Expedition length Adventure Racing is such a game of juggling the individual teammates degrees of being useful during the race. Juggling being a rock star, with NOT and essentially totally sucking. Here is what i mean, when one is Useful, they are finding solutions to get to a checkpoint, or bringing the right tool along for the team, or helping the team put bikes together, carrying someone’s pack. Well, we all had our rock star moments, and then we all had our moments of purely being a team hinderance, and totally sucking…
For me the day of shear suck, was DAY 6, Pritchett Canyon, Behind the Rocks to Mountain Transition Area…
I didn’t think it would be that day to be a total, tired, mess, but it was. It started out well enough, we had slept up high on the Moab Rim, maybe 800-1000ft above the city of Moab, on the Red Rock Rim. The only place i could find comfort was this notch, with a patch of sand and a cactus, if i slithered up, forward 1.5 feet up, i was looking down 1000 ft down sheer red rock and into the Moab night lights. I at first thought, “there is no, way i can sleep here.” I slithered in my space blanket to other spots close by but after an hour or so came back to it, it had the soft sand and was level. Everyone else was snoring, oh how they SNORE! Especially, Scott, he is a mouth breather, so i try not to listen and i am fast asleep. We slept a few hours here, and woke up at 4 ish, and started getting things ready, packs, contact lenses, taping feet and blister care. And with in 35 min to 45 min, we were back biking on the Poisen Spider jeep trail. And sucking at it.
Mountain biking with 40-50 lb packs, is hard, and going down hill is fun, but its really hard going up with that weight. The technical terrain of a Moab jeep trail, is very difficult as it is and then packs, make it so the carry your weight forward over the handle bars when making a “drop” off of the slick rock. Endo’s are avoided like the plague. So the go was somewhat fast, but then slow and then we ran into team, Too Much Fun Again. They were lost on a spur trail for two hours last night. Another wise choice that we slept and navigated when we were USEFUL, and could see.
We mountained biked the slick rock, Gold Bar Trail, Golden Spike,and Poisen Spider trails with TTMFun, and got to check point 28. For some reason they have us not stopping there and could be why we are listed at 34th place, and not 31st? but not sure…
We rode into town for the Moverick Breakfast Burrito stop/and girl manadatory supply stop and the road felt easy and fast. We got into town and its weird, since Scott had the team GPS unit, the PQ headquarters knew where we were and stopped to photograph us at the Maverick, ooooooo, better get that shot… Extreme athletes eating burritos…
Little did we know we were about to head into the depths of hell, AKA, Pritchett Canyon. Another Moab jeep trail rated 4 plus-5, located south of the Colorado River, via Kane Creek Road. Its a private canyon and they ask for a 1.00 toll to go in to hike, do we pay this? Only one other team, did. We fear AR karma of PQ headquarters and pay 1.00 each to get into the canyon. Damn, now that i think about it we paid, for the hell that was about to be distributed to us.
Geology Lesson about slick rock canyons:
The sandstone rock in the Colorado Plateau, absorbs heat, holds that heat and then gives it off at night when the air temp is cool. But during the day the thermal radiation from the sun is being absorbed by the rock and in canyons the heat is radiating off the walls like an easy bake oven, heating up on itself. It actually creates its own wheather in very large canyons, that produce unique high afternoon winds and higher temperatures. Or said in another way, we were basically on a hike’n bike on a pampered chef pizza stone, it holds the temps, so that it can cook everything slowly and evenly and we were the anchovies.
This is similiar to why they closed down Hells Roaring Canyon early in the race, it was too dry, too hot, and was its own microcosm of an easy bake oven.
We entered Pritchett Canyon, biked a bit, but were soon off our bikes and thiking them through sand piles or stepping them up 1.5 -2 feet ledges, with black streaks on the rock, rubber markings from the jeep tires. You can also follow the trails by looking for bike crank marks, jeep oil droppings and the stenciled logos that mark a lot of the area trails. It was a slow go, we went until about 12:40 pm ish, i think? and the heat started to just be so intense, i couldn’t cool myself, down. I was sweating and drinking, but nothing seemed to help. I felt slower and slower. Someone took my pack, Scott, i think and that seemed to help and then we found a place to take a nap, and decide what to do…
it was getting way to hot…i was scared…no one else seemed to be as slowed down by it as i was, that was disheartening at the time. We slept for 40 or so minutes under a sliver of overhanging red rock, that gave us some shade, and then we heard the helicoptor fly over. The thunderous noise it creates in the canyon is deafening, and yet we couldn’t see it, only hear it and wondered why it would be filming right now. We had seen it many times on course doing a fly by to capture a panoramic picture but usually at the “sweet light” times of the day, never at mid day.
And Chad brought up a good point, that we were running low on water, and the more we stayed there the more water we would need and then we would really be fucked. So we better keep moving, even if its really slow. We then started the slog and i quickly over heated, handed the pack off to Scott or Dave again, and kept moving but then ran out of water, Dave gave me some of his. Chad too, and we spread out the liquids. But still the heat was so intense. i don’t know why i wasn’t worried about having more water, even though, the last check point told us there was not a drop to refuel with until check point? 10-15 miles away?, so take 200 liters each. I just felt so hot and slow, and useless. Dave was rightly worried about not having enough water.
I was still overheating, and so Dave grabbed the yellow jersey and had me take it off, and he put it in the pot hole water that had 100’s of tiny tadpoles living in it. He didn’t do it disruptively though, he knew the frogs were surviving as well. We dunked a few hats, a few jerseys, and could kept moving, the evopartive effect was cooling me down immensely. And it was at that point with the frog water running over my head into my eyes, and down my body, that i had my most “primal moment”. I became present to the fact that i am missing my sister’s wedding today, to put frog water on my head, i don’t care what i look like doing it, and damn it, i want to STAY ALIVE.
i declared i think i just had a primal moment, and we laughed about the frogs needing the water too, i then explained population genetics that greater numbers in an animal population (which the tad poles had) increases the survival rates, so the tad poles can kiss my ass, i need the water. Laughing…but not really…
And we kept on hiking with the bikes, up the canyon, route finding, handing up the bikes to the next bench above us. Finding, looking for more potholes with frogs and water in them to cool ourselves. And we hiked the bikes. Not sure how long it took, but we were getting to the steepest part of the canyon on a bench above our heads where we could see the black rubber marks and crank marks. We could see a large bolt the size of a computer mouse pad, drilled into the rock, for rapping your jeep with a whench to the sandstone to help it climb better. Holy Shit… “who does this extreme jeep sport anyways, jeeps go up this”? So we handed bikes up and got to the highest saddle.
Not sure what we would see at the top and into the next valley. We topped out, and joyous deliverance. They had created a water drop that was not listed on our maps, or known by volunteers, and one jug was hiding under some cardboard just to keep it cool enough. We had water, we were saved. Before that we were down to about 50 maybe 100 liters for the four of us.
We knew this was our TEAM CRUX, we had to get through this section, it was the make or break time. And we did it! It was
scarry, beautiful, humbling, bewildering, emotional, and primal.
We were now on top of the Pritchett Rim and into the area known as Behind the Rocks. And being able to mtn bike somewhat on a
flat graded jeep trail, through the desert with cactus and deep red rocks blurring by was liberating.
Later that night at the mountain TA, we found out that we were one of three teams to have headed into this section, just before headquarters closed this section due to heat. A Heat Zone label, to keep athletes out. So from 2:00 pm-6:00pm teams were not aloud to enter the canyon and had to wait it out in the shade or in a hotel or in a park in Moab. We also found out the helicopter was looking for teams to make sure they were ok, and dropping water at the unmarked saddle location.
It took our team 11.5 hours to complete this section, the heat zapped us, the teams that waited took around 6-8 hours.
In the end I saw that I am heat sensitive, but that’s ok, I was a heat moniter for the team, and when I slowed down to a crawl, we all needed to, and it was for good measure. How did Scott put it? Each one of had a gift that was needed at very precise moments on the course. I had the built in heat guage…and in the end, i guess, Useful…