what am I thinking?!??!

my preparations and thoughts as I prepare to compete at Primal Quest '06

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Too Cool Big Chill 24 hr race report

The forecast for the Too Cool Big Chill 24 hr race was exactly what no one wanted. Rain Friday night, ending around noon on Saturday. The race was to go from 8 am Saturday, until 8 am Sunday. The race started in Bastrop State Park, and also included legs in Buecher SP and Rocky Hill Ranch. The problem with the rain was the section at Rocky Hill. It's notoriously bad in the rain. But that comes later.

I was racing with Tom, who I did a number of races with last year. We decided to do it as a two person team to see how we would do.

When the race started, the sky was cloudy, but no rain yet. Obviously the storm was moving slower than predicted. The race started with a short trekking section. Three points, each one offering up two sets of numbers. When you got the three sets of two numbers, you had to rearrange them to find the coordinates of the check point. After the prologue, the second leg was described as a free-for-all. Paddle,trek, ropes. Any order you wanted. There were 4 paddle CPs, thetyrolean traverse, a 'tunneling' CP, and four trekking points.

We decided to do the tyrolean first. The rule was that whatever team was ready with their gear on first got to go. We grabbed our gear bag that had been transported for us, threw our helmets and harnesses on and were ready. With only two of us, and the whole team having to use the same rope, we were done in record time and left before the other two teams that had arrived before us. We went on to the 'caving' section. The organizers had said that no special gear was required,and that you'd be able to see daylight the whole time. It turned out that it was the culvert under the highway. It required crawling on hands and knees while dragging your pack, and punching your passport at a CP hanging in the middle of the culvert. It was a creative CP,
and a safe way to get everyone across the highway.

We ran on to the lake, and got in our boat. We had a good tail wind and made it to the first check point quickly. The next check point required a paddle into the wind and a turn up into the next arm of the lake. It seemed that it might be faster to portage the boat across land than try to fight the wind on the lake. It probably came out even in the end, since it was a bit slow to bushwack with the boat. We paddled to the next two CPs as the storm finally arrived. Heavy rain, high winds, but short lived. I thought it was pretty fun actually, to be paddling in a complete downpour. Once finished the paddle, we headed to the trekking points. It was relatively uneventful, except for a slight nav error that probably cost us about 30 minutes.

After the trek/paddle leg, there was a short scooter section to pickup two CPs just off the park road. Then it was the long leg - 12 hours of biking and trekking. The trekking points were straightforward and not far from the roads. The problem occurred on the biking points on the way to Rocky Hill Ranch. The dirt roads had turned to peanut butter. The kind of mud that sticks in your tires sothat they can't turn. The kind that makes you carry your now 60 lbs bike. The kind of mud that brings back nightmares of the 4 hours ofcarrying your 60 lb bike in the rain at the Haskell three day race. Ug. Fortunately, it didn't last for three days.

Once at RHR, we ditched the bikes to get two trekking points out on the trails. The organizers had declared the east fenceline and the service roads out of bounds, which forced a longer trek to get to thepoints. After those CPs, it was back to the bikes and back out on thetrails to get two more, again having to take the long way around. By this point, Tom was fading a bit. His knee was acting up and he was having some trouble with the slippery roots and rocks. Unfortunately,the trails are too twisty to allow towing, so we just slogged through it. I enjoyed getting to ride real singletrack in a race. Tom was hating it, but I had a good time. And I got to see two owls which I spooked as I rode past. After the singletrack, it was a long ride back on the pavement to the TA.

The next and final leg was a trek. It was about 4 am when we started out, giving us 4 hours to get as many of the 10 check points as we could. Looking over the maps, we guessed we could get 7 based on the distance and route. The points were spread over the whole park, but you could travel on roads and trails quite a bit and minimize bushwacking with some good nav. We got the first 5 checkpoints pretty quickly, and realized that we had time to get three more. We were nearly foiled when the second to last check point was mis-plotted (the organizers had given us the points on the map for this one leg). We lost about 20 minutes trying to find it. In the end we finished with all but two points and two minutes to spare.

We finished fourth over all. The competition was very very strong, with the two fastest teams in Texas, the fastest team in Louisiana, and a top team from California. We had a few issues – bike mechanicals, a few nav mistakes, a very sore knee. We probably still would have finished fourth even without those, but we would have been closer. Neither Tom nor I felt as though we performed as well as we usually do. But we learn from every race, and this was no different. I tried out some new clothing options/variations, some of which worked and some which didn't. My food management was good, although I still need to work on eating enough during paddle legs. And I discovered anew favourite race food – pepperoni rolls from Double Dave\'s pizza. Yum.

the back story

how much of the back story? How about back to the fall when PQ '06 was announced. I decided to get a team together to apply for a spot at the race. There were to be 70 spots, with some already commited to top finishers at previous races, some for international teams and the balance for a lottery of entries. We (Tom, Coby, Pete and I) put our name in for a spot in the lottery.

We didn't get a spot. It was very very disappointing. The increased the field to 90 teams, and even so, we were on the waiting list with another 30 teams. We thought that when the next payment was due that we would get a spot. So we waited.

Then turkey day came, and then christmas came, and still no spot for PQ. We decided to disband and try to find teams to join on our own. Pete and I decided to stick together and we send our race bios off to team 24seven, who had posted on the PQ forums that they were looking for a male and a female to join them, preferably two people who had race experience together. Pete and I certainly have that. So, to cut to the end of the story, we found out on Friday that we have been chosen to join them for the race.

yay! so, now we're commited to doing PQ in June. I'm excited, and scared, and excited. And really scared. I don't feel like I know how to train, or how to pay for it, or how to do it. But I will.