Barry and Mike’s Frozen Adventure
It seemed like a perfectly logical decision: Barry and I would partner up and race the Bonk Hard Chill, an 18-hour adventure race, in February, in the unbelievably brutal terrain of the Ozarks State Park (think “hills”, then triple it). It would be Barry’s first adventure race ever, and it would be the first time I took the lead navigation role in a race. Perfect. Sure, Dave, Chad, Brenda, and Steve would be racing as well under the Team WMS I name, but trying to keep six people together – with all the individual things that go on during a long adventure race – would slow us down too much and likely keep us from finishing. Still, we would collaborate as much as possible. All we needed was good weather to give us a good chance at conquering this very tough race. No such luck. The forecast was for highs in the upper teens, with wind chills topping out at 3. Plus, the terrain was covered with ice/snow, and the roads still had significant sections of dangerous black ice.
The race was to start at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, but good portions of the lake completely froze over, so the organizers had to re-route and possibly cancel the paddle. Thus, at 6:45 a.m., we finally took off on a half-mile run to gather new clues and coordinates. When the crowds dispersed after a couple hundred meters, Barry and I found each other and we cruised to the turn-around. We were a few meters in front of WMS I. When we returned to the transition area, we hopped in Dave’s vehicle and began plotting the newly-re-designed course (much of the plotting work we had done the previous night was for naught). Dave joined us a few seconds later. About half way through our plotting, Dave and WMS I decided to head to the first check point and plot the rest there. Barry and I decided that we would finish plotting, let the sun come up, and enjoy the benefits of sunlight. Plus, regardless where/when you plot, everyone’s got to take the time to do it. Might as well be now.
When we bolted out of TA on our bikes around 7:20, there were still quite a few teams behind us. But most had already left. We passed at least a half dozen teams on the way to the first CP, which would become a secondary TA of sorts. We saw a team changing a flat, but didn’t realize it was WMS I. The only problem we had was that neither Barry nor I could get our bikes into the smallest chain rings for the considerable climbs (my chain even popped off). The cold was already wrecking havoc. Still, we quickly made our way to CP 1, checked in, and were very surprised not to see WMS 1. “Wow, they plotted quickly and got out of here.” When we asked the volunteers when they checked in, we were very surprised to learn that they hadn’t. It really made no sense. I had fully planned on using Dave’s navigational skills to help us wade through the forest for the next 3-4 hours. We headed out and began our trek . . . alone. About a mile down the road, we finally saw WMS 1 coming toward us. They were already 10-15 minutes behind, and we finally learned that a flat tire had already set them back.
Only somewhat confident in my map-reading skills, we headed toward CP 2, and were pretty elated when we jumped into the woods, found a reentrant, and quickly located the first check point a few hundred meters away. Even though we knew we could get CPs 2-8 in any order we chose, logic dictated that we head directly toward 3. Running the entire time, we hit CP 3 in stride and continued on toward 5, which looked to be a very tough find on the map. We boldly decided to leave the trails and roads, head over a big hill, and hopefully find a small cove. Although the compass took us about a 100 meters east, we quickly found CP 5 and headed north, found the Red Bud trail, took it as far north as we could, then ventured off into the woods looking for a creek intersectio