November 9, 2011

Psycho 43

Report by Robin Rongey, with Chuck comments in orange:

Dirty Kanza? HELL NO! Hahaha every race she swears off, ends up becoming her favorite.  Anyone got a cross-bike for sale?  Oh and I guess you want to know why I say this. Just fifteen days after a bad break to my tailbone, I along with my ROCK Racing Teammate, Chuck competed in the Psycho 43 in Milford Kansas. It’s a long story that starts like this.

Chuck and I registered for the Psycho Expedition Adventure race months ago, it was to be our last race of the 2011 Checkpoint Tracker series. The problem was when race day came, it was 15 days after I broke my tailbone and I was just barely starting to do very short workouts again and had not even attempted to sit on a bike. I had not been to the doctor since breaking it, but I did not want to miss the race and Chuck had no backup for me, so it was me or we both had to bow out. If you know me, you know I can’t walk away from any challenge. When I asked my manager at work for a vacation day, so I could go to the race, he said “I’m sure you are doing this AMA (against medical advice)”, I just smiled. It was better not to answer that. So I had a plan, I just had to get it past my doctor.

I saw the doctor on Thursday morning, where he told me I could start doing regular tasks as long as I could stand the pain, I took that to mean, I could do anything I wanted as long as I could deal with the pain. He was not real happy with me, but he said he knew I was going to race, so he told me what meds to take and when, and then he said “You are the toughest person I know”, but we all know, there is a very fine line between tough and stupid.
I bet the doctor was afraid to tell her no.  Can't you just imagine her on the edge of the exam table ready to pounce on the poor guy and start choking him?

I went home that night and finished packing for the race, that was because I was so sure I was going, I had already packed my bike and camping gear in Chuck’s van. On Friday morning I met Chuck and we headed for Kansas, flat Kansas, as we believed it to be. Ha Ha, it is so funny to say now. I just want to know, who started the rumor that Kansas is flat, because they should be slapped. We drove through the Flint Hills and the barren prairie, talking of how this race was going to be so easy and we were going to finish in no more than 16 hours, although we had 20 hours to complete it. What is really laughable is, the entire time as we were making plans to smoke this race, I was wiggling around in my seat to try and get my tailbone to stop hurting, like it would magically be fine when I started racing. We drove past the Ft Riley Military Base and into Milford, still completely clueless to what lay ahead.

We went to the campground, setup our tents and headed for race check-in, where we received our maps, all six of them and some notes on changes to the race course due to impending weather conditions. It was expected to be incredibly windy on race day, so two canoe points on the big lake were cancelled, which put the race course mileage to 85 miles.

We started plotting maps, which usually takes us 1 to 2 hours, but there were so many points and only two of the six maps were of good quality, so it took 3 hours to plot the points. I hate blurry photocopy cardstock maps!  Some of the points were hard to understand, so we conversed with Team Orange Lederhosen, who was also competing, they had similar questions, but we got it figured out.

We headed back to camp for a few hours sleep before the bike drop at 4:30 am.

I could not sleep, due to both nerves and one sore butt. I think I slept 15 minutes the entire night, plus it was freezing and I had not brought a warm enough sleeping bag. Apparently Chuck had the same issue, he was freezing all night and didn’t sleep well either. I’m now asking for a zero degree Big Agnes sleeping bag for Christmas this year. We made one last check of our packs and loaded the Supefly and Top Fuel  in the truck at the bike drop, then headed to the starting line where we got last minute instructions and we then scrambled into a bus for a 45 minute bus ride due North.  I couldn't stay awake at all for the bus ride, it just went on and on.  This is when we realized that this race might be a little harder than we originally thought.

The first trekking section wasn’t too bad, but the issue we were having was that all the clues for the race, were just random items, like tall tree or boundary marker, not terrain descriptions, like you find in most adventure races, so it was a bit of a different animal for us. One of the clues was boundary marker.  It ended up being this sign post.  That kind of clue doesn't do much to help a team navigate.  Give me a reentrant, creek bottom, or saddle any day.

One of the CP’s was on a cliff side overlooking the water and we could see the long bridge that we were going to have to cross in the coming hours, it looked very ominous with the wind howling, it almost made me shiver.

We finished the section and headed across the long bridge into 30 to 40 mph winds, it was wicked and we were running into it, we knew then that the wind was out of the southeast and we would have to head directly south and east to make it to the finish line.  We were about a 1/3 of the way across the bridge when two trucks came from opposite directions and crossed right by us.  Scary!

The next leg was the bike, I was not looking forward to it for two reasons, first I didn’t know how my tailbone was going to handle it and second we were told that this was the toughest single track section in the area with grueling rock gardens, that safety was first, so it might be a good idea to push the bike through some of the rocky sections. Once on the bikes we headed into the single track and quickly found that it was tough going, but we were doing alright and although my tailbone was hurting, it wasn’t awful. We picked up all the checkpoints and headed out to the road, my butt was thanking me for smooth pavement. Too bad we turned directly into the wind. It’s hard to explain just how hard the wind was blowing except to say, if we didn’t pedal on the downhill, we would have stood still, the wind was that strong, it may have even pushed us backwards up the hill.  I seen tumbleweeds blowing by, and dust clouds were getting all stirred up.  Good thing we remembered sunglasses.

The pavement didn’t last for long, soon we were riding on gravel and packed dirt roads for miles heading towards Ft Riley, picking up CP’s along the way. We rode mile after mile of heavy graveled road, not crushed limestone, but big rock that feels horrible on a broken tailbone. There were hills, one right after the next, the kind that are just far enough apart that you don’t get any momentum on the downhill to help with the next uphill. Chuck helped as much as possible by riding out front and letting me stay in his draft, but even with that, it was such an effort to get through the wind, that my tailbone was screaming and I was struggling to keep moving forward. I had no idea that this race would be more like an Epic Gravel Grinder rather than an adventure race, if I had, I may have used the old broken tailbone excuse and stayed home. By now it was after noon and we needed to eat, but we couldn’t stand out in the wind, so we found a nice storm drain to sit in and have lunch.  Adventure racing takes us to the most scenic places.

Although, the day started out with temperatures in the 30’s, it had warmed up nicely, but due to the strong winds, we needed to keep warm without getting overheated. Lucky for us we were both wearing our Icebreaker base layer which kept us warm in the wind and dry even though we were sweating from working so hard to ride into the wind gusts. I can’t say enough about how great Icebreaker stuff is, if you haven’t tried it, you really need to.

Finally we reached Ft Riley, we signed in and headed to the next CP, but we had to keep stopping because Chuck was picking up used artillery and putting it in his pocket.

I have no idea why he wanted the stuff, but I was secretly glad that every time he stopped to pick something up, I got to get off my bike seat for a few seconds. Cmon!  thats 50cal brass with machine gun clips, it don't get cooler than that! geez girls.  We even made a couple turns to the west, they were just short stretches of gravel road, but it gave us a little bit of a tailwind, unfortunately, it also gave us a strong cross wind, so there were a couple times for both of us where we were thrown sideways across the road by the wind. My only thought was, if I go down I hope I land on my shoulder and not my tailbone, better to have a broken collar bone then to land on my tailbone and make it any worse, plus I knew if I landed on my head, I would be fine, my Hardnutz helmet had already saved my noggin a couple times this year, so I was sure if I hit my head it would be fine. Some might say that it would be fine because there was nothing in it, but don’t believe that.

When we hit the checkpoint we were told that we missed the cutoff, so we would have to skip the next 3 points and head to CP46. That meant more miles of gravel, hills and wind. I was now on the verge of tears, but was trying to hold them in. My tailbone hurt so bad that I just wanted to scream, not that anyone would have heard me with the wind howling like it was. Heck, we couldn’t even hear cars coming up on us and one pulled up next to Chuck and scared him so bad, that I was a little worried he might crash, but he kept his wheels on the road. Besides seeing all the artillery on the road we also saw a giant snake, I’m just glad Chuck didn’t want to bring it back with him.

At CP46, we sat down and ate a Honey stinger waffle and hashed out our go-forward plan. Although my Trek Top Fuel was really grabbing the gravel, and the shocks were taking the brunt of the beating, my tailbone pain level was about past my limit and we both knew that I wasn’t going to make it anywhere fast, and if I didn’t get off that bike soon, Chuck may have been taking me to the emergency room for some really good pain meds. The plan:  We would ride the 7 or so miles back to race HQ and from there do the trek to the Xterra Challenge and the mystery event, then pick up all the trekking points that were left, excluding those that we would have to bike too.

The Xterra challenge was really cool, we had to use a rope to pull a Nissan Xterra SUV across a parking lot. It’s funny how much work your tailbone does, who knew almost everything you do uses your butt, I felt every step of that challenge. Oh of course since I was doing all the work pulling the SUV while chuck was playing movie producer, it was probably much harder than it should have been. And to top it off, the movie he made while pulling the car, didn’t even come out good enough to use in this blog.

Next we were off to the mystery challenge, and guess what it was, whatever you just guessed I’m sure it is wrong. It was Karaoke, this is not a challenge that Chuck or I wanted to take part in. We both bucked up, and sang “Sweet Home Alabama”, it was probably the worst rendition ever. There was certainly no applause for us.  Team Torti was up next and they knocked it out of the park with this awesome performance:

So after that crazy challenge we headed out on a trek for the last of the CP’s. Finally finishing at the Anchor Inn, where we had hot pizza and cookies.

We chatted with Team Torti for a while, hit the showers that were nice and hot and headed back to camp for some well-deserved rest, lucky for us, the night was a little warmer and we both dressed in every clean item of clothing we had with us, including our recovery socks, so sleep would be much warmer this time. The night continued to be windy, so windy that I thought I was in OZ, but come to find out, it was just the shock waves from a 5.7 Earthquake in Oklahoma.

I’m very glad I attempted the race, It wasn’t our best performance, but we did everything we could to make it work and we finished. Going into this race we both agreed that we would do whatever it took to finish and not worry about how fast. With that said, I guess we did exactly what we set out to do, like always, it was team work, I couldn’t have done it without Chuck.

Ok, I gotta add something else here.  The girl spent this whole race in the Pain Cave.  All of us endurance racers have been in there before at some time or other.  So we all know how tough it can be to keep focused and pushing forward.  I have to say I was absolutely impressed with her ability to keep going when I know that butt pain was BAD.  I heard her moan and gasp a few times, and seen some glassed over eyes but I never saw a tear.  I don't know if you call it perseverance, indomitable spirit, toughness, or just stubborn beyond belief.  Whatever it is, the girl has it, and I was taken to school.  

Now how do I get some more pain meds from the doctor without having to admit that he was right, my butt was not ready to race yet.

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