Sleep is welcomed, but unfortunately all I can dream about at this point is paddling an inflatable kayak through 3" of water and not getting stuck in a mud flat. Ahhh, the pleasantries of a true expedition race.
I believe we officially finished 8th, but I can not tell as the leader board has not opened for me since I finished the race. I will not do an entire re-cap of the race as I am not sure I am capable, but I will mention the highlights:
-Black Hills Mountain biking and downhills on the Centennial Trail.
-Trekking through Custer National Park and seeing numerous Buffalo and Rattlesnakes
-Badlands Trekking and Thunder Storms
We spent a majority of our time competing for 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Took some risks near the end of the race by not sleeping in what we thought would be the last night, and the wheels came off the car. Two nights later we finished and all teams in our vicinity passed us with a chuckle. If you followed us on the Spot Tracker you most certainly wondered what in the world we were out there doing.?. Let me try and provide some perspective.
With 50 miles left in the last bicycle the maps made the course look like a straight forward bike home...not the case. As we exited a section of rails to trails (minus the trails, as they were not fully converted yet) it appeared we were to follow a proposed route, and we had been told before exiting the buses before the race that proposed routes should be treated as mandatory. As we began looking for the proposed route night fell and the prior night with no sleep and the 5 before that with a total of 8 hours began to catch up... we all turned into zombies and began going up and down the same ridge for 5-6 hours looking to each other for the answer. No answer was there except for the fact that we should have simply slept. Instead we night walked until the sun came up, watched Wedali (other team) solve the problem by bike whacking across the valley to where we needed to be.
Unfortunately we could not process the solution...or at least we began to but got stuck on the proposed route problem. The teams that were around us began to leave through the valley but none of them were following the proposed route, what would this lead to? Big penalties or little penalties. Cyril insisted that we go back down the mountain and follow the proposed route...so down the mountain we went again. It took us a while but we slowly moved back up on a close derivative to the proposed route only to realize we were out of food and water at 2:00pm and it was nearly 100 degrees. This was fun.
We pitched the sun shade and I made off to find some water that I had seen the night before. I had this beautiful little oasis in mind that had artisan well water, instead I found a puddle of slime water being held in puddle form by the mound of cow pies around it. I waded out into it and began filtering and treating water for the team...not mention making sure I got as much manure in my shoes and crammed into my blisters for the long trip home.
Soon enough the gang was up and we were off. Navigational confidence was low, but Cyril managed link together the route and get us out of the valley of the zombie walkers. We crested a hill and bombed down to gravel roads and civilization. Our new friend Tim closed in on us in his Lincoln navigator. Tim had been following us on the computer for days, had his wife stationed at home telling him our location and he was tracking us. As soon as we stopped on a road to inventory our gear Tim came ripping around the corner and said, "What the hell have you guys been doing over there?"
He was concerned for our health, had water and candy bars for us and was truly our trail angel. He had been helping all teams that came over the ridge and had been slowly waiting our arrival. Soon enough we felt almost normal to leave the comfortable company of Tim and push off for the finish line. Now we had 40 miles to go and we were ready for a bed. 12-15 miles later Cyril's shifting went to hell in a hand basket on a road that was filled with baby head rocks and had us carrying high speed to maintain a plane on the top of the rocks and moving fast. Cyril had his bike turned over and was looking at his derailleur when we all simultaneously noticed the snapped frame...doh! In between the rear shock mount and the front derailleur hanger, ouch.
We were at a point that we needed to bike whack again about .75 kilometer to another road for the final 30 miles in to the finish. We decided to do the bike whack and deal with the bike problem once we got there. We were again delirious and night had fallen again, time was flying we must have been having fun. Soon enough we arrived at the road and the way point and realized it was time to sleep. Along the way Cyril would fall asleep standing up, I would approach him and say, "Cyril lets go" and he would always respond by saying "where are we going?"
First I would say "The road"... "oh yeah."
Then I would say "basketball practice"... "I forgot my shoes."
"Dinner Party"..."can I go dressed like this?"
"New York"... "Good I'm hungry and they have good restaurants there"
on and on our banter went, made us all laugh a little.
Once we hit the road we crashed in a ditch about 100 meters from the way point. Our alarms all went off at 3:00am and we got up and started to get ready, soon enough we all came to the realization that we were in adventure mode and were just trying to get to the finish line before the course closed in 24 hours. 4 people, 3 working bikes, 30 miles and 24 hours...we could do this. Back to sleep and we would deal with this in the morning, our little roadside ditch was comfy.
I woke at 7:00 am and began to devise our plan. Cyril would ride my handlebars or sit on my seat so I could stand and pedal, Aaron would carry Cyril's bike on his back with the use of some tubes as a harness and Tessa could carry his pack. At 8:00 I woke the crew and started telling them what needed to be done. Soon enough a caravan of townies and race peeps joined us on the roadside with the guidance of the SPOT tracker. They all had their Coffee's and Pastries and wanted to know what our problem was...One rental bike later and we were off to the finish line.
8.5 days and my longest race ever later and I am happy to say I had a great time and that South Dakota exceeded my expectations in many ways. Despite our performance and poor placing I believe it is experiences like these that add character and put things in perspective...the next time I'm having a bad day I'll think back and remind myself that it could be worse and anything is possible when you put your mind to it...