. We carried our bikes up huge wet rocky ledges for hours. At one point John and I stopped to let Robyn catch up and he just fell over and slept with his bike on top of him. Amazing, that boy can fall asleep in a second. Just when we thought we were lost, we found another team and exchanged notes. We were indeed on the right track and soon were cruising a sweet decent down to the hwy that would take us into CP9 and TA3. Hm 20 minutes of fun for 17hours of pain?

Trekking (CP9/TA3 - CP11/TA4 30 miles if you did it right)

We had a pretty good transition here going from bike to hike. Good food, out of the bike shorts - yippee! The leader board read that Vignette was in 16th place, Scree as always was nearby, but no word of Rattlesnake or Steel Sports. Looked like the Texas race was in a jumble.

We were fortunate in this section to have purchased a South Lake Tahoe Basin topo map from the forest service. The race map did not have contours or elevation. Many teams had trouble finding the small valley lake that was CP10. We had trouble as well. John was not accustomed to the scale and the surrounding features were difficult. Once we settled down and John really studied the features he was able to determine where the lake was. This point took us longer than we would have liked.

After CP10 we had one long-ass hike to CP11. I learned later there were some things we could have done to shorten it like cutting switchbacks. There was one really long down hill portion on pavement that was murder on the legs. On this leg Art and Robyn were feeling pretty good and hiking way ahead of me and John. The two of us took turns swerving into near ditches or off hillsides. At one point, John promised me CP11 was only a mile and away. When a team passed us going the other way on their bikes and told me that it was more like 2 , I laid right down on the road desperately wanting to sleep. Of course John came by and pulled me up and on we went.

Again our wonderful crew fed us and caught us up on the latest news at the CP. Seems like Kelly was the most popular bike guy in town. We crawled in the van for some much needed solid sleep.

Orienteering (CP11/TA4 - CP12 10-15 miles?)

Our next section was a 5-7 mile (they said) orienteering section where 8 points were placed in the forest that we were to find. Each point had a special punch on it that we had to punch through a wrist band to prove that we had been to that point. We decided on an early start for the orienteering and left the TA around 4:30 am. John brought along the dive light that proved to be very helpful finding that first point in the dark. We went first to point H and used the light to determine the correct hilltop. The next closest point would have required too much bushwhacking so we decided to go out of our way and go for points that were closer to features like creeks or roads.

On our way down from H we ran into Vignette. They looked awful. Steve was walking like a cowboy, Jason and Kathy each had an arm in a sling, Kip just looked unhappy. Knowing that they had been up at the front, I knew it was not a good sign that we were running into them here. No time to find out what happened. We stopped long enough for them to give us some nav advice, a kiss from Jason and we parted ways.

Overall, we really enjoyed this section and found all the points so had no penalty. Some took longer than others. The last 2 points were in the most beautiful spots along a river. We had a blast getting them; getting wet and using the river as a trail to point F and climbing up this huge granite wall leaving point G. In hind site, I don't know if we should have gone for all the points. It took us a total of 14 hours, twice as long as the first place team. Maybe the penalty would have been the strategic thing to do.

CP12 was the same location as CP11 so we were again with our crew and transitioning back to the bike.

Bike to Ropes (CP12 - CP16 12 miles)

It was a terrible bike ride, mostly downhill, freezing cold, and on a very bumpy road full of potholes. We had completely slick tires on our bikes filled to 100psi anticipating a leg with only paved roads. I was a nervous wreck by the time we arrived at CP13, the bike drop for the ropes section.

I don't know how the communication gap started, but it seemed I never saw travel instructions until I had a question. I see now that the travel instructions make it clear that we would have to find our way to the base of the ropes ascent at Calaveras Dome. But at the time I was very confused by the volunteer's lack of direction. I was told "I think racers are leaving their bikes over there and I think they are heading off that way" It turns out the way to the ascent base was a bushwhacking, bouldering experience. Some racers Art talked to at the bike drop (the racers that would talk to him) had been trying to find it for up to 8 hours - going out and searching and coming back to rest. I saw Vignette's bikes there; it was nice to know Jason was near by.

Climbing

Art and John did a great job of finding a path up to the ascent. They would go up a ways and come back for me and Robyn. It took us 2 hours but we finally got to the base. What we found there were racers sleeping in space blankets waiting their turn on the rope. The current wait for us to start was 45 minutes. We were lucky. Teams arriving earlier in the day had 4 to 6 hour waits.

I took one look at that rock face and knew I could not do the ascend. You had the option of "walking around". You had to go with a teammate and there would be a 3 hour penalty for each of you. Art was good enough to "walk" with me. We waited until Robyn was well under way and JB was about to start. The walk was in actuality the most dangerous bushwhack I have ever done. We followed glow sticks and flagging up the mountainside. There was no trail. We clung to anything rooted and sometimes just dug our feet in the dirt and hoped for the best. Oh ya, did I mention poison oak all over the place?

It took 2 hours for Art and I to get to the top. Robyn was not there yet so we climbed in our space blankets and tried to get some sleep. I picked a bad spot as a team was making a ton of noise right next to me. I got up and moved but Robyn showed up not too much later. John was not far behind. I think it took Robyn about 4 hours to do the 1000ft ascent. John had waited an hour before starting up on the same rope and finished closely behind her. His wrist had been a big problem on the ascent. We quickly got our things together and started the trek to the top of the rappel. There were 2 teams in front of us. One of course was Scree, ever our company during the race. The ascent had worn Robyn out and the wait at the top of the rappel gave her a good 45min to an hour sleep. John and I teamed up for the rappel. You had to be lanyarded to a teammate on the rope next to you for extra safety. The rappel was 575ft. Because of the weight of the rope beneath us, for the first 250 feet we had to physically pull the rope through our rappel devices. After that it got much easier and because of John's confidence, I was able to relax some and yes, I did sneak a peek or two on the way down.

Robyn and Art came down after us and John snapped pictures as they descended. The trek back down to the bikes was every bit as awful as the treks up. I literally slid down on the sides of my feet for an hour. Since I did not expect trekking during the ropes section, my feet suffered during this section - a price I would pay later.

Bike to the next TA (CP16 - CP17/TA5)

The bike ride from CP16 to CP17 is somewhat of a blur. It was a long climb back on the same dirt road we had descended the night before. The road eventually became paved but eventually we came to a fork where one option that looked shorter was dirt and the longer option was paved. Not often as team captain did I make lone decisions, but here I said no dirt. The tires we were using were just too dangerous to be on that road especially in our condition. Of course we had run into Scree at this intersection. As they had knobby tires on they took the dirt road.

The road we took was the most monotonous ride I'd ever done. We were on a forest road and the only variation in terrain was that the road would curve to the left or right or maybe rise up or descend. At one point I remember saying "There it is" and John said "what?". I turns out I was sound asleep, staring at the road having a dream that we were on the way to a girl's house named Kelly and that we had arrived. I called a stop right then. We all took Vivarin and slept for 20 minutes hoping that when we woke it would start having an effect. John and I did not do well with Vivarin overall. For both of us, we would bonk hard after about 2 hours. We did not take it again. This was also the only day that it rained. We found some shelter at a closed forest service office where we put on rain gear and got water.

Caving/Orienteering (CP17/TA5 - CP18/TA6)

Our team was in a time crunch to beat the course cutoff of noon the next day to start the whitewater section. If we missed that cutoff the officials would take us off the course put us on a shorter course. We had a great transition. Just 30 minutes and we were fed and packed up. We left the TA at a trot with me already in tow behind John. This section had 9 points and was structured similar to the previous orienteering section. We had to find 5 points to move on as a ranked team and each point missed was a 2 hour penalty. We would just go for the 5 here.

We arrived at the orienteering site quickly and to the first point. It was a cave that for environmental reasons, only 2 team members would go into. As caving was Robyn's "big boodie nightmare", we stayed behind while the boys went. They would only be gone about 20 minutes and we used that time to chat with the landowner. He was very friendly and excited to have the racers on his land. He just took our map and told us the best routes to get to each of the next 4 checkpoints. When the boys came out we had the route ready and off we went.

We did have some nav trouble and it took us way too long to get to the next point. It was the one time Robyn and I said boys, we are going this way. We did 2 other caves in this section. One we had to belly crawl through a small tunnel for about 10 feet, then crouch in a bit larger area for about 8 feet, then we could stand a walk for another 12 feet and then crawled out again. Robyn was a real trooper and sang the song her son wrote for her. The last cave was really just a tunnel through a small hillside. The checkpoint was hanging in the center of the tunnel and the landowner told us the fastest way to our last point was to go all the way through. We had some trouble finding our last point, scrambling through some unpleasant brambles and of course more poison oak. Art had a very exciting ride down a rock slide.

We got our 5 points and headed back to the TA. At this TA, Jason joined us as a crew member. His team had withdrawn for reasons I did not have time to find out.

I called for a 2 hour sleep here even though we were in a critical time period. John was silly from lack of sleep. It was helpful having Jason here as he has raced so much with John - he was John's caregiver. The crew was awesome as usual. Knowing the time constraints, they forced us into the van and had stout coffee waiting 2 hours later.

Bike to water put in (CP18 - CP19/TA7)

We actually had a fun bike to the water put in. There was a lot of climbing but I just sat on the bike and did my 3.7 mph spin. We stopped once for some fantastic coffee and a scone. We were joined at this stop by Scree of course and Team Fred. We chatted for a bit but were soon back underway, still wanting to beat the time cutoff with some margin. The descent into Placerville and then the Chili Bar TA was fantastic. We screamed down hill for what seemed like forever averaging 35 mph on beautiful winding highway. There was no shoulder and some traffic, but hey, you can't have everything.

We pulled into CP19 at 9:45 am; time for a nice transition before setting off on the water.

Whitewater/Flatwater (CP19/TA7 - CP21/TA8)

What a nice TA! Kelly and Wanda had the Ritz set up for us when we arrived with Kelly was making breakfast tacos. Jason had gone back into Tahoe but arrived before we left. This section was my "big boodie nightmare". I've had almost no experience with white water and a veteran female adventure racer recently died on a whitewater section. Dry suit on, I teamed up with Art; Robyn and John together, and off we went.

John told me to expect at least 6 class 3 rapids and many class 2. Class 3 is very big, at least to me. At the 2nd one, Art and I came around a corner and saw only the bottom of John and Robyn's boat. They had swamped. We pulled out to an eddy and waited. Rescue kayakers gathered up the boat and John's helmet. Robyn had been stuck in a hole; an underwater hydraulic and had a few tense moments. I'm not sure how it spit her out but it did. When the kayakers handed her John's helmet, apparently she just blurted "Where is John?". I believe he was happily floating down stream at the time. We all re-gathered and went on our way. It seemed like there were a ton of rapids so we were always busy. I think I even started to relax and have some fun. I did insist that Art and I portage around a class 3+ called Satin's something or other. It was a short portage that John and Art were good sports about.

At the end of the white water was CP20. We saw a bunch of teams there resting and sleeping, waiting for the wind to die down before starting the flat water paddle on the reservoir. The inflatable boats we were in are great for bouncing around in rapids but suck terribly in flat water. We too waited. Robyn got some sleep; Art probably whished he could have. He and Robyn had colds from the start of the race and every time Art tried to sleep, his cough would wake him up.

Once the wind died down we prepared to leave. Here, John discovered he had forgotten the map for the flat water section. I have raced with John before and we did the same thing. Funny how you swear not to repeat mistakes. We found that Scree was at the same CP and we agreed to follow them across the flat water with Leslie doing nav for her team. John took a look at their map to get an idea of where we were going and we left.

It was getting dark. The boats were so difficult to paddle that we had to use a very slow deliberate stroke. It was torturously slow going. The monotony of the paddle soon put Art to sleep. He could only paddle one or two strokes before falling asleep. We tried food, GU, towing with Leslie's team. We just toughed it out, moving very slowly towards a point of land we thought was CP21. The wind eventually became our friend and was blowing at our backs and around 11:00 pm we beached the boats on the land we had been aiming for - that was definitely not the CP. It was a recreation area about 4 miles and 2 inlets too far. Knowing that my team could not turn around and paddle into the wind we elected to camp there. Scree left. It would take them over 6 hours to reach CP21. We slept (a bit too long) and left at first light. Art was much refreshed and though there was still far to go, we make good time and got into TA about 10:45 am. Here they made us deflate our boats and carry them and our wet gear up a hill before our crew was allowed to assist us. Hate it when they do that.

Hike (CP21/TA8 - CP27/TA9)

We had a good TA considering how much we had to do. Get out of wet clothes, eat and prepare for a very long hike. I got Jason to help me drain some blisters. I was worried about these as I had no experience with foot dressing. I did not now how to really prepare my feet for such a long hike. I taped up the ones I saw as well as I knew how and we set off. The going was a bit rough at first. We followed a way too small path along the top of the cliffs overlooking the American river. The path kept ending and we would have to find another way. Eventually, Robyn hiked farther up and found a wonderful trail. It was the Western States Trail and is well maintained and marked. We took this trail for the trek into Auburn that took us most of the day. The day was hot but not really a problem for us Texans and we passed lovely streams to soak our hats. Towards the end of the day we came to the CP in Auburn and I can't tell you how disappointed I was that we did not pass one single store. I really wanted a Gatorade or Diet Coke. Oh well. We decided for once to get our sleep before dark while it was warm and so left the CP and headed back to our trail, found a spot and slept. The hike that night got a bit tough as we had to bushwhack some to connect pieces of the trail. By now I was having some real blister problems. We stopped once so I could drain them and re-tape. My progress was really slowing down.

Between CP24 and CP25, it was required that we stay along the river (the north fork of the American). There was no trail and the going was though rounded river rock. This was very tough on my blisters as my feet would slide from side to side off the rocks. My trekking poles were mostly a nuisance, getting stuck between rocks. The river banks would peter out into sandbars and you had to cross the river to keep going. The thought was that it would be better to keep my feet dry - wet shoes and feet would make the blisters worse. John and Art would fireman carry me over every river crossing that night. There were 18 of them. The night went on forever.

We finally got to CP25 and took a much needed sleep, got up and were off again. CP25 to CP26 was uphill then down as we made our way to the middle fork of the American on jeep roads and just killed my feet. We were going so slow! In route to CP26 was a mandatory river crossing they dubbed the required bath. There was a rope across the river and a class 2 rapid just down stream. We had to hold the rope, first walking then fully submerged, pulling our way across. John had put my dry shoes in a bag in his pack, Robyn went in socks and I wore her already wet shoes. The water was so cold it took my breath away and made my skin feel like needles. I was surprised at how hard it was to pull myself across the current.

Once on the other side, I got my shoes back, re-redressed now wet blisters and off we went again. CP26 was still a couple of miles away totally uphill on a hot exposed road. I was faster going uphill than down so the bit of increased pace felt good. Once we got to CP26 and I sat down to look at my feet... I knew it was over for me. The blisters were huge and it seemed no amount of draining and taping would keep them in check. I sat on the side of the road with my team and just cried and told John that I just did not want to go on that way. My feet had had enough. There was still another 9 mile hike before arriving at the TA to transition to bikes. My team was great and very supportive. I think they would have kept going at that snail's pace had I not stopped. I stayed at the CP and waited for a ride to the next TA and my team continued unranked.

The wait was rather long and I dozed on and off when I was not bawling my head off. There had been only one team behind us and the staff would wait for them then shut down the CP before taking me out.

Hike to bike (CP27/TA9 - CP31/Finish)

I got my feet treated in the med tent at TA9 and was assured I could not die from disappointment or blisters. I had the best burger with Wanda and Kelly and we swapped stories for our different but shared experience. Robyn, John and Art arrived just as we got back from our burger outing and Kelly and Wanda got them ready for the next 50 mile bike section. They left if fairly short order. I found some clean clothes and sat with my feet up waiting for Jason to come from Tahoe and pick me up. On our drive out back to Tahoe, Jason and I passed Scree, also down to 3 and traveling unranked. We stopped to wish them well and drove away. Jason stopped in some town and go us a hotel room where he carried me in and put me to bed.

The next day we were back in Tahoe. The team had biked through the night to a spot where they would leave the bikes with race staff and begin what was rumored to be a 12 hour hike (a leg I certainly would not have been able to complete). The crew had gone on the Homewood TA10 where the team would finish their hike and change to paddle gear for the last leg in.

Once the crew got the team off on the paddle, they returned to Tahoe - Kelly went to spend more time with his dad. That night, me, Jason, Wanda, along with Jim and Lieza from Rattlesnake Racing took the van down to the beach were we drank beer and waited.

We expected them to finish around 11:30 pm but they did not arrive until around 2:30am. It turns out John was a bit sleepy and they missed their CP. They pulled into some restaurant where they were fed hot chocolate and got some warm clothes on. Robyn told me later that with each paddle stroke John would hit her in the head and that when he would rudder, he would rest the paddle on her head and fall asleep! Well, they made it in in good sprits. The race staff let me walk under the finish banner with them and pictures were taken all around.

Post race thoughts

Things that worked well:

  • Our crew. They were just awesome and worked hard to keep us going.
  • The dive light.
  • Buying area maps before the race.
  • The small piece of chamois I kept in my pocket to wipe my glasses - works when wet.
  • Trekking poles and gaiters.
  • Dry suit
  • Spiz - switched to drinking out of the baggie, great idea Marcy.
  • Our team dynamics. I saw other teams coming unhinged. Our team remained cooperative, helpful and level headed throughout.
  • Tow system
  • Swiveling map case attached to John's bike.

Things that didn't go well:

  • Not knowing enough about foot care. Will do more research as well as more foot training.
  • My headlamps - I found that the broad dull light provided by LED's was too soft for me to have any depth perception. This was especially bad in limestone where rock and road/trail are the same color. I would trip a lot and hence walked slower. Will research other more yellow or focused lights. I wished I'd had the dive light while biking off road.
  • Being towed while entire team is in front of you is lonely and does not do well for communication.
  • Transportation - keep teams independent. Team Vignette was ready go days before we finished.

Things we saw that were neat:

  • Attaching a bag to the back of pfd's to stick a bladder in - allowed paddlers to drink more easily.

Things to improve on for the next big race (assuming we were to do this same race over again knowing what we know now):

  • More paddling practice.
  • Have at least 3 on the support crew.

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