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Steel Sports Pain in the Pines 2008 Race Report

October 25, 2008
by David Bogle

I have done the Pain in the Pines race several times over the years, and it has always been fun, but this year, it would be done differently. The normal race director, Rodney Skyles had handed the race over to Kip Fiebig. Kip is my main AR team mate these days, but he had wanted to direct a race for a while, so I knew it would be even more fun, but most of us did not know what to expect since he had not directed many races before. We would be team Vignette for this race, and I was joined by Julie Standing, Jason Martin, and Brian Hudson. I had raced with all of them in the past, and I knew this would be a fast team. Hopefully I could keep us going in the correct direction and find all the CPs.

The race would start at 8 am and there were 22 teams of various configurations out at Tyler State Park for the race. We were only one of three teams in the 4 person co-ed category. We were not given any maps or instructions prior to the race start. At the starting line, we were given our final instructions which were to run a short run down a park road (to split things up a bit) and then receive a preplotted orienteering map for our first real leg of the race. We were warned to not follow teams in front of us as we would be given different maps. We ran the 1/2 mile or so well and were the second team to arrive at the map handout.

We received a detailed orienteering map of the lake area. There were CPs shown on the map that we had to visit as we circumnavigated the lake. On the CPs were written code words. To finish the leg we had to write down all the correct words and turn it in to receive the official race map. A 15 minute penalty would be assessed for each wrong word. We were the first team to take off on the leg around the lake. I have looked at O-maps in the past, so was familiar with the detailed scale. We hit the first point right on schedule; the tough part was trying to write the words down while running. At the third point, I thought we were too soon, but we saw it so wrote the word down, and ran on. 100 meters later, we found another CP, and it was in the more correct position, so we changed our answer and continued on. There were apparently several CPs around the lake that different teams had to get. We later ran across a few and I told my team to ignore them (this always makes them nervous). We were the first team back and we got our real race map and ran uphill the 1/2 mile back to the main transition area. My family was there to cheer us on as we came in.

The next leg of the race would be a road bike for a few miles (and a few CPs), then a lake paddle with a special test, finally followed by a mountain bike section with yet another special test. The first road bike section was blazing fast to start as much of it was down steep hills, then a long uphill climb. At the boats, we got out well and headed out for the boating CPs. It is a small lake and I knew the exact location of the first point, Julie punched it and we were off for our second boat point and some special test.

As we approached we saw John Beard on a fishing dock along with a child's basketball goal. He tossed a small basketball into our boat (and it bounced out into the water). He said we had to get the ball and make a basket before continuing. Julie and I paddled back to the ball, grabbed it, and then made a strategic pass to Brian. He paddled up to the dock and stood up in the boat and did a great impression of Jordan as he slam-dunked the ball.

Graceful shot

We were off and back to the boat launch as this section was done. As we beached the canoe, disaster struck and both of our boats went over, Brian and I were still in the boats so we both got dunked (it was about 45 F outside, so he and I were now rather chilled!). It was time for the mountain bike section of this leg. It was cold to say the least as we headed out on bikes, but the uphills warmed us up. At the first CP, we had another special test. We had to inflate a balloon to a certain size and then bike with it back to TA on trails, if it popped, it was a 20 minute penalty. They offered us duct tape and string, but we did not think we needed any of that. Brian just shoved the balloon under his shirt and we were off. Sure, he looked pregnant, but it did not slow him down any on the bike. There were a couple of CPs along the trail in mystery locations that we had to punch on the way back to TA. So far, we were still leading this race, but we knew a couple of teams were only minutes behind.

Brian and the balloon

Back in TA, we were given our next set of instructions which was a trekking section near the TA. Jason and I quickly plotted the points and we were off. We could get these in any order, so I picked one that looked decent, and we were off. We were warned of some nasty underbrush on this section and it did not disappoint in a few spots as we all got a bit cut up from briars. We found the first few with no problem. On the last point, I was drawn off a small amount when looking for a small hill top. We reoriented quickly and then found the right one. When we left there were now several teams standing on top of the wrong hill we started on (that did not seem to show up on the maps). We assured them the point was there and we ran back to TA for our next leg.

The instructions for the next leg were simple, we had to bike all of the trails in the park in a certain order. There was no trail cutting or shortcutting allowed. There would be a CP hanging along each trail somewhere that we had to stop and punch. (This always makes me a bit nervous as I have biked past them before). We started off well and were really flying along on the bikes. Julie's handlebar caught a tree and she crashed pretty hard. She needed a minute to catch her breath but was then right back up and moving. We cruised along punching CPs as we went from trail to trail and then Julie crashed and was screaming very loudly (it is not like Julie to ever complain or get hurt, so us 3 guys were very concerned). Well, it turns out she was really hurt this time. When she crashed on some technical parts of the trail, a freak accident occurred and stick impaled up through her nose. Her face was covered in blood and she was sure the stick had pierced her septum and maybe her brain. We were pretty far from a road but the 3 guys remained very calm. She was up and talking so that was good. We all assured her it was fine, and she was barely bleeding at all (I guess this was somewhat true, but we said it more to calm her down). We wanted to clean her off a bit, but not one of us had any water with us, we all had some sort of sports drink, so we washed her face with sports drink... not sure she got any cleaner. I think we all thought we would have to evacuate her from the area. We were out near the end of the D-loop, so we were pretty far from any park road. We had her start walking a bit when she settled down. We walked for a few minutes then Julie was frustrated from moving slowly and said she would rather ride her bike even though she was still bleeding from the nose. I think the worse part was that the blood was going down her throat which was less than pleasant. We eventually came across a few mountain bikers who lent us a knife. We cut up one of Julie's sock to make a nose plug for her. It seemed to help some. During this "Julie fixing" a 3 person male team passed us and checked to see if Julie was OK. We could soon see the road, but Julie wanted to press on with the biking leg and not quit. After a little bit she said we should pick the pace back up some and stop riding so slow... so we did. We were able to re-pass the all male team on the last long climb back up to transition, but they came in only a minute or two behind us. My folks had a large med kit with us, so they went to work on Julie (who did not want to quit even though she was still bleeding from the nose - not to mention the bloody legs from all the earlier briars). The next set of instructions involved solving a letter substitution puzzle and doing what the solution said. It was a simple solution, but I was sweating on the paper, which was not waterproof. The answer was something like, take your helmets for this leg, find the volunteer and get a scooter and scooter the EZ bike loop. When I saw scooter I was a bit puzzled as we did not bring scooters. About the time I was done with the puzzle, Julie was all taped up (but still bleeding), and ready to go. We could not find any volunteer at first to get a scooter from, but finally found them in the back of the parking lot. We were given 4 Diggler Dirt scooters. These are kind of like kids scooter but with bigger knobby tires and shocks. I had ridden them in a race before, but never on trails.

Heading out on scooters

When we were given the scooters we were also told that when we returned we would have an eating challenge of a mystery item, so we needed to pick a person to do it. We were off on the scooters. They were fun to ride on the trails. The downhills were real cool as we kind of just flew over stuff. We basically pushed them back up the hills and in sandy sections. All the jarring was not good on Julie, but she hung in there like the trooper she is. We were still managing to lead through this leg despite having to slow a bit for our injured mate.

Back at TA, Brian volunteered to eat the mystery item. He picked cup #1, and it turned out to be like malted milk balls or something, so not too bad at all. The race official told us we got lucky and got the good one. We left there wondering if some of them were gross, but turns out they were all candy and that was just meant to mess with us mentally!

Next up was a long trekking and paddling leg. This would be the final leg of the race. There were also instructions that once we were ready to leave transition, we had to check out for another special mystery challenge. We plotted all the points. The instructions for this leg also instructed us that we had to check out at the main table to receive another mystery challenge. We could do these in any order and paddle at any time during the trek. It was a big loop all the way around the park. I chose to just go clockwise and then paddle when we were close to the boat drop. Sitting in transition this time, I think Julie was finally able to get the bleeding in her nose to stop.

On the way out of TA, we stopped at the check-in table and they handed us a Rubik's cube. They said for each side we solved, we would get a 2 minute time bonus. There was no penalty for not solving it, and we could do it while walking. Well, this was pleasant news to me, as you see, I was a little bit of a nerd growing up (my wife says I am still a nerd, but I am sure she is wrong) and I know how to solve one of these things. Brian quickly suggested we just pop it apart and put it back together (another option since the rules did not say we could not do that, but I was hopeful I could solve it, so I tried that route first). When we left TA, on the road, we tried running, but as soon as we started running, the jarring would cause Julie's nose to bleed more. Julie is super tough and gets faster as races go along, so it was odd to see her lagging back a bit when we tried to run, so we just backed off the pace and tried to pick routes that had us walking more. (To be clear, I don't think she ever complained, the whole time!) On the way to the first few points, I solved the first few sides of the cube and Jason said good job, but then Julie pointed out they were wrong! You see, I am colorblind, so some of the sides I thought were correct were not really right. I guess Jason and Brian must have a touch of this colorblindness also, as they could not tell the difference either. I put the cube away for a while, so I could concentrate on the navigation.

We found the first few points with no problem. They were in some cool places like under a bridge we had biked across a few times, then an old creek, and the top of one of the larger hills in the park. As we ran down the old abandoned park road, we came across and elderly gentlemen and his wife. He told us to "pick up the pace" which was fun to hear. We hit the paddle and got that done. There were tons of recreational paddlers out on the lake this time which was fun to see. We saw the male team on the water as we were finishing the paddle and figured we only had maybe a 10-15 minute lead on them at this stage. I think we were all just happy to still be racing with how bad of shape Julie was in. On one of the next CPs (27, I think), I got a bit disoriented as we were looking for some draw intersections and there were seemingly quite a few draws in the area that did not show up on the map. I stopped and took a good look around, re-oriented a bit and then we found the point a few minutes later. I think the fact that I was working on the cube while navigating led to some errors, but I was able to get the cube solved at some point after we paddled. On this leg, in our instructions we were allowed to skip any one point (with no penalty). There were no points that were very far out of the way, so I figured we would just keep getting all of them, until we had trouble finding one or we had only one left, and then we would just skip it. We got the next couple ok, then we were heading for CP 31. There was some written hints on this one that it was on the corner of a fence at an oil well. The clue went on to say that if the oil well was running we would hear it long before we saw it. There was a good bit of bushwhacking to get to the area, we all clearly heard an oil well. In looking at my maps, I wanted to go left up the hill we were on, but the noise was clearly down the hill to the right. I figured I could have gotten off course with all the bushwhacking so we went downhill a bit and saw an oil well surrounded by a fence, so we must be there... WRONG. It did fit the description, but it was the wrong oil well. At this stage, we were well past CP 31, and much closer to CP 32 (our final one for the race), so we just skipped 31 and went on to punch CP 32. Once we had 32 punched all we had to do was to get to the finish line. From here, we could have gone north to the park road, then run back the long hilly park road. With Julie's bleeding nose, I felt it better to take the shorter cross country route. It was shorter, but likely longer and more painful as we had to bushwhack through lots of nasty brush almost the whole way back. We finally hit the park road close to the finish line, so we jogged to the line. We were the first team to arrive, and since we managed to solve the Rubik's cube, we had a 12 minute time bonus.

Coming in to the finish line

Turns out we won by about an hour over second place. The race was run very well and 21 of the 22 teams finished the course (an injury stopped the other team early on). We all had lots of fun (well, except Julie). She decided quickly to pack up and head to the hospital. Turns out she had several chunks of wood broken off in her nasal passages which is what caused things to keep bleeding. The ER got her all fixed up and she should heal soon.

Busted up Julie at finish line

Junk removed from Julie's nose

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