By: Robin Rongey
Well, the day started out like every other day that the Goomna adventure race has been scheduled on. It was hot and humid at 7 am, with a bit of a breeze, and it looked as though there was a thunderstorm looming in the distance. This was my forth time competing in the Goomna, and I had the same teammates this race as I had the previous year. Since two of the three previous races were cancelled during the race due severe thunderstorms popping up, the dark clouds in the distance posed some threat to the race. Patrick, Chuck and I hoped for the best, maybe some rain, but hopefully not thunder and lightning that would possibly stop the race.
We setup camp, checked in, got our maps and plotted the points that we had. We were told that one team member would have to run a short distance and pick up an envelope with our start group in it. The A group started with checkpoint one, while the B group started with checkpoint 9. Chuck ran for us, since he was the fastest sprinter. He came flying into camp in 3rd position.
We quickly tore open the envelope to find we were in group B. We found our direction and kitted up for the bike, when we realized we didn’t know if we were biking or running. Usually there is a clue sheet that tells us that, but this year we didn’t have one. So we yelled to Mark Rosen the race director, does group B start with a bike or run, he said run, so off came the helmet and gloves and we took off on the run to the first checkpoint. It was at a school track stadium, when we got there we saw that there was another group confused about if it were a run or bike and they were on bikes, I guess they took the bikes back to the start, but not sure what they did at that point. We also had a surprise mystery event at CP9, we had to carry two very tall buckets of water up and down each isle of the bleachers until we got to the end, then run them back to the start, so the next teammate could do the same. When all three teammates were finished with the task we could head to CP10. The problem for me was, the buckets were heavy and tall, so as I tried to walk up the bleachers carrying them, but they were hitting each of the bleachers and slowing me down, so I put the handles over my arms and carried them that way, to keep them higher off the ground. Of course I have black and blue bruise down my forearms now. Patrick put them over his shoulder which seemed to be the way to go, he was much faster than me or Chuck were.
We headed to the lake trails where CP10 was located, it was a rather long run to get there, we took a wrong turn coming onto the trial and lost a few seconds, but not much, we got the passport punched, picked up the next clue and headed to the canoes, just as we left CP10, Chuck stepped in a hole that was up to his knee and went down. Patrick pulled him back up, and off we went running to the next point.
At CP11, we grabbed a canoe and the next clue sending us to the water. We had to drag the canoe for about 150 meters and then down a path to the water. We all hopped in with me sitting in the middle on the bottom of the canoe and surprisingly we did it without tipping. Patrick pushed us off the shore and under a tree limb into the lake. The lake is large and open so you can see everyone. We saw that there were two canoes, pretty far in front of us and two right on our tails. We had a fast paddle to CP12 and were gaining on those in front of us while losing those behind. We picked up the next clue and headed to CP13, we were really close to catching the team in front of us. After getting CP13, we headed to CP14, we closed in on the two canoes in front of us and made it to the CP first, at that point we thought we were in 1st place of group B because there were no other canoes in front of us. Chuck read the next clue and we started to paddle off to give the teams behind us room to reach the CP. One of the teams asked what it said and Chuck didn’t answer, I think they were getting mad, but Chuck was the only one on the team that knew what it said and he can’t hear very well, so he didn’t even know they were talking to him. I finally said, I don’t know, I didn’t read the clue, then Chuck yells we’re trying to get out of your way, I’m not sure he had any idea what they asked. I know they thought we were being poor sports, but we really weren’t. CP15 was back at the start of the canoe, we paddled like mad men to get there and one of the teams started to catch up with us. We made it to the shore just ahead of the other team and drug the canoe back to the top of the hill, wow, it seemed a lot heavier the second time carrying it.
Back on the run to race headquarters where our bikes were, this would be CP8 for us. We came in thinking we were in 1st place out of the B group, but found out we were in 3rd. We discussed our place in the standings for the rest of the race, because we did not see another team on the water while we were out there, and we didn’t think there was any way possible someone could have already been done with the canoe before we even got to the water. I’m waiting to see the results when they are posted to see the times of those teams that finished in front of us.
Now we were on the bike and headed for CP1. Before the race start I locked out both my front and rear shocks on my Trek Top Fuel and put 50 psi in my tires because I knew I would be riding a lot of road, so I was ready for a fast ride. We had a bit of a problem finding CP1, we didn’t go off course, but we did stop twice to review the map. One team stopped with us and they chose to go right while we went left at a T in the road. We found CP1 not far down the road. We looked at the map and found that since a section of 143 was marked off limits we had to go back the way we came. As we were heading back the team the went the other direction was coming back, we pointed them to the CP, probably not a good move since in the end they beat by just a minute or so. At checkpoint two we see the team we gave the CP location to coming from the other direction, what we thought was marked off limits. I’m not saying they cheated, I’m just saying that it seemed that they had to ride the off limits section or at least a part of it. If they didn’t they barely missed it. I don’t know Highland, so I can’t say for sure, but we were feeling a little frustrated because they probably went half the distance we did by going that direction, based on the map, it looked to be in the off limits portion of the map.
We quickly punched the passport, Chuck grabbed some water and we were on our way, leaving two other teams a short distance behind us. Chuck was starting to look a bit haggard by then and was beginning to fall back. We slowed a bit to try and cool down for a while. We found CP3 at the edge of the woods, we got our passport stamped, dropped our bikes and headed into the woods on foot. The trails were very muddy and sloppy in places, but it was really fun sliding around.
I was leading with Patrick and Chuck behind me. We came through a creek, and Chuck yells I lost my shoe. I’m thinking well grab it, I look down the hill and he is on his hands and knees in the creek. Patrick runs back down the hill and is soon on his hands and knees, they are searching for Chuck’s shoe, I’m wondering how it can be that lost. I had to pee for about 2 hours now, so I thought while they are crawling around I will jump in the woods and pee. So I come out of the woods about the same time I hear Patrick yell, “I found it”. It was about a foot down in the mud, Chuck had to take a minute to try and get the mud out so he could put it on. Just as he gets his shoe on the team behind us comes running down the hill toward the creek, we take off up the hill as I secretly hope they lose a shoe in the creek. I’m starting to think of this team as one of those horse flies, the ones that buzz around your head and you just can’t get rid of them no matter what you do. So off we go through mud, rocks, creeks, and standing water, we come out on the road and have a mile or so to run to get back to our bikes. It was really hot out now and as we ran I was in front, telling the guys we have to get off this road before the other team comes out of the woods and sees us, then Patrick says “well, they are just going to follow your footprints in the tar”, I look down and every step I have taken has left a print of my shoe melted in the tar. So much for trying to lose the competitors.
We get back to the bikes, fill up our water, eat some Honey Stingers and take off just as the other team comes in off the run. We find CP4 by a cemetery and the guy manning the CP says congratulations! You were going to have to do a 6 mile run here, but it got cancelled. At first we all just looked at each other, it was like 130 degrees out, he couldn’t mean this was for real, that they planned a 6 mile run. We decided that he had to be joking. Whatever it was, we were glad there was no run at that point. Well Patrick and Chuck were, for some reason I was feeling great I think I could have done it.
This is really funny though, because I got up that morning with an awful ear ache and was so dizzy that I ran into the door jam trying to get out of the door, but once I started running I felt incredible. I was even really holding back on the bike, the entire ride because I didn’t want to drop the guys. It’s not often that I have a race where I feel this good, but this was my second race in three weeks that I have felt incredible in.
CP5 was right off the road and it had water, it was a long ride to CP6, so it was good to fill up on water. As we rode down the road I squirted all the water in my water bottle on Chucks back, trying to cool him down. Patrick was starting to look really hot too, but I was out of water by then, or I would have squirted him too
So off to CP6 it was a pretty long hot ride and the CP was at a house in a subdivision, and the kids working the CP were eating snow cones, you have no idea what strength it took not to throw those kids down on the ground and take those snow cones. I restrained myself as to not embarrass my teammates and rode off without the snow cone. Chuck was looking worse and I was getting worried, I was riding in front of him and Partrick in back of him. The horse fly team was on our tail and we were trying to ride fast, but the heat had really taken a toll on the boys. Patrick said he was starting to fall apart and that his pedal was broke, we could see that it was bent and the bolt was coming out, but he said he would figure out how to keep riding, even if he had to ride with one foot.
At this point I could see Chuck was struggling, neither he nor Patrick were whining, which is what I do when I am falling apart, so it was hard to know for sure. If it weren’t for the fact that I was pulling away without feeling any stress to stay ahead, I would not have known they were bonking. Shortly after the CP we crossed a creek, it was really muddy and the banks were steep and grown up with about 8 foot tall weeds. As we crossed the creek bridge a car was following close behind us, but Chuck must not have realized it because he just jumped off his bike, dropped it in the road and almost rolled down the embankment to the creek. I was yelling “go to the other side it’s not as steep”, but he just kept going. While he was rolling down to the creek, I jumped off my bike, pulled his out of the road before the car ran over it and ran to the bridge rail to look for Chuck, Patrick and I can’t see him, but hear a giant splash, and then we see and hear the weeds moving and Chuck pops back up on the road. He pulled out a Honey Stinger gel and sucked it down, then I knew he'd be all right to the finish. We all get back on the bikes ride towards CP7.
Patrick and I were in front of Chuck and missed the turn to CP7, we turned around and saw Chuck, as we were going back the horse fly team passed us. At the checkpoint there was a small lake, Chuck ran over and splashed water on his face while I got the passport marked and grabbed some water. We head to the finish, horse fly team is in front of us and when we hit a major road with traffic, Chuck and I make it across, but Patrick gets stuck, when he gets across we get to the next turn and have to wait at least a minute for traffic so we can cross. As we do this horse fly team is getting a larger lead on us. We get back to the finish, but see horse fly team cross the line about a minute ahead of us.
We end up in 5th place with 3 B teams and 1 A team in front of us. We still can’t figure out how we ended up 5th because we didn’t see those other B teams on the lake, it was like they skipped the canoe altogether, I’m sure they didn’t, but it was like magic with them. We had a great time and I felt great the entire race, which is a fantastic feeling. I was ready to relax now.
All I can say, is next year, bring it on horse fly team, you won’t be buzzing us again, we are going to be ready for you. I want to give a big Thanks to Mark Rosen and all the volunteers, without all their support we wouldn’t have this race.