Red Tail Adventure Race
Miss Link & The Neanderthals:
Jonathan Owens, Jon Bonwick, Lynn Armstrong, Ken White
It began with a taunt. An e-mail entitled "Are we adventure racers?" arrives from Jonathan on Thursday, chiding me for not having put the "race" in "adventure racer" for five months.
Responding to the goad, I threaten to assemble a team for the Red Tail Adventure Race on Saturday. Upping the ante, Jonathan agrees to race with me. Uh, oh, now we have to do it.
Bright and early, we hit the trail for what is expected to be five hours of racing. We begin with some fairly straightforward orienteering--the usual scrabbling around in creek beds and up hills. However, the vast thickets of star thistle and foxtails ensure that the next day--despite wearing tights--our legs will look like we have been beaten with porcupines. Nonetheless, we whip through the section in an hour and arrive at the transition just seconds ahead of our main competition (and Jon's former team), Shootingstar Adventure.
We climb 2 miles uphill on our bikes, drop them at a checkpoint, and then run 2 miles downhill to a reservoir (hmmm, that seems like a waste of energy). With our competition still in sight, we drag our boats across the mudflats to the water. And then we discover a problem: My (borrowed) kayak has the shape, weight, and hull speed of a cast-iron bathtub.
By the time we reach the far end of the reservoir, my face is purple and my arms are like 12-minute linguini. Taking pity, Jon and Lynn hook a tow line to their (fast) tandem kayak. Although we wobble like drunken sailors, the combination of drafting and a gentle tug make it possible for me to keep up.
However, Shootingstar stretches out their lead a good ten minutes on this one-hour paddle. This turn of events, combined with the heat and the pace, threaten to turn our team's "wa" (harmony) into "wah" (whining). Sample interchange:
Lynn (running uphill): "I need a Gu or gel."
Ken (takes off pack, rummages around, digs out a banana-flavored GU): "Here."
Ken (heatedly): "Next time, bring your own [Cheneyism deleted]ing food!"
Ken (under his breath): "There won't be a next time."
However, a return to the mountain bikes restores relative calm. Over the next 20 miles, we catch glimpses of Shootingstar on the ridges ahead of us, or returning from out-and-back checkpoints. But never getting much closer.
At one out-and-back point, Jonathan notices that we can head down to a paved road and cut back into the park at a location near the next checkpoint. Although it's a risk, we don't appear to be making up time on Shootingstar, and if it works, it might put us close to the lead. There's nothing in the written rules against it. We decide to go for it.
However, the volunteer staffing the checkpoint (a kindly gent in a baseball cap) says: "I don't think that's a good idea" and "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Thinking to myself, "Well, *I* think it's a good idea and you're *not* me," I say politely, "We're gonna try it anyway," and head down the hill. After 50 yards, the team is yelling for me to come back. Turns out the fellow meant to say it was against the rules to go that way. Hmm, we think he may have been misinformed on that point.
The rest is just a slog to the finish. We all run out of water by the last checkpoint, but the finish is downhill. We end up eight minutes adrift of Shootingstar, in second place overall, finishing in .
With the prize money, our net cost of racing is $68.50 each. Plus several banana-flavored Gus.