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12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race - Adventure

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Camp Eagle, Rocksprings, Texas
United States
Too Cool Racing
93F / 34C
Total Time = 19h 18m
Overall Rank = 4/29
Age Group = 2-Person, Males
Age Group Rank = 1/6
Pre-race routine:

1. The RR format in BT for Adventure Races (AR) does not function and work like regular RRs. I guess it gets used so little nobody ever noticed and complained. I'll just write this the best I can. Warning: This RR is a bit long, but how else do you capture the challenges of a brutal 19 hour effort?

There were 29 teams doing the 12-Hr and 6 in our division (2-Person Males). There were 4-person teams of males, co-ed, etc. as well as 1 solo male. To be eligible for a 1st place prize there had to be at least 5 teams in your division.

2. To fully appreciate the nature of the race I'll add some explanations via a "glossary" because the mindset of the triathlete reading this is centered around the nice sequential concept of Swim, T1, Bike, T2, Run and AR has no such sequence(s).

3. I'm teamed up with my 25 year-old son Timothy, the Marine captain. Our team name is "Semper Fi". This would be our first "big" AR. We did a sprint distance last November in 3h-10m and took 2nd place in the men's division. That race didn't require any map and compass navigation, we just had to follow marked trails. This race would be a big step up for us.

4. Camp Eagle is located in central-west Texas southwest of Kerrville. It is 2,000 acres of desert hills with steep canyons, dry creek bottoms, with cedar trees packed together in thickets, cactus and sticker bushes, and lots of lots of rocks. Basically, it is rough and unforgiving country.

5. Every AR is different and every AR RD is different; you don't really know how the race is set up and what you'll be doing until you are actually doing it. Everything is kept secret until the last minute. There are general ideas and that's why the races are designated in "hours" and not distances, especially longer races like 12hr and 24hr. At this race there were 6hr, 12hr, and 24hr racers, each identified by a different colored wrist band.

6. Participants in AR are required to be self-sufficient. There are no aid stations out in the hills and thickets. You are responsible for your own fluids, food, gear, etc. Receiving outside help is forbidden and you better not get hurt because help will be a long time coming due to the remoteness of the terrain. A first aid kit is part of the required team equipment. As usual, you need to carry spare tubes and bike tools for whatever may happen out there.

Leg = A segment of the race distinct from the other; the basics are trekking (foot), biking (mtn bikes only, no cross or hybrids allowed), and paddling (sit-on-top kayaks at this race). This race advertised rock climbing and rappelling plus "special challenges".

TA = Transition Area, but this is not like a tri. TA here is where you check in after completing a race leg; the timekeeper logs your time, records the CP punches on your passport, and you get the instructions for the next leg.

Camp = This is where we set up our tent and true transition area. We had a pop-up canopy for shade, ice chests with drinks, food, extra race gear, clothes, etc. Ours was located about 400 meters from TA and this is where we'd come to rest, eat, drink, plot CPs on the map and gear up for the next leg. Racers had their "camps" set up all over the place.

CP = Check Point. This is a specific location designated by a colored flag and special punch that certifies that you were at that CP. There's a premium on getting as many CPs as possible. A slower finish time with fewer missed CPs will win the race over a faster time with more missed CPs. You have to get at least one CP in each leg to be an official finisher or you'll DNF. Sometimes you have to find the CPs in a certain sequence or sometimes not. You can navigate to a CP anyway you want to; go over a mountain or around, it's your choice. You have to use the travel means designated in the leg, e.g., you can't ride your bike to the other side of the lake to get a paddling CP. You don't know how many CPs there will be until you get the instructions for the final leg. Some of the CPs have names or clues, so I'll note those, too.

Topo Map = Topographical map made by the USGS and issued by the RD minutes before the race start. This map shows the terrain by using contour lines and it is where you plot the CP locations using UTM and find your way around for the various legs. I have a waterproof, clear plastic case to keep it in. Since Timothy is the navigator, he carried it slung around his neck. He even got good enough to read it while riding the bike on trails.

UTM Coordinates = Universal Transverse Mercantor. CPs are located on the map by using a series of these coordinates that are included in the instructions with each race leg. A typical set is 040778/331660. These numbers represent distances, in meters, relative to grid lines to a precise point on the map. With these numbers and the right tools (UTM plotter & compass) you can navigate to an area about 20 meters in diameter. Once you get that close, you just have to look for the CP in the thick trees. With the right set of UTMs, my son (an infantry officer) can put an artillery round or air-strike right on your house. ;-) Because he's good at it; I let him do all the plotting.

Distances = In this race they are somewhat immaterial due to the terrain and how the race is set up. Distances, when mentioned here are expressed in meters and kilometers because that's how UTM is set up. To navigate, we count our foot paces in meters and I set my bike computer on km.

Navigation = Or nav for short. This is what gets you from where you are to where you want to go, like a CP. This is accomplished by keeping track of the distance traveled and in what direction, by shooting azimuths with your compass. In some cases we'll be able to navigate to a CP based solely on terrain features such as mountain tops, ridges, and distinct creek bottoms or draws.

GPS = Everyone knows what these are and if you get caught with one, it's a big, fat DQ. Also, unauthorized maps from previous races are prohibited.

Passport = This is issued with the topo map and this is what you punch at the CPs to prove you found them. On it, there are numbered squares that correspond to the CPs. Lose your passport and you lose the race. :-(

We arrived right after sundown and got checked in with the RD. We found us a place on the edge of the camping area to set up our camp and get things ready for the morning. Laid down around 11:00 just in time for two couples who rolled in to set up camp. Dang it! Why did they have to pick our area out of all the choices. By the time they set up the tent and blow up the air mattresses with a noisy compressor, it was midnight. (I'm cursed like this at times.)

Saturday morning
Woke at 6:00 with the sunrise. We had to be at TA at 7:30 for the pre-race brief and the race start at 8:00. Made last-minute gear checks, filled the hydration packs & bike bottles, ate my standard race breakfast, and visited the bathrooms.

In our ice chests we have water, Gatorade, cokes, Ensures, fruit, and Bud Lite for later. For food: peanut butter sandwiches, energy bars, gels, shot blocks, etc. It's going to be a hot day and there is no chance of rain with hardly a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, we'll find out later just how hot it'll get.

I wore my old tri shorts and a white, long-sleeved tech shirt for sun protection. On the feet were my combination of Injinji toe socks and technical running socks. With these, I could run 100 miles (really 80, but that's another story) without getting blisters. Put on my trusty trail running shoes.

Pre-race Brief
The RD went through all the rules and safety reminders, and handed out custom-made towels to the racers doing this race for the fifth year in a row. We were given our maps and passports and told to assemble at the starting line a few hundred meters to the north. All three groups of racers would be starting together, probably ~250 people. Of course, we were all wondering what would be first, especially us newbies.

Race Start, 8:10a
We were staged up behind the banner when the RD explained how it was going to start...

We would run 500 meters down the hill and turn to the river, it's dammed in 3 places to form a longish lake. Everyone had to get in the water and make their way out to a rope ~50 meters out in the lake that had cards pinned to it. Each card had a team name on it and it was to be retrieved and returned to TA to receive instructions for the first leg.

At first the water was shin deep and everyone was running. Soon it was thigh deep and no one was running, especially when we hit the seaweed and mud. My son swam out and found our card pretty quickly while I hung back away from the crowd and kept our map dry.

We hop out and head back up the hill to TA. Crap! The race is not even 15 minutes old and my perfect sock set-up and shoes are soaked. And thus it begins...

Leg 1, Bike
We go back to camp to get ready to bike. We change shoes, and I throw my perfectly wet socks off to the side, put the trail shoes in the sun to dry and don the packs.

This set of instructions had no UTMs for the 5 CPs. Instead they gave you a crude map with trail markings to follow. In retrospect I realize that by doing this, it will ensure that the different race teams get spread out and everybody is not just following someone else with better navigation skills. The road turns to jeep trail and then quickly to single track.

No problem here and we find this one pretty quick, but we do take the "wrong trail" for a while before figuring it out. No big deal and it's the first of several "wrong trails" during the day. Also found out what it's like to be climbing up a steep hill in a low, low gear with legs spinning like crazy and almost falling over. Very quickly you're huffing & puffing and only going 1-2 mph.

CP-2, Mine Shaft
We're riding along and I'm figuring out how to ride in the rocks and not bust my butt as I've never ridden on trails like these before. We see ~8 bikes laying beside the trail and a sign that says "mine" as we ride on past.

While riding towards this one I take a hairpin turn a little too awkwardly and manage to fall over very hard. My right knee digs straight into the rocky ground and it's scraped open in about 6 places. It hurts and the blood is flowing, but it's just surface abrasions and there's nothing to do really except mount the bike and catch up to Timothy.

We arrive at CP-3 and as we get ready to punch the passport we realize we've missed CP-2. Dang it! We'll have to ride back to get it. I hate re-tracing routes, but we have no choice. Of course, riding against the oncoming bike traffic is a hassle, too.

CP-2, Mine Shaft
Once we get back to the sign, we realize our mistake and kick ourselves for being so dumb. We have to drop the bikes and hike/jog ~200 meters into the woods to a tower where the CP is located. Another sign informs us that all team members must climb the tower ladder and punch their wrist band in addition to the passport. It's a 15-minute penalty if you don't. (Good thing I didn't stay at the bikes and let Timothy run to the CP like I was thinking of doing.) We mount up and ride back towards CP-3. I'm careful not to crash on that hairpin turn again.

CP-4, Cave
We blow past CP-3 and a bunch of racers stacked up there, and after a couple of Ks we see some bikes along the trail and a sign that says "cave" with an arrow pointing up the hill. Since we're not stupid twice, we dismount, drop the bikes and head up the trail. Another 200 meters and we approach a couple of racers and a volunteer pointing to a hole in the ground. We have to slither into the hole and using a flashlight locate the CP in the back about 10 meters in. Timothy takes the PP and belly crawls in the mud to punch it. I hang back out of the way as 2 girls start sliding in. I manage to bang my bleeding knee on the rock as I climb out. Dang, that hurt. As we exit, a real crowd has formed and we're really glad we were avoiding that traffic jam. Back on the bike trail to CP-5.

CP-5, Bridge
It's several Ks off rough riding in a creek bottom where the rocks are so big you just have to dismount to push and carry the bike to get through. It's just another of dozens of times we'll do this throughout the day. I've accepted the reality that there are an infinite number of ways to crash a mtn bike on these rugged, rocky trails. I'm glad I practiced some slow, low gear, high torque riding at home before the race, but it hardly prepared me for this. We find CP-5 easily enough at the other end of a foot-bridge crossing over the river and head on back to TA. It's already getting hot and we're pouring sweat from the exertion.
Check in @ 10:43, Time of leg = 2h-33m, 15 km of riding

Leg 2, Paddle
We change back into our wet shoes while Timothy plots out the 2 CPs and obviously we need to head down to the lake to find where the kayaks are staged. The CPs are located at opposite ends of the lake, so we have to paddle the length of it twice. In the middle is a 9-foot high dam that we'll have to drag the kayak over. There's a wide ladder made of 2x4s in the middle that we'll use to climb over the dam.

Is located on the north end and we elect to go there first. Paddling the kayak is pretty easy, but it's a little awkward because you're bent at the waist with no back-support for leverage other than your abdominal muscles. We reach the dam and climbing up is easy, but hoisting the kayak up and over is a bitch. We struggle with the skinny little ropes and finally get it over. We paddle another 400 meters and find the CP tucked in the rocks at the shoreline. We punch it and turnaround back to the dam.

Sliding the kayak over the edge and down the dam is lot easier and we paddle the 700 meters to the south end. Along the way my legs are wanting to cramp due to the weird position they're in. We pull up to the shoreline and Timothy hops out on the "lakeside" of the kayak and promptly sinks past his waist in soft mud. He's stuck and can't move his legs and I'm not much help sitting in the kayak. After fighting it some, he lays out flat and "swims" out to punch the CP. As we're paddling the 600 meters to the take-out, a pair of young women who punched the CP right behind us are steadily gaining on us. What!, we can't let some girls beat us, but our kayak has a slow leak in it and we're sinking by the stern as they catch us and touch shore first. We ditch the kayak and jog with our slightly bruised egos up to TA. It won't be the last time we see those girls during the day.
Check-in @ 11:41am, Time of leg = 58m

Leg 3, Trek
We get the instructions and go back to camp. We change out the wet shoes and luckily we have a second (dry) pair of running shoes to wear. Mine are old racing shoes I retired 2 seasons ago that I wear for knocking around; they'll have to do. I put on my boonie cover because I know the sun is going to be brutal.

Timothy plots out the next 5 CPs while I fill up our camelbacks (G-ade in mine) and eat some food. We're heading out into middle of the day and it's already in the high-80s and getting hotter by the minute. At the last second, I throw another 20oz water bottle in my pack and we hit the trail.

CP-8, Rifle
This UTM plot is pretty obvious and we're headed to the camp's rifle range. Once there, we're given additional instructions: One team member shoots a .22 rifle until they hit 2 coke cans about 20 meters away. Then they're given a chip and that chip is given to a volunteer who allows them to punch the passport. Either of us are crack shots, but I let him go do it. Camp rifles are notorious for being inaccurate and this one is no different. It takes him 4 shots to figure out how far off it's shooting and then he nails the 2 cans, punches the passport and we're off.

Now is when it starts to get really hard. The previous CPs were easy to locate and it wasn't that hard to find them. We've plotted the locations of these CPs but it's up to us find them any way we can. Basically, we just start hiking towards them seeking out the easiest path we can find. Sometimes there's a foot-trail, sometimes a jeep trail, sometimes there's nothing except bushwhacking through the cedar thickets.

Over the hills and down through the "draws" or creek bottoms we plow on. Even though our nav skills are right on, it's not easy finding these CPs. It's hard to describe the mental stress of busting around through these thickets looking for something you're not really sure is there. The "clue" for this CP is "top of draw". Heck, we've been on 2 "top of draws" and is this the right one? After a bit we find it! And so it goes...

Nothing boosts the confidence like finding the CP, but now we've got to it all over again. We've gone about 3Ks and it's getting blistering hot. Should also mention that periodically we come across a fence that's in our way. These fences are 10-foot high game fences for keeping deer in or out depending on who owns the property. Fences aren't on our map. What should we do? Climb it? Try to go around? With a bit of searching we find a depression and slither under. Oh yeah another little issue: needle grass. The seeds from the needle grass are needle sharp and drill right through the mesh on the running shoes. Imagine 20-30 sharp needles poking the tops of your feet while you walk. These shoes aren't made for walking in the west-Texas hill country. Nothing to do except try to pull some of them out and keep moving. Another "top of draw" clue. Some more stumbling around and we finally find it. OohRah!

By now it's getting really hot and I'm starting to cramp up. The ups and downs are getting to me and this creek bottom is harder than the last. Sometimes the thickets are so thick you just have to duck-walk through them half bent-over to avoid the limbs and make your way through. The clue here is "draw". Should also mention that while we're looking for CPs so are other teams, but can you trust their nav skills? Just because they're in your vicinity doesn't mean they're on the right path. Don't follow them no matter how tempting it is! We finally find this one but I have to take a break. I sit down in some shade and eat an energy bar and drink the last of my water from the bottle I threw in. The heat is getting to me and don't mind admitting it.

After a few minutes I'm feeling better and trudge on. I still have some G-ade in my camelback but I don't know how much. As we make our towards the last CP I find out when suck the last of it out. Dang it! This is not good. I tell Timothy I'm officially out of fluids, turns out so is he. Nothing to do but continue on. It's about 3:00 in the afternoon and it's very hot; mid-90s. After navigating close and poking around on the "point", we find the CP, but we have about 3K of trekking to get back to camp and the ice chests full of water, fruit, and G-ade. We press on knowing all we have to do is keep moving and we'll be OK. Come up on a little spring water seepage. It's not drinkable, but we're not that desperate. We do soak our bandanas in the water and cool off our heads and necks. Lovely! After another 30 minutes of walking we arrive back at TA.
Check in @ 4:03p, Time of leg = 4h-22m

Leg 4, Swim
We get back to camp and start pounding down the fluids. Water, G-ade, fruit, coke, whatever we can get our hands on. Cold wet towels on the head and neck work wonders, too. We take our time and get refreshed.

On this next leg there's no UTM plots or nav skills needed but there are 2 CPs to get, so off to the lake we go. At least this leg will be nice and cool.

First we put on life jackets and get wetted down by a volunteer. Then we jump onto a water slide that is ~50 meters long. Feet first, we fly down the slide and it ejects you about 15 feet out into the air and into the water. Awesome! Once in water, we have to swim about 30 meters to the shoreline and punch our wristbands as well as the passport.

Now it gets hard. We have to swim about 50 meters back towards the opposite shore and climb up on this inflatable "iceberg" floating in the lake to punch our wristbands and passport up on top. Once we get there we find out that it is super-hard to pull yourself up on this thing because there's nothing in the water to push off of. There are handles at many different places and Timothy struggles while I bob in the water. Oh crap! My legs are starting to cramp up big-time. Between the effort of the trek and dehydration, and the cold water and the leg action of treading water, I'm getting major cramps.

Other racers are struggling with the iceberg and someone says to take your shoes off to help gain a foothold. Timothy takes his shoes off and gives them to me. I work on getting a shoe off, but my legs are cramping so bad they hurt. I give him the passport that I have around my neck and start heading to shore about 20 meters away. We'll just have to accept the 15 minute penalty for me not getting to the top. He gets up there just as I'm stumbling up the rocks and working the cramps out. What should've been an easy and fun leg turns out to be a mini-ordeal. Well, at least we're good and cooled off.
Check in @ 4:38, Time of leg = 35m

Leg 5, Bike, Rocks & Ropes
We go back to camp to gear up for another bike ride. I change into my 4th pair of socks, fill the bike bottles, and camelbacks while Timothy plots the 5 CPs. We're glad that the major heat of the day is fading but it's still a toasty 90 degrees. We mount the bikes and head for the rock cliffs.

CP-15, Rocks & Ropes
After 1K we arrive at the base of the cliffs and drop the bikes. Volunteers fit us out with climbing harnesses, helmets, and a double snap-link rig about 18" long. We proceed to the base of the cliff and snap a link onto a cable that is bolted horizontally to the rock face. We are to traverse along the cliff face and leaning out while sliding the snap link along. We're not super-high up, only about 30 feet, but it's far enough to mess you up bad if you fell without the safety rig and cable holding you. We traverse along until you encounter a bolt that attaches the cable to the rock; when you get there, you take the second link that you've been holding and snap it onto the other side of the bolt, then you unsnap the previous one. In this fashion and done properly, you're never disconnected from the safety cable. We do this for the length of the cable; 365 meters (1200 feet, so says the camp website).

Once free from the cable we scramble up the trail in the rocks to get on top of the cliff and hike back towards the direction we started on the traverse. Soon enough, we find the rappel station and the top of the ropes that are manned by camp staffers. There are 4 racers in front of us, so we have to wait our turn. Once there, we get rigged into the figure-8 descender. Since we are both experienced with rappelling, it's just a quick safety check by the staffer and we're rappelling down the 80-foot rock face. Once we get to the bottom, we strip off all the gear, punch the passport and remount the bikes.

Since we can get these CPs in any order, we decide to snag this one on the way to the windmill. The only notable thing about this one was that it was in a creek bottom. The trail was so steep, you (I did anyway) just had to lock up the rear brake and skid down the trail in a controlled slide. Of course, once we punched the passport, we had to push the bikes back out. Little did we know then, that by the end of this leg, we will have pushed the bikes at least 15% of the total distance.

CP-16, Windmill
At first it's pretty easy riding on a jeep trail, but then the trail goes straight up a steep mountain. We start off pedaling, but very quickly, we have to dismount and start pushing the bikes. We push awhile and then have to stop for a breather. While stopped, you have to apply the brakes to keep the bike from rolling backwards. We finally get to the top and see the windmill in the distance.

Once at the windmill, there are special instructions: One team member has to jump into the cistern (a cistern is the concrete tank that holds water to fill the water troughs for the cattle, it is ~4-1/2 feet deep and 25 feet across) and find a blue golf ball to bring back to TA. There's already 3-4 teams there when we arrive and Timothy strips off his shoes and gear and jumps in. I cool off by dunking my head in the water.

There are white golf balls in there, too, so once you feel a golf ball with your feet, you dive down, pick it up and see what color it is. There's 2 or 3 guys in the water not having any luck and Timothy luckily finds a blue one on his second try. He throws it to me and I put it in my pack. The other guys curse our good fortune and we get ready to ride on.

CP-17, Rock Face
Here's one of the stranger events of the day. We ride off and a 2-man team and 4-man team are right behind allowing us to lead the way. We go 6-700 meters down a jeep trail and run into a fence with a locked gate. We turn left along the fence for another 5 or 600 meters, but then things aren't "right". We stop and Timothy double-checks the map. The 6 guys pull up behind us; they're "confused" too. We all talk it over and turn back around to retrace the trail.

The issue is how to get on the other side of the fence and is this the way we should be going. The uncertainty of the group is taking control and we're just kind of stalled out discussing what's wrong. Timothy catches my eye and motions me over; he says, "let's go I know what to do". We bid them farewell and say we're going to look for a different CP so we don't tip them off.

We ride away and basically make a big circle on another jeep trail to bypass the fenced off area. We ride into the prettiest part of country we've seen all day. We are in the West Rose Draw, that's a big, open valley and we have about 3K of straight riding on a rather nice jeep trail. In awhile we're joined by another 2-man team. While I'm riding along trailing behind Timothy the other 2 guys, I relax my focus for second and my front wheel catches something and I go crashing into the center hump of the trail and tear up my already torn up right knee. Dang that hurt even more than the first time.

Towards the end of the draw, we stop and dismount to start looking for the CP. While we do, another 2-man team comes bombing down a steep jeep trail off a big mountain. By now all 6 of us are looking for the CP and someone spots it 15 feet up on the side of a rock face just like the clue says. I clamber up the face and punch the passport. Oh yeah, there's a bunch of needle grass here, too and they drill right through the mesh in my bike shoes.

CP-19, The Cross
We mount up and all 6 of us head up the steep jeep trail the 2 guys bombed down a few minutes ago. Those guys were 24hr racers and they were on a mission. They managed to pedal part way up the mountain, but soon had to dismount and push. We make it 40-50 meters before we start pushing. This is the longest, hardest push so far and we have to stop 2 times to catch our breath. Even though it's later in the afternoon, the sun is still blasting us on the unshaded, blinding white trail.

Once on top it's a short respite of flat trail before we start riding the brakes down the other side. There's just no relief, even the downhills are hard. We level out and pass a 4-man team on the side of the trail fixing a bike. I've been thinking about our bikes all day and the beating they've been taking; so far we've been lucky with no mechanical issues. ~400 meters down the trail Timothy stops and I catch up; he has a flat tire.

It's not instantly flat but a slow leaker. He pumps it up and we'll see how long it lasts. We have tubes and tools, so it's not a huge issue, but we're headed by camp on our way to CP-19, so we'll see how far it lasts. Well, it lasts another kilometer and we stop to pump it up again before reaching camp. We change out the tube (rear wheel of course) and grab a cold drink before hitting the road.

As we ride along the road, we talk about this probably being the end of the race for us. We've been going at it for over 12 hours and the winners were predicted to finish in 8-9 hours. We figured we were middle of the pack at worst. We've trekked, paddled, swam, rappelled, biked twice, and we're beat and burnt. Surely, we're nearing completion of the race. Spirits buoyed, we start heading up the single track trails to the mountaintop cross.

We had ridden some of these trails earlier in the day on the first bike leg, so we knew where we were going; there would be no mental stress of trying to locate the CP, all we had to do was get to the top of the mountain. The sun was down behind the horizon and we had enough light for now, but soon it would be dark. We have bike lights and headlamps, but I'd rather not ride in the dark down these trails.

My legs are beat and crampy and we wind up dismounting several times to push our way up rather than risk a crash. We find a couple shortcuts and bushwhack the bikes through the trees. It's hard, but the intense effort yields time savings. We drop the bikes and hike the last 50 meters to the top to punch the passport. We did it!

As we go back to the bikes a 4-man team rides past and stops for a minute. They'd heard a rumor that we still had another trek to do with 5 more CPs. We didn't know if it was true or not; surely it wasn't. After another 15 minutes of riding we arrive at TA right at dark. Then we get the bad news. We're not done. In fact, no team has finished the 12-hr race yet. The course has been just too hard and the day too hot.
Check in @ 8:41p, Time of leg = 4h-3m, 20 km of riding

Leg 6, Trek
Yep, another leg to do and it has 5 CPs. Wow, talk about a kick to the gut. We just thought we were done. We ride back to camp with our spirits dashed. We plop down in the chairs, drink some cold drinks and just sit there. We say we're done, we've had enough, especially for being first-timers.

Well, let's plot the CPs and see how bad it is, so Timothy goes to work under the light of the lantern. The news is not good, as the CPs are spread out as far as anything we've done today. We estimate another 4-5 hours of trekking, if we're lucky. We spend the next 15 minutes talking and justifying why it would be OK to stop now, bust open that cold six-pack, and have a relaxing night; after all we came out here to have fun, didn't we? In the mean-time we're starving, let's go get a hamburger and fried chicken at the snack bar, then we'll hit the beer.

We change clothes (5th pair of socks for me) and walk back to the camp facilities. We ask around and find out that the snack bar is closed. Dang it! no food and all we have are energy bars and I'm tired of those. Walk over to TA and tell them we're quitting the race. The official says if we stop now it'll go down as a DNF. If we get just 1 of the last 5 CPs we'll be qualified as an official finisher. He said we should reconsider our decision. We say we'll talk about it and see.

We go back to camp and look at the map. Well CP-24 is kind of close. It's on top of a mountain and we have to cross the river, but it is kind of close and we don't want a DNF. Besides, when your team name represents everything that the Marine Corps stands for, you just can't quit; not now.

Another good thing is that the sun is gone and we'll have a nearly full moon rising in about an hour, so that'll be nice. So we grab 1 camelback and the headlamps and strike out for the mountain at 9:55pm. No DNF for us!

CP-24, Top
Once we got down the road some we turned off the headlamps and were walking by the star light. It's not often we get a chance to see millions of stars without light pollution. Once our eyes got used to the darkness, we could see just fine. Soon we heard the water from the river crossing.

It is said that AR RDs will find a way to make sure your feet get wet. We'd have to cross the river at a place where the road dips down at a ford crossing. We decide to remove our shoes and socks and wade across barefooted. At least we won't have soaked shoes for the climb up the mountain.

A new hassle makes itself known: bugs. They are drawn to our headlamps as we start scrambling up the hillsides. Multiple dozens of gnats and flying bugs cluster around the face, eyes, and mouth. We find some clearings through the trees and the walking is not too bad, but after a few hundred meters we're sweating up a storm in the warm night. Soon we top out and split up to start roaming around to find the CP. It's easy to keep track of each other from the spotlights on our heads. After about 15 minutes we find it and get that precious punch. Time to head down. For the record, needle grass in the dark is just as painful as in the day.

We know we're going back to camp so we don't bother with removing the shoes on the return river crossing because the shoes from early this morning are pretty much dry. Looking back over our shoulders we see headlamps on the hillside from another team going up the mountain.

As we walk, we get to talking: "You know if we can just get one or two more CPs it will really enhance our placing in the ranks." We're feeling pretty good and our confidence has been boosted now that we are moving well. What looked to be (and is) an enormous task seems more manageable once we started breaking it down into smaller pieces.

We get back to camp and start gearing up for another serious trek. Top off the camelbacks, extra headlamp and flashlights, more energy bars, my last gel, and another change of shoes and socks. We strike out at ~11:30pm.

CP-20, Top of draw
The moon has risen and starting to light up the desert hills. I grew up in the desert and love how it smells at night. We leave the headlamps off as there is plenty of light to see the white caliche jeep trail. We chose this CP because it's near the windmill where we fished for the blue golf ball, and we won't have to bushwhack to get close.

We're walking up the steep hill we pushed our bikes up about 6 hours ago. A 4-man team coming down the hill blind us with their headlamps. Once our eyes get their night-vision back, I take notice of the scene. Here we are, around midnight, with the moon at our backs, casting our long shadows in the trail, a father & son team walking along and talking about random things on our way to yet another CP after almost 16 hours of constant and hard effort. Now that's a race experience you don't get in a triathlon.

Soon we're at the windmill and plotting our course. First we'll go 300 meters at 180 degrees (south) and then turn 270 degrees (west) and go into the trees for 200 meters. We count paces, stop and make the turn, and then it turns to crap. The cedars are as thick as any we've encountered all day. Hunched over, we make our way through the trees. Tree limbs jabbing you in the arms, legs, and head, and cracking when they get hung up on your pack.

It's hellish in the thickets because there's no breeze like there is in the open areas. Also, in the night-time the spiders have been at work spinning their webs across the "trails". At first you try to knock them down, but after awhile you just become indifferent to them and just keep on going. I hadn't worn my cover so it is a little unnerving when you feel the actual spider crawling across your head and neck.

After going about far enough we start the serious searching and after ~10 minutes, we find the CP. Great! One more CP punched. Now it's time to reverse course and head towards the moon to get the heck out of there. Of course, it's another 200-300 meters of brush-busting work to regain the jeep trail.

CP-21, Point
We head back to the windmill and use it as another starting point. This time we're heading 500 meters to the west-northwest and then we'll turn 200 degrees into the trees for another 600 meters. We count paces again, make the turn and it's more of the same. More thickets, more spiders; I'm watching the compass and Timothy trying to count paces as we zig-zag through the trees. It's not easy. After too many zigs and not enough zags, we're "turned around" and have to get re-oriented.

About this time we hear voices and see the headlamps of a 4-man team coming in from the northwest looking for the same CP. Well, at least we're all in the same ballpark; that's reassuring. We get back on course looking for the "point" that was our clue. We press on and I spot it in my headlamp beam, and holler "Got it", and everyone comes over. Hallelujah!

We talk with the 4-man team (they're doing the 24-hr) a few minutes and they confirm that CP-23 is a nightmare to get to and find, so that reinforces our previous decision to blow it off because of how far away it is. It would add another 1-2 hours to our trek. We should do pretty well if we can find 23 out of 24 CPs. We head back to the windmill.

CP-22, Draw
I eat the last 2 bites of an energy bar and down my last gel, but the adrenaline rush of our second wind is gone, and I'm starting to drag now. This CP should be pretty "easy"; plot a course of 14 degrees with the moon off our right back shoulder, head down into the draw and in about 600 meters we should find it on the right side.

We start down into the draw and immediately we're entangled in tree thickets, loose rocks in the creek bottom and more spiders. It's tough going. We split up; I go down the bottom and Timothy flanks the right side about 5-10 meters from me. It gives us a double chance of finding the CP.

We stop a minute and hear the 4-man team coming down behind us. That's good because it gives us 4 more sets of eyes looking. I tell their lead guy that I've cleared out the spiders for him, but he says I missed some. We press on, and looking and looking, but find nothing. Dang.

By now, the draw levels out into a very wide creek bottom and according to the map, we've missed it for sure. That's it! We're done! It's almost 3:00am and we're still 3-4 km from TA, a good 45 minutes if we're lucky. The 4-man team gives up the hunt and we all hit the trail to head back.

It's easy walking now as there is no more bushwhacking to do. We can walk straight up and don't have to deal with any more spiders. What a huge relief. We've missed CP-22 & 23, but punched 22 out of 24 CPs on our passport; it'll have to be good enough. We pick up the pace a little as we know we're close to TA now. We pull in and tell the timekeeper that Team Semper Fi is done.
Check in @ 3:28am, Time of leg = 6h-47m

We've been trekking almost 7 hours, but about 50 minutes of that time was spent looking for hamburgers and talking about quitting. I ask the timekeeper how we're looking in the standing, she says pretty good but there are teams still out on the course and they won't have the final tally until 8:00am after the official cut-off.

We stagger off to camp; I wipe my face, brush my teeth to get all the sugar glaze off, and fall into the sleeping bag to sleep a couple hours until dawn. the day seems like one big blur at this point.

Sunday morning
I'm up shortly after sunrise, but the post race breakfast doesn't start until 8:30, so there's time to kill. Timothy gets up in a little while, but I'm very stiff from the cramps and the exertion; plus my right knee is very sore. We hear cheers coming from TA as a 24-hr team just beats the 8:00am cut-off.

We walk over to TA and the timekeeper to check our results. She shuffles through some papers, checks the computer, and announces we've won our division. Other teams had faster times than we did, but they missed 4 CPs and we only missed 2. Awesome!

We also find out that we've placed 4th overall. A 4-man team finished in 18h-27m and got all 24 CPs for the overall win. Had we found CP-22 in that last draw we would have finished 3rd. (We asked around about CP-22 and it was located 50 meters up a draw within a draw farther up the right side than where we were looking. Hard. Hard.) Several teams had missed 10 CPs and one had missed 11. It was not easy finding all that we did.

Wow, we went from almost quitting and getting a DNF to winning the 2-man team division and placing high against very experienced teams. We'd pulled it off. OohRah!

The pics below were taken after the swim on Leg 4.
Post race
Event comments:

In the 5 years of them putting on this race, this was the hardest it's ever been. Between the heat and the increased quantity and harder CP locations; it just took way longer. Normally the winning team in the 12-hr finishes in 8-9 hours; not this year. There were a number of racers from all divisions and races who DNF'd from the heat.

Adventure Racing is not for everyone. You have to be indifferent to discomfort and not be put off by hardship. That said, once you complete one of these, especially a tough one, the accomplishment is very fulfilling. (Even more so when writing about it a week later after you've recovered sufficiently.)

We ate a huge breakfast, collected our winner's trophies and prizes, struck camp, and hit the road for Timothy's home in San Antonio for a shower, a nap, and that beer we'd skipped out on the night before.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2010-05-27 12:00 AM
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2010-06-08 10:27 PM

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Waller County, TX
Subject: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race

2010-06-10 8:27 PM
in reply to: #2909909

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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race
Ah, what a great RR! I can't believe I'm the first one to respond to this!

Told my Dad I would love to do a AR with you and Timothy some day... but after reading THAT... I'll pass. I'll spare you two the torture of dragging my complaining, screaming, terrified, butt around. Ha! 6 hour race, fine. 19 hour race. I'll pass.

Might I suggest you wear knee pads on the bike?

Overall it sounds brutal. REALLY BRUTAL! I'm not sure how you two kept going. But yes, DNF'ing would have been shameful, considering your team name. So good job pressing through to place!

Really terrific stuff! Ironman? What's an Ironman? This sounds way more brutal in a different suffering kind of way!

2010-06-10 11:01 PM
in reply to: #2909909

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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race
WOW!!! What an EPIC! I'd like to tackle one of these one day.  Well done and an awesome effort put forth on such a brutal event.  Great R.R.  to boot
2010-06-11 9:43 AM
in reply to: #2909909

Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race
AR's are fun but man do they beat you up...   They do these night sprint races here in the Seattle area once a month...  Start at 7pm and usually get done around 10pm..  They give you a map and a description of what you're looking for on a topo map and that's it...
2010-06-13 4:11 PM
in reply to: #2909909

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Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race
As usual love reading your recaps.  What an experiance Jim and you got to share it with your son a long the the way.  Keep on truckin
2010-06-13 5:19 PM
in reply to: #2909909

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Frisco, TX
Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race

Dude, that is one of the most awesome RR I have read!  Great job - I may have to try one of these some time!

2010-06-22 12:52 PM
in reply to: #2909909

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Atlanta, Georgia
Bronze member
Subject: RE: 12-Hr (actually 19+ hrs) Adventure Race
That was over the top with awesomeness!!! You can't begin to appreciate how long a day that was until you read a RR like yours...Just unbelievable.

Congrats to your son, too. It's really great you are able to do things like that with your kid.

Way to go, J!
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