From the time I got there, I felt a bit overwhelmed with all the pre-race details that I hadn't had as much time to study as preferred. That became clear at race check-in when I didn't have my cell phone or my insurance info, necessitating 2 separate trips back to the campsite. Once we got our maps and rules of travel, we poured over them for as long as we could justify without skimping on too much sleep. We tried to chill and log some good Z's prior to the race start.
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We jumped aboard the race buses which took us North to the shores of Moosehead lake. The race started and we began with a run to get maps for the Prologue which was a "trail" run through a swampish, rocky bog of thawed ski trails. Along with nearly everyone, it took us a bit to realize that the road we were on wasn't listed on the map and that we hadn't started off in the most efficient direction. We corrected course, but progressively fell back in the pack as fast footing on such trails is apparently a skill we (I) lack being from dry Colorado. Thankfully the Altra Lone Peak's I was wearing drained quickly after each muddy submersion into the bogs.
We jumped into our canoe and decided we'd try to make up some time on the teams that had jumped ahead of us by our fast canoe speed. As a 3 person team, we had to be 3 in a boat. Thomas was going to sit on the thwart, just like we'd practiced and we'd try to make up some ground. But only about 20 minutes into the paddle, the thwart broke. We tried to make due, and tried to use a more direct bearing for our paddle to make up some ground, but seemed to only lose more ground on teams.
We got to shore and ran to the rappel without any issues. However, when we got there, the rappel was not going as quickly as the race director had hoped. Our team had an 1h30m wait to be able to rappel down the cliff and proceed with the rest of the course. This was a bummer, since we felt like we were just getting warmed up, but we had to make due and move on. We had a fun, short bushwhack back to our trails and ran back to the canoe.
I sat in the center of the canoe for the paddle to the next island. I sat on my knees....but by the time we got to the island, I realized that that wasn't a long term solution and we'd need to do something else for the remainder of the paddle. We ran around the island and gathered our CPs, including a climb up a rickety fire tower which gave a fantastic view of the area. We jumped back into the boat and tried to get as far down the lake before darkness set in.
Our navigation during this section was good, but I was feeling unproductive in the canoe without a good seat, but we made due and headed for our transition area on land. After dark, we held our bearings and paddled into TA1, happy to be out of the boat.
The bike whack was rather exhausting. It took a lot of strength to bust through all the brush and carry your bike. In Colorado, there's typically such little undergrowth that you can practically ride through the woods. We just prayed our bikes would stay in tact!
They did. We got to the lodge where the Orienteering relay was based out of, and there were pancakes! I was pretty tired already from the bike whack and feeling a little bummed about our slower progress than hoped. I had really hoped that we'd do better, so I ate some pancakes and took the first shift to try to get a few Z's.
I was discombobulated, and had low morale. I was still battling the demons that had tormented me in my sleep. It took me a LONG time to find my first CP and get my wits. Finally, I did. It was actually a very easy course---when you're thinking straight.
Coming back into the lodge, I had realized that I needed to get it under control, or my mind was going to defeat me and the team. I stayed quiet for a long time focusing on putting the mess-ups behind me and focusing on what had to be done and enjoying the fact that I get to do this incredible race. I wasn't totally better, but I was on the mend. And my team mates helped me pull out of it.
We biked the rest of the day and took what we thought was a logical route choice down a low-lying (aka: little elevation gain) and direct route. We started and it seemed fine. We thought it odd that we didn't see any other racer tracks. And from the looks of the map, it seemed it would only get better the further we progressed. That couldn't have been further from the truth, however.
It was a muddy swamp crawl the entire 10 km. And it got deeper as we went. At one point, we were wading through waist deep swamp and floating our bikes along. I felt like Humphrey Bogart in the "African Queen" when he's pulling his boat through the swampy weeds. I was amazed that a seemingly logical route choice could have been so wrong. We learned a hard lesson that it can sometimes be more valuable to back-track and go a much longer distance around if a trail is not panning out. This changed a few of our route choices later in this leg, which we were later told were good choices, and we got to TA2 after dark.
We started out on pack rafts after a short nap. We took a bearing across the lake to an island CP, then, we took a small stream leaving out of the lake to connect to another lake, and then we did the same a little later. I loved this pack rafting section. I'd never connected lakes with rivers and paddled through the night like this. It was all so exciting and mystical. Though I could tell my team mates weren't enjoying it as much as I was, this was probably the highlight of the race for me.
We finished up this section with one last little river pack rafting section and then hoofed it on foot, jumped back into our pack rafts to the CP on the other side of an inlet.
We got back on foot and knew that this was a possible chance to make up some ground. We navigated to our first mountain through some brush, but nothing too crazy. Then....I learned what logging does to mountains when logged, replanted, but not thinned. This was the thickest forest I'd ever encountered. I don't know if we chose the right route. We couldn't see far enough to know. But once we realized how thick the travel was, we abandoned our original route choices and just tried to get through the rubbish.
At one point we all 3 were wedged in trees to the point that we couldn't move forward or backward or to either side. We regained our strength and eventually got out of it, but not before an amusing daydream popped into my head of a hiker stumbling across 3 skeletons wearing packs, suspended in the trees above him.
We eventually worked our way out of what I and the others concluded to be the single toughest trek of our lives. We got the sticks out of our clothes and ran to the next TA. And after going 100m per hour at times, a steady jog seemed like we were moving at lightyears' pace.
So at the recommence point, we got on our bikes and peddled to the whitewater section. We got there during a river "dark-zone" which we didn't realize existed. It was apparently a low water time of the river, and so we had to wait here for about 1h30min waiting for our whitewater guides and the river flow to come back up.
We were first on the river. We were rafting the Kennobek....and it was AWESOME! Big...I mean really big water! It tossed our giant raft around like it was a pool float toy! It was so fun, and the cold water splashes kept us alert enough to enjoy it.
Then, a few miles down the river, our raft guide jumped out on shore and sent us the rest of the way on our own. Thankfully, Julian on our team was a raft guide for years which made it seem like our guide never left.
Once done with the rafting, we jumped on shore and started trekking up the Dead River's side trail for the next pack rafting section. We tried to trek quickly to beat the day
My headlamp got progressively dimmer, so the whitewater got increasingly more "exciting." I realized I needed to follow someone in order to see where I was going, so I followed Tom who had a great light.
We had lost track of where we were on the river, so we decided to do the next rapid and then get out. We wanted to figure out where we were so we'd be sure to portage around "the falls." Our rafts had done great in the class II whitewater, but we didn't want to test them in class 3 in the dark.
I was following Tom when suddenly he disappeared over a drop. I didn't have time to do anything, so I went over right after him. We were both swimming and the river took him right and it took me left. We were IN the falls.
Pretty sure that no one knew I was swimming, I realized it was up to me to try and get out of this situation. I was taken under a few times and when I popped up, I held onto my raft and swam as hard river left as I could. Then, the river took me river right and under a few more times. I again swam hard river left.
Right when I had about run out of energy for fierce swimming, I washed up onto the gentlest, most welcoming rock in the whole river. I climbed up on it to try and gain my breath and figure out what needed to happen next.
Just as I had climbed up, Julian passed within yelling distance. He yelled "SWIMMER!" referring to Tom. It was clear he had no idea I had also just been a for a swim. I feared we might all get separated, so I yelled "RIVER LEFT!" hoping that at least, if we got split up, we'd know what side the others were on.
Once I regained enough strength to get off the rock, I looked down to find my throw rope. I had decided that while I wouldn't be of much use amidst the whitewater since I was so pooped by my swim, maybe I could run down shore and throw my throw rope to Tom...or possibly paddle upstream from below. But when I looked down, there was no throw rope....and no back pack.
I got back in my boat and paddled to shore. I kept an eye on Thomas and Julian and by now, Thomas had found a rock to climb up on and Julian was in beast rescue mode, getting Thomas out of his hairy situation. They paddled out of my vision downstream. I feared they would be looking for me and I'd not find them again. So, I bolted down stream on the shore until I found them.
Once we all found each other, we all agreed we needed to make a fire. We were all freezing and especially needed to get Thomas in better shape as he had apparently had one crazy swim.
We were thankful to be back with each other and on firm ground. We built a fire, did a status check, and dried out our clothes. We decided that since it was likely that they wouldn't let us continue the full bike leg since I had lost all of my mandatory gear during my swim (despite it being attached to my boat), we'd dry out enough to tolerate the downhill ride to the finish. We'd cross the finish line under our own power.
We dried out, rested around the fire, then trekked into the TA at dawn. Where the transition area monitor presented to me my pack! Team Odyssey had plucked it out of the river in the night!! What are the odds that a) my pack would be floating after such a swim, and b) some one would see it and pluck it out of the river!!!?! Thanks Odyssey!! I had my gear back!!!
We were going to finish this thing! We got on our bikes, travelled to the remaining CP and crossed the finish line! We'd finished Untamed New England. We'd had quite a journey along the way and we were thankful to be crossing the finish line; but moreover, we were thankful to be crossing the finish line together.