Solo Effort for 30 Hours
Good thing he was drinking heavily....
30-Hour Mojave Challenge report:
Like the name states this race was all in the Mojave Trails National Monument. About as bad-ass desert as it gets once you are in the middle of it - but the staging area was a casino hotel that caters to retirees in Laughlin, Nevada, which is about as bad-ass as a Kenny G song (that plays as you try to find the hotel elevators amidst a sea of smoking octogenarians throwing away their social security one nickel at a time). Happy Mutant got a cheap room rate though so not complaining (too much).
Race started at a humane time - 8:15am - with a paddle start on the Colorado River. I was a solo but paired up for this portion with another solo (Mark) in a 2-person canoe for a 15k paddle. Mark and I made good time and came in second after locating both points (both of which had been stolen -- so we took pix and left while others searched for much longer). The TA was where we got our the coordinates for the next set of CPs on a 60 mile bike leg. Just one CP was given before the TA but man was that one point a lot of work! The route was entirely on desert 4WD tails -- about the surface consistency of a rocky beach for most of the way. Deep sand, bumps and rocks with trails and road-like washes criss-crossing in every direction (the area was once a military training ground and a current OHV mecca) which made navigation difficult, but with dramatic and stark scenery and absolute silence every time I stopped - kind of cool in an eerie way. After 10 hours 30 minutes of butt busting but otherwise uneventful grinding I made it into the TA at 10:30 pm. Got the coordinates for 3 points on foot over a 30km out and back course on the road we came in on. A bit long I thought -- but hey, I just came in on that road so should be an easy 3 points! Not.
The desert is dark at night -- really, really dark. Even with a clear sky and a quarter moon the night sky is inky black. Picture a black velvet curtain with thousands of pin holes and a bright white light shining from behind it. The stars are amazing and I saw a shooting star that looked so close that I could almost touch it. I should have made a wish to find those points and cruise back in - but that road I came in on in the day was a different story for me at night. Bottom line I need a better head-lamp and some reading glasses because in that darkness with my 7 year old AA battery head-lamp and 50 year old eyes looking at a 1:50 map I made wrong turn after wrong turn wasting time and energy amidst the maze of trails and washes. In short, I walked 20 miles and came back 7 hours later to the TA with no points, disgusted and smoked. On top of that the Happy Mutant guy (Toby Evans) handed me the next (and final) set of coordinates for -- that's right -- a bike leg back to the Start on the SAME DAMN trails I just rode in on! My ass started puckering as I mulled over another 60 miles on those sandy, rocky trails again. If Toby could have handed me a beer and ride back to the hotel I probably would have left, but while he had beer that ride was a long way off so I decided to eat a sandwich, pull out the bivvy and sleep a couple hours.
Well, I woke up with the sun and felt great. Also, the race was going long for everybody so that final leg was shortened to a mere 48 mile leg (but still on the same damn trails). Got on the bike at 8am and headed out - but this time with some music blasting from the speakers in my pack and a shot of absinthe (I ran out of grappa - a giant logistical snafu - but at 120 proof absinthe makes a good substitute) to perk up the mood. The desert is a lonely place by yourself for 30+ hours and I'm glad I brought the booze and music as I was starting to talk to myself, and I didn't care for what I was saying.
On the way back I stopped to find the 3 points I missed at night - just for the hell of it and because I am a stuborn ass when no one is looking. It added another hour 30 min and a near-panic situation when I left my pack (meaning water, phone, map, etc - you know the stuff you need to survive) to get one of the points and got dis-oriented in some washes for a bit, but I found'em all. I will NEVER leave my gear behind again to go look for a point.
So, the ride back -- long and painful but with some pretty fun, flat-out descents at the end as I followed a different route for the last 10km along a pipeline access trail that went UP and DOWN over and over and over the desert hills. Steep enough that I got enough momentum to almost carry myself to the top of each next hill -- like a roller coaster. And I almost made it the whole way without crashing - last hill I bit the dust and have some road rash to take care of but made far a nice overall finish anyway. Picked my way under a highway and railroad bridge and then into the Finish where a luke-warm Killians and a donut were waiting.
My first solo on a 24+ hour event. 9 mile of paddling, 20 miles of trekking and 108 miles of biking over 34 hours. No matter how much it sucks during, it always feels great ending, and in the rear-view mirror it was a great experience.