We arrived in Buena Vista on Friday with plenty of time to get set up and check out the cabin we rented. It was way better than staying in a hotel – very homey! Our support crew, the Wiecks, arrived a few hours later, and after dinner we headed to racer check-in. We were all excited, thinking we’d have our packs checked and be getting all kinds of information. Nope. They hand you a big zip-loc with all your maps and passport (what you punch at each checkpoint, and basically all the rules for the race), give you a shirt, and then you are done. 5 minutes tops. Its nice that for an Adventure Race, the responsibility lies on you to take care of yourself. No hand-holding.
We headed back to the cabin and did checkpoint-plotting, route tracing, and pack-packing. I felt totally crazy inside, worried we were forgetting something. Luckily with 4 experienced outdoors people working together, by the end of the night we were totally prepared and ready and the crazy feelings subsided.
Abi proceeded to wake up screaming roughly 6 times that night. In the morning, we drove to the start area, checked out the river, and just hung out. It was a very anti-climactic start. We all get under this big red arch. The race director says “how is everyone feeling? (10 seconds) Great, don’t follow people doing the other course. (10 seconds) Okay, go!” Then there was much giggling, joke cracking, bottlenecking as we ran/walked slowly up the trail to checkpoint 1.
The first 3 checkpoints were within 3 miles of each other and then we were back to the start area and putting on our wetsuits and PFDs for paddling. Sonja had everything laid out super organized for us, and Troy was going nuts taking pictures.
We started with a few miles of class III rapids and Wes and I have never, ever paddled together. It was SO fun, I think it was our favorite part! I was the steering person and Wes was the motor up front. Nothing was too scary, but enough to get your heart pumping. The wetsuits were a good idea, as our feet were numb when we got out at checkpoint 4. We had to push the boat up this long metal ramp while climbing some stairs, it felt really weird with numb feet!
So then, we were really cold. We got out of the wetsuits and put on our packs. This was our last time having any support until the end of the race – and we were less than 2 hours in! Once again, Sonja and Troy were awesome – I left our map at the last CP (eek!) and they brought it to us and they kept us eating, moving, sunscreen-ed, and drinking until we were off on the bikes.
We started on a dirt road and then hit a jeep trail, finally warmed up and ready for a long climb. What were were not expecting was about 2 hours of climbing on a trail that was covered in 4-6″ of sand. It got frustrating, and after some jokes about playing beach volleyball or sunbathing instead of riding in all that sand, we were a bit cranky. The only good thing I can say is that my new GT climbs like a dream. When we finally hit a steeper section of the climb that was sand-free, we were ecstatic. Then more dirt roads, crossing the highway, then another slog of a climb up to CP 6 and the Orienteering course. On the dirt road, we found the Wiecks camping out.
The last climb before CP 6 was rough for Wes. It was definitely his breaking point. We got passed by 2 teams, and one of them we found later on the side of the road eating ham & cheese sandwiches, only to be passed by them again later. Totally unassuming-looking, but nice guys and strong and smart racers, we decided to name them Ham & Cheese and we never did catch up to them after the O-course. But….you’ll have to wait for part 2 to hear about that.