After all my efforts to be in peak shape for the 2006 Primal Quest Expedition Adventure Race I am thwarted by a horse. I'm standing in a field, having just ridden a bus for hours in my lycra race gear in the middle of the night. I am surrounded by horses, which I am deathly allergic to. As an asthma sufferer I have just 80% the lung capacity of the average male. I am surrounded by not so average males in this dry desolate field in Utah on June 25. As my teammates start to suit up the horse, I start to wheeze, and I start to worry about it. My girlfriend at the time Krissy, had her wonderful mother get me some surgical masks from the hospital. I am wearing one. Not only am I allergic to horses but also dust, and with 90 four person coed teams and 90 horses about to start running in a dry valley.. yeah.. it's about to get dusty.
The scene is surreal. As I duck under a camera boom I think to myself "this is the show". It's a far cry from the grass roots races that attracted me to ultra distance sports in the first place. As the sun comes up teams scramble to hear the official horse rules as we start the race. I am racing with RVG, Seegs and Cyril, we are team DART-nuun. Fellow DART-nuun'ers JVG and Fleming are here as well, racing with team Gerber Legendary Blades. Fleming sees me with my mask on and says "why are you wearing that?". Me "I'm allergic to dust and horses". He then says while laughing AT me "then why in the world are you racing in this race?". I smile my sarcastic "'thanks for nothing" grin and think "I'll show you what I'm doing here when I drop a top 10 at PQ on your ass!"
Fittingly a few cowboys shoot their guns in the air and we all start running. Well RVG, Seegs and I are running. Cyril is riding the horse. I fall quickly behind. This is not normal for me. I am fast. Cyril keeps looking back for me as I get lost in dust right off the bat. I can't breath, this sucks. Well at least it will be over in... oh, about seven days from now. That sucks too. Doubt floods my brain as I struggle to keep up to even the slowest pace. After a few miles we make it to the horse check, and we actually aren't too far back. We appear to also be in good company too with Team Sole and Silly Rabbits right there with us. However the top teams are long gone having gotten there first and not waiting in a line as we did... because of me.
Once through the horse check bottleneck the race now feels like it has finally started. The next 27 miles we switch between putting 3 packs on the horse and leading him, to riding him with limited success. At one point at about mile 18 I'd say he just stopped wanting to move forward. So Cyril asks RVG to smack the horses ass to get him going. The next thing I hear is an "OH!!" as RVG gets kicked in the quad by the horse. Did that just happen? Had it hit his knee cap it would have shattered. He's a big strong dude, he doubles over. We are all very lucky the kick exploded a flask that was in his pocket and not his quad muscle. Scary. He also got stopped by the horse on the achilles at one point. Ouch. I stayed clear of ol Jake the horse because I know my ability to breath is more important than my helpfulness with the horse. We finish the 29 mile section in good position, I think somewhere in the top 15.
We then head out on a 22.7 mile desert trek. This trek through the desert canyons is HOT. It was simply impossible to carry enough water. We are all suffering. We pass through the last CP (check point) on the way to the TA (transition area) and we pass team Crested Butte taking a break. Around the corner we pass a team who offer us money for our water. Only problem was, we didn't have any left. So we continue the death march. No water and hours to go to get to the TA. The desert provides us no shade and it's hot. Did I mention it was hot? RVG's nose had started to bleed at some point and still hasn't stopped. Along the way I look at him in horror, but keeping it to myself. He has salt all over his face from dried sweat, his nose is bleeding non stop and dribbling down his face and into his teeth. He is a wreck. These simple matters of comfort don't much bother RVG though, he just pressed on, this is part of the game - suffering. As we trek/trot he sometimes grabs my shoulder to steady himself. I feel good that I canhelp him, but I am also concerned with his health.
As we get closer to the TA our need for water is getting desperate as we are all dehydrated. I need water so bad that I figur, in my delirium, that if I take some gel I will get some water from that. Instead it just makes me dry heave. So I freak out and start running towards the TA down the trail - we are so close! RVG and the team are now completely stopped, trying to get his nose to clot. I thought they would follow. They thought I was being a jerk and not a very good team player.
We do finally make it to the TA alive, although f'd up. After some foot care and some wasted time and we are off on our 65 mile mountain bike section. This section is uneventful, but we struggle to keep our speed up and it sucks the life out of me. I thought we were a mtn biking team! Right outta the TA Rebecca Rusch's team Buff/Coolmax blast by us.. simply flying. Certainly that will get us moving right? Nope. We continue to crawl. Damn! About 20 miles in team Crested Butte adds insult to injury as they ride by like we are standing still. Ugh. My frustration grows as we ride, slowly, through the night.
Up next... day 2 and some white water riverboarding.