A well-known part of my personality is a certain stubbornness when it comes to letting my perceived shortcomings live in the past. That is to say, a DNF, in whatever form it assumes, tends to sit poorly with me in terms of the bank register of my life account.
Collapsing four miles from the finish line and a subsequent 48-hour stay in the ICU at Ironman Wisconsin 2006? Unacceptable. We’ll just go back in 2007 and get it done. Record low temperatures, hypothermia, and treacherous, icy conditions force the withdrawal of both teams WMS 1 and WMS 2 at the 2007 running of the Bonk Hard Chill? I don’t think so. We will most certainly return in 2008, better-prepared for the conditions, and earn that finish.
Fast forward to a few months ago when I hit up last year’s squad:
Me: “Hey guys, BHC is two months out – who’s ready to go rectify our DNF and post a finish?”
Steve: “Uh, I broke two bones in my foot during a Turkey Day football game. I’m out.”
Mike: “I was miserable for 90% of that race. Out.”
Barry: “I’m just not feeling it this year. Good luck.”
Chad: “I’m having eye surgery two weeks before the race. Doc says not advisable.”
Brenda: “I can’t believe you’re doing that F*N CRAZY race again!”
Unfortunately, adventure racing isn’t Ironman and it isn’t a solo endeavor and therefore I needed my team in order to initiate Operation Redemption 2. With that the various negotiations began, the pleas for an earned redemption, the promises of beautiful weather. Nobody was buying my line of BS until Chad, the one person whose note from the school nurse truly wasn’t forged, stepped up and said that if it came down to not having a team mate he would join me rather than see me left out in the cold this year…no pun intended. Sure, his doctor said that he shouldn’t sweat or subject his eyes to extreme temperatures for a few weeks, but really, what are the chances of either of those happening in an 18-hour adventure race in the middle of winter?
As such we found ourselves checked into one of the various “luxury” accommodations in the Lake of the Ozarks area a month later, complete with a 80s-era TV and comforters that looked as though they belonged in the hazardous waste bag in the emergency room. My fear of truly running Chad out of the sport and into adventure racing retirement (for the fourth time…) was compounded later that evening while sitting in the pre-race meeting as he sat shaking his head and occasionally mumbling like Rain Man, “Baaaad memories. Baaaad memories. I buy my underwear at K-Mart”.
Chad’s misgivings aside, the rest of the pre-race meeting went well. A healthy crowd had gathered for this year’s race including a lot of new faces. Some had come to tackle the 8-hour race as their first adventure race ever; others were talented veterans taking a shot at the 18-hour title and a chance to race in the US Adventure Racing National Championship. Jason and Laura of Bonk Hard Racing went over the pre-race info with an increasingly polished litany of rules and comments and thanked the sponsors, locals, and volunteers who came out to help put on a great event. Nothing out of the ordinary – we’ll kick off at 7:00 am and receive our first maps and 22 checkpoints and then receive further instructions later in the day. Of course, I always get a little nervous when the race director laughs and says, “Yeah, I wouldn’t follow any of the trails on the map if I were you. Some of them are not where they appear on the map. In some cases they are way off.” Good confidence-builder for novice navigators.
Back at our hotel we spent some time plotting (and double-checking) checkpoints and plann