Jan 26, 2009

"I'll leave you dead on the driveway"...and other memories from Big Chill

This past weekend, Damon and I traveled to Bastrop, Texas, with our friends Dane and Sarah Welch to participate in the Big Chill 12 Hour Adventure Race. Early in the week, we were very excited about the forecast for the race, because it looked like the weather would be clear with temperatures in the mid 70's. Unfortunately, by the time we left LaPlace, the forecast had taken a turn for the worse and the predicted high temperature in the 40's allowed the race to live up to its name. Those of you who know me and my extreme sensitivity to cold are probably wondering what I was thinking. Even today I don't have a good answer for that question.

Anyway, Saturday dawned, frigid and gray. The four of us layered up and made our way slowly but surely to the race site. Of course we were too late to visit the boat drop and stage any gear (we are Pourciaus, after all), so we had to pack paddling supplies with us for the first leg of the race, also known as the Prologue. The Prologue consisted of 5 clues that featured different historic landmarks around Bastrop. One of the challenges was to catch a goat, and Dane was the lucky goat wrangler. I was fiddling with my pack during this time, but I hear that he actually "got Lori's goat." (Kirk and Lori were in the race, too, just as a 2 person team) We ended the Prologue at the "Sugar Shack," a candy store where they sell edible bugs. Dane volunteered to eat the mystery treat hidden under a cup, and he lucked out when it was a piece of candy instead of a bug. Some teams were not so lucky. After completing the Prologue, we got our map and the UTM coordinates for the first leg of the race. We plotted our points and headed to the boat put-in.

Damon and I had some rainsuits to put on for the paddle, and we miraculously were able to stay dry while launching the kayak, so I rather enjoyed this portion of the race. Damon may not have enjoyed it as much, since he paddled through my rather extensive breaks. The river was beautiful and there were even little mini-rapids that we traveled through that were fun, except for that one time when we ran underneath a tree and I thought my face was bleeding. It can't all be fun and games.

After the kayak, we got our first punch, picked up our bikes, and began to look for the rest of the checkpoints. Yes, you read that correctly. We had now been racing for HOURS and had only gotten one punch on our passport. When we set off on the bikes, I was under the impression that the area in which we would be biking consisted primarily of paved rodes. I was under the wrong impression. We biked mostly on gravelly dirt roads with very steep grades for much longer than I wanted to. I also had to go to the bathroom during this entire portion of the race, so bouncing my bladder over rough terrain was not fun. When we did finally make it to pavement, the hills got even more steep and miserable. There was lots of bike pushing during this portion of the race. The good news is that our navigator was doing awesome on this leg, and we easily found all the checkpoints. The bad news is that it was FREEZING. Like, not just cold, but bone chilling, teeth chattering, curl-up-into-the-fetal-position-and-die cold.

When we made it back to the TA, Damon, Dane and Sarah put together a puzzle to get our next UTM coordinates while I pumped milk. Yes, it may be a first in the adventure racing world, but breastfeeding did not stop for Big Chill. I was also finally able to get to the bathroom, and I took advantage of the opportunity by urinating for so long that I am sure I could have set a world record. The next leg was a trek, so we set off with our headlamps expecting night to fall before we made it back. There were three checkpoints on this leg, and we easily got the first one. The second one proved to be a different story. Damon made a slight error and we all ended up bushwhacking through a "draw," or a little valley for those of you who don't know the lingo, for about an hour...in the dark...and I feel the need to mention, it was still cold. Very, very cold. Moving on, we finally found all the punches and went back to the TA. This is the point in the race in which my mental breakdown occurred. I was so cold and had been so cold for so long that I told Damon I did not know if I could continue. I was hoping that when I said this, Sarah would jump on the bandwagon and we could all quit. No dice. She was too hardcore, so what we did instead was sit in the truck at the TA and run the heater full blast. I spent the majority of this heater time in the fetal position arguing with myself over whether I should quit or finish the race. Finally, the thought that won out was that no matter how much it sucked, it could only continue for 4 or 5 more hours and I should be able to stand anything for that long. I am not saying that is a logical thought process for a human being, but to use an overused phrase from 2008, "It is what it is."

We got back on the bikes and set off for the next leg. It was very dark by now, hardly any moonlight. I was very tired. The rest of my team was not. This resulted in my being left behind frequently, and the thought occurred to me that I was something like the weak zebra. If some type of large cat was stalking my team, they would single me out and prey on me first. With this in mind, I asked my team to slow down. Dane was kind enough to stay back with me so that he could share in the wild animal attack if one occurred.

This is when the race turned really dramatic. On our way to a checkpoint in a culvert, we took a wrong turn down a dirt road that ended up being someone's driveway. When we reached an unexpected end to the road, we stopped to reevaluate. While we were looking at the map and discussing what to do next, we happened to be in front of a house. Now, mind you, we all are wearing headlamps, camelbaks, and have lights all over our bikes. We look like dorks, but certainly not threatening dorks. Anyway, a lady comes out of the house and asks what we are doing. I replied that we were in an adventure race and were looking for a checkpoint. Her husband then joins her on the porch and says, "I'll tell you which way you're going to go, you're going to go straight down that driveway." This was a confusing statement, because I did not know if he wanted me to head down the dirt road to the left or back up the road that I had just come down, but I thought that he knew where the checkpoint was and that he was being helpful. I realized this was not the case when he started screaming at us to get out of there, cocked his shotgun, and pointed it at us. This, of course, raised our terror alert to level orange, and we all began to try to comply with his instructions. I freaked out and asked which way before quickly deciding to go down the road that we had not already been down. I ran my bike down the road, desperate to escape, not knowing where the road led, and fearful that I, my husband, or one of our friends were about to be murdered in cold blood over a simple mistake. It was one of the worst moments of my life. As we were leaving, the maniac continued to yell obscenities, threatening, "I'll leave you dead on the driveway," among other things too colorful for the blog. Even now as I type this I am so upset that my hands are shaking. When we were finally safe again, the more I thought about it, the more furious I became. When we told the folks back at the TA about our experience, we found out that we were not the first team to take this wrong turn. I am not sure what caused this man to react in such an inappropriate way, but I hope (and I realize this is not a very Christian thought) that he is one day able to experience the sheer terror of being held at gunpoint. I have other hopes for him, but you will just have to imagine what those are.

Back at the TA, there was one more trek leg to complete and then we were finished. This time we bypassed the warming truck and spent just a couple of minutes transitioning. We had a pretty easy time on this last trek, except for the fact that we spent most of the time trailrunning over roots in the dark, which resulted in some pretty hilarious falls for most of us.

When we arrived at the finish line with our completed passport we were rewarded with a....drum roll, please.....handshake. I kid you not. They did not even have a cookie for us. Their post race party sucked. This was no Dave Poleto operation. Not even a cup of hot chocolate, which Lori pointed out would have been cheap and much appreciated. The entire race took us a little over 15 hours. You can follow our path on the GPS post below, if you are interested. All in all, I am proud of the accomplishment of completing a 12 hour race, ecstatic that I was not shot dead during it, and thrilled that it is over and I can finally stay warm.

4 comments :

Grandma Tonie said...

LOL that maybe the funniest thing I have ever read. And what is even funnier is that it really happened. I am printing this and handing it out to everyone at work and also my Sunday School Class----they will howl with laughter!!!!

The Sharbono Family said...

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah...oh my gosh, I am breathless, and this was priceless. Too bad you didn't catch all these wonderful moments on tape. Fifteen hours...that's incredible, Scarlett!!!!! You guys did really well, and I'm so proud of you for finishing!!! You truly are my hero. I drank a glass of chocolate milk today and thought of you...I'm bringing a big glass of chocolate milk for Stella's birthday. :)
Miss and love you!!!!

dara said...

WOW! that sounds like yall had a good time! lol..I dont beleive that I could ever survive one of those. I definately would have peed in my pants when they guy brought out his gun. You think they would put up a gate or something on this driveway. I am glad ya'll survived, congrats on finishing the race! Next time yall are in the area, be sure to give us a ring!

The Brownsteins said...

OMG! I can't believe you were held at gunpoint by a madman!!!! How terrifying!!! But congrats on doing an adventure race! You two rock!