The short version is we DNF. My first in an Adventure Race.
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about that.
The race was divided into classes and each was given a separate stagger start time. The 4-person Co-ed teams began at 7:30. Our division (4-person open/single gender) began at 7:45 am. The rest of the course started 15 and 30 minutes after we did. The race began at a river campground with a 7 mile kayak leg. We were still scrambling to get our PFDs, hydration packs, and happy to be starting this adventure in such a beautiful place. We had paddles together when the start was issued. We were second to last in the frigid water, but discussed potentially lashing the boats together if they didn't track well, but we soon got into a rhythm and were able to keep them straight without having to tie them together. The Colorado River was higher than normal from a larger than normal snow pack melting in the Rockies to the East. The current was swift and helped make the paddle cold, but quick. We did a little over 7 miles in about and hour and 15 or 20 minutes. Once out of the water, we headed over to our transition area where we shed some wet clothes and changed into bike shoes, gloves, and grabbed the gear we would have to carry for the remainder of the race.
Transitions have never been my strong point, but I guess that experience has taught me that time wasted in a TA is hard to make up if you're going to be pushing yourself through the rest of the race.
Once on the bikes, we had a short 3 mile stretch on the paved road before heading into a LONG climb up a canyon on a technical 4x4 road. I figured that while on the pavement, we could hammer a little to get the legs warmed up and try to make up some lost time. My teammates didn't subscribe to this idea. We started off in the back of the pack and kept falling even further back for the rest of the course.
During the climb, we caught up to several teams unable to ride the steep terrain. Many were walking their bikes up the canyon climb and we soon joined them. We were also caught and passed by many of the remaining teams that started after us. Once at the top of the canyon, we were on a more gradual uphill climb on an easy dirt road which led to another 4 mile stretch of paved road. Much of the paved portion was downhill and we were able to rest the legs and coast down. Then it was a right turn onto another 4x4 road leading to the next phase of the race. This bike leg was ~25 miles with the last 5 miles consisting mostly of deep sand that had to be pushed through.
Once to the bottom of a canyon, we dropped our bikes, put on our running/trekking shoes and began the ascent back up the 5 miles of sand we had just pushed our bikes through on the way there. This led us up to the top of Gemini Bridges where we were to rappel down 300 vertical feet to the bottom of the canyon which is where our bikes were stashed. After a 2 hour hike uphill to the rappel, we were told that we were past the cut-off time to continue the race officially. We begged and pleaded our case and although declared officially a DNF at that point, we were the last team allowed to do the rappel back down to our equipment since it was faster than walking back around again. It was a fun rappel that I'm sure tested the nerves of a few people.
From here, our race was over and I guess I let my disappointment take control of me. We had to get back up the canyon to the race course officials who would determine if we could continue unofficially or if we would have to hitch a ride back to the start/finish line. I never said much to the rest of the team, but instead, just rode up by myself. I had plenty of energy and was still feeling fresh and wanted to finish even though it was starting to get cold and dark and we didn't bring lights. The race officials said that I couldn't go by myself so I waited for an hour and 20 minutes for my teammates to arrive. Eventually, I just caught a ride back to the start so I could put Allison's anxious mind at ease. She always worries about me if I'm not in within 2 hours of when I estimate I'll finish. We were WAY overdue and I knew she would be worried.
I didn't start out biking that last time with the intent of leaving my teammates behind. While alone with my thoughts and too much energy, it just sort of happened. Apparently, this denotes a lack of commitment to the team, but the race was over and they all had food and water and were only 5 miles away from the race course officials who eventually came to pick them up anyway. I don't know if it was my competitiveness that took over or my desire to just finish that led me away. Logistically, I knew I had to hurry if I was to make it back to the long canyon for the fast downhill (which we'd struggled up earlier) by dark. Once I reached the course officials, I found out that this would not be possible and I was now not ONLY a DNF officially, but wouldn't be allowed to finish UNofficially either.
My teammates were pissed. Rightfully so. I had acted selfishly. It was demoralizing and rude to them and after some internalizing, I decided to apologize sincerely to each of them separately and then to them all as a whole. Two of them graciously accepted my apology and the third decided that holding a grudge and giving me the silent treatment was the best way for him to deal with his anger and frustration towards me. That's fine.
Lessons learned all around. I made many mistakes before and during this race.
In a race this long (~12 hours) it is necessary to have a "go go go!" type mentality just to make the safety based cut-off times. My teammates had no such sense of urgency.
Warning flags were all over the place, but I dismissed them as minor issues that wouldn't be a problem. Some of the warning signs were as follows:
- Teammates had limited experience in Adventure Racing. (usually not a big deal as everyone has to start somewhere/sprint races are better suited for first timers)
- Teammates not making concerted effort to make training together a priority.
- Teammates' lack of enthusiasm for the pending adventure. (maybe I'm reading too much into this, but they just didn't seem very pumped up about it)
- Teammates wanting to carry enough food for several days out in the wilderness. This is not a good strategy for speed.
- Teammates not having a sense of urgency for getting set up in TA and getting to start line on time for race start.
Yes, it seems that I'm pointing the finger completely at my teammates when the problem was (is?) MY expectations, attitude, and choices. I should have done this race solo or chosen teammates with similar goals in mind for a race. As it is, there are now 3 guys who think I'm a hyper-competitive, insensitive jerk.
But as I contemplate the root cause of this negative human interaction, I can't help but continue in a certain (selfish?) line of thought. I volunteer for certain programs and organizations that benefit others. I put my own time and money into helping others for no tangible gain in return. Adventure racing is what I do FOR ME. It's what I have to myself as a positive, healthy outlet for stress which encompasses several different things that I love about outdoor activities.
In this situation, I think I just chose poorly in teammates who had different goals and motivations. It's not that they are bad athletes or poor competitors, but they have different personalities and experience levels and thus, had different objectives than I did this time.
Hopefully, I haven't made any enemies for life. I like for all personal interactions with other people to be a positive experience overall.