I was somewhat amazed that we were able to acquire all our necessary gear to continue the race from the kayak to bike transition, and especially impressed that the backpack I was able to borrow was the exact version that I normally race in!
The race officials held us there for an additional 20 minutes as they were still trying to figure out what to do about the teams still stuck out on the water. It was dark out now and the marines had rescued whoever they came across...but there were still two teams that were unaccounted for...and rumour had it that their smashed up kayaks had been spotted.
Eventually the race directors realised that there was no further benefit in holding teams at CP 3 and in somewhat of a mass start, numerous teams were off within minutes of each other.
We were 8Th leaving this transition and as mentioned before, the timing, although somewhat behind where we should have been had we been able to finish the kayak, was close enough that we thought we could race as if we were still ranked and at least get an idea of where we stood up against the rest of the pack.
This first bike leg was 50km with some decent climbing involved and within an hour we were able to see lights in the distance and know that we were closing in on the teams ahead of us.
Eventually we were able to do just that and there ended up being a pack of three teams within meters of each other. In an attempt to leave these teams behind we decided to open it up a little on the downhill section. The bike route consisted almost entirely of dirt vehicle roads, but they were littered with random holes, sizable holes, along the way. Most were only a foot long and a foot deep, but one sink hole in particular would have easily swallowed an entire truck.
As we let the brakes go and started to build speed, one of these small sink holes jumped out of nowhere and grabbed my front wheel. The bike bounced and I had to drop one foot to the ground while doing about 40km hr. I managed to right the bike and get back in the seat. Megan later commented that she thought I had pull led it out. Unfortunately my rear wheel fishtailed and I hit the ground hard on my left side...exactly where I was carrying my brand new water proof digital camera! I did not care about the road rash on my body, the bike seemed fine, but my camera had a cracked casing. I was amazed it still worked at all, but it was immediately evident that there would be no water photos with this camera for the rest of the race.
This section seemed to go on forever. One additional thing that was lost at sea was our course descriptions. We had our maps, but our CP hints were gone and no one in transition, not even the race directors had an extra copy for us. We biked right past the CP, which was in a small town to our right. On our maps it looked like it would be right on the main road, but later, as we asked another team, we realised that it was indeed in this small town that we had passed.
There ended up being four teams at this CP together and It was hard to distinguish exactly where we were in terms of rankings at that point. Either way, we knew that we had made up time on the rest of the field. It was a fairly uneventful downhill into our next transition, an 18km trekking leg.
We were 5Th into transition and 6Th out. We were focused and efficient but almost every team in this race was more experienced than us, and a speedy transition is something that is learned over time, as a team.
Once on foot Todd navigated us perfectly through the dense brush. We managed a slight run where possible, but for the most part we simply hiked hard and fast while pushing through the thick desert vegetation.
We passed the team who had exited transition ahead of us within minutes for 5Th and had our sights set on the team who came off the water in 6Th place (Who were now in 4Th place, where we figured we should have been). They had started the bike stage a full 90 minutes ahead of us and after fivr hours of biking and an hour of trekking, we had made up the entire hour and a half on them. They took a high route, we took a low route, and that was the last we would see of them in the race.
We could not have been more direct in hitting the first CP on the trek. Dart-Nuun, the eventual winners, had taken 4.5 hr´s to complete the 18km trek. We had knocked down the first half in just under 2hr!
The second half of the trek did not go as smoothly for us. We had yet to sleep, coming up on 24hr or racing. This combined with the stress encured during our ocean ordeal was starting to take its toll on us. We ended up bushwhacking up the wrong ridge and spent a full 30 minutes trying to place ourselves. In the darkness of night the routes back down to the valley floor looked far more dangerous than they actually were, and we questioned our route numerous times before actually moving on it.
Once reaching the valley floor the 5Th place team, ´Dancing Pandas´, caught up to us again. They are a much more experience team then us, and although we may be physically faster, they are a smarter and more efficient team. I was constantly amazed at how difficult it would prove to distance ourselves from this team. (they were great people and it was actually a lot of fun to race with them, but after awhile it was frustrating us to not be able to loose them!
Between both teams we nailed the CP and only had a short trek back to our bikes and a 58km biking stage.
Again, Dancing Pandas were faster than us in the transition and we spent time chasing them down on the bikes. We ended up taking a small detour into a Cactus Farm, snapped a fun photo and quickly got back on track. This bike stage was broken up with a truly arduous hike a bike section of about half a KM uphill. Once up top, we...yet again...came across D.P. It was not until this bike leg hit the significant climbing section that we were finally able to make time on this team.
The climb was steep and endless, lasting well over an hour, but we hardly stopped and knew that we were again making up good time on the rest of the field.
We came flying into transition and were surprised to learn that we were now in 3rd place overall! With 2ND having left just 10 minutes ahead of us!
Apparently some teams had trouble navigating the 58km bike section and we managed to benefit from this. However, the people running this transition were not expecting to see us so soon and they were without all of our gear! We ended up having to wait a full 2hr for it to show up, but since we would be credited for this time, it was free sleep for us! We all managed about 30-45 minutes of rest, although no one managed to fully sleep. It was the middle of the day and not ideal conditions for doing so.
The next stage was another ´short´ trek of 17km. It was a virtually straight line on the map, but littered with cactus and scrub along the actual route.
Todd, has found a new nickname. CACTUS BUTT! This man, as many of you know is large. Well I guess his sheer size makes it harder for him to avoid the cactus out on course, because I have never seen someone get hit by so much cactus before. He screamed when it first hit him in the foot and I told him that he would get over the pain within ten minutes.¨
But it feels like there are barbs in my foot!
Don´t worry, there are no barbs on these...of course I had no idea, I just wanted to keep him from stopping!
Within ten minutes he had forgotten about the pain, and I was thankful that there were no barbs in these cactus.
At our next transition we knew we were getting into the toughest sections of the course. A 30km bike ride, with thousands of meters of elevation gain awaited us. We had originally intended to sleep here, at a lower, warmer elevation, but the 30 min power nap before the trek seemed to keep us going.
We were greeted by the most unbelievable surprise at this transition...our kayak!!!
Somehow, as unlikely as it seems possible, our boat had drifted towards the next rocky outcrop in the ocean...and snagged itself on a buoy! It sat there for hours until the marines were able to come along and haul it out for us. Absolutely everything was still attached, right down to our paddles which were worth 800 alone!
My grandfather was a fisherman in Newfoundland. He raised 17 children in a three bedroom home while fishing for North Atlantic Cod. I have never seen him so evil as when he used to take me fishing, watch me puke, laugh at me and direct the boat into harsher seas. I know I heard him chuckling at me when I vomited on myself in the kayak, and I´m pretty sure he managed to convince the ocean to spare us our boat out there. Maybe it was the hypothermia, but I swear I felt his presence on the water.
We opened up our boat like it was a huge Christmas present. My Helly Hansen Mars jacket was inside, of which the entire team agrees is our favorite new piece of gear! My altimeter watch still worked, my pack was there, Megan even had a few MP3 players still in tact. I am proud to say that when we left the boat behind I did not stop for even a fraction of a second to contemplate how much it was all worth to us financially...but later that night while biking it had hit us hard. The kayak alone would have cost us 3,000, paddles almost another 1,000 and all up it would have been close to a 5,000 loss...and now it was all right here in front of us! AMAZING!!
We knew we sat in 3rd place, and that Dart-Nuun were already well out of reach. We had half a race left to try and get ourselves a 2ND place overall finish...we were off...without sleep...something we would end up regretting...