Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the thunder rolls

Saturday, Sept. 6 was The Thunder Rolls AR-- put on evil genius race director Gerry Voelliger. Sean and I did the 12-hour event.

Giving specifics of this race would take way too much time. Here are some highlights:

Section 1: the dreaded pack raft

Gerry (GV) threw a curveball this year, putting "pack raft" on the mandatory gear list. The forum was ablaze with questions, most of which boiled down to "what the hell is a pack raft?" A pack raft is exactly what it sounds like: an inflatable raft that is small enough to carry in your pack. Luckily GV was kind enough to not make us carry the rafts. We biked to the dock (TA1), where we inflated the rafts and hit the river.

Sean and I had tried out a number of pack raft formations. We had the 3-man boat and two single trail boats. When we were doing our military-style recon of the Mississippi backwaters, we actually ran into Gerry, who was in a single trail boat himself. He recommended using two trail boats and tying them side-by-side. We tried this and did find it to be somewhat efficient (a relative term when you consider that we were in an inflated craft).

However, on race day, we decided to use carabiners to attach our two boats, which creating a frustrating wobbling as our boats bounced off each other. Teams in the exact same 3-man boat that we had in the back of our car were flying past us. Kind of a downer. We got the two pack raft checkpoints (CPs) and got the hell out of the water.

Section 2: Loud Thunder o, also known as Shut Up, Eat, and Follow the Navigator

At the dock, the volunteers gave wristbands for the first orienteering course. We did alright on this course. I set my watch to beep every 15 minutes, so we drank every 15 and ate every 30. There was one CP that really fucked with us, but there were three other teams with us in the woods lost on the same CP. When we found it, we hadn't gone far enough... and had confused some of the other teams as well. {sigh}

This section was somewhat uneventful, but did present some mild exhaustion. We have a tendency to take a direct bearing from CP to CP, and just deal with the terrain... which ends up wearing us down really quickly. I think some of the faster teams might be a little smarter about this, finding trails and ridgelines to follow. {double sigh}

Section 3: canoe 1- never buy a kayak paddle from Dick's Sporting Goods

We got back to the dock, turned in our wristbands, and got our canoe. I climbed into the front, Sean got in the back, and as I was preparing to push off, I hear this: "Aw, shit! You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

I look back, and Sean is holding his kayak paddle in two pieces. (I should note here that we bought that paddle at Dick's about a week before and had only used it twice.) He is the stronger paddler, so I gave him my fully-intact paddle and took one of his halves to use like an oar. Luckily we had tried this formation during our recon, so it wasn't much of a stretch. We picked up the island CP and gave the duck blinds a wide berth, the way Gerry warned at the pre-race meeting. (Perhaps a wider berth than necessary...)
Section 4: Wildcat Den is under-appreciated and volunteers rule
At the opposite dock (Iowa side of the 'ole Miss), the volunteers had hot baked beans and 180 energy drinks waiting for us. As we were leaving the dock, the energy drink must've taken hold: "I feel awesome!! I am having so much fun!"
We headed into Wildcat Den State Park for six more CPs. On the two-mile walk to the park, we had to stop and wrap Sean's ankle. He has an old break that gives him problems at inconvenient times--such as at the beginning of a 3-4 hour hiking section of a race. The Ace bandage seemed to help and we went on about our business. We struggled a bit on this O-section, but the park is so beautiful that it didn't matter at all. One particular checkpoint was just off a sandstone creekbed. We got really lost on this section... but it truly didn't matter.
We also struggled with a CP in a cave. There are two caves at Wildcat Den-- one of which was too small to house a CP. The other, the Brandt Memorial, is placed high with a wide mouth and a low ceiling. I had to climb up several levels to get into the cave, only to not see the CP flag. We were stumped and ran into more teams. One team with a particularly tall guy climb into the Brandt cave (all the way in)... and found the CP all the way in the back. It was completely dark and I had to belly-crawl to reach it to punch my wristband!
The final checkpoint at Wildcat Den was a tyrolean traverse over the creek by the gristmill. This was as exhausting as it was fun. I was relieved to see Janelle at the starting side of the traverse-- she always makes me feel safe. I continued to refuse to believe that I have inherited my mother's fear of heights and made it across without shitting myself. We headed back to the dock, hopped in our canoe, and headed back to Illinois.
We approached the IL dock at almost exactly 6:00, the time we were supposed to be crossing the finish line. We still had a bike ride to Snowstar for two CPs, and a MTB ride at Loud Thunder for two more CPs-- in addition to the 45-minute ride simply to reach the finish line.
Needless to say, we opted to simply ride back in. We crossed the finish line at 6:55, exhausted, exhilarated, and not dead last (although nowhere close to first).

1 comment:

Neve_r_est said...

I thought for sure you were going to say you found the emergency deflation tabs on those packrafts. Either they weren't Sevlors or you were really lucky tieing them together.