2009 MIX


2009 Infiterra Sports Michigan Expedition Race                                                                                      HOME

Phil, nabbing one of the CP's on the Boyne Mountain single track section. (Photo by Brian Hudson)

 

Yours truly on Boyne Mountain single track. (Photo by Brian Hudson)

 

 

The team coming in from a very long, very wet, overnight trek just in time to beat a cut-off. (Photo by Rich James-Jura)

 

 

The USS Philary, all hands on deck. (Photo by Rich James-Jura)

 

 

Scott, the canoe goes in the water, not you! (Photo by Rich James-Jura)

 

 

Yeah, he looks warm and dry now...just wait...(Photo by Rich James-Jura)

 

 

Preparing for an overnight trek. (Photo by Rich James-Jura)

 

The Michigan Expedition Race (MIX) is the current biannual expedition race put on by Infiterra Sports. The MIX replaced the Coast-to-Coast expedition race that had racers find their way from the Lake Michigan shore to Lake Huron. Covering over 300 miles in less than 4 days, the MIX is the most demanding race in the Midwest in years that it runs. Easily one of the top 5 expedition races in the US. Having volunteered for Infiterra's expedition races for the past few cycles, I felt this year I was ready to take it on. Unfortunately, as we started getting ready for the race, Steve had to bow out (honeymoon/total lack of interest) and both Kelly and Sue had prior commitments (Sue impressively was accepted to Marine Corp Officer Candidate School, showing how hard core she is). This left Andy and I scrambling for a team. Although plenty of guy's came forward to replace Steve, we couldn't find a female racer (yes girls, you are irreplacible!) so Andy and I finally made the break and decided to fend for ourselves.

Although Andy could not find a team, he did end up doing support crew work for Blue Bayou, so at least he did get to be around the race. Reminicent of Rocky II where a battered Rocky tells Micky he is willing to carry spit buckets to work in the gym because, "I dunno Mic, I just gotta be around it..."

Myself...well, I found a spot racing with Michigan Racing Addicts, consisting of Hilary Wid...Wit...Whi...Hilary, Phil Shrader, and Scott Eveningred. We even got together in time enough to do a warm-up race, the Land Between the Lakes Race, a month earlier. We were also very fortunate to get to great support crew teammates, Rich James-Jura (Rich 1) and Rich Zac (Rich 2). Rich 1 is a bike mechanic, a very valuable resource to have on such a race, while Rich 2 is an MD...jack-pot! So both injury and mechanical issues would be well in hand for this race!

Pre-Race: The pre-race plan was simple: drive up to Michigan on Sunday, spend a relaxing day at my parents house in Clio, then Monday in the early afternoon, drive up with Hilary to Traverse City where we would meet Scott and Phil and have a relaxing day prior to check in to get gear organized and situated. Once receiving our maps and UTM coordinates on Monday, we could get those plotted and spend Tuesday kicking back and getting some important pre-race rest.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. Only 2 hours after leaving on Sunday morning, my car broke down. Although it turned out to be easily dealt with by the local dealer (cracked coils, fortunately it broke down right next to the dealer!) because it was Sunday, I had to wait until the next day to get it repaired, and even then, without an appointment, repairs weren't complete until late Monday afternoon. So instead of a nice relaxing pre-race period, I arrived in Traverse City at 2am on Tuesday and had to organize gear etc. in much more of a rush than I would have liked. As they say, life happens.

Race Day 1: The race began at 7 am with a long paddle. A very long paddle. Starting on Elk Lake, we paddled east into the rising sun with moderate wind. As we approached Skegemog Point, we were sheltered temporarily from the full force of the wind, but once we passed into Lake Skegemog, we were hit hard by a 30 mph head wind which whipped the waves into 3-5 foot white caps that crashed into the boat. Tough sledding. Scott and I were in one canoe focused on Hilary and Phil about 100 meters in front of us. Fighting the wind was rough, but at least the Mad River canoes we had were light. The two miles across Lake Skegemog to the mouth of the Torch River were some of the hardest fought two miles I have ever paddled. But finally as we neared the river, we turned away from the wind and caught up to Hilary and Phil...only it wasn't Hilary and Phil. Turns out that one of the Team Salomon Bobkittens canoe pairings were wearing Red and Beige hats similar to those of our teammates. This was of concern, as now we realized that we hadn't a clue to the wereabouts of our other two. I thought they were behind us, but after scanning the open waters Scott saw no sign, so we decided to press on hoping they weren't too far ahead.

The Torch River empties into Torch Lake after nearly 3 miles. Once back into open water were were abused once again by the stiff wind, now blowing more cross-wise than head on. This made the paddling even tougher, as it meant we were being side-swiped by the waves rather than being able to break them. Faster paddling, but the tipping likelihood increased. A 3+ mile paddle across Torch Lake to Valleau Landing brought us to the first check point where we hoped to find Philary waiting for us. Instead, we found a very irritated Luke Osborn. Luke, one of the proprietors of Infiterra Sports gave us a well deserved tongue lashing about leaving our teammates behind (yes, it turns out they were behind us all along) but stopped short of penalizing our team since he knew it was an honest mistake. The important thing was that we located the second boat and reunited our team.

At this point we were well in the back of the pack, as paddling is easily the worst discipline for each of us. The remaining mileage (32 in total for this leg) were on a mixture of channels, small lakes, and river flood plains. The wind was still an issue on the open water, but now at our back, our most difficult task was simply staying straight as the wind and high waves sought to turn us sideways.

After 9 hours in the canoe, we finally took out at 4:00pm at the town of Central Lake under skies spitting rain. My forearms were burning. As it turned out, I was not the only one in the field to get pretty bad tendonitis on the paddle, but I'm betting I got one of the worst bouts of it. The swelling was substantial, but really nothing I could do except take a little vitamin I (Ibuprofen).

Our support crew...let me rephrase that...the Best Damn Support Crew, Period...had our bikes lined up, our biking packs ready to go, shoes and socks waiting, and a pizza, fresh and hot. They took our wet paddling gear off our hands and packed it away nice and organized. The pizza hit the spot. Then like mamma birds coaxing a fledgeling, they gave us a push out of the TA and through transition alone we got ahead of two teams that otherwise beat us on the paddle. The two Riches made the TA's the perfect blend of creature comfort and not so comfortable to make us simultaneously look forward to getting back to a TA while not wanting to stick around for too long. Afterall, we were there to race, not sit on our ass and socialize!

Now on the bike, we had a strait-forward 26 mile ride on mostly roads and two-tracks from Central Lake to Boyne Mountain. The highlight of this section was two spots where we went down some pretty steep hills. The first, Bunker Hill, was the steeper of the two, but with a stop sign at the bottom, care needed to be taken so we could stop. Still, without pedaling, I was still able to make 39 mph coasting...keep in mind, on a mountain bike, not a roadie! The second hill was a bit longer, but not as steep. Just for shits and giggles, I let loose for about a minute and pushed past 40 mph (41.7, to be exact). Of course, what goes down must go up, and there were a few mind-numbing, thigh-burning climbs on this route as well. Not a bad thing, as my real strength on the bike comes from being able to absolutely hammer climbs. During this bike section, I began to feel leg cramping creep up on me, something that would plague me the entire race. Nothing like what I had during the Fury, but it was there nonetheless. Fortunately, Phil was well stocked with E-caps, and a couple every few hours kept the cramps at bay well enough that they never fully developed and didn't affect performance too much, but they did stick around well enough to remind me to take the E-caps regularly!

At Boyne Mountain, we finished our bike section with an additional 10 miles of single track, touted by Luke in the pre-race briefing as the "best single track in Michigan". (Certainly top-notch, but I still prefer The Big M at Udell Hills.) Doubling as a ski resort in the winter, there were no shortage of steep grades on the single track, and we caught and passed two more teams. As the first bike leg ended, we transitioned over to pavement again as we took a golf cart path from the single track over to the TA. Apparently having just learned how to ride a bike, I took an endo as soon as we hit the nice, smooth cart path...because it is so difficult to ride on even surfaces. Last year, during the Rage, I took a similar spill and fractured two ribs. I was certain I just did the same thing, as the sharp, stabbing pain, inability to breath deeply, and strong wave of nausea popped up with this crash as well. Fortunately, it all subsided after an hour or so, meaning that I likely broke nothing but had a bit of the wind knocked out of my sails.

Once again, the TA was smooth, with hot soup waiting, food for our upcoming trek lined up, and our trekking gear ready to go. Another short transition and we were off under failing light and the building threat of rain. The first unmanned CP of the trek let us know that even road-side punches we're not going to just hand themselves over to us. "Along the road" apparently means "get your ass into the woods and look for it!". We found our first one just as it became dark enough to require headlamp use.

After the second CP, a manned point where Luke was sleeping in his truck, the next few CP's took a more bushwacking approach. No more roads, just compass and pace-count work. That's also when the rain started. And man, did it come down. A few flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder thrown in, but mostly a nice, hard, steady rain which soaked us from the top, and left the thick undergrowth heavy with water to soak us from the bottom. We also made a few simple navigation mistakes, mostly trying to read terrain under the pale din of headlamps through the rain and mist. Not an easy task, and as it turned out, not an accurate one either. We ultimately had to pull out of the woods and reshoot a new bearing from a different attack point for this first bushwacking CP. A similar rookie mistake was made on the next TA, as we found an old two-track that went generally in the correct direction, but gradually turned to a new heading away from the CP. Of course, we failed to pay attention to this offset, and ultimately needed to re-attack this point. All told, we probably lost about 2-3 hours total on these two points that we otherwise would have not taken. But fatigue, even when you don't feel it, can crop up in the decisions you make. By this point in the race, we had passed into...

Day 2: Back on track after the last couple navigation snafus, we collectively recognized we were navigating carelessly and cleared our heads. The next couple of points we nailed, as we made a more concerted effort to pay attention to what we were doing. It didn't hurt to have daylight return to us. Arriving at manned checkpoint 8, we found that there was already a course change, the first short course. Essentially, in expedition races, there is a sprint race element built in. Various time cut-offs are in place to ensure everyone gets through the course in due time. CP 8 had the first time cut-off, and unfortunately, we didn't make it. Only 9 teams actually made the cut-off, so we weren't alone in that regard. Essentially, if you don't make a time cut-off, you are moved to an alternate course that essentially catches you up to where the race directors think you should be. Because of this bump, you are placed permenantly behind those that made the cut-off. Thus we could not finish the race placing higher than any of those teams that made the cut-off unless they either withdraw from the race or miss a mandatory checkpoint. We were also informed that the next cut-off was a mere 4 hours away, so we needed to finish this orienteering trek by two o'clock. 9 teams were in the same position as us, three of us were at CP 8 together to hear this news.

The rush was on. Only one CP and about 12 miles of trekking separated us from the end of the section. Not a lot of time. Sure, under normal circumstances, going 12 miles in 4 hours is cake. But these weren't normal circumstances. We were already worn down from the previous 32 mile paddle and nearly 40 miles of biking. Plus we had already trekked about 20 miles over night. But at least we were wet and chaffing! Much of the remaining 12 miles or so also had to be spent off trail looking for a remote checkpoint on top of a 500 foot hill hidden in thick woods. The take-home point...not your normal 12 mile jaunt.

We trekked with the other two teams for a few miles, until decision time came about. There were multiple possibilities for route choices. Often in adventure races, there is an unspoken agreement between teams to work together in sections, and this seemed like one such time was about to crop up. But they were leaning towards taking one route, we liked another. So we elected to split. Working together is often beneficial to both parties, but ultimately, you still have to make the decision to do what you think is best for your team. Had they decided on the same route as us, we would have no problem having them come along. But they didn't.

They chose poorly.

We made it to the CP ahead of them, left, and popped out of the woods with one of the two other teams well behind us. Still, we beat them to that point, but we were still racing the clock. High gear. With about 8 miles left to end the section, we decided to jog a good portion of that. The other teams did not.

We toasted them to the section finish.

We made the cut-off by 10 minutes. They were nowhere to be found. As we got into the boats, we were told by race staff that of the alternate course teams, only us and two others made the second cut-off, and one of the other two had missed a mandatory CP and were thus officially unranked. So only a little over one day into a four day race, our position was already solidified. Unless teams ahead of us dropped, the best we could finish would be tenth. On the other hand, as long as we ourselves finished the race, the worst we could do would be 11th. A pretty narrow band of possibilities! But it did take a bit of pressure off of us and allowed us to make the best decision we made the entire race...lets just have a damn good time!

So we did.

The trekking section was followed by a 10-mile rafting section along the Sturgeon River, the fastest flowing river in Michigan. The heavy winter snow melt was still fueling this river, which was running deeper and faster than normal. The large four-person rafts were barely maneuverable and certainly speed wasn't a deciding factor in their design. My forearms still burning, I recused myself from actually paddling and plopped my butt in the middle of the raft. Phil took the rear while Scott and Hilary took the front. Now, my teammates might lead you to believe I slept for the entire 3 hours of the float, but truth be told, it was on-and-off sleep and only about a half-hour total! It's hard to catch a nap when someone is dripping paddle water on your face. Plus, if I'm going to be unable to effectively paddle, I may as well get out of the way. I'd like to say the raft was comfortable, but I'd be lying.

Taking out in the town of Indian River, we took a longer than normal transition. Animals, the only team we were really competing with for a place, were already there, and had been taking their time at the TA. We could have used this as an opportunity to catch up with them, but we really needed to get some type of recovery. This was the first time in nearly 20 hours that we were able to get out of shoes and socks wet with the previous nights rain and steamed by the current day's bright sunshine. Hilary's feet were looking awful and she was tending to some wicked blisters. Mine were cracked and bleeding, but looked much worse than they actually were. My main concern was my forearms, wondering how I would be able to grab a paddle on the next canoe section or my handle bars on the upcoming ride. Even trekking poles were causing them pain, so really, no reprieve in sight! So we took a longer TA than the previous one. Animals were having problems of their own, which is why they had spent a lot of time in this TA. But as they were starting to stir, we were just settling in. This long TA gave me a chance to quickly catch up with Zac Chisholm, another Infiterra Sports proprietor and a friend from when I lived in Big Rapids.

We finally mobilized out of the TA on our bikes for a 45-mile route that would take us back to Boyne Mountain. The first part of the route was stunning. After leaving Indian River on a rail trail, we migrated over to quiet roads on rolling hills. The sun set on clear skies, splashing pastels over the lush green farms of northern Michigan. I wanted badly to stop racing so I could admire the view. As the sun finally dipped into twilight, we turned onto a staple of Michigan adventure racing...the sandy two track. The next two CP's were spent pushing out bikes far more than riding them, and had me befuddled as I couldn't for some reason successfully mount my bike. At least 4 times I face planted from a stand-still trying to clip in my pedals. One in particular had me landing square and hard on my elbow. And for the record, yes, I was a bit whiny about the whole affair.

The last sandy CP found us climbing up a deep two-track. We spent most of the climb bitching about how we bought our bikes to ride, not push through the sand (hear that, Luke?!). FInally at the top, after dodging ATV's, a manned checkpoint ended, at least temporarily, our fight with the sand.

While the rest of the bike section had us on decent roads, mostly gravel but a few paved, we still had 23 miles between us and the promise of our first sleep in two days. But we were fading. Fast. Hilary seemed most affected by the sleep deprivation, manifested by the inability of her tongue to form proper words. A few times she was reading off directions and notes to us, what came out was nothing but babble. Finally near the home stretch, a two-mile uphill blocked our path to Boyne Mountain. With Hilary getting sleepy, I coaxed her into a tow. Clearly, Hilary has a competitive, never quit spirit, and she at first did not want to do it. But she didn't need the tow to get up the hill, but moreso because connecting two bikes can be scary as hell, especially when the guy doing the towing decides to crank the speed up and blow the doors off. The important result was that the adrenaline rush Hilary got woke her up, and as we pulled into Boyne, she was once again awake and at full speed. While this was occuring, midnight passed, and all of a sudden, it was...

Day 3: Rolling into the TA, we were looking forward to a couple hours of sleep. In fact, that was what was driving us the last section, talking about getting some shut-eye. Then Brian Mathews, one of the race volunteers, had to burst our bubble. Giving us the run-down on the upcoming trek and an impending cut-off time, we realized that the promised sleep wasn't going to come. We needed to get out of there quickly. We got a not-so-satisfying 45 minutes of shut-eye before having to roll out once again at 3 am on foot.

The clear skies offered wonderful star-gazing. And no insulation. Temps hovered around 30, and our breaths hung silently. After several miles into the darkness, the sun began to lighten the skies a bit and warmth returned. Coming down a dusty two-track, we started the bushwack to the first point of the treck, using the moon as a navigation marker. This took us to a ridge top CP and a lot of forest between us and the next CP. As we continued our bushwack, we came upon the North Country Trail, which fortunately was also leading into the south. Following the trail for as long as we could, it made the traveling relatively easy until we got to the Jordan River Valley, the site of a small O-course. Requiring only one O-point to retain our ranking we quickly nabbed it and continued on to the Jordan River Fish Hatchery. Coming into this TA of our shortest section of the race, should have been a happy feeling. But under the midday sun we were treated to another Michigan tradition...bugs. Michigan is home to 20% of the worlds free fresh water. The very type of water that mosquitos, gnats, and blackflies breed in. And we were in a fish hatchery. You do the math. We made a very, very quick exit.

Back on the bikes, we were to ride to a canoe put-in, picking up a couple of O-points along the way. The two points, in the Sand Lake area, we fortunately cancelled, because the race directors decided there was too much sand to ride in that area...with an name like Sand Lake...you think? The Sand Lake area was used for check points in the 2004 Rage as well, and yes, it is knee-deep Michigan sugar sand. 

The ride gave us a 4 pm time cut-off to the put in, and we were pressing to make it there. Then disaster nearly struck. Hilary, having fallen asleep in mid ride, rode off the road nearly into the ditch. We made the safety call to take a quick 15 minute sleep along the roadside to refuel our batteries. Hil was out cold before she even laid down. Phil and Scott layed down to a not so deep sleep for the 15, while I, for some reason wired, poured over the maps while the others slept. 15 minutes later, everyone felt better and we were back on our way. But not without a price...we wouldn't be making the cut-off.

Short-coursed again, it really didn't matter. We were locked into a place. The only way we could now move up or down was for someone ahead of us to drop out or for us ourselves to drop out. So basically, we got caught up with the field...actually ahead of all but Dart-Nuun-Feed the Machine (the race leader and ultimately the winners) by skipping the paddle and biking directly to the next trekking section. Of course, this made an additional 20 miles or so on the bike, and on our already sore posteriers. "What's it taste like Ralph?" "It tastes like...BURNING!"

The point on the final Trek left us with a straight forward route up to the TA, where we were determine to get the first substantial sleep (i.e., more than an hour) in the entire race. Heading up dirt roads and two tracks, we found the first significant bugs on the course other than those at the fish hatchery transition. Phil and I elected to don our mesh race bibs over our faces, Hilary and Scott decided to retain their dignity.

The first of the two points was a pretty straight forward hit. We ran into Brian Hudson, Infiterra's default photographer, and chatted it up with him for a while. Brian is a nice guy, I first met him at the last mix when I volunteered and gave him a ton of video that I shot of the race while out on the course. He and his cousin Don (Don is the third member of Infiterra, the fourth, Chad, was not at the race) also set up a neat moving camera on a zip line to capture some of the bike action on the single track.

The second of the points was a bit more problematic. Near a beaver damn, there was a large cedar swamp between us and it. Now, for anyone who has never been to a northern Michigan cedar swamp, staying dry isn't really an option. What looks like solid ground is often a shoe sucking bog. Even the trees aren't solid, as leaning on them might simply make them topple over. All of us had different approaches to making our way through. Hilary, being the smallest, simple wove her way around the trees. Phil is about my height, but perhaps 20-30 pounds lighter, and could use a combination of climbing over, under, and around things. Much more maneuverable. Scott is the team's resident sasquatch, standing at just under 8 feet tall. (OK, maybe not quite, but he is awfully tall.) He moved through the swamp with much more ease than a tall guy should, perhaps the bigfoot gene isn't so dormant after all. Myself, well, I'm the only 200+ pounder. And it isn't even close. I definately had the hardest time moving through the swamp. A few advantages to the wide body, though. Not often in adventure racing does the 300 pound bench press come into play, but when you absolutely, positively need to move a dead log out of your way, it can come in handy. Much of the way I simply went through things, getting snagged on the occasional branch, but noisily crashing through tangles, I made my way through. Still, I was the last to break through the swamp into the beaver flooding and it's multiple creeks inlets and damns. So which one had the CP flag?

Meanwhile, the Salomon Bobkittens, the all-female team in the field, entered and exited the swamp, nabbed the CP, and quietly slinked out of the beaver flooding, all in about the amount of time it would take you and I to make a scrambled egg. I think I found suitable heros for my daughter...

Finding the CP in the maze of the beaver flooding wasn't an easy task. Going up a water reentrant, I stepped on what I though would be solid ground only to find myself chest deep in water. Cold water. Cold water which likely had a lot of beaver shit in it. The others faired about as well, until Scott and Phil found the CP, leaving the beaver with a bit of work to do on one of his damns.

A quick jaunt from there on two-tracks and we found the transition area as darkness settled in for our final night. The incoming clouds threatened rain as we ate dinner and the two Riches got our gear ready for another long bike section. We decided to grab some sleep, perhaps two hours, then wake the following early morning for the final push. All went well, everyone found their respective spots. Hilary in the gear trailer, Scott and Phil decided to crash in the support vehicles. Me, well, I ate a can of baked beans, then tried to go lights out in the trailer, but just couldn't get over my hyper state. With Rich #1 chastising me for not going to bed, I finally went out around 10:30. Best hour and a half sleep. Ever.

Day 4: We rose at 12 am, a bit slowly, but got gear together, ate a bit more, and left the TA on bikes. Our decision was to take a bit longer route than others in an effort to stay on paved roads and move more quickly. Although we wound up on the WRONG paved road, looking over the maps afterwards, we probably chose the correct route on accident. We could have chosen an even better route had we stuck on M-72 all the way to Broomhead Rd., but that's how things go in a long race.

Eventually, after grabbing three checkpoints, we made it to the final bit of single track, about four miles on the VASA trail system, as light finally regained control of the sky. A mix of various types of aspen and beech forest, this is one of the more relaxing single tracks in northern Michigan. None of the monster hills found in Boyne or Udell Hills. But it is a pleasant meandering of soft dirt trail. Most important, no sand! Of course, popping out of the trail system, we were left with about three quarters of a mile to the transition area along power lines. Damn sand!

The final transition was done in the rain. We had plenty of time to finish, about 6 hours of course left in front of us with 9 hours of race time left, so we waited out the worst of the rain before we started out on a 7 mile ride with our paddling gear strapped to us towards what would be the final leg of the race, a 20 mile paddle down the Boardman River.

Arriving at the Boardman put in, I made the decision to tape my hands to the paddle because of the lack of strength in my grip brought about by the tendonitis I was fighting. Remember that decision in a few minutes...

We got into the boats and paddled along. The Boardman isn't quite as fast normally as the Sturgeon, but on this day it likely was. The Boardman also boasts one of the few sections of Class II rapids in Michigan, and we were looking forward (with some pause) to that section. As soon as we got out into the current, it was clear this would be a very different paddle from the one that started the race. Steering was optimal over power. Around the first bend we encountered a culvert to navigate. Making it through, almost immediately we ran into a downed tree that we couldn't avoid. Sticking my hands up to grab the tree I found no purchase. Instead, the kayak paddle that was attached to my hand, and of which I was unable to let go, got snagged in the tree, twisting us and our boat. Next thing you know, Scott and I are neck deep in water. Very cold water. Over the next few minutes, we gathered the boat and all our gear and made our way over to the shore, where I changed into my rain suit, which was dry, and Scott wrung out as much as he could. Unfortunately, he didn't have a spare set of dry clothes in his dry bag. We had two choices, as Scott was on track for a good case of hypothermia; we could call it quits and get pulled out, 3 hours from the finish, or we could paddle our asses off and get to the finish line. We chose the later.

Paddling hard with both hypothermia and sleep monsters on our tail, we made quick work of the river. When we came upon the rapids, Mike Boks of GRAAR was on an overlook cheering us on. At one point the USS Philary got T-boned by a rather large boulder. Scott and I, already past that point, were helpless except to watch. Fortunatley, the gods that govern silver linings gave them a push in the good direction, and they were joining us down stream. A few portages...longer portages than normal, and we made it through the various retention lakes and into downtown Traverse City. Scott's parents were there to cheer from some of the bridges that spanned the river through town. Eventually, we saw our end point...Grand Traverse Bay.

What the bay had for us was one final test. Easily the most broiling water we have seen on the course, it was crashing over the 10-foot sea wall at the river mouth. We were quite literally at it's mercy. Paddling hard into the waves, we timed out turn parallel into them to coincide with the period between waves. The Scott and I churned hard to turn the crashing waves to our backside, only to realize that Hilary and Phil were right on us and the two canoe's collided. We barely avoided another dunk and the waves pushed us into shore about 30 feet shy of the finish line. Dragging our boats across the finish line, the MIX was over for us. Hugs all around (I am NOT a hugger, but what the hell) Scott had his parents and girlfriend there to great him. I scanned the beach hoping to see my parents who live only a few hours away, or maybe even a suprize pop-out from my wife and kids, perhaps deciding over the last 4 days to make the 13 hour drive up from Kentucky. No such luck.

The finish line was a bit anti-climatic, as we discussed later. The only Infiterra presence was the always-at-race-headquarters Zac. We just walked onto the beach at 3:47 pm on day 4, and into our hotel room at 4:00.

Post Race: After showers all around, the entire team was out within minutes, getting much deserved rest before the 8 PM awards banquet. The banquet gave us a chance to socialize with some of the other teams, of whom we saw very little out on the course. A 300+ mile course has a way of spreading people out. Only two teams cleared the entire course, so us not doing so was disappointing, but nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, we took home the pride in knowing that we finished the course with not an ounce of quit in any one of us and had a hell of a time doing it. Not bad, especially considering half of our team had never done a race of this magnitude before, and as a complete team we had raced together only in one other race, a 28 hour race a month before where my personal performance was less than stellar. In short, it was a good race!

Thank yous: I definately need to thank everyone on the team; Hilary Witbrodt, Phil Shrader, Scott Eveningred, Richard James-Jura, and Richard Zac. Good jobs all around. And a big thanks to my wife and kids, and Darrin for the shout-outs. Although we can't see them directly, Zac from Infiterra prints out messages, or shout-outs, that friends and family send to us on-line during the race. The shout-outs are a HUGE moral booster during the transitions when Zac brings them to us. Especially the ones that read "Go Daddy, GO!