Having read the other posts regarding the Buff Betty Women's Adventure Race, I don't see there's much I could add about the race itself. It was very well done. Lake Hope SP is an outstanding venue for adventure racing and we were blessed with gorgeous weather.
I would, however, like to say a few words about my teammate and how she made this one of the most enjoyable race experiences I've had. I'll also add in some photos that were taken of the two of us in transition (if for no other reason than to make sense of the subject line). Having been in adventure racing for about three years now, I responded to Brad's call for some old hens willing to team up with the spring chickens and show them around the coop. Frankly, I was a little nervous about the prospect of teaming up with someone I'd never met, much less trained with. Still, I figured it was a way for me to give a little back to the sport, and to support Ambush Adventure Sports, which I'm always pleased to do.
Little did I know how much I would be getting out of the pairing. I was introduced to Jane the afternoon before the race, following the mountain bike, paddling and navigation clinics. Jane endeared herself to me immediately when she asked right off the bat, "You don't want to win, right?" This was her first race and her goal was to have a good time.
She explained that she is under medical restrictions that preclude her from running - as a child, she had rods placed in her back to correct her scoliosis. So, it was understood from the start that we were going to keep a reasonable pace and enjoy ourselves. And that we did.
As the other women rushed off to the beach, Jane and I embarked on our adventure with a pace only slightly more aggressive than leisurely. As the race wore on, she would assume "mall-walker pace." For now, though, it was sunny and scenic, and we had our life stories to tell, after all. Jane was wearing the most glamorous pair of adventure racing glasses I've ever seen. Big and round and black, they reminded me of something Jackie Kennedy might have worn. Jane in her Jackie O's:
Just before settling into our boats, I realized that I'd left our maps back at the transition area. Lesson No. 1: don't get so wrapped up in chit-chatting with your teammates that you forget to take your stuff with you. It didn't matter. We both had looked at the map extensively in our planning phase before the race start. Besides, the lake just isn't that
So, we hop in our boats (after I falsely accuse another racer of taking Jane's kayak - gee, I'm still really sorry about that) and set off for a very pleasant paddle. Jane has a genuinely happy and enthusiastic greeting for every other person on the water - anglers, racers, everybody. We're bound to win the good spirit award, if nothing else.
We saved the two floating, "manned" checkpoints for last (one of the nice things about this women's adventure race is that the checkpoints are all "manned," literally - it's great to see husbands and boyfriends and sons coming out to support the race). Aaron - who had taught the paddling clinic the day before and was now serving as a floating checkpoint - had parked his kayak near a beaver lodge on the bank and had taken up the practice of pointing this out to every racer who approached. He was quite pleased with his find. Adam looked so relaxed in his kayak that we feared he might doze off and flip into the water.
After the paddling leg, Jane traded her long-sleeved shirt for a short-sleeved one. It was at this point that she remarked again that she had forgotten to put on deodorant that morning. I'll note that I never noticed any odor emanating from Jane all day, but she was closer to the source, apparently. I had offered for her to use my deodorant, which was in my toiletries kit in the car. I had also warned her, however, that she would be taunted mercilessly if Aaron saw her retrieving deodorant from the car in the middle of the race. She astutely declined the offer and went on stinking. Lesson No. 2: put one of those little travel-sized deodorant sticks in your transition area box - it's pretty effective at stopping chafing, too, I've found (and a lot cheaper than BodyGlide).
We took off on our bikes. Well, correction. I took off on my bike. Jane attached a water bottle to her dinosaur and called it a bike.
No shocks whatsoever and still the thing weighed a ton. I was impressed, to say the least, at what a strong pace she kept on the bike. She advised me that she spends a lot of time outdoors with her boyfriend, Nick, hiking, biking, paddling, etc. She also advised me that she might be a bit skittish near one section of the Sidewinder Trail where she had once taken a hard fall on her bike and cracked a rib.
I'm liking her more and more.
We were pretty far back in the pack coming into the paddle to bike transition, but managed to pass several teams on the bike. Familiarity with the park and the trails was helpful here. Though not overly tricky, there was a trailhead or two that could have been easily passed by if you didn't have your thumb on the map. We located the two roving checkpoints on the bike course - Jason Walsh and Joe Smindak - thanks guys! Hey, a photo of Joe Smindak after his big win at the Ambush Otter Creek Adventure Challenge in Louisville on April 23rd:
Our philosophy on the bike leg was to keep a steady, safe pace. We knew the trails would have some slick spots, especially from wet roots, and were more concerned about finishing the race uninjured than about our placement. Still, with me goading her to "pedal, pedal, pedal," Jane took on some challenging obstacles with poise and determination. I began to look forward to hearing her exclaim "I did it!!" after successfully negotiating a deep ditch or rough creek crossing. Only occasionally would I hear the apologetic "I'm walkin' it." Even then, she'd very quickly make up the seconds lost. She plans to buy a new mountain bike soon, and she'll be great on it. After training on a dinosaur, she'll fly on a horse.
After the bike, we refueled and had a quick look at our orienteering map. We had decided on a plan of attack prior to the race start, and we stuck with it. It turned out to be a pretty good plan. Starting with CP B, we would head north to collect the 4 northwesternmost checkpoints; check our time at CP E and assess whether to head east or return south to pick up CP A (by the cemetery) before dropping down into the finish line at the picnic shelter. Jane had a good grasp on topo map-reading and land navigation. She had attended Brad's orienteering clinic the day before, and had no difficulty reading contour lines to determine what sort of terrain we should be seeing at any given point. We collaborated on navigation decisions and her familiarity with the park was, again, a benefit. I've raced at Lake Hope a few times, but being from nearby Athens, Jane had spent much more time there than I.
We had no real difficulties finding CPs B through E, but found ourselves with just under 30 minutes to get back to the finish from there. It was a long walk back the gravel road and we knew it was going to be nip-and-tuck for us to beat the 6-hour deadline. Anxious, Jane would occasionally blurt out, "Okay, let's jog a little bit." Unfortunately, she would quickly begin to suffer from the impact. She was frustrated, I knew, but she kept a great attitude and was satisfied, I think, that I was having a great time and not in the least concerned about the runners passing us on the road. Considering that rods in her back force a walking pace, I hope Jane was thrilled to see our final standings (9th - "Girls in the Mist"). Our 5 points were reduced to 4 because we were tardy on the return, but we were just minutes behind a top 4 finish.
The wonderful thing about walking is that it gives you time to soak up your surroundings and you're able to talk and get to know your teammates. Jane and I talked about everything from career changes to boyfriends to body image to bikes to landscapes conducive to sound mental health. We noticed the wildflowers and took 45 second breaks to talk to people on the trail and relaxed in the transition area with no eye whatsoever on the time.
If you're a Type A personality who thinks it isn't a race unless you're going all-out and all-out suffering, I strongly suggest you devote at least one race this year to slowing down and enjoying the moment, the people, the place. Pick a venue you love and race for the fun of it. I realized in this race how much I miss in other races with my single-mindedness. And that's fine most of the time - it's what works for me. But I wouldn't trade my experience in this race for a first place finish anywhere else. Thanks, Jane.