The Struggle Continues – The LBL Challenge Adventure Race Report Part 4
Trek Leg #2 – O-Course – 4:50 PM Saturday Afternoon – 9 Hours 20 Minutes Racing
Note: This segment of the LBL report is brought to you by Robert Lewis Jenkins III, but you can call me Bob. Luke has added a comment or two in blue, Kate commented in purple-ish font and Casey’s comments are in red.
We pick up where Luke previously left off. The team has just arrived at a Transition Area heading into an orienteering leg.
Given the time restrictions and the fast-approaching sunset, it was no secret we wouldn’t be clearing the (13 CP) course. We’d just have to get what we could and return before the time-cutoff. Striking out, we used an open field for a hand-rail and our progress was momentarily swift. Along the way, we crossed paths with a very relaxed looking Team Alpine Shop. It was odd to see them casually hiking through the woods, and we could only take it as a testament to the difficulty of the course.
In the weeks leading up to the race, Luke and I had agreed that I’d take over nav-duties at some point, and by now I was jonesing pretty bad to take point. We decided that he’d find the first CP in this section and then I could take the reins. My wait turned out to be a bit longer than expected though, because we had one hell of a time finding that first one.
The micro-nav on this course was just ridiculous, I bet we walked around for an hour trying to find the first checkpoint. Cool heads always prevail though, so we regrouped for a while and finally found paydirt. Redemption was ours..for now.
Luke: I was REALLY struggling with the map. Bob is mercifully leaving that part out, but I was more than happy to hand the map over to Bob.
Map in hand, it was now my turn to lead the charge. Up until now things hadn’t exactly gone smoothly, and even after finding the first CP there was a bit of a “dark cloud” looming over the group. Despite all that, I was totally stoked. I’d been looking forward to this moment for months and was really hoping to pull the team out of this funk. I picked a route and checked with the guys to see if they liked it.
They didn’t. Hmm..maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
My route was a bit too ambitious, cutting across a few reentrants and whatnot. I was confident in my route selection and wanted to go my own way reeeally bad. I wanted to take the training-wheels off and strike out into the unknown.. but we decided as a team to take a more “trail-oriented” path. I wasn’t happy about it, but in retrospect it was the smart thing to do. To my thinking, they’d trust me a little more if I got us to the CP smoothly. After that, I could get fancy and maybe noone would mind.
A quick bearing lead us to the trail, and I started looking for collecting features.
Luke: For me, it wasn’t a matter of trust. It was a matter of how physically difficult your proposed route would have been. I’m more of a “stay high and go around instead of going up and down repeatedly” kind of guy.
Kate: I had no opinion, but I appreciated that you guys always included me in the looking at the map to make a decision like I had a clue what I was doing.
Casey: Personally, I was fine with either route. Luke was struggling with the map and needed to take a break for a while and regather himself mentally for the rest of the race (we would be needing his skill later in the race). I would have been happy to take the reigns but Bob really wanted to and it was a good opportunity for him to have a chance to do some orienteering in a big race setting.
For whatever reason, everything seemed to be happening exactly as it should. (Weird) Rises and dips in the trail matched the map, and after about an hour’s hike we were within striking distance. A knot formed in my stomach as we left the safety of the trail, cutting across an open field using a re-entrant to the South as a handrail. This was it, I was exposed now…I’d either be a hero or a zero. Feigning confidence, I cut straight through the tall grass with Kate following closely behind. Luke and Casey found a much smoother path along the treeline.
Kate: You were the navigator, I was following you. Which was just fine until I started thinking about snakes halfway through that field.
Per the map, there was another reentrant coming up on our left, (North). We found it and used it as another handrail. The trek took longer than I thought, but we eventually walked right up to the flag. I have to say, it felt pretty damn good.
No time for gloating, we turned around and headed for the next one. Fearful of distraction, I removed myself from all conversation. Minutes turned into hours as we trekked along, hoping I wouldn’t get us lost. .
**Now, I do all of my nav-training in the Cedar Creek area, where there are a lot of powerlines and radiotower-type things to help keep me from getting too lost. Even at night, the Southerly glow of city lights keeps me somewhat oriented. Land Between the Lakes doesn’t have any of that; out there you’re either in the right place or you’re very lost. LBL requires a lot of micro-nav: paying close attention to your surroundings and how they relate to the map. Little things like which direction a spur is facing or which way a creek flows become critical bits of information. **
Luke: Not to mention that everything looks exactly the same out there. It was a nightmare.
A smile crossed my face as it became apparent I was gaining the group’s trust. (Luke: Again, you always had my trust) (Kate: And mine) (Casey: Not mine…yet) Spirits were on the rise but I knew it was all for nothing if we didn’t walk straight into the next CP. After descending a short hill, we stood at a creek and I had to decide which of the multitude of bluffs in front of us held the Checkpoint. Problem was, they all looked the same. The only thing setting them apart from one another was that one was located directly south of the highest point in the surrounding area.
I stood there staring at the map, weighing our options. By now, we were no longer alone. Another team whose name I can’t recall had latched on and was following us. I’m pretty sure they cleared it with Casey first (Casey: Not with me but they definitely were green and needed some help.) , but I can’t be certain. So now instead of getting 4 people lost, I had 6 lives in my hands. After giving it some thought, I eventually decided to burn the extra calories and ascend the monster hill. Hopefully we could take a bearing from up there and walk right to the flag. The climb was kinda brutal, but when we got to the top it took all of 2 minutes for Luke to spot the control flag. (Casey: Now you have my trust.)
I swear, it felt like I had thunder in my veins and lightning shooting out of my ass. There’s nothing like that feeling of knowing where you are. My self-doubt was gone and it felt good. Alas, time was against us and we had no choice but to head back to the transition area. We had already been out there for almost 6 hours. Getting back to the T/A was easy, we headed back to a bend in the trail, turned straight West and followed the ridgeline nearly all the way back to the field.
Luke: Casey, as usual, wanted to get one more CP before heading back. I think Bob kind of wanted to do so as well since he was spot-on with his nav, but after weighing our options, we decided to save some time and play it safe by heading back.
Bob: There’s no denying that. I was having a blast and would’ve happily stayed out there all night.
Casey: We could have gotten another one.
We’d hit a few rough spots, but things were looking up. Best of all, there was still plenty of food waiting for us back at the T/A. Clear skies prevailed as the sun began to set, but noone could have predicted the storm that would cut loose on us later in the race.