This racing news come from S. Dakota, where team Intrepid took on the toughest endurance race on earth. This racing news is by Kim Dunkin, captain of Team Intrepid. The story begins here...
Now how can a DNF (did not finish) on the scorecard be my best race ever. I guess because adventure racing is about pride, tenacity and pressing on. It is about the journey. While I went for accolades this time, thinking I had the team to do it, and ended up with the dreaded DNF, I have never been more proud of a team. There was nothing left to give. We left it all on the course. What more can you ask for?
The above was written when we thought we had a DNF. After some consideration PQ awarded us a time credit due to some misinformation we received on the course, that had us take a route where we could not make a time cutoff.
Spoiler: Do not read on if you want to find out where we placed and had rather find out by reading the story.
After the dust settled we were 17th! We were thrilled. The goal was the top 20 and so we exceeded our goal and did our very best.
Just one week prior to the race I got the stomach flu. I just knew I’d have it 24 hours, but it lingered. I kept thinking if this doesn’t go away I cannot race. It was draining me. But I sent out a prayer request to friends and started getting better. Though the recovery was slow, by race day God had me good to go. Ian and Canice also arrived with a cold. We all have children and had all caught something from our children.
2 Days to Start
We arrived in Rapid City with a few hours to spare. We grabbed a bite to eat, met Ian for the first time, and had a good nights sleep. We slept in the next morning for our last good night’s sleep.
We spent the day sorting gear. We’d be sharing a climbing/caving box, food box, and extra gearbox so that needed to be organized. Since I was the only one with Primal Quest experience, we spent a lot of time going over what we would and wouldn’t need.
I had come to PQ with a stomach virus so I was really worn down. Thankfully all my gear was ready, so I just mostly answered questions.
At dinnertime the guys went to dinner and I went to sleep. I still didn’t feel well from the stomach flu.
1 day to Start
We woke up and headed out to gear checks around 7 AM. Until noon, we did gear checks, medical checks, kayak skills, interviews, pictures, and ropes
We finished, grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the pre-race meeting at 3 PM. From here on out, the race was on.
We went to a theater were we saw a sample of the terrain, got all the rules and then headed downtown. It was here my heart sunk. We’d be running a marathon first off. With my illness and the guys speed, I was less than excited.
At downtown they were having a festival where we would be announced. After your team was announced you received your maps.
That meant only 1 thing; if you were last you’d be the only team still there. Teams grabbed their maps and hoofed it to the hotel.
We got right on it. Canice and myself did the route planning. Ian and Chris got gear ready, checked our maps, counted mileage and just got us prepared. This was really draining and about 11 PM, I took a break, grabbed a quick shower and got back to it.
We did map work, on 19 maps, until 1 AM. The bus was leaving for the start at 3 AM, so we bagged 2 hours of sleep.
We headed out on the buses at 3AM and to the start line. They bussed us to the start of a marathon. Yes a marathon! I was going to start a 10 day race with a marathon, which would just be a minuscule part. They allowed us to carry minimal gear in order to “run” the marathon. This was a nightmare for me. First I didn’t plan on running much of the race. Second the guys run marathon times from 2:30 to 3:30 and me, well let’s just say I am not that fast. Plus I had been sick, so running was not my best option. But that was what was up, so we did it.
The bus ride was an hour long and took us to some road in the middle of nowhere. We stayed on the bus until the driver kicked us out, as we were cold. Then we went to the porta potties probably 8 times in the next hour waiting for the race to start.
We took 2 packs only and 2 people would run with no pack. The guys rotated the packs. We ran the marathon with 2 stops… 1 stop to fix Canice’s foot and for a toe blister on my foot. I intended to pre-tape, but didn’t have time.
The guys kept me up by taking turns towing and carrying packs. We passed so many teams on this first leg.
We came in off the marathon at 6:30. Not bad for a trail marathon, with a pace set to keep us going for 10 days. We were 16th coming off the marathon. I had spent my legs pretty good trying to keep up with the guys. I knew the O course was next and we’d be walking and I could recover some.
O COURSE -15 miles
Now we were on the O course. O is for orienteering. We had 17 CP’s (checkpoints) to find. We got out of the TA (transition area) pretty quickly and on to the O course. We made a mistake right off the bat, but quickly recovered. I had shot an azimuth from the CP1 instead of CP2.
THEN Ian practically walked us to ever point. We got 17 of 17 and had the second fastest time on the course. You could skip this course for a 1 hour per point penalty and many teams did. We made up some time on teams this way.
NOTE: You’ll notice from here on out we were not ranked our true rankings. Teams who skipped this, were now shown in front of us. They would not reflect our true ranking until the end. We were often days ahead of those listed in front of us.
BIKE LEG a million miles...I mean 206 miles
We came off the O course and we had moved up to 12th place. You talk about a team that was stoked. We transitioned so fast. We expected to do well, but not this early. We were on cloud 9. I kept thinking I cannot wait for Phil to see how good we are doing.
The bike leg ended up being very tough for me. It was the Centennial trail which was to be a beautiful trail. We hit it at dusk.
When we hit the first climbs I knew I was in trouble. My legs wouldn’t go. The marathon run had taken it out of them. I was also still weak from being sick. I immediately got nauseated and spent the night vacillating between dry heaving and burning legs. It was a very long night. The guys suggested we stop a few times for me, but I wanted to keep moving forward. It was too early in the race to be stopping.
I felt bad for the guys as this was painfully slow. We spent all night with me walking the hills and trying to make up time after a several hours of climbing on the downhill. Finally after a climb of a few hours we arrived at the caving.
It was time to sleep. Chris and I found a building to sleep in and Canice and Ian slept by the generator. The building was gross as I was laying by rat traps and rat droppings. It was warmer than outside though. We slept 2 hours then headed to the caving.
We had one of the faster times in the cave. I had been worried about the caving as I am claustrophobic. But the cave was very open and actually fun. We made a few wrong turns, but overall it was a good run for us. After the cave we got back on our bikes again. On this course we rode through Deadwood which was cool. We were riding downtown while some festival was going on, weaving through people!
Once on the jeep roads the guys took turns towing me and moving my pack around, to give us a fast speed. It worked as we always passed teams on the bike.
We found out pretty early on we had to make a 3 PM cut off. I dug deep to ride this single track section hard. I knew to make this course I had to give it my all to keep up with the guys. They took my pack and we hauled. I have never ridden so fast in an expedition race. We went flying, pushing, encouraging each other and at 3 PM came flying off the mountain thinking we had made it…We still had miles to go we found out. We made a huge nav error here and lost several hours. We biked a trail called the Michelson. We were racing hard to make a cut off. It began to hail on us and rain hard. The funny thing is normally you would go for shelter. We just kept riding. We had no time to waste. I actually ate some of the hail and it tasted so good.
We rolled into the CP freezing, wet and dejected. We had missed the cut off and would be short coursed. Chris and Ian were very cold and medical was worried about Chris as he was so cold. Chris has no body fat and got cold easily, though it never slowed him. We decided to hang out here a while and get warm. They had a fire going and the guys choose to huddle in the restroom to dry out, while I took the fire.
The staff at this TA was incredible. They encouraged us, kept the fire going and shared provisions. Staff is actually not allowed to assist in any way, but they were very creative in how they could help and not be cheating. We met Kathy from S. Dakota here and 2 Texans from my neck of the woods. They encouraged us so much, and it made it hard to leave this TA we loved it. Chris and I hiked out with trash bags cut like jackets to help keep us dry.
We got some great news. The cutoff had been extended! We were back on the long course. We were so happy and had renewed energy. We filled up with well water here and headed out into the cold night, with damp clothes and freezing temps. We knew we would not be sleeping tonight as it would be too cold.
We biked out onto some roads that were incredibly muddy. The rain had made a mess. We had to carry our bikes, where we should have been riding. Mud made the tires not turn at all. It was a rough hard section that cost us loads of time on teams who had ridden it dry.
We biked to a bike orienteering section. We decided to skip this section (this is legal) and take penalties, as we were worried about finishing the course on time. So we had a wet, cold transition and headed back out on bikes again. This was our third night on bikes. We’d bike through the night and into the next day. At one point in the night we were so exhausted we lay down in the middle of a trail. We didn't even realize it. Apparently a team almost ran us over. They told us later as I didn't even wake for it.
The next leg was river after river after river crossing. 25 times we'd cross a river, having to dismount our bikes and walk over on a log. It was fun the first time and we took pics, little did we know we'd do this 25 times!
We arrived at another TA late in the night. They had burgers and a warm building. What a refuge this was. We stayed here to regroup, refuel and get some warmth. The staff was so kind. The medic took care of feet and just generally lifted our spirits.
It was good to see some friendly faces here and we talked maps with them a bit. Tom was always so nice and he just generally lifted our spirits when we saw him.
We headed out in the night and the next day at 5 PM we arrived at our trekking section.
Finally! Our backsides hurt after 3 days of riding and needed a break. I have never used so much chamois butter.
Coming off the Bike Leg we were in 15th we thought, rumor had it we were higher, but we are at least 15th and on the long course still!
TREKKING 50 MILES
We arrived at the community center with good and bad news. We had 2 hours to get to the ropes. That was almost enough time, but we had to break down our bikes and transition. That just wasn’t enough time. It took about an hour to break our bikes down and get them to the trucks. The good news was though, the ropes were considered an O course, so we were still on the long course.
To be on the long course we’d need to carry our climbing gear. We were excited. The packs were really heavy during this portion, but worth it.
We transitioned with no hitches, then headed into the first store we’d saw seen since we started. You should see the amount of food we ordered. I am not sure how much the guys ended up with, but I had a small piece of pizza, sprite, ice cream bar, and a soft pretzel which I saved for later. It tasted so good! It is amazing what your body wants…all the foods I do not eat. I guess we just crave empty calories!
Then we headed up to Crazy horse and things did get crazy this evening. We made it about half way up and decided we needed to do foot care. We spent an hour doing foot care. It was disheartening to know we spent so long, but necessary to finish the race. As we were fixing our feet, we kept hearing yelling on the mountain. Teams seemed to be looking for one another. We couldn’t figure it out, but soon it would make sense.
We headed up to a CP that was a tough find. Ian though kept leading us over peaks, going one more peak and so on. He was right on. When we arrived we were converged upon by 4 teams- well parts of teams.
We were met by Tim from Native Eyewear, a team who had trained similar to me and we had talked prior to the race. Tim was upset saying they may be disqualified. We were unsure what he meant, but quickly found out his team was separated. We saw a headlamp on with a distress signal, and hollered. We saw the lamp moving so we though everything was alright. Actually headlamps flash when the batteries are low, so we thought that is what it was. Later we learned this was Tim who had gone up onto a road.
When we emerged from the woods onto a jeep road, we saw vehicles with flashing lights everywhere. Chris Caul, the course director was there and 2 trucks with Search and Rescue. We came upon another team who was missing a member.
The low down we got from that team was-they had sent 1 of their members, with 1 of Native Eye Wears members, to bag a check point and then meet them on the road. Apparently the meeting point had been miscommunicated and the guys who went after the point had been missing for hours, in the Black Hills, with only T-shirts and shorts. They had left there mandatory gear and backpacks.
The team was pretty shaken up. We were asked to stay there in case we had info for the race staff. We kicked back and tried to comfort the team waiting there. I even shared my soft pretzel. Food is the common bonding agent out there on the course. Then their teammate emerged. They were ecstatic and so sad they had put him through that.
Then Chris Caul called the teams together. He said, “ First of all I am glad everyone is alright. Second you are all disqualified.” Tim was not happy, but Chris reminded him that the rules say you may not separate by more than 100m.
It was very sad as we knew Tim and his team, and the other team was so nice. It was an unfortunate decision that the teams made and cost them their race. Chris Caul was truly worried and knew a night in the Black Hills with no gear could have caused hypothermia or worse.
I later found out 2 member of Native Eyewear went on to race with another team. So we were released and given a small short cut for our delay. We headed out into the night, for another cold night of trekking. We had decided we would not sleep unless we found shelter. Well right before the section that took you up to the ropes we did find shelter-a bathroom that was heated.
Now in real life I am super clean and touching a bathroom floor would gross me out. But the guys went in the boys and I in the girls and unrolled our space blankets and slept in the bathroom. Ironically another team was in there with us! It was warm at first, but by the end the floor sucked the heat out of you much like sleeping on the ground outside. Still it was much warmer and a welcome treat to wake up to water and a hand dryer that could keep you warm!
We hiked up to the ropes section at daybreak. How pretty this was! It was sad to look across and see the ropes and know we wouldn’t get to do them. Actually the zip line part looked fun, but I was ok with not having to ascend all of that! I know the guys were super disappointed though. It was a lot of work and gear not to get to do the ropes.
We came into a nice TA at this point and refreshed and fixed our feet. The crew was awesome there and encouraged us. It was here we saw Semper Fi and there feet were very bad. I knew they had some rough days ahead, but there was no talk of stopping.
We’d spend the next day hiking through some pretty landscape. We came upon a bison at day’s end. He was right in our trail. We decided to skirt way out into the field to avoid him. We hiked on about 15 minutes then decided to sleep as dusk was upon us. We were trying something new and going to sleep while it was warm outside right when the sun went down. Well that worked for about an hour, then we were cold again. Those space blankets held moisture like a tent. So when we'd wake up we'd be soaking wet from the condensation.
Right when we were waking up another team came up-Synergy Racing. They were shaken up. Well you won’t believe why. The bison had charged them! Rob had been charged and ran behind a tree. Apparently he had to run from tree to tree to escape. Jill and I bonded during this moment as we thought about what could have been. Jill and I would see each other throughout the race and we were fast friends from there on out. It is amazing what bonds you.
We hiked on with this team for a long time, until we decided to pick up the pace, which was funny, because later we had to stop to change my headlamp batteries and they caught us. Then we picked it up and passed them, then they caught us…so goes adventure racing.
We came upon a campground and filled up with water and refueled. Then we hiked on into the night. This was a tough night since we slept so early, we knew we'd not be stopping to sleep.
The next day would be quite trying. After a water stop we watched teams head out in two directions. We had some discussion on which way to go, chose one and it ended up being a very long day!
We hiked for hours, seeing no one wondering if we were going the right way. We hiked over ridges, through fields, through bogs, through more fields and back on the mountains. After hours of hiking we saw Active Racing. That was so lifting as I thought we are going to have to call SPOT we are so lost. Together with this team we found our way. Actually with this team it still took us hours to get back on track. We were miles off and wasted ½ a day on this trek. But as always we regrouped and found a way out and pressed on.
But racing with Active Racing was great. We got to swap stories, I learned about Kathy's children and family, and just generally got to chat with some ladies which was nice. Chuck was very friendly and was always had an encouraging smile or pat on the back for me later in the course when he could see I was struggling to keep up with my team. He shared some Gatorade with me. I am telling you food bonds teams! Whether it was conscious or just his friendly way it helped!
It was moments like these when I felt the whole race was over, as far as the long course, but then we’d rally. For some reason we were still on the long course and spirits lifted after we finally found this CP. We still had a quite a ways to go after this CP. We’d be heading to the Prairies. It was a neat place and you could see for miles. That is you could see a long ways up top. When you were down in a valley, you better be in the right valley or you’ll be walking for days.
Canice and Ian had us right on during the prairie section working together. It was great and we had no problems. We actually had fun walking through here and then ended up a pretty cool CP for a bike transition.
Just prior to this I started having some foot problems. Accidentally earlier in the race the leucotape got left at the TA. So when I went to tape I had to use kinseo tape. It didn't work and from here on out I'll battle the same ball of the foot blister I get. Actually it spreads to almost the entire ball of the foot. I thought I had it licked but the wrong tape did me in.
BIKE 18 MILES
This transition was a reunion. We saw all the teams we’d been running with. We shared food, stoves and stories. Jill came in to this TA while we were there, and it was good to see her team and her doing so well. That was a boost. I also chatted with another woman who was now racing with 6 men!
They were taping feet if you were deemed critical, otherwise you were on your own. We built bikes as fast as we could. Chris and I borrowed a stove from a team and had a good hot meal. I had canned tortilla soup…yum! I shared cookies from mom (Mom all the teams loved this!) and had Hatch Chili Chips. We were having a bike issue, so Ian actually called his brother-in-law for some direction on how to fix it. Once we got that we were off. We were again fighting a cut off and had to hurry.
We stopped off at a CP we’d later need on this bike ride just to check it out. We were looking for a warm place to sleep. They said they’d have a fire going so we were planning on coming back here. We were riding on a dirt road and the going was quick. We were planning on hitting the Lake O and Swim O and heading back to sleep at this TA, then transition to the boats in the middle of the night.
All sounds good on paper, but we had some major loop holes in our plan. First once we got half way there it was announced we didn’t have the map to get to the next CP. It was a reservoir so we decided to ask locals. The town was very small and we found no locals. We finally saw a bar and headed in there.
The people were amazing. They were so kind and it was all we could do to get out after buying chips and drinks, as they were so enthralled with our racing. They were neat and I wish we could have stayed to chat. Then as we were leaving a gentleman came out and asked if we’d like some vegetables. Well we were pretty weighted down but we couldn’t resist. We took some tomatoes, peppers (that burned my mouth) and some cucumbers from him. He and his wife were so kind and they too had to head off to the doctor. That was weird as we were in a another world and forget people were still going to the doctor and such.
So off we head to the reservoir. We headed off into some hills and do not see the reservoir, so we made a call to Phil to ask him where we were and how to get there. He told us which direction to go and for some reason we took off in the opposite direction. When we called him back he was saying, "No you went the wrong way." We called Canice’s wife who said the same thing. So while we are up on this road messing around, there was a couple who stopped to ask us if we needed help. Most folks knew the race was in town and were so kind.
It began to rain as we were getting directions. The lady said, “it is just 4 miles back,” to which Canice replies, “Mam I am in shorts in a t-shirt 4 miles is a long way!”
The man suggested we go to his garage, so we rode into the garage just as a storm hit. He had aerial photos of the land around us and let us look on the computer to see where we were. They were so kind to let 4 stinky, grungy racers into their house.
We ate our recent buy of chips and cokes as we chatted and tried to figure out which way to go. We also had plans of sleeping at the Reservoir and it was now raining. So I suggested Chris ask if we could stay in the garage.
We had seen many barns along the way that looked so inviting and had planned on doing this, but it never came to fruition. So Chris is his best accent and cutest face says, “Mam I am not usually this forward but could we sleep in your garage.” They were both like "Yes of course." It was awesome. After we had directions we headed off to sleep.
They had a bathroom in their garage (a novelty at this time) and it was dry. Ian and I took the bed of the truck and Chris the floor under some coats, and Canice the small amount of carpet by the door by the stairs. It was heaven. We were warm and dry!
Prior to going to sleep the lady asked if we needed anything. Chris said, "Mam, do you have any peanut butter?” Well she did! And we all got peanut butter sandwiches. I was already tucked in so I declined, but the man was so nice to pack me one up and bring it to me. I had it for breakfast the next day and it was soooooooooo good.
This was a highlight of our trip...meeting the locals, who poured out a caring spirit, getting to know new people who were so kind and just enjoying talking with others from S. Dakota...oh yes and being dry and fed tops high on that list as well!
LAKE SWIM 5 MILES
We headed out from the house and took a local short cut to the TA. We learned of this short cut from our new South Dakota friends. Our plan was to check in, skip the Lake swim and kayak O course and head on out to the river kayak. We had planned that all night and were geared up to do this. This would keep us on the long course and in good shape for a top 15 finish.
We were in for a surprise. We arrived and were told the Lake Swim was part of the course. There was no option for skipping it or you’d be short coursed. This was disheartening as it was cold and we just plain hadn’t wanted to do it. We just stood there for a minute, trying to figure out what to do. Well we knew what to do, it was like if we just stood there things might change for us.
Well there was no choice now, there was no decision to make. We had to buck up and do it. So we got our wetsuits out, geared up grudgingly and set out to swim. With a marine and navy seal on the team we decided they’d swim 100 m ahead of Chris and I as they were stronger swimmers.
We had to hike to the put in. For some reason I got really tickled. Canice’s feet were hurting really bad so Ian was supporting him. It was the funniest sight to see the seal and marine, in tight wet suits, with their arms around each other walking down the path. I laughed so hard just looking at them.
We edged in the water and it was cold. I do not know why people say a wetsuit keeps you warm…it was cold. I actually managed to not put my head under and just keep the lower part of my body in the water. We had to swim on kick boards with fins, so I didn’t really even need to get my upper body that wet.
We bagged the first one and then had a little bit of hike to the second one. We hopped in and swam again. It was a longer swim this time and we decided to use some towing this time. It worked great and we got the CP and headed back to shore. The swim was actually a welcome break and I am glad we did it. We enjoyed ourselves on the swim back chatting and welcoming the break and the new day.
Upon our return, we had to decide about the Lake O. We had added up the rest of the race and felt like we had time to bag some Lake O CP’s and still finish. By doing this we’d put hours on some teams as each missed CP was a 4 hour penalty. So we did 4 of the CP’s to put 16 hours on our close competition. This was when we laid it all out there. Had we skipped this, we’d have plenty of time to finish, but not as high in the rankings. We wanted to go for it, so we took a risk and did the Lake O, to move us to a top 15 finish.
We were the last team to do the O course. It was kind of weird being last on the course, though we were not by any means in last place. We actually picked up the CPs for PQ. Later they’d give us a time bonus for this which was cool. The Lake O was straight forward, but allot of work. The winds were whipping and there were some decent swells in some of the spots. Canice and I were together and he is very confident in a boat, so I felt comfortable during all the wind and swells.
We debated on doing the last 2 points and decided we just didn’t have enough time. We booked it in and then the race was on. One more paddle, one more trek, one more ride…race over. It all seemed so easy.
BIKE 18 MILES
We transitioned to bikes for a short ride to the kayaks. We rode our bikes about 18 miles and arrived at the TA for the kayak at dusk. We knew we were going to be tight now, and were in a rush. I do not know what made us get some many Lake O points and made us rush, I think you just get caught up in the moment and cannot comprehend the time with all that sleep deprivation.
My feet hurt really bad at this point. Being wet really hurt the blisters I had on the balls of my feet. So the Lake O section actually hurt my feet. When we arrived at the TA I needed some foot care. I asked Kathy, my S. Dakota friend and PQ volunteer, if she could fix my feet. She poured water to clean it out and for some reason it was excruciating. I wanted to cry but instead just held my head in agony.
Then I asked her to put some glue in the blister and seal it up. They prepared me for the pain and God must have saved me from it, as I didn’t actually have any pain from the glue. She glued it together, put tape on it and I felt much better. Thank you Kathy! The pain actually did not get bad again until the kayak section was almost over.
KAYAK/ PORTAGE 35 MILES: 16 HOURS
We knew this was a kayak portage section more than paddle so Cancie and I split up as we had the worst feet. This meant that Ian and Chris did allot of work trying to keep us out of the water. It was futile at times, but they sure tried and worked hard.
We started off paddling great. We estimated we were moving at more that 3 mph so we thought we were having a great time. We kept this up for several hours, then the sleep monsters hit. The funny thing is Ian was sleeping in my boat and I was just paddling along, not breaking a sweat or anything. Chris and Canice were working super hard and not able to keep up with just me paddling.
They kept thinking something was wrong with their boat. There was a valve issue, but it seemed like more was wrong. The whole night it was frustrating for them. Well I found out why after the race. My boat had duct tape on the bottom! That meant water was not getting in the boat weighing it down. The other boat had no duct tape-thus a slower boat!
We were told this paddle was 12 hours and that Orion had done it in 9. So we were fully prepared for the 12 hours, and felt great. However when morning hit and we were at 9 hours Canice thought we might be close. The map was a 1:100,000 map so there was no real way to tell with that scale. We started thinking ever corner might be it.
Then we came upon a team sleeping and then another taking a break. We were confused. Why so close to the finish were they stopped. They told us it was another 4 hours which we refused to believe. Well I should have, as it was an other 7 hours! Do you know how disheartening it is to be looking for 7 hours for a take out!
This paddle also had some odd obstacles…barbed wire fences. Yes that’s right barbed wire fences, oh and did I mention an electric fence! Well the barbed wire was mostly high enough where we just ducked. But one time we were going through backwards. Ian had seen the barbed wire and was preparing to duck. He was waiting a long time and I thought he was playing a trick on me, to see how close he could get. Well I felt really bad as he had fallen asleep in the 15 seconds it took us to get there and the barbed wired scraped him in the back of the head. I yelled “IAN” right as it hit him. He wouldn’t let me look at it, and I forgot about it later, so I am not sure what damage it did.
The other scary thing was the electric fence. Ian decided we should just use our paddles to lift up the fence and go under. I was not so sure, but we were hitting it right then so there was no choice. I used my paddle to lift up the fence….Did I mention we are in water and this is an electric fence?
I lift up the fence and we hit a snag, a rock or something. We stop. I am laying backwards toward Ian who is also laying down. Then I can see something sparkling around my hands. Then I realize my paddle is part metal and the sparks are coming from my hands. My hands are being electrified! I let go quickly and just lay there. We are stuck laying down under an electric fence. I am flat on my back as is Ian. I do not know how he managed to get us out, but he too received a shock. This was not our proudest moment!
After a while we decided we had missed the take out somewhere, you see we’d slept allot of the kayak section. It was just so hard to stay awake all night. Finally! We saw the take out. There was no one there and thankfully we saw a little tent up there. The take out was up an embankment, no beach or anything.
The boats had to be hauled from here about 700 meters to the TA. I thank Ian and Chris for doing that as I was having trouble walking at this point, as the blister pain had returned.
This was the TA before the Badlands. And bad it was. There were grasshoppers everywhere, no shade and it was hot. We’d enjoyed modest temperatures so this was a shock.
Grasshoppers covered our wetsuits, a blanket I had gotten out to sit on, food, gear, us, it was gross! Ian wanted to sleep here, Chris wanted to sleep in the field and Canice didn’t care. That left it up to me. I wanted to sleep in the TA for some warmth and a nice blanket, something other than that foil bag, but it was so gross we opted to sleep in the Badlands…which we had been warned against doing.
This was not a fast TA. Ian had severe sleep deprivation and rested just a few minutes. We all tried to eat, amongst the grasshopper and prepare for a trek in the woods. This is where we got short coursed. We’d only be doing 30 of the 50 mile trek.
Ok this is where it gets good. We prepared for a 30 mile trek... 6 liters of water plus 2 water bottles (there is no water in the Badlands), food for 24 hours. Then right before we were leaving we looked at the maps. Someone said it is only 12 miles. We were thrilled. We dumped water, left food and lightened the load. We were happy campers... 12 miles that is nothing!
So we got ready and headed out with MAAR another team we knew. We decided to work together. We did so for a few hours, but then we split. We were going to sleep and we let them go on. Ian and Canice found a cool place to camp. We set up the shelter and Ian build a quick fire. Within minutes we were out. Then the fire was out quickly, so I crawled in the shelter with Canice and Ian soon followed. Chris must have been dead, as he stayed out in the cold. It was not too bad that night, but not as warm as the garage.
We got up in the middle of the night and headed out. As daybreak we saw the Badlands. They were pretty, but not much to see. We cut across a canyon and headed up to where we believed the CP was. We arrived and saw nothing…for miles nothing….no truck, tent, teams nothing! Ian pulled the maps out. He asked me to help him look. I tried, I really did. But I kept falling asleep trying to look at the map. Finally he figured it out.The scale was not what we thought. It was 2.5 miles per square and not 1000 m. Now that will put you in the wrong canyon by miles!
We were upset, knowing we’d just added about 8 miles to our trek. Then the realization hit. We were not hiking 12 miles but 30 miles! We’d be low on water and food and now rushing to beat the race cut off. No one complained but just hoofed it back down the canyon and on the right path.
Many many hours later, we’d hit the right canyon and on to the right path. We knew we were on the right path as we saw teams in front of us. We’d caught 3 teams even in our error. The race was on to catch them. Canice helped me stay focused and on a pace to climb this monster hill and catch them. In the end we did catch everyone right at the CP. We checked in and passed them.
But let me back up. We were out of water. It is getting very hot. We all ran out about the same time. We go into the CP and asked for water. They have a little and we are only to take enough to get us 6 miles down the road to the next TA which is stocked.
Also we got a little treat. Someone slipped us a coke to share. It was marvelous! So we filled up water. Well we thought we did. I misunderstood that my water bladder had been filled. It had not been filled, only a bottle. The 6 miles would take us several hours and I knew I’d be dehydrated so I wanted to fill my platypus. It wasn’t until much later I realized this didn’t happen. We headed off down this 6 mile road. You’d think we’d fly through this. But the temperature soared, we were tired and dehydrated. This was the worst trek of the whole race. Yes really. 6 miles down a straight road was torturous. I do not know how long it took us but it felt like hours. I had learned pretty quickly that I didn’t have water in the bladder, but Chris said he filled me a water bottle. Now 24 ounces was not near enough to get through this trek, but it would have to do. Thankfully Chris had filled that for me.
Well I drank part of the bottle and then I couldn’t find it. We were sharing and I had like 3 bottles in my bag and I never found my bottle of water. No one else had water except Chris who had been very carefully saving his. We had over an hour to go, already dehydrated with no water. It was taking its toll on us. I had a very bad experience in Montana with 7 hours without water. I think my body remembered.
I had no more moisture in my mouth. It stared being hard to swallow. What can you do though, so we pushed on. Then right as we were finishing this torturous trek, it hit me. We were actually across the street from the gas station and the TA when I doubled over. So I was told, I actually do not really remember that. What I remember is that I was so dry I couldn’t breathe out of my throat anymore. I was motioning for some water. Chris was funny he didn’t have water but had some drink that he saves for emergencies. He shared with me and I was able to breath again.
They got me in the gas station and immediately I was freezing. They brought me food and drinks, but mostly I just slept. I do not know if we were there 30 minutes or 3 hours. The guys took over and just let me sleep. The funny thing is Chris was apparently really sleepy at this stop. I asked him 6 times for a jacket. Finally Canice gave me his. Now Chris is always very giving, he was just so tired he kept forgetting.
Here we met Canice’s mom and step dad. They were so nice and wanted to help but we were not allowed any help in this race.
After I do not know how long, the guys said it was time to go. We went across the street to the TA. Chris said I could sleep and they would build my bike and take care of things. Again I do not know how long I slept. But I covered up with a blanket and jacket in 100 degree weather and slept.
The medic looked at me and offered an IV. It was a 4 hour penalty for an IV so I declined. I still did not feel like going but we were on a schedule. So the guys built my bike and I got ready to go. They took very good care of me while I was dehydrated and down.
I was dreading the last ride being so down. Jill, my buddy, came up to me an gave me a hug. She asked why I was hot and if I had a fever. I told her what happened and she wanted to help so she offered me all this food. I declined most of it until she said Recess Pieces. Food always makes things better. I was like “Oh yes!” and she brought me some, gave me another hug and we wished each other luck promising to see one another and the finish line. You see this was the last leg. 80 miles to the finish!
BIKE 80 MILES TO FINISH
So we set out on this leg at around 10 PM. Ironically after getting on the bike I didn’t feel so bad. God was answering prayers and I was feeling good.
We stared off on a old railroad bed. Chris was sure to make sure we were on pace. We only needed to average 7 mph to make it on time. We took turns leading, but they thought we were moving faster with me in front so I took the lead. I felt like I was moving pretty good when a railroad tie was missing. There was a huge whole. That is no problem except I didn’t see it. My front tire went in it and stopped. They made me do an endo. So I lay there face first on the ground with my feet still clipped in the pedals and the bike on top of me. I had done this in Utah too so I’d been here before.
I started to laugh, which later was funny. Chris said he thought I was whimpering. I said, "Do I whimper?” He said, “No, that is why I was worried!”
So I lay there laughing while I think Canice pealed the bike off of me. Then I got back on and kept riding. We had a race to finish.
The other dramatic thing on this ride was crossing the bridges. There were all these bridges. I rode across a couple, but there were no side rails and it freaked me out. I started walking the bridges. Well there were some ties missing there as well. If you fell, well let’s just say you might more than break something, it was very high. So I deemed this the most dangerous thing we did, crossing bridges with broken ties at night.
We moseyed along great and hit a new trail. We were feeling good and could smell the finish. It was after midnight and we knew we’d not be sleeping tonight. All of the sudden Canice said his bike wasn’t working right. No one really slowed down and we all kept going. Then he was like "Really it is not working.”
We went back and his hub was not working. He could pedal but it did not turn the tires. I thought no problem. Ian had fixed everything and could fix this. Well we were disheartened to hear, that this is a bike shop problem and it wasn’t going to be fixed. We were stumped. So we decided Chris would pull Canice on tow. The problem was we were on a bumpy, overgrown trail. It was not easy riding for towing.
It didn’t work. So we sat their trying to decide what to do. In the end we decided to call Canice’s mom and see if she could find us a bike or tire. Canice did this and then I asked Chris, “Could you run the bike?” I had seen Chris do this at the Too Cool Race and keep up with the team. He didn’t hesitate and said, “Yes, he could do it.”
Now you have to understand 1) Chris is in bike shoes 2) It is day 8 of PQ most people cannot run 3) Chris had bad sore feet 4) Chris had hurt his knee really bad a few days earlier.
But Chris rose to the occasion. I knew he was the only one on the team who could do this and make the time we needed to finish. We distributed the weight in Chris’ pack to the team so he didn’t have but water and a few things in his pack.
So while we waited to hear from Canice’s mom we pushed forward. Chris would run the up hills and ride the down hills. I didn’t ride as hard as I could, but I was certainly moving and Chris could keep up.
It was one of the most selfless things I have seen someone do. He made it look easy, but he was digging deep to get this done. He knew he was our hope for the finish line.
Amazingly with only 3 good bikes, we caught 4 teams. They were sleeping on the trail. They could not find the trail they needed to finish the course. We conversed with the teams to try to figure out what to do. We didn’t have a phone anymore and needed to make a call to see what to do. Jill my buddy was there. Someone kept saying Jill has a phone. She wasn’t responding until I said, “Jill it’s Kim! Can I use your phone?” She was thrilled it was us and gladly let us use the phone.
We talked with the teams and they decided they were bailing and taking Highway 44 to the finish. They had enough, and just wanted to finish. We were still going for it and took a trail that wasn’t a trail at all. In fact Jill’s team had been sleeping on the trail. At night there is no way they’d have seen it. It was just a hillside with very tall grass, and no trail but it was our direction.
I said goodbye to Jill and she mentioned she didn't have any food. So I returned the favor and gave her some shot blocks. I didn't have much, but I figured Shot Blocks lasts a while so I gave her those. So we went for it and rode over grass as tall as me for a while.
At daybreak, we hear gun shots. A few hours later we get closer to the guns, as this “trail" finally shot us out on a road. Chris was in the lead and crested the top of a hill very carefully. He saw some guys shooting guns. He cautiously waved and they motioned us down. It was some young boys, and it looked like Grandpa and dad. They were so nice. They let us use their phone and offered us a ride, which we couldn’t take of course.
They pointed us the way to Rapid City…woo hoo we were getting close and it was 8 AM.. On the road we had Chris tow Canice on his bike to give Chris a break from running. Shortly thereafter I see Canice start to topple over. He had fallen asleep and fell right over. He had some road rash and a sore shoulder, but right as he crashed his mom pulled up with a new bike!
We were ecstatic. So while Canice cleaned up we got the new bike ready. Then we were off! Yes we were going to make it! We rode for an hour or so with the finish line getting closer, but the time cut off was getting close. Every minute we were watching the clock.
Then we came upon a team on the road. There was discussion over the route. We knew the route was to take us left and way around to the back side of Rapid City. But just 14 miles in front of us, straight on a paved road was Rapid City. What to do? We had about 90 minutes. We knew we could easily ride 14 miles on the road to the finish, but the other way was about 30 miles. The other team had PQ on the phone and was told if they took the highway they were disqualified. In our sleep deprived state, who knows what really was said but this was the info we got.
So I made the decision. I said if we go Highway 44 we are giving up. There is no question, we are disqualifying ourselves. We have to go the other way. The guys agreed and we were off. Here we picked up Paul. Paul’s team had all stopped, but Paul was adamant he’d finish. Paul was a character. He was awesome. He inspired us, helped tow and just gave us motivation.
We got to the bottom of one hill and I looked back and there was no Ian. We’d been riding close together and he was right behind me. I yelled to the guys, I think Ian fell asleep. Sure enough Ian and fallen asleep, got airborne and landed in a ditch on his head. The car behind him told us this. He was back up shortly and on the road. The reason I knew Ian was asleep, as Ian fell asleep many times on the bike. He got quite good at riding while sleeping.
The 12 noon cut off was looming. We were pushing very hard. I had it in my mind that I’d give it all I had and leave it all on the course until 12 noon. I just kept thinking 50 minutes, 40 minutes…push, keep going…just until noon.
I failed to mention the reasons it was so hard to push. My feet were in great pain. Earlier we’d stopped for numerous fences and I could hardly walk when we did this. Each pedal stroke hurt the balls of my feet.
Well noon came and we were not at the finish. I could not believe it. We’d had such a great race. We came upon some folks who had water for us. We just sat there. I was shell shocked as were the guys. We just knew we’d make it. We cut the whole race course close, but we’d always made it.
I sat here thinking well that's it. They’ll come get us and we are done. My feet were glad but my heart was heavy. PQ is so emotional especially when your tired and we just didn’t know what to do.
I called coms at PQ. They said the course was closed, but we could finish. Or we could wait for a car. He started saying he was looking for a car. I said wait I do not think we need a car, but I’ll call you if we do and hung up.
I told the guys and Chris said, “Well I am finishing.” Ian said, “I am finishing.” Of course Paul was. I just sat there. Really? The race is over. My feet hurt so bad. I had my shoes off looking at my feet. I made the comment that my feet hurt so bad. I didn’t say anything else and Chris said. “Get those shoes back on before your feet swell,” I did as I was told I knew I’d go on, but it was nice to entertain the thought of stopping.
I remember reading in the “Warrior Elite” (a book about BUDS, the navy seal training) that sometimes they trick the trainees into thinking Hell Week is over, when in fact it isn’t, to see what they are made of. That is how I felt. It was over and now they were making me go on.
I broke it to the guys that we still had 3 hours to go. No one batted an eye, but we were all crestfallen. So we loaded up hopped on our bikes and road on.
It was surreal moment. The accumulation of a year had come down to 3 hours and a bike failure. Ian and I hung back and looked at each other, a bit teary eyed. We nodded to each other as we each knew how the other felt.
This ride we’d enjoy. However much you can enjoy 3 more hours after 10 days of racing. We took our time and just chatted and kept an easy pace. Paul was interesting and we got to know him. But it wouldn’t be all easy. There were 3 flats along the way, no one was at the last CP we went too and there was 1 hill with about a 1 mile climb.
Finally, we hit Rapid City and people started honking and cheering for us as we rode through town. When we hit Memorial Park, it was weird. We were done. We saw the finish line and I was overjoyed to be stopping. The other surreal part was that the after party had started 1 hour before. We were late to the party.
We rode up and no one saw us cross the finish. We sat there. It was like we were in another world and didn’t exist. We started to get off our bikes when we heard the applause start. The entire tent of people came to the front fence to cheer for us. People flocked to the finish line. Volunteers grabbed our packs and bikes. Friends, PQ staff, volunteers and fans gathered around us. One of the men from Team Merrell placed a beer in my hand. The funny thing about this is I do not drink. Every time I'd get rid of a beer someone would give me another. It was quite humorous.
We were hugged and photographed and just enjoyed being there. Then we asked about food when it died down. Food? They looked embarrassed. The food had been served at 2 it was now 3. But the volunteers said. “Come sit down we’ll hook you up.” So we sat at a center picnic bench under the tent and enjoyed all our friends and volunteers coming to congratulate us, talk to us and just say hello.
Soon 2 Large Pizzas arrived and a bucket of ice filled with small cartons of ice cream. We were ecstatic. My two favorite things. Chris and I dug in the Pizza when I started checking out the ice-cream. One of the ladies said go ahead, have it with the pizza. So I ate ice cream and Pizza together, alternating bites. I noticed 2 people staring at time. I asked, "Why?" They said I had the biggest grin on my face. It was true, I had finished one of the most grueling races there is, to be met by cheers and friends, to be fed by awesome volunteers who went out of their way for us and I was visiting with some truly awesome people, all while eating pizza and ice cream together!
We relished this for a long time. Finally when the party was over we were invited to dinner with Active racing. We were excited, “Sure we’d go.” Well prior to dinner, we found out my truck wouldn’t start and I got it stuck in the parking lot. So I spent the evening dealing with that, then we had to get our gear. Sadly we missed our dinner and picked something up from the hotel at 10PM. They were super nice though and brought us up a huge tray of food. We ate and were off to bed.
I had to set my alarm for 8 to have the truck towed to the dealership. Needless to say I spent the day having the truck fixed. Finally at 5 PM Chris and I headed out. Not a good time for 2 sleep deprived racers. We alternated driving until 2 AM and then we had to stop and sleep. We slept until 7 AM and then got up and drove on. It was the longest 16 hour trip of my life!
We were sad to arrive home and see we were a Did Not Finish on the board. But I was still happy. I didn’t know what else we could have done to finish faster. Yes we made mistakes but you are going to in a 10 day race. For 3 rookies (rookies to PQ only they are great racers) and me to make it as high as 12th I was thrilled and content with our effort. But having a DNF hurt.
I decided to at least let PQ know about the situation. Because teams who took the road were not disqualified as we’d been told and we could have made the cut off easily by taking the highway 14 miles. I later found out you were not disqualified though it was not the prescribed route. So we were disheartened again.
But just yesterday I got great news. They took us into consideration and were are 17th! Yes 17th at Primal Quest. We were hoping for a top 20 finish and we are 17th. I thank many of you for that finish.
I thank God for making me so stubborn that I can finish these things, and giving me the health to be able to do this. I thank all my workout buddies, who push me to the limit, Sharon, Robyn, Pat, and of course Colby, Bronson and Austin.
I thank all of you who send me notes and encourage us. It is funny when we are out there, we talk about you watching us and what you are thinking of us. It pushes us to go on.
Thank you for all the goodies mom and Sharon. And thank you mom and dad, and Pop and Nana for watching my precious son.
Thank you Phil and Colby for being patient and allowing me to go follow my dreams.
Thank you to my AR buddies Bill and Duane and for gear and advice.
Thanks to CrossFitnavy Seals for the workouts and CrossFit Endurance.
Thank you to me teammates Chris, Ian and Chris. You were incredible and always seemed to keep moving forward no matter what the circumstance. It was a pleasure to do this race with you. And of course Canice to your mom and step dad who were so kind and generous. And of course to Todd who was there in spirit, and who got this whole thing started. I look forward to the next race with you.
PQ will likely happened again in 2011. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to come along with me this time. As I recover I am starting to get the bug again!
Until PQ 2011…..