Stoppingjay – The Thunder Games Part 3
***Editor’s Note: If you’d like to get caught up (and to see Bob in a Gold Speedo) you should read Part 1 and Part 2. This race report was written by Luke with comments added by Bob in Green and by Kage in Blue. Luke added a few responses in Red.***
The Tributes from District 69 (That’s us, by the way) had already been through a lot – An amazing but difficult coasteering section, a lost passport, thorns and thick brush, heat and humidity, and of course a swarm of pissed off yellow jackets. And now we were standing at the base of an enormous cliff – the only way up via ropes and ascenders.
Bob and I had a little bit of experience ascending from previous camps and races, but Kage’s first and only practice with ascending came during the “Training Session in Front of the Game Makers” back in Part 1. Ascending can be difficult and exhausting, especially for the uninitiated.
Each team was only allowed one rope, so each team member had to be completely off the rope before the next person started. For whatever reason (luck mostly) I was the fastest ascender when we practiced, so we decided that I would go last. But it turns out that I was the first one with my harness on. While Kate and Bob got ready, we figured I might as well go up first. I didn’t want them waiting on me, so I pushed it as hard as I could. I don’t have the best technique in the world (I do too much with my arms and not enough with my legs), but I managed to make it up in a decent time. I was completely soaked with sweat, out of breath, and exhausted at the top. Next up was Kate.
Kate slowly but surely made her way up to a small rock ledge about a third of the way up. Being at the top, I didn’t realize how much she had struggled just to make it to this point. For her perspective, you can read her fantastic race report here. She had simply worn herself out. That’s a little shocking, honestly. I mean it’s not like she had been racing all night and day, and it’s not like she had been attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets or anything. Oh wait… Yes she had. And considering this was only her second ascent ever, she was doing a remarkable job.
Kate got to a certain point where she just couldn’t get herself to make any progress. I think at one point she even considered cutting the rope and falling to her death. I, of course, was oblivious to this since I couldn’t see or hear Kate at all. This is where the awesome volunteers bent the rules for us. We were basically in last place, the other two ropes were not being used, and no other teams were in sight. So they allowed Bob to start ascending on the rope next to Kage. When he caught up to her, he patiently coached and encouraged Kate the rest of the way up.
Kate: This made a world of difference. I can’t even tell you how hopeless I felt hanging on that wall…basically well, I guess I’ll just spend the rest of my life right here. And Bob was a great coach, but it had to require enormous patience because I was so exhausted and defeated. I remember telling him, “I understand what you’re saying, it makes total sense…I just can’t do it.” I think the only thing that got me up that wall was Bob’s force of will…and G. Scott’s arms pulling me over the edge.
Bob: I still think if she would’ve had a knife in her hand she’d have cut the rope and fallen to her death. That was bad.
Kate dug deep, maybe deeper than she has in any other race, and she made it. Bob followed shortly thereafter, but rather than butcher the experience with words, I’ll let the photos tell the story at the top of the ascent:
I really like that last photo above. That’s the real us: Exhausted, dirty, and slow, but struggling forward together with smiles on our faces and loving every minute of it. And for us – for me anyway – that’s what it’s all about. Best. Teammates. Ever. Okay, back to the story.
For those that don’t know, Bob is an epileptic. He doesn’t often have seizures, but he still has to be careful.His seizures are usually triggered by extreme physical exertion or lack of sleep. So adventure racing is pretty much the worst possible activity for Bob in regards to his epilepsy. Fortunately, Bob has learned how to control the seizures with lots of rest and sleep leading up to a race combined with staying on top of his medication.
Wow. Normally I’m only amused by seizure jokes when I hear them from another epileptic, but that’s actually pretty funny.
So… It was about this time that we realized that Bob had forgotten his seizure medication. We had been awake since the previous morning, and we had definitely exerted ourselves in an extreme manner. Forgetting his meds was the final ingredient in this disastrous recipe. And we all saw this as a team issue. We know that, in the rush to get everything together before a race, Bob often needs a reminder to bring his meds, just like I need a reminder to eat and drink while we’re racing and Luke…um…needs to be reminded he’s short? We really need to figure out a weakness for that guy. Anyway, neither Luke nor I remembered to check on the med situation. Our bad. We discussed our options, but we all knew what we needed to do. We decided to stop “racing” (even though we are mid/back-of-the-packers, we still try to race hard) and start chilling. We became the Stoppingjays that the Capitol tried to snuff out.
Our plan was to finish the O-course, possibly get 1 or 2 CP’s on the paddling leg of the race, and then head to the finish line. We would end our race early rather than trying to push through and risk Bob’s health. And honestly, it wasn’t a hard decision. The Head Gamemaker Gerry had kicked our asses, and none of us minded cutting the race a little short. Perhaps we could’ve done more if Bob hadn’t forgotten his medication, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. I, for one, was a bit relieved. The rest of the race, although still difficult, had a much different vibe than the previous portion of the race, and it was truly great.
We no longer had to worry about pushing the pace. We had PLENTY of time to finish what we had planned. So we headed off and just enjoyed the rest of our race.
We eventually made it to the second cave in the race. All three of us had to go to the back of the cave to punch our wristbands (proving that all of us actually went into the cave. The cave was heavenly cool, so we decided to take a short break… For 45 minutes to an hour. See? I told you the rest of the race was different. It was glorious.
We sat in the mouth of the cave and relaxed, reminisced, joked, and had an absolute blast. Eventually, we decided we’d better get moving. So after our “short” break, we made our way on foot to get the rest of the CP’s on the Orienteering section. Once all of the O-course CP’s were punched, we found ourselves at the TA again… Where we took another short break… for another 45 minutes or so.
Super-volunteers Chad and his family started packing up their things to leave the TA. We assured them we would be leaving soon. Before we left the TA, Kage needed to reapply some Body Glide anti-chafe lubricant. Rather than be discreet, Kage simply said, “You may not want to look. This isn’t going to be pretty…” (or something like that), and then she just shoved Body Glide up her shorts and went to work on her thighs. We were shocked and speechless which is pretty damn rare.
I think her exact words were, “Well, this isn’t gonna look very delicate.” I’m STILL shocked.
I’m shocked that the bar for shocking these guys is so low. It wasn’t particularly ladylike, but I was fully dressed.
After the show, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the finish line. We had decided to forgo the paddling section completely. We rode some gravel and walked when we needed to. We were in no hurry whatsoever, and we were still having fun. We were even treated to a Cirque-de-Bobby show on the ride to the finish:
We also got to cheer for Bushwhacker as they rode past us on the way to a strong finish after clearing the course…but they didn’t get to hang out for an hour in the cave,
We crossed the finish line a few miles down the road, and we were surprised to see our friends from WTFAR/TR already there. They cleared the O-course and did a little bit of paddling before heading to the finish line for 1st-Place in their division! That’s pretty damn cool. And somehow, we managed to NOT be in last place in our division despite taking our sweet-ass time. We ended up 11th out of 13 teams in our division.
It was great hanging out with a bunch of our AR friends at Camp Benson after the race. It really is a perfect venue to start and finish an adventure race. The next morning Bob even dominated Brian at a rematch of Tether Ball before we headed to the Kountry Kettle for some delicious breakfast.
All in all, this is one of my favorite and most memorable races of all time. Even though the Tributes from District 69 may not have been victorious, they lived to fight another day. And that day is fast approaching. We’re heading to the Thunder Rolls 24-hour Adventure Race THIS WEEKEND!!! There will be 5 Virtusans altogether, and we’ll be ready for whatever the Head Gamemaker has in store for us… Probably… Maybe… Or not. We’ll see.