Up until now, Team Ten had been rocking out. We were leading every challenge thrown our way. We were struck with poison though. It came in the form of a tractor tire. The troubles the tire caused us took the Death Race to an all new level for everyone out there. The teams that got far ahead ended up doing burpees for a long time before catching some rest. After a short rest they made their way toward the Chittenden Reservoir with their kayaks and slosh pipes. This is where they dropped their items off. Those racers did a swim and made their way back all while we were still making our way down Bloodroot Mountain Trail with the massive tire.
What I started to realize as we moved on was the imbalance in the distribution of time people spent with the tire. You see we were unable to ever have more than 5 people max on the tire. Once Bloodroot Mountain Trail narrowed down to being a single track trail, thats one user, we would manage to have 2-3 people on the tire at a time. The third person would usually be on the outside of the tire because there was no where to fit on the inside. The chances of someone falling off and sliding down the side of the mountain were incredibly high. I’m still in a state of confusion as to how we beat what I assume the odds were. What started to become one of the pains in Team Ten’s side was the over ambitious nature of half the team and another half that was more focused on conserving energy. Those of us that were gung-ho about keeping the tire moving at the fastest safe pace possible would get frustrated and step up, sometimes too soon to give others a chance to move up. Many of us just didn’t want to stop the momentum. Multiple times we had to operate under what was basically an Indian Run cycle. Three people would drop all the way to the back and the next batch moved forward. I had a tendency to drop 3/4 of the way back, I simply did not feel comfortable being all the way behind. I have found that when I am at the back I start to slow down even more but when there are people behind I keep a much better pace when in a group.
At this time I had already taken my second dose of pain medicine and we had gone through the second burpees stop which was completely done in darkness. That stop included eating some more trail mix and taking down a GU Gel Pack, I think I had Mandarin Orange…mmmm. Tip: Join The Clymb, look it up on Google. I picked up a variety pack of GU products and a 24 pack of mixed flavors GU Gels. They sell them at deep discounts, and have all kinds of athletic, running, hiking, and active lifestyle products. Another teammate was experiencing some pain so I hooked her up with some aspirin. It didn’t do enough and I had to eventually share some of my pain medicine. After the race I found out that her heal was fractured. This is where I put myself into a sticky situation, later I would be out of medicine, in immense pain, leading me to be on the cusp of quitting. I don’t regret sharing my medicine with Lisa. If it would help her make it that much further and survive these treacherous switchbacks, climbs, and descents then so be it. I was more than happy to help any of my fellow racers however I could. Even though it’s a race, the camaraderie never dissipated the entire race. We were all in the suck of it together. Fighting, fighting to survive all the mental objectives Joe and Andy devised for us.
When we had reached what I’ll call a half way point our leaders, Joe and Andy, made an announcement. If you were not able to continue on, now was the time to turn back. They had an ATV on its way up to pick up the knee injury and would be leading a group of anyone who couldn’t go on back. This was the last time we’d see anyone for a long time. We had to start up again with the tire and would go on throughout the night. I remember that as the night went on some tensions would build and then subside. We were becoming dehydrated, many of us were conserving the last of our water. I was doing alright for the most part and remember at the end of the trail from hell sharing my water with those who ran dry many hours prior. Having a 3L bladder is a must when you are out this long and in the future I’m always going to bring at least one or two water/gatorade bottles in addition to the bladder. The extra weight is worth it in the end. Not only were we dehydrated but most of us were also low on food, we had gone through our baggies of trail mix, sucked down the last of our gel packs, and chomped away at the last of our energy and protein bars.
As the sun began to rise we were nearing the end of Bloodroot Mountain Trail. I remember the breadth of life that made its way back into a bunch of us as those rays of light made their way over the mountains and shined through the trees. It was an amazing sight, but our focus had to remain on that damn tire. We only could enjoy the beauty of what surrounded us for a brief moment and it was back to trying to navigate the tight pass. After a few more ups and downs, going over roots and squeezing between trees. Dead leaves crunching beneath our feet, we made it out to a clearing where we saw Joe waiting for us.
He sat there waiting for us next to a smoldering fire. At first I thought he was tied up when I saw him sitting on the ground, “betrayal?” I had thought. I quickly realized my eyes were playing tricks on me and he was just wrapped in a black garbage bag. Even Joe needs to stay warm in the wee hours of the night. Upon our arrival we were told we had fallen something like six hours behind the rest of the racers. Joe presented us with two options. Option A would involve us heading out to the Chittenden Reservoir as a group and trying to catch up on what we missed out on so far. Option B was to wait for the rest of the group to come back, with no knowledge of how long that might take. Instead of letting our body’s muscles sieze up we opted to keep moving. There was some hesitation to just hang out but ultimately we knew it was best for us to keep moving.
Joe said we could leave the tire there for now and that we would be back eventually. We all headed out towards this next checkpoint together but this is where you could really see who was struggling, some people took off. Others, hung back and moved slowly. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. I was somewhere in that middle. I started off in the front but then Damien, who managed to wear that damn pink bathing cap of his the entire race, took off on a run with Joe. It was at this moment that many of us on Team Ten began to think he was a mole. He wasn’t, but for a period of time we were all questioning this decision of his to take off without any of us. Did he know something? Was this on purpose? Is he going to get us penalized? We eventually lost sight of them and came to a turn and we became uncertain which direction to continue on. I tried using my phones map but service was next to none. I was able to receive a few texts from one of my favorite Storm Chasers, Jennifer, who was arriving Saturday to be my support crew. She was still in route to Pittsfield at that time and I would continue on through the race without seeing her until Sunday morning.
After a few minutes trying to figure out if we should continue on we began heading down the road and then quickly everyone said we should just go back to where we dropped the tire. There we were again undecided. We started heading back because we desperately needed water. I think Andy came back and told us he wasn’t sure if the water in the streams we had passed was safe or not. But then again, it was better to hydrate than to die. Comforting, aye? Joe came back with Damien and we got called out for not keeping up. I believe the rest of the racers started coming up and soon we were back in the race with everyone. We had missed a swim challenge and were instructed to continue on. We had to head back to the spot where we dropped the tire off. Once we got back it was time for another burpees set. The first group started off doing 100. When the next group arrived they did their 100. Once all of Team Ten arrived we were punished for not making it as a team to the swim….that’s right, we were back to carrying the tire. Our hopes of the other teams having to help with it were diminished. It was upsetting but time to move on it was.
We tried to organize a system again, I became annoyed. Every system we’ve tried to implement up until now has failed. What we had experienced up until now was that no matter what some people would step up more frequently to take turns on the tire while others would go to the extent of dropping back just before it was supposed to be their rotation. This happened a few times. Eventually people called each other out and the problem would be solved, temporarily. Team Ten was still strong as a bull but we had our troubles. We tried to keep up with the other racers who all had nothing to carry other than their packs now. It was a lost cause but as we made our way back to the farm we would occasionally come up on people stopped for water refills in the creeks. We would use iodine tabs to purify the water just to be safe. Then there were also a few times that we’d get passed and realize we were not the furthest back. I remember we eventually made it out of the woods after many nasty spots. By that time we had finally created a superior system. It took a while but thats how these things go sometimes. How did we achieve a better system for moving the tire? We did it by attaching multiple pull ropes to the tire. This made it so we could have six people on it at once. We woud be pulling the tire behind us. When we made it to the regular streets we stopped at a house on the corner as we emerged from the end of the trails. We were treated by the owner of the house to free water from his hose. It was a very exciting moment for us. Then it was back at it with that tire. We faced another fork, undecided which way led us back to Amee Farm we began to argue our options and why this way was better than that. It didn’t help that we were given information by someone we didn’t know and immediately felt we couldn’t trust. The betrayal theme was making our judgement of what was real and what was false less distinguishable by the minute. And we still didn’t know which direction to head.
To be continued…