Last Sunday night, I was checking some emails from the CAARA list. I was drooling over different races the way an eleven-year-old boy looks at porn: I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I knew I wanted it.
Sean happened to see one about the Sweaty Otter 24-hour race. She was a sexy race, with smoky woods, great hills, and curvy routes... not to mention required toys (climbing harnesses!). We briefly entertained the idea of signing up ("Hey, maybe Stephanie would want to do it, too!") but laughed it off a bit. Later on I mentioned it to Stephanie ("Oh, yay!") and we all started to think about it seriously. We registered on Wednesday night. The race was Saturday, with registration starting at 6am.
Rookie mistake #1: Giving ourselves two days prep for a race.
Our house (Stephanie was staying with us) looked like the site of a death match between REI, the grocery store, and Farm and Fleet. We had half a dozen copies of the gear list all over the house as we scrambled to get everything together. We didn't have any UTM plotting devices, so we ordered some from two different sources (MapTools.com and BackpackingLight.com) in the hopes that one would show up in time. No dice on that. What is it with these outfitters not having next-day air mail as an option?
Friday finally came. All three of us had to work (due to the limited notice), so we weren't on the road until about 5:30. Sean had a job in Watertown, so he had to take the truck & trailer separately. Steph and I had to turn around twice for things we had forgotten. We had to get to Madison before REI closed to get 2' sewn slings (we were short three), so we were off in a rush.
We got the slings and headed towards the park. We all decided to get a room in West Bend and try to get a little rest. The room (apparently the only one left in West Bend) reeked of cigareete smoke.
The morning of the race, Sean woke up and said, "Mmmm... let's get some biscuits and gravy." I almost puked right there. The motel had a waffle iron, but my old buddy nausea was hangin' with me, so I had some OJ and called it good. We met another team (Knome Hunters Too) and they gave us directions to the highway.
Registration was similar to other multisport/endurance races with packets and such. Rod from Fat Otter loaned us a UTM device which eased our minds a little.
The race started at 11:00 am sharp with a three-mile trail run designed to (effectively) break up the field a bit. Stephanie can easily run a 7-and-a-half minute mile, but alas, I cannot. We fell pretty far back right off the bat. Of note: there was a bright red thong hanging on one of the bushes on the run course.
After the run we were given our maps. The race was divided into ten "sections". Section 1 was a road ride to New Fane for a singletrack loop for the first checkpoint (CP). From there was a road ride to Mauthe Lake for Section 2- a nav course with six CPs. After Mauthe Lake we were back to transition 1 (TA1- the car). We did our version of planning and figured the first two sections would be "quick".
We headed out on some county roads with me & Stephanie in the lead. This is particularly stupid because SEAN IS THE NAVIGATOR. We got to Hwy67 ("off limits") and realized that we had headed north instead of south, adding about 7 road miles to our journey.
Rookie mistake #2: Not following the navigator.
Hammer had to loan us a bunch of gear, including his Bianchi Super Grizzly MTB for Sean. Stephanie had just purchased a new Diamondback 29er, which she rode for the first time during the race.We lucked out with Stephanie's ride. (The guys at Healthy Habits sure know how to fit a bike!) Hammer's bike seat was visibly too low for Sean, so when we got to New Fane we raised his seat. This helped and all was well until the Bianchi started to ghost shift. We got it into a solid gear and hopped on to some pretty fun singletrack (Sean: "I could do this all day!").
We knew we were dead last at this point and decided that we would just chill out and try to survive. The Bianchi started to ghost shift again, so we had to put it in a gear suitable for the uphills, which forced Sean to spin out on downhills and flats. Pretty frustrating.
Rookie mistake #3: Going into a race on a new and/or foreign bike.
We finally got over to Mauthe lake and got our nav maps. Stephanie and I immediatley started plotting the UTMs on the giant map. When we finished, Sean held up a smaller, more specific map: "What's this?" Three of the six UTMs were already plotted! We checked our work and headed out--after spending more than an hour in transition.
Rookie mistake #4: Not looking through all of a packet before plotting UTMs.