Tragedy and Triumph Revisited|
Monday, January 24, 2005
|Photo courtesy of Garrett Madison
|Starting on the sea kayaking leg...
Editor's Note: CBS Sports will be airing the 2004 Subaru Primal Quest this Sunday on January 23rd, from 4-6pm (ET). The follow recap is from team Necky Kayaks. The teammates were Garrett Madison (captain), Michael Horst, Brent Molesberry, and Cathy Caenepeel. The Subaru Primal Quest was the inaugural adventure race for all team members.
It all began in June of 2004 when I was guiding a weeklong mountaineering seminar on Mt. Rainier. I was just back from a failed Denali expedition, and Rainier felt much easier to climb because of its smaller size and familiarity. Actually we didnít summit Rainier on the seminar because a storm moved in the last day when we planned the summit attempt. A failed summit usually results in no tips, which was why I reluctantly agreed to join the clients for dinner the evening we got off the mountain. Dinner was in a cozy restaurant near the mountain and I had the opportunity to talk with one woman who worked for "Primal Quest." I had no idea of what the race was all about, but had heard of similar races such as the Eco Challenge, and instantly wanted to do it. She laughed and said "you really think you could do the Primal Quest?í
"Why yes, and why not finish in the money?" Afterall the entire top ten finishes received part of the prize purse.
"But you donít have any adventure racing experience?"
"Well, no. But how hard can it be? After all I am climbing Mt. Rainier all summer.
When a spot opened up two weeks later I learned I could enter a team in the event, and I made a split second decision to commit myself to the race. I knew that I needed to organize a team of talented individuals who could hopefully form a cohesive unit, and that we would perform activities like paddling, mountain biking, trekking, climbing, scootering, all while operating off of minimum sleep and navigating by map and compass. Sound like fun? You bet.
As I began to research the Primal Quest (www.subaruprimalquest.com) I found that I had bitten off much more than I was prepared to chew. My only teammate so far was my dear buddy Michael, whom I had talked with before about getting in to AR, and he agreed to do the race, but we still needed another teammate and a girl. After realizing that we needed a plethora of specific gear for each event in the Primal Quest the personal expense tree grew on steroids. We finally convinced his girlfriend Cathy to do the race, and my college buddy Brent, who proved to be a valuable asset throughout.
Because Michael, Cathy, and myself all guide on Rainier in the summertime, our training schedule consisted of walking up and down the mountain with heavy loads, and going on a mountain bike ride or paddle occasionally. Meanwhile, Brent was guiding sea kayak tours in the San Juan Islands, giving him plenty of paddling experience, and he made time for bike rides and trail runs after work. Brent is an amazing guy, both mentally and physically solid far beyond my abilities. The three mountain guides and the lone sea kayaking guide had no AR experience but we did have one important attribute; we shared a common enthusiasm for the outdoors and ability to work well with others, the key elements for success in an expedition AR race.
As the days before the departure to Anacortes, WA, dwindled we scrambled to organize ourselves and our gear to meet the requirements of the Primal Quest. Michaelís dad agreed to be our support team, and he outfitted his Ford F-350 with four bicycles, four scooters, 2 fifty gal water barrels, and a storage trailer behind which would double as our sleeping quarters. A retired Navy Seal Team Captain, his war wagon had cellular Internet, complete kitchen, comfortable beds, and somehow carried all of our gear around to the transition areas during the Primal Quest. While most teams rented an RV for the race, we stood out as the crafty team with a low budget.
After pouring over countless lists of mandatory gear and a dozen trips to REI we finally assembled our loaded truck in Seattle and made the drive to Anacortes, WA where we would meet up with Brent at the Primal Quest rally point. We pulled into a parking lot with about 60 RVís already parked and many racers and support crew members wandering around in the dark. At 3 AM the following morning we were told that a ferryboat had been chartered for us and we would set sail at 5 am for Orcas Island, where Rosario Resort had been rented out for us the three days before the start of Primal Quest. In our race literature we read that we would start and finish the race at the resort.
The caravan of RVís trucked down Orcas and invaded the quiet cove on East Sound bay where the resort is nestled. The racers constructed a "tent city" where race gear would be unpacked and organized. Thankfully, rooms at the resort were rented for the racers so that we could sleep in a nice bed instead of on the ground. The resort is first class, and it felt good to be pampered like an Olympic athlete in such a beautiful setting.
But there was no time to enjoy the scenery as we had serious work to do to in preparation for the race. The next three days would consist of gear checks with the race crew, skills testing, and the race prologue, a mini race to determine the seeding for the start of the race. We had to present all of our gear for each specific activity to the race crew, and then demonstrate how to properly use the gear. We flipped our kayaks in the icy waters and proved we could get back in them; we treaded water and swam to shore. We ascended vertical lines and rappelled back down. We spent hours with course directors understanding the severity of this challenging endeavor, and what to do in case of danger. They lectured us for hours about river hazards, open water hazards and mountain safely. We learned how to activate the satellite phone and the emergency gps transceiver.
At the end of the first two days we were exhausted from the hundreds of details involved in the organization and use of our gear. We still were working out how we would distribute our food supply while on the course and how our support crew would prepare meals for us at the Transition areas. That night we were invited to a VIP dinner at the hotelís mansion where we ate steak and salmon and drank wine with the Primal Quest big dogs. Things were finally starting to go our way.
|Photo courtesy of Garrett Madison
|Team Necky Kayaks and Crew
On day three at 8 am the race prologue began. The prologue was a way for teams to determine the order of seeding on race day. The team finishing first in the prologue and the team finishing last would start 18 minutes apart on race day, which over a week-long race hardly matters. You would think the racers would want to go out at a reasonable pace on the prologue the day before the race so as to save themselves for the real race. Two team members would do about an hour paddle, then the team would run a few miles where two mountain bikes lay, and the other two would ride for about an hour, then the team would run together back to the beach where the start/finish was.
Cathy and I did the paddle to start the prologue, and almost instantly we were in the back of the pack, and by the end we were in third to last place about 25 minutes behind the leaders. We werenít really sure why everyone else was paddling so hard, and we didnít want to make ourselves sore for the next day. Our team passed a few other teams on the way to the bike stage, and I could tell that Brent and Michael were nervous about being near last place. We arrived at the bike drop off and they hopped on their bikes and sped off while Cathy and I ate some energy bars and drank water. We befriended some other racers from team Crested Butte who were near our age (most racers are in their mid thirties while we were all 25) and I asked if the pace today would reflect race pace. "Are you crazy?" she said. "What you have here are a bunch of elite racers with big egos who have been sorting gear for a week with no exercise. Today, they are getting the butterflies out of their systems by racing hard against each other in typical athletic bravado."
"Oh good," I thought. So we might not be totally out of our element here. As the mountain bikers began to return Cathy and I prepared to leave again when Michael and Brent arrived. We thought they might show up at the end of the group, but they surprised us by coming in early by passing over 40 teams. "Jesus," I thought. They really rode hard, Brent and Michael looked tired. I asked Michael what they did out there, and he said, "I canít ride slow on a mountain bike." We began running as a team back to the start/finish and placed 20th out of about 60 teams. We stood in the salt water for a few minutes to cool our muscles and ease the pain in our legs, then went to the spa inside the resort and soaked ourselves in the warm tubs. Ah, we were beginning to feel like racers.
At 6pm that night we met with all other teams and support crew in the main tent for our race briefing. After all the hoopla with plenty of cheering and hollering the captains stayed behind to receive the race maps and a last minute brief from the race director himself, Dan Barger. After I received the maps I had to check them with a master copy along with all the other captains to verify that the 30 checkpoints were accurately placed on our maps. The next few hours we spent in the hotel room drawing out a course of travel over several of the topographical maps until midnight rolled around, and we decided to sleep a few hours before the madness began.
The morning of race day was a calm surprise to the torrents of rain that fell the days before, the salt water was glass. As the racers lined up in waves behind the start gate, we listened as an old native shaman from a local tribe sang a chant in the traditional tongue. As he chanted the clouds began to part and let the sun shine through on all of us. The chills ran through my body as his unfamiliar words somehow struck some deep primordial chords within, and I breathed in the beauty of all the raw unspoiled nature around us. I could not have imagined a more perfect beginning to the race, every racer sensed the journey they were about to embark upon with their team, and the feeling was in all of us.
When the clock finally counted to zero the first wave hit the beach and shot off in their kayaks. The successive waves of racers were staggered two minutes apart, and soon we were running toward the shore. After the cluttered weeks of endless organizing and late night preparation we finally were living our vision of the Primal Quest.
We paddled with a pod of six kayaks while some would drop off from the group and others would catch up to us. Paddling behind another boat smoothes the water for yours, so we followed closely, unless Brent suggested we take a slightly different route. Several times we paddled nearer the shore and gained on other boats because the current was in our favor. We hit several checkpoints on Orcas Island and on other islands around the area. Leaving Sucia we attached a tow cord between our boats so that the boat with two men could slightly pull the boat with Cathy. The last four hours of paddling we held an eastward course from Orcas to the mainland. Upon reaching the shore at Larrabee state park we were instructed by race officials to take all equipment from our boats and walk to the first transition area 20 minutes away. We struggled to carry our loads because the cold air on our legs made our muscles cramp, not to mention sitting for over 11 hours and then immediately hiking with a pack is a shock to the body.
Our support crew met us with hot food and clean cloths. Several family members and friends had arrived unexpected and assisted Michaelís dad with orchestrating the camp for us, complete with a large heated tent to change in and eat a wide selection of food. After a wink of resting we were off again, this time into the forest as darkness fell, our packs loaded with food for the next 16 hours.
Navigating in the thick forest of western Washington can be extremely challenging in the dark, especially with rolling hills. The locals of this area refer to the land we navigated through as "the land of the lost." Most teams found out that night how tricky the forest is. Luckily for us the trail systems made some sense, and we chose a path wisely, which led us through the checkpoints in good time. Upon exiting the "land of the lost" we found checkpoint 8, a dirt parking lot with our scooters. From here we would scooter along on our "kickbikes" through the remaining hours of the night until nearing the town of Sedro Wooley. Kicking one foot on the pavement and keeping one on the small platform between the wheels, we traveled along paved roads, hardly ever seeing a car. I became a little sleepy around 4 am but once I got into my rhythm I awakened as we pulled into TA #2.
As we arrived the sun was beginning to shine again and Team Nike ACG was on their way out, a friendly reminder of how close we were to the best team in the world. The race official told us the course had been altered to avoid the Mt. Baker climb because it was too dangerous, shortening the distance. We were disappointed, as we knew we were strongest in the mountains, especially on the glaciated terrain. We met our friend Tap, whom three of us work with on mountaineering trips, and we hurried up to the camp. Our support crew had found an abandoned dairy barn where the truck and trailer was parked. We hustled inside to eat warm food and discuss plans; we unanimously agreed to sleep for two hours. Crawling inside the trailer with layers of warm blankets, sleeping bags and pillows I fell asleep.
When Michaelís dad awoke us we felt as if we slept a full night. We ate again and quickly packed for the next section, a combination run and bike for ten miles where we would pick up the other two bikes and go on a long ride into the night. The first part was easy as we reminded our bodies how to move again in the crisp daylight. Cathy and I would run for about 20 minutes and then trade with Michael and Brent. After an hour and a half we found the drop zone and jumped on the other two bikes and started riding into the forest.
This ride would prove to be a challenge. We rode hard into the afternoon, navigating along logging roads until we found an unrideable trail that we hiked up with our bikes and came to a set of beautiful lakes. The view was amazing and just as we checked in with the race official three or four teams passed us, including the Swedes who were much stronger than us but who had made critical errors in the "land of the lost" and fallen behind. Everyone was heading down a faint trail from the lakes into a steep forest where at the bottom ran the Nooksack river. Just before the river we planned to find an old trail which would lead us to a gravel logging road and across the river. As we followed the busy teams down the hill Cathy made us stop and look at the map, which turned out to be a good thing because everyone was headed in the wrong direction. We reoriented ourselves in the correct direction and slogged through the thick brush with our bikes until one in the morning, thankfully emerging onto the road where we could ride our mountain bikes. We were relieved after wandering in the thicket in total darkness to be out.
We refilled our water supply at a nearby creek and continued the ride. After a few more hours I realized I couldnít keep my bike in a straight line behind Brent. I went through the reasons in my mind why I wobbled around the dirt road, thinking maybe I didnít have good balance, or perhaps not enough experience. It never occurred to me I was becoming mentally fatigued. Brent insisted on attaching the tow cord between us, which helped me stay in a straighter path. We rode towards Baker Lake, but before reaching the lake stopped to wait up for Michael and Cathy. When they reached us they were walking their bikes because Cathy made Michael stop riding, as he was riding into the ditch. Both he and I were incapable of staying awake on our bicycles, our minds would black out for a few seconds and we were off the road. After a quick pow wow we decided to sleep for one hour. Curling up in my emergency blanket never felt so good, but the next moment Cathy was yelling at me to get up.
Feeling somewhat better we rode about an hour to the checkpoint where we left our bikes and hiked through a beautiful old growth forest along the lake for 16 miles. The sun rose and illuminated Mt. Baker beyond the trees. I lamented that the morning felt like a therapeutic and relaxing yoga session after a long thrashing through the woods with our bikes, sometimes just a useless contraption of wheels and metal we lugged along.
As we walked into the TA our support crew cheered us on and we plopped into the chairs set out for us. Tap wiped our feet down with a moist cloth while his wife Heidi, a massage therapist, worked on our backs as we wolfed down cheeseburgers my dad had just brought. It was the royal treatment. We promptly crawled into our sleeping quarters and passed out.
We awoke after one and a half hour sleep to quickly pack and plot a course for another long bike ride. This time we would wind our way through more low elevation wooded mountains, similar to what we had already done. We headed out in the afternoon and thought of the impending darkness only hours away. An hour out we came across a swift stream and found a good spot to wade across the icy water. We bushwhacked again but only for a few minutes to a dirt road, and started riding hard towards CP 19, the top of a heavily wooded mountain. The friendly Swedes passed us again and we exchanged a few happy remarks with them. Apparently they had spent the night out in the woods descending from the two lakes, having only their biking shorts and jerseys to comfort them during the frosty night. We took separate roads toward the top of the mountain, and then found foot trails to hike and push our bikes to the top. The forest was again thick and carrying the bikes a chore, but by midnight we made the top and were disappointed to see total darkness. Wandering around we found a white tarp around two trees that signified the checkpoint. Next to the tarp was a tent with two race officials who had fallen asleep and let their fire burn out, a crucial signal to the checkpoint. After shaking them awake they signed us off and we began our descent towards the other side of the valley. Luckily we knew that as we descended we would soon encounter a dirt road to ride down.
Before riding down the mountain we bundled up to stay warm. For some reason our bike lights mounted on the handlebars were very dim. We thought it must be the cheap batteries that had been put in at the last TA. Riding down that night we had to go very slow and focus on the barely visible beam in front of us. The shadows seemed to creep into our vision as we hallucinated and struggled to stay awake. Soon team Dirtworld passed us with their strobe like lights, they could see where they were going and flew by us. Finally, reaching the valley below we began winding our way up road systems on the other side, gaining more and more elevation. The next CP was high up near the top and we would need to bushwhack again to get there. The roads got steeper until we had to walk our bikes. When the roads ended we sat down for a minute to eat and discuss. Michael asked Cathy a question, yelled to get her attention, but then we realized she was totally asleep sitting up. We decided to take a much needed sleep for an hour on the side of the road.
Brent awoke us and we put our weary bodies back into motion, and started bushwhacking through the forest up towards a gravel road. Several times while bushwhacking in the forest I seriously doubted our navigation, and I think we all shared the feeling but didnít dare reveal it to one another in fear of shaking the teamís confidence. That is one aspect of why the four of us worked so well together, that we never would pick on anyone, always graciously helped one another along, and constantly played the guiding role throughout. The only fault was possibly that we were too nice to one another and could have easily pushed harder in a few instances to gain in the rankings.
After a relatively short bushwhack, we found the road and began riding up the mountain, past meadows with lovely views of the valley shrouded in fog below with the occasional farm visible. We stopped to fill water once from a rushing ditch and then rode on to the top where two race officials were enjoying the serene morning. We bundled up for the 25-minute downhill to TA 3, and sped down the gravel road as if we were downhill mountain bike racers. I loved the responsiveness of my new Kona bicycle, the full suspension was a treat to my body, absorbing the bumps much better than my old hard tail bike, and the disc brakes made controlling the bike feel like I was behind the wheel of a sports car.
|Photo courtesy of Garrett Madison
|Team Necky Kayaks at the finish line
As we comfortably zoomed into TA 3 it felt like a bit of a circus. My dad was there to greet me and a lot of people were milling around. Someone told us the race was cancelled because of a death, and the story quickly unfolded of how Nigel Aylott, the Australian racer on team AROC had suffered a fatal injury. Our perils of enduring the exhausting race were quickly put into perspective when we realized how fortunate we were to be together and well. No doubt our parents were a bit concerned during the hours prior when news of the death spread and our team was unaccounted for. Nigel had died at 4 pm the day prior, and after that time the race directors and course officials were frantically trying to sort out the incident and pull teams from the course. Many had been alerted and were told to go directly to TA 4, where a small funeral would be held for Nigel, and meetings would be held to determine the fate of the Primal Quest. I remember fondly taking a shower at the campground and eating steak my sister had brought from home, eating chocolate and other delectables, and being slightly thankful the race had temporarily stopped so that I could enjoy a longer and warm nap that day.
The funeral was a beautiful presentation from some of Nigelís close friends and teammates who sang a song about him in his honor, and then all those connected threw roses into the Skagit River to say goodbye. Later in the day after a barbecue the Aussie and Kiwi racers sang a rendition of "I come from a land down under" commemorating the qualities that made Nigel a special person to all of them. A captainís meeting was held and each of us asked to give our opinion of what should be done with the race. I candidly thought we should keep racing in the spirit of Nigel. Not surprisingly most captains thought the same, and the race was scheduled to restart at midnight. However, teams would be staggered 10 minutes apart with one hour between places 10 and 11, then another hour between places 20 and 21. We prepared our packs for the early morning start, and then crawled into the trailer for a good sleep.
At the start it was pouring rain and cold in the darkness. We set off and I soon realized that I should have worn waterproof pants; my lower half was quickly soaking and cold. Then the tube in my front tire blew out and we stopped to replace it. I have to say; our spirits were a bit low at this point, mostly due to the fact that teams hours behind us were now minutes behind due to the restart. We were passed by two teams, but then held our ground until the bike drop off.
Here we would hike a short distance to a lake and then navigate off trail to another lake and up over a ridgeline, then down to an abandoned trail to an abandoned road which would take us to the ropes section. A cameraman whose physical prowess made him able to stay with us on the course accompanied us on the hike. He was fun to joke around with, but we were probably a little distracted by his presence. Even so we made good time through the woods to the lakes, but getting over the ridgeline was tricky. Several teams were looking for the correct gulley that would lead to the top of the ridge, as there were several that looked ok from below but would cliff out near the top. The dense foliage and shrubs made discerning the steepness very difficult until you were actually up in the gulley scrambling around.
When we found the right gulley several teams were already in it and loose rocks became a problem. We waited until the team above us was out of the rocky area, and then made our move up. A bottleneck of racers formed at a tree stump that blocked a portion of the narrow and steep gulley. It was our friends from Crested Butte, and I helped one of them over the stump by pushing up with my hands on his buttocks, a funny sight indeed.
We scrambled up to the top and then navigated our way down to the old roads. These roads that were no longer in use had been partly washed away in spots and were grown over by alder trees, but easier than plain bushwhacking. We stopped for just a few minutes here and let two teams pass us, a bad move on our part because this would set us an extra hour behind at the conclusion of the ropes section.
We arrived at the ropes and met the race officials who recorded our team number and told us we had a two-hour wait. This section was scheduled late in the race where teams would probably be spread out and avoid the bottlenecks, but with the restart clumping everyone together, the mandatory staggering of people on ropes made for a traffic jam. We took the opportunity to lay in our emergency blankets and nap, and as I did I was disappointed we lost the two places, because now we would be much further behind.
My thoughts shifted as we ascended the vertical lines when Brent, who was on the line parallel to mine, remarked on how awesome it was to be hanging hundreds of feet above the ground in the dark, climbing upwards, meanwhile watching the headlamps move around below. It was a very cool experience and I regained my good spirits by focusing on the positive. At the top we met another race official and rappelled down, stopping to say high to Michael and Cathy who were coming up. At the bottom we walked down the slippery rocky to the trail and headed towards TA 4.
As we trudged along the 14 miles I became sleepy and would be walking fine one minute but then all of a sudden be stumbling in the ditch. It was the same pattern of mental fatigue where my brain would temporarily shut down consciousness for a few seconds. Finally I decided to keep one hand on Brentís backpack to direct me along the trail, and this allowed me to walk with my eyes closed and I felt as if I was sleeping. After half an hour of this I felt much better and ate some chocolate covered espresso beans that really woke me up.
We connected with a paved road leading to Darrington, the TA, and had only a few more miles to go. Cathyís feet were in bad shape with torn blisters, so I offered to carry her for a few minutes. Just before daylight we arrived at the TA, but found our support crew in bed. They had waited up all night for us but badly needed some sleep themselves and had just turned in, so when I started making racket in the trailer they arose and unselfishly began reheating the food and offering drinks.
They were so good to us; I donít think any of the racers will ever be able to repay our support crew for their limitless donation of time and energy that really made it possible for us to compete. Without them we would barely survive.
After a short nap we readied ourselves on the mountain bikes for the final day of racing. We rode extremely hard, led by Michael who was on fire, though a system of logging roads for just three hours until arriving at Rockport, our second to last TA and the same location as TA 3, where the funeral wake was held for Nigel.
Our crew had barley enough time to arrive themselves and set up camp for us, but fortunately we had an hour of mandatory down time to prepare the kayaks for the 51-mile paddle down the Skagit. We needed an extra half hour to ready ourselves with all the proper gear, and launched into the glassy river with sun on our faces.
It was a nice treat to be paddling such a smooth section of the river, granted we would pass through some class II rapids, but for the most part just beautiful scenery. I was back in the rhythm of paddling hard for 20 min. then drinking some of my energy shake, or eating a granola bar. The body burns so many calories during an around the clock endurance event that we literally couldnít eat enough. All told we ate the equivalent of about six meals a day, but the body couldnít replace completely what we were burning so we each lost a little weight.
At the end of our paddle we disembarked at a boat launch used by fisherman, and when we pulled ourselves out we immediately were chilled, so we changed into dry clothes for the 11-mile portage across to the saltwater. We all had wheels for the kayaks, but some had different configurations than others and our system worked pretty well. Team Nike had the best system of all because they thought of using rollerblades to propel themselves faster and use the momentum of the moving kayak. We tied the boats to ourselves with nylon straps and jogged all the way to the last TA where friends and family awaited.
We gorged on hot food while Brent discussed with the race official the desired course of travel, as the fog was rolling in and they wanted the kayakers to stay out of the shipping lanes. Soon enough we were off and paddling to the finish on Orcas Island, but it would be awhile before we arrived.
This was perhaps the weirdest of the sections because we were really tired and on the water at night, not the best situation when the water temperature is in the low forties and freighters are cruising all around. It didnít take long before sitting in the boats in the dark to make us sleepy, and staying awake became a real challenge. We pulled our boats together to talk for a minute and saw another team paddle up. They were team Vignette from Texas and had raced in several Primal Quest races. We tried to make small talk with them to help keep us awake but they were not interested, they clearly wanted to pass us and get to the finish whereas we just wanted people to keep us awake and chat with. They were soon gone, and we were left to ourselves.
One of the Primal Quest patrol boats met us to see how we were doing. They were always looking out for the racers, and they cheered us onward toward the finish which seemed a long ways off still. After paddling around several islands another boat met us and instructed us to meet at Strawberry cove where we would be escorted across Bellingham channel to Orcas, the biggest and most dangerous channel. On the way to the cove everyone was falling asleep except myself, strange because I had always been the one to fall asleep until this night, probably because I was really scared of what could happen if one of the boats flipped. I was worried because everyone was sleepy and dealing with a capsized boat would be no fun, and our coast guard lights on the front and rear had just burned out. Luckily we had our headlamps with us, so by shining them at the boats they could see where we were. I have to say it was creepy paddling around in the dark, going near steep rock cliffs wondering if we were really where we thought we were. I took the liberty of being the loud and obnoxious captain by constantly barking at my teammates how they were doing, which partly made me feel better. The escort took us halfway across then had to leave, so we paddled the rest of the channel alone. It seemed to take forever, but we finally made it across to the other side.
I suggested that we go ashore and sleep a bit, not that I was tired but rather scared of accidents. Cathy and Brent thought I was crazy and I guessed they were right, or at least determined to reach the finish without stopping. We shot along where the current was moving fast near the shoreline. Brentís crack navigation came in handy here as he led us around the rocky coastline and into a harbor where our last checkpoint lay. Upon paddling into the harbor there were many lights at the perimeter, and we really had no idea where to go, so I suggested the brightest light. As we neared the light, old ships and run down buildings appeared and we all thought we were in a "never-never land," it was a serious mental delusion.
Rounding the last corner into Eastsound bay was a pleasant surprise, and we saw the lights of Rosario Resort in the distance. The lights didnít get any larger for a long time, but as the morning light filtered down we finished our paddle to the cheering of Michaelís dad on the shore. When we jumped out of the boats and ran across the finish line as a team it was a grand moment for all of us. We had just completed our first adventure race!
Dan Barger and Maria Burton, the two people responsible for creating most of Primal Quest were there spraying champagne on us and we gave hugs all around. A cameraman filmed for a few minutes as we each had a few words to say before we left to take showers and meet the rest of the support crew that had just arrived on the ferry from our last TA. As we all shared a breakfast I basked in how wonderful the situation was, how the warmth from our family and friends that had turned out to unselfishly help us spread through all. It was truly a magic moment of success all around, based on the foundation of teamwork from all.
The feeling of a pampered Olympic athlete returned when my dad and Brentís dad informed us they had rented a hotel room for the team over the next four days for the conclusion of the race and the awards banquet and party. We said our good byes and went to the plush beds of this five star resort, truly enjoying the comfort of sleeping on a warm mattress with sheets and blankets. The next few days were spent lounging around and sorting gear, socializing with racers from other teams, sleeping, and eating large amounts of rich foods. Our favorite breakfast was croissant French toast that Michaelís dad cooked every morning, our metabolisms so powerful that we almost instantly burned off the calories. Between visits to the hotel spa soaking in the therapeutic tubs we would wander the resort grounds and beach reflecting on what a wonderful experience it had been.
Postscript: Team Necky Kayaks finished a respectable 18th, not bad for first time adventure racers. They are already planning to do the Primal Quest again in 2005.