Fog Dog 24 hour Adventure Race
(Summary by David Marks)
The race started at 9:00 on Friday morning. We (myself and my teammates Mike and Laurie) had to check in on Thursday and camp at the race site over night. We also got our maps on Thursday night at around 8. So Mike and I were up until about midnight trying to figure out the best routes to take to find the checkpoints we had to find during the race. The course wasn't marked at all so we (mainly Mike as he was our navigator) had to figure out how to get around all by ourselves.
The first leg of the race was a 20+ mile kayak leg in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately the whether conditions were terrible and there was even a small craft advisory out. We were talking to Karen Lundgren, who has done multiple Eco-Challenges and is one of the most experience adventure racers in the United States, of Team Hi-Tec after the race and she was saying what we faced were the worst weather conditions and toughest paddling she had ever done. This was not good news considering the person steering our kayak (me) had paddling been on the ocean all of once and had done most of his training in Tempe Town Lake (which is really nothing more than an oversized swimming pool for those of you who don't live here.) At times the wind was so strong that we had to fight to keep a hold of our paddles and we did almost capsize a couple of times at waves hit us sideways.
The good news is that we were one of the few teams wearing wetsuits through the paddling section. Team Balance Bar (and I think four other teams) had to drop out due to hypothermia at the first checkpoint and even Eco-Internet which has won the Eco-Challenge several times (including this year) was shivering on the beach wrapped in safety blankets. Anyway, the kayak was grueling. We had figured before the race that we could average about 4 miles an hour, but due to the whether conditions and how exhausting it was, it took us a little over six hours to finish the kayak and we were probably in around 15th place. My inexperience hurt us quite a bit as we weaved more than we should have and I accidentally took us through some kelp beds that were hard to paddle through. We were very happy to reach shore at around 3 in the afternoon.
From there, we had a quick 10 mile run/hike up one side of the mountains, back down the other side and then retrace our steps come back to the transition area again. This was the part of the park that I had scouted out the month before so we knew exactly where we were going. Laurie was pretty fatigued from the paddling but we flew pretty fast on this leg and passed quite a few teams.
We hit the transition are again and got out on the bikes. We had about a six-mile ride down the Pacific Coast Highway and then hit some more hills. It started getting dark as we hit the highway. We were moving good on the bikes and our towing system where I pulled Laurie up the bigger hills with a rope attached to our bikes was working really well. We moved all the way up to 9th and were only a few spots back of 8th, but we couldn't find the 9th checkpoint.
Mike did an awesome job of navigating for his first time. Still, since our maps were from 1972 and hardly showed any of the trails we were riding on, it was really easy to get lost and we had a terrible time finding the 9th checkpoint. We backtracked several times; talked to a few other teams who were wondering around looking for the same checkpoint. We did finally find checkpoint 9, but not until after I wrecked on my bike and either severely sprained or broke my ankle (I haven't gotten it x-rayed yet but that was the diagnosis of the medical technician at the race.)
The rest of race wasn't quite as much fun after that. The remaining sections of the bike was pretty easy so I figured I'd keep riding and see if that would loosen it up enough that maybe I could walk on it afterwards. Laurie suggested that I check into the medical tent to have them look at it when we finished the bike section (you could ask for medical attention in the transition area without being disqualified) but I was a little worried that they'd either make me or strongly suggest that I quit, so I kept going.
Throughout the whole running/climbing/trekking/coasteering (hopping, climbing and scrambling on rocks along the coast) I was just in survival mode trying to make it through the race. Luckily Mike and Laurie were still going fairly strong (we all bonked at different times through the race but pulled through it) and Mike was doing a good job of navigating. We did have a minor run in with a Satanic Cult at the ocean's edge around 1 a.m. (no lie!) but other than that and the fact I was pretty hobbled things were going well.
The drawback was that the last section was pretty long. Well over 40 miles up and down the mountains--all on foot. We left around midnight or so and didn't get back until 4 pm on Saturday. This was another place (there were many throughout the race) where our inexperience hurt us. We miscalculated how long this leg would take us and didn't bring enough food or water (although talking to the race crew and the other teams after the race it sounds like even the experienced teams made the same mistake). So, towards the end Laurie was cramping, Mike was completely dehydrated, and I was bonking from not eating enough. We only had one more hard to find checkpoint to locate and then we could head back home to the finish, but we took a wrong turn and ended up going about an hour out of our way. We finally figured out where we took the wrong turn and found some water so Laurie and Mike felt better, but I was still out of it. I was having a hard time keeping up. Only Mike seemed to have much energy, though he later admitted he was mainly running on "guilt anxiety" about having gotten lost.
This is when I hit my lowest point. We figured even if we found the checkpoint right away, walked straight to it, and then walked straight back to the finish line, we still had another 18 miles to go. Laurie thought maybe it was time to cash it in and quit and she pretty much had me convinced when we finally got to the lost checkpoint. It seems that almost everyone got lost finding that checkpoint, so we were still somehow in 9th. This gave us a little bit of energy and Mike took my pack for a while to let me recover a little bit. We sort of all limped in until about a mile from the finish line when I looked over my shoulder and there was another team running after us trying to catch us. We hadn't a seen a team for the past 12 hours and now some stupid team was trying to run us down at the finish line. So, though we didn't really want to, we picked up the pace and ran the last mile in. I know this is the part of the story where I'm supposed to talk about the high of finishing but the truth is that I went straight to the medical tent as soon as I finished.
So, we ended up 9th overall. Not bad considering it was billed the most competitive 1-2 day adventure race ever held in the United States. We were only 6 hours behind the winners and 2 hours behind the 8th place Team Hi-Tec--who finished 10th in this year's Eco-Challenge.
We finished in 31 hours, 18 minutes and 47 seconds. (3 minutes and 25 seconds ahead of the team that was chasing us at the finish line—I think they gave up when they figured out they weren't going to catch us.) That turned out to be a pretty good accomplishment as only 30 of the 80 teams that started the race finished and most of the experienced teams we talked to say it was the toughest 1-2 day race they'd ever done.
My ankle is still pretty swollen and I'm probably going to go get it x-rayed later on today. The guy in the medical tent said I won the award for most severe injury, which was good for them as there were some pretty treacherous parts of the coasteering.