Another fork in the road halts us. We challenge the information we’ve been provided by a couple different people. A portion of us want to go one way, another group wants to go down the other path, and a few are lost as to how we got so mixed up. After a few good arguments were presented over which direction to continue, we came to an agreement. We would turn around and head back to the intersection and take the route we were hoping was fastest back to Amee Farm. There we were dragging that tire, once again. At least now we had a system. We had room to travel, minus having to move aside for cars we were doing stupendous! Thankfully a team’s crew arrived before we took off and helped us to replenish some of the many many calories and fluid loss we’ve accrued over the course of the past, almost, 24 hours. The best thing in this everyone-grab-what-you-can-for-all were the clementines. They were Oh Em Gee delicious. No really, they were. With our newly fueled bodies, and a decision made we decided no matter what we were finishing this race. Even if we had to drag that tire for another 48 hours to do so. That’s how determined and dedicated we grew to be during our time together.
We were down to about 14 members on the team. There were a few people that did not look like they’d make it much further. They had aggravated old injuries or developed new ones during their time on the course, they’ve come far but this was closing in on being the end for them.
We rounded a few corners and went up and down a few hills. Soon we were came up on the peak of this one hill. We were dragging the tire down the middle of the road. As we hit the top we could see a group of racers being led by Joe. I WISH I could have captured a picture of that entire moment, or better yet a video. Where’s the iPhone when you need it? This one image was so memorable I still see it in my dreams. It just stands out so much to this day. Joe had this look of astonishment on his face. Almost like he couldn’t believe we were still smiling after dragging this blasted tire around. The look said, “Holy shit these mofo’s won’t quit. What do I do to them?” and it was glorious. It was staggering to see that look of fear that we couldn’t be broken glimmer in Joe’s eyes. He quickly fixed his composure, so fast I’m not sure everyone else witnessed that same moment of shock that I did. Instantly Joe was firing off that we were so far behind we could never finish. We could not finish. We could not go on. We were done, according to Joe. A few of us rebuked his sentiments posthaste. We told Joe, “No, we are not finished. We are not done with this race. We will go on regardless. We’ll drag this damn tire the entire race if we have to. WE. ARE. FINISHING!” Joe collected himself, and told our crew members that we couldn’t continue dragging this tire around if we really insisted on continuing the race. He then asked them if they could see to it that the tire makes it back to Amee Farm. From here on out we were free, of the tire.
At that moment we were no longer on the same team, it was finally time for this to become a race. Here’s something interesting though, it still isn’t really a race by normal standards. There are still so many unknowns and so many times where you need to wait to do things with others. The next task we were set out on for example, we were to head over to this hill near Joe’s house. We started running with the rest of the racers that were following behind Joe and made our way towards his house. I made sure to stay near the front of the pack. I wanted to stick with people I knew and I had spotted a few familiar faces fairly quick. I said hello to them and we continued on our way back past the fork of indecision from earlier. We down the alternate path and when we arrived at Joe’s house we were to perform a plank position on the hill. We we on the decline heads facing the bottom of the hill were Joe stood. There we waited for everyone else to arrive and join us. It didn’t pay to be in the lead, since you were now holding that plank much longer. Once everyone had made it we continued to plank it out for a bit until Joe decided it was time to move on out.
On our way to the next challenge I remember we made our way up this path next to Joe’s, it did a little fork split and of course the group divided. I second guessed my choice of path right away and made my own way back to the other path. It turned out they both led to the same location. Our next challenge was an interesting one. We were paired up into a few small teams which varied in size anywhere from two people partnered up to a group of five. This task led to some “cheating” and I quote that because its debatable what really happened. We were put into a four person group. To be honest I was going through some crazy fatigue and began a downward spiral that would lead my mind to the dangerous thought of Q. U. I. T .T .I .N .G. Yes, quitting. I’ve always known that once you start thinking negatively the thoughts can compound themselves. They will proliferate until you either give in to the notion or break the darkness and persevere.
Once we were in our groups we were assigned a quantity of buckets that were to be filled with gravel. Those buckets would then need to be brought up the mountain trail to pour out on the various bike trails. We were designated as team 32. On top of the gravel dumping we had to find a stick with our team number on it. My shoulder was wrecked. The treacherous tractor tire did a number on me. The thought of carrying a bucket seemed impossible. I stood there for a minute and thought how could I go on without doing damage. They were checking fill heights of the buckets. I couldn’t just bring a half bucket. I looked to my teammates and explained to them what was going on with the tear in my shoulder. I told them I don’t want to be skimping out on the labor but we have to make at least two trips up the mountain, there were four of us. We could only bring one bucket at a time. I suggested that while they are carrying the buckets I could run faster and search all the different trails for the sticks. I cannot thank those guys enough for helping me out and going along with this strategy. You guys helped me so much. I didn’t get to say a proper thank you out there, but I really do appreciate everything, thank you.
I took off but hit another fatigued moment as I tried to make my way up the mountain. I sat down on a rock and started scouring through my bag for something to eat. I found a bag about a quarter full of pretzels. I started eating them quick. Todd was making his way up and I offered some to him. Todd made sure I was doing alright and carried on. After about 5 minutes and my last GU packet I went back to searching for the number 32 stick. I found a bunch of them. Team 5, Team 42, 38, etc. Everywhere I looked I found sticks. Some close to where the bike trails started and others near the top of the mountain, near Joe’s cabin where we originally weighed in. I ran back to the bottom to report my status to the rest of my team. They were readying themselves to bring the next round of buckets up. I told them I’ll go continue to look. I saw Todd again and asked him what team number he was. He hadn’t found his team’s stick and I was hoping for his sake maybe one of the ones I saw corresponded with his team number. Things got quite confusing when he responded, “I’m team 32.” I immediately responded, ” get out of here, we’re team 32 are you sure?” I ran back down to check with the race volunteers that had all our team cards with our names and bucket amounts marked off. I told him the issue and he said it was impossible.
Was this a betrayal? Were all the sticks out there just random numbers and no one could actually find their stick? No, I did come across a few groups that found their stick. Did some racers take other teams sticks and change them to their number? Unfortunately, yes. I saw this happen a few times. So what happened to ours? Did it actually exist?
Well I went back and told my teammates and Todd the issue. I headed off to look for our stick, I believe Todd decided to make one. When I got back down I was told by someones crew member, Andy, that our situation was presented to the volunteers by both teams. They admitted they must have made a mistake and told us we were free to move on to the next challenge. Andy was kind enough to hang back to make sure I knew I could move on to the next challenge. He asked me if there was anything he could do to help me since I had not met up with Jennifer, my only crew member, still. I was out of my pain medicine. Until I made it back to Mark’s car, I would be in a lot of pain. Andy said he would do his best to find Adam, or Mark and ultimately my medicine. Thank you so much for your help during the race Andy.
Although my shoulder was gonna suffer for a while, I was happy to hear I could stop looking for the stick. You could tell the sun was making its way down into the mountains and soon it would be dark. I would not want to search for a stick in the dark. I made my way back down the hill to where all these massive logs were lined up along the outsides of the road. I was instructed to find a log and join the rest of the racers. We were to split our log in half and then both halves into sixths. Finally, relief from carrying my pack, relief from running up and down hills. The idea of chopping wood for awhile made me happy. Time to rip off my compression shirt and get out my beloved Fiskars x27 splitting axe.
To be continued…